Editor's Desk

Comintern Conservatism

Now you'll have seen and heard everything.

By 3.4.02

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KISS OF DEATH: When a newspaper publishes a single letter about a controversial topic, the point of view expressed in that letter is usually that paper's last word on the subject. Hence the letter that ran in yesterday's "Washington Post" under the headline "Mr. Brock's Misadventures" doesn't augur well for the little hit man. "I cannot imagine anyone remotely interested in truth in journalism buying Mr. Brock's latest compilation of inventive or otherwise scandalous stories," the correspondent notes, evidently confirming the prevailing consensus that no matter what the fellow is toast.

Even more dismissive was Howard Kurtz's lumping of Brock today with Monica and Condit.

Now how for a bit of New McCarthyism. A Frank Rich type at the "New Yorker" reviews the Brock book and, other than insisting that conservatives owe all decent Americans an apology for being what they are, decides the American right is the second coming of the Communist movement. For years fellow-travelers like this Frank Rich type denied there was anything wrong with Communism to begin with; but now with little else to say they decide that the only thing as nefarious as the Communists is the right. What happened to comparisons to the old standby Nazi party? The following really is from a single paragraph. Marvel at its paranoid assurance:

"... Indeed, the milieu that Brock describes is reminiscent of that of American Communism in the nineteen-thirties and forties. Obviously, organized American conservatism offers no moral equivalents of what the Communist Party U.S.A. and its front groups made it their business to defend or deny: totalitarianism, the Gulag, the tens of millions of murders committed by the Stalin regime. But the social and structural affinities are striking, and Brock himself touches here and there on some of their more obvious manifestations. (He notes a portrait of Lenin that Grover Norquist displayed on his wall as a symbol of ruthless commitment, and he remarks on the fact that some of his erstwhile comrades, such as Horowitz, made the transition from far left to far right without the slightest alteration in political style or temperament.) Like the American and other Western Communist parties in their heyday, the American conservative movement has created a kind of alternative intellectual and political universe -- a set of institutions parallel to and modelled on the institutions of mainstream society (many of which the movement sees, or imagines, as the organs of a disciplined Liberal Establishment) and dedicated to the single purpose of advancing a predetermined political agenda. There is a kind of Inner Movement, consisting of a few hundred funders, senior organization leaders, lawyers, and prominent media personalities (but only a handful of practicing politicians), and an Outer Movement, consisting of a few thousand staff people, grunt workers, and lower-level operatives of one kind or another. The movement has its own newspapers (the Washington Times, the New York Post, the Journal's editorial page), its own magazines (The Weekly Standard, National Review, Policy Review, Commentary, and many more), its own broadcasting operations (Fox News and an array of national and local talk-radio programs and right-wing Christian broadcast outlets), its own publishing houses (Regnery and the Free Press, among others), its own quasi-academic research institutions (the Heritage Foundation, the American Enterprise Institute), and even its own Popular Front -- the Republican Party, important elements of which (the party's congressional and judicial leadership, for example) it has successfully commandeered. These closely linked organizations (the vanguard of the conservative revolution, you might say) compose an entire social world with its own rituals, celebrations, and anniversaries, within which it is possible to live one's entire life. It is a world with its own elaborate system of incentives and sanctions, through which -- as Brock discovered -- energetic conformity is rewarded with honors and promotions while deviations from the movement line, depending on their seriousness, are punished with anything from mild social disapproval to outright excommunication."

Is this the thanks the American right gets for never deviating from its anti-Communism?

PRIVATE THOUGHTS:A day late, the "New York Times" yesterday ran an AP report on the Rev. Billy Graham's unfortunate -- and anti-Semitic -- remarks to President Nixon thirty years ago that were discovered in the most recent release of Nixon tapes. It's bad enough he complained to Nixon about supposed Jewish domination of news media, but to have added, "No, but if you get elected a second time, then we might be able to do something," leaves him open to the worst interpretation of just what he meant by that. Most appalling, though, was his saying: "A lot of Jews are great friends of mine. They swarm around me and are friendly to me, because they know that I am friendly to Israel and so forth. But they don't know how I really feel about what they're doing to this country, and I have no power and no way to handle them." So where Nixon famously disliked many Jews because they disliked him, Graham evidently disliked Jews because they did like him. What a terrible commentary.

A DIXIECRAT PONTIFF AND PINCHER: It's no secret the "New York Times" reports with little sympathy on the Catholic Church. But yesterday's Week in Review item broke new ground. Over a story on the growing number of saints canonized in recent years, the headline read: "The Saints Just Keep Marching In." (Imagine if John Ashcroft has said something similarly flippant about Islam.) But the story itself was even dumber: In the very first paragraph, reporter Melinda Henneberger notes that John Paul II is 81 and ailing -- "but may yet turn out to be the Strom Thurmond of popes." How many layers of ignorance and contempt does that crack reveal? Just as good was Henneberger's suggestion that "with pedophiliac priests back on Page 1," the church "seems to need all the role models it can get." Is cultural perspective dead the "Times"?

HYPOCRITE OF THE DAY: "I have no doubt that Mr. Pickering is a nice individual, in his own way," said Kweisi Mfume in a Sunday "Washington Post" story story on divided black opinion on the nomination of Judge Charles Pickering to a federal appeals court. "We have no qualms with him as a person. It's his record..." -- a strange argument from someone who didn't allow his record of socially damaging behavior keep him from becoming president of the NAACP.

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About the Author
Wlady Pleszczynski is editorial director of The American Spectator and the editor of AmSpec Online.