Most of our dear readers have heard about the sad turn of events in Charlottesville. With the KKK and Neo-Nazis on one side, Antifa and Black Lives Matter on the other, and a police force unprepared for violence, the rally was opportune for chaos. Mirabile auditu, the police needed to evacuate the scene and return with proper riot equipment! Gavin McInnes avers that this ineptitude was by design: mayors cite disorderly conduct in other rallies and assemblies as both a means to deny permits to rally and to accrue more power to restrict free expression. The end result is a “right” of peaceful assembly with more red tape than a license to purchase fully automatic weapons. Future rally organizers need to be wary lest they unwittingly give ammunition to politicians wishing to impose restrictions like “hate speech” (i.e. anti-Leftist speech) laws and the like on American citizens.
The most offensive persons at the Charlottesville rally numbered among the far-right and alt-right. (I made this conclusion from all the information I have: I know well Antifa is essentially the Democrats’ new KKK.) During the recent presidential campaign, I often wished to defend the alt-right. Yet, the alt-right has consistently moved from the legitimate domain of defending white cultures into the white nationalist camp. Perhaps, they were always there, but so much confusion over just the definition of alt-right made me and other conservatives think that they were lumped together in the same boat. But, the alt-right has appeared prominently and without shame besides the KKK and Neo-Nazis. I, a philosophical adherent of classical liberalism, can’t make common cause with any of these three groups.
Many of our dear readers may have noticed that this year marks the hundredth anniversary of the plague of communism being released upon the world. As we look back the the October Revolution of 1917 and how the Red Menace afflicted the 20th century, we ought to recall the significant factors which led to the fall of the Russian Tsar Nicolas II. In doing so, the American reader will be surprised about how the political landscape of turn of the 20th century Russia recalls present day America.
Fyodor Dostoyevsky on the left. Maxim Gorky on the right.
Yours truly first became interested in the similarities between Russia and America while reading Leftism: From De Sade and Marx to Hitler and Marcuse by Eric von Kuehnelt-Leddhin. (If you want a deep understanding of the roots of Leftist politics in the French Revolution and its history up to the mid-twentieth century, there is no better book.) He recalls a series of meetings between MacArthur and a Russian leader. They were quite cordial, and MacArthur one day remarked about how friendly the Russian was towards him:
I recently finished reading Tyrants: A History of Power, Injustice, and Terror, by Walter R. Newell, and I highly recommend it to the student of history. Newell takes the reader on a curated journey through the history of Western tyranny (with the occasional detour to the East), treating in turn the ancient world, the birth of the modern state, and the revolutionary terror that that has reared its ugly head ever since the French Revolution. Along the way, Newell identifies three primary types of tyrants: the garden variety, the reformer, and (most salient of all) the millenarian.
The garden-variety tyrant is what perhaps springs immediately to mind when most people think of a tyrant: a ruler who wields absolute (or near-absolute) power for his own benefit, caring only about the good of the nation insofar as it contributes to his personal schemes. Examples include tyrants of early Greece (though some of these were perhaps constrained by the knowledge that ambitious fellow chieftains might try to dethrone them should they rule too immoderately), and some of the Roman emperors.
These days, America is storm-tossed by endless political debate, the 24-hour news cycle, haranguing, and even physical combat over Trump’s government. I wonder why people don’t want to calm down? Trump has done nothing to harass U.S. citizens. Sure, he’s ramped up deportations of illegal aliens, but these are not citizens nor individuals endowed with constitutional rights. The threat of two wars may be looming–“may be” are the operative words. But, ach, why does anyone put themselves through such an aggravating and inconclusive thing as politics?
A clear thinker would point out that a community’s common good is the goal for any true politician. He strives to implement policies intended for the general welfare, public order, moral behavior (as much as the law can prudently enforce), and the defense of life, liberty, and property. Many competing avenues exist on to how to produce the public good, which we see in schools of philosophy and economics: Austrian Economics, conservatism, liberalism, socialism, capitalism, capitalism, communism, fascism, Islam, monarchy, constitutionalism, democracy, etc. All these modes claim to effect the best possible society.
Those of you who follow this blog know that I’ve previously reviewed Kindly Inquisitors: New Attacks on Free Thought by Jonathan Rauch. Rauch was very concerned that Progressive Liberalism, aka Marxism, with its ideas of political correctness and hate speech codes was the greatest threat to freedom of speech in the West. Liberals promote political correctness in the name of not offending people (the humanitarian angle), but they also have prescribed ideas of what accounts as offensive dialogue and refuse to admit ideas or topics which run against their political ideology (fundamentalism). Hence, if you combine these two factors, one rightly dubs them “Humanitarian Fundamentalists.” Their philosophy is no less dangerous to free debate than Islamic fundamentalism or other kinds of religious fundamentalism.
Note that Rauch’s subtitle goes deeper than freedom of speech. The title calls out “New Attacks on Free Thought.” Words express ideas. If one cannot speak the words, the ideas attached to these unspoken words die a slow death. What good is a Christian who refuses to show his faith to others for fear of his peers’ opinion? A person who will not speak of his faith in times of peace will not defend it in times of persecution. Political correctness with its litany of sins (sexism, racism, xenophobia, transphobia, homophobia, Islamophobia, etc.) tries to prevent people from voicing legitimate concerns when dialogue sheers away from mindless equality. The very fact that there are men and women, different races, different cultures, different expressions of sexuality, and different religions implies inequality. If all was the same, why would we have names to mark distinctions?
I recently discovered that the term “new KKK” has been applied to Black Lives Matter. That’s a valid jibe against an organization which has instigated riots, but the term could more aptly apply to Anti-Fascist Action and the other violent protesters of recent weeks. After all, Antifa goes around wearing black clothing and masks. How would they look if they wore white instead? Perhaps a change of color would help the Democratic party understand the viciousness and illegitimacy of Anti-Fascist Action–despite its noble sounding name. (Sort of like how all the most oppressive countries refer to themselves as “Democratic People’s Republics.”)
One has not heard more than a peep from liberals condemning the protests at UC Berkeley. (That peep comes from Peter Beinart of The Atlantic.) One cannot help but be reminded of the silence and denials of Southern Democrats concerning the KKK during Reconstruction. Antifa deserves to be called “the Invisible Empire” every bit as much as the KKK. Worse, we’ve experienced riots and violent protests from the left frequently over the past three years; yet the Democratic hierarchy and their Leftist media are more than willing to justify groups like Black Lives Matter and Anti-Fascism Action and to place the blame on the Alt-Right or conservatives for expressing their opinions. After a similar length of time, the hierarchy of the Old South had become disturbed with the KKK and been convinced that it was a liability. And so, Nathan Bedford Forrest disbanded the KKK in Tennessee (the organization’s birthplace) during the fall of 1869 with other states following suit over the next several years. It would not rise again until Woodrow Wilson’s administration, and this time in a more prejudiced and sinister form.
One wonders whether there exists a more succinct and lucid summary of Winston Churchill’s political thought than Larry P. Arnn’s Churchill’s Trial. Significant time has passed between my reading this book and writing my thoughts here. One simply cannot do justice to all the ideas contained therein in the space of a short essay. Only Arnn’s long study of Churchill has allowed him to compress so much of his thought into a single volume. It might be compared to Douglass Southall Freeman cutting back Lee’s biography from seven volumes to two or James Thomas Flexner condensing four volumes of Washington into one. Indeed, cutting down Churchill’s thought into a single volume might be an even greater feat, because few modern statesmen have written so much (over forty books, thousands of articles and speeches, and two film scripts) or had so much written about them.
The primary thrust of the book concerns Churchill’s defense of constitutional government and liberty against the forces which tried to undermine it. Socialists, communists, and fascists count as his primary opponents. The last two were the overt foes Churchill fought in World War II and during the Cold War. The first foe Churchill constantly combated within his own country. Socialism stood as the most pernicious, slowly stripping away liberty from the British people in exchange for government aid as appointed bureaucrats gained more power to rule over the British people. The citizens held no control over these bureaucrats, and such officials could reinterpret laws or create regulations free from the check of the ballot box.