As are Modern Age and National Review, once flagship publications of classical conservatism, writes Dr. Boyd D. Cathey
As we have seen now for the last seven months something approximating a massive, multi-faceted, “soft” coup d’etat has been underway against President Donald Trump and, most especially, against his agenda. That attempt to depose, or, at the very least, “tame” or control the president is feverish, virulent and visible. Those involved in this coup effort are termed the “Deep State,” that is, those groups and their allies who have been entrenched in this country’s seats of political and economic power for decades, and who have hitherto controlled its politics, it economy, its culture, and serve as “gatekeepers” for anyone who hopes to actually “succeed” on a national level.
The late Dr. Samuel Francis identified these forces as “managerial elites,” largely unelected power brokers, financiers, life-long politicians and permanent bureaucrats ensconced in government agencies, lobbying organizations, consultants, and now, prominently, those who dominate the media, Hollywood, most of academia and the educational establishment. As he details in his posthumous magnum opus, Leviathan, we now live in a “managerial state,” where largely unseen managers and unelected elites dictate our politics, control our economy, and set the standards for our popular culture.
The Deep State is bipartisan and incorporates not just the raving mad Democrats, but also Republican leadership and many of its Congressional representatives, as well as much of the leadership of what euphemistically is labeled “the conservative movement.” The significant characteristic about the so-called establishment conservative and Republican “opposition” to the more leftist elements of the Deep State is that while these “conservatives” generally offer different approaches to national issues, which they claim are, variously, based on “free enterprise” or “individual choice,” in fact, their goals, whether in domestic policy and civil rights (e.g., acceptance of same sex marriage, gender equality, support for “moderate feminism,” etc.) or in foreign policy (e.g., imposition of American-style liberal democracy, equality, economic control, etc.), are essentially and eventually the same as those of the traditional Left.
Let me offer some examples.
Fox News enjoys a reputation as a “conservative media outlet.” Yet, increasingly, on Rupert Murdoch’s news network there are examples that a Deep State framework enjoys growing influence. The methodology and approach to issues may seem, at first, to differ from the extreme leftist nostrums; but, then, take a closer look. Turn the television remote to Fox News at certain times of the day (afternoons), and watch Shepard Smith, or, later in the day, behold the Fox All-Stars. Smith, openly gay, is an outright “Trump hater” who has on several occasions while doing the news called the president a “liar” (in his news “reports”).
Charles Krauthammer and A. B. Stoddard among the All-Stars in the early evening are notorious semi-NeverTrumpers, and even if they appear occasionally to offer faint praise and plaudits for the president in the name of “fairness,” their presence represents the Neoconservative strategy of essentially demanding the president conform to their template and, thus, to their filtering. And so, the recent announcement that the Trump administration was cutting off its training and aid to those vaunted “Syrian moderates” (who have been identified as actual terrorists), has been met with screams of horror and condemnation from several Fox “military analysts”—foaming-at-the-mouth Colonel Ralph Peters and retired general Jack Keane, both zealous advocates of sending American boys to fight to impose liberal democracy and equality in every backwater desert oasis or impenetrable jungle on the face of the globe.
Of course, Fox continues to offer more pro-Trump coverage earlier in the mornings, or on Tucker Carlson and Hannity later at night. But the trend—and the balancing act—should be a cause of concern: just how long will Rupert Murdoch permit Tucker Carlson to invite Professor Stephen Cohen onto his program to puncture holes in the “Russians Did It!” canard and advocate a more rational, positive and cooperative approach to the Kremlin? Hannity has not gone that far, and seems to partake in the dominant anti-Russian narrative (but with the Russkies aiding Hillary and not Trump), but how long will Fox permit him to criticize fellow Fox personality, Smith, as he has recently done?
An even more indicative example comes in the recent pages of the Modern Age quarterly. I have mentioned this esteemed conservative journal previously, making comments about its apparent lurch to the cultural and political left. I began subscribing to it more than fifty years (!) ago when I was still in high school, and I have waited expectantly for each issue since then (even when overseas in university or teaching). Founded by my mentor, Dr. Russell Kirk, in the late 1950s, Modern Age was to be the intellectual journal for American conservatives. And what was refreshing about it was that it was open to the various strands of conservative thinking: you would turn its pages to see a long-running, vigorous debate between the great Southern, pro-Confederate writer Mel Bradford and Claremont professor Harry Jaffa over the anti-egalitarian nature of the Declaration of Independence and whether or not Lincoln was a true conservative (Bradford, in my view, won that debate hands down). You would read traditionalist Catholic Frederick Wilhelmsen on public orthodoxy and the inherent problems of a “secular establishment.” Whole issues were dedicated to a defense of Southern tradition and critiques of industrial capitalism (from a traditionalist viewpoint).
But, concurrent with the take-over of the older conservative movement by those unrepentant refugees from the Marxist Left, the Neoconservatives, Modern Age, too, began, it appears, its own slow turn, its “apertura a sinistra.” Writers like Bradford no longer appeared in its pages, and my friend Professor Paul Gottfried, arguably the most significant “old Right” author (with twelve books in multiple languages) in the world today, was dropped from its masthead.
The most recent issue, Summer 2017, arrived in my mailbox yesterday. It is dedicated to higher education and the assault by the Left on free inquiry at the collegiate level. There is, of course, much of value in the several articles on that topic, including a piece by Sir Roger Scruton; but there are also more of those “red flags” that I noticed in the past several issues. Leafing through, I noticed that author Thomas S. Hibbs, in his essay defending the liberal arts, praises black revolutionary and zealous abolitionist Frederick Douglass (pp. 45-48). Of course, his object is to illustrate the importance of a well-rounded education, but the use of Douglass as an example is troubling, or should be, to traditional conservatives who understand Douglass’s revolutionary activities 155 years ago. In summing up Hibbs’ essay, the now deceased editor of the quarterly Philip Augustine Lawler writes of “the wholly exemplary Frederick Douglass as evidence that skills themselves are unrealistically empty when artificially detached from questions of character.” (p. 74) This about a man who, although married, engaged in various extra-matrimonial sexual liaisons, including with extremist British suffragette Julia Griffiths and German Marxist activist, Ottilie Assing, who certainly had an influence on him.
Later in the summer issue we find a review by Eve Tushnet of a dystopian novel, Jerusalem, by author Alan Moore. But it is not so much the novel that catches my attention; it is Tushnet, who is identified (p. 92) as the author of Gay and Catholic: Accepting My Sexuality, Finding Community, Living My Faith. I have not read the book, save for a blurb describing that it attempts to chart a “third way” between total acceptance of Church doctrine and open sexual rebellion. I do not propose to offer a personal condemnation here. Rather, I simply comment that under the editorship and aegis of Russell Kirk—of the older Modern Age—this would not have occurred, that the overriding purpose of the quarterly as an outright defender of Western tradition, would have not allowed for it.
But, then, this is the age when the “conservative movement” now fully embraces same sex marriage and “conservative” Jonah Goldberg touts same sex marriage as a “conservative” institution, and Guy Benson, James Kirchik, Milo Yianopoulous, and others include it as the latest and laudatory accomplishment of “equality.”
As in the past few issues of Modern Age, the summer issue includes the perfunctory sniping at the president, as “willful” and questioning whether the established “structures” can “restrain [his] power.” (p. 86) Of course, this only mirrors the even harsher comments of David French and Kevin Williamson in the (formerly conservative!) National Review and the NeverTrumpism of Bill Kristol’s The Weekly Standard: “Listen, Donald, if you expect to get anywhere in DC, you had better listen to us, and mend your ways!”
The Deep State is not, thus, monolithic; it operates often with a wink and a nod, its adherents often competing among themselves, at times offering different routes and diverse solutions to problems—but, essentially, visualizing a more or less common goal. Those objectives are not those of an older generation of conservatives …. nor do they encompass the beliefs and values of millions of fly-over country Americans left behind by the “two-coast” establishment.
Last November, as if a sleeping force awakened from its deep slumber, millions of Americans—those deplorables and “bitter clingers”—arose and voted, as if their lives depended on it, for a radical course change. Intuitively, they understood that whatever real authority over their personal lives—much less over the direction of the nation—they still had, that it was slipping away ineluctably and perhaps irretrievably. They voted for a bull-in-a-china shop, someone to “drain the swamps,” someone unconventional. They understood that he was an imperfect and flawed vessel who operated outside conventions and approved Deep State norms; indeed, that was one of the major reasons they supported him. And down deep, they also comprehended that if he were elected, that the process to get his agenda and promises enacted, to even get a hearing, would be messy and extremely difficult…almost a Sisyphean task!
The results after six months are, admittedly, mixed. Some of the former NeverTrumpers have cloyingly clawed their way into various perches within the administration, intent on shaping its focus and outreach. Others of their ilk remain “chirping sectaries” on Fox and in the DC-New York punditry. And over on the Left wing of the Deep State establishment, the raving Democrats and the Mainstream Media carry on daily assaults, carefully massaging and then leaking via their embedded agents every bit of evidence, manufactured or otherwise, they can amass, in their unsavory effort to undo last November 8, with now the powerful weapon of a Special Counsel to insure that the attacks—even without any real evidentiary support—go on until, they hope, either Trump leaves office on his own accord, or is removed.
This, then, is the United States in 2017, the result of a century and more of acceptance of the Idea of Progress and of an historical and social progressivist narrative which shapes our outlook and dominates our politics, our schools, our entertainment, our religion, and admits no dissent. The open disaccord manifested last November cannot be allowed to interrupt its unstoppable advance. This is the notice we have received: “Accept our rule and our power, or be destroyed.” And it is up to us to say with the great St. Pius X:
“…that the great movement of apostasy being organized in every country for the establishment of a One-World Power which shall have neither dogmas, nor hierarchy, neither discipline for the mind, nor curb for the passions, and which, under the pretext of freedom and human dignity, would bring back to the world the reign of legalized cunning and force, and the oppression of the weak, and of all those who toil and suffer. […] Indeed, the true friends of the people are neither revolutionaries, nor innovators: they are traditionalists.”
And we must answer, as did St. Pius’s predecessor, Leo XIII: “Christians are born for combat, whereof the greater the vehemence, the more assured, God willing, the triumph: ‘Have confidence; I have overcome the world’.”
~ DR. BOYD D. CATHEY is an Unz Review columnist, as well as a Barely a Blog contributor, whose work is easily located on this site under the “BAB’s A List” search category. Dr. Cathey earned an MA in history at the University of Virginia (as a Thomas Jefferson Fellow), and as a Richard M Weaver Fellow earned his doctorate in history and political philosophy at the University of Navarra, Pamplona, Spain. After additional studies in theology and philosophy in Switzerland, he taught in Argentina and Connecticut before returning to North Carolina. He was State Registrar of the North Carolina State Archives before retiring in 2011. He writes for The Unz Review, The Abbeville Institute, Confederate Veteran magazine, The Remnant, and other publications in the United States and Europe on a variety of topics, including politics, social and religious questions, film, and music.