At the Intersection of Faith and Culture

At the Intersection of Faith and Culture

“United in Hate: The Left’s Romance With Tyranny and Terror:” A Review

posted by Jack Kerwick

When Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson claimed that Islam and the American Constitution are incompatible, he immediately found himself buried by an avalanche of criticism.

Neither the tone nor the substance of the lion’s share of this criticism was rational, and the vast majority of it stemmed, unsurprisingly, from his partisan opponents on the “progressive” left.

While we are by now all too familiar with both the left’s ideology as well as the tactics that its adherents routinely appropriate in their quest to prevail over their competitors—i.e. charges of “racism,” “sexism,” “Islamophobia,” “homophobia,” etc.—the phenomenon of self-styled “egalitarians” or “progressives” falling all over themselves to defend Islam at all costs doesn’t fail to leave the unprejudiced observer incredulous.


One needn’t be an Islamic scholar to recognize that Islam, considered both as a theology and a 1400 year-old historical practice, isn’t just incompatible with the egalitarian, fundamentally secular goals of self-avowed “progressives;” the former and the latter are systematically incompatible with each other, for Islam demands the imposition of Sharia law, a totalizing, divinely instituted system, upon everyone.

So, how can leftists in the West of the 21st century presume to be defenders of Islam?

Thankfully, there are writers like Jamie Glazov around to square this circle for the rest of us.

In his United In Hate: The Left’s Romance With Tyranny and Terror, Glazov enlists his considerable talents in the service of supplying to readers some much needed insight into the moral imagination of the ideological left. This is an invaluable public good that Glazov provides, for leftist ideologues and their sympathizers in government and various media can typically be counted upon to labor inexhaustibly to conceal their worldview—and their own collective history—from the larger culture.


Glazov’s prose is at once crisp and colorful, revealing a mind that is as discerning as it is bold. With the greatest of ease, the author shows his readers that the readiness with which the contemporary leftist jumps to shield Islam from criticism, both real and imagined, is but the most recent manifestation of a love affair between the left and totalitarianisms of various sorts extending back nearly a century.

Yet it isn’t just the communisms of one place and time or other with which Western leftists have been enamored. The most brutal of dictators who presided over these “Earthly paradises” have functioned as nothing less than deities for their leftist idolaters.

Leftists in the West are “true believers.” Glazov explains: “The believer’s totalitarian journey begins with an acute sense of alienation from his own society—an alienation to which he is, himself, completely blind.” The believer’s “denial” of “the character flaws that prevent him from bonding with his own people” has him “convinced…that there is something profoundly wrong with his society—and that it can be fixed without any negative trade-offs.” Thus, the believer “fantasizes about building a perfect society where he will, finally, fit in.”


Glazov locates the true believer’s disdain toward “modernity” and “capitalism” in his own “spiritual emptiness.” Lacking any sense of transcendent meaning, the true believer seeks to invest his existence with meaning by availing himself of the many material goods made possible by a free, capitalist social order. This measure, of course, was bound to fail. But rather than grasp the obvious truth that material possessions can never satisfy spiritual longings, the believer instead blames his frustrations on the society that made the acquisition of those material possessions possible in the first place.

As a consequence, he turns for his salvation toward the communist totalitarians with which the leftist has become obsessed, those “Earthly hells,” as Glazov rightly describes them, signifying the believer’s categorical rejection of his own individualist culture.


Initially, I must admit to having been a bit put off by the psychological nature of Glazov’s “diagnosis” of the “true believer.” It isn’t that I ever thought that it was false; in fact, it struck me as eminently plausible. Rather, since his is a critical account of the left’s long “romance with tyranny and terror,” I feared that the author would weaken his case by committing what logicians call “the genetic fallacy,” an attempt to discredit an argument by calling attention to the circumstances of the arguer, instead of the logic of the argument.

However, it wasn’t before long that I realized that while Glazov indeed enquires into the psychological origins of the leftist worldview, he commits no fallacy. At times, genetic arguments are appropriate. At other times, responsible analysis demands them.


When a position is intellectually indefensible, even incoherent, as is the leftist worldview, with its embrace of the most monstrous of monsters, then how can we not look for non-rational explanations of it?

When legions of otherwise unremarkable human beings who had been born and raised in the free, individualist societies of the West and who claim to champion “equality,” “tolerance,” “human rights,” and so forth can be counted upon to unqualifiedly embrace history’s greatest mass murderers—Joseph Stalin, Mao Tse-Tung, Ho Chi Minh, Fidel Castro—how can the observer avoid turning his attention to their psyches?

Glazov’s book is a must read for anyone who is interested in understanding how and why the left never fails to gravitate toward the agents of “tyranny and terror.”


Ben Carson, Islam, and “Progressive” Bigotry

posted by Jack Kerwick

I don’t think that there is any activity that more powerfully reveals the human being’s intellectual and moral defects than that of politics.

This is especially the case when it comes to the one time— presidential elections—when otherwise politically disengaged and, thus, ill-informed, Americans suddenly presume to be experts regarding a field of which they know next to nothing.

Let’s take the latest fake “controversy” surrounding GOP presidential contestant, Dr. Ben Carson.

Carson has elicited some hand-wringing from the usual suspects for remarks he made during an interview on Meet the Press on September 20. “I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation,” Carson said. “I absolutely would not agree with that.”


The problem, as Carson seems to see it, is that the Islamic faith is “inconsistent with the values and principles of America.”

For this, people who wouldn’t ever so much as think to vote for Carson—or any Republican—are insisting that the man has “disqualified” himself from holding the office of the Presidency.

This is rich.

While Dr. Carson’s critics (outside of the Islamic activist bullies at CAIR and some other religious/ethnic chauvinists from the standard propagandist outlets) style themselves “progressives,” their thinking on this matter is actually every bit as provincial, every bit as bigoted, as that of the colonialists and imperialists of yesteryear.


Within the West, largely courtesy of the Christianity that has informed and that continues to inform its collective imagination, it has been centuries that its inhabitants have long insisted upon a separation of a kind between “Church and State,” the Cities of God and Man, the eternal and the temporal orders. Jesus Himself is read as having articulated some such distinction when He memorably commanded His disciples to pay their debts to both God and Caesar.

This separation between the political and religious spheres has been particularly acute in America.

The Islamic tradition, however, is an entirely different matter in this regard. The notion that there must be a separation of “Mosque and State” is utterly alien to the Islamic mind. From the perspective of the latter, the will of Allah and that of the State are, or at least should be, one and the same.


In a word, both in theory and practice, both scripturally and historically, Islam has demanded theocracy. For governments constituted any other way, the devout, practicing Muslim—the Muslim believer who is true to an accurate understanding of his own faith tradition—must have contempt.

Islam is an especially robust version of religious universalism. It doesn’t just prefer that the whole world observe its Sharia law; it insists upon it: The pious Muslim has a duty to Allah to see to it that Sharia law becomes the law of planet Earth.

Thus, when Dr. Carson made the remarks that he made, this, doubtless, is what he had in mind. Far from suggesting that there should be a religious litmus test for the office of the American presidency, Carson’s point in alluding to the Constitution is that it makes no allowances for such tests.


Yet this is why it is incompatible with Islam.

The hard truth is that it is Dr. Carson, not his “progressive” leftist opponents, who are the agents of “intolerance” here. Generally speaking, leftists can always be counted upon to regard religion—any religion—with a good supply of disdain. This disdainfulness is inseparable from their theological illiteracy, an astonishing ignorance of religion that leads them to marginalize or altogether dismiss the religious voice (the voices, in other words, of the vast majority of human beings that have ever lived).

Thus, Carson’s detractors are guilty of the worse sort of bigotry, for in suggesting that Islam and the American Constitutional tradition are compatible, in suggesting that there is no difference between being a good Muslim and being a good American, they have chosen to either ignore or deny what Muslims have been saying for 1400 years.


Carson, in stark contrast, has listened to Muslims in their own voice. He has resisted the imperialistic impulse to impose his own Eurocentric, Christocentric categories upon them.

When asked about Muslims, the Constitution, and the American Presidency, Carson had in mind a practicing Muslim who, as such, believes and must believe in Sharia law and, hence, theocracy. He was not thinking of, say, someone with an Islamic-sounding name and who, from the Islamic perspective, is a Muslim by virtue of his father’s having been a Muslim.

But, of course, I’m sure that Dr. Carson would agree that Barack Hussein Obama should not be, and never should have been, President of the United States either.



The Philosophy, and Theology, of “Breaking Bad”

posted by Jack Kerwick

Walter Hartwell White, an (exceedingly) overqualified middle-aged high school chemistry teacher, despite never having smoked, is diagnosed with terminal lung cancer on his 50th birthday. Sorely lacking the financial resources to see to it that his wife, handicapped teenage son, and unborn daughter are cared for upon his death, Walt deploys his genius and skill toward the end of manufacturing—“cooking”—methamphetamine.

Along with a former student, Jesse Pinkman, Walt begins to cook meth.

Within about a year or so, Walt metamorphoses from an unassuming family man into a ruthless, murderous drug kingpin with a net worth of $80 million.

Few samples of popular culture are as philosophically rich as the television series Breaking Bad (BB).


Metaphysics and BB: The Nature of Change

The creator of BB, Vince Gilligan, has said that his aim was to invert the traditional television convention of character stasis by making change the engine of his series. BB “brings fundamental transformation of its main character. To that end, the mandate here has always been [to] take our hero and turn him into a bad guy throughout the life of the series.”

But what is change?

(1)From its inception, among the battery of problems to which Western philosophers have fastened their attention is that regarding the relationship between permanence and change.

This has been treated as a philosophical problem because while our shared intuitions demand that we acknowledge the reality of both permanence and change, the two are contraries: Permanence, after all, seems to be synonymous with changelessness, and change identical to impermanence. At one and the same moment, change seems to both undercut and presuppose identity: To say that X has changed is to imply that the object to which the change has occurred is still, somehow, the same object. Still, change equally implies that the thing changed is no longer what it once was.


The paradoxical nature of change has lead philosophers to explore various theories of personal identity, and some philosophers to deny that change is real at all!

The ancient Greek philosopher Parmenides argued that change must be illusory. His argument went something like this:

There are but three options, three possible ways of describing any thing:

(a) It is;

(b) It is not; and

(c) It is and it is not.

However, when we examine each of these options carefully, what we discover is that only (a) is logically possible, for (b) and (c) both refer to what is not. The problem here is that what is not is, quite literally, nothing. And nothing is inconceivable: We can neither think nor speak of nothing.


Now, change, Parmenides believed, necessarily refers to what is not, for whatever changes is not what it once was and is not yet what it will become. But what is not is nothing, and nothing is inconceivable. Therefore, change is inconceivable.

Permanence, meaning changelessness, is the only reality.

From such atomists as Democritus and Leucippus to more notable thinkers like Aristotle and beyond, philosophers have rejected Parmenides conclusion by rejecting his premise that change inescapably refers to nothingness. Aristotle, for instance, contended that change is a process by which a “something”—the subject’s potentiality for change—is actualized. This conception of change was subsequently endorsed by many medieval Christian thinkers, particularly the Aristotelian par excellence and “Angelic Doctor” of the Roman Catholic Church, Thomas Aquinas.


Within this vision of change, we can say that if Walter White truly changed from one kind of person into another—i.e. his criminal alter ego, “Heisenberg”—then this could only be because the latter already existed potentially within him.

Still, the actualization of one potentiality extinguishes the actuality that it replaces. For example, a piece of steel that has been lying in the snow for hours is actually cold. It is, however, potentially hot. Once that actually cold piece of steel is held over a fire, it changes from being potentially hot to being actually hot. But this necessarily means that it is no longer actually cold (though it now is potentially cold).

Change, as the philosopher Michael Oakeshott has said, is “an emblem of death.” Change extinguishes that which it affects. For this reason, it elicits from us the same range of responses that death itself invites: excitement, anxiety, grief. So, if, as Vince Gilligan thinks, his hero, Walter White, changes into a villain, Heisenberg, it is still the case that, in some very real sense, Walt has died.


But is this what occurred? Was Walt a very good man who became an evil man? Or was he a not-such-a-wonderful man who became a really bad man?


Ethics, Epistemology & Theology in BB

Hannah Arendt was a 20th century philosopher, a Jewish woman who fled her native Germany when the Nazis came to power. Upon observing the trial of Adolph Eichmann, the “architect” of the Holocaust, Arendt admitted to having been struck by Eichmann’s “curious, but quite authentic, inability to think.”

Eichmann was unremarkable in all other respects. In other words, he conspicuously lacked any particularly wicked motives. But he appeared radically incapable of thinking beyond the stock phrases, clichés, and conventionalities of the day. And this handicap, evidently, both reflected and reinforced his penchant for obeying the commands of others—regardless of what they were.


This experience of Arendt’s inspired her to begin considering the relationship between thinking and morality. Could this inability to think—a phenomenon from which no one is exempt—be related to immorality?

Arendt notes that the word “conscious” literally means “to know with myself.” The human person, then, is a unity-in-difference, a two-in-one (Perhaps it is the awareness of this that leads us to refer to “conscience” as if it were something distinct from us, “a little voice” inside of our “heads”). This is significant, for just as a person’s character development depends in large measure upon the kind of people with whom he chooses to associate, so, similarly, if I am not right with myself, I risk corrupting myself.


In her analysis, Arendt selects the person of Socrates as the paradigmatic illustration of how thinking and morality intersect. Socrates had insisted that it is always better to suffer wrongdoing than to engage in it, for the person who acts viciously makes himself into a vicious person, a person with a vicious character. But a vicious character is a corrupt character.

Thus, the wicked or immoral person is like one who is maimed, only here, it is his character that is debilitated, and it is he who maimed himself.

Now, what I suggest here is that Walter White was never right with himself. Vince Gilligan is incorrect in thinking that Walt underwent a genuine and “fundamental transformation.” Caterpillars transform into butterflies. Walt did not transform into Heisenberg. Heisenberg had been living in White for a long time.


And he finally decided to make his move and come out.

For as brilliant as Walt may have been, he sorely lacked that one excellence without which, the ancients were convinced, none of the others could be had.

Walt lacked wisdom.

To be clear: From what BB audiences could gather, Walt had always lacked wisdom.

In fact, Walter White was never even as intelligent or clever as he styled himself—and Walt, in his heart of hearts, knew this to be true.

From time to time, viewers of BB had been permitted to catch glimpses of Walt’s past, of his promise as a young aspiring scientist who, along with his one-time love interest, Gretchin, and his best friend, Elliot, founded what would eventually become a multi-billion dollar company (Grey Matter). Only Walt would never see this success, for very early on, he sold off his shares for $5,000.



It would appear that the irresistible urge to control his surroundings that we find in Heisenberg had always driven Walt. And this need, in turn, was fueled by the fear that, he confesses to his brother-in-law Hank, had always kept him awake at night.

Walt feared that his company would flounder and, so, he abandoned it to his friends who persevered and prospered.

This fear and the obsession with micro-managing every aspect of his existence to which this fear lead were conjoined in Walt with great arrogance, a profound lack of humility that, in blinding him to his vices, prevented him from assuming responsibility for having sold his shares in Grey Matter. Moreover, it is Walt’s monumental hubris that explains his readiness to blame his partners for having “cheated” him of the billions that he chose to forego, billions to which he never stopped feeling entitled.


Saint Augustine of Hippo articulated the Christian conception of evil well over 1500 years ago when he identified evil with a deficiency in the human will. Each will is only as good as the objects to which it is oriented. When the will turns inward and upward toward the Ground of its being and its supreme bonum, it is eminently good. Yet when it is scattered about fleeting, temporal satisfactions, when it is focused not on God but on the self, then the will is bad. Evil is a turning of an inherently good thing, the will, away from God and toward oneself.

The worst of wills is the will that has made itself equal to God.

The will of Walter White had, in effect, done this long before the Southwest had so much as an inkling of Heisenberg.


To be sure, its subtlety notwithstanding, something like an Augustinian theology informs BB’s depiction of Walt’s journey to full-blown Heisenberg.

Many of the world’s best scientists, particularly physicists, are people of genius, discrimination, and humility. Many not only refrain from denying God’s existence; many affirm it. The point, however, is that those who are the best and the brightest in this domain recognize that, qua scientists, they are ineligible to speak to matters of religion, morality, art, politics, history, etc. Walt, in glaring contrast, knew of no such limits.

Walt, that is, didn’t believe in science as much as he believed in scientism. Between the two is a difference in kind.


Scientism is not science. It is a philosophy, metaphysics, an ideology or doctrine. The proponent of scientism seeks to reduce the multifarious phenomena of existence, its variety of voices, to a single mode: science. For the devotee of scientism, there is no supernatural, for there is nothing that, in principle, Reason, via science, can’t master.

Walt’s scientism determined his subscription to philosophical naturalism. In a flashback sequence, audiences see a younger Walt with Gretchin trying to map out the human being solely in terms of bio-chemical components. When Walt notes that “something is missing,” Gretchin suggests that it may be “the soul” for which they’ve failed to account. Walt chuckles. Without giving it a moment’s thought, he dismisses this idea out of hand while insisting that the only “stuff” of which human (and, by implication, all existence) consists is physical.


Walt is the caricature of the Man of Science, the Rationalist and atheist whose dreams of a world that will finally be brought before the tribunal of his own reason—which, not coincidentally, is imagined to be synonymous with Reason itself—propels him, eventually, to spare no occasion to conscript those around him into the service of realizing his own designs.

Keats once remarked that Shakespeare “possessed so enormously” what he called “negative capability,” “the ability to contemplate the world without the desire to try and reconcile contradictory aspects or fit it into closed and rational systems.” The person with negative capability is “capable of being in uncertainties,” of accepting “mysteries” and “doubts [.]” This in turn means that the person of negative capability is “without any irritable reaching after fact and reason.”


Negative capability precludes an obsession with control, with ordering realities in accordance with one’s desires.

Brother David Steindle-Rast, in his classic work, Gratefulness, the Heart of Prayer, makes a similar point when he distinguishes “purpose” from “meaning.” He explains that “to achieve our purpose, whatever it may be, we must take hold of the situation, take matters in hand, take charge of things.” In short: “We must be in control” (emphasis added).

In glaring contrast, in those circumstances in which we “experience deep meaning,” we find ourselves saying that we “were touched, moved, even carried away by the experience.” In such situations, we don’t see ourselves as being “in control of what happened.” Indeed, it is precisely because we “gave” ourselves over “to the experience” that “took hold of” us that we were able to “experience meaning.”


Walt is, and had always been, a man entirely devoid of Keats’ negative capability. And his is a cosmos devoid of all meaning, a universe that is nothing more or less than blind, dead matter in motion.

But as many philosophers from the Pythagoreans to Neitzsche have noted, when we think about something long enough, we assume its characteristics. This is the significance of Walt’s cancer diagnosis. It is not by accident that Vince Gilligan chose to inflict his protagonist, who had never so much as taken a puff of a cigarette, with terminal lung cancer: It isn’t his physical health that was primarily in jeopardy, but his spiritual health. The cancer eating away at Walt’s body is a symbolic expression of the spiritual cancer that had been eating away at his soul or character for quite some time.


Yet when confronted with the fact that the cold, impersonal, meaningless material universe of his worldview was about to scatter the atoms composing his existence back into space, Walt’s death sentence dispersed his remaining inhibitions, unleashing his urge to bend reality to his wishes: The penchant for mastering his surroundings that, in varying degrees, Walt had always revealed, was now set loose.

And, thus, even as he continued to fight against the cancer that threatened to send him to the grave, Walter White’s race toward his spiritual demise began in earnest.

Walt’s unadulterated philosophical naturalism, his scientism, and his self-delusion that he can force the world—other human beings—to comply with his own machinations, are mutually reinforcing. These two things lead Walt to reject both God and an objective moral order, i.e. any semblance of transcendent meaningfulness.


The control of nature means, and can only mean, for Walt, the creation of his own moral values, of his own meaning. Walt aspires to be something on the order of Neitzsche’s “Ubermensch,” an “Overman” or “Superman” who strives to go “beyond good and evil.” In Walt’s universe, God is indeed dead.

However, Walt’s universe is not the universe of Breaking Bad. Walt’s efforts to make of himself an idol are doomed to failure, for in the cosmos of BB, there is meaning, a moral law that we violate at our own peril.

This, I submit, is either a lesson that Walter White never learned or, if he did, he learned it, as we say, too little, too late.


Hey Jonah, hey Ben: What IS a “Conservative?”

posted by Jack Kerwick

Regarding Donald Trump’s domination of the GOP presidential contest, National Review’s Jonah Goldberg has recently remarked: “Well, if this is the conservative movement now, I guess you’re going to have to count me out.”

In response, Breitbart’s Ben Shapiro has noted that Goldberg and other “establishment Republicans” are, at the very least, inconsistent on this score, for they have had no use for conservative “litmus tests” when it has come to their candidates of choice: John McCain, John Kasich, Marco Rubio, Mitt Romney, Mitch McConnell, etc. Such candidates are no less lacking in conservative bona fides as is Trump, Shapiro notes, and yet not only has Goldberg and his Republican ilk supported them; in some instances, as with Romney, Goldberg specifically advocated on behalf of Romney precisely because he was not a conservative!


Shapiro further contends that Trump is “the political love child of Mitt Romney and Barack Obama, a combination of the non-conservative ‘victory mentality’ [exemplified by Goldberg’s support of Romney in 2012] and the arrogance of a dictatorial left many conservatives want to see countered with fire.”

So, over the last couple of elections, Republicans threw “conservative principles” to the wind and nominated “non-conservative” candidates, like Romney and McCain, just in order to secure victory (which never arrived). This established the precedent that has allowed a “non-conservative” like Trump to soar.

Shapiro is correct that Goldberg and the like are patently selective, even cynical, in their application of “conservative” standards. As I’ve recently shown in a series of articles, while Trump is no conservative, neither are any of his competitors in the presidential race—least of all those candidates, like Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio, for whom the Goldbergs of the world have been rooting.


But, nonetheless, Shapiro’s analysis is flawed.

As for those “conservative litmus tests” to which he refers, I’d like to know what they would be if Shapiro were in charge of designing them. In other words, I’d like to know what, in Shapiro’s judgment, is a conservative?

Notice, Shapiro, rightly, identifies Romney, McCain, Kasich, and McConnell as “conservatism-less” Republicans. Yet he does not include, say, George W. Bush or Dick Cheney within this rogues’ gallery. The suggestion seems to be that it was only within the last seven years or so that Republicans began jettisoning conservatism.

Nothing could be further from the truth.


Some questions for Ben (and Jonah and…whomever):


Must conservatives acquiesce in “gay marriage” just because the Supreme Court declares it Constitutional? For that matter, must a conservative support “civil unions” for homosexuals?

Must conservatives endorse preferential treatment policies—usually known as “affirmative action” (when “conservatives” like Jeb Bush aren’t pretending to oppose it while repackaging it with a different label in order to perpetuate it)?

Must conservatives support “comprehensive immigration reform”—amnesty—for millions and millions of illegal, and mostly Third World, aliens?

Must conservatives support immigration at all?

Must conservatives denounce all displays of the Confederate flag and demonize the likes of Robert E. Lee and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson?


Must conservatives lavish praise upon the likes of such hard leftists as Martin Luther King, Jr. and Nelson Mandela?

Must conservatives endorse socialized medicine/healthcare—i.e. Medicaid and Medicare?

Must conservatives favor an omnipotent “federal” government, a government with the power and authority to deploy the resources in time, energy, money, and blood of American citizens to the end of ridding the world of evil? In short, must conservatives believe in using the United States military as an agent for democratizing non-democratic countries throughout the Middle East (and beyond?)?

Must conservatives be “pro-choice” with respect to abortion when it comes to rape, incest, and the mother’s life?


Must conservatives believe in “human rights?”

Must conservatives believe in “democracy?”

Must conservatives support vast surveillance programs courtesy of such federal agencies as the NSA?

Must conservatives favor an income tax?

Must conservatives favor such redistributive policies as public education, social security, and the like?

This list of questions is hardly exhaustive. Yet it is sufficiently impressionistic to make the main point that while Ben Shapiro, like radio, television, and print personalities in the “conservative” media generally, haven’t any difficulty in throwing the term “conservative” around, given the wide range of contexts, persons, and positions to which they have and haven’t affixed this label, the unprejudiced observer can only be left thinking one of two things:


(1)Conservatism may be meaningful, but the Shapiros of the world are ignorant as to its meaning; or (2) The Shapiros are ignorant as to what “conservatism” means because the latter isn’t meaningful at all.

I’m going with (1): Conservatism is meaningful.

Ideas of conservatism can be gotten easily enough from the writings of its “patron saint,” Edmund Burke—of whose mind today’s “conservatives” indicate scarcely the slightest awareness. David Hume, John Calhoun, and John Adams are other figures from the past who lend insight into conservative thought.

More recently, such 20th century intellects as Michael Oakeshott and the inimitable Russell Kirk have provided us with much guidance in navigating the contours of conservative thought.


Yet if I were a betting man, I’d bet the bank that neither Jonah nor Ben have any of these intellectuals in mind when they speak of “conservatism.” For that matter, dollars to donuts says that they don’t have these men in mind ever.

There’s a reason for this:

The conservative movement isn’t conservative at all.

It is neoconservative.

And between conservatism and neoconservatism there is all of the philosophical difference.

“Conservatism” doubtless has greater marketing value than “neoconservatism.” If, though, we’re going to be intellectually honest, then we have to recognize Shapiro’s and Goldberg’s movement for what it is.

“Neoconservatism” is no slur. Irving Kristol, the “godfather” of neoconservatism, certainly didn’t think that it was.


In his, The Neoconservative Persuasion, Kristol informs us of neoconservatives’ support of “the welfare state.” Neoconservatives support “social security, unemployment insurance, some form of national health insurance, some kind of family assistance plan, etc.,” and they will not hesitate “to interfere with the market for overriding social purposes”—even if this requires “‘rigging’” instead of imposing upon it “direct bureaucratic controls.”

Neoconservatives don’t want to “destroy the welfare state, but…rather, reconstruct it along more economical and humane lines.”

Regarding foreign policy, the United States, Kristol insists, does indeed have a duty to “make the world safe for democracy.”


Kristol is blunt: “Neocons,” he remarks, and “traditional conservatives” are different.

While traditional conservatives tend to admire such “conservative worthies” as Calvin Coolidge, Herbert Hoover, Dwight Eisenhower, and Barry Goldwater, these men are “politely overlooked” by neoconservatives. Rather, the latter are disposed to lionize Teddy Roosevelt, FDR, and Ronald Reagan.

In Neoconservatism: Why We Need It, Douglas Murray seconds Kristol’s thoughts when he enthusiastically writes that “socially, economically, and philosophically,” neoconservatism differs in kind from traditional conservatism. Murray even goes so far as to describe neoconservatism as “revolutionary conservatism” (incidentally, a contradiction in terms).


Neoconservatives are distinguished first and foremost on account of their robust, activist foreign policy vision. For all of neoconservatives’ preaching to Republican voters against being “one issue” voters when it comes to, say, abortion, they are one-issue voters themselves—even if their issue is not the other guy’s issue.

Paraphrasing the French historian Julian Vaisse, Elliot Abrams, a neoconservative, writes that neoconservatives want, first and foremost, a “foreign policy” that is “both muscular in promoting American interests and moralistic in promoting freedom.”

Abrams also notes that the original home of neoconservatives is the Democratic Party. Opposed as these Democrats were to both the realpolitik of Nixon and Kissinger as well as the McGovern wing of their own party, neoconservatives descended upon the GOP.

To repeat, today’s “conservative movement” and the Republican Party that it dominates is, largely, a neoconservative movement.

Going into this next election, we should begin to recognize realities for what they are.



Previous Posts

"United in Hate: The Left's Romance With Tyranny and Terror:" A Review
When Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson claimed that Islam and the American Constitution are incompatible, he immediately found himself buried by an avalanche of criticism. Neither the tone nor the substance of the lion’s share of ...

posted 9:40:13pm Oct. 06, 2015 | read full post »

Ben Carson, Islam, and "Progressive" Bigotry
I don’t think that there is any activity that more powerfully reveals the human being’s intellectual and moral defects than that of politics. This is especially the case when it comes to the one time— presidential elections—when ...

posted 10:59:28pm Sep. 21, 2015 | read full post »

The Philosophy, and Theology, of "Breaking Bad"
Walter Hartwell White, an (exceedingly) overqualified middle-aged high school chemistry teacher, despite never having smoked, is diagnosed with terminal lung cancer on his 50th birthday. Sorely lacking the financial resources to see to it that ...

posted 10:35:57pm Sep. 17, 2015 | read full post »

Hey Jonah, hey Ben: What IS a "Conservative?"
Regarding Donald Trump’s domination of the GOP presidential contest, National Review’s Jonah Goldberg has recently remarked: “Well, if this is the conservative movement now, I guess you’re going to have to count me out.” In ...

posted 7:52:08am Sep. 10, 2015 | read full post »

Trump's Loyalty Pledge and the Curse of Rand Paul
GOP loyalists may have finally gotten their wish. Since Donald Trump launched his presidential campaign, Republican politicians and their apologists on Fox News and in some quarters of “conservative” talk radio have been laboring ...

posted 11:20:46pm Sep. 04, 2015 | read full post »


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