Way back in Y2K I promised readers that I would run more corrections columns. I also promised myself that I would stop eating bricks of cheese like they were apples. It’s a sign of my enduring commitment to you folks that I have kept my promise to you even before I kept my promise to myself. (If you hate corrections columns please skip down to the end, because we’ve got ten — count them, ten — announcements for you.)
So without much further ado . . .
It turns out that a lot, and I mean a lot — like a crowd scene from Ben Hur — of conservatives are sick and tired of being called Nazis by know-nothing nasty liberals. “Springtime for Slanders” got a huge, huge response from good-hearted conservatives who take great offense to the notion that favoring a limited government is the same thing as favoring genocide.
But what got the most reaction from people who disagreed with the column — i.e., those who see no difference between, say, Tom DeLay and Goebbels — was my statement that: “I’ve never met a real social-welfare state leftist who could answer the following question without having to think real hard: ‘Aside from the murder and genocide, what exactly don’t you like about National Socialism?’”
Oh, man, did these guys pound sand about that. They said that if I really thought liberals were closer to Nazis then I was the real moron. They whined and banged their high chairs, they shrieked like little girls at a zoo Spider House or Cher when she sees herself without makeup, they did just about everything you can do in an e-mail to express their outrage and incredulity, except of course answer the *&^%$ question.
Which brings us to the fascinating cultural-political fact that Leftists in fact do have more in common with Nazis than modern conservatives do. Let me be clear: I am not calling the Left a bunch of Nazis; that would be as wrong as calling the Right a bunch of Nazis. But, if you are willing to concede that a modern conservative is not inherently a racist, anti-Semitic bigot, then this is actually a pretty obvious point. I should say that if you can’t concede that a modern conservative is not an inherently bigoted person then, again, you are a very ignorant and silly person addled with a profoundly irrational view of politics.
Anyway, I really don’t want to get sophomorically tendentious here but this topic really seems to interest people. So, first of all, it should be pointed out that Nazism, a.k.a. National Socialism, was, well, socialist. And you know, socialists believe in certain things that my intellectual confreres do not but that Harvard Yard and Jesse Jackson types do believe. That’s why John Maynard Keynes — the still-reigning God of liberal economics — had nice things to say about Nazi fiscal policy. That’s why the sainted Friedrich Hayek feared in The Road to Serfdom that British and American economic planning would lead to Fascism or Communism — a distinction he and most libertarians find to be almost meaningless.
W.E.B. Du Bois, the founder of the NAACP, traveled to Germany in 1936 and found much to admire about the dictatorship, which he called “absolutely necessary to put the state in order.” According to Du Bois’s esteemed biographer, David Levering Lewis, Du Bois “found National Socialism to be neither ‘wholly illogical,’ nor hypocritical, but to be still ‘a growing and developing body of thought’ in which he divined an ‘extraordinary straddle’ between capitalism and communism….” He was there on a grant to study “the way in which popular education for youth and adults in Germany has been made to minister to industrial organization and advance; and how this German experience can be applied so as to help in the reorganization of the American Negro industrial school, and the establishment of other social institutions.”
In other words, from a liberal’s perspective the Nazis really seemed to be on to something in the 1930s. The same year Du Bois went to Germany, nearly a majority of Americans told Gallup pollsters that they thought the New Deal could turn into a dictatorship. Indeed, FDR called Mussolini an “admirable Italian gentleman,” and in the 1930s Mussolini had great things to say about FDR’s program.
There are many conservatives of a certain flavor who to this day see a great deal of Fascism in the New Deal. Indeed, at the time there were liberals who saw it too. William Green, president of the American Federation of Labor, declared that FDR’s Civilian Conservation Corps “smacks of Fascism, of Hitlerism, of a form of Sovietism.” When FDR’s New Deal centralization started to get out of hand, the Supreme Court let it be known that he’d better cut it out. To which FDR responded with his court-packing scheme, which seemed to some an anti-democratic effort.
The similarities continue. Hitler and the Nazis were resolutely pro-gun- control, pro-speech-code and anti-religious. They regulated everything and dumped billions into public-works projects. Further, the intellectual cross-pollination between German eugenicists and the founding mothers of modern feminism is remarkable.
Recall that Margaret Sanger, the still-revered founder of Planned Parenthood, was an undiluted eugenicist committed to, in her words, the elimination of “weeds . . . overrunning the human garden” and the segregation of “morons, misfits, and the maladjusted.” Her journal, The Birth Control Review, was a convenient transmission belt for racist bile. Lothrop Stoddard, who also was on Sanger’s Board of Directors, wrote in “The Rising Tide of Color Against White World-Supremacy” that “we must resolutely oppose both Asiatic permeation of white race-areas and Asiatic inundation of those non-white, but equally non-Asiatic regions inhabited by the really inferior races.”
Of course, much of this is more than a little unfair. FDR may have put some Japanese people in camps, but he was by no means a Fascist (though he was much closer to one than was my hero Calvin Coolidge, who didn’t think government should do much of anything at all). In fact, FDR was a great American, though perhaps an overrated president. W.E.B. Du Bois denounced the anti-Semitism of the Nazis and later the Holocaust with great alacrity and sincerity. Keynes was by all measures honorable, if a bit confused about the merits of social spending. Margaret Sanger, on the other hand, would probably be quite comfortable exchanging recipes with Eva Braun in the bunker.
Nonetheless, the embarrassing fact for the Left is that if you subtract the peculiar bigotries of Nazism (Communism had its own bigotries) you are left with a fairly conventional centralized socialistic approach to governing. This is just one of the reasons Stalin insisted that all Soviet and Comintern propaganda only use phrases like “Anti-Fascist League” of this or the “Anti-Fascist Society” of that.
Modern conservatives have no trouble seeing that Nazism was evil incarnate, but for generations Leftists had trouble seeing that Stalin belongs in the adjacent cubicle in Hell. One of the reasons for this is that conservatism holds that all totalitarianism grows from the same poisoned fruit, while the Left must make incredibly esoteric distinctions based upon the motives of the social planners doing the killing. If you are on the road to an egalitarian paradise it’s okay to break a few eggs (don’t even bother, this metaphor cannot be saved). But if the motives of the centralized experts differ from Leftist dogma, well, it’s evil Fascism.
How else to explain three decades of Castroite sycophancy among American journalists and editorialists? Cuba has free health care! Free education! Free housing! The only thing not free in Cuba are the people, an objection to which armies of sophisticated liberal civil libertarians in America can barely stifle a yawn.
Well, I doubt that Cuba’s free goodies, especially health care, could possible compare to what the State provided in Hitler’s Germany, and yet if someone says, “Well, you know, Hitler did some good things for the German people, like build the autobahn” you are immediately, and rightly, called an apologist for Nazism.
All right, enough of all that. If I continue any further I will start quoting Hayek, and that always gets me in trouble with someone.
Cats Vs. Dogs
It turns out that the only thing that animates people more than discussions of Conservatism qua Nazism is the suggestion that cats are the “handmaidens of Satan.”
In order to stem the cat lovers’ hate mail, let me clarify a few things. First, I do not actually hate cats. I had a cat for most of my life. My parents in New York have a cat named Margaret — named after Mrs. Thatcher — who is very sweet. Second, the reason I called them the handmaidens of Satan is because that’s a Simpsons reference (not a single reader caught it — a first). Third, I do think cats are inferior to dogs, which is obvious to pretty much everyone. All of this “kitties make you work for their love” crap you cat-people keep sending me is just so much excuse-making for the fact that you must behave like Guatemalan pool boys at Gore Vidal’s house for a single ounce of feline affection.
Finally, let me ask you this. Do you doubt that if cats were twenty times bigger, say a couple hundred pounds, that nobody would have one as a pet for fear of their life? But if dogs were two or three times larger than they are now, we would probably still hang with them.
About My Dog
Oh, one last thing about Cosmo. I said that my new dog hasn’t really done anything impressive. That’s not quite true. For whatever reason, Cosmo doesn’t bark very much, fewer, so far, than five times total. Once he barked at a kid who came at him on a bike; three times in the house because of some perceived slight or desire for satisfaction of some kind; and once, when he saw the statue of some Bulgarian hero outside the Bulgarian Embassy. In fact, we had a hard time tearing him away, he was so snarky-barky at this giant bust of some 19th century guy named Vassil Levky. If anyone has an idea why my dog would hate this guy — or who this guy is — lemme know.
Don’t You Mean the Emancipation Proclamation?
No, I don’t.
In “A Thousand Cuts for Ashcroft,” I defended some of his comments to Southern Partisan magazine. In the course of doing that, I wrote: “It wasn’t until the Gettysburg Address that one could even say that slavery became the heart and soul of the Civil War (just ask Garry Wills).” About a dozen or so of you went into paroxysms of gotcha to tell me I meant the Emancipation Proclamation. Well, I didn’t. While the Emancipation Proclamation was great and came none too soon, it was in many aspects a strategic move by Lincoln. In fact he called it a “a fit and necessary war measure.”
But the Gettysburg Address was something different. It shaped the Civil War into a battle over the proposition that America was “conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” Scholars of the Right and Left have made the case that in those mere 272 words Lincoln elevated the Declaration of Independence to coequal or even superior standing to the Constitution, thus welcoming blacks into the American family. It is a fascinating topic and if you want to know more about it you can read Garry Wills or Harry Jaffa’s writings. But be careful, there are many very smart people who have been seduced by this Straussian siren song and never left the rocky shoals of mental irritability (some of you know what I’m talking about).
A couple of people were troubled that I spelled “bleu cheese” “blue cheese.” Look, froggies, I spell things the American way. I call foreign capitals by their American English names whenever possible — why I should call Peking “Beijing” when I don’t write “Roma” or “Lisboa” or “Deutschland” is beyond me. In fact, someone should get those American Greatness conservatives at The Weekly Standard on the horn and find out why, when we just shelled out $10 million for these new Pandas, we should have to call them by their ridiculous Chinese names. It’s not like they bring you your slippers when you call them by name. So let’s give the little buggers some good, proud, old-fashioned American names, like Duke and Sandy or, even better, Ron and Nancy.
How’d I get to this? Oh right. Blue cheese. Well, a few of you were shocked that I don’t like the stuff and wondered if it was because it was French. The truth is I like a lot of French food. But blue cheese tastes like death.
Many of you disagreed with my article about the “Grinch Who Stole Christmas.” You said I should lighten up. I agree, which is why I’m trying to stop eating all of this (non-blue) cheese.
In another column, I did call the SS Minnow, the USS Minnow. This was stupid and many of you caught it (thanks for putting “correction” in the heading).
But nobody has answered the question, “What is the most Burkean line from Animal House” yet. I’ll give you a hint. “Toga! Toga!” “Thank you sir, may I have another,” “Fawn used to touch me like that,” and “I’d listen to him, he’s pre-med” are all wrong. And so is anything involving Marlene Desmond. Come on, people, show me something.
1. National Review Online is looking to hire an additional webmaster type person to work out of the New York office. Because I do not want anybody writing me about this position, this is precisely what I’ve been told to tell you people:
2. Another domino has fallen in NRO’s quest for total world domination. We have signed on the incomparable Dave Shiflett as an NRO columnist. If you haven’t read his stuff before you should really stop punishing yourself and now you’ll have the opportunity.
3. And another domino! Michael Novak, one of the world’s leading theologians and social theorists (I’m really not exaggerating, he won the Templeton Prize a few years ago, which is the Nobel Prize of religion — and pays more) has signed on as an NRO contributing editor. You can close your mouth now, we were just as shocked.
4. In response to popular demand we’ve made Jack Dunphy, our pseudonymous L.A. cop, a regular columnist for NRO as well. While he cannot reveal his name, he will continue to reveal the seamy underbelly of Law and Order and the seamier underbellies of Crime and Villainy.
5. Who says the Domino Theory was wrong? Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the water, we’ve signed Ann Coulter as a contributing editor. Yes, that Ann Coulter. And no, I don’t know why it wouldn’t be safe to go into the water.
6. There are more, many more, such announcements coming. But I also want to remind people that our own Byron York is carrying more water than Gunga Din when it comes to original reporting for NRO, so if you want the skinny, you shouldn’t miss a single piece by him.
7. I’m leaving town. Starting Monday I will be writing from the Hoover Institution in Palo Alto where I will be a Media Fellow all next week. I will be giving a luncheon lecture or talk, Tourette’s outburst, whatever on the challenges to conservatism in the digital age. If any of you happen to know what those might be, I’m all ears. If you’re out in the Bay area and want to come to the lecture all I can tell you is I have no idea how that would work.
8. I need your help. NRO is going to open an NRO store on the site. What would you like to buy from such a store? It can be as crazy-kooky-cool as you want. For instance, I’m pushing for a giant Nerf bat that says “Official French German Repellor.”
9. We could also use your help in another way. We are really busting our hump to make NRO the greatest invention since elastic-waistband pants for Internet-magazine editors. We are doing our part, how about lending a hand? The most effective advertising and marketing tool is word of mouth, especially on the web. Okay, huge national advertising campaigns probably work better but we don’t have the budget for that — yet. So, if you guys could spread the word wherever you can we’d really appreciate it. That means forwarding NRO articles, asking TV shows to put more NR types on the air, putting burning bags of dog stuff on the porches of those who eschew NRO, etc.
10. Lastly, check out NRO Weekend tomorrow — where you will find all sorts of stuff you can’t find during the week including the brilliant Andrew Stuttaford’s trip to Temptation Island, Pia Nordlinger’s favorite meatloaf, and NRO’s own Barbara Walters, Kathryn Lopez’s interview with muckracker Sally Satel on freaky postmodern medicine.