This is a transcript, preserved for posterity only, derived from the interviews Robert Stark conducted with Brett Stevens which can be found here and here.
1. How has the rise of liberalism made an enemy out of Nationalism and Tradition?
In 1789, with the Revolution in France, the Western world split in two. There were those who favored the old way, which was based on the idea of a pervasive order of nature external to the human individual. And then there was the new group, who favored only the desires, feelings and judgments of human individuals.
We might call that older group realists, objectivists, conservatives, consequentialists or even simply “scientists.” We might call the new group individualists, egomaniacs, narcissists or reality-deniers, but the fact remains that the new group are immensely more popular because they pander to the lowest common denominator impulses in all of us. We each wish, when we feel weak or sad, that our desires, feelings and judgments were more important than the complex and often baffling world around us.
Liberalism panders to this idea through its insistence on “equality,” or the notion that whatever each person believes is more important than reality, including the limits of that person in any given situation. While the liberal idea is never stated in such plain terms, nor do liberals reveal how it develops quickly into its pure and extreme form, all liberal movements — communism, Democrats, progressivism, anarchism, leftism and socialism — are based in this singular idea of equality. As mentioned above, however, equality is shorthand for the human individual and its desires being more important than reality itself.
Liberals gain their power from their popular, and so they specialize in removing any restrictions on the individual. As a result, they oppose any form of shared community values. This includes both nationalism, or the idea that a nation is defined by the common heritage, customs, language, culture and values of its citizens, and Tradition, or the idea that a transcendental order exists in nature and that humans find joy by understanding it instead of asserting our own desires, feelings and judgments against it.
In fact, since the French Revolution in 1789, liberalism has made “internationalism” or erasing of national borders, social classes and ethnic identities its primary goal. It gains its power from popularity, as mentioned above, so it specializes in turning the individual _against_ any form of culture. It goal is the creation of a lynch mob that votes against any form of power, wealth or intelligence higher than its own lowest common denominator. Seen in this light, liberalism is the perfect system of control because it is invisible to most people and yet controls all aspects of their lives. The only forces that oppose it are traditionalism, conservatism and nationalism, and those tend to be versions of the same idea.
2. How will these things save us from modernity?
Modernity is a type of civilization. It occurs only after liberalism has taken control. Because it tends to come later in the life-cycle of a civilization, it usually brings with it increases in wealth, technology and military power. However, what defines modernity is not the number of the year, but the way the civilization in which it arises is organized.
One way to view modernity is as a mid-life crisis. Civilization has grown up strong and youthful, conquered all the obstacles and climbed every mountain, and now it is less driven. It wants to go to bed earlier and wear comfortable but ludicrous slippers. Modernity is like a mid-life crisis: civilization has lost direction, and starts trying to please everyone at once. It “acts young” but can’t even enjoy its old pleasures, so instead it tries to be popular by telling people what they want to hear.
Like most truly powerful crises, modernity does not announce itself this way. It portrays itself as youthful, altruistic, enlightened and compassionate. In reality, it is selfish and manipulative. 222 years after the French Revolution, our civilization is in ruins. We produce none of the quality art and culture of the past. Our “thinkers” are incapable of having competent or realistic thoughts. Our cities are ugly and we spend most of our lives waiting around for stupidity to end. Most of us hate our jobs, our commutes, and the constant blaring of commercial messages and the control that commerce has over every aspect of our society. Pulling back from our daily acceptance of this world, we can see that we live in hell.
Instead of good times, liberalism means social decay and the collapse of our civilization. It has brought us endless wars for Democracy and constant internal friction as our pluralist society tries to reconcile the fact that its citizens have no common ground with its dogma that demands that our common ground be a lack of common ground. It does all of this to smash any vestige of the old order, which is the startling notion that there is a world outside of the individual and that the rules of that world define what we should do.
Nationalism and Tradition will save us from modernity by opposing the one part of modernity that liberals try very hard to hide — its central principle. With liberalism, the central principle has two parts. The first is its public appearance, which is “equality” and the altruistic, pity and “progressive” politics that support it. The second part is not public. In fact, it’s hidden. This part is the truth of equality, which is that it’s an attempt to take control of this society by creating a huge mob of people who are easily controlled because they are trained to demand certain ideas, and smash anyone who has any other ideas.
Conservatism is the parent ideology of nationalism and tradition. Unlike liberalism, which focuses on what the individual wants to think, conservatism is based on a study of reality — in other words, what works. Conservatives are consequentialists, or those who study the results of our actions, and they believe that when we know all possible results, we can pick the results we want, and discipline our actions to match. This principle, along with nationalism and traidtionalism, is the antithesis of liberalism.
If our civilization were to see even 2% of its population shift to an original sense of conservatism, including nationalism and traditionalism, that unified front would be active enough to create vast change. Liberalism fears that, which is why they do their best to demonize any true conservative movement by calling it racist, elitist, sexist or otherwise contrary to the values of 1789.
3. Explain how diversity itself rather than its ingredients is the problem with multi-culturalism.
As part of the liberal agenda, it is essential to smash all shared community values and all culture in order to achieve total individual equality. One way liberals do this is to demand that societies become multicultural or “diverse,” which are shorthand terms for racial, ethnic and cultural mixing. Liberals spin this to you as the idea that you’ll have every possible variant of the human form ready for you to use, but in reality what happens is that all of these nifty cultures meld and create a singular cultureless gray race.
When multiculturalism appears, the temptation is for people of the majority group to criticize the minority groups that are now part of their lives. However, this misses the point. No matter what groups are chosen, the end result is the same (cultureless gray race). Even if the groups are similar, all shared culture is destroyed among each group, and what takes over is commerce, media and government propaganda. Throughout history, this has happened time and time again.
It doesn’t take advanced technology to get to this stage. In fact, the ancient Romans and Greeks both experienced multiculturalism, thanks to their vast empires and their habit of bringing back new citizens to work doing basic labor (today’s equivalents would be construction, food service and lawn care). The more multiculturalism came about, the less these ancient cultures were able to hold together, and finally they collapsed from within. It took multiple factors to bring them down, but multiculturalism was a big one, even though multiculturalism itself was a symptom of the decline. As any doctor can tell you, certain symptoms will kill you unless treated.
The problem with diversity is that by introducing many cultures into the same place, multiculturalism forces the adoption of a lowest common denominator. Since these cultures have little in common, and picking a culture will only offend other people, citizens invariably choose to have no culture except the innocuous stuff like television commercials, movies, celebrity gossip and fun facts about equality from government propaganda. The result is that since there is no common agreement on how to behave, people act selfishly and at random, which requires a strong police/nanny state to keep them in line.
If you want the proof of this, imagine an ethnic or religious group you’re concerned about. Now, imagine them gone from the picture, but the multicultural state still existing. You may have to substitute other groups for them. In every combination, as long as there is a combination and not a single group, the result is the same. Whose holidays do we pick? Whose gods? Whose moral rules? Whose visual aesthetics and architecture? Whose music? The list goes on and on. Instead of a clear path and clear values system, you have chaos. And this is why the police state, oligarchs, and other “strongmen” come to power.
4. How come multi-culturalism takes the same form inevitably, no matter what we do?
Multiculturalism isn’t defined by what it is, but by what it isn’t. It is not a single culture. It is a mixture of cultures, which results by default in a non-culture. Just as two objects cannot occupy the same space at the same time, two or more cultures, religions, ethnic groups or races cannot occupy the same nation at the same time. The problem is not the specific differences, but the fact of difference itself. This is why every time multiculturalism has been tried, it has resulting in misery and decay. One metaphor is putting your food in a blender. If you take everything you were going to eat for dinner, dump it in a blender and turn it into a uniform mush, it’s going to be disgusting, even if all of the individual parts were good. A quality steak, potato, salad and ice cream turns into vomitous goo. The problem is the blending, which multiculturalism forces, not the parts that are blended.
5. How do you see the correlations between the fall of our modern civilization with the fall of empires thoughout history?
The best way to visualize this, weirdly, is to compare it to a business. All businesses fail the same way. They get big and powerful and stop paying attention to the reality of the market and themselves. The result is that they either stop making products that people need, or become so disorganized and internally divided that they disintegrate even though they still have a lot to offer. This is a pattern that we see repeated time and time again. There’s a similar pattern for societies, and it is basically the same idea: get big, stop paying attention to reality, become internally divided and then fall apart.
We have this myth in our modern time that we are immune to collapse because we have all this technology and wealth. However, the Romans and Greeks had much more technology and wealth than their neighbors, too. They were the most powerful civilizations of those days. They also found out that “too big to fail” is an illusion. They stopped paying attention to reality, lost track of the values they had in common, and as a result became more oppressive states that tried to use power to keep people in line, since culture had failed. At that point, their citizens became individualistic and decadent and displayed the values and behaviors that liberals today also share. Multiculturalism wracked their cities, as did hedonism and perversity. As a result, they fell apart from within.
The most interesting part is that this pattern applies to empires outside the West as well. Jared Diamond, who normally writes leftist propaganda, took a break to write a study of the civilization on Easter Island and how it fell apart from within. In the New World, the ancient Maya, Inca and Aztecs showed the exact same pattern, which left their civilizations weak and near death by the time the Spanish arrived to crudely finish the job. Even ancient Asian and African civilizations, from Angkor Wat to Egypt, showed this pattern of decline.
As with multiculturalism, societal collapse does not involve a bad guy we can isolate and smash. There is no tangible enemy. The enemy is disorder, and the lack of social order is what causes the decline, just as the fact of mixing destroys culture and thus causes the destruction that accompanies multiculturalism. The message of history is clear: you either hold your civilization together by having the same identity, culture, language, customs and values, or you fall apart.
What is interesting is how many works of ancient cultures deal with this theme. The epic of Gilgamesh touches on it; the Bhagavad-Gita is almost exclusively about it. The cornerstone of Western philosophy, Plato’s “Republic,” is written on this topic. Across the globe and throughout history, the problem of collapse and decline has fascinated and horrified our best thinkers, and they have come up with similar solutions — but all acknowledge that once we make popularity of an idea more important than its veracity, societies are unlikely to elect to choose those solutions.
6. What can we do to delay this process?
Surprisingly, the answer is simple but it may require some complicated methods. I’ll break it down into three sections:
(1) Re-assert culture. Culture is organic and arises from the people, so it’s hard to resurrect once it’s gone. However, you can start with the older works of the past, and by going back to folk common sense, folk values and customs, and any traditions we can read about or learn from our elders. Make culture the dominant part of our lives. Instead of asking “What do I want to do today?” ask yourself “What is the activity that feels ‘right’ in light of what I know about our customs, calendar and values?” For this to take hold, it needs to be instilled in the public. One way to start this is to throw out all “art” from after our cultural decline. Get rid of the bad books, weird modern art, and mindless two-note pop music. Replace it with the greatness of the past and, once we learn how it works, with our own contributions.
(2) End the reign of popularity. Trends define us now and rule us. When something is popular, all of our merchants rush to it in order to cash in. Then there’s a huge crowd of people with no direction in life — normally called “liberals” — and they rush toward the trends because each one of them wants a chance to be important and to share in the drama. Then government and media pay attention. Soon it’s a giant cycle of a huge in-group deciding that some idea is “important” and then selling it to each other. We can retaliate against this by putting some limits on consumerism, including cheap products from abroad; restricting the vote to people age 30+ who own homes; taxing mass media as if it were shipping a physical product; and perhaps most importantly, visibly dropping out of the rush for popularity. We need to refute it in all of its forms. All of this starts with us making fun of it, mocking the people who are addicted to it, and refusing to participate not on political grounds but on practical grounds like “Television bores me” and “Celebrities are too neurotic for me.” Finally, I think we should encourage software, news, video game, movie and audio piracy in order to sabotage and destroy our media industry.
7. Is there a way to rebuild it after it happens?
Civilizations have been destroyed and rebuilt many times before. What happens is that about ten percent of the population, generally not survivalist types and not social butterflies either, decide to carry on their culture, technology and people and start up somewhere else. In fact, the classic epic poem “Aeneid” by Virgil conveys this very theme. Aeneas of Troy and his cohorts have fled the scene of their vast loss in battle and have evaded the victorious Greeks and set sail for a new homeland, where it is foretold that Aeneas will found a new and great civilization. The Aeneid is quite a stirring writing based on many historical sources, but what’s most important is that it accurately describes the process by which people rebuild.
What is different in our case is that we do not want to abandon Europe or America; we want to rebuild them. This presents a quandary because our cities are choked with people, most of whom have no useful skills. What will most likely occur is, as has happened in the distant past, our strongest people will withdraw to less-populated and un-trendy areas, where they will build centers of great wealth and power. They will then slowly reconquest the other land, probably by becoming enough of a threat to the interlopers there that those interlopers will flee, leaving behind the land. What civilization rebuilders need is (a) knowledge, (b) quality people and (c) land. It doesn’t matter if we cannot recapture New York or L.A. — any open patch of land with access to lake or ocean will do. When the rebuilt civilization becomes more powerful or more numerous than the remnants of the ruined culture that came before it, the new civilization will conquer the old and exile its people, and then be in complete control.
8. Why does liberalism always target the “favored” in order to promote its agenda, equality though distribution of wealth and crippling of ability?
If you want equality, you have two options for achieving it: either you try to raise up the lesser, or bring down the greater. Raising the lesser doesn’t really work, because if someone is in a lesser position it is usually because they have screwed up and/or lack abilities needed to rise above that level. This leaves bringing down the stronger, which is easier to do. As in the Kurt Vonnegut story “Harrison Bergeron,” you just handicap the more competent people so that they are only barely able to compete with the incompetents around them. This brings everybody down to the same level.
Interestingly, modern liberalism uses both methods. It creates a massive welfare state for those who are not succeeding like the poor, incompetents, gays/lesbians/bisexuals/transsexuals, minorities, women, the obese, mental health cases. At the same time, it tries to bury its most intelligent and capable people in a mountain of red tape, regulations, unstable cities and pointless governmental exercises. Affirmative action, the welfare state, and high schools that bore intelligent children are all part of this liberal method.
9. How would you solve the issues of wealth distribution such as the concentration of wealth and power among a tiny few?
I wouldn’t. This problem is a non-issue that solves itself. The Paris Hiltons of the world will manage to waste their money and new people will take their places. What is most important is having a society where the competent and motivated people can rise above the rest. This method, which when it occurs in nature we call “natural selection” or “Darwinian evolution,” simply works because it means that the people on top are GENERALLY the most productive, intelligent, moral and hard-working types. Everyone benefits from having the most capable people at the top, even if it means those capable people become quite wealthy.
If you are a Christian, you can see this expressed in the parable of the talents. A master leaves money with his three servants; one buries the coins, and gives back the exact same coins; another invests the coins and has mediocre performance, but is able to return the same amount; the third invests the money well, makes a lot more, and returns that. If you’re the master, you’re going to take a much bigger sum of money and give it to the servant who can invest it well and make more of it. That way, everybody wins. There is more money for everyone.
While the “libertarians” we see floating around are often not the best examples, I like the basic principle of libertarianism. Get the regulation out of the way and let the best people rise. This encourages every citizen to think not in terms of what they deserve, or how they’re victims, but in terms of what they can do to make more wealth. It’s a healthier mental state than waiting around for government handouts or pity.
10. Do you think that Capitalism is worth preserving or should we look to some third way economic theory such as distributism?
My answer here is classic New Right: capitalism is the best possible economic system, if and only if we keep it under the thumb of culture. We need to have shared values that come first, and then capitalism should serve that. Without culture to rein it in, capitalism becomes a voracious parasite that tears a society apart. Of course, without culture, any aspect of a society becomes parasitic because they are all running out of control without leadership.
11. Explain how liberalism, egalitariansm, and anti-elitism share a common root in human psychology.
The root of liberalism is fear. The individual fears that they are not capable. For that reason, they start to hate and resent those who are having a good time in life. At that point, the situation becomes sort of like the plot of a Hollywood movie — think of Napoleon Dynamite: the nerdy kids join together, form a little mob, and take on the rich, good-looking and powerful kids, and win. The crowd takes over. The outcasts triumph over the successes. Everything is reversed and inverted. This is the common root of all liberalism, egalitarianism and anti-elitism. They exist because of the fear of individuals. Those individuals find a way to gain power, which is to concoct this absurd fiction of “equality” and use it to force their way into power. What is always popular, especially among those who are less capable? Equality — it means that even if you contribute nothing, you’re guaranteed a place at the table. Who has no use for equality? Those who have risen above it. And so that’s who the liberals target. All of this originates in a root in human psychology, which is our tendency to project our fear onto the world and by making parts of that world symbols of our fear and smashing them, to think we have escaped our fear.
12. Explain how they form the basis of decay.
Once liberalism appears in your civilization, each of your citizens is a free agent. They are no longer bonded toward a common goal and values system, like culture. They are acting for themselves, selfishly, and against the rest of society, which they see as “oppressing” them. Even more, suddenly all of your citizens want to act like victims and have someone else do the work and make the hard choices. Their agenda becomes the classic liberal agenda not of generating wealth and power, but of redistributing wealth and creating democracy. At that point, decay is gaining strength because the society has lost any sight of reality itself.
13. Do you defend elitism?
Absolutely I defend elitism. However, I need to separate elitism from its cousin, pretense. Elitism means that you pick the best possible option and push yourself to the highest possible goals. That’s it. Pretense works the opposite way, which is that you assume you are important, and in order to justify that appearance, you start claiming that the stuff you like is of the highest quality and everyone else should respect it. Elitism is the enemy of pretense because elitism demands actual performance. If you’re going shopping for music, buy the best. If you’re in school, all praise goes to the smart kids and best athletes. If you’re doing a job, you hold yourself to high standards. Pretense is when people pick something obscure and claim it’s the best possible thing, and they do this for one reason and one reason only, which is that it gives them more control and more social power over you.
14. How come the environmental movement is deeply confused?
When you introduce liberalism into a movement, no other goals are possible. Liberalism is a binary movement: you are either liberal, or you are the enemy of liberalism. That is because liberalism is its own agenda and all of the issues that liberals like are means to that end. Multiculturalism? Smash the majority, create equality. Drug use? Smash morality, create equality. Atheism? Smash religion, create equality. Sodomy? Smash normalcy, create equality. Their goal is to make every choice, idea, decision, preference, person and concept “equal” so that no choice is more valuable than any other. This means every individual will feel accepted, and anyone who creates a value shared between people will be viewed with suspicion.
Obviously, this outlook doesn’t play well with others! It’s very hostile, inherently defensive and views itself as a victim, and as such is highly reactionary and aggressive. It’s like a cancer. The environmental movement allowed itself to be swallowed up by liberalism sometime in the 1950s. This meant that instead of simply working toward a better environment, the environmental movement was working toward a better environment — through liberalism. As a result, environmentalists stopped talking about conserving the forests and started talking about how equality and multiculturalism will save our forests. Not surprisingly, at that point every sane person tuned out, because it was like listening to Soviet Radio to hear these people talk.
Right now, environmentalists refuse to talk about the actual problems of nature and the solutions. Instead you get lots of expensive lightbulbs filled with mercury, people telling you to stop whaling and start recycling your condoms, and toilets that take two flushes instead of one. What are liberal-environmentalists avoiding? Population, for one. We’ve got seven billion people and the next stop is nine billion. Next, most of these people are impoverished and having lots of kids. They’re also avoiding what happens when we try to give all nine billion of these people a first-world lifestyle, with fast food and two cars and a house. Further, they’re not mentioning the big problem, which is use of land. For every 100 sq ft we live in, there’s probably another 10,000 sq ft of land for farms, roads, hospitals, schools, parking lots, airports, warehouses, stores, restaurants, bars, and government buildings.
What nature really needs is conservation. However, environmentalists will not accept that. Conservation is a right-wing movement that involves setting aside land for nature. As a result, conservation means we stop telling everyone that they’re entitled to a house, car, wealthy lifestyle, etc. just because they are human and therefore equal. Instead, we work toward having fewer humans by putting a lot of the land off-limits and letting natural species thrive. By off-limits, we mean no roads, no fences, no power lines and no “guaranteed safety.” We mean keeping the land wild and if you get eaten by a bear or wander three miles off a trail and fall to your death, oh well. That’s part of nature, the un-cuddly and scary parts. The bigger point is that for us to have the many species of plants and animal out there, we need to give them space to hunt, play, mate and rear young. They need more space than we think. We can’t put them in zoo-cage-sized plots and hope they’ll thrive. But all of that is not acceptable to environmentalists, who are liberals first and environmental activists a distant second.
15. Explain your ideology of deep ecology?
Let me first quote from the Deep Ecology Movement’s mission statement:
“We believe that true ecological sustainability may require a rethinking of our values as a society. Present assumptions about economics, development, and the place of human beings in the natural order must be reevaluated. If we are to achieve ecological sustainability, Nature can no longer be viewed only as a commodity; it must be seen as a partner and model in all human enterprise.
We begin with the premise that life on Earth has entered its most precarious phase in history. We speak of threats not only to human life, but to the lives of all species of plants and animals, as well as the health and continued viability of the biosphere. It is the awareness of the present condition that primarily motivates our activities.
We believe that current problems are largely rooted in the following circumstances:
* The loss of traditional knowledge, values, and ethics of behavior that celebrate the intrinsic value and sacredness of the natural world and that give the preservation of Nature prime importance. Correspondingly, the assumption of human superiority to other life forms, as if we were granted royalty status over Nature; the idea that Nature is mainly here to serve human will and purpose.
* The prevailing economic and development paradigms of the modern world, which place primary importance on the values of the market, not on Nature. The conversion of nature to commodity form, the emphasis upon economic growth as a panacea, the industrialization of all activity, from forestry to farming to fishing, even to education and culture; the drive to economic globalization, cultural homogenization, commodity accumulation, urbanization, and human alienation. All of these are fundamentally incompatible with ecological or biological sustainability on a finite Earth.
* Technology worship and an unlimited faith in the virtues of science; the modern paradigm that technological development is inevitable, invariably good, and to be equated with progress and human destiny. From this, we are left dangerously uncritical, blind to profound problems that technology and science have wrought, and in a state of passivity that confounds democracy.
* Overpopulation, in both the overdeveloped and the underdeveloped worlds, placing unsustainable burdens upon biodiversity and the human condition.
As our name suggests, we are influenced by the Deep Ecology Platform, which helps guide and inform our work. We believe that values other than market values must be recognized and given importance, and that Nature provides the ultimate measure by which to judge human endeavors.” (http://www.deepecology.org/mission.htm)
If you read this statement carefully, you see that what it calls for is a role best filled by a traditional society. We need values outside of commerce, trends and popularity; this means we need culture. We need sanctity of the natural world as part of those values, which means we need a traditional outlook on society and religion. We need smaller civilizations more closely bonded to the land, which is nationalism. The National Socialist Germans talked about “Blood and Soil,” but they picked that phrase up from the Volkisch movement, which was also the parent of the original German environmental movement. We need strong culture, national identity and strong pro-nature values in order to want to do what is right (i.e. difficult) to preserve our environment.
16. Why do you think the right wants nothing to do with environmentalism?
Once the left took over environmentalism, the right fled it. The media is not liberal-controlled, but it’s leftist-sympathetic because over 75% of the people who work in media are leftist, and the media overlords know that liberalism is more popular than conservatism so they pander to liberal values. As a result, what a normal person saw was that environmentalism meant socialism with a tacked-on afterthought saying “Oh yeah, and help the animals and plants too, when we’re done with the wealth redistribution.” This caused the right to get the heck away from environmentalism, because the environmentalist movement was basically a liberal recruiting ground.
17. You also state that you see modern environmentalism focusing to much on trivial issues. Give examples and what are the more serious issues they should focus on?
(This was probably answered in #14)
18. Is a significant degree of government itnervention nessesary to preserve the environment?
In a traditional society, culture is more important than government. As a result, government serves culture. The opposite is true in our time, where government serves itself and uses liberal talking points to justify itself. In a truly traditional society, agreement among the leaders both official and unofficial would be in favor of radical conservationism. These leaders would be clergy, business leaders, teachers, police, firefighters, academics, small business owners and military people — normal people, but people who had proven their ability to lead. They would influence others. If our architecture emphasized buildings set apart from each other by wide-open unbroken natural spaces, and our social values emphasized huge forests where no one went, and all of our television programs praised the wild frontier, we’d have our results without government having to do anything.
19. What is green conservatism?
Green conservatism is the idea that conservatives conserve, and we conserve the environment too. Currently, the right-wing is in a bad state because fundamental right-wing values like social Darwinism, elitism, natural selection, nationalism, shared values (but not collective force), and strong culture are forbidden and classified as taboo by the liberal majority. To avoid being banned, right-wing parties hide their true nature and make themselves hybrids with liberalism, which gets us neo-conservatism. Neo-conservatism will not embrace environmentalism because it is too infected with the leftist agenda, but also because neo-conservatism is too infected with liberal dogma. As a result, the right is distanced from greenism. However, it makes sense for us to re-adopt this value and take it back from the left. We believe in nature and in the natural order, and it’s sensible for the right-wing to come up with a conservative platform for environmentalism and green activism, which is outlined above in the “deep ecology” and conservation questions.
20. How it would it be implemented and what are some positions it would take to preserve the environment?
(This was probably answered in #14)
21. Explain what is futurist traditionalism.
Futurist traditionalism is conservatism without the dead parts. We want to learn from the past and apply those lessons toward having a better future. We recognize that every society needs a clear identity, shared values, heritage, culture, language and customs in order to thrive. We want a rising society, or one that isn’t so obsessed with wealth redistribution that it forgets to do great things. We want an end to idiocracy, which is a product of egalitarianism, and an end to liberal democracy. Instead, we want a society that can assert its values and act toward realizing them. This requires we keep the traditionalist nature of all successful societies to date, and introduce futurism, or a desire to reach toward the future through technology and learning. We want to discard what conservatism has become, which is defensive and boring, and replace it with a desire to conquer the universe and to be better than we thought we could be. We desire greatness, beauty and adventure. We’re not stodgy old reactionaries like the liberals, who are still spouting the lies from 1789 and trying to use guilt to control us.
22. Explain how conservatism is about learning from the past and nature.
Conservatism is based on understanding cause/effect relationships. History is our laboratory, and we hope to learn from our mistakes. When we see how a certain cause ended up, we know whether we want to repeat it or avoid it. This is analogous to how natural selection works in nature, where good ideas result in success and bad ideas result in failure. Even more, nature teaches us that all good designs come with an inherent beauty and grace that not only is functional, but makes us feel at home and in awe of our universe. Paul Woodruff wrote a great book about this called “Reverence.”
23. Why don’t modern conservatives respect the past and nature?
Modern conservatives are neoconservatives, or half-liberal/half-conservative hybrids. Like most hybrids, they have some “hybrid vigor” in that they are driven forward by the contradictions in their ideology, but over time it starts to break apart. Among the modern conservatives are many paleoconservatives, who hold on to the older and truer conservatism of people like H.L. Mencken and T.S. Eliot and before. These respect the past and nature. Modern conservatives cannot respect the past and nature because it clashes with the values they have adopted from liberalism. The past was not egalitarian, and yet society was better — as a result, it’s politically incorrect and social taboo to mention the past. Nature rewards the competent, which is against equality as well.
24. Explain the existentialist case for conservatism.
Life should be beautiful and exciting, filled with discovery and adventure, and giving each individual a sense of place and purpose. You cannot do that by telling everyone they must be equal and that they can do whatever they want that does not offend others. What that translates into is a society of single people alone in their apartments for the eight hours a day they’re not at jobs, pursuing their hobbies alone because otherwise they might cause someone to be upset. Freedom, equality and “peace” sound good on paper but in reality they’re a form of entropy. Nothing changes; everything is a surface appearance with no depth. The conservatives of the future are the people who are bored with modern society because it is adventureless, ugly and without a goal. These people want a challenge and want a beautiful life, not just a utilitarian one. That is how existentialist sentiments direct people toward conservatism.
25. Explain how the ensuing social chaos demands a strong force of control, found in commerce, media and government.
When we have a strong culture or shared values system (including actual “common sense”) people do what is sensible according to that values system. Since everyone shares this values system it is easy to know what you should be doing and what you should avoid. As a result, the only deviants are criminals, and those are dealt (preferably by exile).
Without that values system, people have no idea what they should be doing. In addition, equality means they are faceless and anonymous, so they start “acting out” in an attempt to stand out from the crowd and be recognized socially. This means that sheer chaos reigns. Every individual is doing something different, usually without purpose, and since they desire “different” more than “logical,” they end up creating mayhem wherever they go. The ensuing social breakdown requires a strong police state to keep deviancy in line when it goes far; in addition, government and media collude to preach simple commands at the people to keep them from screwing up. For example, look at the massive campaigns against cigarettes, drugs, DUI, incest, child abuse, etc. that so elegantly line our freeways and fill our magazines. That’s propaganda. We don’t object because we think it’s a good cause. But when your society has so few values in common that you have to educate people to not rape their children, we’re past the point where good causes can help anything.
26. While mainstream conservatives focus on how people are dependent on the government you also focus on how they are too dependent on entertainment and social approval. Explain?
Without culture, people are looking for meaning in their lives. Since there’s no goal in common to work toward, all that is left is ourselves — who we are as social constructions, who we know and what kind of personal drama we have going on at the moment. This makes social approval become important. In fact, it becomes the only way they measure themselves. Liberalism encourages this, because liberalism is fundamentally a social movement, or a fashion, or trend.
All of these social ideas cause people to stop thinking about real goals. Instead of trying to achieve something, they ask “How will this look to others?” Instead of having real values, they wonder “Will this make other people like me?” And instead of acting with purpose, they look for novelty and distraction, so that other people find it interesting.
The media plays into this both as a provider of memes, and as a parasite that follows trends and hypes them up so that each group can get its turn. The coolfinders come first, the hipsters imitate them, then middle America imitates that, and then the true drop-outs get a turn. It’s just like trendy products, like those dumb plastic singing fish. At first, they’re rare and kind of hip and a few people own them. Then, Target gets ahold of it and sells it to middle class America. Finally, at some point down the line, K-mart and Wal-mart start selling the things in bulk at a discount, but at that point only the hopelessly un-hip buy them. It’s like a giant ecosystem where the media stimulates trends, then markets products for them.
As a consequence of this, most of modern society lives in a place that doesn’t resemble reality at all. We had millions of people worldwide convinced that Troy Davis was innocent because that’s what CNN said and that’s what all their friends said. If they had the police file in front of them and read it, they would have been thinking, “Wait just a second — this guy is not a good person, he’s guilty as hell.” But instead they let the social trends, media memes and popular fashion sway their thinking. It’s how crowds are dangerous.
27. Explain how America is a type of civilization rather than a place.
There’s a lot of hatred for America in the world, and 99% of it is caused by (a) envy or (b) distrust of American policies. I don’t hate America, and don’t see the point; the real issue is that modern society is the source of those American policies many of us distrust. America is a civilization in its modern stage, which is a kind of mid-life crisis. What makes America seem so horrible to people is that we are caught in a liberal time, and so we are preaching liberalism to the world, yet as our society decays it becomes apparent that our “gift” of liberal democracy is anything but a gift — it’s a death sentence.
Instead of hating America, the smart people out there should realize that America is a country like any other, and the disease that grips America can grip other countries too. America is just ahead of the game because it never had as clear of an ethnic consensus, and because as a rapidly growing highly social civilization, it has surged ahead to encounter these challenges. What has happened to America can happen to any country, however, and indeed has happened to all empires before they have fallen.
28. Comprised of equal parts liberal anarchism and commercial fascism, this type of civilization uses “freedom” and “equality” to create a society without standards, values or ideals — what does this mean?
Our society endorses liberal values, which at their fullest expression take form in anarchy: everyone is equal, no one rises above to make rules. At the same time, an anarchist society would rapidly develop commerce and armed security guards because as long as there are people, there will be a need for services and a vast profit potential. Any society that did away with money and government would find itself in short order in the grips of far more powerful forces of commerce and a police state. Our society gets as close to the anarchist ideal as it can and also tries to keep its citizens happy with commerce, so it ends up creating a balance by which the citizens do whatever they want so long as they do not intrude on the commerce. This is a problem because without culture to guide it, commerce becomes parasitic and destructive. However, both commerce and anarchistic liberalism agree on one thing — no rules, except the obvious protection of commerce, no murder, etc. This means such as society is violently opposed to standards, values and ideals because these conflict with the absolute equality of anarchism and the absolute corrupting force of commerce.
29. The ensuing social chaos demands a strong force of control, found in commerce, media and government. Commerce ropes citizens into debt and jobs, media fills their heads with illusions, and government enforces profitable laws — what does this mean?
When you do away with standards in common, you introduce social chaos. Our government has no interest in limiting that chaos because it provides a justification for its power. In the meantime, people are tired of it, so they flock to commercial messages and products which promise peace, relaxation, etc. No one wants to admit that our cities are ugly, our people are chaotic, and as a result our civilization is disorganized, boring, and fundamentally soulless.
30. You believe that peaceful revolution can occur if 5% of the population adopts your ideas?
5% would be nice but even 2% of the population, if they give up on their “individualism” and join together toward a goal in common, can effect a massive change in the world. All it takes is consistency and dedication. All revolutions start this way. It’s easier for liberal revolutions, because their ideas are popular, but as liberalism fails more people are turning toward the new forms of conservatism.
31. Explain how immigration is class warfare and causes racism.
Immigration is a tool of the liberal left. It is used to destroy the majority by forcing a new culture into our country, thus putting the former majority culture on the defensive, with any incidents of friction used to induce guilt in members of that majority culture. Further, it imports a huge number of new liberal voters. The ultimate goal is to shatter culture, destroy values consensus and replace members of the majority with impoverished newcomers; in addition, the influx displaces lower income Americans from their jobs and forces them either into poverty or into jobs for which they may not be qualified. The result is fear and trembling all around, but the ultimate goal is class warfare against the wealthy majority and the replacement of that majority with a new population.
32. Explain how immigration is fundamentally racist since it seeks to destroy a race and replace it with a new one.
Immigration is multiculturalism, unless we’re talking about immigration from Europe. America is a European nation by how her founding fathers saw her and by the dominant Anglo-Germanic culture of the time. It was only in the 1840s that we opened America up to non-Northwestern Europeans, and only in the 1960s that we opened it up to non-European descended people. The result has been replacement of a vague but vital original culture with the culture of not having a culture, or multiculturalism. The goal of multiculturalism is not to provide us with more exciting ethnic foods, but to replace us. The new people will be more likely to vote liberal. They will also take their revenge on those they are certain have oppressed them.
33. You reviewed Jared Taylor’s new book. Explain your take on it.
Jared Taylor wrote a real masterpiece with “White Identity: Racial Consciousness in the 21st Century.” Over the past 40 years, we’ve learned a lot about diversity. The problem is not African-Americans, Jews, Hispanics, Asians, etc. but the fact of diversity itself, which both (a) destroys our shared values and identity and (b) replaces those with a culture dedicated to having no values. Diversity is conformity. We don’t recognize it as conformity because it is spun to us as an “alternative” to a (“boring”) ethnic majority, and we’re told by our televisions that we are boring and have no culture, so we must import some. However, the end result of diversity is uniformity in a mixed-ethnic, cultureless void. Taylor starts out his book by recognizing the value of ethnic identity and the shared cultural values it brings. He discusses this first in other ethnic groups, and then in white people. Then, without falling back into criticism of the ingredients of diversity, he explores recent research that shows us how destabilizing and sabotaging diversity is. As Taylor notes, this diversity does not have to be racial or ethnic, as even same-race and same-ethnic groups have disintegrated under diverse conditions if separated by religion, philosophy or even radical gaps in social class. He points out the role of diversity in destroying aging civilizations. It’s a compelling argument, diligently researched, and written very well. I highly recommend this book and Pat Buchanan’s “Suicide of a Superpower.” If you read them together, you see the whole picture at once.
34. With the state of modern conservativism, what makes you want to hold on to that label rather than go in some other direction such as third position?
I used to like the idea of third positionism, but then I reconsidered history. All of history until 1789 showed us a solid conservative underpinning to society that while it had its problems, was nothing like the chaos and crass mundane evil that seems to define modern society. For that reason, I do not see a reason for a third position; conservatism is the sane position, and liberalism is a product of decay. You don’t try to find reasons to argue around decay. In addition, we already have a third position, which is pre-1789 conservatism with its caste system, monarchies, traditions, and highly ritualized daily experience. The last thing I want to do is create a path because it seems socially acceptable and like it might attract people who are afraid of conservatism. I think instead it makes sense to explain that the right is correct and always has been, and that we can find solutions to all of our modern problems by simply avoiding all liberalism. Liberalism destroys civilization. That which is not liberalism, and is realistic and common sense, is conservatism. I want to re-make conservatism so it’s more like the Traditionalist movement, the pale-conservatives, and so that it recaptures its deep ecologist conservationist roots. But I see no reason to abandon it. Its appeal is that it is a collection of strategies for living that simply work. Its triumph over liberalism is that liberalism is airy theory that sounds good to your friends, but doesn’t work. As year 222 rolls past and Europe’s and America’s fortunes remain in a screaming downward spiral, more and more people are realizing that we went wrong in 1789 and the solution is not to invent some new method, but to simply stop making the bad choice to perpetuate liberalism. We took a wrong turn; we need to retrace our steps, fix the damage, pick ourselves up and move on.
35: If the ideas of the left such as eqalitarianism are anti-elitist explain why the entire elite of the west supports them?
Elitism means support of the best. That scares our western liberals, so they have constructed false elites. Just as natural selection scares them, so they created equality, they are now creating false reasons to be “elite” such as having politically correct opinions, being socially popular and being inoffensive. This does not qualify anyone as an elitist. In fact, you can ONLY be a liberal elitist if you are egalitarian, which is the opposite of being an elitist (it’s like being a vegetarian carnivore). Egalitarianism is the opposite of elitism which is why our (false) “elites” will not accept anyone who is not egalitarian.
36: What were the aims of the Frankfurt school how haw sucessful were they at implementing their ideas?
Let’s backtrack through history. 1789 was the first open liberal revolt in the West; before that, stirrings had existed but mainly confined themselves to religion. The Frankfurt School came about at a time when liberals were first realizing the power of internationalism and the starry-eyed progressive appeal, and so certain academics decided to subvert traditional concepts through “theory” (where I’m from, theories are supposed to be about reality, not airy constructions removed from any workable notion of reality). This was part of the same political struggle, internationalism versus nationalism, that formed the basis of the two world wars. After the fall of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, the Frankfurt School took on a new direction — merge Marxism with consumerism. I see the Frankfurt School as a subset of the European pro-anarchist/socialist drive of the 1910s and 1920s. It’s useful to note that whether it calls itself leftism, liberalism, internationalism, globalism, anarchism, socialism, liberal democracy or communism, it’s all the same ideology, just separated by small matters of degree.
37: Is a new political party nessesary to implement your ideas?
This sounds flippant, but no, I’d rather implement them directly. We have an entirely workable conservative establishment in which it is not a mystery that diversity doesn’t work, that the entitlement state is death, and that liberalism destroys the family and produces alienated cultureless citizens — heck, these things aren’t a mystery on the left, either, but they’re planning to use these social disruptions (Alinsky was not the first to think of this) to seize power permanently and destroy the majority so no challenge to their power remains. If normal citizens start rising in the Republican ranks and demanding polite and logical attention to these issues, change will occur.
38: What is the driving ideological force behind our foreign policy in the mideast. Some say its humanitarian interventionism, American hegemenomny, the millitary industrial complex, Israeli interest?
I think it’s building our own image of ourselves. We have to show our citizens that we are right, and we are bringing a better world order through liberalism, so we need to (a) fight wars for democracy and (b) open up these new places to our business to destroy their culture and enrich ourselves with their raw material wealth. Like all good liberal plans, this one relies on an altruistic public truth that conceals a private self-interested motivation. It just happens to dovetail, quite frequently, with what we need to do as a superpower. For example, the big powers now are Russia, China and India against the USA. It’s sensible to knock out any potential allies. This is why the US is all over Eastern Europe and trying to infiltrate it with our business as quickly as possible. If we own those assets, the Russians and Chinese don’t. So far India has played it smart and stayed friendly with the US and neutral to the Soviet Union while committing to neither. The sad truth of this situation is that US foreign policy generally produces good results. Any time a first-world society conquers a third-world society, that third-world society inherits many benefits of the first-world experience and eventually is incorporated into the first world empire. It’s what the Romans did and Greeks did, and now it’s what we do.
Regarding Israel, since that’s what a lot of people are curious about when they ask about the middle east, I think it’s important to realize that there are many groups competing for our political power and they all do it the same way — by getting dollars into the hands of lobbyists. We now have a huge pro-shariah lobby in this country and a huge liberal establishment that is if not outright anti-Semitic at the very least anti-Israel, who they accuse of apartheid (that’s liberal slang for “ethnic self-preservation,” apparently). There’s also a huge fundamentalist Christian lobby with a hilarious forked tongue: they’re pro-Israel, but only so that the final battle can occur at Har-Megiddo and we can all go up to the sky in The Rapture. To me, it seems obvious the Jews in Israel are fighting the same struggle that white people in Europe and the USA are, which is self-preservation against a third-world horde that is attempting to use our egalitarian philosophy to force us to accept them. They are aided by huge liberal camps in all three areas. Remove the liberals, and the problem goes away. It is probably in everyone’s interest to have Israel rule the middle east — the Israeli average IQ is one standard deviation above the next best comer in the region. Israelis are simply smarter, on average, and we should probably let them positively influence the area. That’s not to say the game couldn’t change tomorrow — if the Arab league decides to suddenly exterminate all of its own citizens under 120 IQ points, Israel would face a smarter enemy that still outnumbered them. But that’s a really hard strategy for any leader to take.
39: I noticed you follow some of the manosphere blogs. What is your take on the trends in regards to relations between the sexes and the sociosexual marketplace? Ironically the traditional system of monogamy was much more egalitarian while the sexual revolution that the left has cheered on has led to a much less egalitarian sexual marketplace.
Our society is falling apart, and the family has been disintegrating at a rapid rate since 1968. The result is that few people have any concept of love, but they’re all good with the idea of sexual convenience, which serves the needs of the state and commerce. Was monogamy more egalitarian? It forced men to demonstrate some value before entering into a sexual contract. The sexual revolution has put women at a massive disadvatange by reducing their value and forcing them to endure much more misery before they achieve any permanent union. The manosphere addresses some of these issues but is expanding to address more. It’s growing past its teenage rebellion — pick up artists, “game” and semi-misogynistic rantings — toward a movement of men who are demanding not just equality, but a better future for men in relationships, marriage and family.
40: we have discussed how egalitarianism reduces human output to the lowest common demoninator. what is your take on populism and especially how it relates to elitism.
The left uses the term “populism” to refer to any right-wing movement with popular support, but a more sensible definition is pandering to the immediate financial and social demands of a population. If done at the expense of long-term plans, this is very destructive, but otherwise, it’s important to realize that a nation like an army runs on its stomachs. Political leaders need to make sure that the demands for dogma do not outweigh the need for people to have stable lives, income, food and medical care (and the like). Our current president has put much of that stuff on the back burner in order to work on ideological objectives, and Soviet-style infrastructure failure has resulted from it.
42: Should we oppose big business and big finanace as we do to big government?
The entire reason I’m a nationalist is to avoid “opposing” institutions that are required as a result of our social order. In America as it is currently designed, we have a huge mass of grey culture proles who need a giant nanny/police state to keep herd over them. Because they have nothing in common, they can be counted on to do random destructive acts when not constantly watched over, and to randomly cause conflicts with each other. To try to ride herd on this vast morass of confused citizenry, we have welfare agencies, help groups, police forces, counselors, disciplinarians, and millions of bureaucrats. In addition, big business exists because the more clueless the population gets, the more services they need just to make it through the day. When you think about it, America as a frontier nation did not have big government or big companies, and not just because such things did not exist — they were known in Europe. However, there was no need. Everyone knew what the task was and had a role in it. The same thing is true of the healthy nations in Europe. Everyone joins hands because they perceive a common values system, goal, culture, heritage, identity and history, and there’s a far lesser need for enforcement of any kind, and certainly not for a nanny state. We have a government that seems to spend most of its time trying to save idiots from themselves. Our corporations spend their time designing entertainment and convenience products for vast herds of sofa-bound citizens. Do we need this? We would not, if we had a nationalist and tradition society created with paleoconservative principles. Culture would guide us, and shape the role of both government and citizen. A self-help mentality would pervade the population, and the loss of stupid people through accident would not be a “tragedy” but a normal event. The result would be a self-maintaining, healthier society that would not need the nanny state or its commercial lapdogs.
Responses to second show:
(1) By the wealthy majority, I mean Western European-descended people, who although about 5% of the world’s population are proportionately its wealthiest. As a Nietzsche Social Darwinist, I don’t see wealth as a bad thing; I see it as bad when it is given as a reward for non-productive activity (e.g. government jobs, or being a Kim Kardashian/Paris Hilton celebrity, or something of that nature).
(2) I liked the points you made on modern conservatives being corrupt. Like corporations, political parties respond to their audience, because the popularity of the party/corporation determines its power and thus its survival. If all of us quit working on separate ideas, and instead rushed into the Republican party and took positions within it, we’d have it recaptured within weeks. As a recent article in the NY Times illustrates, the “white strategy” IS and continues to work for the GOP, but no one big is saying so in public. Imagine what would happen if THAT changed!
(3) US hegemony, like Roman hegemony, is in general defensible. I don’t like our current strategy of overthrowing middle eastern tyrants, but the strategy is designed to in the long run remove nuclear-capable states. Why is that important? Well, for starters, a nuclear-capable Iran or Iraq will entail a huge increase in the Israeli nuclear program. Then you have nations close to each other trying to apply MAD, which only barely works when you’re a continent apart. See how this could go badly? For more clarity, where do you think the radiation would drift, since prevailing winds blow across the mediterranean? Europe would be blanketed in fallout.
(4) Israel is controversial as is the role of Jews in the West. My perception is that this is a consequence of the diaspora. When you are living in a country that is not your own, your tendency is to perceive yourself as an outsider and to vote like one. Think of it this way: if all Jews were gone from North America tomorrow, would there still be liberals? Yes. Would liberals still have a majority? Yes. Jews may or may not be overrepresented among liberals, but the majority of liberals and liberal media pundits appear to still be gentiles. Then let’s consider Israel. Israeli Jews are on average smarter and more European-descended than the Arabs around them. You have an option: a European-style state which is a home for all Jews, preventing future Holocausts and possibly the tensions that instigate anti-Jewish feeling, or an Arab-style state which will turn to Islam and ultimately oppose all things European. Ally or enemy. Further, Jews are waking up and realizing that much like liberalism is killing us, it’s killing them from within as well. Food for thought. I agree the term “anti-Semitism” is overplayed since it’s a politically correct misnomer for what is basically anti-Jewish racism. As said previously, I’m a nationalist and traditionalist, which means I favor states of unified heritage, culture, values, customs, language and beliefs. That would mean a white Europe and Jewish Israel, who could ultimately become good allies.
(5) The sexual revolution: did it indeed make things better for women? Consider that 100% of liberals would think it did and we haven’t seen anything really good come out of liberalism or neo-liberalism (another shorthand for neo-conservatism, which is 50% or more liberal). Women now work more hours, have worse working conditions, have fewer chances at family, and more neurotic lives than they did even 60 years ago. What intervened? The sexual revolution. Are they better off? Put another way, if our government lured us into war in Iraq for “freedom,” are women being lured by the same thing? Further, let’s look at demographics. Anywhere the sexual revolution has hit, population has dropped and divorce has risen. Do you want healthy kids looking forward to tomorrow, or bitter shattered children who have never known honest love?
From Croatia with Truth: An Interview with Tomislav Sunic
“In hindsight, inter-European nationalism has done irreparable harm to all peoples of European extraction, starting with civil war in America in 1861 and then during the Great Civil War, WWI and WWII. Petty provincial nationalism at the expense of next door similar looking European neighbors is self- defeating. It serves the purpose of non-Europeans and other alien phenotypes. Even in terms of territorial imperative, petty nationalism is today outdated. The only solution lies in supra-statal pockets of cultural resistance by the Europeans in the USA, Chile, South Africa, Europe, all the way to Russia, i.e., in places where remnants of the European peoples still live. Failure to clearly define the enemy today may lead in the very near future to the definite demise of European heritage. Only in this extraterritorial way one must define oneself today as a European and no longer in a narrow autistic, chauvinistic, nation-state framework.”–Dr.Tomislav Sunic
The following interview was originally published by PRAVDA.Ru in February 2002. This interview was conducted by Justin Cowgill, a former editor of PRAVDA.Ru. Dr. Tomislav Sunic, a former Croatian diplomat, is the author of Against Democracy and Equality, which is scheduled to be republished in the United States.
Greetings from Russia Mr. Sunic! We at PRAVDA.Ru are very pleased that you have agreed to become one of our columnists. As a Croatian diplomat, you are able to share with our readers valuable commentary on today’s Croatia. We feel that by conducting this interview, our readers will come away with a better understanding of who you are and your basic political stances.
Please tell our readers a little about yourself. What experiences have you had that have shaped your outlook on politics and life in general? When did you first become interested in politics? Also, please tell us something about your diplomatic career.
Politics was part of family life. My father, a Catholic attorney and a former political prisoner, was constantly at loggerheads with the Yugoslav communist authorities. Back in communist Yugoslavia, I expressed my resentments against the mendacity of the system by dropping out and becoming a hippy and even hiking down to India. Being reared on books in several languages helped me to complete my university degrees and put myself into a wider perspective. I like to speculate as to how my interlocutor or enemy perceives me. This requires a great deal of intellectual effort and emotional detachment. After the breakup of Yugoslavia, I was called by Tudjman’s government to do some diplomatic lobbying for Croatia.
What was your position on the Croat-Serb war? At one point, it was reported that Serbia and Croatia had actually reached a compromise that would have stopped the war, but Croatia was pressured by the West to form an alliance with the Bosnian Muslims and to fight against the Serbs. Is there any truth to this? In your opinion, did outside powers benefit from the civil war?
I must have heard a myriad of rumors and conspiracy theories regarding the breakup of Yugoslavia in 1991. I do not blame so much the Serbs as I do the decade-long EU and USA upholding of the frail legality of the multiethnic brew called Yugoslavia. Yugoslavia was the product of Versailles architects in 1919 with a refill of the allied blessing in 1945 in Potsdam. Slobodan Milosevic strictly knew that, notably while trying to salvage Yugoslavia by force, which actually sped up its forceful demise. Hence, the real reason he is paying a hefty price now in The Hague.
It is known that many Croatian communists became nationalists after Croatia’s secession from Yugoslavia. Were these conversions genuine, or were these politicians merely opportunists?
The latter is true. However, almost all former Croatian communists are now ultra-liberal free marketers. This is a trademark not just of Croatia but of all post-communist countries, including Russia. What is worrisome, however, is not so much the make-believe volume of civic and democratic parlance of the new political class; rather, it is the shiftiness and phenomenal feel-good lightness by which it betrayed its former Marxist mythology. If some other political myth holds sway tomorrow, the same people will flock to new secular deities with no feelings of guilt.
While Serbia has traditionally had close ties with Russia, Croats seem to identify more with Western European nations, such as Germany. In fact, it has been reported that many volunteers from Western nations came to Croatia to participate in the civil war. It was also reported that many Russians and other Slavs participated on the side of Serbia. Do you have any knowledge of this being the case? If so, to what extent did foreign volunteers participate in the civil war?
Over 2000 foreign volunteers from Chile to Canada, from the USA to Australia, served at some point in early Croatian rag-tag units during the so-called Homeland War. This was partly due to cultural affinities and partly to the strong anticommunist feelings of many. The Serb-dominated Yugoslav army displayed the communist red star insignia until 1995, which invariably boosted the early Croatian separatist cause among European and US conservatives. The unfortunate religious cleavage between the Orthodox East and Catholic West violently erupted to the fore. Many Western volunteers and many Croat expatriates came to fight. I cannot be more specific at this stage.
What is your opinion of Ante Pavelic, the Croatian leader during WW2? It has been claimed that the Ustashe government committed many atrocities against Serbs, Jews, and other non-Croats. How much of this is propaganda and how much is true?
The English historian Edward Carr wrote that before one studies history, one must study a historian. Failure to look at different, i.e., revisionist, historical accounts leads to misperceptions, paranoia, and, eventually, armed conflicts. The former Yugoslav propaganda had committed a mistake by hyper-inflating Croatian fascist crimes of WWII. Tudjman in 1990 dared to demolish this antifascist victimology. His public speeches, given the widespread foreign media prone “historical linkages,” soon earned him a bad reputation among liberal pressure groups, both in the USA and Europe. Moreover, his speeches were a big enough reason to alter the mindset of the local, largely rural, Serbs in Croatia, who were already whipped into a frenzy by Milosevic’s communist propaganda. The spiral of fear and misperception, backed by mythical and histrionic narratives on both sides, resulted in war in 1991.
As for Ante Pavelic, the leader of WWII Croatia, his role must be put into his epoch, i.e., along with the Romanian, Corneliu Codreanu; the Fleming, Staf De Clercq; the Englishman, Oswald Mosley; the Russian-American, Anastase Vonsiatsky; the Spaniard, Franco; as well as other real or would-be fascist leaders.
During my recent visit to Croatia, I came away with the impression that many Croats cheered when NATO launched its military campaign against Serbia. In your opinion, do ordinary Croats still hold such hostile feelings towards Serbia?
Unfortunately, this is largely true. Many Croats, even in academic circles, use this type of “negative legitimization.” Serbs are often used as scapegoats for Croatia’s own failures, be it in the field of diplomacy or economy. However, centralistic-minded Serbs have traditionally nourished a cult of a “chosen people” destined to play a leading role in policing the Balkans; hence, the reason that they alienated other non-Serb peoples. The end result was war.
From the Berlin Congress in 1878 until 1991, Serbs were the darlings of the anti-German Western powers. I think that, eventually, these two similar peoples will be on speaking terms. Croats must realize that Serbs will remain their first neighbors. However, from a wider anthropological perspective, it is worth alerting the political class in the EU and USA that multicultural, let alone multiracial states, never last long. Such ideas as uncontrolled and irresponsible Third-world immigration, the American government, and the EU are paving the way for their own balkanization. The case of multiethnic ex-Yugoslavia speaks volumes.
The current Croatian government has indicated that it would like to join both the EU and NATO. If Croatia is accepted into either of these organizations, what changes do you think might take place in Croatia? In your view, would these changes be positive or negative?
There are no “yes-s,” “no-s,” or “if-s.” Joining the EU and NATO is the only option for Croatia, short of becoming a pariah state. The only problems are the Croatian methods. The Croatian political class does not know the linkages, the possible setbacks, the terms of juridical engagements, etc. Croatia does not have civil society, as it was destroyed after WWII by the Yugoslav leader Tito and his communist followers, who were very largely made up of the semi-rural, bewildered populace. The Croatian public does not fully know the underpinnings of the EU or NATO. It envisions entry into these two supra-national bodies as entry into a self-serving rich men’s country club. What Croatia needs first is total de-communization. Without this, Croatia will constantly be plagued by a traumatic lack of decision-making. At this stage, Croatia, similar to the Russian political class, is engaged in broken English mimicry of all things Western.
You are known as a very outspoken anticommunist. Please explain the reasons for your opposition to communism? In addition, you have said that Croatia’s current, main threats are the “Western” ideals of capitalism and consumerism. If you consider yourself to be an anticommunist as well as an anticapitalist, what political system would you like to see take shape in Croatia, a sort of third-position?
There are different forms of anticommunism. However, being an anticommunist does not presuppose that one must, therefore, embrace its only present counterpart, i.e., global capitalism. Both systems have inherent principles of egalitarianism, economism, and universalism, i.e., the belief in the abstract ideology of “human rights” and the dogma of perpetual economic growth. Due to its violent transparency, poor economic results, and negative social-biological selection, along with the nameless topography of terror, communism lost its intellectual appeal. By contrast, modern capitalism, which operates today under the term of “globalism,” is more successful in promoting the same totalitarian goals, albeit with different rhetoric. It is utopia achieved.
Many failed communist practices are now fully operational, albeit under different labels in the EU and USA. Former paleo-communist political romanticism, such as multiculturalism, multiracialism, academic self-censorship, intellectual opportunism, which is known as political correctness, and the loss of the sense of the tragic, is in full swing in the West. Moreover, unlike communism, modern liberalism, i.e., global capitalism, does not leave visible traces of blood and cohorts of martyrs in its wake. Its destructive longevity is guaranteed.
You have also spoken out against blind nationalism, which, in your opinion, was used to manipulate the peoples of the former Yugoslavia. However, you have also indicated that you consider yourself to be pro-European. What are your reasons for your opposition to nationalism? Do you consider yourself to hold pan-European ideas?
In hindsight, inter-European nationalism has done irreparable harm to all peoples of European extraction, starting with civil war in America in 1861 and then during the Great Civil War, WWI and WWII. Petty provincial nationalism at the expense of next door similar looking European neighbors is self- defeating. It serves the purpose of non-Europeans and other alien phenotypes. Even in terms of territorial imperative, petty nationalism is today outdated. The only solution lies in supra-statal pockets of cultural resistance by the Europeans in the USA, Chile, South Africa, Europe, all the way to Russia, i.e., in places where remnants of the European peoples still live. Failure to clearly define the enemy today may lead in the very near future to the definite demise of European heritage. Only in this extraterritorial way one must define oneself today as a European and no longer in a narrow autistic, chauvinistic, nation-state framework.
You have spent a portion of your life in the United States. From my personal experience as an American living in Europe, I know that many Europeans have a false sense of reality when it comes to life in the USA. You, as a European who lived many years in the United States, have seen firsthand the difference between what is presented the movies and media that Europeans watch and the reality of the everyday American. Please share for our readers your thoughts on the subject. Also, please tell us something about Croatian-Americans. Are many of these immigrants politically active?
The problem with all Eastern Europeans, including Croats, is an identity crisis and a deep inferiority complex. The lack of self- assertiveness, which is due to perpetual historical tremors in this region, often results in surreal and self-complacent political romanticism. Most Croats have inherited strong residues of the homo sovieticus mendacity combined with the Melrose Place soap opera dream world. Croat expatriates did play a significant role in financing Tudjman’s campaign. However, they also live in their own dream worlds, romanticizing Croatia in folkoristique lime lights. There is also a fundamental psychological gap between Croats in Croatia and Croat expatriates. It is this vicarious misperception of two virtual worlds, respectively, that leads to the breakdown in communication. As far as the new post-Tudjman, left-leaning government in Croatia is concerned, it has shoved aside the Croatian expatriates.
I would like for you to give our readers an assessment of the current Croatian government. Can you make a prediction regarding the next elections? If the presidential election were held today, in your opinion, who would win?
The cumulative votes of opposition right-wing parties today could easily dislodge the current left-leaning government in a would-be election. Due to their constant bickering and clannish approach to body politics, this is hardly going to be the case. Although a small nation of 4 million citizens, Croatia has phenomenal regional differences between north and south and the Mediterranean Croats, who often make their electoral choices on the basis of their regional in-group decisions. Almost the same replica exists among expatriate Croats, unlike the Flemish, Irish, or Palestinian nationalists, who all have a solid supra-regional political platform. This endless infighting does not make Croatia a serious partner in the eyes of Western observers. It was only during Tudjman’s leadership, a man with deep insight into Croatian diversity that Croatia managed to become an independent state. The actual coalition government, which is made up of five left-leaning parties, has brought the country to administrative standstill.
How is the late Croatian President Franjo Tudjman remembered in Croatia? Many in the West consider him to be a war criminal that should have been tried in The Hague. However, during the war, Tudjman received the West-s backing and seemed to know how to “play ball” with the Western powers. Is he remembered as the father of independent Croatia or has his reputation suffered as a result of criticism from the West?
Tudjman’s Croatia did not receive any backing from the West, not until 1995. The emergence of Croatia was primarily the result of nameless volunteers, committed individuals with strong will to power. Prior to 1995, Croatia was subject to an arms embargo, just like the heavily armed rump Yugoslavia, i.e., Serbia. It had to build its administration and army from scratch. It was a moment that briefly united all Croats of different political persuasions. The EU never liked Tudjman. He was a former communist turned a staunch revisionist and anticommunist, a large enough reason for the Western opinion makers to isolate Croatia. The so-called international community is now firmly behind the more docile left-leaning government in Croatia.
Speaking of The Hague, how is the issue of the extradition of Croatian war veterans treated by the Croatian press? How does the common Croat feel about the issue? On one hand, it seems that Croatia and Serbia are in the same boat. Both nations are being asked to send people some feel are war heroes to be judged by a foreign court in a foreign land.
Even heroes do not last long. Again, Croat soldiers, due to the pressure of various international bodies, are often portrayed as a bunch of criminals. The Hague judiciary looks for “legal equidistance” between the Yugoslav aggressor and the Croat victims. Average Croats are bedazzled and bewildered. Whose gods should they trust today?
Yet, I do not blame The Hague or the international community for their half-baked legal practices. Being a disciple of sociologist Vilfredo Pareto and the jurist Carl Schmitt, I blame the lack of leadership in Croatia, the lack of the new elites, and the lack of a meritocracy able to outsmart the often ignorant New World Order architects. Playing meek and hollering “mea culpa” won’t help. Pareto wrote, “Whoever becomes a sheep will find a wolf to eat him.” This is the case with the Croatian administration staffed by former communists with no initiative, many of whom have a murky past.
In your opinion, should the Croatian government do anything to help the Bosnian Croats? It seems that they are in a rather difficult position, as their most popular politicians and political parties have been banned. It is quite clear that they feel as if they are not properly represented in the Bosnian government and that they would like to form an independent Croat state. Is there any chance that, in the future, the Bosnian Croatians could be annexed by Croatia?
Playing dumb in politics is often a virtue, but living under the cover of delusions may be dangerous. Bosnia and Herzegovina form a small and belated replica of the failed multiethnic Yugoslavia. It can be upheld on the map, as it currently is, only by foreign, including US, troops and half-ignorant EU commissars. We must remember how former multiethnic Yugoslavia ended its voyage into the darkness. I have spoken with some foreign leaders and members of the media. They are aware of this make-believe country, but they must rhetorically abide by the new “multicultural role models.”
Croats and Serbs in Bosnia do not have the problem of deciding who to join in the putative future. By contrast, if Bosnian Muslims do not make their own executive decision about their identity, somebody else soon will in their stead.
Mr. Sunic, please tell us about your latest book, Against Democracy and Equality. What are the basic ideas of this book? What was your motivation for writing it?
This book is a survey of some prominent figures of the so-called Conservative Revolution of the first part of the XX century, such as the sociologist Vilfredo Pareto, the political scientist Carl Schmitt, the historian Oswald Spengler, and many others. The book also covers their new intellectual followers in today’s European New Right. I am appalled by the dogmatic spirit and bias in the American and EU higher education, which has for decades been subject to leftist brainwashing and to fraudulent Freudo-Marxian scholasticism. I am also shocked by the false meritocracy in the American establishment and by the ridiculous affirmative action system, which definitely reminds me of the quota system in hiring that was in place in the ex-communist multiethnic Yugoslavia. The best and the brightest are, as a rule, shoved aside. The modern liberal theology of the big buck, the dictatorship of well-being, coupled with the false misnomer of “multiculturalism,” destroys all values and all cultures, including our own. I do not blame non-Europeans, and I reject conspiracy theories. I primarily hold responsible lazy and corrupted academics, the modern media, and politicians who are mortgaging the Euro-American future. However, most likely, we need more chaos in our polity, because only out of chaos new elites and a new value system can emerge.
Dr. Sunic, thank you very much for the interview!
Dr. Tomislav Sunic is a writer and former political science professor in the USA and former Croatian diplomat. Mr. Sunic writes from Europe. His website can be found at http://doctorsunic.netfirms.com
A spectre is beginning to haunt the world. It is not some phantom menace. It is the all too real possibility of irreversible ecological and therefore social collapse. Modern society faces the ruination that once brought down seemingly invincible civilisations in the past. Then, the collapse was comparatively local in scale; today it is global. From the melting icecaps and glaciers to the raging forest fires, devastating storms and equally destructive floods that have ravished many parts of the planet, there is evidence that humanity is facing an unprecedented crisis. Those apologists for the current social order who talked about the ‘end of history’ might turn to be right after all…but in the completely opposite way to what they smugly envisaged.
The decisions humankind makes over the next two decades are likely to decide whether or not the Earth life-support systems are sustained or become irreversibly impoverished. Climate change seems to be proceeding faster and more damagingly than expected. But it only tops a long list of planetary ailments, some well known such as the tears in the atmosphere’s protective ozone layer and the clear-cutting of whole forests, others less so such as salinisation and aquifer depletion. Some are dramatic like the collapse of many fisheries, others almost imperceptible but equally alarming, not least soil erosion and nutrient loss. Both new diseases and ones once thought conquered seem set to plague the world. Already it is too late for many other lifeforms as the holocaust of human-caused extinction rapidly mounts. Even previously common species are now rapidly disappearing.
The crisis ‘outside’ society is mirrored within it. Despite unprecedented levels of affluence and massive leaps in technological know-how, the fabric of society is, nevertheless, coming apart at the seams. Again, there are many symptoms, from the unravelling of community bonds and disintegration of family life to a general ‘dumbing down’ in human culture. The intensification of work and uncertainties that plague many workplaces are further signs of a deep malaise, in which the possibility of severe economic crashes has reared its ugly head again after the long post-war boom.
One chink of light in the darkening shadows is the growth of what amounts to a global resistance movement. It takes many forms and fights on many front. One of its most obvious manifestations has been the street demonstrations that have confronted world leaders at international trade talks. Some critics have talked of the ‘Seattle Spirit’ after one of those events. Then there are the various struggles waged against new motorways, airports, mines and other monstrous developments. The animal rights movement embodies similar energies as do those disrupting the planting of genetically modified crops. Green political parties reflect the same general spirit. They have had a harder time establishing themselves, not least because of the corporate coffers that aid conventional parties. Yet they too have been making gains, especially at a local level. In the heart of the beast, the USA, the recent campaign by Ralph Nader has spotlighted the degeneracy of mainstream politics and the existence of an alternative. In some cases, new alliances are taking shape, often red-green realignments. A new force in the British general Election of 2001 was the Socialist Alliance which challenged Mr Blair’s New Labour, a party that is arguably the ‘first team’ of capitalist politics in the country given the problems besetting the traditional voice of the rich and powerful, the Conservative Party. The manifesto of the Socialist Alliance featured green policies, albeit somewhat down the list of priorities (‘save the planet’ was point 12 out of 15, as if it were not the precondition of all other goals). Such instances spotlight the degree of confusion on such matters, ones which needed resolution if real renewal of radical forces is to be sustained. A lot of the analytical and policy baggage brought by conventional radicalism – be it socialist, communist, libertarian or anarchist variants -will have to be cast aside.
There are other factors that further encourage this lack of clarity and due focus. Such is the urgency of that crisis that many people want to get involved in activity and correspondingly give little time to study and reflection on its nature. However, without careful thought, both about deeper values and goals as well as appropriate policies and strategy, the best endeavours are likely to go round in ever decreasing circles. Public campaigning, political activity, technological research and development as well as private lifestyle changes all will suffer from loss of direction and focus if they are not guided by deep reflection and theoretical development.
There is also a danger in seeing individual issues in isolation rather than as aspects of one general systemic crisis, with related causes and linked solutions. Furthermore, in these discouraging times, it is hard to sustain individual involvement without the deep commitment that fuller understanding can bring. Last but not least, greater personal knowledge can help activists in the critical work of winning over non-converts to the cause.
This guide is not just about the Earth’s multiplying ills. It is also about diagnosis and possible cures. The books it lists do contain their share of doom and gloom. That is a true part of the picture. But there is an alternative. There are insuperable technological barriers to the creation of what might best be called a conserver society. There are, however, deep institutional and social obstacles to be crossed. Indeed the power of multinational corporations is only one barrier – there are deeper cultural ones. That too is part of reality.
It identifies twenty core books with suggestions for follow-up reading. It is not a pure ‘top twenty’ per se since the list tries to provide coverage of a range of issues, rather than select books simply on intrinsic merits alone. Together, these works constitute a basic ‘green library’. Together, they shed much light on what is wrong with the world and how we humans might learn to live in greater harmony with each other and with the rest of Nature.
One problem facing anyone wanting to find out more about the global crisis is the sheer number of books available purporting to deal with it. Yet few of these works did more than scratch the surface. Often they treated ecological concerns as just one set of issues amongst many. Seldom did they recognise the need to put the Earth first. Furthermore, too many books treat social and environmental problems as simply a lack of managerial expertise and technical prowess. The crisis goes much deeper: saving the Earth meant root and branch changes across the whole of society.
The driving forces in the planetary crisis are also often badly diagnosed. Too much heed is paid to badly designed technology. Conversely, too little attention is given to the menace of human population growth is ignored or even denied. Yet no problem can be solved on a lasting basis without, first, a stabilisation of human numbers and then their reduction, by just and socially acceptable means, to levels well within the safe carrying capacity of local environments.
The root causes of that crisis are also widely misunderstood. It is simply not good enough to blame a few ‘rotten apples’ as if they are somehow atypical. Similarly, it is quite false to portray the crisis as the consequence of some great oversight, misunderstanding, inadequate information, failure to communicate or even a tragic accident, a product of fortuitous circumstances. In reality they are the inevitable consequence of identifiable actions, decision-making systems and values. The ecological ‘crunch’ takes the form largely of a slow but steady accumulation of problems, the necessary consequence of past choices, the cumulative effects of which are likely to drastic, long-lasting and all-pervading. It is possible to identify many of those decisions and the people behind them. Deliberate crimes such as the burning of food ‘surpluses’ and other forms of corporate plundering should not be covered up. The Earth’s enemies need to be named. Yet it is naive to dump all the blame on particular organisations and individuals. The waste and destructiveness that has characterised much of human history, across many types of economic system, alone suggests that a politics of ‘anti-globalisation’ or anti-capitalism is not enough.
In particular, we need to get away from simplistic images of progressive rank and file struggles betrayed by reactionary leaders. Ordinary people are not dupes or unwilling conscripts yoked to the treadmill of consumerism. It must be recognised that many ordinary citizens play an active, conscious, willing and indeed sometimes wilful part in the trashing of the planet. We must dump the naive notion that, to quote one ‘permaculture’ book, that “if we care for people, we will care for the planet”. Indeed some of the most caring hospitals are also sources of bad pollution. Similarly, great caution must be exercised about calls for massive social spending to resolves glaring social injustices. Socially worthy measures can be as ecological harmful and therefore unsustainable as socially unworthy ones. Ambulances clock up the same bills as armoured cars in nature’s accounts. A more complex model of the roots of the crisis and of strategies to solve it is needed.
It is also vital to be careful in the forging of the broad alliances that will be necessary to save the earth. We should never forget that, as Gary Coates put it, “what appears at first to be merely two paths to shared goals turns out, on closer inspection, to be two separate paths to very different goals”. Notions such as efficiency, ‘sustained yield’, ‘sustainable development’, environmental impact analysis and risk assessment can turn out to be anything but means to moderate excess. Instead, they often represent new attempts to intensify manipulation and exploitation, albeit with less needless waste and perhaps some cosmetic touches.
For Life on Earth
The following suggestions for a basic library concentrate on books which really do look at the big picture or put their particular subject into the ecological context. It is a guide to a literature not just about but also for ecosystems and all the life they sustain. Diversity, sufficiency and stability, not homogenisation, unlimited expectations and expansion, would become the critical yardsticks of ‘progress’ in what the Australian physicist and leading ‘ecoscience’ textbook writer, G. Tyler Miller, calls a ‘Sustainable Earth Society’. Concepts such as interdependence, reciprocity, balance and especially that little word ‘limits’ would shape the way we think about, value and do things. Sustainability must be seen in holistic terms – spiritually, psychologically, culturally, economically and, of course, environmentally – and must embrace all the Earth’s ‘stakeholders’, humans and non-human nature.
Some readers may find this Guide partial, one-sided, emotive, even prejudiced. At one level, we plead guilty. We do takes sides-we are decidedly for the future well-being of the planet and against values, lifestyles and institutions that threaten it. Upon the integrity and health of the Earth’s life-support systems, all worthwhile goals and expectations depend so we are indeed biased in favour of ideas and activities that are ecological sustainable, not just for the sake of humankind but all the Earth’s dependants.
The Guide’s perspective is fundamentally at odds, therefore, with the statement in 1987 by the president of the National Wildlife Federation, an American ‘environmental’ organisation, that he saw “no fundamental difference between destroying a river and destroying a bulldozer”. In reality, there is literally a whole world of difference. If it is sectarian to stand out from what the American activist Howie Wolke once called the “vast sea of raging moderation, irresponsible compromise…and unknowing (OK sometimes knowing) duplicity in the systematic destruction of the Earth”, so be it.
The Guide concentrates on the core literature, material that really does address the key issues of the day. Because many people today are (or feel themselves to be) short of time are likely to read only a few books and articles, we have been really ruthless in pruning what is a voluminous literature. Hopefully, study of these works might encourage a deeper exploration of the nature of an ecologically sustainable society and the values, institutions and lifestyles appropriate to it.
This guide is primarily aimed at individuals already active on green issues. We assumed some basic familiarity with green thinking. However, we hope it will also be useful for people new to the movement or who studying it perhaps for academic or journalistic reasons. We would recommend in such cases that it might be better to start with a general book like It’s a Matter of Survival (no. 2 in list) or Let the Mountains Talk, Let the Rivers Run (no. 13), followed by Green History of the World (no. 3) then a more ‘positive’ book such as The Conserver Society (no. 16). Some of the suggested follow-up reading sometimes constitute more digestible snacks than the ‘first courses’, some of which can be a bit heavy-going.
The Top Twenty : For those wanting a short ‘indoctrination’ in green thinking we have shortlisted a set of really outstanding titles that could constitute a basic book collection for any green activist. We have noted as well possible follow-up reading, sometimes individual books and sometimes individual authors whose entire ‘back catalogue’ will repay exploration. At the end, a number of authors are mentioned whose works deserve inclusion in what might best be called the Spiro Agnew Memorial Library of Human Wisdom. It pays to know the enemy.
A plutocrat prescribes for the planet
Small is better, says Sir James Goldsmith, and Global Free Trade dangerous
By Sir James Goldsmith
Carroll & Graf, New York
207 pages; hardcover; $20 US
In that extremely select group, the billionaires of this planet, Sir James (Jimmy) Goldsmith appears to be one of the more reflective, intelligent and decent-minded. Withdrawing from active business in 1990, he has since dedicated himself to public endeavours. With French aristocrat Philippe de Villiers, he was co-founder of a political movement, L’Autre Europe, and now leads a new grouping in the European Parliament, L’Europe des Nations.
The book’s first section critically examines the current habit of looking at the world, and society, strictly in terms of Gross National Product–i.e. economics alone. As the author notes, for example, the activity of a mother bringing up her own children, although critical to society, counts for nothing in terms of GNP.
The second section, “The New Utopia: GATT and Global Free Trade” is a powerful attack on these two latter-day liberal/capitalist dogmas. Sir James observes that “forty-seven Vietnamese…can be employed for the cost of one person in a developed country.” Thus global free trade would be disastrous for the middle and working-classes of the West; trans-national corporations would simply move their production offshore. Even so, the Third World poor would benefit very little. Because “a small handful of people” controls most resources there, and assembles the cheap labour, “it is the poor in the rich countries who will subsidize the rich in the poor countries.” Instead, he proposes regional free trade blocs between countries roughly equivalent in development.
The effect of the General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs (GATT) on Third World agriculture may be even more disastrous, the author maintains. An estimated 3.1 billion people still live from the land. If GATT achieves the productivity of intensive agriculture worldwide, “about 2 billion of these people will become redundant.” Many will be forced into mass migration.
Section 3 discusses the increasingly acute issue of nationalism, defining a nation as “a land whose citizens, in their overwhelming majority, share a common culture, sense of identity, heritage, and traditional roots.” Thus Sir James is profoundly sceptical about U.S. immigration policy since 1965, when legislative amendments “abolished the policy which previously had organized immigration in a manner that reflected the pattern of cultural origin already established.” By 2020 Americans of European descent will in a minority and “it will be impossible to avoid social torment [and] widespread disorientation.” The two main contrasting responses are separatism, a search for historic roots outside America; and homogenization, especially the attempt to “build a homogenized society by denying the existence of cultural, ethnic and even gender differences.”
Turning to Europe, he calls for greater emphasis on nations and regions, rather than the centralized European Union bureaucracy in Brussels. He particularly opposes the single-currency model. Similarly, in discussing the welfare state (Section 4), Sir James embraces the principle of subsidiarity, meaning that problems should be addressed, as far as possible, at the family, local or regional level. “The idea that society consists of a multitude of individuals is wrong. In reality a robust society consists of families and local communities. These are the true building blocks…” And in support of this vision he proposes such things as education vouchers.
Section 5 is a cogent indictment of agribusiness. Industrialized food production causes profound social dislocation. It also causes many food products to be increasingly unhealthy (high in saturated fat and chemicals); increasingly prone to disease (due to lack of genetic diversity); and vulnerable to new and fearsome plagues that could move to humans. (A culprit here is the common practise of feeding industrially produced animals on ground-up remains of their own species.) In Section 6 Sir James excoriates “the nucleocrats”. Not one commercial nuclear plant has been completely decommissioned, he charges–a process he believes will cost billions per facility, if it is possible at all. This should be factored into the actual cost of nuclear energy.
Foreseeing a social and ecological apocalypse, he seeks in conclusion for its intellectual sources. He chiefly indicts the Enlightenment movement of the 17th and 18th Centuries, and Marxism Leninism, which he considers a particularly virulent form of the same philosophy. The principal Enlightenment belief was that human reason, freed from tradition and prejudice, could “emancipate man from the constraints of religion, history and the natural world.”
What followed, however, was scientism, out-of-control technological development, anthropocentrism and universalism.
Sir James also blames that perennial scapegoat, the Judeo-Christian tradition, which he says called on man “to subdue the Earth.” Nevertheless, he would like to reinterpret this outlook, rather than throw it out entirely.
He then moves, however, from the stewardship model of nature, which can easily be inferred from the Judeo-Christian tradition, to a wholly naturalistic vision. The book ends with a letter attributed to the American Indian, Chief Seattle, a call for re-integrating humankind and nature. This fits with James Goldsmith’s own twofold message: The final worldwide effort to save nature (with humankind attuned to her cycles, rhythms and imperatives) and history (thus preserving a sense of genuine community and identity) is just beginning.
Mr. Wegierski is a Toronto-based writer and researcher.
[Alberta Report / Newsmagazine; 7/10/95, Vol. 22 Issue 30, p29, 1p, 2bw]
The resurgence of the European extreme right
Piero Ignazi, L ‘Estrema Destra in Europa (Bologna: II Mulino, 1994), 260pp.
Piero Ignazi has written numerous books and articles on the Italian extreme Right. In his most recent book, however, he addresses broader European concerns. Although he acknowledges the Left-Right dichotomy no longer depicts clear-cut political realities (when workers voted predominantly for labor and social-democratic parties, while the middle and upper classes voted predominantly for moderate and conservative ones), he insists on its relevance because it is still used by the media as well as by voters and, at any rate, it simplifies politics. This, however, is problematic and ultimately prevents Ignazi from grasping what is truly new about the unexpected resurgence of the extreme Right in the 1990s.
Political competition in West European democracies has become increasingly depoliticized. In the 1995 French presidential elections there were hardly any real policy differences between the Center-Right and the Center-Left candidate. Both proposed tackling unemployment through state sponsored public works. In Italy, the Left-Right dichotomy has been blurred because both sides of the political spectrum moved to the center in an attempt to appeal to moderate voters. To this end, both party coalitions sought to smooth out their rough edges. The Center-Right said it favored tax cuts but would neither eliminate superfluous state employees nor cut social spending. The Center-Left sought to assuage its image as a statist coalition. Even the Lega Nord participated in this rush toward the Center, thus diluting its policy proposals.
The disintegration of the Left-Right dichotomy exemplifies the end of the post-WWII order and the crisis of the welfare state. The turn from the mass to the catchall party was the result of the blurring of class divisions under the unprecedented economic growth of the 1960s. Both working class and conservative parties lost their raison d’etre as unique representatives of particular social groups. During the 1970s and 1980s, huge budget deficits began to accumulate, thus limiting the state’s ability to cure social ills by allocating large amounts of resources. In this climate of political uncertainty, the clear-cut alternative between leftist coalitions which supported the expansion of the welfare state and rightist parties which advocated rolling back “big government” is no longer meaningful. Similarly, new issues such as the environment, immigration and the expansion of international organizations cannot be understood within the old political framework. Federalism is currently being advocated by both the Right and the Left, while reservations concerning “globalization” and the growing importance of international organizations are widespread throughout the political spectrum. Although some political scientists still find the Left-Right dichotomy viable, it is generally regarded as inadequate after the end of the Cold war.
These considerations help explain the recent resurgence of the extreme right and why this phenomenon cannot be understood exclusively within the old framework of Left and Right. Ignazi begins by distinguishing between three Rights: reactionary-traditionalist, conservative and fascist. He believes the Right can be identified in terms of the following principles: “political authority, superiority of the state, the nation or the Church, which supersedes the individual, roots and traditional values, order, harmony, adherence to social and natural inequalities within the social-political realm, the sense of belonging and organic communities” (19). This is related to Norberto Bobbio’s Left/Right distinction, according to which the Right stands primarily for social and political inequalities, while the Left is committed to the principle of equality.
The reactionary-traditionalist Right goes back to Joseph de Maistre, Donoso Cortes and Louis Bonald. Its antagonism to modernity, predicated on a monistic order, strong state sovereignty and cultural-religious homogeneity seeks to reintroduce “the certainties and the seriousness of the pre-revolutionary transcendental order.” This reactionary-traditionalist view is founded on a transcendental vision of politics and society. Man is seen as corrupt and evil. Thus society needs authority and discipline to avoid disorder and chaos. The doctrine of sovereignty is based on this negative view of humanity: the sovereign is a bridge between God and man and is entrusted with guaranteeing peace. As de Maistre points out, however, the sovereign is not omnipotent: “the biggest problem in Europe is to figure out how to circumscribe the power of the sovereign without destroying it.” These counter revolutionaries were aristocrats who fought against the sovereign’s attempts to overpower the estates. They saw society as an organic whole; accordingly, the sovereign had to respect those institutions which stood between him and society (e.g., corporatist structures, the Catholic Church and the estates). Only the estates or the pontiff could resist sovereign power. Today this Right has very few political followers. It is made up of small groups such as Lefreve’s movement or what is left of the Monarchical Party in Italy and France. Their authoritarianism has marginalized them in current political debates.
The conservative Right is an altogether different matter. Its most important ideological figures are Edmund Burke and Russell Kirk. Its main difference with other Rights can be readily seen by examining Burke’s reaction to the French Revolution. He was not opposed to some of the values of that revolution, but he did not approve of the way the French had overthrown the monarchy. While the French Revolution had made a violent break, thus completely altering French society, the British Revolution had been gradual. British gradualism made it possible to preserve Anglo-Saxon traditions while introducing political innovations. The conservative Right does not share the virulent anti-modernist attitude of their reactionary-traditionalist counterpart, but is satisfied with salvaging aspects of traditional society without derailing political and economic change. Prezzolini argues that “a conservative must not be a reactionary: one who wants to return to outmoded societal arrangements or one who wants to abolish labor unions . . . . A conservative is a realist. For this reason he is opposed to those who dream about political, social and economic arrangements that have never existed in the past. The past belongs to history.” According to Kirk, conservatism is a state of mind and, as Prezzolini emphasizes, conservatives do not believe in utopian ideologies but in limited, feasible and realistic programs. Unlike the reactionary-traditionalist Right, the conservative Right has frequently entered into alliances with liberal and socialist forces. In Austria, the conservative Christian Democratic party has ruled for more than 20 years in collaboration with the Socialist party, while both German and British conservatives have occasionally formed grand coalition governments with the Left.
The conservative Right is also characterized by a fierce defense of private property. This is why it is opposed to redistributive policies. In principle, it is hostile to the welfare state, but in practice it has frequently accepted it. In Italy, the Christian Democrats expanded the scope of state intervention and have often worked with unions as a way to counter the popularity of the Italian Communist Party. But, whenever possible, the conservative Right has also deployed free market policies. Thus the British Conservative Party overhauled many social programs and abolished a number of workers’ protection laws during Margaret Thatcher’s tenure. It advocated nationalism and national unity, as did Thatcher herself during the Malvinas-Falkland war. Most recently, the French conservative Right has sanctioned nuclear tests in the South Pacific to assure French security, even in the face of strong international opposition.
The conservative faction is the strongest component within the West European Right. In this context, the British Conservative Party does not differ much from moderate and Christian Democratic parties. Thus Caciagli emphasizes that “the Christian Democrats have always been the conservative party in modern Italy. In the past, it was because of its history and position. Today, it is the result of its social basis and the interests it defends.” The same can be mid of Germany, where the Christian Democratic Union included staunch conservatives such as Franz Joseph Strauss. Immediately after WWII, however, Christian Democratic policies in Italy were not in line with mainstream conservatism. They followed the social doctrine of the Catholic Church, which criticized both capitalism and communism as political philosophies based on materialistic values insensitive to human spirituality. Thus they criticized free market economies and advocated “social buffers” to reduce inequalities created by capitalism. Eventually, this changed as the Cold War left little room for a “third way.” At any rate, given the fact that moderate voters were predominantly rightist and anti-communist, Christian Democratic parties had to downplay their criticisms of the market economy.
Ignazi understands fascism as a rightist response to modernity: a mass movement seeking to revolutionize society not by altering socio-economic relations but by changing values to oppose liberalism, democracy and capitalism. Fascism precipitates an ethical revolution by imposing values such as authority, hierarchy, honor, loyalty and the supremacy of the national community. These values have traditionally been associated with the Right. Moreover, some fascist policies such as strengthening the state and aggressive foreign policies are similar to those of the traditional-reactionary and the conservative Right. What differentiates fascist from conservative policies is their more radical character with respect to, e.g., nationalism, interpreted by Giovanni Gentile, Dino Grandi, and Alfredo Rocco as a secular religion. Moreover, fascism is much more opposed to capitalism than the conservative Right. In fact, fascist socio-economic policies are predicated on a corporatist “third way” that defends private property but opposes unchecked free market economics.
What separates fascism from the reactionary-traditionalist Right is modernity. Fascism accepts mass political organizations such as parties and unions, state intervention and mass communication. Fascism mobilized the populace against democracy and liberalism, while the reactionary-traditionalist Right sought to limit mass political participation by strengthening the dictatorial powers of the sovereign. Moreover, fascism was ambiguous toward the monarchy — at times even opposed to it. According to Sternell, fascism cannot be understood as simply a rightist mass movement. Rather, it is the result of the coming together of two political and ideological forces: the non-Marxist Left (anarcho-syndacalists, patriotic socialists and corporatists) and the nationalist Right. The former accounts for fascism’s “third way” policies, the latter for its authoritarian-nationalist policies. Fascism was initially formed by Left splinter groups dissatisfied with the way both social democracy and Marxist internationalism had come to accept capitalism and democracy. Fascist leaders never really dropped leftist ideas and policies. During the Republic of Salo, Mussolini reintroduced the original fascist social philosophy. He launched socialist reforms and adopted a very anti-monarchist stance. During the last days of fascism, the movement returned to its radical origins.
Many extreme Right parties are the heirs of fascism. Here Ignazi observes that there are many terms used in the literature that do not travel well and do not help understand the phenomenon. He rejects “far Right” because this term is too narrow and was initially conceived to describe a particular emotional state of mind, (such as a predisposition toward extremism and violence). He also rejects “radical Right” because he believes this term can only be used to describe those terrorist movements which sought to subvert democracy after WWII. For Ignazi, many extreme Right parties do not accept liberal-democratic values but, unlike the radical Right, do not engage in subversive activities. Rather, extreme Right parties actively seek an electoral consensus. Ignazi also rejects the term “New Right,” since he claims this term can only be used to refer to two very distant political cultures. First, New Right is frequently used in the US to refer to the neo-conservative movement, whose worldview does not coincide with that of the extreme Right. The latter might share the same dislike for bureaucracy and “big government,” but it has very different long-term goals. Second, the term is used in Europe to refer to Alain de Benoist’s political and cultural movement. Ignazi claims that the European New Right does not have “any relation with extreme Right parties.” (43) Moreover, the New Right’s worldview differs drastically from that of the extreme Right.
The extreme Right is influenced by various sources. In Italy, the most widely read authors are Giovanni Gentile and Julius Evola, but there is also interest in the jurist Alfredo Rocco and in the historian Gioacchino Volpe. In Britain, the extreme right focusers on Oswald Mosley. In France, the most widely read authors are Charles Maurras and Maurice Barre. These authors are also widely read by the New Right, but the latter has broken with nationalism and has opted for European federalism. Iganzi defines an extreme Right party as follows: “it must: 1) be positioned at the extreme Right on the Left-Right continuum, with no other party to its Right (unless it belongs to the same party family); 2) express an ideology related to fascism; 3) express attitudes, values and issues opposing the liberal-democratic party system.” (47) Within the extreme Right, he distinguishes between two “subtypes”: The first includes traditional extreme Right parties such as the neo-fascist Movimento Sociale Italiano-Destra Nazionale, the Dutch CP’ 86, the Vlaams Block in Belgium, the neo-nazi British National Party, the French National Front and the German NDP. For half a century the Movimento Sociale Italiano-Destra Nazionale (now renamed Alleanza Nazionale) has been the strongest neo-fascist party in Europe. It has always consisted of two wings: a majoritarian national-conservative wing heir of what Renzo De Felice defines as “regime-fascists”; and a leftist, revolutionary and anti-capitalist wing, heir of the “movement-fascists.” While the former has defended traditional Right positions such as the death penalty, a strong presidential regime and anti-communism, the latter has consistently criticized the market economy, called for workers participation and the socialization of the means of production. The second type includes post-industrial extreme Right parties such as the French Front National, Germany’s Republikaner party, and the Austrian Liberal Party. These are recent political organizations and most of their members did not experience historical fascism. Post-industrial extreme Right parties rise in advanced capitalist countries as a response to problems such as voter dissatisfaction with established parties and political corruption, Third World mass immigration, inner-city violence and social alienation. While virulently opposed to parliament and in favor of a strong authoritarian state, the French National Front does not fully adhere to a fascist worldview. Its socio-economic policies clearly conflict with fascist corporatism and its main think tank, the Club de l’Horloge, calls for a free market economy with little state intervention.
Ignazi lists four factors responsible for the success of the extreme Right. The first is the rise of neo-conservatism, which contributed both to Reagan’s and Thatcher’s electoral victories during the early 1980s. This political philosophy vindicates the viability of a free market economy with little or no state intervention. Neo-conservatism argues that the state is too strong and unchecked. To meet many social demands, the government is forced to tax and borrow. High taxes hinder new investments while the state’s expanded role in the economy limits the market and creates non-competitive situations, with monopolists controlling market niches. The welfare state must be overhauled and the government must restrict itself to a few areas such as foreign policy and internal order. One of its main concerns, the critique of “big government,” has been picked up by the extreme Right. Thus the French National Front is very critical of labor unions, which it considers unaccountable organizations. The anti-tax party represents Danish groups opposed to the high level of taxation.
The second factor concerns law and order. As crime, immigration and unemployment grows in large cities, many voters turn to extreme Right parties which promise tougher legislative measures against street violence and mass immigration. The third factor is the legitimation crisis of many West European party systems, which manifests itself in the increasing number of no-shows at the polls and by the decreasing membership of established political parties. The fourth factor is the rightward shift of many Western European party systems. Thus conservative panics are taking increasingly uncompromising positions with regard to issues such as immigration, abortion, etc.
The French case seems to support Ignazi’s claim that there has been a shift from the extreme Left to the extreme Right. During the 1960s and 1970s, ideological polarization came from the Left. For more than 30 years the French Communist Party was the dominant Left political force. It had more votes than the non-communist Left and it could mobilize workers since it controlled France’s largest trade unions. In 1978 there was a shift in the Left political balance. The socialists out-polled the communists which, as a result, no longer dominated the Left and lost considerable influence over trade unions. Today, the French Communist Party is in decline and the Left overall is less radical than in the past, while the National Front is the strongest anti-system party in France, This party does not openly advocate the end of French democracy but it is very critical of multi-party systems. But the Italian case seems to refute Ignazi’s thesis. In Italy, the neo-fascist Movimento Sociale Italiano-Destra Nazionale has recently undergone considerable ideological modernization. Renamed Alleanza Nazionale, the party has severed all ties with fascism and has taken on more conservative positions. Currently, there is an electoral shift toward the Right, but Rifondazione Comunista remains the only true anti-system party.
At any rate, the center-periphery cleavage has recently re-emerged in West European politics. Federalist and populist forces have emerged to fight the state’s monopoly of politics. Rejection of social engineering, preservation of ethnic or regional identities, opposition to higher taxes and other burdensome state constraints provide these movements with their raison d’etre. This helps explain the rise of the Italian Northern League, the resilience of the Scottish National Party and the Catalan Autonomist movement. Their electoral success is a function of their critique of state centralism and the vindication of a populist polities opposed to the integration promoted by the state. These parties have called for constitutional reforms along federal lines predicated on subsidiarity and fiscal autonomy.
Most extreme Right parties advocate corporatist programs that stress the need for national unity against the divisive effects of class war. Similarly, The Movimento Sociale Italiano-Destra Nazionale was the only Italian party that advocated union participation in the internal decision-making of corporations — a version of the German Mitbestimmung. During Pino Rauti’s tenure in office (1990-1992), this party developed a quasi-revolutionary political platform based on opposition to the free market and the search for a “third way” between capitalism and communism. On a similar vein, during the 1980s the British National Front opposed Thatcher’s free market policies. As Ignazi argues, the National Front “supported the miner’s strike throughout the 198485 period and emphasized the need for a return to the environment (i.e., the ecologist element of tradition) by demonizing the city as the place of physical and moral depravity. Moreover, the National Front opposed both civil and military nuclear plants” (68).
With regard to the center-periphery cleavage, the extreme Right has historically taken a nationalist and state centralist position. Alleanza Nazionale, for example, favors a strong central state to counter the secessionist tendencies of the Northern League. Most British National Party rallies rave against the Irish independence movement or Scottish and Welsh Nationalists. The Austrian Liberal Party is also in favor of national unity and is strongly opposed to European unity. The Republikaner party was a staunch supporter of German unification. During German unification this party was overwhelmed by Kohl’s CDU, which was able to attract the nationalist electorate. The Dutch CP ’86 is also a classic example of an extreme Right party advocating strong state sovereignty. It adheres to “the concept of the organic state so that all those elements in the way of the state’s viability should be eliminated” (120) and advocates tougher measures against crime and illegal immigration and wants a stronger and more active police force.
Most extreme Right parties also advocate constitutional reforms, such as the National Front’s call for a stronger presidential regime in France. The deviant case is Vlaams Block, which opposes a strong nation-state. It actively pursues the interests of the Flemish ethnic group which, on most issues, is in outright opposition to those of the other Belgian ethnic group. The extreme Right usually sides with the Catholic Church against enlightenment values. It stands for family values, respect for traditions and customs, hierarchy, order and discipline, and respect for authority. It does not advocate respect for authority as such. Frequently, such parties are the most virulent opponents of Left coalition governments. They advocate respect for what they consider legitimate authority: a political order reflecting nationalist and traditional values. In Italy, the extreme Right has a very conservative position with regard to abortion and divorce. A poll conducted by Ignazi reveals that 54% of extreme Right party members are in favor of mandatory Catholic teachings in public schools. The Vlaams Block, the Austrian Liberal Party and the Front National strongly sympathize with Catholic values. At times, the extreme Right takes positions different from those of the Catholic Church’s social teachings. Thus immigration is an issue which separates the Italian clergy from Alleanza Nazionale. In December 1995, Dini’s technocratic government sought to apply tougher laws against illegal immigrants. This measure was backed by parts of the Left and by all the parties of the Center-Right alliance. The Catholic Church strongly opposed this measure.
Overall, the extreme Right has taken an ambiguous position with regard to the establishment/anti-establishment cleavage. Some extreme Right parties are very concerned about the environment and are heavily involved in preserving it as an integral component of the national identity of a people. The minority wing of the now defunct Movimento Sociale Italiano-Destra Nazionale (Rauti’s group), was the first European extreme Right faction to take up environmental issues. On the other hand, there are some extreme Right parties (e.g., the French National Front in its support for Chirac’s nuclear testing) opposed to environmental issues. The extreme Right has been a strong opponent of “political correctness” and 1960s neo-liberal views. Thus the Vlaams Bloc defends very traditionalist and reactionary positions. Ignazi writes that this party “upholds traditional values against permissive policies and feminism by intensively mobilizing against abortion” (107). Other extreme Right parties are very concerned about “quality of life” issues. The Danish FRDP is a single issue political organization (i.e., anti-tax). This party has emphasized the obsolesce of the workers-middle class cleavage and is very critical of political parties regarded as bankrupt organizations (80-81).
Ignazi sees a silent counterrevolution taking place in Europe, evident in the electoral growth of extreme Right parties which compete with the conservative Right to produce an electoral shift toward the Right. This counterrevolution is allegedly altering the structure of West European party systems and poses a direct challenge to the viability of liberal-democracy. Ignazi is very thorough in assessing what led to the rise of extreme Right parties and makes some predictions concerning the future evolution of the European extreme Right in general. But today in Europe there is a new dichotomy (pro-Europe vs. anti-Europe) which cuts across the Left-Right continuum and wilt be the focus of political debate in the foreseeable future.
Within each European member state there are conflicting reactions toward the strict economic criteria set by the Maastricht Treaty, the creation of a single European currency and the plan for more cohesive European political institutions. Extreme Right parties are opposed to a federal Europe because this process weakens the nation-state’s sovereignty. Opposition to European unity is not only made up of strange bedfellows (i.e., a negative coalition that does not stand for a coherent program); it cuts across the Left-Right cleavage. The Italian and French party systems are exemplary cases where this unusual alliance has come together. In 1991, both the Movimento Sociale Italiano-Destra Nazionale and the Front National as well as the Italian and French communist parties voted against the Maastricht Treaty. All four parties currently oppose the austerity and deficit-reducing measures that the Italian and French governments have proposed to meet the strict budget criteria set by the Maastricht Treaty.
The extreme Right opposition to European unity is driven by two motives: First, both the National Front and Alleanza Nazionale receive most of their support from working class voters. According to Meny, the National Front “has attracted more than the traditional right-wing supporters; surveys carried out in 1988 showed the breadth of its cross-class support, while one poll taken from late 1991 put it as the leading party among France’s working class.” Alleanza Nazionale’s support is concentrated in the poorest and most underdeveloped Southern regions of Italy. The tough austerity policies of many European governments will take away entitlements previously enjoyed by the working class. Thus the extreme Right fights against cuts that threaten to erode their voters’ standards of living.
Second, the extreme Right still thinks in terms of the nation-state as the only legitimate source of sovereign political power. In fact, both the French National Front and Alleanza Nazionale oppose European unity because it threatens the sovereignty of the nation-state. This state of affairs points to the inadequacy of Ignazi’s thesis. No doubt, in terms of the old categories, there has been a shift from the Left to the Right. But at the same time the very distinction between Left and Right became superfluous because the historical divisions on which it was based disappeared. The nation-state and the concept of sovereignty itself, which have defined politics since at least the 17th century, have become obsolete, amino movement predicated on these outdated concepts can possibly define a new era. Moreover, such a notion as the “extreme Right” makes sense only in opposition to a Left which no longer exists. It is becoming increasingly clear that the main political division in Western Europe is not even that between advocates and opponents of European Union but between a managerial elite with privileged access to knowledge, expertise, etc. and a marginalized populace unable to keep pace with new developments. Opponents of this New Class may appear to be on the Right, even the extreme Right of this self-styled “Left.” But clearly neither side corresponds to the old categories of what has defined political life in the 290th century. New categories are needed to analyze a qualitatively new political configuration.
- Ignazi was the first Italian political scientist to study the extreme Right which, until recently, was regarded a taboo — notwithstanding that the Movimento Sociale Italiano-Destra Nazionale was the fourth largest Italian party. See his Il Polo Escluso (Bologna: Il Mulino, 1989), a study of the the Italian extreme Right’s origins and internal debates.
- See Alain de Benoist, “End of the Left-Right Dichotomy: The French Case,” in Telos 102 (Winter 1995), pp. 73-90; and Marco Tarchi, “In Search of Right and Left,” in Telos103 (Spring 1995), pp. 181-188.
- Norberto Bobbio, Destra e Sinistra: Ragioni e Significati di una Distinzione Politica (Rome: Donzelli, 1994).
- Joseph de Maistre, cited in Carlo Galli; 1 Controrivoluzionari (Bologna: Il Mulino, 1981). pp. 85-86.
- See Edmund Burke, Reflections on the Revolution in France (London: Penguin Books, 1970); Russell Kirk, The Conservative Mind (Chicago: Gateway, 1960); Giuseppe Prezzolini, Manifesto Dei Conservatori (Milano: Rusconi Editore, 1972), Benedetto Croce, Etica e Politica (Laterza: Bari, 1956); and Gaetano Mosca, La Classe Politica (Laterza: Bari, 1972).
- Giuseppe Prezzolini; Manifesto dei Conservatori, op. cit., p. 132.
- Ibid., p. 49.
- Ives Meny, Government and Politics in Western Europe (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993), p. 59: “Western democracies devote between 35 and 50% of their GNP to public spending; nor has this situation been brought about solely by socialist or social democratic policies. De Gaulle was responsible for the post war nationalizations and he practiced interventionist policies in the 1960s. In 1979 it was Giscard d’Estaing who completed the gradual nationalization of the steel industry.”
- Mario Caciagli, “II Resistibile Declino della Democrazia Cristiana,” in Gianfranco Pasquino, ed., Il Sistema Politico Italiano (Bari: Laterza, 1985), p. 103.
- Zeev Sternell, The Birth of Fascist Ideology (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1994).
- See Giorgio Galli, La Crisi Italiana e la Destra Internazionale (Milan: Mondadori, 1976). See also Franco Ferraresi; “The Radical Right in Postwar Italy,” in Politics and Society, Vol. XVI, No. 1 (1988), pp. 71-121.
- For the main text of the European New Right, see Alain de Benoist, Les Idees a L ‘Endroit (Paris: Albin Michel, 1980); Alain de Benoist, Vu de Droite — Anthologie Critique des Idees Contemporaines (Paris: Copernic, 1977). See also Pierre-Andre Taguieff, “La Strategie Culturelle de la Nouvelle Droit en France (1968-1983),” in Union des Ecrivans, Vous avez dit Fascisme? (Paris: Arthand/Montalba, 1983), pp. 13-152. For an exhaustive account in English, see the special issue on “The French New Right: New Right-New Left-New Paradigm?” in Telos(Winter 1993-Spring 1994).
- On the political culture of the Movimento Sociale Italiano-Destra Nazionale see Piero Ignazi; “La Cultura Politica Del MSI,” in Rivista Italiana di Scienza Politica, Vol. XIX, No. 3 (December 1989), pp. 431-465.
- Renzo De Felice, Intervista sul Fascismo (Bari: Laterza, 1976).
- Recent work on the extreme Right in the US and England have often referred to “Right-wing populism,” which is both a contradictory and a confusing concept. Historically, populism has always been a transversal movement, i.e., nether Right nor Left. In Russia, the populists were anti-capitalists who wanted to preserve the traditional agrarian communities in the face of socio-economic change. At the beginning of this century, populists in the US supported direct democracy and anti-trust legislation to block monopolies. In Argentina, the Peronist unions were populist in that they wanted to mobilize workers against parliament and wealthy landowners. Thus populism should not be used to refer exclusively to extreme Right parties. For a misleading and dogmatic use of this term, see Hans G. Betz “The New Politics of Resentment. Radical Right-Wing Populist Parties in Western Europe,” in Comparative Politics, Vol. XXVI (1993), pp: 413-427. For a careful re-examination of the populist experience in the US, see Christopher Lasch, The True and Only Heaven: Progress and its Critics (New York: Norton, 1991). For a detailed inquiry into current concepts of populism, see the two special issues on populism in Telos103 and 104 (Spring and Summer 1995).
- Piero Ignazi, “La Cultura Politica del MSI,” in Rivista Italiana di Scienza Politica, Vol. XIX, No. 3 (December 1989), p.453.
- National currencies will be substituted by a single European currency if each member state abides to the following criteria: 1) the annual national debt should not be greater than 3%; 2) the overall national debt should not be greater than 60% of the GNP; 3) inflation should not be greater than 1.5% of the average inflation rate of the 3 most stable member states; 4) each national currency can participate within the SME if it has not suffered devaluation during the two years before the coming into being of the third phase of monetary union; and 5) interest rates for long term deposits cannot be greater than 2% of that of any currency of the three most stable member states.
- Panebianco thinks that a victory of the center-Right in Italy could produce a foreign policy made up of “nationalist stances that could isolate Italy from Europe.” See Angelo Panebianco, “I Due Poll Incompleti,” in Il Corriere Della Sera (August 22, 1995).
- Ives Meny, Government and Politics in Western Europe, op. cit., p. 65
- For a recent re-examination of the American populist legacy and the rise of the New Class, see Lasch, The True and Only Heaven, op. cit., and The Revolt of the Elites and the Betrayal of Democracy (New York: W. W. Norton, 1995). See also the special issue on “Populism vs. the New Class,” in Telos 88 (Summer 1991).
[Telos; Fall95 Issue 105, p147, 11p]
On the Politics of Memory
In his remarks on the politics of memory, Heribert Adam seeks to find means by which those groups that have been collectively hurt or grievously degraded can be “reconciled” with their erstwhile persecutors — or at least with the descendants of these wrong-doers. He tries to apply his principles for assessing blame and achieving “reconciliation” to Germans and Nazi victims, and to South African blacks and whites. He points out that most conflicts involve wrong-doing on more than one side. Such a situation complicates the search for morally satisfactory solutions in the Balkans and South Africa, as well as in other cases of civil strife. Adam draws the useful distinction between grievances that continue to be relevant and those that merely bring economic gain or can be attributed to ethnic whining. The continuing push by the World Jewish Congress for compensation for the Holocaust, even from Nazi victims, perhaps most blatantly the Norwegians, clearly exemplifies the second case. Even more outrageous may be a column by Ed Koch on the “reasons” that Jews might not want to accept an apology for anti-Semitism offered recently by the Polish clergy.(n1) Koch suggests that Poles were somehow involved in the Holocaust, but offers no evidence for this weighty charge. The most damning proof he provides is that Polish Cardinal Glemp complained (imprudently) about anti-Polish attitudes among American Jewish journalists. Adam believes, on the one hand, that if victimizers remain unpunished for outrageous crimes, the victims and their families have reason to complain. But if, on the other hand, a once victimized group attempts to maintain a perpetual victim status, it may be justified to ignore this claim. According to Adam, such a distinction may be critical not only in dealing with the legacy of the Third Reich and South African apartheid, but also in helping Eastern Europeans come to terms with their Communist past. This Abrechnung will presumably involve the apportioning of guilt and punishment, just as Europeans had (and may still have) to deal with the fallout of the Nazi era.
Unhappily, none of this corresponds to what is happening. While journalists and the media are still in a feeding frenzy about the residues and undisclosed crimes of the fascist era, they have no interest whatever, outside of isolated pockets of Cold War liberals, in calling attention to Communist “human-rights violators.” Milosevic is an exception: despite his Titoist background, the media recast him as the newest incarnation of Hitler while randomly associating Serb nationalism with Nazi ideology. Nothing has happened to European Communists comparable to what befell the imagined or real servants of the Third Reich. In France almost 11,000 collaborateurs were executed in 1944 and 1945, summarily, more often than as a result of judicial proceedings; and the figures for Italy may have been equally ghastly. In 1945 and 1946, over 30,000 Frenchmen lost public employment and/or suffered various forms of public disgrace and professional disbarment, because of alleged involvement with the German occupying forces. Communists, who then as now enjoyed charmed lives, suffered neither collective nor individual embarrassment for their contributions to the fall of France. They managed to become the official avengers of the French people, despite their own conspicuous softness toward the Nazis at the time of the Soviet-Nazi pact.
Eric Conan and Henry Rousso have pointed out how tainted the “politics of memory” has become.(n2) By the 1990s, France was awash in what can only be called lies about continuing government cover-ups of French complicity in Nazi war crimes. On critical scrutiny, not one of these charges has turned out to be true. Moreover, the attempts to deny that punishment had been meted out to suspected collaborators at the end of the war ignored the indiscriminate savagery of the actual reprisals, often incited by communists, who themselves had been Nazi collaborators. An observation confirmed by Conan-Rousso (which may in fact be taken as self-evident) is that the politics of memory now practiced in Western countries centers on the disparagement of majority populations. Thus, in France, the well organized demands put forth in the early 1990s on behalf of deported Jews, as a missing part of national holidays devoted to the Resistance, led to other more imperious demands for commemoration. Celebrations of the Resistance were shifted from Mom Valerien, the place from where opponents of the Nazi regime were sent to internment camps, to the Velodrome d’Hiver, where, in July 1942, over 13,000 Jews (many refugees from other countries) were deported to concentration camps. By the mid-1990s, two of the three fetes nationales pertaining to WWII commemorated the Jewish deportations. The decorating of the tomb of Philippe Petain as the victor of Verdun (not as the president of Vichy France) had to be stopped after Francois Mitterand was attacked as an impenitent Vichyiste. Moreover, the periodic comme il faut recognition of the wartime deportations of the Jews by the French government had to be done so as to avoid the charges made by the “politicians of commemoration,” that the Vichy regime was simply a regular French government carrying out the anti-Semitic will of the French people, without Nazi prodding.
All of this is necessary for understanding why Adam’s prescriptions for a chastened or moderate politics of memory are not likely to prevail. What is at stake is an ideological tool, not a standard of disinterested justice. General P inochet remains a human rights criminal, because of his anti-communist executions in Chile, while Fidel Castro, who killed many times more people to “build socialism” in Cuba, journeys to Spain to receive a human rights award. In this contemporary, ideologically charged climate, it is foolish to believe that the politics of memory can be practiced in some realm of pure forms. Nor does Adam help matters much by his exhortations for “progressive memory,” which will come about through “political education” and the removal of “fascist mentalities.” Such language is obnoxiously condescending, and an invitation to power-hungry social engineers, who are far more dangerous than xenophobes. Similarly, the curious equation of “fascism” with anti-immigrationists, an association Adam seems to take for granted, is highly questionable. Neither Latin fascists nor their far more brutal German counterparts were committed to isolationist politics. Would that have been the case!
A crucial distinction should be made between two goals that Adam seeks to achieve at the same time: a politics of memory that transforms moral consciousness, and the reconciliation of former enemies. The second has taken place repeatedly for reasons unrelated to the first; and usually what brings about this conciliatory state is the exhaustion of warring sides. Longtime enemies fred the costs of war or the quest for hegemony more ghastly than peace. Although, according to Thucydides, on the eve of the Pelopennesian War an Athenian ambassador explained to a Spartan assembly that “No one having devised to take power that he succeeds in obtaining can be dissuaded from reaching for more,” thirty years later the defeated Athenians and the temporarily victorious Spartans had both fought themselves out. What ensued was a relatively lenient peace, and no major struggle broke out again between these two erstwhile leading Greek powers. A similar situation obtained between the French and the Germans after WWII, but unfortunately not any sooner. The absence of Soviet arms and the military resources needed to achieve all of its geopolitical ambitions may have forced the PLO into seeking an accommodation of sorts with the Israelis. The promise of foreign aid here may have helped to grease the skids, but this is what the US as a superpower is providing to further its interest in regional stability in the Middle East. In short, physical devastation, economic ruin, or the fear of both disasters have had the effect of stopping hostilities and neutralizing enemies in the past. Presumably this will not cease to be the rule among nations and power blocs.
Peace does not require “political education” by sensitizing experts, but “reconciliation” might. For what Adam is talking about is getting nasty people to fess up to their sins, as an act of “reconciliation.” This may work mutatis mutandis at a Christian revival meeting, where the participants are presumably receiving the girl of the Holy Spirit. But Habermasian interpersonal dialogue, social psychology, and the imposition of “democratic civic culture” are different from religious fellowship, although it is not clear that Adam perceives the magnitude of that difference. Getting people to stop killing each other may be the most that international relations can achieve, or should want to achieve.
(n1.) In Newsday (September 1, 2000).
(n2.) Eric Conan and Henry Rousso, Vichy: Un passe qui non passe pas (Paris: Fayard, 1994). Both Conan and Rousso are non-Communist leftists.
[Telos; Winter 2000 Issue 118, p115, 4p]
Return to the Dark Ages: Censorship is on the rise
Is it coming to America?
Americans think of Europeans as essentially like themselves. They believe European societies are like their own-rooted in the rule of law, freedom of religion, democratic government, market competition, and an unfettered press. In recent years, however, Europeans have given up an essential liberty: freedom of speech. It is true that in the United States prevailing orthodoxies on some questions are ruthlessly enforced but it is still legal to say just about anything. Not so in much of Europe. In the last decade or so countries we think of as fellow democracies-France, Germany, Switzerland and others-have passed laws that limit free speech for the same crude ideological reasons that drove the brief, unsuccessful vogue of campus speech codes in the United States.
Today in Europe there are laws as bad as anything George Orwell could have imagined. In some countries courts have ruled that the facts are irrelevant, and that certain things must not be said whether they are true or false. In others, a defendant in court who tries to explain or defend a forbidden view will be charged on the spot with a fresh offense. Even his lawyer can be fined or go to jail for trying to mount a defense. In one case a judge ordered that a bookseller’s entire stock-innocent as well as offending titles-be burned!
Just as Eastern Europe is emerging from it, Western Europe has entered the thought-crime era, in a return to the mentality that launched the Inquisition and the wars of religion. It is a tyranny of the left practiced by the very people who profess shock at the tactics of Joseph McCarthy, an exercise of raw power in the service of pure ideology. The desire not merely to debate one’s opponents but to disgrace them, muzzle them, fine them, jail them is utterly contrary to the spirit of civilized discourse. It is profoundly disturbing to find this ugly sentiment codified into law in some of the countries we think of as pillars of Western Civilization. At the same time, these laws cannot help but draw attention to the very ideas they forbid. Truth does not generally require the help of censors.
There are two subjects about which Europeans can no longer speak freely. One is race and the other is Nazi Germany. “Anti-racism” laws generally take the form of forbidding the expression of opinions that might stir up “hatred” against any racial or ethnic group. In some countries, it is now risky to say that genetic differences explain why blacks have, on average, lower IQs than whites or to say that non-white immigration should be prevented so as to preserve a white majority. There are probably parts of every issue of American Renaissance that could be banned in some European country, and we have an obvious interest in opposing censorship of this kind.
Far more prosecutions have taken place, however, in connection with what is called “Holocaust revisionism” or “Holocaust denial.” This appears to cover any skepticism about the generally-accepted view that the Nazis had a plan to exterminate Jews and managed to kill some six million, mostly by gassing. There is considerable variety in the laws that forbid disagreement on this matter (see sidebar, page 6), but the Jewish Holocaust has become the one historical event on which people in France, Germany, Switzerland, Spain, Holland, Poland, Austria, Lithuania (and Israel) can be legally compelled to agree. It is still legal to dissent from Holocaust orthodoxy in Italy, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Britain, Ireland, and Croatia, but there is powerful pressure in some of these countries to join the censors. Third Reich Jewish polices are of no special interest to AR, but it is outrageous that any point of view on any question be forbidden.
In the United States there is widespread complacency over this blatant thought control practiced by our closest allies. This complacency proves the utter lack of integrity of those who make principled free-speech claims for Communists, pornographers, rap “artists,” and flag-burners, but who will not lift a finger to stop the persecution of “racists” and “Nazis.” Liberals get dewy-eyed over the First Amendment only when it suits them, and are quietly delighted to see their opponents dragged off to jail because of their opinions. Indeed, several thousand Europeans are arrested every year who, if they were leftists, would be lionized as “prisoners of conscience.” Indifference, even joy, over their fate is the contemptible sentiment that prevails across the political spectrum even in America.
France has had perhaps the most colorful history of modern European censorship, perhaps because it has the longest history of Holocaust revisionism. The leftist Paul Rassinier cast doubt on accepted views as early as the 1950s, but it was in 1978 that revisionism came to the attention of a larger European public. In that and the following year Prof. Robert Faurisson of the University of Lyon published two articles in the newspaper Le Monde asserting that there were no execution gas chambers in the Nazi concentration camps. Mr. Faurisson, an expert at textual analysis who made his case from original documents, provoked a storm of opposition.
Nine anti-racist and concentration-camp survivor organizations brought civil and criminal suits against Prof. Faurisson for “falsification of history in the matter of the gas chambers,” a curious charge brought under the French anti-racial-discrimination law of 1972. In April 1983, the Paris Court of Appeals found Prof. Faurisson innocent of “falsification of history” but found him guilty of the equally curious crime of “reducing his research to malevolent slogans,” and made him pay a small fine. At the same time, the court upheld the right to express any opinion on the existence of Nazi gas chambers (presumably so long as it was not expressed “malevolently”), concluding that “the value of the conclusions defended by Faurisson rests therefore solely with the appraisal of experts, historians, and the public.”
This was a setback to the suppressers of free speech, who responded with what is known as the Gayssot law-named for the Communist deputy who promoted it-signed into law in 1990 by President François Mitterand. This law made it a crime punishable by up to 250,000 French francs (at that time approximately $50,000) or one year in prison or both to dispute the truth of any of the “crimes against humanity” for which Nazi leaders were charged at the Nuremberg trials. Prof. Faurisson, who had continued to publish views on the Holocaust, was the first to be convicted under this law, and was fined 100,000 francs in April, 1991, a penalty reduced on appeal to 30,000 francs. He has not given up his work and has been repeatedly found guilty of the same crime. At last count, he has also been physically assaulted ten times and on at least one occasion was nearly killed.
Although the Gayssot law was controversial when it was passed, the French are now happy with it. According to a 1998 Sofres poll, 79 percent think it necessary “because one does not have the right to say anything one likes about the extermination of the Jews.”
The extent of this sentiment explains why there were other convictions for Holocaust-related comments before passage of the 1990 Gayssot law. In 1987 the leader of the French National Front Jean-Marie Le Pen was fined under anti-racism laws, not for denying the existence of Nazi gas chambers but merely for describing them as a “detail” or “minor point” in the history of the Second World War. Astonishingly enough, not only must a Frenchman affirm a certain historical fact, he must attribute to it a certain prescribed importance.
Another French celebrity-turned-thought criminal is Brigitte Bardot, the former actress. In retirement she has become an ardent animal-rights activist and has often denounced the ritual slaughter of sheep by French Muslims during the festival that marks the end of the Ramadan fast. She has also spoken in more general terms, lamenting that “my country, France, my homeland, my land is again invaded by an overpopulation of foreigners, especially Muslims.” Like Prof. Faurisson, she is impenitent and has been fined at least three times-in 1997, 1998 and 2000-under the 1972 anti-racism law. A judge concluded that Miss Bardot was guilty of inciting “discrimination, hatred or racial violence,” and that her condemnation of Muslim practices went beyond any possible concern for animal rights.
There has been a host of other less-well-known Frenchmen convicted under the censorship laws. In May, 1999, the editor of a small-circulation magazine Akribeia was fined 10,000 francs ($2,000) and given a suspended six-month sentence for writing favorably about Paul Rassinier, the founder of French revisionism. At his arrest, police strip-searched Jean Plantin and confiscated his two computers and a dozen computer disks, destroying the results of several years’ research. In September 2000, a 53-year-old French high school teacher in Lemberg in the Moselle region was fined 40,000 Francs ($8,000) and given a one-year suspended sentence for telling his students that the Third Reich gas chambers were used for delousing clothes and that the concentration camps were not extermination centers.
Censorship cases now get little attention in France unless there are unusual circumstances or the defendant is a celebrity. In July 2000, a local National Front politician in the Rhône-Alpes region, Georges Theil, was charged with “disputing the existence of crimes against humanity.” In what he thought was a private e-mail exchange and using a screen name, he had written, “Homicidal gas chambers never existed for the simple reason that they were simply and profoundly impossible.” Mr. Theil had not counted on the diligence of the French police, who tracked him down through his Internet service provider, Wanadoo, and hauled him into court where prosecutors asked for a six-month suspended sentence. Cases of this kind, which show how deeply the French police are willing to burrow into what people think are their private lives, have been completely ignored in the United States.
Two recent censorship trials that did receive international attention were “the Garaudy affair” and the successful attempt to shut down certain activities by the American Internet portal Yahoo. The Garaudy scandal is particularly instructive because it shows how willingly the left will sacrifice its own to the gods of Third Reich orthodoxy. Roger Garaudy was born in 1913, served in the French army, joined the war-time Resistance, and sat in the French National Assembly as a Communist, first as a deputy and later as a senator. For 25 years he was a major theoretician for the Communist Party, but broke with the comrades over the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968. He continued to teach philosophy and promote anti-racism and socialism. He converted to Islam, and enjoyed great prestige as one of France’s most influential public intellectuals.
Over the years he took an increasing interest in the Palestinian cause, and came to believe Jews were exaggerating the horrors of the Holocaust in order to squelch criticism of Israel. This and other views expressed in his 1995 book The Founding Myths of Modern Israel (published in English in 2000 by the California-based Institute for Historical Review) unleashed not only a flood of criticism but likewise brought the octogenarian into court for violation of the Gayssot law. Prof. Garaudy’s impeccable credentials as a leftist and anti-racist were no defense. In February, 1998, he was duly fined the equivalent of $40,000 after a trial that caused a sensation in France and throughout the Islamic world. Probably no event has prompted more interest in Holocaust revisionism among Arabs than the trial of this French Muslim who defended Palestinians. Religious and political leaders from Egypt to Iran denounced France for putting him on trial, and the wife of the president of the United Arab Emirates contributed $50,000 to his defense. Egyptian Nobel laureate in literature Naguib Mahfouz wondered about the health of Western societies in which it is commonplace to deny God but a crime to doubt the Holocaust.
The affair took on yet another tragi-comic dimension when Abbé Pierre, one of the most popular and admired men in France, made a few offhand remarks in support of Prof. Garaudy. Abbé Pierre is a Capuchin friar whose real name is Henri Groulès. He came to be known as “the abbé” during his work with the French Resistance smuggling Jews out of occupied France. He has devoted his life to good works for the poor and for immigrants, and has a reputation something like that of Mother Theresa. He had become acquainted with Prof. Garaudy and shared his concern about Israel’s treatment of Palestinians. After a few comments in favor of his old friend, he was horrified to discover that despite much backtracking and many apologies his reputation had vanished. He acknowledged he had not read the book, called on Prof. Garaudy to correct any errors, and disavowed any association with Holocaust denial. Even so, leftists whom he thought were life-long friends turned on him, kicking him out of the International League Against Racism and Anti-Semitism, a French anti-racist organization of which he had long been a member. Perhaps the cruelest blow was his expulsion from Emma-us, the charitable organization he himself had founded. Although not charged with violation of the Gayssot law, Abbé Pierre fled to Italy and hid in a monastery until the controversy blew over.
The French case against the American Internet giant Yahoo, which is a gateway to search engines, auctions, shopping and much else caused only a brief murmur of disapproval in the United States, but is an ominous first step in bringing the Internet under the control of European censorship laws. The same International League Against Racism and Anti-Semitism of which the abbé used to be member-known by its French acronym LICRA-joined the French Union of Jewish Students in suing Yahoo to stop Internet auctions of Nazi medals, arm bands, photos, autographs and the like. France’s anti-racism laws forbid commerce in anything “racially tinged,” and the California-based Yahoo promptly removed these auctions from its French web site.
This was not enough for LICRA and the Jewish students, who insisted that Yahoo find a way to block French Internet users from reaching Yahoo sites in the U.S., where auctions continued. Yahoo said it was technologically impossible, and the court appointed a panel of three computer experts-American, British, and French-to render a ruling. Two of the experts said it could not be done, but Judge Jean-Jacques Gomez chose to believe the Frenchman, who said it could. In May 2000, he gave Yahoo two months to make it impossible for French Internet users to reach the Nazi auctions. He said he would fine the American company —-100,000 Francs (now $13,000) a day if it did not, since the sale of Nazi souvenirs offended “the collective memory of the nation.” Judge Gomez also ordered Yahoo to pay 10,000 Francs to the plaintiffs LICRA and the Union of Jewish Students. A LICRA spokesman hailed the ruling as a great victory for democracy, of all things.
The next month Jerry Yang, a co-founder of Yahoo, said his company would ignore Judge Gomez’ order. “Asking us to filter access to our sites according to the nationality of web surfers is very naïve,” he said, adding, “we are not going to change the content of our sites in the United States because someone in France is asking us to do so.” Six months later, in January 2001, Mr. Yang ate crow when Yahoo decided “voluntarily” to stop auctioning anything that bears a swastika or any other “hate” symbol such as a KKK insignia. “Yahoo recognizes that we were right,” exulted LICRA, and Ygal El Harrar, chairman of the Jewish students, welcomed “the return to its senses by the American company.” Incredibly, Yahoo claims daily fines had nothing to do with its decision. Noting that it already bans auctions of live animals, used underwear, and tobacco, it is pretending it is was only adjusting its list of forbidden products.
No one is fooled. Lee Dembart wrote in the International Herald Tribune on Jan. 15, 2001, that the precedent has now been set for any country to try to control the Internet all over the world. China could threaten to fine sites that promote the Falun Gong Buddhist cult, which is illegal in China. Arab countries could fine Internet sites that sell Jewish memorabilia, since such things no doubt offend their “collective memory.” But by and large the American media have had nothing to say about what amounts to the imposition of French law on Americans. Needless to say, there would be a frenzy of denunciation if it were not “Nazis” who were being shoved off the net but, say, abortion-rights activists.
In the minds of Americans Switzerland is an orderly, sensible country of decent, independent-minded people. It is also perhaps the only country that has ever brought censorship upon itself through referendum. Over the weekend of Sept. 24 and 25, 1994, the Swiss voted by a majority of 54.7 to 45.3 percent to make it a crime, punishable by fine and/or up to three years imprisonment, to “publicly incite hatred or discrimination” or “deny, grossly minimize, or seek to justify genocide or other crimes against humanity.” Half of all Swiss cantons voted against the new law but thanks to the overall majority, it went into effect Jan. 1, 1995.
Swiss authorities had not actually needed this law to censor foreigners. In November 1986, the Geneva police stopped two French Holocaust revisionists-Pierre Guillaume and Henri Roques-from giving a press conference and banned them from speaking publicly in Switzerland for three years.
The first Swiss citizen to fall afoul of the new law was Arthur Vogt, an 80-year-old retired school teacher. On June 3, 1997, a court in Meilen fined him 20,000 Swiss Francs ($15,000) for mailing copies of a revisionist book to seven acquaintances and for publishing a private newsletter in which he had written revisionist essays.
In December 1997, a court in Vevey sentenced Aldo Ferraglia, an Italian citizen, to four months in jail and court costs of 15,075 francs. He was also made to pay 28,000 francs in “atonement” to three Jewish organizations for having distributed a number of Holocaust revisionist books, including Roger Garaudy’s The Founding Myths of Modern Israel. At the Ferraglia trial the judge defended the new law by explaining it did not forbid opinion, only the public expression of certain opinions-a distinction that may be a little too fine for Americans.
By June of last year, there had been no fewer than 200 trials and 100 sentences based on the 1995 law. As in France, such trials no longer attract much attention. Probably few Swiss heard about it when animal rights activist Erwin Kessler went to jail for two months for writing that Jews who practice ritual slaughter of cattle are no better than concentration-camp guards.
The press took only slightly more notice of Gaston-Armand Amaudruz whom a Lausanne court sentenced to a year in prison for articles he wrote in his monthly newsletter Courrier du Continent, which he started in 1946 and had only about 500 subscribers, mostly in France. Mr. Amaudruz holds a doctorate in social and political sciences and has been a teacher of French and German. These are the words for which the 79-year-old paid with a year in prison: “For my part, I maintain my position: I don’t believe in the gas chambers. Let the exterminationists provide the proof and I will believe it. But as I’ve been waiting for this proof for decades, I don’t believe I will see it soon.” At sentencing, the judge criticized Mr. Amaudruz’ lack of remorse and noted that he had continued to violate the law, writing “Long live revisionism” in the issue of the newsletter that appeared just before the trial.
Perhaps the most prominent Swiss to be found guilty under the censorship law is 49-year-old school teacher Jürgen Graf. In March, 1993, after the publication of his 112-page book, The Holocaust on the Test Stand, in which he cited reasons to doubt the accounts of extermination, he was fired from his job as a teacher of Latin and French at a private secondary school. The French banned the book in 1994. Before long Mr. Graf found himself in court, and in July, 1998, he was sentenced to 15 months in jail for various revisionist writings. Sentenced along with Mr. Graf was his 70-year-old publisher, Gerhard Förster, who got 12 months. The court fined both men 8,000 Swiss francs ($5,500) and ordered them to turn over 55,000 francs ($38,000) in proceeds from book sales. Presiding Judge Andrea Staubli said the defendants’ “remarkable criminal energy” and lack of remorse justified harsh punishment.
Their defense counsel protested that he could not even try to explain the reasons for Mr. Graf’s statements without, himself, being prosecuted under the same law. He also argued in vain that censorship law violated the free-speech provisions of the European Human Rights Convention which Switzerland has signed. Wolfgang Frölich, an engineer called to vouch for the authenticity of Mr. Graf’s findings, found himself threatened with prosecution if he testified. Just as absurdly, the court included The Holocaust on the Test Stand in its reasons for finding Mr. Graf guilty even though he wrote it before the 1995 censorship law.
Mr. Graf decided to flee the country rather than spend 15 months in prison. In November 2000, he ended up in Iran, where he planned to stay for some time. He has been welcomed by scholars in Tehran, and was invited to give lectures at Iranian universities. Mr. Graf does not intend to return to Switzerland until the country restores the right of free speech. As we will see, he is not the only European to go into exile rather than face jail as a prisoner of conscience.
Since the end of the Second World War, beginning with de-Nazification, Germany has had censorship laws unthinkable in the United States. Nazi songs, salutes, and symbols are illegal even in private, and the country has been as aggressive as any in trying to expand the effects of its own repressive laws beyond its own borders. By now, thousands of people have fallen afoul of anti-Nazi, and “incitement to racial hatred” laws, which violate the German constitution’s own guarantees of freedom of expression. Any number of quite remarkable cases of state-sponsored thought control have gone almost completely unreported in the United States.
Fredrick Toben was born in Germany in 1944 but emigrated with his parents to Australia when he was ten, and is an Australian citizen. He studied at Melbourne University and at universities in Heidelberg, Tübingen, and Stuttgart, and has a doctorate in philosophy. In 1994 he established the Adelaide Institute, in the Australian town of that name, to promote Holocaust revisionism. He sent some material to Germany, and was arrested in Mannheim in April 1999 during a visit. He was held without bail until his trial seven months later and was charged with “incitement to racial hatred,” “insulting the memory of the dead,” and “public denial of genocide.” The court sentenced Dr. Toben to ten months in prison but let him off with a fine of 6,000 marks ($3,500) on the strength of time already spent in prison. As in Switzerland, it is impossible to mount a defense against these charges. Defendants and even lawyers who try to explain or justify their statements have been immediately charged with additional offenses right in the courtroom.
The prosecution tried to charge Mr. Toben on additional counts because of articles on his Australia-based Adelaide Institute web page (www.adelaide institute.org), but the court ruled that his only violation of German law was to have sent printed matter directly into Germany. Foreign Internet sites were not covered by the law even if Germans could read them. As Deputy Interior Minister Brigitte Zypries explained in July 2000, “That’s life and that’s the Internet . . . . You can’t build a wall around Germany.” Since the government could not use the most serious evidence against him, Dr. Toben got off lightly; the shortest previous sentence for his crimes had been two years, and the prosecution was asking for two years and four months.
However, in December 2000, in a very significant ruling that went virtually unnoticed in the United States, Germany’s highest court, the Bundesgerichtshof, reversed the lower court. It said German law applies to any ideas or images Germans can reach from within Germany, so someone who posts a swastika on a web page anywhere in the world is a criminal under German law. Dr. Toben, whose case provided the high court with the basis of this ruling, could presumably be the subject of an extradition request. As we will see below, Dr. Toben faces problems enough back home in Australia.
One of the few Americans to notice and comment on this extension of German (and French) law to the Internet was Rabbi Abraham Cooper of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles. “We commend the German authorities for sticking to their commitment,” he said; “it’s their democracy, these are their laws.” He went on to praise the French, too: “We have to commend the Germans and the French for basically saying ‘In our societies, this is how we deal with the problems of hate, racism and Holocaust denial. You in America have your own laws, but at least respect our values.’ ” Perhaps Rabbi Cooper would be pleased to see European-style censorship in the United States.
The case of Germar Rudolf is likewise remarkable. Born in 1964, Mr. Rudolf graduated summa cum laude in chemistry from the University of Bonn and is a certified chemist. After serving in the German air force, he entered a Ph.D. program at the prestigious Max Planck Institute for Solid State Physics. While still at the institute he carried out a forensic physical examination of the gas chambers of Birkenau and concluded that for a variety of technical reasons they could not have been used for executions. In 1993 he published his findings in what is called The Rudolf Report, and was promptly dismissed from the Max Planck Institute. A court in Stuttgart ruled that the report “denies the systematic mass murder of the Jewish population in gas chambers” and was therefore “popular incitement,” “incitement to racial hatred,” and “defamation.” The court rejected Mr. Rudolf’s request for technical evidence about the truth or falsehood of his report, ruling that the “mass murder of the Jews” is “obvious.”
Mr. Rudolf has continued to commit thought crimes, editing a compendium of revisionist articles called Grundlagen zur Zeitgeschichte [Foundations of Contemporary History]. In 1996 a court fined his publisher 30,000 marks ($18,000) and ordered all copies seized and burned. Police raided Mr. Rudolf’s apartment three times, and in 1996 he was finally sentenced to 14 months in prison. Rather than serve time he fled to England, which has anti-racist laws but where Holocaust denial is not (yet) a crime. He is now director of Castle Hill Publishers, which issues revisionist works, and publishes a German-language revisionist quarterly. Jewish groups have brought pressure on the British government to enact laws to outlaw Holocaust denial so that Mr. Rudolf can either be prosecuted in England or extradited to Germany. Like Jürgen Graf of Switzerland, unless free speech is restored in his homeland, he will go to jail if he ever returns. Recently he moved to the United States and has applied for amnesty as a political refugee. It will be interesting to see how the INS, which has stretched “political persecution” to include wife-beating and making fun of homosexuals, will avoid granting him asylum.
One German defendant who did not flee the country was the elderly historian Udo Walendy, publisher of the “Historical Facts” series of booklets. In May, 1996, the district court of Bielefeld sent him to prison for 15 months, and a year later a court in Herford added 14 more months to his sentence. He was also fined 20,000 marks ($12,000) when 12 copies of Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf were found in his possession. Judge Helmut Knöner of the Herford court took the curious position that Mr. Walendy was guilty not of a sin of commission but of omission:
“This [case] is not about what was written-that is not for this court to determine-but rather about what was not written. If you had devoted just a fraction of the same exactitude to highlighting the other side [of the Holocaust question], you would not have been sentenced.”
Here we find the tortured reasoning to which censorship laws invariably give rise. To have failed to write about a particular historical event in a balanced manner is a crime that can send a historian to jail. In the court’s view, this one-sided writing was “meant to disturb the public peace,” not withstanding the “exactitude” of Mr. Walendy’s work. Moreover, although Mr. Walendy has been a model prisoner he was denied the usual grant of release after serving two-thirds of his sentence. Authorities explained that this was because he was unlikely to change his views.
It is possible to argue that Austrian censorship laws have already claimed a life. In 1995, Werner Pfeifenberger, a German professor of political science published an essay called “Internationalism and Nationalism: a Never-Ending Mortal Enmity?” in a collection issued by Austria’s Freedom Party (see AR, Dec. 1999, and March 2000). A prominent Jewish journalist attacked the essay, accusing Prof. Pfeifenberger of writing in a “neo-Nazi tone,” and “extolling the national community.” Because the professor had criticized the 1933 Jewish declaration of an international boycott of Germany, the journalist also accused him of reviving “the old Nazi legend of a Jewish world conspiracy.”
The German state of North Rhine-Westphalia dismissed Prof. Pfeifenberger from his teaching position, and a court in Vienna prepared a case against him under Austrian anti-Nazi laws. On May 13, 2000, just a few weeks before the trail, Prof. Pfeifenberger took his own life. His lawyer explained that Prof. Pfeifenberger faced ten years in jail under the charges, did not expect a fair trial, and had already spoken of committing suicide. As in Germany and Switzerland, Austrian law does not permit a defendant to argue the veracity of his statements; offensive “tone” or “diction” is sufficient to secure conviction.
United States citizens have fallen afoul of German censorship laws-without the slightest gesture of support from their own government. Hans Schmidt of Pensacola, Florida, runs the German-American National Public Affairs Committee, which publishes a newsletter. Mr. Schmidt, who fought in the German army, moved to the United States after the war and became a U.S. citizen. In 1995, on a trip to Germany to visit family members, German authorities arrested him for having sent some of his newsletters to Germany. They held him in jail for five months but released him in conjunction with the first part of his trial. Mr. Schmidt, who could have been sentenced to five years in prison, slipped out of the country rather than stay for the rest of his trial.
Another American, Gary Lauck of Lincoln, Nebraska, was not so lucky. Known as “the farm-belt Führer,” Mr. Lauck is an unapologetic supporter of Nazism, and has shipped a considerable quantity of Nazi material to Germany. In March, 1995, he was visiting Denmark, a country that does not have anti-Nazi laws, but in an operation of questionable legality, the Danes extradited him to Germany. In August, 1996, a Hamburg court convicted him of inciting racial hatred and distributing illegal materials-which he did legally in the United States and not in Germany-and sentenced him to four years in jail. He served his sentence and returned to the United States, where he continues to promote Nazism.
At almost the same time Mr. Lauck was on trial in Germany, the American citizen Harry Wu-a fervent critic of China-slipped into China illegally on a mission of support for dissidents and was arrested. The U.S. State Department mounted an extraordinary effort to secure his release, but completely ignored Germany’s prosecution of Mr. Lauck.
Another curious case involving the United States is that of a young German musician Hendrik Möbus. Mr. Möbus said provocative things about Jews, gave the Nazi salute during a concert, and later turned up in the United States. In a little-known incident in the summer of 2000, federal officers arrested Mr. Möbus with the intention of extraditing him to Germany, even though his offenses were not crimes in the United States. Apparently thinking better of this unjustifiable proceeding, the government released Mr. Möbus, who promptly turned the tables by suing for political asylum. With the help of William Pierce of the West Virginia-based National Alliance, Mr. Möbus has hired immigration lawyers to argue his case on the grounds that he will be persecuted for his political beliefs if he returns to Germany.
One of the common difficulties for applicants for asylum is that they must prove they face a realistic threat of persecution. In Mr. Möbus’ case, the German authorities have already issued an extradition request in which they openly state they want to send him to jail. Once again, it will be interesting to see how the INS responds.
Neo-Nazi music is increasingly popular in Germany, and bands play a constant cat-and-mouse game with the police. Most make their recordings in secret studios or across the border in Poland, and the recordings are then pressed in the United States. The CDs come back to Europe via Sweden, where the material is not illegal. Mere possession is a crime in Germany, but the authorities estimate there are more than 100 neo-Nazi bands operating clandestinely.
Some repressive measures fall short of imprisonment. In August, 2000, the German postal bank, which is part of the government-owned post office, systematically shut down all accounts used by any group it considered “far-right.” These included Germany’s two main nationalist parties, the German Peoples’ Union (DVU) and the National Democratic Party (NPD). Postbank chairman Wulf von Schimmelmann explained that the measure was “a contribution to political hygiene and cementing of democracy in Germany.”
Thought-control can take a comical turn. In August, 2000, Dresden police ordered a 25-year-old man to get a haircut because he had shaved the back of his head leaving only the letters “SS,” in the distinctive angular script used by the Nazis.
Mein Kampf has been banned in Germany for years, and German companies have been quietly enforcing the ban overseas as well. Publishing giant Bertelsmann polices its US-based website bookstore for titles forbidden in Germany, and is trying to do the same with Barnesandnoble.com, of which it owns 40 percent. Mein Kampf is banned in several other countries, including Holland and the Czech Republic, where distributors were recently fined. There is considerable irony in suppressing Hitler’s turgid autobiography. For years it was common to say that if only people had read it in the 1930s they would have stopped Hitler in his tracks. Now we must presumably be kept from reading it for fear we will follow its advice.
Until 1995, Spain was a popular refuge for dissidents facing prosecution elsewhere in Europe but in that year it passed new laws putting it firmly in the camp of the censors. The first conviction came in November, 1998, when bookseller Pedro Varela was sentenced to five years in jail for “incitement to racial hatred” and “denying or justifying genocide.” His case began in December, 1996, when police raided his Librería Europa bookstore in Barcelona and confiscated 20,000 volumes. Nearly two years went by before he went to trial because many of the books were in English, French, or German, and the court insisted that they be translated into Spanish. In addition to the five-year prison term, the court fined him 720,000 pesetas ($5,000) and ordered all 20,000 books burned-even though only 30 of some 200 titles were found to violate the law.
In December 1998, Mr. Varela appealed the sentence to the provincial court or Audencia of Catalonia, which ruled unanimously in April 1999 that the censorship law violates guarantees of free expression in the Spanish constitution. The case will now go before the Constitutional Tribunal in Madrid. In the meantime, Mr. Varela’s 20,000 volumes have not yet been burned, but he has not gotten them back either. He restocked his store and continued to operate, but in January 1999, a mob of “anti-fascists” smashed through the protective metal shutters of his shop, ransacked it, and burned hundreds of books. Police arrived but did nothing. Mr. Varela rebuilt his store and continues to sell books.
In Britain, despite campaign promises from Tony Blair that Labour would ban Holocaust denial, in early 2000 Parliament resisted pressure from Jewish groups to do so. Home Office Minister Mike O’Brien explained that the government was unable to “strike a balance between outlawing such offensive statements while ensuring that freedom of speech is not unduly restricted.” Since 1986 the Public Order Act has made incitement to racial hatred an offense, but Jewish groups argued this law was inadequate because prosecutors have been unable to show that Holocaust denial incites hatred. This is not to say that these laws have never been used. Although enforcement is sporadic, a few racial nationalists have been convicted.
Originally prosecutors had to prove a defendant intended to stir up hatred, but that was difficult. Later the laws were broadened to permit conviction if hatred was stirred up whatever the intent, but that was also hard to prove. Now, it is sufficient to show a “likelihood” that some act will incite racial hatred, and it was on this basis that Spearhead editor John Tyndall and British Nationalist editor John Morse were tried together and convicted by a single jury in 1986. The prosecution’s tactic was to read page after page of “offensive” material in court and the cumulative effect seems to have convinced the jury what they wrote was “likely” to incite hatred. The judge decided the crime deserved six months in jail. Mr. Tyndall, who after serving his sentence returned to editing Spearhead, despises incitement laws but believes they have the beneficial effect of keeping racial nationalists from using intemperate-and ultimately unpersuasive-language.
Nick Griffin, now head of the British National Party, received a suspended sentence after a similar conviction in 1998. He also edited a magazine, which discussed Holocaust revisionism and opposed non-white immigration to Britain. In his case as well, there seems to have been no clear line between acceptable and unacceptable opinions; his magazine apparently created an overall atmosphere that was “likely” to incite hatred.
Some British anti-racism measures approach outright insanity. As reported in the July 2000 issue of AR, a recently-passed law forbidding “racially threatening or abusive words” was recently invoked against a Cambridge man who got into a whispered argument in a library. A woman overheard Robert Birchall tell Kenyan-born Mugai Mbaya to “go back to your own country,” and reported him to police. Mr. Birchall was fined 100 pounds. In the city of Glouc-ester police officers are reported to have been sent to eat in ethnic restaurants and listen in on the conversations of other patrons so they can charge them with crimes if they say rude things about other races.
Perhaps even more than to Europeans, Americans feel kin to Canadians and perhaps Australians-fellow English-speakers who have established themselves far from the homeland. But here, too, traditions of free speech have crumbled under the pressure of special-interest groups. In October 2000, the Australian Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission ordered Frederick Toben-back from prison in Germany-to remove Holocaust revisionist material from the web page of the Adelaide Institute. Commissioner Kathleen McEvoy said Mr. Toben violated the 1975 Racial Discrimination Act by “having published materials inciting hatred against the Jewish people.” She also ordered Mr. Toben to post a lengthy apology. Mr. Toben refused, saying he would not apologize for material he believed to be factual and that any proceeding against him was immoral if truth was not permitted as a defense. The government-funded commission has no enforcement powers, but could initiate proceedings to have Mr. Toben jailed for contempt.
In Tasmania, the commission has also accused an associate of the Adelaide Institute, 58-year-old Olga Scully, of selling anti-Jewish material and putting it in mailboxes. She also refused to apologize, and the commission announced plans to take her to court. The Russian-born grandmother says she is not intimidated and is “quite prepared” to go to prison.
It will be a surprise to many Americans to know that our next-door-neighbor Canada now has a nearly 20-year tradition of censorship. In 1981 a well-liked secondary school teacher and mayor in Lacombe County, Alberta, named Jim Keegstra was reported to be telling his social studies students that Jews run the world. The school board fired him-which it no doubt had the right to do-but Canadian authorities also charged him with violating section 281 of the criminal code, which prohibits spreading hate against an identifiable group. Mr. Keegstra remained unrepentant during a ten-year legal battle that took him to the Canadian Supreme Court, which upheld his conviction.
The most famous Canadian thought criminal is undoubtedly Ernst Zundel, a German who immigrated to Canada in 1958 and established himself as a commercial artist. Since the mid-1970s he has published and publicized Holocaust revisionist materials, and in 1983 he was charged under section 181 of the criminal code, which prohibits spreading “false news” that the purveyor knows to be false.
His case became something of a cause célèbre, and the trial dragged on for eight weeks before reaching a conviction. Mr. Zundel filed numerous appeals and in 1992 the Supreme Court ruled the law under which he was convicted unconstitutional because it was “an unjustifiable limit on the right and freedom of expression.”
Mr. Zundel was not out of court for long. At the urging of Jewish groups, he was brought before the Canadian Human Rights Commission in what must be one of the most Kafkaesque censorship proceedings of modern times. There is a section of the Canadian criminal code written to outlaw telephone answering machines with “hate messages.” It makes it illegal “to communicate telephonically” “any matter that is likely to expose a person or persons to hatred [for reasons of race, ethnicity, etc.].” In a tortured interpretation of this law, Mr. Zundel was charged on the basis of a web page that contains Holocaust materials by him and by others. Although the site is commonly known as the Zundelsite, it is based in the United States and run by an American.
Ironically, the Human Rights Commission has been asked to find Mr. Zundel guilty because he is associated with a foreign web page that publishes articles that, in print form, have been found to be legal in Canada. Indeed, the first and lengthiest of the pamphlets cited in the charge is the very one cited in the previous case that was thrown out by the Canadian Supreme Court! What is more, this case has dragged on for an astonishing five years. At the same time, the chairman of the Human Rights Tribunal has conceded that “the truth is not an issue before us. . . . The sole issue is whether such communications are likely to expose a person or persons to hatred or contempt.” Mr. Zundel, who has spent an estimated $140,000 on the case, recently gave up even trying to defend himself, saying “I would rather save my money and appeal their grotesque ruling when it comes out.” Amazingly, the case continues to drag on without him, with final arguments expected in late February.
Yet another prominent censorship victim has been Doug Collins and the newspaper that used to publish him, the North Shore News. In February 1999, the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal found Mr. Collins guilty of acts “likely to expose Jews to hatred or contempt.” Found criminal were four columns he wrote in 1994. Interestingly, the tribunal decided that taken individually none of the columns was a criminal act, but taken together they were. The tribunal ordered Mr. Collins and the North Shore News to desist from further incitement to hatred, and to pay $2,000 to a Jewish man who had brought the charges, as compensation for injury to his dignity and self-respect. It also ordered the paper to publish the judgment in full, which was perhaps the first time the government ever forced a Canadian newspaper to print something against its will. Mr. Collins now publishes on the Internet.
Canadian authorities have been very unpredictable in their enforcement of laws against “incitement of hatred.” They have never been bothered by the lyrics of black rap “musicians” who openly urge blacks to kill whites, but it has taken a very close look at academic studies of racial differences. Canadian customs authorities have seized many shipments of books from the United States including Race, Evolution and Behavior, by Philippe Rushton (reviewed in AR, Dec. 1994). Prof. Rushton, who teaches psychology at the University of Western Ontario, has been himself investigated for inciting hatred and nearly lost his job because of his carefully-researched studies of racial differences. Other books Canadian customs have held at the border include Shockley on Eugenics and Race (reviewed in AR, Jan. 1993), Race, Intelligence and Bias in Academe by Roger Pearson, The Dispossessed Majority by Wilmot Robertson, and The Immigration Invasion by Wayne Lutton and John Tanton.
The United States does not have censorship laws but we are creeping in that direction. Hate crime laws are an ominous step, because they add penalties to crimes based on motive. Until the passage of hate crime laws sentencing did not depend on the motive of a crime but whether it was premeditated or spontaneous. You could punch a man because he was fat, black, insulted you, or seduced your wife, and you were guilty of assault. Now, certain motives-that is to say certain thoughts-bring heavier penalties. In February of this year, a Houston, Texas, judge sentenced 21-year-old Matthew Marshall to no fewer than ten years in jail for burning a cross in front of a black family’s house. People who commit gruesome violent crimes often get less jail time.
We have also had a few cases of censorship almost as absurd as those that have begun to crop up in England. In August, 1998, Janis Barton was leaving a restaurant in Manistee, Michigan, and walked by another group waiting to be seated. Those in the other group spoke to each other in Spanish, and Mrs. Barton said, out loud, “I wish damn Spics would learn to speak English.” One of the Spanish-speakers filed a complaint and Mrs. Barton was charged with the crime of committing “insulting conduct in a public place,” on the grounds that what she said were “fighting words” that could provoke violence. A jury bought that argument and the judge sentenced Mrs. Barton to 45 days in jail (she served only a few days). This is an odd case that may not be repeated, but it clearly shows the direction in which hypersensitivity to the feelings of non-whites is taking us.
Another worrying step towards censorship is a law passed just last December 15, which requires all libraries receiving federal money to use content filters on computers connected to the Internet. The idea is to protect people from pornography, violence and “hate speech,” but the makers of filtering software invariably give it a leftist slant. The federal government is using the power of the purse to restrict access to certain views and information.
What These Laws Mean
The full-blown, unabashed censorship laws in Europe and Canada are a giant step backwards in the history of Western Civilization. It was perhaps one of the most significant conceptual breakthroughs in human thought to recognize that the social cost of suppressing “error” is far greater than the damage unchecked “error” can do when men are free to refute it. It is cause for great sadness that our European brethren have stepped back into the mentality of the witch hunt, forcing their citizens into exile and making them prisoners of conscience.
Indeed, it is in the defense of prisoners of conscience that Amnesty International (AI) made a name for itself, and cases like those described here would appear to be tailor-made for them. According to their own publications, prisoners of conscience are “people who are imprisoned, detained or otherwise physically restricted anywhere because of their beliefs, color, sex, ethnic origin, language or religion, provided they have not used or advocated violence.” Every person mentioned in this article and thousands more have been charged with crimes because of the non-violent expression of beliefs. AI goes on to say that “all people have the right to express their convictions and the obligation to extend that freedom to others” and that “Amnesty International seeks the immediate and unconditional release of all prisoners of conscience.”
A number of people have appealed to AI to intervene on behalf of imprisoned Holocaust revisionists but AI refuses. In 1995 it affirmed “Amnesty International’s intention to exclude from prisoner of conscience status those who advocate the denial of the Holocaust . . . .” They took this step on the grounds that dissent from accepted views on the Holocaust means one has “advocated national, racial, or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence.” What this means is that AI does not consider someone a prisoner of conscience unless it agrees with him.
It is probably true that some of the people charged under incitement laws really do want to stir up hatred-something that however reprehensible is legal in the United States and should be legal everywhere-but there is no evidence whatever that this is the motive of people like Robert Faurisson, Fredrick Toben, Pedro Varela or Germar Rudolf. It is the people who oppose their work who appear to be driven by hatred. Furthermore, as British prosecutors have found, it is unclear just how disputing the existence of gas chambers or the number of Nazi victims incites hatred against anyone. People are not suddenly going to start hating Jews just because a pamphlet convinces them the Nazis killed only one million rather than six million.
It would be more plausible to say that anyone who harps on slavery, Jim Crow, and segregation is inciting hatred against whites, or that anyone who describes the way Indians mutilated the bodies of Custer’s men at Little Big Horn is stirring up hatred against Indians. If you scoff at the miracles in the Bible are you inciting hatred against Christians? If not, why not? After all, neither the truth of the statements nor the intent of the speaker matters. Laws of this kind cry out for abuse and invidious application.
Obviously of concern to American Renaissance is the possibility that any description of race or sex differences could be considered incitement to hatred. What if the French and the Germans decide discussions of race and IQ are hate-mongering? This is actually more logical than saying skepticism about gas chambers makes people hate Jews. Will AR be banned in Europe? Will people who write for AR be arrested if they go to Europe?
Laws about inciting hatred are really very simple: If you hurt the feelings of certain people you can be charged with a crime. So far, the people about whose feelings one must be most careful are Jews. Pressure from Jewish organizations has turned what may have been intended as universal prohibitions into prohibition of opinions that upset Jews.
Laws of the French, German, and Austrian type that specifically prohibit Holocaust denial likewise reflect the pressure of Jewish organizations. There is only one historical event in all of human history-an event of particular interest to Jews-about which the law forbids dissent. Legally requiring acceptance of a historical event is an absurdity on its face, but why just this one? In January 2000, the French National Assembly voted officially to recognize the Turkish “genocide” of Armenians during the First World War. There are many people who strongly dispute the number and circumstances of these deaths; Turkey angrily withdrew its ambassador after the vote. No doubt there will be vigorous “genocide denial,” “whitewashing of crimes against humanity,” and “insulting the memory of the dead.” Why will this not be a crime in France? One can only conclude that it is because Armenians have less influence than Jews.
But the real shame is how few people, either in Europe or the United States, are willing to oppose this clampdown on freedom. The left loves to quote lines attributed to Martin Niemoller (1892-1984), the German Lutheran minister interned by the Nazis:
“First they came for the Communists, and I didn’t speak up, because I wasn’t a Communist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak up, because I wasn’t a Jew. Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn’t speak up, because I was a Protestant. Then they came for me, and by that time there was no one left to speak up for me.”
The message, of course, is that we must be vigilant against wrongs done even to people with whom we may disagree, because if we do not resist evil we may some day be its victims. European censorship laws are precisely the kind of creeping evil Niemoller warned against, but the left ignores them because it has no principles and the right ignores them because it has no spine. Censorship is therefore on the march in Europe and licking at our own borders. We have entered a new Dark Age.
Sidebar: The Law Is an Ass
The laws under which Europeans, Canadians and perhaps now Australians can be prosecuted for thought crimes are of several kinds. The first includes the French Gayssot law, which, though amazing, clearly says what it means: No one is to dispute the genocide or other crimes against humanity for which the Nazi leaders were put on trial at Nuremberg after the war. There is no ambiguity about this. Anyone who says the Nazis did not have an extermination program is a criminal.
Laws that forbid “incitement of hatred” are much more ambiguous. These laws are particularly frightening because there is no way to know what they mean. Presumably, if it is against the law to “incite hatred” there should be no conviction unless it is proven that something caused hatred. The prosecution should produce someone who, having read the offending work or heard the offending speech or seen the offending picture or symbol, became a hater. None of the censorship laws requires this. Courts have decided without the slightest evidence that anyone who takes a position on certain questions-even if all he does is deliver this view to subscribers who have paid to receive it-is “inciting hate.” The other breath-taking aspect of these laws is that intent does not matter either. It makes no difference if someone sincerely believes he is uncovering the truth; if what he says can be construed as likely to incite hate, he can end up in behind bars.
Finally, there are laws that have no clear meaning at all. What does it mean to “glorify National Socialism” or “insult the dead” or “whitewash the crimes of the Nazis”? Crimes that depend on wording as vague as this-and there have been plenty of convictions under them-are close kin to Communist laws that forbade “anti-Soviet behavior” or “parasitism.” These were justly decried in the West, but there is almost complete silence about anti-Nazi laws. In the United States vague prohibitions of this kind are clearly unconstitutional.
Another astonishing aspect of these laws is that truth is not a defense. Once again, in the United States, the law is clear: Truth is an absolute protection for anyone charged with making hurtful, damaging, or embarrassing statements about anyone or anything. In the American colonies this tradition dates back to the famous John Peter Zenger trial of 1735. Zenger, publisher of the New York Weekly Journal, was charged by British authorities with publishing articles “tending to raise seditions and tumults among the people of this province, and to fill their minds with contempt for his majesty’s government.” Zenger was arrested, jailed, and tried. Jurors, however, were persuaded that “truth ought to govern the whole affair of libels,” and in concluding that what Zenger had written was true, both set Zenger free and, in effect, rewrote the law.
To many people, it seems preposterous that anyone who disputes gassings at Auschwitz or doubts Germany’s extermination program could appeal to the truth as a defense. However, in cases of this kind facts are of so little importance that there have been convictions for statements that appear to be almost certainly true. British historian David Irving, who in 2000 lost a celebrated libel case against an anti-revisionist author, was fined $30,000 by a German court for telling a German audience that the Auschwitz gas chamber is a post-war reconstruction. Even the Polish curator at Auschwitz has conceded it is a fake, but Mr. Irving is a criminal and the curator is not. A different German court is seeking Mr. Irving’s extradition for having said the same thing to a different German audience.
James Alexander, one of the lawyers who defended John Peter Zenger, would have been appalled. “Freedom of speech,” he wrote after the trial, “is a principal pillar in a free government: when this support is taken away, the constitution is dissolved and tyranny erected on its ruins.”
[American Renaissance, March, 2001]
The end of fascism in perspective
By Elena Agarossi
Renzo De Felice, Mussolini l’Alleato, Part II, La Guerra Civile, 1943-1945 (Turin: Einaudi, 1997), 768 pp.+xii.
The first volume of Renzo De Felice’s biography of Mussolini appeared in 1965. Now, after 30 years, the eighth and last volume finally appears, unfinished because of the author’s death. The narrative stops in mid-1944, but the first four chapters, which had been completed with an appendix by De Felice himself and have been published by his friends and colaborators, Emilio Gentile, Giorgio Goglia and Mario Missori, constitute the first non-partisan history of the beginning of the resistence movement and the Social Republic, as well as the the first comprehensive study of the populations’ attitude in a country devided between the Germans and the Anglo-Americans, and torn apart by civil war.
This volume thus marks the conclusion of an opus which over the years has become an indespensable reference not only for the Mussolini’s life, but for fascism, of which De Felice is considered, both in Italy and abroad, the most important historian. Yet, every volume has generated polemics, even violent attacks (even his history of Italian Jews under fascism(n1) generated a scandal), and the persistent accusation of wanting to rehabilitate Mussolini — so strong has been the refusal in Italy to come to terms with fascism and go from its demonization to a detached analysis. De Felice has systematically demolished the grand myths developed by Italian historiography during the post-WWII period, especially the myth of a broad opposition to the regime, which would have become evident with opposition to the racial laws and up to the adherence to the “people’s war” of resistance. The thesis that the regime was not based on consensus but only passive acceptance still has important supporters, who seem to forget one of the most terrifying lessons to emerge from the study of 20th century history, i.e., the popular support for totalitarian regimes — a major theme in the current reconstruction of Nazism and Stalinism. The question concerning this consensus also comes up with the 1943-45 period concerning which there is still no widely accepted interpretation. In fact, there is an extensive literature concerning the Resistance which, however, deals very little with the Social Republic (the only useful reference here is F. W. Deakin’s 1962 book on the subject(n2)). At any rate, the various studies have been limited to interpreting this period as a political and military contraposition between fascism and anti-fascism. De Felice rejects this approach as too limited to grasp the population’s “human condition” — a theme which is the focus of the book’s central chapters. This is clear in the second chapter, dealing with the moral crisis after the September 8, 1943 collapse (when, according to De Felice, there was a loss of national identity). It is even more developed in the third, titled “The Drama of the Italian People — between Fascists and Partisans,” which confronts the problem of the diversity of behaviors and motivations resulting in support for either side as well as their evolution over time, focusing on the population state of mind concerning the partisans’ movement.
The central thesis of De Felice’s last volume is that the Resistance, as well as support for the Social Republic, were the work of a minority. The claim that the majority of the population sought to remain out of it all, embroiled as little as possible, absorbed as it was in the struggle for survival, would seem almost obvious. If the active anti-fascists were a few thousands in 1943 (a figure accepted years ago even by comminist historians and confirmed by recent studies), vast participation in the Resistance was not possible and was not the case in any European countries, with the possible exception of Yugoslavia. Yet, in order to support this claim, De Felice has accumulated an extremely vast documentation, primarily anti-fascist sources such as the correspondence, memoirs and documents of the partisans’ cadres. The picture that emerges is rather different from the traditional one. Considerable attention is devoted to the complex relation between the Resistance and the population — one initially of solidarity, but which in many places deteriorated following instances of violence and the forced requisition by the partisans, but most of all in the wake of the Germans’ retaliations where and when civilians were blamed for the partisans’ actions.
This volume contains so many new details concerning power relations within the Resistance that the narrative is very dense and difficult to follow. While the marginal role of soldiers in the organization of the first partisan groups has already been pointed out by other scholars, along with the spontaneous and apolitical motivations of many of them, it has always been argued that the soldiers had for the most part “come back home.” The prevailing view was of a Resistance dominated by members of the Action Party and the Garibaldi Brigades. On the basis of late 1944 data gathered by the SIM — the military information service reconstituted by the Badoglio government — it seems that even in that period the absolute majority of the formations were “a-political.” De Felice documents the harshness of the communists’ straggle for political hegemony, which often led them into conflict with the other groups.
De Felice’s attempt to reinsert the history of these years in Italian history and to find in the dramatic events of that period the explanation for the Italians’ subsequent political choices risks clashing with the lingering refusal to come to terms with Italian history, both of the 1943-45 period as well of the fascist era, which has blocked every attempt at historiographical renewal. Lack of consensus concerning the meaning of those events continues to divide historians and public opinion. !t is increasingly necessary to inquire more deeply into the transition from the fascist regime to the party-system in order to understand the uncertain bases upon which Italian democracy was founded. This would make it possible to recapture a unified idea of Italian history by leaving behind the myths concerning the Resistance and the foundation of the First Republic. This can result only from acceptance of the past, which means also acceptance of complicity with fascism — a process similar to what has unfolded in Germany concerning Nazism and which is still taking place in France in relation to Vichy.
(*) This is an edited version of a review which originally appeared in Ideazione (May-June 1997).
(n1.) Renzo De Felice, Storia degli Ebrei ltaliani sotto il Fascismo (Milan: Mondadori, 1977).
(n2.) Frederick William Deakin, Brutal Friendship. The Last Days of Mussolini (Harmondnsworthy: Penguin, 1966).
[Telos; Spring98 Issue 111, p189, 3p]
Nietzsche and National Socialism
Nietzsche and National Socialism stand on the other side of the traditions of the German bourgeoisie. What does that mean?
The spiritual forces which have formed the German bourgeoisie in the last several centuries have been Pietism, the Enlightenment, and Romanticism. Pietism was the last truly revolutionary religious movement on Lutheran soil. It led men from a hopeless political reality back into their own selves and gathered them together in small private circles. It was a religious individualism which strengthened the inclination toward concern with self, toward psychological analysis and biographical examination. Every apolitical state-alien tendency necessarily had to find support and nourishment in Pietistic Germany.
The wholly different individualism of the Enlightenment also worked in this direction. This individualism was not of a religious-sentimental character. It believed in reason, it was rational, but it was “political” only in that it denied the feudal system; it was unable to erect an enduring political system of its own and was capable only of breaking the path for the economic system of capitalism. Man was viewed as a wholly individual entity, cut off from all original orders and relations, a fictitious person responsible only to himself.
In contrast, Romanticism saw man again in the light of his natural and historical ties. Romanticism opened our eyes to the night, the past, our ancestors, to the mythos and the Volk. The movement that led from Herder to Goerres, to the brothers Grimm, Eichendorff, Arnim, and Savigny, is the only spiritual movement that is still fully alive. It is the only movement with which Nietzsche had to wrestle ….
When we call National Socialism a world view we mean that not only the bourgeois parties but also their ideologies have been annihilated. Only ill-willed persons could maintain that everything that has been created by the past must now be negated. Rather, we mean that we have entered into a new relationship with our past, that our view has been cleared for what was truly forceful in this past but which had been clouded by bourgeois ideology. In a word, we have discovered new possibilities for understanding the essence of German existence. Precisely in this Nietzsche has preceded us. We hold a view of Romanticism that is different from his. But his most personal and lonely possession, the negation of bourgeois ideology as a whole, has today become the property of a generation.
The foundations of Christian morality — religious individualism, a guilty conscience, meekness, concern for the eternal salvation of the soul — all are absolutely foreign to Nietzsche. He revolts against the concept of repentance: “I do not like this kind of cowardice about one’s own action; one should not leave one’s own self in the lurch before the assault of unexpected disgrace and vexation. Rather, an extreme pride is in order here. For, finally, what is the use! No deed can be undone by repentance.”
What he means here is not a reduction of responsibility, but rather its intensification. Here speaks the man who knows how much courage, how much pride, is necessary to maintain himself in the face of Fate. Out of his amor fati Nietzsche spoke contemptuously about Christianity with its “perspective of salvation.” As a Nordic man he never understood for what purpose he should be “redeemed.” The Mediterranean religion of salvation is alien to and far removed from his Nordic attitude. He can understand man only as a warrior against Fate. A mode of thought which sees struggle and work only as a penance appears incomprehensible to him. “Our real life is a false, apostatic, and sinful existence, a penalty existence.” Sorrow, battle, work, death, are merely taken as objections to life. “Man as innocent, idle, immortal, happy — this concept of ‘highest desirability’ especially must be criticized.” Nietzsche turns passionately upon the monastic vita contemplativa, against Augustine’s “Sabbath of all Sabbaths.” He praises Luther for having made an end of the vita contemplativa. The Nordic melody of strife and labor sounds strong and clear here. The accent with which we pronounce these words today we heard from Nietzsche for the first time.
We call Nietzsche the philosopher of heroism. But that is only a half-truth if we do not regard him at the same time as the philosopher of activism. He considered himself the world-historical counterpart to Plato. “Works” result not from the desire for display, not from the acknowledgment of “extramundane” values, but from practice, from the ever repeated deed. Nietzsche employs a famous antithesis to make this clear: “First and above all there is the work. And that means training, training, training! The accompanying faith will come by itself — of that you can be certain.” Nietzsche opposes the Christian proscription of the political sphere, of the sphere of action altogether, with the thesis that also overcame the contrast between Catholicism and Protestantism (work and faith): “One has to train oneself not in the strengthening of value feelings, but in action; one has to know how to do something.” In this way he re-established the purity of the sphere of action, of the political sphere.
Nietzsche’s “values” have nothing to do with the Beyond, and therefore cannot be petrified into dogma. In ourselves, through us, they rise struggling to the surface; they exist only as long as we make ourselves responsible for them. When Nietzsche warns, “Be true to the Earth!” he reminds us of the idea that is rooted in our strength but does not hope for “realization” in a distant Beyond. It is not enough to point out the “this-worldly” character of Nietzsche’s values if one at the same time does not want to refute the notion that values are “realized” by action. Something inferior is always attached to the “realization” of given values whether these values are of a mundane or extramundane character ….
Nietzsche’s Nordic and soldierly valuation opposes that of the Mediterranean world and that of the priests. His critique of religion is a criticism of the priest, and arises from the point of view of the warrior, since Nietzsche demonstrates that even the origin of religion lies in the realm of power. This explains the fateful contradiction in a morality based on the Christian religion. “To secure the rule of moral values, all kinds of unmoral forces and passions have to be enlisted. The development of moral values is the work of unmoral passions and considerations.” Morality, therefore, is the creation of unmorality. “How to bring virtue to rule: This treatise deals with the great politics of virtue.” It teaches for the first time “that one cannot bring about the reign of virtue by the same means used to establish any kind of rule, least of all through virtue.” “One has to be very unmoral to make morality through deeds.” Nietzsche replaces the bourgeois moral philosophy with the philosophy of the will to power — in other words with the philosophy of politics. If in doing so he becomes the apologist for the “unconscious,” this “unconscious” is not to be understood in terms of depth pyschology. Here the concern is not with the instinctive and unconscious drives of an individual. Rather, “unconscious” here means “perfect” and “able.” And beyond that, “unconscious” also means life as such, the organism, the “great reason” of the body.
Consciousness is only a tool, a detail in the totality of life. In opposition to the philosophy of the conscious, Nietzsche asserts the aristocracy of nature. But for thousands of years a life-weary morality has opposed the aristocracy of the strong and healthy. Like National Socialism, Nietzsche sees in the state, in society, the “great mandatary of life,” responsible for each life’s failure to life itself. “The species requires the extinction of the misfits, weaklings, and degenerates: but Christianity as a conserving force appeals especially to them.” Here we encounter the basic contradiction: whether one proceeds from a natural life context or from an equality of individual souls before God. Ultimately the ideal of democratic equality rests upon the latter assumption. The former contains the foundations of a new policy. It takes unexcelled boldness to base a state upon the race. A new order of things is the natural consequence. It is this order which Nietzsche undertook to establish in opposition to the existing one.
In the face of the overpowering strength of the race, what happens to the individual? He returns — as a single member in a community. The herd instinct is basically altogether different from the instinct of an “aristocratic society,” composed of strong, natural men who do not permit their basic instincts to languish in favor of a mediocre average — men who know how to curb and control their passions instead of weakening or negating them. This again must not be understood from an individualistic point of view. For a long time emotions will have to be kept under “tyrannical” control. This can be done only by one community, one race, one people ….
If there ever was a truly German expression, it is this: One must have the need to be strong, otherwise one never will be. We Germans know what it means to maintain ourselves against all opposition. We understand the “will to power” — even if in an altogether different manner than our enemies assume. Even in this connection, Nietzsche has supplied the deepest meaning: “We Germans demand something from ourselves that nobody expected from us — we want more.”
If today we see German youth on the march under the banner of the swastika, we are reminded of Nietzsche’s “untimely meditations” in which this youth was appealed to for the first time. It is our greatest hope that the state today is wide open to our youth. And if today we shout “Heil Hitler!” to this youth, at the same time we are also hailing Nietzsche.
[From Alfred Baeumler, Studien zur deutschen Geistesgeschichte (Berlin: Junker und Duennnhaupt Verlag, 1937), pp. 283-285, 288-294.]
|What Heretics Are For
The Social Contract (Fall 2001)
by Garrett Hardin
Myths,” said Salustios, are “things that never happened but always are.” Though distinguishable from myths, the best of the fairy tales share this paradoxical relation to reality. A truth we are reluctant to acknowledge can be insinuated into the mind by the account of an event that never happened. Hans Christian Anderson’s The Emperor’s New Clothes tells just such a story. His emperor is a fiction, unnamed and unplaced in time (“many years ago”), but he is also all of us at all times — and no fiction.
This is the Preface to (and the reason for the title of) Naked Emperors: Essays of a Taboo Stalker (1982) by Garrett Hardin, Ph.D. The swindlers who fleeced the emperor first caught him in a neat logical trap. The exorbitantly priced and nonexistent clothes they tailored had the wonderful quality, they said, of being invisible to anyone who was “hopelessly stupid or unfit for his office.” Given the Emperor’s acceptance of this criterion of reality, his loyal subjects were psychologically bound to see the invisible. Behold, then, the noble Emperor, naked as a jaybird, marching in parade to the enthusiastic plaudits of the throng! The denouement comes when the innocent child protests “But the Emperor is naked!”
This scene, first projected on the mind’s eye of a delighted, giggling child, is periodically recalled by realities of the external world. Every generation brings new swindlers (many of them, curiously, self-deceived) and more new clothes for credulous emperors. At any point in time a sizeable wardrobe of such clothes is being paraded in the marketplace of ideas. There are far too few children, too few iconoclasts (to use another image), to keep up with the busy looms of the weavers of invisible cloth.
The story of The Emperor’s New Clothes no doubt strikes completely socialized, other-directed adults as preposterous, but reality outrages myth. In Anderson’s story the child’s outcry leads to a rapid erosion of faith among the spectators; truth strips the Emperor naked. Unhappily, in real life, majority opinion frequently overwhelms perception.
Some experiments carried out by the social psychologist Solomon Asch are most enlightening. Asch asked a small group of college men to identify the longest of several lines drawn on paper. Unbeknownst to one of them, all the others had been instructed to agree on a preposterously wrong answer. Choices were announced in open meeting. As the responses forced the “odd man out” to become aware of his position, he not infrequently gave way to the majority and expressed his agreement with them. It does not take an Inquisition to make heresy painful. (“Heresy” comes from a Greek word meaning “to choose for oneself.”) Out of 123 men subjected to this ordeal, 37 percent conformed. (Is it significant that this is about the same percentage as that of “placebo reactors,” people whose pain is reduced by the administration of a placebo, a medication known to have no beneficial effect?)
Asch’s experiment might tempt a cynic to rewrite the Anderson story to make the little child yield to adult opinion. We would not accept such a rewriting, of course, because the cynical version would deprive us of hope. The progress of science — indeed of all positive knowledge — depends on the courage of Thoreau’s “majority of one” in the face of nearly unanimous error. Yet there are many naked emperors parading the streets of learning, and we need a few people who have the Anderson child’s confidence in their own senses and judgment. Statistically speaking, the populace may well be right more often than wrong — but sometimes the Emperor is indeed naked.
What follows is one heretic’s attempt to point out some of the naked emperors of our time. Heresy is no guarantee of truth, but let us not forget (as T. H. Huxley said) that every new truth begins as heresy.
This is the Preface to (and the reason for the title of) Naked Emperors: Essays of a Taboo Stalker (1982) by Garrett Hardin, Ph.D.
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