Robert Stacy McCain can’t make up his mind on whether I am a “Jihadist concern troll” or an atheist, “dogmatic Randian.” While he ponders the equally plausible alternatives, I dig through his past writings.
From the archives of The Other McCain emerges this nugget of information:
I think, I agree a 100% … about the motives or the hidden agenda, not too, not too deeply hidden I think of such groups as the United Daughters of the Confederacy and the Sons of Confederate Veterans. They are dedicated to celebrating the Confederacy and rather thinly veiled support for white supremacy.
Kejda Gjermani is only 23 years old, as one lesbian detective has recently uncovered, and she needs no more than common sense to feel qualified to name a few inappropriate components of Americanism—tribalism, religious supremacism, and white nationalism are among them.
Unprovoked and unchallenged, Robert Stacy McCain has been harassing Charles Johnson of LittleGreenFootballs relentlessly over the past ten days—twenty posts and counting since September 15th and the archive of hatred and verbose distortions runs deeper. Yesterday, seemingly unsatisfied at the breadth and depth the coverage of Johnson’s evils had received from his own blog, he launched a new outlet for seething against him, carved out of HotAir with its administrators’ approval. From McCain’s inauguratorory remarks, we learn that creating the Green Room—as he colorfully calls it—had become necessary because both at his blog and at HotAir, “commenters have been hijacking every thread to discuss the disastrous self-immolation of Charles Johnson.” That HotAir and the Other McCain are plagued by hordes of commenters who care for nothing but trashing Johnson—to the point of needing a separate forum custom-made for this purpose—speaks more about these blogs’ readership and appeal than it does about Johnson.
But let me speak about Charles Johnson for a minute. He does not need me to defend him, but if I keep silent, a few facts may remain understated: For one thing, he never started a blog war with Robert Stacy McCain. All he did was note—in a discreet comment at his site—that Stephen Green of Vodkapundit was promoting McCain, whom Charles rightfully labeled a white supremacist. When Green responded with a passive-aggressive post making excuses for McCain, Charles providedsources to back his assertion. See that? Only two hyperlinks in the next-to-last sentence, because two posts, mainly consisting of outside sources and direct quotes—the most damning ones from McCain himself—were enough to establish McCain’s racist bona fides. Truth is succinct, truth is crisp. It does not seethe, it does not prevaricate, it is not affected.
What McCain has responded with are long-winded heaps of nothingness, shot through the ether in rapid succession. Does he ever address the direct quotes and facts Charles has laid out? No. Here is an example of what he does instead:
Johnson’s attack on me at LGF depends largely on convincing his readers that, because I am an obstreperous Southerner . . . well, nudge, nudge. You know how those people are.
Except when they aren’t.…People who hate the South—and I think Charles Johnson might fit that description—will not permit you the leisure of merely saying, “Well, we’re not all bad.”…
Charles Johnson was not [at the Tea Party]. I was. And so were lots of people from Virginia, North Carolina, Texas, Georgia… oh, wait. I forgot. All Southerners are ignorant racists, right, Charles?
One dull, pathetic lie that is…. Charles never said or suggested any of the above. He merely related a simple fact to his readers—that Robert Stacy McCain has been a member of the neo-confederate League of the South. Does McCain dispute this much? No. In fact, he digresses:
[T]he point is that I was pursuing my professional duty when I first came into contact with the League of the South, and of my subsequent involvement, there are many things that people think they know—on the basis of SPLC reports—which are not necessarily true. And there are many, many thinks [sic] that people do not know.
To what mysteries do you allude, Robert? Are you a member or not? Have you ever been? The League’s secessionist intentions are a matter of public record, as is her pro-slavery stance. One of her cofounders, Thomas Fleming, makes a cameo appearance in my exposé of Serge Trifkovic, where some of his blatantly racist pronouncements are quoted in full—no one can accuse me of taking him out of context when he openly defends the Klan and rejects the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. So, Robert, care to elaborate on that subsequent involvement of yours in the League? Neither do you deny being a member of it nor do you wish to utter anything unflattering about it. Then why the caveat when you link to fellow-Leaguers (emphasis mine)?
Meanwhile, keeping in mind that a link is not necessarily an endorsement, League of the South blogger Old Rebel offers his own idiosyncratic [sic] of Chronic Degenerative Lizardmania: [Deranged screed follows—ed.]
Do hedge your bets, Robert. Leave those modifiers dangling too—they make it easier to claim later that you’ve been misunderstood in whichever way it conveniences you to be misunderstood….
In response to my husband—the “an anonymous a—hole”—who calls him out on the friendship and business relation with Richard Spencer of TakiMagazine, McCain retorts:
Richard Spencer, as I have written before, is a young radical intellectual who has read too much Nietzsche. Should he be shunned therefore?
Oh dear…. I will gladly capitulate to Godwin’s Law if it means pointing out that Hitler started out as a young radical intellectual who had read too much Nietzsche (and Schopenhauer). Spencer, McCain’s friend and intermittent source of paychecks, is a notorious white nationalist—he will freely reveal himself as such if you meet him in person; at least he has to me and to MPH, the “anonymous a—hole.”
[Johnson’s] attack on me at LGF is a classic “ransom note method” attack—the assembling of this, that and the other to create a collage, like a kidnapper glueing [sic] together words clipped from magazines.
Pretty vivid imagery there… of a collage… stitched together from quotes and facts. The horror! But who would dare ransom this quote from McCain?
[T]he media now force interracial images into the public mind and a number of perfectly rational people react to these images with an altogether natural revulsion. The white person who does not mind transacting business with a black bank clerk may yet be averse to accepting the clerk as his sister-in-law, and THIS IS NOT RACISM, no matter what Madison Avenue, Hollywood and Washington tell us.
This, from someone who feels reluctant to shun Robert Spencer, Pamela Geller, and other assorted bigots, primarily out of strategic considerations:
You cannot build a successful political movement by a process of subtraction, and building a winning coalition is impossible if you organize on losing principles. Allowing your opposition to dictate the terms of acceptable discourse is a losing principle, as Jeff Goldstein has striven to explain. Ergo, Johnson manifests a defeatist tendency when he pronounces Geller and Spencer “untouchables” because they attended a European conference whose promoters included some unsavory characters.
Robert, I assure you: If only you could discriminate less against people of different skin color, you would safely afford to discriminate more against would-be allies of stained character or reputation. And on aggregate, the numbers in your winning coalition would not suffer one bit from this shift—trust me, I’ve done the math. McCain further writes:
The point is that, in attacking me as a “neo-Confederate,” Charles Johnson arrogantly supposes that the facts he knows (or rather, believes he knows, as there has been so much misinformation propagated over the years) are the only facts that matter, and that whatever facts he doesn’t know must be irrelevant.
This is where the Hayekian insight comes in handy. Friedrich Hayek understood that central economic planning could not work because the information contained in prices is too complex, diverse and localized to be supplanted by decisions made by “experts.”
In the same way, our individual opinions on subjects of controversy—including, but not limited to, public policy—are shaped by our personal experiences and knowledge.
A bridge is built. If it is built to meet an insistent public demand, if it solves a traffic problem or a transportation problem otherwise insoluble, if, in short, it is even more necessary to the taxpayers collectively than the things for which they would have individually spent their money had it had not been taxed away from them, there can be no objection. But a bridge built primarily “to provide employment” is a different kind of bridge….
The bridge exists. It is, let us suppose, a beautiful and not an ugly bridge. It has come into being through the magic of government spending. Where would it have been if the obstructionists and the reactionaries had had their way? There would have been no bridge. The country would have been just that much poorer. Here again the government spenders have the better of the argument with all those who cannot see beyond the immediate range of their physical eyes. They can see the bridge. But if they have taught themselves to look for indirect as well as direct consequences they can once more see in the eye of imagination the possibilities that have never been allowed to come into existence. They can see the unbuilt homes, the unmade cars and washing machines, the unmade dresses and coats, perhaps the ungrown and unsold foodstuffs. To see these uncreated things requires a kind of imagination that not many people have. We can think of these nonexistent objects once, perhaps, but we cannot keep them before our minds as we can the bridge that we pass every working day. What has happened is merely that one thing has been created instead of others.
Take that, and apply it to your strategic reasons for tolerating fascists, white nationalists, and religious supremacists in polite company. Their presence in a movement is palpable—hey show up in a head count—but how many sane thinkers who might otherwise sympathize with a cause or idea will never join, out of sheer disgust with its co-optation by fascists and bigots? We’ll never know…. This consideration applies not only to the involvement of Robert Spencer, Pamela Geller, or Ann Coulter in the “conservative movement,” but also to your own trafficking in Austrian circles—Hayek is rolling in his grave as neo-confederate cranks twist his ideas in their defense.
Now, back to Charles Johnson… I may disagree with him on any number of issues and still find debating ideas with him a pleasure. He has never given me reason to doubt his integrity or his sanity, and for enduring—without so much as a flinch—the storm of excrement blowing his way from “conservative” quarters of the blogosphere, my hat goes off to him. Refusing to break bread with outspoken bigots should not constitute a tense moral dilemma. It’s basic decency—the kind we should safely take for granted in others and in ourselves. As Charles’s alter ego Lao Stinky put it, “Refusing to dive into a sewer doesn’t mean you’re cleaner than everyone else.” No one deserves a medal for refusing to descend into vitriol and bigotry, but basic virtues are becoming so hard to come by on the Right that they must be spelled out anew. And it’s embarrassing that it has come to this.
White nationalist Robert Stacy McCain now prominently blogrolls lgf2, a hate site run by a couple of dangerous whacks prone to physical violence—and encourages its commenters to congregate at Hot Air. He brings up the nicknames of commenters banned from LGF—apparently, they’re no longer “anonymous a—holes” when they play his game—and encourages them to seethe at his site. Could there be a move pettier than cultivating disgruntled ex-commenters banned for good reasons from another site? I mean, at least from “one of the top Hayekian public intellectuals in America”?
To all those “pundits” who should know better—Vodka, Allah, Insta, I am pointing at you—some candid advice: Get your neo-confederate protégée to shut up, because the more he talks, the deeper the hole he digs himself into, and the more uncomfortable you will feel when you come to his defense.
UPDATE: I’ve learned that Hot Air‘s “Green Room” was not created specifically for hosting Robert Stacy McCain’s diatribes against Charles Johnson. It’s rather a platform for all “outside bloggers” who contribute to Hot Air. I did not know this because I have not read Hot Air in a long time. What McCain did was use an existing platform to publish a thread exclusively dedicated to trashing Charles Johnson. There… is that better?
UPDATE: Over at “The Other McCain,” Stacy is already reacting by, you guessed it, weaseling his way around my arguments. He pretends to respond by quoting a sentence of mine—cherry-picked for its relative irrelevance to the charges against him:
White nationalist Robert Stacy McCain now prominently blogrolls lgf2, a hate site run by a couple of dangerous whacks prone to physical violence—and encourages its commenters to congregate at Hot Air.
Then he proceeds to “debunk” it by informing me that “there are these things called facts,… and there are witnesses to those facts.” These “facts” Stacy links to and their respective “witnesses” are nothing but photos of his son with his football teammates, of whom some are black and one is Asian. So his offspring has been caught on camera looking friendly among blacks, in front of witnesses. Stacy, you’ve humored me. If this is the best you can muster in your defense, I rest my case. The idea of having blacks for in-laws still repulses you. But to your credit, you have established that not only you don’t mind transacting business with a black bank clerk, but you will even tolerate your son playing with black kids. You are much more open-minded than I had realized and I am not above admitting it.
From another update:
Now we see where Kejda Gjermani is getting her misinformation. A commenter identifies her husband as software entrepreneur Michael P. Hussey…[so MPH was not an anonymous a—hole after all—ed.] Apparently “mph” encountered Richard Spencer—perhaps at a libertarian event? some sort of Paulista gathering?—in New York, where they both live, and words were exchanged…. Alas, “mph” has made serious mistakes by recycling materials of dubious credibility, and—if it is true that “mph” is Hussey—he has committed an even more serious error by involving Gjermani in what appears to be some sort of personal feud with Spencer.
Leaving aside the misogynistic presumption that it must have been my husband who fed me “misinformation” or “involved” me in anything, I must correct Stacy’s allegation that it was at a libertarian event or “Paulista gathering” that my husband and I met Richard Spencer. For someone so ostensibly committed to not jumping to conclusions without knowing “the facts,” Stacy is sure making up a lot of stuff from thin air. For the record, we met Spencer at a debate titled “Is Zionism Racism?” There was a show of hands, and guess which way Richard Spencer voted? To this day, I remain wholly confused as to what his vote revealed about his attitude to Israel, because he seems to consider racism a good thing.
To top it off, Stacy taunts us:
Pay close attention, idiots: Just because I haven’t bothered to deny something doesn’t mean it’s true. The burden of proof is on the accuser, and good luck proving some of the things you have so flatly asserted. There are facts. And there are witnesses.
He doesn’t bother denying any of the charges against him. But he does bother writing dozens of articles, each over 1,000 words long, to harass whomever brings up unflattering facts from his past. Facts that he doesn’t deny, but pleads with his readers not to believe…. I need some Advil….
I thought I was done writing about Robert Spencer for a number of reasons. First, compiling the exposé of his friend and colleague James Jatras was a laborious effort for which, until recently, I had little to show besides publication in the Albanian-American newspaper Illyria (I have little interest in preaching to the converted) and a few (mostly unsympathetic) comments. Second, the more I read about Spencer’s other associates and their agendas, the more I felt that by virtue of their sheer extremism, these fringe elements could never achieve anything of substance in America; so why bother exposing them? And third, I do have a life. And a job.
That being said, in the wake of second-hand threats of legal action I have decided my best defense against potential charges of defamation is the truth. More truth about Robert Spencer.
While I don’t think Spencer and his associates stand a chance of implementing what I fear are their stealth policies, their shrill and unfortunately universally accepted identification with “the counter-jihadist movement” is severely detrimental to the efforts of respectable intellectuals standing up to Islamofascism. Front groups for radical Islamist interests — along with their Western apologists — conveniently employ such critics of compromised backgrounds as straw men against any legitimate scrutiny of their own activities. I believe everyone acquainted with Robert Spencer’s work should consider the causes he is involved with and the company he keeps before lending him support; this is one more reason for me to write about him.
What’s so interesting about Trifkovic? Just about everything omitted or whitewashed from his Wikipedia profile.
The following is an accurate albeit incomplete introduction:
…Trifkovic was one of the leaders of the Bosnian Serbs during the years of ethnic cleansing. Unsurprisingly, he has an online article titled “The Hague Tribunal: Bad Justice, Worse Politics,” in which he argues that there was no ethnic cleansing at all against Bosnian Muslims by Serbs. His subtitle reads “The Myth of the Bosnian Holocaust,” and to support his eccentric case he repeatedly accuses the U.S. authorities of distorting or covering up “facts” about Bosnia to accuse Serbs unjustly…
In the same article, Trifkovic openly supports Bosnian Serb wartime leader Radovan Karadzic and his military chief Gen. Ratko Mladic and argues for their innocence. These two have been indicted by the U.N. Tribunal on sixteen counts of genocide and war crimes regarding the Bosnian war of 1992-1995…
In March 2003, Trifkovic appeared as a defense witness in the trial of Milomir Stakic in [the Hague Tribunal.] On July 13, 2003, Stakic was sentenced to life imprisonment after being found guilty on the following counts:
Count 4: Extermination, a Crime against Humanity
Count 5: Murder, a Violation of the Laws and Customs of War
Count 6: Persecutions, Crimes against Humanity, incorporating
Count 3: Murder, a Crime against Humanity, and
Count 7: Deportation, a Crime against Humanity.
The Stakic case is of great importance in the overall context of the Bosnian war and The Hague Tribunal, because it centers on the expulsion of non-Serbs from the area of Prijedor in northern Bosnia-Herzegovina, in which the notorious concentration camps of Keraterm, Omarska and Trnopolje were located. Stakic himself stated on television that the camps of Omarska, Keraterm, and Trnopolje were “a necessity in the given moment.”
There are some illuminating points in Trifkovic’s testimony. At page 13757, Trifkovic admits that he served as “representative of the Republika Srpska between 9 November, 1993, and July, 1994, in London,” a fact that he had omitted from the C.V. he submitted to the Tribunal. The Republika Srpska [R.S.] was the Serbian occupation zone in Bosnia-Herzegovina created on the orders and under the direction of Slobodan Milosevic.
On March 19, 2003, Judge Wolfgang Schomburg commented on the character of Trifkovic’s testimony, which he described as showing “the clear lack of tolerance, the poor basis of facts relying on secondary instead of primary sources. And not going into details, we discussed some examples yesterday. This is clear. But as I said yesterday, this has nothing to do with Dr. Stakic being the accused here in this Tribunal.”
That is, the Judge states that the opinions of Trifkovic should not be attributed to the defendant Stakic. The opinions of Trifkovic were so extreme they should be excluded so as not to prejudice the defense of a man who finally was given the first LIFE SENTENCE for his crimes against Bosnian Muslims!
The full transcripts of Trifkovic’s defense of Milomir Stakic at the Hague Tribunal can be found here, here, here, here, here, and here, in chronological order. Robert Spencer is close friends with not one, but two defense witnesses for Serbian war criminals, the other being James Jatras, who defended Slobodan Milosevic at his trial. But Trifkovic’s testimony was even more scandalous than the above account would indicate:
[S]ources at the Hague report that war crimes prosecutors last week ripped apart Chronicles editor, paleocon speaker and longtime war-crimes tribunal critic Srdja Trifkovic for plagiarism; according to people at the trial, Trifkovic republished verbatim and without attribution four pages of sensitive court documents, allegedly obtained from a member of the defense team.
Whenever confronted with his ties to the genocidal Bosnian Serb government, Trifkovic pulls out an entire portfolio of published statements to prove his vehement opposition to Slobodan Milosevic throughout the 1990s. His indignant alibi is that, in fact, he worked as adviser to a “determined foe” of Milosevic:
Yes, I was Plavsic’s consultant during her brief presidency (1998), when she was persona gratissima in Washington, where I accompanied her during her visit in May of that year. She was certainly not a “member of the Milosevic regime” — quite the contrary, she was his determined foe, which made it possible for me to help her, and made her attractive in the eyes of the U.S. Administration.
Slobodan Milosevic is so infamous that in the sensitivities of many a Westerner, opposition to such a monster is conflated with epic struggles of “good vs. evil.” It is hard to fathom that many Serbian leaders (as well as a significant portion of the Serbian population) opposed Milosevic not because he was planning and executing genocide and mayhem all over Yugoslavia, but because he hadn’t gone far enough and had failed to fully deliver on those counts. After all, who can be expected to keep track of all these colorful characters? Milosevic, Karadzic, Mladic, Stakic, Plavsic, Blagojevic… Opposition to Milosevic is automatically considered a proxy for human decency.
The most fascinating thing about Biljana Plavsic, whom Trifkovic admittedly served as a consultant, is she’s not a fictional character! The descriptions below do not refer to a comic book or horror film caricature. She did indeed live and rule in Serb-occupied Bosnia:
Biljana Plavšic is a former Bosnian Serb politician and university professor currently serving a sentence in Sweden as a result of a conviction by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) for war crimes. She was the president of Republika Srpska for two years from 1996 through 1998.
Besides being the highest-ranking Bosnian Serb politician to be sentenced [by the ICTY], she was also known for her fiery nationalist statements during the War in Bosnia, against the Serbian Democratic Party (SDS), and, later, her remorse for the crimes against humanity she admitted to have been responsible for as a high-level politician.
She was infamous for some of her comments during the war, and for her April 1992 appearance in Bijeljina with Željko Ražnatovic, aka Arkan. Serbian President Slobodan Miloševic’s support for the “Vance Owen Plan” caused her to refuse to shake his hand, as she denounced him as a traitor to the Serbian nation.
Vojislav Šešelj, at the Miloševic trial, described Karadžic’s motives for nominating her.
“She held very extremist positions during the war, insufferably extremist, even for me, and they bothered even me as a declared Serb nationalist. She brought Arkan and his Serb Volunteer Guard to Bijeljina, and she continued to visit him after their activities in Bijeljina and the surrounding area… Radovan Karadzic…believed her to be more extreme than himself in every way. He thought that the Western protagonists who tried to eliminate him at any cost would have an even greater problem with her… Radovan Karadzic believed that she would continue to occupy her patriotic positions until the end…”
Vojislav Seselj is the founder of Serbia’s neo-fascist Radical Party, so just what kind of thoughts and plans were roaming in Biljana Plavsic’s head to be deemed too extremist even for him? Srdja Trifkovic’s utterances were so outrageous that the ICTY judge explicitly cautioned that they not be attributed to the war criminal Stakic. Is it any wonder, then, that not even Milosevic was a worthy embodiment of Trifkovic’s political philosophy? Biljana was his true and only match.
More (<– excellent source I recommend reading in full) about and from the “iron lady”:
“I’m not saying that we no longer wish to live with Croats, but rather that we shall not allow them to live with us.”
“I don’t have much faith in political negotiations. One good battle would settle this war,” she told Telegraf (Belgrade) on 15 July 1994. Hence her statement that she “exchanges kisses only with heroes [more on that later -ed.].” Her conception of heroism is personified by Zeljko Raznjatovic-Arkan, the perpetrator of horrific ethnic cleansing in B.-H. “WhenI saw what he’d done in Bijeljina, I at once imagined all his actions being like that. I said: here we have a Serb hero. He’s a real Serb, that’s the kind of men we need.” (On, Belgrade, 12 November 1996.) “Arkan is wonderful… he impressed me as a humane person forced by necessity to take up arms.” (Bosnian Serb News Agency, 1992.)
Plavsic’s monstrous celebration of Arkan as the symbol of Serbdom and heroism can be understood only in the context of her own authentic conception of ethnic cleansing: Arkan is not simply the Serb Empress’s favourite hero, he is the loyal and systematic executor of her “imperial” design. This is the reason for her great affection for him, which has lasted to the present day. “I would prefer completely to cleanse eastern Bosnia of Muslims. When I say cleanse, I don’t want anyone to take me literally and think I mean ethnic cleansing. But they’ve attached this label ‘ethnic cleansing’ to a perfectly natural phenomenon and characterized it as some kind of war crime.” (Svet, Novi Sad, 6 September 1993.)
What the difference is, in this concrete case, between the cleansing of Muslims from eastern Bosnia and ethnic cleansing, is something that only Biljana Plavsic’s monstrous mind can discern. “It’s not the nape but the neck,” as the saying goes.
From the very beginning of the war Plavsic was already invoking Dragoljub-Draza Mihailovic, leader during World War II of the Serb(ian) nationalists better known as Chetniks and a proven collaborator of the German occupiers. “He fought for the unification of all Serbs within a single Serb state, the borders of which were to run from Djevdjelija [on the Macedonian-Greek border] to Karlobag [two thirds of the way up the Croatian coast]… Uncle Draza intended to cleanse the future united Serb lands of all enemies of Serbdom and Orthodoxy, as well as of anti-national elements.” (Srbija, 3 September 1992.)
“That’s true [i.e. that the Bosnian Muslims were originally Serbs]. But it was genetically deformed material that embraced Islam. And now, of course, with each successive generation this gene simply becomes concentrated. It gets worse and worse, it simply expresses itself and dictates their style of thinking and behaving, which is rooted in their genes…” (Svet, Novi Sad, 6 September 1993.)
As a concrete example of her thesis about Muslims being “genetically deformed material,” she has used Ejup Ganic: “I have never met a more deformed person than him in political circles, which abound with such deformed people.” (On, Belgrade, 12 November 1996.)
“We are disturbed by the fact that the number of marriages between Serbs and Muslims has increased… because mixed marriages lead to an exchange of genes between ethnic groups, and thus to a degeneration of Serb nationhood.” (Oslobodjenje, Sarajevo, May 1994.)
[Plavsic] once said, at the time of the Vance-Owen Plan[which led to her falling out with Milosevic, because he settled for peace -ed.]: “there are twelve million of us, and even if six million perish the other six million will live decently.” Later she tried to explain this away by saying that Milosevic had misquoted her (NIN, Belgrade, 6 May 1994.) She claimed she had only repeated to him what a wounded soldier had told her! It is not known what reply she gave to the wounded soldier, but if Milosevic said one good thing during the war it was that she belonged in an institution.
“The Serbs of Bosnia, especially those living in frontier regions, have developed and refined a special ability to sense danger to the nation and to evolve mechanisms for self-protection. In my family it was always said that the Serbs of Bosnia were much better than the Serbs of Serbia… As a biologist I know that the best ability to adapt and survive is possessed by those species which live next to others that are a threat to them… Hence, the separation of Serbs from other nations is both a natural and a necessary phenomenon.” (Borba, Belgrade, 28 July 1993.)
Even the former Bosnian Serb President Biljana Plavsic’s December 2002 confession of guilt in The Hague seemed more aimed at appeasing the guilt of Serbs than remorse for the victims of Bosnian Serb atrocities. Her explanation that egregious crimes had been motivated by Serbs’ “blinding fear,” which led to an “obsession” that they would “never again become victims,” as they had in World War II, had little resonance in non-Serb quarters. Few can forget the woman who was once shown on local TV stepping over a Bosniak corpse to kiss and congratulate the Serbian warlord Zeljko Raznjatovic, known as Arkan.
This is the person for whom Robert Spencer’s friend and colleague Srdja Trifkovic worked at a time when her actions and pronouncements were a matter of public record. He also worked for Karadzic in the capacity of official spokesperson, a fact he has tried to deny since his self-refurbishment as a pundit and scholar of Islam in the US:
I have met Karadzic during my many trips to the Balkans but I never “worked” for him.
Sources say otherwise. A BBC article identifies him as a former spokesperson for the Bosnian Serb government as he argues against Karadzic’s extradition to The Hague. But the smoking gun comes from elsewhere:
Dr Trifkovic, in a 1994 interview with Adam Nicolson of the London Sunday Telegraph:
“In the press the Serbs have been portrayed in a Manichaean way, as the perennial and only culprits, demonised as a collective monstrosity. It was this which induced me to give up my other career pursuits and become a spokesman for Dr. Karadzic, which is not much easier at the moment, I must say,” he smiled, “than being the spokesman for the Afrikaner Republican Party.” The Serbs’ main shortcoming, as he saw it, had been in public relations. “There is a Serb reluctance to manipulate the truth,” he said. “A sense of propriety. The concept of public relations is morally repugnant to the Serbs, to manhandle people’s minds in that way we believe the truth will become known by itself. The result was a lack of preparedness for this aspect of the war from which we have suffered.”
Ah, but what’s a little bit of personal revisionism from a man who denies the Srebrenica genocide and other meticulously documented massacres without batting an eye? Trifkovic’s on-record views include:
[T]he commonly quoted figure of victims of the Srebrenica massacre was a “long-debunked myth.”
[T]he often-cited figure of 200,000-250,000 Bosnians killed in the entire conflict is incorrect, and that it is closer to 80,000-100,000 on all three sides (Serbs, Croats and Muslims), about half of them civilians, which is the figure confirmed by the Hague Tribunal research team.
Muslims in the UN-designated safe havens, like Srebrenica, led by Naser Oric, were actually using them “as armed camps and springboards for offensives against the Serbs.”
He has said that the alleged Bosnian Serb “rape camps” were “entirely fictitious.”
Invoking Lord David Owen’s memoir, he has described the Breadline Massacre, where 22 people died, as a public relations “stunt” by the Izetbegovic regime.
What did an average workday as Karadzic’s spokesperson entail? No comment:
Dr Trifkovic, as featured on CBS EVENING NEWS (6:30 PM ET) May 26, 1995, Friday:
HEADLINE: BOSNIAN SERBS HOLD UN PEACEKEEPERS HOSTAGE IN RETALIATION FOR NATO AIR ATTACKS
DAN RATHER, anchor:
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization stepped up its air attacks against Bosnian Serbs today, but the Serbs are still very much in control on the ground, and they came back with even more terror against civilians and United Nations’ soldiers. Correspondent Barry Petersen begins our report.
BARRY PETERSEN reporting:
American and NATO strategists expected the air strikes to change the course of the war. They were right; it got worse. Serbs reacted by imprisoning unarmed UN observers.
Unidentified Man #1: Our lives are in danger.
PETERSEN: Some were turned into human shields at the ammunition dumps NATO was targeting. There was a desperate radio message, apparently sent by a UN hostage.
Unidentified Man #2: If the bombing stops, we will be set free. Otherwise, we will be–we will be killed, over.
Unidentified Woman: (Foreign language spoken.)
PETERSEN: The Serbs chose a somewhat different response to yesterday’s air strike: a massacre; artillery blasting a crowded street in Tuzla lined with sidewalk cafes. More than 70 were killed. The youngest victim was two months old. The Serbs know they can’t stop the warplanes militarily. They think if they can make the price of the air strikes high enough in human terms, that will stop the UN generals.
Mr. SERGE TRIFKOVIC (Bosnian Serb spokesman): The next time there is a call for stern action against these dastardly Serbs, if it is known that it will result in 2,000 shells falling on the so-called protected areas, people will think twice.
PETERSEN: The shells rained down on Sarajevo today, another of those so-called protected areas that isn’t.
Mr. MARTIN McCAULEY (Eastern European specialist): The military must now consider whether it’s worth using military force against military objects if the result is the death of innocent children and men and women.
PETERSEN: The UN now stands at a terrible crossroads about what to do next. It has never stood up so strongly to the Serbs, and Bosnia has never paid so dearly. Barry Petersen, CBS News, London.
At this point, I would like to briefly revisit the recent online debacle over Robert Spencer being caught joining a genocidal Facebook group championing the “Reconquest of Anatolia,” which would be accomplished through the ethnic cleansing and forced sterilization of the Turkish population. Anyone disposed to charitably dismiss the evil lunacy espoused by the group as merely hyperbolic sentiment ought to remember that Robert Spencer is closely associated with a man who has personally participated in an actual ethnic-cleansing campaign of similar proportions. Spencer’s family background is a reasonable fit for irredentist intentions toward Turkey, not to mention his seething hatred for everything Muslim/Islamic:
LAMB: What’s your own background as far as country?
SPENCER: Well, I’m an American and my family is from what is now Turkey and actually that is the beginning of my interest in the subject of Islam that my grandparents shortly after World War I were offered the choice of conversion to Islam or exile from the land where they had lived for many hundreds of years – that is my family had lived. And many Christians in that area had lived there.
They were – those chose exile and they came to the United States. They, despite their experiences which involved some violence and some of the – some killings of some of the family members, they were – they spoke in a uniformly positive fashion about life over there and made me become quite fascinated with it such that I took the first opportunity I could when I went to college to read the Koran and to begin studying Islamic theology and history.
But I won’t elaborate on Spencer’s genocidal sympathies or lack thereof, lest I be freshly accused of making libelous allegations. Readers can draw their own conclusions, though by now they’re probably just wondering whatever happened to our old friend Trifkovic in the wake of the Dayton Agreement, when the Bosnian Serb government he worked for was assimilated within the federation of Bosnia-Herzegovina. I believe I already gave it away, but it’s worth rehashing: He became an American pundit, analyst, author, and anti-Islamic polemicist. Anyone impressed with Spencer’s credentials and achievements should be in awe of Trifkovic’s: after all, the latter holds a PhD as opposed to a mere Master’s degree, has been a visiting scholar at no less than the Hoover Institution (on the State Department’s dime), and has also authored bestselling books on Islam. A counter-jihadist par excellence, wouldn’t you say?
A closer look at his activities in America reveals involvement with the paleoconservative Rockford Institute. Trifkovic is the director of the institute’s Center for International Affairs and publishes its magazine, Chronicles. The leader of the John Randolph Club — an offshoot of the Rockford Institute preoccupied with “renewal of Christendom” — is Justin Raimondo, owner of the anti-Semitic conspiratorial site Antiwar.org, which has published several of Trifkovic’s articles.
As a curious aside, speaking of Christendom, the director and producer of the documentary “Islam: What the West Needs to Know“, starring both Robert Spencer and Srdja Trifkovic, is a contributing author to Chronicles. In a recent article he prophesies that Barack Obama is the Antichrist, whose presidency heralds the end of our times. Gregory M. Davis writes:
I propose that with president-elect Obama we have taken a significant step toward the end of the world-and not just because a left-winger is likely to make a botch of whatever he touches. By the end of the world we mean the end of human history, which had its beginning with the fall of man in the Garden of Eden. The fall was the beginning of history; the Second Coming of Christ and the Last Judgment-when we shall all be changed in the twinkling of an eye and the elements burn with fervent heat-will be the conclusion. History as we know it is the story of the separation of man from God through disobedience and the saga of his redemption through divine grace. We do not know when the Master shall return-no man knoweth the day nor hour-but we do have powerful indications from Holy Scripture and Tradition about the general course of history and what its latter days will look like.
This same Gregory M. Davis also contributes to Spencer’s JihadWatch, where he has authored an entire column, Islam 101. Back to Chronicles: A magazine that would publish insane screeds of the Obama-is-the-Antichrist caliber can be safely assumed to carry more craziness on board, and it does. On the magazine’s website the League of the South is prominently blog-rolled. In fact, Thomas Fleming, Chronicles’ current editor-in-chief, is a founder and former board member of the neo-Confederate League. Pat Buchanan also has a regular column, and the magazine has strongly supported his presidential bids. The magazine’s attitude toward Jews and Israel can be gleaned from a simple Boolean search of their archives. Fleming writes:
From a fairly homogeneous ethnic base-a British core with Northern European accretions-we have morphed into a multiethnic, multilingual, multicultural population in which no one, not even descendants of the oldest stock, knows or cares who he is. Leftists now rejoice that the White House will be presided over by someone whose middle name is Hussein and actually run by someone whose middle name is Israel.
Vast numbers of people in the United States and abroad are hoping that President Obama will end America’s illegal wars, halt America’s support for Israel’s massacre of Lebanese and Palestinians, and punish, instead of reward, the shyster banksters [sic] whose fraudulent financial instruments have destroyed economics and imposed massive sufferings on people all over the world.
The Council of Conservative Citizens grew out of the old white Citizens Councils-the principal organization that fought for segregation in the South during the Civil Rights era. At the end of 1998, it appeared as if the role of the Council of Conservative Citizens in public life would be greatly diminished after the exposure of close ties to elected officials. However, recent events point to a new cycle of activity by the Council members in the electioneering sphere.
On June 30, 2000, nearly 100 supporters gathered at the Holy Resurrection Serbian Orthodox Cathedral on Chicago’s Northside for a $100 a plate fundraiser for Reform Party Presidential candidate Pat Buchanan. Although a posted flyer announcing the hastily scheduled event claimed that the meeting was sponsored by a group calling itself the “Coalition for Just Peace in the Balkans,” it was clear who was in charge.
The Very Revered Father Denis Pavichevich, priest of the Resurrection Serbian Orthodox Cathedral, was the host of the event, and clearly ran the show. Dressed in a gray cassock, accessorized with a large gold cross around his neck and a huge diamond-encrusted Confederate Battle Flag ring on his left hand, Father Denis-as most people referred to him that evening-was a friendly albeit imposing figure.
Flying in front of Pavichevich’s residence next to the church is the third national flag of the Confederacy-just below a Serbian flag. In addition to running the church and being the RSVP contact for the Buchanan fundraiser, Pavichevich is the vice-chair of the Northern Illinois Council of Conservative Citizens (Northern Illinois CCofC). He uses his church to hold regular Council of Conservative Citizens meetings as well as this Buchanan fundraiser.
Staff from the Rockford, Illinois based Rockford Institute also played an integral role in the event, running the registration table and doing the introductions.
The crowd milled around the lobby, browsing through copies of Chroniclesand Buchanan’s latest book, Republic, Not an Empire, as they awaited the arrival of the Reform Party candidate. There was a virtual absence of Reform Party literature. Several people in the crowd wore the green “Buchanan 2000” buttons of the Spotlight-run “Americans for Buchanan Committee” on their lapels.
As Buchanan entered the room with Pavichevich and Chronicles Foreign Affairs Editor Srdja Trifkovic, people began filing into the banquet hall and taking their seats. With the verve of a politician, Buchanan made his way through the crowd, shaking hands with many of the people sitting down. Towards the end of his rounds, Buchanan stopped to chat with John Kelly, the chair of the Northern Illinois Council of Conservative Citizens, who was surrounded by CofCC activists at his table.
Another mini-commotion broke out at one of the CofCC tables. John Kelly brought a CofCC banner with him to the event. A discussion ensued about whether they should ask Buchanan to pose for a picture in front of it. But since the CofCC was a “controversial” group, they decided it might be too awkward for Buchanan to fully align himself publicly with the CofCC. They settled for a group picture with Buchanan, without the banner.
After dinner, Thomas Fleming, head of the Rockford Institute, stepped up to the podium to begin the Buchanan introductions. During his lively and brief remarks, Fleming discussed how someone had labeled Buchanan a “loose cannon.” To Fleming, that was a good thing. He extolled the virtues of being loose (able to turn to meet the opposition, on all sides, and not tied down by money) and a cannon (a dedicated individual who is powerful). He then introduced Trifkovic, to give a “more serious introduction.”
Trifkovic appealed to the large contingent of Serbian Americans in the crowd, by waxing [sic] on about how Buchanan is the only candidate who is pro-Serbian and how that position is a natural result of his “America First” stance.
Buchanan then took the stage for a canned stump speech and an announcement that Perot would not be running against him, followed by questions. During the Q & A period, Trifkovic seemed to guide Buchanan through the questions, at times whispering into his ear.
The same source summarizes Fleming’s and Trifkovic’s pasts and positions:
Fleming goes even further, mounting an assault on the legal foundation of civil rights and equality before the law in the United States – the 14th Amendment to the Constitution. Arguing that “no one who believes in a federal system can accept the premise of the 14th Amendment,” Fleming further asserts the genetic determinist view that has generally accompanied assaults on the rights of people of color in America. He writes that the “genetic differences” between the races “are responsible for gross statistical variations in…emotional and behavioral norms, and the various components of intelligence” (Chronicles, August 1994).
Given Fleming’s views on matters racial, it is no surprise that he emerges as an apologist for the Reconstruction-era Ku Klux Klan. Fleming characterizes the Klan as a “national liberation army” of “ex-Confederates” who “refused to accept their status as a subjugated people.” As such, Fleming argues, the “postwar struggles” carried out by the Klan were “only accidentally a struggle between races.” (Chronicles, November 1997). Fleming’s views on the Reconstruction Klan are in keeping with his position on the board of directors of the League of the South. This Alabama-headquartered group opposes the idea of “egalitarianism” between the races and argues that southern whites should not “give control over their civilization and its institution to another race, whether it be native blacks or Hispanic immigrants.” To accomplish such goals, the League advocates overturning the 14th Amendment to the Constitution and states that “secession is the best way to restore good government to the South.” The League has subsequently been a leading advocate of defending the use of the Confederate Flag in southern states.
Fleming has also offered his own twist on history and its uses. While rejecting the crass Holocaust denial of David Irving and Ernst Zundel, he nonetheless attacks Holocaust education curriculum such as “Facing History and Ourselves” as a “reigning ideology” that has “displaced the authentic religion of Judaism.” Such ideology, he argues, has been “distorted into a weapon to destroy every real and good thing in the traditions of European and American Christendom.” (Chronicles, May 2000).
Another Rockford staffer adept at bending history for political purposes is Srjda Trifkovic, director of the Rockford Institute’s Center for International Affairs and Chronicles Foreign Affairs Editor. Trifkovic has dismissed ethnic cleansing in Bosnia as being “fabricated by the Muslim side” and minimized the devastating war in the Balkans as nothing more than “a medium-sized local conflict.” Trifkovic and Fleming are listed as heads of the “Coalition for a Just Peace in the Balkans,” the group sponsoring the Chicago Buchanan fundraiser. Trifkovic introduced Buchanan at the Chicago event and helped guide him through the difficult foreign policy questions from the audience.
Other individuals involved with Chronicles, the Rockford Institute, and the Council of Conservative Citizens have their backgrounds examined, but the connections and positions become as repetitive as they are nauseating, so I will refrain from airing them here. Readers may satisfy their morbid curiosity about the associations between various American and European neo-fascist fringe groups and their respective histories by consulting the above source.
Here are two other insightful sources related to Srdja Trifkovic and the insidious web of connections between Belgrade propaganda, neo-confederate/white-nationalist groups, and fringe elements of the GOP. Excerpt:
The Foreign Policy Editor of Chronicles, the Journal of the Rockford Institute, is Serge (Srdja) Trifkovic. Trifkovic, a proponent of extremist Serb nationalist causes and former advisor to the architects of ethnic cleansing in Bosnia (see below) has appeared on CNN as an expert on the Balkans.
The Chronicles web page on Kosovo includes every possible Belgrade position, from the claim that the atrocities at Racak were a hoax, to claims that Albanians in Kosovo were fleeing NATO bombs rather than Serb militias, that the Bosnian Muslims slaughtered themselves, and that Serbs were experiencing in Kosovo what white Americans are experiencing in the U.S. as the “browning of America.”
One of the authors of this “browning of America” theme for Chronicles is another extreme supporter of Serb radicalism, Bob Djurdjevic. In a series of articles for Chronicles, The Washington Times, and on his own web site, Djurdjevic glorifies as a victim the indicted war criminal Simo Drljaca, who was responsible for the region of the most gruesome atrocities in Bosnia, including the Omarska, Keraterm, and Trnopolje concentration camps, and he extols General Ratko Mladic, now indicted for genocide by the International Tribunal, and shows a picture of himself with his hero Mladic. He writes [that] the New World Order (NWO) is out to destroy White, Christian America even as it is out to destroy the White, Christian purity of Europe. He even proudly publicizes a letter, sent to him by Ku Klux Klan leader Louis Beam, in which Beam volunteers to fight in Kosovo to protect Serbia from the non-Christian hordes. Beam, in turn, in an article called the Alamo of Kosovo, extols Prince Lazar and the Serb heroes of 1389 as the greatest defenders in history of Christian White culture and the effort by the Belgrade regime to continue this heroism in Kosovo in 1999. For full details, citations, and quotations of Djudjevic and Beam, see my full article, “‘Mutt America’, The Religio-Racist Right and the Balkan Genocide.“
But Trifkovic is not a one-trick-pony; in addition to Serbian Fascism, he seems receptive to neo-fascist efforts all over Western Europe (not to mention his routine dissemination of Russian propaganda on all fronts, ranging from the situation in Ukraine to the conflict in Georgia):
Among the slew of anti-Muslim screeds published in recent years, one of the more prominent was The Sword of the Prophet by Serge Trifkovic. Despite Trifokovic’s dubious background as a former spokesman for Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic (although he also spoke against Slobodan Milsoevic), he was embraced by American conservatives — paleo and neo — as yet another expert who dared to tell “the truth” about Muslims and Islam. Here he is on Frontpage, discoursing on the subject with fellow polemicists Robert Spencer and Walid Shoebat. Sites such as Jihad Watch and pundits such as Don Feder toasted his efforts; Brian Mitchell of Investor’sBusiness Daily gushed over him as “a European historian of broad learning, sound philosophy and keen political insight.”
In 2006, Trifkovic demonstrated this “keen political insight” in a cosy interview with the BNP’s Nick Griffin, in which he took at face value Griffin’s denials of racism and failed to ask any questions about either Griffin’s anti-Semitic past or the various private comments made by BNP leaders expressing crude racism and praise for Hitler. The BNP has a Jewish town councilor, Patricia Richardson, and this is presented as evidence that the BNP has rejected its past anti-Semitism-although in fact Griffin has (by his own admission) merely discarded anti-Jewish politics for anti-Muslim as a matter of strategy.
And as it happens, Richardson and Trifkovic will be meeting at the end of this week at a conference in Baltimore entitled “Preserving Western Civilization”.
The conference is being organised by Dr. Michael H. Hart, an astrophysicist who claims that human history should be interpreted by considering differences in racial IQs. He also argues that the USA should be divided into white, black, and mixed “nations.” Other speakers include Philippe Rushton, the “scientific” racialist who believes that white intellectual superiority over blacks can be inversely correlated to size of genitalia-as I blogged here, in 2006 he spoke on the “biological basis of patriotism” at a Right Now conference held at Mark Mason’s Hall in central London-and the usual characters from the American Renaissance circuit.
It’s interesting that despite the rabidly racist and anti-Semitic environment he is steeped in, Srdja Trifkovic takes time to tailor Belgrade propaganda specifically for Israel, as exemplified by his articles “Kosovo: A Threat to Israel’s Survival,” “U.S. Kosovo Policy is Bad for Israel” (coauthored with James Jatras), etc. This is yet another example of how anti-Semitic agitators are learning to pay lip-service to Israel’s interests for the sake of expediency when they think they can co-opt Jewish sympathy for their hatred of Muslims.
A confrontation with CAIR over his book, the Sword of the Prophet, has boosted Trifkovic’s profile as a reputable “counter-jihadist.” In such a conflict, asymmetric information can lead outsiders familiar with the disreputable background of only one of the parties involved to conclude that its antagonist is blameless. Just as whoever hears Biljana Plavsic was Slobodan Molosevic’s adversary may assume she was one of “the good guys,” whoever knows of CAIR’s disturbing tactics and connections to Islamist terrorists (e.g. the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas) may think Trifkovic is “fighting the good fight.” But how many people will in turn sympathize with CAIR and discount as motivated by Islamophobia any future scrutiny of its activities, should they learn of the baggage Trifkovic carries? In a perverse way, CAIR and their ilk, and Trifkovic and his ilk, are each other’s allies: they use each other as bogeymen to divert attention from their own severely compromised agendas.
CAIR is not interested in integrating Muslims into a liberal America, but rather in spearheading subversive movements to empower extremists at home and abroad. Conversely, Trifkovic is not interested in defending America, the institutional product of the Enlightenment, from the advances of radical Islam — in fact his writings and actions suggest he despises America’s liberal, secular, constitutional nature. Philosophically he yearns for the establishment of a tribal, medieval, eugenicist, proto-Christian aggressive state whose glory is defined by the cruelty it can inflict on its neighbors, while pragmatically he seems interested in furthering Belgrade and Kremlin propaganda in American circles. Anti-Islamic polemics is his platform for gaining attention and credibility to promote his true goals.
Effective opposition to the insinuations of radical Islam in the West ought to focus not only on what we oppose, but most importantly on what we affirm. No successful response to Islamofascism — or one worthy of success — can include the likes of Trifkovic and his supporters, including Robert Spencer.
As for Schwartz’s guilt-by-association attacks on Srdja Trifkovic, they are all the more beneath contempt for the fact that Trifkovic himself over a year ago supplied in this very publication a string of quotations from his own work going back to 1990 showing that he was an early and consistent opponent of the Milosevic regime. [And we’ve seen how much that’s worth. -ed.] Trifkovic, of course, does not need me to defend him.
It is true that in Sharia courts, the testimony of non-Muslims need not be considered [a gratuitous jab at Schwartz for being a Muslim -ed.]; but Stephen, we are now in a different court: the court of public opinion.
Indeed, Robert. We’re in the court of public opinion. The spotlight is on you.
That the GOP is experiencing an identity crisis is self-evident. Over the last few months the Party cannibalized herself as one candidate after another tripped over his feet trying to climb on top of her shaky political pedestal. No one can convincingly say what Republican voters were looking for, but we must infer they’ve pretty much found it in John McCain. Yet there is restiveness in the so-called Conservative sector, once hailed as the core ideological constituency of the Right but now finding itself marginalized to the peripheries of the Republican Party whose political headquarters are being rebuilt Leftwards.
Most Conservative icons have criticized the Arizona senator’s controversial Conservative credentials, but some have gone as far as to boycott the Party over his nomination, thus translating the Conservative tantrum into a highly leveraged ultimatum. So Conservatives indeed feel betrayed by the GOP’s leadership, but have they ever scrutinized their faithfulness to their own principles? Most importantly, have they ever coherently articulated what Conservative principles represent? …Can they?
The notion of a true Conservative is farcically reinvented ad nauseum by the latest self-proclaimed specimen, the same way that “change” has become a politically prostituted mantra for the Left, devoid of any substance or pretense thereof. Yet change can ultimately mean anything to Leftist “revolutionaries” preaching overhaul for the sake of overhaul: nothing ideologically uncomfortable about it. While the Party of perpetual “progressive” reform need not be bothered with the intricacies of well-defined “change,” conserving for the sake of conservation just doesn’t fly as well. The future is necessarily open-ended, but anyone invested in preserving valuable aspects of a supposedly cherished past, ought to be able to coherently pinpoint what is worth preserving (or even restoring, if the past is remote enough) and fluently articulate why.
The Conservative movement has lost its conceptual anchor into the essence of America’s greatness and is now consumed with merely conserving the Conservative movement. The future has historically been unkind to reactionaries; hence Conservatives’ recent fall from relevance should come as no surprise.
Vague platitudes of a Conservative golden era are ludicrous. There was never such a thing as a glorious way of life Americans ought to have preserved like an insect captured in the amber of history. Allusions to morally airbrushed “good old days” founded in sound “Judeo-Christian” values are nothing but blurred second-hand collective hallucinations of a generation disastrously failing to grasp modern-day ideological challenges. Before ever being entitled to a dominant voice in this country’s future, Conservatives must sever their romantic attachment to this idealized fabricated past.
American traditions and lifestyles always have and always will be in a vector of flux and experimentation toward modernity. However, the political recipe for human flourishing and sustained prosperity is timeless. America’s founders lucidly articulated it throughout the Founding Documents and embedded it in the early American institutions. This philosophical prescription for maximal individual liberty and limited government has transcended centuries as America’s fundamental nature.
The fathers of Modern American Conservatism—Barry Goldwater, Ronald Reagan, and William Buckley Jr.—are now all dead. Instead of bemoaning their loss as tragically irreplaceable and praying in vain for a second coming, Conservatives better adjust their intellectual rear-view mirror until the founders of the American Nation come into clear sharp focus. Ironic corruption of language notwithstanding, it is Liberalism, as it is classically understood, that Conservatives better get in the business of conserving, and in so doing, shed some ideological dead-weight of their own.
The inane treatment of Judeo-Christianity as a proxy for Western Civilization should be first to go. Tying the moral foundations of the American Nation with cultural archetypes of prehistoric Biblical Jews, or with those of devout Europeans emulating them is beyond preposterous. The dogmatic authoritarianism inherent in Judeo-Christianity and its ubiquitous tradition of framing Man as a wretched sinful creature fallen from grace since birth, are antithetical to a societal infrastructure built around individual freedom and dignity.
Judeo-Christianity provides no coherent moral justification for why humankind deserves freedom. The Bible presents men and women as fundamentally unequal and incorrigibly flawed, offhandedly condones slavery, and offers absolute monarchy as the sacrosanct form of government prescribed by God.
The reference to the Creator in the Declaration of Independence by the Deist Thomas Jefferson was appropriate in so far as it further legitimized the proverbial self-evident truths through divine pedigree. Free enterprise is not the coincidental result of collective utility maximization by enlightened social engineers. It is rather the inescapable byproduct of the enshrinement of individual rights, which are inalienable and morally absolute, and which deserve philosophical protection as such. The loose mention of a non-denominational Creator served as a rhetorical shield to the indisputability of natural rights, through appealing to Colonialists’ lowest common philosophical denominator. But nothing in the founding documents insinuates individual rights to be derivatives of religious dogma.
The government of the United States is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion. —John Adams
Religion and government will both exist in greater purity, the less they are mixed together. —James Madison
Our civil rights have no dependence on our religious opinions, more than on our opinions in physics and geometry… The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods, or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg. —Thomas Jefferson
Jefferson casually defines the protection of citizens and their property from aggression to be the only legitimate domain of government intervention. Such negative rights retain their internal consistency even when scaled up for large complex communities and are always straight-forward to enforce.
Social Conservatives seeking to use government to legislate morality to the masses have been poisoning the well for too long by destroying the consistency of negative rights, thus opening the door to government co-optation by demagogues with various agendas and malignant vested interests from all sides of the political spectrum. Their religiously inspired diatribes against full American freedoms continue to alienate people in droves, particularly because most Americans today are rightfully oversensitive regarding matters of conscience, religion, social institutions, and private behavior.
Until it extirpates this reactionary faction, the Conservative movement’s defense of free markets is hopelessly doomed to intellectual impotence. Economic self-reliance through free proud enterprise on the one hand, but moral paternalism in matters confined to the bedroom or uterus on the other hand, are ideologically irreconcilable positions both of which sound hypocritical when preached by the same voice.
Judeo-Christian values are neither sufficient nor even necessary components of Americanism. Conservatives with a mental blind spot to this reality often try to justify the institutionalization of Judeo-Christianity by deeming it to be the only absolute ideological shelter for freedom. Plato alone has spoken with more clarity and conviction about absolute transcendental values such as Justice and Goodness, than there can be found throughout the entire Bible. Natural Law has enjoyed a fertile tradition in Western Philosophy, originated by Protagoras, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, carried out by the Stoics, and augmented by many great thinkers up to the present day.
Not only is the firm binding of natural law with religion not dictated by any philosophical necessity, it is also a strategically self-defeating position for Conservatives to take in the ongoing battle for hearts and minds. I cannot think of a more dangerous proposition for the future of American institutions than the prospect that their desirability and justification depend on the dubious existence of Abraham’s God.
Didn’t Conservatives get the memo? Organized religion is dying at a head-spinning rate not only in this country but across the entire Western world. The proverbial writing on the wall could be seen for decades but reality checks for Social Conservatives come with a time lag. The Religious Right has been running on very tenacious fumes against the demographic tide of events thanks in part to the politically convenient tendency of its base to vote as a block on pet issues. The levels of bi-partisan pandering Social Conservatives have enjoyed in the past are no longer sustainable.
Religion never provided a particularly satisfying map of reality for its subscribers, its main redeeming quality being community building. Churchgoing used to be an essential social event for millions of interaction-starved Americans. It is no longer so. With new lanes being added to the information highway, increasing opportunities for remote social networking, and free access to scientific materials, the Church cannot compete with the sophisticated social outlets Americans can afford today.
That is not to say the new generation is ready to live without dogma, but modern outlets for mysticism cannot be so blunt. The religionists’ children are rejecting their parents’ stale Judeo-Christianity only to fall prey to “secular” new-age religions. These new cultural bubbles can be harder to burst than organized religions because proud “secularists” aren’t self-aware of their own mysticism and violently resist being called out on it. Reality escape-routes unmarked by 6,000-year-old Earths and Noah’s Arks are necessarily and conveniently more elusive.
If religion ever was the opiate of the masses, the “secular” Left is crack cocaine for the ideologically-vulnerable apostates of organized religion. New generations are laughing Judeo-Christian superstitions out of the cultural scene but are also rejecting economic freedom and limited government by association. The Religious Right nearly drowned the baby in the filthy bathwater, and the “secular” Left is ready to throw both out altogether.
Many thumbs sticking in the wind are becoming increasingly sensitive to the “spiritual hunger” aspect of the Zeitgeist. Al Gore and Barack Obama are already successfully exploiting it to bootstrap their own glamorous personality cults. Feminism, radical environmentalism, animal rights, anti-globalization, anti-Americanism, global-warming hysteria, and all-encompassing Statism, are all very much in vogue.
Such developments should attune Conservatives to the cultural necessities of our times: Americans are experimenting with many templates of morality, but they would rather succumb to nihilism or moral relativism than return to the “caves.” Judeo-Christianity is going to die and unless Conservatives genuinely reform their movement to develop enticing modern ideological propositions, the Left will undoubtedly win by default and civilization will succumb to the void.
The name Conservatism should be second to go. Its taxonomic subtleties don’t scale well across long periods, as the ideological reference-point can be easily lost with such a term that doesn’t directly address what it is conserving, but only that it is conserving it. This inherent vaguery is a potential melting crack pot for multidenominational reactionaries. The mental associations are not sexy either in a world where Saudi Arabia can claim conservative as a label.
Liberalism may be a suitable replacement, though I am not convinced enough Conservatives can be de-programmed to call themselves Liberals. It would certainly be an interesting exercise in ideological self-assertion, forcing a public fight over what true classical Liberalism stands for and who deserves to call oneself a Liberal. Putting the Left on the defensive would allow today’s Conservatives to define the boundaries for tomorrow’s battles.
The stance on abortion must also go, and I don’t care about the order in which it does. There are intelligent arguments on both sides of the fence, but in so far as the anti-abortion cause is religiously inspired, it is lost. What is worse, Conservatives are earning compounded surpluses in the hypocrisy department with shady political maneuvers. Nowhere does the Constitution address the issue of abortion, therefore the Tenth Amendment spells doom for universal anti-abortion activists.
Lacking the kind of demographic muscles needed to erect a Constitutional Amendment for their pet issue, Social Conservatives have repeatedly tried to pressure the Supreme Court as a backdoor toward their ends. Conservatives who spiritedly call out Democrats on their big-government insinuations that flagrantly violate the Tenth Amendment need to look in the mirror first. There will never be popular support for an anti-abortion amendment, and such political middle-ground is clearly unsustainable. Abortion is an unfortunate issue for Conservatives to tarnish their reputation as committed defenders of the Constitution.
Indeed, the sanctity of life is a moral topic deserving great political attention. Just as there may genuinely remain environmental issues to be dealt with collectively after, but not until, full property rights are conferred and enforced, there may remain hues of uncertainty to be settled politically (preferably at the state level), as to when an embryo becomes a fetus and when a fetus becomes a person. However, this issue is hardly worth political priority until full Constitutional rights are restored for non-uterus-bound citizens, or at least a general contraception/early-abortion alternative is secured for all women. In any case, no cause is worth the corruption of Constitutional channels.
The Conservative position on immigration is also overdue for a makeover. The need for secure borders is a forgone assumption, but most other problems and solutions are open-ended and politically challenging. Under current arrangements, illegal immigrants largely subsidize a thoroughly corrupt Mexican government, thus indirectly supporting a vicious cycle: destructive socialist policies keep Mexico’s economy paralyzed–in turn further promoting more employment-seeking adventures across the border.
America has invaluable leverage for pressuring Mexico’s government to reform. Here the proverbial stick is not as effective as a politically-engineered carrot. Offering realistic guest-worker programs contingent upon Mexico meeting well-defined milestones could spark an economic renaissance in Mexico and greatly discount economic despair as a motive for illegal immigration. Only the cream of the crop of today’s Conservatives could devise a coherent platform of concentrated classically liberal measures for Mexico.
Other pro-capitalist templates for combating the roots of illegal immigration are available. Undocumented workers are attractive to American employers because as a source of labor, they exhibit none of the problematic rigidities of the domestic labor pool: they don’t unionize, are not owed social security or other benefits (though millions of undocumented workers pay payroll taxes), absorb below-minimum-wage positions, cannot sue the employer over work-related damages, and provide much needed overall labor liquidity. Undocumented workers are meeting a demand which only a free labor market could satisfy by itself. Domestic reforms dismantling labor’s internal barriers are not only very American per se, but would also essentially dissolve the comparative advantage illegal immigrants currently enjoy.
Such proactive solutions require leadership of a level currently unknown in the Republican mainstream. Even if immigration reform were successfully implemented, it would not be more than a patch-up solution. Establishing a principle of citizenship is the only final answer.
The Constitution outlines an implosion-proof political structure that leaves virtually no channels for economic parasitism by any groups or individuals. To an American it isn’t supposed to matter much who her fellow citizens are, their culture, customs, race, or language, because the only way they can legitimately affect her is through voluntary trade and cooperation, which are mutually beneficial by definition. The corruption of American institutions through collectivist meddling in general and welfare statism in particular, turns every American into a partial slave to his fellow citizens. It is not fashionable to resent such arrangement, but who wants the collective pool of burden to grow!
Nativist immigration policies chronologically coincide with the rise of the Welfare State, but this is more than a coincidence. Aspiring Americans get the short end of the stick, which is regretful because Americanism by choice is nobler than merely by birth. Immigrating to America is itself a highly entrepreneurial act and the Right ought to welcome the many millions of worthy aspiring Americans from across the world.
The Left has astutely cultivated the victimization, destructive subsidization, and exploitation of every under-class into a politically lucrative enterprise. When Democrats screech out for unconditional amnesty for the twelve million illegal aliens, don’t think they mean it! The Left needs this permanent under-class to remain such, but these outbursts earn sympathy from minorities and force Republicans into the ugly nativist role, a role which many have displayed great natural talent for.
Republicans cannot afford to be the anti-immigration Party, and no, insincerely squealing against “only anti-illegal immigration” will not cut it if they are clearly unwilling to propose any practical channels for foreigners to legally settle into the country. Until these rhetorical attitudes are drastically revamped, the Left will win over new Americans by default.
Full circle back to the current election…
The brief taste of political relevance Conservatives enjoyed with Reagan may be ironically preventing them from moving forward. Their movement seems tragically chained to the past by a delusion of bygone grandeur. For many, the Reagan administration symbolized the triumph of unadulterated Conservative principles, a golden era they nostalgically evoke the return of, a glorious legacy not to be compromised. Having once had it their way, the prospect of ideological reformation is now an unpalatable concession, akin to selling out.
I don’t think most Conservatives have an appreciation for the unrepeatable constellation of historic factors, all the odd stars perfectly aligning to momentarily propel their movement into prominence in the 1980s. As powerful as Reagan’s appeal was, the 1980 election was equal parts a rejection of Nixon and Carter’s destructive Statism. Even the supposedly untainted Conservative principles implemented during the Reagan years were largely divergent elements cobbled together in an unstable mandate. Those times will be no more because they can be no more. “True Conservative” principles are too ideologically explosive for any Republican executive to handle consistently (e.g. the failed Contract with America). Something’s got to give. Unless they are content with perpetual scraps from their own Party (i.e McCain), Conservatives need to challenge the nation to get excited about freedom, individualism, entrepreneurship, the dignity of self-reliance, and the future.
Instead Conservatives have chosen to overextend their electoral reach with a stubborn bluff from which their movement can only emerge bankrupt. The tantrum is unsatisfiable because their demands are helplessly incoherent. They won’t get their cake and are politically starving no matter how obnoxiously they want to both have it and eat it: low taxes but swelling deficits, individual freedoms but moral paternalism, limited government but virtuous intervention, a strong military but the equivalent of suicide in the battle of ideas, attacking terrorists overseas but refusing to coherently communicate how and why.
Amidst resentment and overall stupefaction, the GOP’s ideological foundations are cracking louder and louder as the presidential election approaches. One thing is clear in this mess: The GOP is haphazardly dragging her dirty political consciousness further to the Left with her candidate choice, despite sparkling friction from the Conservative base.
Judging by the relatively far-fetched and often unrelated or even contradictory explanations presented over the course of the nomination race, I suspect that even pundits are just as confused as everyone else by what’s happening. Some rightfully emphasize that none of the more ideologically appealing candidates were interesting or inspiring; others contend that the leadership has fallen out of touch with the base over core issues, and cite the Republican record on spending in recent years to corroborate their case.
This macro-scale shift to the Left cannot be blamed on any renegade political actor usurping the electoral spotlight. Unhappy Conservatives are giving too much credit for the Republican fallout to John McCain, the reheated electoral left-over from the 2000 campaign. The nodes on the cause-effect chain can be elusive to trace, but we must not get this pivotal issue backwards: The shift to the Left has already happened in America, the witnessed reflection into politics being a mere manifestation of this deeper sadder reality.
Eight years of vacant leadership, blurred sense of purpose, and compromised half-measures by the Bush administration have left America confused, disheartened, and hyperpolarized. Republicans simultaneously slammed on both the gas and the brakes of their political machine through very curvy terrain.
A politically expedient immigration plan was unconvincingly presented and quickly swept under the carpet. The administration halfheartedly fought Democrats over spending, only to outdo them with reckless Republican deficits, thus absurdly equivocating the principles behind the otherwise greatly beneficial tax cuts.
George W. Bush sleepwalked through his ambitious mandate in the Middle East, unwilling or unable to communicate to the nation the strategic purpose of the fight in Iraq, Afghanistan, and beyond, failing to defend the many successes, and refusing to provide assertive counter-narratives to the “Bush lied, people died” hysterics. Unchallenged, the Left has monopolized nearly all communication channels assessing the progress of American foreign policy and has compoundingly invested its political comeback in the debasement of America’s efforts abroad in general, and in the framing of Iraq’s war as a meaningless failure in particular.
And now a giant sore economic boil is imminently bursting, leaving many intelligent and well-meaning Americans confused, vulnerable, and in many cases helpless, from their last taste of this politically constipated Republican rule. The themes running through Barack Obama’s campaign are evidence to how attuned the vanguard Left is to this moral void. Soothing tales of collectivist utopias are creeping into the nation’s cultural subconsciousness through the widening cracks of the Republican status-quo.
America is the world’s highest-philosophical-maintenance institutional experiment, but many of her traditional defenders are unworthy of today’s challenges. The problem is that the Right doesn’t know what it is fighting for. Freedom isn’t free, but until freedom is even properly understood, let alone defended, America’s future is in urgent jeopardy.
Been very busy with school and all. There’s a piece I’m dying to put up here, but it’s just not perfect yet. I’ve barely had time to work on my writing, hence the rat-droppings consistency of my latest posts. That’s all I’ve got for this time too:
Meet Tefta, my cat. It’s a silly Albanian name I had to settle for since Michael’s other choices were even sillier. It suits her well enough though. She’s a fatty. Michael is her sole caregiver for now, while I’m in Waterloo, and she doesn’t seem to miss me! Go figure…