There can be no doubt that most of today’s journalists, politicos, academics and public intellectuals incline toward the Left, the predictable result of the lenient and catering university policies of the Sixties which bred a generation of smug pseudo-revolutionaries and delphic charlatans who have now passed the baton to their epigones.
Indeed, a facile samizdat consciousness, intent on deprivileging the notions of patriotism, truth as the object of inquiry, transcultural morality, independence of judgment and freedom of expression, and subject to what Bernard-Henri Levy in Left in Dark Times has called “the totalitarian temptation,” has now become entrenched as a mainstream phenomenon.
As a result, our relation to the real world has grown so distorted and corrupt that even the articulation of something that may well be the case but does not fit the prevalent ideological mold has begun to sound like pure whimsy or merely one more conspiracy theory. But it is not illusory to suspect the encroaching domination of the socialist welfare state, ever greater restrictions placed on free speech or the unholy compact the Left is busy cementing with an Islam on the move.
Notwithstanding all the bad news, a small company of maverick thinkers may be our best hope toward the recovery of the genuinely Liberal vision of individual autonomy mediated by communality, historical filiation, moral courage and the rule of common sense. These stormy petrels of current political writing adumbrate a set of themes that run counter to the therapeutic instinct governing the political imagination of the West. It remains moot whether these writers, in their struggle to take back the culture, can be regarded as the first of the neoLiberals or the last of the Mohicans, and whether their orthopedic effort to correct the leftward tilt that cripples our cognitive gait will succeed. Still, they represent one of the few encouraging signs that we, or some of us, may be beginning to rethink ourselves, installing a kind of cultural V-chip to protect against the conceptual virus of the Left.
I refer to books like Paul Berman’s Terror and Liberalism, Oriana Fallaci’s The Force of Reason, John Kekes’ A Case for Conservatism, Mark Steyn’s America Alone, Nick Cohen’s What’s Left: How Liberals Lost Their Way, David Horowitz’s Radical Son, Dinesh D’Souza’s The Enemy at Home, Robert Spencer’s Stealth Jihad, Howard Rotberg’s The Second Catastrophe, Ibn Warraq’s Defending the West, Jonah Goldberg’s Liberal Fascism, Richard Grenier’s Capturing the Culture, Kathy Shaidle’s The Tyranny of Nice and Andrew C. McCarthy’s Willful Blindness. These are some of the writers who presently occupy the Siege Perilous at the Round Table of international debate.
There are other, no less important writers, of course, but the trouble is that their works are essentially an over-the-transom phenomenon. They cannot compare to the enormous bibliography and publishing power of those aligned on the other side. Conservative authors and their confrères are vastly outnumbered by those who speak for the liberal-left. Visit any bookstore and look at how the shelves are stocked.
I have done that only recently and found, on the “Books for Buzz” Politics table, a lone Mark Steyn surrounded by Susan Faludi, Ronald Wright, Walt and Meersheimer, Scott McClellan, Tony Judt, Jane Mayer, Robert Fisk, Barack Obama, Naomi Klein, Naomi Wolf, Jimmy Carter, Ron Suskind, Noam Chomsky, Al Gore, Zbigniew Brzezinski and Brent Scowcroft. One need only extrapolate, not only to the book publishing-and-distribution industry as a whole but to our university lecture halls where conservative perspectives are formulaically suppressed and conservative speakers are routinely shouted down, disrupted and often threatened.
Conservative voices may hopefully start making up for the disparity and increasingly attract both a discerning readership and an attentive audience. But the effort to pin the fantasies of the Left to the corkboard of the real world is an arduous project that will take considerable time. As Jonathan Swift remarked, “What a man has not been reasoned into he cannot be reasoned out of.” Progress in this field can be made only by dint of timely and diligent repetition inching toward acceptability and, no less saliently, by subliminal renderings of the issue.
This is why one book in particular may have a greater effect on the popular psyche than the most eloquent and lapidary arguments. It is fascinating to see how the adversarial view of current affairs may express itself on an unconscious level in popular fiction and as a cult phenomenon, operating where we might least expect to find it. The controversy is waged not only in the forum of public encounter but in the barometric depths of cognitive reception.
I am thinking of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. One might posit a conflict between Liberal Muggledom and Conservative Hogwarts. In this particular adventure, the flashpoint involves the smear campaign waged in the magical realm by Judge Fudge and the Ministry of Magic against the Hogwarts wizard sodality which it administers. The Ministry in its fearful and stubborn refusal to admit the return of the evil Lord Voldemort and his designs for total dominion thus becomes his enabler and, in so doing, effectively assumes his identity. Adopting a strategy of defamation, it proceeds by trying to ruin the reputation of Headmaster Dumbledore and his protégé Harry, who are perfectly aware of an impending catastrophe and are determined to prevent it from happening.
Even the curriculum at Hogwarts is manipulated in such a way by the Ministry’s representative that students are placed at a disadvantage in dealing with the creatures who emerge from the dark world. Instead of rising to the preservation of its domain, the Ministry consorts with the enemy who wishes to destroy it and undermines the good name of its loyal scholars and compatriots who are prepared to defend it. The analogy with the ideological conflict taking place in the actual world in which we live is uncanny.
Perhaps with allies like Headmaster Dumbledore and young Harry Potter, which is to say, wisdom associated with energy and steadfastness with courage, the Conservative camp may eventually spur a reappraisal on the Left and help break its entente with the emboldened Voldemorts of the day.