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The Right’s Left Turn By: Jacob Laksin
FrontPageMagazine.com | Wednesday, October 05, 2005


In late September, as throngs of placard-wielding protestors were descending on the nation’s capital, Lew Rockwell, the nominally libertarian proprietor of the website LewRockwell.com, was holding forth at an anti-war rally convened by the far-left Alabama Peace and Justice Coalition (APJC).

 

That the APJC’s rallying cry – “Spend money for human needs, not war!” – was of questionable accordance with principled libertarianism’s aversion to government largesse, didn’t seem to phase Rockwell, who joined a roster of speakers with an altogether different view about the proper role of the federal government. “I was aware that I was a token non-leftist speaking to a largely leftist audience,” Rockwell later explained on his website. Nonetheless, he noted that, despite some political differences with the gathered crowd, his “speech seemed well received.”

 

And no wonder. With its foam-flecked denunciations of the United States for “the evil of imperialism, the immorality of enslaving a foreign people, the malice of colonialism, and the intolerable brutality of authoritarianism,” its paranoiac allusions to a dissent-crushing “state,” and its unelaborated call for “resistance,” Rockwell’s speech could have been given by any of the more literate ringleaders of the anti-war left.

 

It might be supposed that Rockwell’s base of operations, LewRockwell.com, a gathering ground for a querulous cult of libertarian-anarchist true-believers, would be less amenable to the APJC’s members. On the contrary, a left-wing extremist would find much to admire among the site’s standard fare. Rockwell describes it as “unapologetically idiosyncratic.” That is putting it mildly. Although occasionally plumping for some eccentric ventures—LewRockwell.com is an enthusiastic supporter of the cause of the Confederate South—the default mode of the site is unsubtle ant-Americanism clothed in the garb of “anti-state” libertarianism.

 

Certainly that’s Rockwell’s stock-in-trade. In the disturbed worldview of Rockwell and his ideology-blinkered acolytes, the U.S. government, far from representing the democratic consensus of the American people, is the world’s most oppressive regime. “We are talking about the greatest centralized power on the globe, the world's largest, most well-armed, and most dangerous government, the only government to have ever used nuclear weapons against civilians and the government that has invaded more countries than any other in modern times,” complained Rockwell in June of 2004. Rockwell was still stuck on that theme one year later, even going so far as to endorse the caricature of America as the avatar of the Evil Empire. Americans need to face the reality that most of the world sees our nation as the new evil empire, and many people in the Gulf region are dedicated to making sure that the Iraq War is the last hurrah for American militarism,” he wrote in June of 2005. “How tragic to admit that the analogy is not entirely implausible.”

 

Rockwell’s underlings are even more candid about their contempt for the U.S. The American-led war in Iraq has afforded them the occasion to vent their hostility. For evidence, one need look no further than a December 2004 entry on LewRockwell.com’s blog by contributor Mike Rogers. In the course of cheering the terrorist holdouts in Fallujah, Rogers put up a picture of a bombed-out American tank. In case the message was too muddled, Rogers appended it with a caption: “A toast to the defeat of the evil empire - A prayer for the poor fallen souls.” One might have been forgiven for wondering whether the poor souls in question were American troops or the terrorist diehards responsible for their deaths.

 

More explicit still was LewRockwell.com columnist Karen Kwiatkowski. In a June 2005 column entitled “Unleashing the Resistance,” Kwiatkowski issued a blanket endorsement of the terrorist insurgency in Iraq. “They don’t understand everything that is happening, but most Iraqis have decided to pursue one or more of the countless paths of resistance to the state. All are qualified to resist. None are excluded.” Not only that at, but Kwiatkowski advised American opponents of U.S. foreign policy to take their cues from the insurgents: “We might take a lesson from the growing Iraqi insurgency and the response of that nation nearly destroyed by our pretext-laden invasion and the American neo-Jacobin possession of that country,” she wrote. Kwiatkowski declined to offer specifics. She noted, however, that “my gentle thoughts are increasingly turning to murder.”

 

In common with the more unhinged elements of the far left, LewRockwell.com is committed to propagating the notion that the U.S. is in the grip of a fascist government. Again, Rockwell himself is among the more ardent spokesmen for that view. His political opponents, he insists, are “fascisti,” while anyone with the temerity to voice support for American policies is dismissed as one of the “storm troopers of the regime.” As for the 62 million Americans who voted to reelect George W. Bush, they are—you guessed it—the proponents of “red-state fascism.” Lest such comments be dismissed as mere overheated sloganeering, Rockwell stresses that this “not just rhetoric.” Rather, Rockwell urges his readers to recognize that fascism is a reality, not just a smear term.”

 

Rockwell’s certitude about the essentially fascistic character of the Bush administration has prompted him to embrace an unlikely ally: the far left. The alliance is contracted unambiguously in a December 2004 column Rockwell penned for his website. In it, he urged his libertarian adherents to make common cause with the anti-war left. “In short, what we have alive in the US is an updated and Americanized fascism,” Rockwell explained. The solution, he added, “requires that we face the reality of the current threat forthrightly by extending more rhetorical tolerance leftward and less rightward. What is the most pressing and urgent threat to freedom that we face in our time? It is not from the left.”

 

In the ensuing months, Rockwell and his site began the migration into the territory of far left hysteria. By July of 2004, Rockwell had discovered a full-grown affection for the left. “I have this in common with NPR, Michael Moore, the Black Caucus, and assorted other grasping, complaining, anti-capitalist victim lobbies: a burning desire to see George Bush's fingers pried loose from the levers of power,” he wrote.

 

A convinced believer that the invasion of Afghanistan was “wholly unwarranted,” and that the American-led war to oust Saddam Hussein was “a malevolent hoax,” Rockwell unsurprisingly found much to appreciate about Moore’s conspiratorial documentary, Fahrenheit 9-11, calling it “must-see” movie. LewRockwell.com accordingly ran several flattering reviews of the film. One “conservative critique” of Fahrenheit congratulated Moore for portraying President Bush as “the figurehead of a murderous power elite.” Similarly, a comment on the site’s blog gleefully hailed Moore’s propagandistic assault on the Republican Party, raving that “[t]he film portrays The Party of Lincoln as it always has been: A cabal of money-and-power hungry political hacks enriching themselves through the auspices of the state…”

 

With the presidential election in the offing, Rockwell encouraged readers in a September 2004 column to “look left.” There they could “find fascinating war revisionism, courageous defenses of the innocently detained, principled stands for constitutional rights, well argued exposes of the high and mighty.” How any libertarian worthy of his name could justify defending the most fanatical enemies of civil liberties was not a question that violated Rockwell’s conscience. Instead, in words that would not have been out of place on the pages of the Nation, Rockwell sneered at the “supposedly rightist president who wages war, cuts taxes, and shovels other people’s money at corporate fatcats.”

 

Perhaps mindful that his relentless thumbs-up to the far left’s agenda could alienate libertarian supporters, Rockwell sought to allay their fears in a March 2005 column. Mistrust of the far left, he declared, was misguided. “I used to complain about the universities and their indoctrination of students in leftist theory,” Rockwell explained. “But these days, one has to be grateful that there are at least some pockets of resistance remaining.” So there would be no question about where he stood on an alliance with the left, Rockwell added, “I’m wary of all formal alliances but I do think libertarians need to be strategically flexible and entrepreneurial in finding intellectual allies, even if it means admitting that far better arguments are being made by CounterPunch than National Review.” A subhead that appeared in the column said it all: “Rethinking the Left, for Now”.

Seen against this background, the latest addition to the Lewrockwell.com clan—grieving mother turned anti-war left standard bearer Cindy Sheehan—should not be shocking. In September, the site gave space to an angry rant by Sheehan, in which she delivered herself of the view that the “aggression on Iraq is illegal, immoral and appallingly unnecessary,” and called on supporters to become “extremists.” Come November, Sheehan will be a prominent speaker at a benefit conference for LewRockwell.com. Among the subjects of discussion will be “The Camp Casey revolution and the tipping point for peace” and “How hurricanes and the ‘War on Terror’ embolden the US police state.” Less discussion, one presumes, will focus on how a supposedly libertarian website has become a willing dupe of the far left.

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Jacob Laksin is managing editor of Front Page Magazine. His email is jlaksin -at- gmail.com


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