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« The Weakly Standard (2) | Main | Sunday in Liverpool 13.11.05 »

The Weakly Standard (1)

[ALAINY, 5c04] As I told you before, I read The Weekly Standard. Weekly. And, I must confess, only weakly disgusted. I have a weak spot for those crazy neocon weekly textmongers. It is the only place in the whole USA, where you still find believers in a Saddam-Al Quaeda link (if not: conspiracy). I remember a desperate TWS-essay about former undersecretary (Pentagon) Feith’s ridiculous report to the Senate, that tried to prove that link. In the latest issue again, somebody is trying to explain that people in the CIA are hiding the revealed truth and spinning to make Bush and Cheney look still worse than they do.
If we may believe some people who know, G. W. Bush is reading TWS avidly, and it may well be his only reading exercise in any week.
In order to understand what TWS really is, we have to take a look at the neoconservative movement as a whole. (I beg your pardon: it doesn’t want to be called a ‘movement’ or an ‘organisation’, it prefers to be considered as something like a spiritual community: “we are people of a neo-conservative persuasion”). You cannot be a member. People are more or less persuaded of neo-conservative values and standards. If you are invited to dinner at the home of the old Irving Kristol and his wife Gertrude Himmelfarb, then you may consider yourself part of the inner neocon circle.
Like in every sect, there is a strong family feeling. Godfather Irving Kristol is a brilliant essayist, who started to define the new way of conservative thinking, against all odds, at the beginning of the seventies. Gertrude Himmelfarb is a retired history professor at New York University and a specialist on 19th century (Victorian) culture. Son William Kristol is Editor in chief of the Weekly Standard. Very close planets are Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, Elliott Abrams, Elliot Cohen, Charles Krauthammer, John Podhoretz, Norman Podhoretz, etq. Some people found themselves on orbits that led too far away from the persuasion-centre: Francis Fukuyama (The End of History, 1991) for instance.
Much of the above wisdom comes from the bundle Neoconservatism, edited by Irwin Steltzer in 2004 (Atlantic Books, London, 328 pp, w/index). Steltzer, an American-British economist, is of a staunch neoconservative persuasion. So, nothing can be wrong with this reference.

Why is TWS, the daily commenting, insolent and often demagogic vanguard of the ‘persuasion’ hitting a weak spot with me?

  • First, and this is, where I feel closest to the roots of the neocon ‘persuasion’, stands Irving Kristol’s uncompromising search for human standards, rooted in values that got lost in Enlightenment and the two centuries that came afterwards. New, clearly defined standards, that, unlike mere Conservatism, take into account the new values that came with Democracy and Material (economic) Independence of the individual (and his or her family). This distinguishes neo-conservatism from old conservatism and from anarchistic, individualistic capitalism alike. And, as those values cannot be found either in Socialist, Nationalist or Religious Myths, as I had to find out, I find myself often in the same place as Kristol is, in order to find sources for badly needed human standards and rules to cope with the problems of a society that materially could offer a historically unknown degree of independence to the individual, provided, all those individuals live up to that independence and adopt standards and rules that guarantee equal chances to all other humans.

  • Secondly: a consequence of all this, is the need to break the widespread dependence upon social care that started in Western Europe with Bismarckian laws and regulations, that made the state and its tenants into a clientelist social upper stratum. (An earlier example are the “Panem et Circenses” policies of the latter Roman elite, in order to buy submission and distraction from the “proles”, people who had only a lot of offspring as a property.) But it is here, where starts my difference: Neocons take on the individuals and strive to take away “cuddling” regulations and subsidies from them, in order to force them into obeying citizens. I strongly believe, that social care should continue to exist, be it not administered by the state, but through self-managed institutions.

  • Neocons do not believe in the capacity of common people to create and manage such bodies, and that is fully understandable, for bureaucratisation, trade-union clientelism, and, more generally, the utter individual isolation that exists in the fringes of modern society, seem strongly to indicate that this is a dead end.

  • Fourth: I have a nostalgic weakness. When I was young, I happened to become a member (through family ties) of a Trotskyite splinter. It was also led by a venerable couple, fatherly but authoritarian, and our mutual relations were strongly defined through the changing degrees of nearness to the centre of our, what was it?, ‘persuasion’. We were also convinced, that we shared an unique knowledge, were sole heeders of an heritage, spoiled by criminals and traitors. We could not hope, that the masses would flock to our movement, so we had decided to go to the masses. The main problem with that, was that those masses were misled, although well-intentioned. So we decided to hide most of our persuasion and engage into a learning process with the masses. Of course, we were the teachers, who were to reveal, bit by bit, the Truth to them, as soon as they were enough advanced to understand it.

  • When I study the way of operating of the Neocons, it is as if I travel forty years back in time: They consider themselves as an elite, chosen people, to whom Truth has been revealed, but, in stead of going about among the mass of citizens, preaching the way to redemption, they create a following among real Conservatives and Religious groups, to whom only part of those Truths are served, in order to avoid ‘premature’ discussions and splits. And the neocons are much better at it, than we were! I will register later, how for instance, they manage to play upon the feelings of Christian traditionalists. Secret unbeliever Voltaire did the same, in the first half of the 18th century, when he kept his workers on his Swiss estate calm and dependent in offering to them a church and obligatory weekly religious services. In fact, this idea stems from Plato’s convictions (Politeia), where democracy is reserved for an elite of citizens, who did best to appoint philosophers as their city government, in order to master ‘politics’, as to be distinguished from the ‘social’ (Heidegger, Hannah Arendt) domain, that should be left to the lesser citizens themselves. As those latter were unable to understand the higher politics, speaking and writing could (and should) have a double layer of understanding. At first sight, it should convey a listening to democratic and honourable common places, but at second sight, it was to convey hidden messages to the “understanding”. That is what Chicago professor Leo Strauss, from the Heideggerian school of thinking, like Hannah Arendt, learnt his pupils, among them the young Wolfowitz.

  • In The Weekly Standard, I meet some specimens of the young (or less accepted) transmitters of the veiled Word, who are ,- like we were-, being bossed around by the Centre of Persuasion, a Political Bureau that has another name, assisted by a Central Committee of yesmen (there are few women around). Some even are former Trotskyites. And they make me jealous, the way they mix seriousness with impertinence, how they show all corners of the room to conservatives like Rumsfeld, Cheney and even Bush, if, and when, they happen to deviate from the unrevealed ways things have to be done.
I know, it is an unforgivable weakness. Make me stronger, reader, please. Tell me why I should not book that seven days cruise to the Mexican Riviera with my favourite weekly standard writers. Once or twice a year, they make weaklings like me pay hundreds of dollars for those cruises, just to have a private conversation with Fred Barnes. An act of genius, this Love Boat initiative: It binds a clientele, it generates money and as a Standard editor, you have a free luxury holiday with admirers all over the place. I figure that Gertrude will control the Standards: no unmarried couples in one hut. No problem: as we have a break from compassionate neoconservatism, we may as well afford a break from passionate neoconservatism. A Platonic Love Boat of pure neoconservatism. I dream of it!

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