When a new religion displaces an old one, the gods of the old faith become the demons of the new. So it is with the demigods and heroes as well, and as new cultures, races, and nations begin to blossom where once the fruits of European and American civilization flourished, it is not surprising to see the myths of the old civilization fade and those of the new take their place. As in all revolutionary transformations, this one is not led by the mass population of the new civilization (if that is quite the right word for what is emerging) but by a vanguard drawn from the wreckage of the old civilization that is being subverted and destroyed—or, as we now primly put it, “deconstructed.”
The transformation is clear enough in religion itself, with the conversion of the mainstream churches and their clergy into active partisans of the enemies of their nation, people, and civilization, but it is increasingly obvious also in the redefinition of the secular heroes and icons of the civilization. Thus, influential writers like Conor Cruise O’Brien can now attack Thomas Jefferson for his “racism” and his commitment to small government, localism, and states’ rights, and the subtext of last year’s reportage of genetic testing that supposedly “proved” (it did nothing of the kind) Jefferson’s paternity of a child by his slave Sally Hemings was the discrediting of Jefferson as an exploitative hypocrite as much as it was the legitimization of President Clinton’s goatishness.
But Jefferson is not the only hero of the old civilization to be demonized. In 1997, a public school in New Orleans removed the name of George Washington because Washington was a “slaveowner.” This immediately spawned a small crop of columns by various neoconservatives who whined that, yes, he was, but he was a kind slaveowner, thereby missing the whole point: Washington (and Jefferson, too) violated the central doctrine of the New Order, to which both the left and most of the right now adhere—the equality of human beings.
This was precisely the argument advanced by Columbia University law professor George P. Fletcher in an article in the New Republic in 1997. Mr. Fletcher maintained that the old Constitution, which such demons as Thomas Jefferson and Timothy McVeigh supported, was abolished by the Civil War and that Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address “signals the beginning of a new Constitution” in which “equality, absent from the original document, comes front and center . . . the United States evolves from an elitist republic into a democracy ‘of the people, by the people, for the people.'” Mr. Fletcher’s argument is almost exactly the same as that of his “conservative” counterpart, Harry Jaffa, who has been spouting the same view for decades and whose flawed interpretation now seems to be triumphant on the mainstream American right, despite its refutation and rejection by M.E. Bradford, Willmoore Kendall, Russell Kirk, and Robert Bork, to cite only the more eminent of Mr. Jaffa’s critics. The main difference between Fletcher and Jaffa seems to be that the former argues that egalitarianism was the product of war and revolutionary imposition from above, while Jaffa claims it was present in the old Constitution from the beginning. Of the two, Mr. Fletcher is closer to the truth.
What Mr. Fletcher calls the “reconstituting of ‘We the People'” necessitates an extended program of what the Germans (at least those who flourished in the 1930’s) like to call Gleichschaltung—the disciplining of the opposition. In Germany, Gleichschaltung meant you got packed off to a concentration camp (if you were lucky), and it may, in time, come to mean that here as well. But for now it means that serious dissent from—or political-ideological challenge to—the New Order is simply demonized, and the most effective means of demonizing the opposition is to accuse its opponents of deviating from the egalitarian orthodoxy of the regime—in short, to denounce it as “racist,” “white supremacist,” or even “neo-Nazi.”
These terms, of course, were unknown to the English language before the early 20th century, and most them, insofar as they signify anything at all, merely mean whatever those who lob them want them to mean. They are equivalent in every respect to what the Jacobins meant by “aristocrats” in the Reign of Terror (most of whose victims were drawn from the non-aristocratic Third Estate) and what the Bolsheviks meant by “counter-revolutionaries”—i.e., merely devil terms by which those to whom they are pinned are delegitimized and branded for liquidation.
The ideological goon squads of the New Order have had themselves some fine sport over the last year, pinning their labels anywhere they could stick them. The labels came in useful for the Democrats during the 1998 elections, when they tried to paste them on Republican opponents. In Missouri, one Democratic TV ad solemnly warned that voting Republican would result in more burnings of black churches, while Republican candidates in various districts were accused by their Democratic opponents of being “white supremacists.” Senator Carol Moseley-Braun (D-IL), desperate to snatch victory from her failing bid for re-election, even claimed that her opponent hobnobbed with “white supremacists” because he had (allegedly) once attended a function sponsored by The Rockford Institute.
The name-calling was so much fun that the goon squads decided to keep the game going. As Bill Clinton’s impeachment loomed, the Washington Post ran an article claiming that Representative Bob Barr (R-GA), who had almost singlehandedly pioneered the impeachment a year or so before, had spoken to a “White Supremacy Group” called the Council of Conservative Citizens (CCC). It also reported that Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, who was expected to play a major role in the forthcoming trial of the president, was an actual member of the CCC, had spoken to it, and had endorsed its views. Both Mr. Barr and Mr. Lott quickly started to put some distance between themselves and the Council (on whose national board of directors I serve and whose meetings I regularly attend, including the one at which Mr. Barr spoke), and it soon turned out that neither politician had the faintest idea of what they had done, what they had said, or what the Council stood for. Mr. Lott, whose spokesmen at first declared that the senator had never been involved with the CCC at all, merely succeeded in making a fool of himself when the Post published a picture of him speaking under the Council’s banner at a 1992 national convention. Had both men simply said, yes, they had spoken to the group; no, they did not necessarily agree with everything it stood for; but they saw nothing wrong with belonging to it or speaking to it, the controversy would have died quickly. That is exactly what Mississippi Governor Kirk Fordice said when asked why he had spoken to the Council last fall. His response, both courageous and honest, effectively killed the story, and no more was heard about it. Bill Clinton is not the only politician who has recently discovered what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive.
The smears directed at the CCC were, of course, really directed at Senator Lott and Representative Barr for their involvement with the Clinton impeachment, but the story soon acquired a life of its own. By the middle of January, the Washington Post had nm no fewer than five news articles, three opinion pieces, two letters (including one from Abe Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith), and a major article in the Style section on the CCC and its “racist” background, leaders, and positions. An estimated 74 other newspapers carried similar stories. The New Republic chimed in with an article that mainly regurgitated what the Post had published; various hacks with one or another leftish newspaper coughed up much the same serving; and left-wing witch hunter Morris Dees and his Southern Poverty Law Center released a not-particularly accurate “report” on the Council that several newspapers swallowed whole. Clearly, the regime had discovered a new demon to exorcise.
It is not my purpose here to defend the CCC against the false charges, mistakes, distortions, misrepresentations, omissions, and slanted reporting that the Post and most other papers and magazines writing about the group published and perpetuated. It is entirely true that the CCC—as its chief executive officer, Gordon Baum of St. Louis, wrote in a letter to the Post—”speaks out for white European Americans, their civilization, faith and form of government, but we do not advocate or support the oppression or exploitation of other races or ethnic groups.” Indeed, the Council does not take many official positions of any kind. Its main attraction is that the CCC has real members and real local chapters, which engage in grassroots activism on a variety of issues, and it attracts working- and middle-class people with strong roots in local communities rather than the perennial misfits, oddballs, and overeducated and under-employed eggheads who seem to populate other organizations of the American right. Precisely because the CCC is a real grassroots group with real members, some of them sometimes say and do things that the Washington Post doesn’t approve of. That is simply the price of having a grassroots group.
The onslaught against the CCC was by no means the first occasion in which an organization on the hard right has been systematically demonized by the regime’s thought police, and the attack on it was not inherently different from what the same thugs have tried to do to Pat Buchanan and several other men and groups of the right that refused to bend the knee to the idols of the New Order. Nor does the significance of the attack lie in the obvious hypocrisy and dishonesty of those who launched it. The Post‘s Style section piece—a profile of Mr. Baum—snickered over its subject’s working-class origins (“a former auto worker, a small-time lawyer churning out worker’s comp cases”) and neighborhood (“a working-class suburb of the faded Midwestern city of St. Louis”): so much for putting equality “front and center” in the New Order. On the same day that the Style section was sneering at the Council’s positions and social status, the same newspaper’s Outlook section sported a front-page article by a black writer concerned that Washington’s new mayor, Anthony Williams, is not “black enough.” As the article explained,
Blackness, like any other characteristic that defines an oppressed group, is a state of spiritual idealism that serves to unite the group for the purpose of survival. . . . [T]here is not one person of color who can separate himself or herself from the rest of the people of color.
Racial consciousness and solidarity are apparently OK with the Post if they concern the right race.
While exposing the hypocrisy and dishonesty of the Post and similar organs of the New Order is not my point, it does bring me to it. The significance of the hypocrisy and dishonesty is not so much their moral meaning but that they direct our attention to the political utility of such concepts as “equality” and “antiracism.” Equality is indeed at the “front and center” of the regime; it’s just that “equality” doesn’t really mean what you think it means, nor does “anti-racism,” nor most of the other smooth little words that go with it, like “toleration,” “harmony,” and “diversity.” These are codewords, political formulas, the meaning of which cannot be grasped through merely formal or abstract analysis but only through a concrete analysis that places them in their political and social context.
For those who use the codewords, it is not a contradiction to idolize “equality” at the same time that they sneer at the working-class background of their adversaries, nor to denounce the “racism” of one group while promoting the “racism” of a different group. These may be contradictions in formal logic, but the real context of these words reveals an underlying consistency in their usage. They are simply terms by which the power of one people and its cultural and political institutions are “deconstructed” and delegitimized and the power of a rival people and its embryonic institutions are legitimated. What imparts consistency to their apparently contradictory and hypocritical usage is the unity of political purpose. The point is to be master—that’s all.
The attack on the CCC was thus one more installment in the managed displacement of the old civilization and its institutions by an emergent one, and—as in most such displacements—the attack is led by a vanguard drawn from the wreckage of the old order. Yet it’s important to note that the demonization of the Council of Conservative Citizens did not quite work. The attacks gave the CCC more publicity than it had ever enjoyed before, attracted new members to it, and gained for its website some 10,000 visits more per month than it usually receives. That may indicate that the birth of the New Order and the destruction of the old may not be quite as easy and painless as the thought police of the former want to believe. The more they attack, the more clearly the lines of battle are drawn in the cultural and political sands, and the sooner the battle is joined, the sooner we will know whose gods will be master.