From the September 1982 issue of Chronicles.
Chronicles of Culture originated as a protest against the perversion of the American culture by something we call the liberal culture. The marvelous cultural pluralism of the American civilization, grounded in the time-honored persuasion that the other’s point of view is our common asset, has been corrupted by liberal zealotry in pursuit of a monopoly on truth. About four years ago we at The Rockford Institute felt that something should be done to redress the wrongs inflicted upon intellectual tenets that for so long, and with such prodigious achievements, had governed the American ethos as it is reflected in the national culture. We founded a bimonthly. Soon it became clear that we had found both an audience and our own image. So we recently decided to redouble our efforts and to accelerate the distribution of what we think and believe. Thus, instead of making our beliefs readable six times per year, we will be doing it twice as frequently. So here, briefly restated, is what we believe in.
The liberal polity, as it was anticipated by its 18th-and 19th-century champions, encompassed many components that we could very much appreciate. And, in reality, it did so in many respects. It evolved some invaluable concepts—representative democracy, the rule of law, voluntary social order, functional pluralism in culture (chiefly in America), the humanitarian principle. Its notions of justice and compassion came from the Judeo-Christian moral sense. Western liberal society as we know it is the end result of diverse philosophical contentions, religious hopes, ideological sensibilities and schools of thinking—from the Enlightenment treatises to the programs of old American Whigs. Notwithstanding its political vicissitudes, its basic vocabulary remained the same. Words like civilization, reason, humanity, optimism, commerce, progress, self-reliance, enterprise, individualism, responsibility constituted its framework. We have no quarrel with these words, but from them grew a culture whose sacrosanct tenet, or secular worship, became an unbounded amorphous self-criticism which finally perverted both concepts and values, stultified them into caricatures, eradicated their commonsensical substance, reduced them—in our time—to the level of driveling nihilism. At the peak of its splendor—before the process of perversion set in—this culture was called the “bourgeois culture”; it thrived and enriched the societies that developed it. Then it extended lush privileges to those who declared that attempts to destroy it would henceforth be called art, or literature, or amusement, or free inquiry, and that’s where the downward spiral began.
During the 1960s and ’70s, we witnessed in America the deliberate and unabashed murder of the bourgeois culture perpetrated in the name of ideas and tenets which had been corrupted. What emerged in its stead we named the liberal culture—because misguided liberal sentiments must bear the responsibility for its existence. Since we had a very warm spot for the bourgeois culture at the time of its bloom—and we intensely disliked what had been proposed or rather superimposed, to take its place—we began to publish this journal. We recognized that the liberal culture was actually digging the grave of our entire civilization, so we went to war.
Under what banner do we battle?
To put it succinctly, we fight beneath our own flag. Liberalism maintains nowadays that all it wants is a decent society ensuring justice and dignity for all—but so do we. Liberals say they want a polity that is responsive to human needs, that they desire material sufficiency for everybody—so do we. However, we have one stipulation: all these precious goods must come by public consent, not through prefabricated recipes concocted by theorists and enforced by politicians who know how to manipulate constituencies and interest groups to the detriment of a larger idea and a national entity. When liberals demand honest pluralism in culture, this is exactly what we want. But do liberals live up to their preachings? It is obvious that they long ago abandoned a pluralism based on authentic differences of views. By exerting a totalitarianlike grip on the opinion-forming industry, their apologists and critics are able to bar any truly opposing point of view from the pages of influential liberal journals that loudly proclaim urbi et orbi their pure and benign ideological nonpartisanship. Long gone is that kind of intellectual pluralism which predicated the Adams-Jefferson difference as a treasure of American political philosophy. Today, Adams’s writing would run the risk of being rejected out of hand by any junior editor at any major publishing house, while Jefferson, in order to elaborate on his convictions in an atmosphere of uninhibited toleration, would need to obtain a fellowship grant from the American Enterprise Institute.
Culture is a crutch word; we use it to denote the production and distribution of ideas and images. Behind every, even the most vulgar, sitcom, there’s an idea; from the sitcom comes an image. But where did the liberal culture come from? Did it originate in technology, in social transmutations? This is what they would have us believe. But culture is not the result of attitudes, it is their generator, producer, manufacturer, source. Cultures in history have prospered within a climate of contention, dissension and internal adversary forces—and vigorousness of the discourse. That ambiance does not exist in today’s America. The dominance of the liberal culture is absolute in nature and totalitarian in method—especially when it comes to the distribution of images. Nonliberal thought is distorted by the firmly liberal communications media and presented as political, cultural, moral, even intellectual deviltry without the benefit of a fair hearing, without the chance for an honest exchange of views. There are countless editorial devices and stratagems which enable the leadership of the New York Times or CBS to present such a procedure as evenhandedness, an Olympian impartiality in the struggle of ideas, a benevolent wisdom that transcends ideological and cultural adversities. In reality it is the manipulative and merciless suppression of another point of view-which always happens to be a nonliberal one.
It appears that, in the near future, the crucial fight will be between world views and philosophies for the human mind. This struggle will certainly take place in America, and we intend to be there on the battlefield. What we will be standing against is a culture that has disintegrated the vocabulary of ideas of the old bourgeois culture, that has stultified notions on which humankind built its hopes over millennia, conventions that throughout history have made us and our lives better. This new culture has annihilated our cherished sensibilities and trampled their remains into the morass of modern existence. It is a culture in which new catechetic words reign: liberation, entitlement, self-realization. According to the current liberal gospel, women must be liberated from their womanhood, and anyone who asks for anything makes it politically legitimate by the mere process of asking, while the pinnacle of humanness is to be found in singles bars, or freakish potential-movement happenings, or on the psychoanalytical couch. It is a culture in which behavioral slime is considered the prime element of literature, lesbianism is seen as a natural law at Princeton University, compassion has become a social regulation, fashion magazines preach revolution, and traitors to their country are presented to youth as symbols of integrity. One consequence of this culture is that a vast segment of the population is forced to work hard to support a class of parasites, many of whom—thanks to economic priorities gone berserk—have turned their lives into a grotesque Grand Guignol of drugs and kinky crime and who provide their own troubadours with an offensive wealth. It is a culture in which a nurse earns less per year than a cretinous, unwashed rock singer spends on dope per day. For this culture we have nothing but the deepest contempt, and we want to make it known. In the 1930s a German antifascist by the name of Carl von Ossietzky, before he was tortured by the nazis in Dachau, addressed himself to his nation in one of his last warnings: “All I wish is for you to remember, I was against!” So are we, when we face the travesty of humanness and the humiliation of reason in America.
Our first five years have convinced us that there is an audience among the young American intelligentsia whose criteria for truth, reason and intellectual honesty have not been shaped by Time magazine, or Rolling Stone’s poetry, or Mother Jones’s jaded socialism—often written by the scions of corporate tycoons. We do not think that the acknowledged centers of antiliberalism have the correct answer to the cultural pogrom unleashed by the vast liberal spectrum which ranges from open Soviet stooges at the Washington, D.C. radical think tanks to the jaundiced anti-Americans of The Nation or Village Voice stripe to the pseudohumanitarian parrots of the left-wing Republican Party. We want to speak to that audience out there. This is why we will double the frequency of our commentary.