Goldbergism vs. Buchanan

See previous examinations
of Jonah Goldberg and what used to be “National” Review:



06/26/01 – The First Universal Goldberg?


Gollbergism – The Lowest (Terminal) Stage of
Conservatism.


Goldberg Yields to Gottfried!

And Paul Craig Roberts on

That Buchanan Book

Having now read Jonah Goldberg`s

latest venture
into political philosophy (“Pat
Buchanan Meets Al Sharpton” – occasioned by Buchanan`s
new book

Death of the West
), I remain
astonished by how little he knows, even by comparison to
my upper-level students. What he says about Joseph-Marie
le Comte de Maistre is not only silly but is bad enough
to make me blush with embarrassment – for Goldberg. 
Though it may be futile to make this offer, I would
gladly send him a list of books by and about

Maistre
, which might lessen his ignorance about this
formidable literary and intellectual figure.

To take one example of Goldberg`s silliness: In
commenting on Maistre`s name, he tries to explain:
“Don`t let `Marie` fool you; de Maistre was hardcore.”
Unfortunately for this failed bon mot, Goldberg
is referring to the French translation of “Marius,”
often used in French baptismal names, not to the female
name “Marie.” It is also incorrect to carry over the
particule
“de” for translations of a French family
name. Thus we should translate into English “de Maistre”
as “Maistre.”

Goldberg might have spared himself these childish
errors if he had consulted his generous patron Bill
Buckley before this premature plunge into European
intellectual history.

Nor is it clear that the offensive anthropological
axiom he attributes to the Savoyard count, and which is
found in the

Evening Conversations of Saint-Petersburg
,
that human beings as we encounter them carry ethnic
and historic particularities, is Maistre`s definitive
view on the subject. French and English commentators
have both raised questions whether the interlocutor who
makes this sound point is meant to speak for the author.
But since the opinion stated should make sense to anyone
but a crazed universalist ideologue, I`ve no objection
to thinking that it is Maistre`s carefully considered
reflection. 

As far as I know, and I doubt that Goldberg knows
more about this matter, Maistre never attacked the
American republic for proclaiming the Declaration of
Independence. Indeed most European conservatives of the
early nineteenth century had no interest in either.
Nonetheless, the Irish critic of the French Revolution

Edmund Burke
, and the German conservative theorist
and advisor to Prince Metternich

Friedrich Gentz
, both viewed the American polity as
a variation on the English constitution. Neither took
any notice of the Declaration.

At a heavily neoconservative academic conference I
recently attended, the participants were upset that
Hegel viewed the U.S. in the 1820s as a largely

unsettled wilderness
,
a view previously held by – among others – John Locke.
Apparently this highly rated thinker had not realized
that the newly founded American republic stood for
global democracy, as interpreted by neoconservative
glossators working on their favorite
passage
in
the Declaration. 

The rest of Goldberg`s attack on Buchanan mixes
fiction with copious slander. Do paleos “talk a lot
about white America”? Despite my longtime association
with this group, most of its self-identified members,
including myself, have never focused on racial issues.
Pat Buchanan, who is Goldberg`s bête noire, has
always included black conservatives at

American Cause
conferences. His candidate for
Vice-President the last time he ran was a black woman.
What makes him and, I would suppose, myself racists is
our failure – as Sam Francis has noted with regard to
the use of this slur – to take politically correct
positions on social issues.

Just as an anti-Semite is now someone who

does not agree
with Goldberg on Middle Eastern
politics, so too, under the new order, a racist is anyone
who opposes immigration – or who

dares to notice
that Martin Luther King was not all
he is cracked up to be.

Is Goldberg dumb or merely dissembling when he fails
to perceive the philosophical differences between
Maistre and

Cornell West?
Though neither accepts his notion of
human rights, or his abstract universal concept of man –
or personhood – it would be hard to imagine anything
else they agreed about.

Moreover, what links Goldberg and his fellow
NR-staffers to West is far more significant than what
supposedly unites Maistre and the black
pseudo-philosopher. Goldberg and West are fervent
egalitarians who would begin every conversation about
race issues in the US by loudly deploring American
racism before the civil rights movement and by

decrying
immigration reformers as white racists.
What these TV personalities would disagree about is
whether the present is better than the past, that is,
whether white racism is on its way to being solved with
the government protections and mixed economy that are
now in place, or whether black identity politics are
necessary to push us toward the desired egalitarian
outcome.

To

bring up Maistre
– or Buchanan or Francis – to
attack black identity politics is thoroughly dishonest
and/or abysmally stupid. Goldberg and his
now-neoconservative journal are perpetually muddying the
waters, by pretending to be upholding authentic
conservatism against extremists on both extremes.

Goldberg and the G-review

provide only tiresome variations on the leftist extreme
they outrageously compare to the real Right.

Allow me finally to voice my perplexity about the
“universalist standards” that Goldberg claims to find in
MLK. Outside of oft-cited platitudes from the

“I Have a Dream”
speech or the references to natural
law in the

Birmingham Jail letter
, I have trouble locating
these standards. They are certainly not in the
Playboy
interview granted by King and printed
in January 1965, which includes an extensive advocacy of

both white reparations
and

affirmative action
.

Despite his by now-demanding schedule as a Beltway
conservative luminary, Goldberg would do well to take
time off to acquire a humanistic education. Such an
achievement might improve the quality of his theorizing,
even if it required him to put aside his present work as
a fantasist.


Paul Gottfried
is Professor of Humanities at
Elizabethtown College, PA. He is the author of

After Liberalism
and

Carl Schmitt: Politics and Theory
.

January 25, 2002