Saturday, November 10, 2007

What are we defending?

Until recently, a section of the right was united around a "counterjihadi" cause. This unity has been shattered by Charles Johnson, the operator of the Little Green Footballs (LGF) site, who has accused his former European allies of being racists.

The rift has exposed something significant. Those on the right are not fighting to defend the same thing. There are some whose politics is bounded by their identification with political liberalism: they are fighting to defend a political creed. There are others who, even if they accept this creed, also wish to defend a particular tradition, culture, people or national existence.

Let's start with Johnson. He was a left-liberal until the terror attacks on the World Trade Centre. Like some others on the left, the terror attacks shook up his politics. He began to see Islam as a threat to his political values and he dismissed the left as being too unrealistic (too "idiotarian") to recognise this threat.

Hence the logo at Johnson's website which shows his little green footballs being hurled at a cowering hippy leftist and a Muslim jihadi "lizard".

If you understand why Johnson is against the left and against Muslim jihadists, it's easier to explain his unease with others on the right. He remains a purist liberal. He just believes that Islam and the left are a threat to what he values.

So when others on the right also transgress his liberalism, why wouldn't he make a fuss? In his own way, he is being consistent.

The problem is that it isn't difficult to transgress modernist liberalism. The idea of modernist liberalism is that we must be self-determining, autonomous agents in order to reach a full humanity. This means that everything which is "other" determined is a restriction on our freedom and on our human dignity from which we must be liberated.

Most of the important, sustaining aspects of life, though, are other determined. Therefore, liberalism ends up placing its own fatwahs on the very things which mean most to people - and all in the name of "freedom".

And so Johnson's European allies were found wanting. Most of them have attempted to be mainstream in their politics, and some even sound at times like mainstream right-liberals. However, it's true that most of the groups attacked by Johnson wish to limit immigration in order to preserve something outside of political liberalism, such as a people, culture or tradition.

It seems that this alone was too much of a transgression for Johnson to bear. He attacked the Europeans and embarked on an undignified hunt for evidence of unsavoury connections (he found a couple of Celtic crosses and some old photos).

Johnson is trying to delegitimise the Europeans - to have them placed beyond the pale. His campaign seems to be failing. In part, this is because some of those who agree with him politically still think an alliance is necessary. Partly it's because some key figures just don't believe that the Europeans are extreme in the way Johnson is claiming.

Some further reading:

Johnson's nemesis

Blogosphere bannings


  1. In my experience, the adolescents who call themselves "anti-idiotarians" are, as a rule, liberal. They are united by the common creed that the fight against Islamic terror is, at bottom, all about preserving the right to drunken debauchery, gay sex, and pornography. They view the Long War, as they like to call it, as an all-encompassing crusade to defend the world from social conservatism generally. For this reasons, they have come up with the term "idiotarian," which can be said to apply to anyone on the right or the left not sold on the general rightness of the need to spread liberalism to every corner of the universe, especially as it regards sex.

    Most of them would never formulate it in quite this way, but the bottom line is that when you dig deep enough, that's what is holding this quasi-libertarian band together. I oversimplify a little bit, but not as much as you may think.

  2. Sage, a good bracing comment, thanks.

    My one query: I haven't read much of the LGF site, but my suspicion is that "idiotarian" is how they see the left (people with acceptable beliefs but too idiotic to defend them), whereas they see the socially conservative right as moral pariahs and untouchables.

    If they don't get a right purged of social conservatives then perhaps they will, as Lawrence Auster has suggested, break with the right and seek some kind of space on the left.

  3. What they're doing, Mark, is trying to redefine what it is to be a conservative, to fall along more libertarian lines. There is actually an "anti-idiotarian manifesto," which reads in part:

    "WHEREAS, the Left has failed us by succumbing to reflexive anti-Americanism; by apologizing for terrorist acts; by propounding squalid theories of moral equivalence; and by blaming the victims of evil for the act of evil;"

    WHEREAS, the Right has failed us by pushing ‘anti-terrorist’ measures which bid fair to be both ineffective and prejudicial to the central liberties of a free society; and in some cases by rhetorically descending to almost the same level of bigotry as our enemies;"

    WHEREAS, even many of the Libertarians from whom we expected more intelligence have retreated into a petulant isolationism, refusing to recognize that, at this time, using the state to carry the war back to the aggressors is our only practical instrument of self-defense..."

    ...THAT the terrorists and their state sponsors have declared and are pursuing a war not against the vices of Western civilization but against its core virtues: against the freedom of thought and speech and conscience, against the life of reason; against the equality of women, against pluralism and tolerance; against, indeed, all the qualities which separate civilized human beings from savagery, slavery, and fanaticism..."

    ...WE REJECT the idiotarianism of the Right — whether it manifests as head-in-the-sand isolationism or as a a Christian-chauvinist political agenda that echoes the religious absolutism of our enemies."

    Notice how Western Civilization is defined here. Charles Johnson is very much of the "democracy, whiskey, sexy!" brand of so-called conservative, who essentially believes that the West is primarily defined by such things as tolerance of and indifference to things like homosexuality.

  4. Notice the riff on libertarians, "from whom we expected more intelligence." Neither the left or right is described in this way. This detail alone is very revealing.

  5. Interesting. I wasn't aware of the manifesto. It makes it clear that we're dealing with a political movement hostile to traditionalist conservatism.

  6. Another characteristic of these so called right wingers is their obsessive anti-environmentalism. They have handed green issues, which have historically been conservative, to the left on a plate. Andrew Bolt can barely go a week without referring to the 'dangers' of green politics vis-a-vis romantic nationalism.

  7. You are not giving Johnson's claims about Vlaams Belang their due. Why don't you investigate them further before making a judgment?

    Take the "Celtic crosses", for example. That particular design is also known as "Odin's cross" and is used by neo-Nazis. Johnson presented evidence that is used in VB literature. Don't you agree that should at least give one pause?

  8. Bernhardt, I did investigate Johnson's accusations. Most involved guilt by association. A few involved photos dating back more than ten years.

    The only accusations which stuck at all were two examples of Celtic Crosses. I don't know what the significance of these two instances of Celtic crosses is. Yes, the crosses are used as a symbol by some neo-nazi groups. They are also, though, traditional in the Flemish nationalist movement, as far back as WWI.

    If you look at the VB literature, you find some "mainstream conservative" (i.e. right-liberal) policies, such as an emphasis on free markets and assimilation of migrants, alongside a Flemish nationalism (pride in Flemish culture, putting the Flemish people first).

    Clearly, this traditional nationalism is what Johnson really objects to, as he treats anyone who adopts it as being in much the same "untouchable" category (e.g. Paul Belien, Fjordman, Vdare).

  9. Thanks for the link, Mark. I found your post through Vanishing American?

    Mind if I link you?

  10. PRCaldude, I'd be happy to share links. Thanks.

  11. Anonymous, I agree that the connection between conservatism and environmentalism should be strong. Many conservatives are responsive to nature and wish to conserve their attachment to the local natural landscape. I probably should draw out this aspect of conservative politics more often at this site (I have done so only occasionally).

    However, I have to say that some of Andrew Bolt's criticisms of left-wing environmentalists are worth considering. Some of the pronouncements on global warming on the left sound too obviously like a power grab.

  12. The whole "Anti-Idiotarian Manifesto" is here, for those who want to take a look. And it makes clear that "idiotarian" is a universal term of abuse that they use for anyone who disagrees with the right-liberal agenda.