Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Is Tucker a trad?

I admire Tucker Carlson. He is one journalist who is prepared to take a stand on principle, even if that means going against the narrative and drawing fire on himself. He has stood firm even when activists have, literally, arrived on his doorstep.

I think it is unlikely, though, that he could be termed a traditionalist. He recently gave an online interview in which he was asked what a 22-year-old Carlson would do in 2021. Carlson gave a typically trenchant answer, explaining that he would do his own thing in some rural part of the US rather than enter a big corporation, because "the system is collapsing" and "It certainly doesn't want people like me".

So far there's no problem. But then Carlson muses that the current American regime is based on lies and that if he were 22 he might even look further afield, to another country. He states, "but if I were 22, I might look to see if there's another place that's going to treat me as an individual and not as a member of a tribe. A system that actually cares about people, not identity".

This is a very modern, rather than a traditional, way of seeing the world. Remember it was the liberal radical Shelley who, back in 1820, wanted people to be without tribe and identity. Shelley looked forward to the emergence of a new leftist kind of man, whom he described as follows:

The loathsome mask has fallen, the man remains/ Sceptreless, free, uncircumscribed, but man/ Equal, unclassed, tribeless, and nationless,/ Exempt from awe, worship, degree, the king/ Over himself

There is a considerable irony at play here. Shelley helped set in motion a politics which was based on the idea that we would be free when there were no more distinctions between people that might lead to inequality. Once this state of affairs was reached, then human nature would be regenerated and we could do whatever we wanted as individuals, living a kind of Edenic existence on earth.

Shelley targeted the aristocracy and the church as institutions blocking the path to equality. Later on, Marx targeted the bourgeoisie. More recently, we have feminists and critical race theorists targeting white men like Tucker Carlson.

Tucker, quite reasonably, does not want to be targeted. The answer, though, is not to abandon the most recent phase of leftist thought, merely to return to its Shelleyan origins. It's better to dig deeper and uproot the tree that bears such poisonous fruit.

In this spirit, I'd like to go back even further than Shelley. I find it interesting that Tucker believes that unless you treat each person solely as an individual that you are denying their nature. He says, "And never deny who you are. I thought this was all sort of common knowledge, that we all agreed on this some time ago that we shouldn't have to deny our nature in order to succeed. We should celebrate each person as an individual, but we've given that up completely."

This too is a modernist idea. Tucker is suggesting that it is our nature to be wholly individual. That we are just one instance of a thing, rather than being a member of a class of things. If true, those asserting that there are hundreds of different "genders" would be on the right track. 

Where does the idea come from? I'm currently reading The Theological Origins of Modernity by Michael Allen Gillespie. His argument is that toward the end of the medieval era there was a philosophical turn to nominalism which overturned the long established Western belief in philosophical realism. Nominalists reject the real existence of universals, so that there are no really existing "essences" by which things might be grouped together, or share a common nature (for example, no masculine or feminine essence that individual men or women might represent or express).

If you were to remove the nominalism, it is unlikely that you would set apart human nature and identity. Instead, you would see the two as being closely connected. If there is a masculine essence, and I am born a man, then there is a "given line" along which I can develop and fulfil my nature and define my telos (my purposes). Of course, each man is likely to do this a little differently (so there is still individuality), but I belong to a particular class of being (men), and this is deeply infused in my sense of self (being an "essential" part of who I am). Being a man or a woman is not, as Shelley put it, a "detestable distinction" but a core reality that inevitably helps to define us.

Leftists take a radically nominalist approach, usually claiming that "masculine" and "feminine" are merely oppressive social constructs. However, because they also see "patriarchy" as the oppressive social structure that they wish to destroy in order to liberate humanity, they retain male and female as legitimate terms if they are understood as classes within a political system. 

Nominalism has, perhaps, unhelpfully trained the modern Western mind to think only in terms of the discrete individual. This carries over into issues of national or ethnic identity. We do not, as we should, see our membership of a nation or ethny as helping to fulfil aspects of our nature by deepening our connection to a people and place, which then strengthens our commitments to preserve our heritage, to maintain the health of family life, to uphold unity and solidarity (including between the sexes), to love the natural environment of our homeland, and to uphold what we owe to past and future generations. 

To say, "Why can't we just be individuals?" not only strips us of all this, it leaves us vulnerable to those with a stronger sense of who they are as a people. 

A note to Melbourne readers. If you are sympathetic to the ideas of this website, please visit the site of the Melbourne Traditionalists. It's important that traditionalists don't remain isolated from each other; our group provides a great opportunity for traditionalists to meet up and connect. Details at the website.


  1. I've had the thought that conservatives have made a mistake in abandoning urban areas. After the 1960s, "white ethnics" that lived in "enclaves" moved out of major cities into the suburbs. These days this is slandered as "white flight" by leftist academia, ignoring the major rise in crime and the hostile real estate agents.

    The conservative movement draws a steady stream of young people to Washington DC, who cannot live there without wealthy parents. This is a major source of rot in the system, and also leads to some of them jumping to the left for higher income. American conservatives cannot conceive of forming their own "ethnic enclave" in the capital.

    Where the GOP does do well in high-density areas, its usually because of a particular ethnic minority like Cubans or Hasidim.

  2. Reducing the meaningfulness of one's identity to aspects of selfhood only is a way to control the spark, and the fire, that can be generated by social interactions based in substantive things. Better to smother all sparks than risk a fire that burns you, the Left seems to be saying.

    "...the idea that we would be free when there were no more distinctions between people that might lead to inequality."

    I believe this obsession with inequality is ultimately a move toward nihilism, where meaningfulness itself is made not to matter. But *some things* will always matter-- the question is what things, decided by whom. In this new found freedom would we then be subject to a world council of gnostic overseers? How to reckon that obvious inequality?

    (The "made not to matter" insight is from your earlier writings :)

  3. "where meaningfulness itself is made not to matter"

    Something to this, I think.

  4. Thankyou so much for continuing this blog.

    Thankyou also for pointing me in the direction of "The Theological Origins of Modernity".

    The roots of liberalism in the radical reformation are easy to see, but they would of course have had to come from somewhere. I think perhaps a rise in nominalism might be a more plausible explanation than some others I've heard (like Belloc blaming it on the Cathars).

    1. James, sorry for the delay in publishing the comment (notifications failed me). The book "The Theological Origins of Modernity" at least highlights, in terms of the history of ideas, the framework of the arguments. I've found it very educational in that respect.