July 18, 2006
"A result of rigid toilet training"
Something is rotten in the state of conservatism, says John Dean in Conservatives Without Conscience. Today’s conservatives are “hostile and mean-spirited,” “vengeful, pitiless, exploitive, manipulative, dishonest, cheaters, prejudiced, mean-spirited [again], militant, nationalistic, and two-faced,” not to mention “enemies of freedom, antidemocratic, antiequality, highly prejudiced, mean-spirited [once more], power hungry, Machiavellian, and amoral.” Mental handicaps such as “intolerance of ambiguity, need for certainty or structure in life, overreaction to threats, and a disposition to dominate others” turn them ineluctably into “authoritarians” and “social dominators.” Unless stopped, Dean warns, conservatives “will take American democracy where no freedom-loving person would want it to go.”Sigh. Read the whole thing. (Not Dean's book; the review!)
Dean, who's reinvented himself too many times to count, has now come up with a very popular meme that echoes the conservatism-as-mental-illness idea, but with a new twist -- the word "authoritarian" doesn't distinguish between conservatism and mental illness! It's a Marxist term which conflates the political and the personal into one grand evil.
A marvelous label. And a very impressive one. A masterpiece, even. While there are definitions, they really don't matter. What matters is that if you disagree with someone who believes in this nonsense, you're subject to being called an authoritarian outright, or accused of having "authoritarian tendencies" if there's still hope for you.
a Freudian-Marxist melange of pseudo-scientific speculative foolishness that is now, thank God, thoroughly discredited.Not discredited enough, it would seem. The Adorno-Dean authoritarian diagnosis is taking the leftie blogs by storm, with wannabes like Greenwald, Neiwert, and Sadly, No! all elbowing their way in. Be the first on your block!
Jonah Goldberg (doubtless an authoritarian fascist if ever there was one) has more on Adorno:
[T]his is a very, very old game. Ever since Theodor Adorno came out with his scandalously flawed Authoritarian Personality in 1950, liberal and leftist social scientists have been trying to diagnose conservatism as a psychological defect or sickness. Adorno and his colleagues argued that conservatism was little more than a "pre-fascist" "personality type." According to this school, sympathy for communism was an indication of openness and healthy idealism. Opposition to communism was a symptom of your more deep-seated pathologies and fascist tendencies. According to Adorno, subjects who saw Nazism and Stalinism as similar phenomena were demonstrating their "idiocy" and "irrationality." Psychological counseling, many argued, could cure these maladies. But for some it was too late. In 1964, an ad in the New York Times reported that 1,189 psychiatrists determined that Barry Goldwater was not "psychologically fit" to be president.
Like I said, I'm glad I got my foot in the door with the Goldwater liberal meme before John Dean, 'cause he's now claiming to be that and it hurts my feelings big time!
Before the break, though, before lights, camera and complete inaction on the part of the assembled crowd, Dean talked about the current state of politics. Much like during his interview with Jon Stewart on The Daily Show, he said that he is a Goldwater conservative, but in this day, that places him left of center.But. But. But -- Goldwater was right wing, wasn't he?
An anonymous commenter noted this very thing:
Anonymous said...The problem for Dean (as well as the leftists who want to claim the mantle of Goldwater while labeling libertarians and conservatives as mentally deranged pseudo-proto fascists) is that the commenter is right.
Goldwater conservatism may be many things, but it simply is not leftism (my satirical "Goldwater liberal" business notwithstanding).
From Goldwater's "The Conscience of a Conservative":
"I have little interest in streamlining government or making it more efficient, for I mean to reduce its size. I do not undertake to promote welfare, for I propose to extend freedom. My aim is not to pass laws, but to repeal them."George F. Will defined Goldwater conservatism thusly:
"muscular foreign policy backing unapologetic nationalism; economic policies of low taxation and light regulation."Others have (at least, so I think) strained to redefine Goldwater conservatism as moral conservatism, and have noted Goldwater's shift leftward in his later years, but I think they overlook the clear overall libertarian focus on individual freedom.
I would agree with George F. Will's definition. I tend to see him as what most bloggers would call a small "l" libertarian. In today's terms, a neolibertarian. (Precisely what's being called "extremist" and "authoritarian" in leftie blogs today.)
Will has more:
. . .[T]he domination of the Republican Party by cultural conservatives did make some other conservatives - libertarians and religious skeptics, among others - feel uneasy, even unwelcome. Being derided as RINOs - Republicans in name only - did not help.No, being called names never helps, and I don't predict success for the authoritarian authorities, no matter how hard they try. (However, I can't help chuckling over the idea of a libertarian authoritarian. What's next? Anarchist authoritarian?)
Back to Will:
The re-emergence into Republican respectability of conservatism with a socially libertarian cast - Goldwaterism - is a development with a large potential to discomfort the Democratic Party.I think he's is absolutely right.
But because the Goldwater-as-leftist meme seems to be striking a nerve right now in the antiwar crowd, I'd like to shatter their bubble and dispel any notion of Goldwater as a pacifist who didn't believe in strong national defense. For starters, Goldwater was a "hawk's hawk":
An ardent Westerner with a face as blunt and craggy as the state he represented, Goldwater believed in less government and a strong military.(I wonder what label would be tacked onto anyone expressing opposition to the Civil Rights Act today . . .)
Like me, and many libertarians, Goldwater did have a serious problem with the religious right:
When the new religious right began its takeover of the Republican Party in the 1980s, he broke with them when they advocated limits on the court's ability to bar prayer in school or order busing. He thought their demands would breach the separation of powers between the courts and the Congress, and that religion had no place in politics.This made him a libertarian. But he never became a dove. Even late in life, he still expressed sympathy with sending troops to Central America -- when we hadn't even been attacked! (John Dean complains of "more covert activity going on, both abroad and maybe here in the United States, than in decades because of this so-called war on terror." Goldwater would be calling for more, as he did when Reagan was president.)
No one with any memory of Barry Goldwater can forget that he was a war hawk. On Vietnam for example, he was to the right of anyone in politics:
Goldwater was a fervent hawk who believed that nuclear weapons could help bring victory in Vietnam.There's more, and if you read it, it'll curl your hair. It makes Bush's war on terror look like what George Wallace used to call "pussyfootin' around."
But regardless of whether you see Goldwater as a neolibertarian, or of social conservative who became a libertarian late in life, the idea that John Dean -- an antiwar activist who's made a career out of calling for Bush's impeachment -- is a "Goldwater conservative" is laughable.
I wish I thought it was funnier.
But I can't stop thinking about September 11, and what Goldwater's reaction might have been to the United States being attacked.
I remember that he made very ominous comments during the Iranian hostage crisis, threatening to bomb Iran back into the stone age if a single hostage was hurt. I think he would have been far angrier on 9/11.
Goldwater was not unfamiliar with the tactic psychoanalytic labeling of political opponents:
. . .In 1964 a large number of American 'qualified' psychologists signed what purported to be a professional analysis of Senator Goldwater as a clinically unbalanced character. I remember the anger of mine, a professor of psychology at an American university and himself a strong opponent of Goldwater's, at this extraordinary breach of professional ethics and of scientific principle. (Goldwater eventually received heavy damages from them in a court action.)What sort of things did they say about this man who was the greatest threat the world had ever seen?
In 1964, "Fact" magazine quoted dozes of liberal psychiatrists analyzing Republican presidential candidate Barry Goldwater. Some examples: "A dangerous lunatic..." "a result of rigid toilet training..." Goldwater sued for libel and won.The only thing new about this is that people are taking it seriously.
I'll be kind, and I won't accuse them of projection.
I welcome all comments on this exciting new hybrid phenomenon -- and I think it deserves a new name:
Extremism in pursuit of socialism is no illness!
MORE (07/19/07 -- 11:00 a.m.): Sorry it has taken so long to update as well as edit a few mistakes. (The server has been overwhelmed, so I've been unable open anything, but I'll keep trying.)
Concerning Dean's book, "Conservatives Without Concience," I have this observation: Nowhere in the book will you find the name, Ida Maxwell Wells.This interview of G. Gordon Liddy by John Hawkins has more details about the Wells matter.
The twists and turns of the Watergate story are complicated, and many mysteries remain. My own summarized view of these events is here.
MORE: My thanks to Dean Esmay for linking this post! I'm especially honored -- because according to the F-scale test, Dean is now officially certified as a "liberal airhead."
UPDATE (07/24/06): More here on "questioning authority."
posted by Eric on 07.18.06 at 11:36 PM
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