Is there a point at which a “movement” actually hits bottom? You know: like an addict? My only true experience with this was observing the British left in the 1970s and 1980s, reacting to the tectonic shift toward less state control in Britain and America. Instead of examining their own biases, challenging their own assumptions and thinking constructively about policy, they simply began talking to each other, split into factions, and, with each passing day, they got loopier and loopier. American liberalism had a less surreal intellectual collapse as well – degenerating into interest group leftism, as Reagan re-made the polity.
Reading the current conservative press (with the obvious exception of The American Conservative), it’s hard not to see the parallels. What was once Joe-Farah-style looniness is now mainstreamed; Newsmax is all over NRO; David Brooks’ idea of a revived version of early neo-conservatism is almost poignant in its level of denial. There appears to be nothing ever too far to the right, and the fervor of the true believers increasingly eclipses the worries of the doubters. Reading conservatives like Pete Wehner or David Brooks feels worthy but irrelevant. Watching conservatives like George Will and Charles Krauthammer effectively go over the cliff with the party is just dismaying. Seeing Peggy Noonan morph into Michelle Malkin may be entertaining in its incoherence, but it’s still not good for the republic.
And then you get to what one might call a “whole new level”. Take a new book by Diana West about how the Soviet Union “occupied” America under FDR and dictated foreign policy to serve communist interests. Here’s how the book advertizes itself:
If the Soviet penetration of Washington, D.C., was so wide and so deep that it functioned like an occupation …
If, as a result of that occupation, American statecraft became an extension of Soviet strategy …
If the people who caught on – investigators, politicians, defectors – and tried to warn the American public were demonized, ridiculed and destroyed for the good of that occupation and to further that strategy …
And if the truth was suppressed by an increasingly complicit Uncle Sam …
Would you feel betrayed?
Probably. But why all the question marks? And then you begin to inquire further and your eyes widen a little. A few paragraphs into reading the debate, you realize that all of this is connected with the claim of a current huge conspiracy lying in plain sight – the Muslim Brotherhood’s grip on the White House. Obama is a closet Islamist, just as FDR was a closet Stalinist. It all makes sense now!
If you’re like me and steeped in this kind of ideological stew for a few decades, you immediately check on the slightly calmer voices in the anti-Communist historical universe. The result is both a relief – not everyone has gone bonkers – which is followed by more dismay, as you realize that even the people who lived their intellectual lives as passionate, revisionist anti-Communists and anti-anti-anti-Communists are now outliers in the conservative ranks.
So do yourself a favor and get a glimpse of the insanity now dominating what was once a vibrant intellectual culture by reading Ron Radosh’s devastating review of the book. (David Horowitz gives his side of the kerfuffle here.) Front Page offered West equal space to respond but she wisely refused (see her position here). After reading Radosh, you realize why. She’s got nothing. But she still has much of the movement right on her side. Radosh:
As a historian I normally would not have agreed to review a book such as this one. But I changed my mind after seeing the reckless endorsements of its unhinged theories by a number of conservative individuals and organizations.
These included the Heritage Foundation which has hosted her for book promotions at a lunchtime speech and a dinner; Breitbart.com which is serializing America Betrayed; PJ Media which has already run three favorable features on West; Amity Shlaes, who writes unnervingly that West’s book, “masterfully reminds us what history is for: to suggest action for the present”; and by conservative political scientist and media commentator Monica Crowley, who called West’s book “A monumental achievement.”
Shlaes, whom I recall as previously sane, even calls West (presumably without irony) the “Michelangelo of denial.” Then you think this has to be the rock-bottom of the loony right, but stupidly read the comments under Radosh’s painstakingly thorough demolition. The “best” and first comment has this throw-away line:
Incidentally, Joe McCarthy was right.
Within a few more comments, we have a Birther; then we have this, claiming that these past affairs are not worth reading into because they pale in comparison with the treason in Washington today:
How about the fact that a number of mid East advisers working in the sate department [sic] are connected with CAIR or the Moslem Brotherhood?
Mercifully, there is some sanity among some Front Page readers and it elbows its way to the front at times. But check out the Amazon reviews. Anyone with any serious understanding of history gives it one star at most. The rest? Five stars! Seriously. There is no middle ground. My favorite review:
Where West’s contribution differs from anything else, thus far available, is that in addition to assimilating all of the most important aspects of the Soviet infestation she illustrates a parallel action on the part of the Islamists today. An understanding of the current Islamic penetration into our society, government and culture alike, is vitally important, and should be readily apparent.
My second favorite:
History that I never got in school.
You can say that again.