The late Elizabeth Wright takes black neocons to task.
Conservative by default
The passage of just a few short years has made it hard to remember when only the views blessed by the progressive left found a path into the public arena. And, although modern liberalism still prevails as society’s dominating force, by the year 2007, much has changed when it comes to the ability to disseminate and broadcast other political messages. For close to four decades, the subject of race, especially, was locked down tight. In public discourse, one was expected to be racially-correct, as only the most sympathetic approach to the subject was tolerated. A form of self-censorship became the norm.
Americans were exhorted to celebrate the “multicultural” benefits of living in a land where the oxymoron “diversity is strength” was promoted like a holy creed. There was no room for contradiction, and it was not unusual for critics of this politically correct persuasion to run for cover, as they sought to protect themselves from the negative consequences of seeming out of step with the racial orthodoxy.
Among blacks themselves strict rules prevailed, fostered by the black establishment, an elite determined to extract concessions from “the system.” Dissemble, obfuscate, and lie, when necessary, pretty much summed up the rule of thumb by which blacks were expected to abide. Don’t admit to the most blatant facts about a deteriorating social culture mired in crime and poverty. Defend, and then defend some more, no matter the reality of the worst pathologies, which the weakest eye could observe and the simplest mind detect.
By the mid-1990s, it had become possible for opponents of the decades-long social programs, spawned by liberal policies, to get a word in edgewise. The door to candid, forthright dialogue had begun to open somewhere in the 1980s, and the sensible voices of a few black thinkers and scholars began to surface in print, challenging the judgment of those who set the rules. These upstarts were not exactly welcomed, either by blacks or whites, for whom the new civil rights laws and policies often brought handsome remuneration. By now, vast numbers of professional strivers in both races had vested interests in keeping the social programs growing and the funding flowing.
In spite of resistance from the predictable quarters, critics of the expanding civil rights infrastructure began to raise their voices above a whisper and public dialogue finally commenced. It turned out that there were increasing numbers of blacks who had grown weary of listening to the same old victimhood takes on criminality, illegitimacy and poverty. Some were eager to see the kind of frank, often brutally frank conversations about black problems, which took place in their own living rooms, carried out into the public square.
Among the first of the black intellectuals to find a forum in the mainstream media was the preeminent economist and scholar Thomas Sowell, whose astute analyses of the country’s social conditions had begun in the 1970s, and continues to this day. In his magazine articles, Op-eds, books, and public appearances, Sowell dared to criticize the legislation and concepts that traveled under the umbrella of “civil rights.”
The public attention given to Sowell’s output opened the door for still more criticism of what had transpired in earlier decades. Walter Williams, also an economist, furthered the dialogue on the negative consequences stemming from good intentions run amok.
Boston University Professor Glenn Loury reflected on the peculiar racism of liberals whose double standards put demands for change among whites, while reinforcing debilitating tendencies among poor blacks. Robert Woodson, who had once been head of an NAACP chapter, impressed us with his abandonment of his former affiliation, and his success in creating a hands-on organization, to engage the poorest blacks in working towards bringing about their own educational and social uplift.
And there was Polly Williams in Wisconsin, mother of five children, all destined to be forcibly bused to separate public schools, who battled the NAACP, the education system, and the liberal establishment that would deny her a choice of schools. She dared the authorities to arrest her and put her in jail. They blinked, and she won. Williams inspired other black parents like Mikel Holt, a Milwaukee newspaper editor, who took up the standard in defense of school choice.
They both inspired black parents in other cities, like Genevieve Mitchell in Cleveland, who vehemently fought against “race ratios.” She denounced what she called the “kidnapping of white children,” in order for the city to engage in the odious practice of racial balance.
And there was Kenneth Jenkins in Yonkers, New York, whose NAACP branch suspended him as president, for brazenly questioning the practice of targeting predominantly white schools, into which to intrude black children. New Jersey’s Robert Robinson also ran into trouble as president of his NAACP chapter, for supporting separate schools for black children, “as long as that education is equal.”
Through his books, articles, and Op-eds, the scholar Shelby Steele offered his insights into how American social policies that mandated special privileges for blacks were reinforcing the victim mentality among them, while whites, in attempting to expiate their “guilt,” stifled authentic criticism of civil rights gone awry.
More recently, author John McWhorter, in his books and articles, showed why social deterioration among blacks took the form it did, as aggressive liberal policies changed the very nature of black communities, ultimately prompting blacks to sabotage themselves.
Over the years there were increasing numbers of black pundits as syndicated columnists and talk show hosts. The Baltimore Sun’sGregory Kane, refused to shut up and regurgitate the prevailing wisdom on race, much to the outrage of his liberal critics. Columnist Armstrong Williams brought a faith-based perspective to his rejection of the status quo.
In Los Angeles, talk show host Larry Elder took tough positions in his challenges to set-aside programs, unlimited welfare, and the black grievance industry in general. Similarly, Denver’s radio talker Ken Hamblin took on the liberal establishment, as he skewered their tiresome arguments.
Almost all of the above dissenters, and many more, came to be described as “conservatives.” Some declared themselves as such, but others were assigned the label (often as a pejorative), simply because media types did not know what else to label those who, apparently, rejected the popularly accepted positions on race and civil rights. As Steele put it, black dissenters became “conservative” by default, as liberalism drifted further into the advocacy of group entitlement and relentless social engineering.
Years later, in contrast, the black bloggers on the right would eagerly embrace the conservative label from day one. This was understandable, as they were primarily an outgrowth of dozens of already established white conservative forums and websites. Today, the blogosphere is filled with blacks who describe their politics as conservative.
Power to the state
By the early 2000s, there appeared to be a steadily growing population of blacks who claimed to speak with conservative conviction, and whose propaganda would pose a counter to that of the entrenched liberal elite. But a funny thing happened on the way to the formation of a conservative base. The nascent movement was diverted by the same forces that poisoned the well of mainstream conservatism, that is, the Republican neocons, whose deplorable ideologies, expressed in policy, have brought unnecessary tragedy to our country and abroad.
These black bloggers, pundits and TV talking heads, who spout the neocon message, are no more worthy of calling themselves “conservative” than the many whites who claim the label. They are nothing more than cheerleaders for a political party. They have morphed into defenders of some of the worst policies ever devised by bureaucrats, and are hardly more than mimics of the nationally popular radio blabbers and robot commentators.
And, just as Thomas Sowell had been a catalyst for critiquing the liberal narrative that dominated the public dialogue, so he currently acts as head guru of these clones of the Right. Having mutated into a born-again Republican apologist, he is now, inadvertently or otherwise, mentor to a host of black neocon wannabes, including most of those pundits, media talkers, and bloggers. Sowell has established himself as a chief war hawk for the war party.
Once a fierce proselytizer against active involvement in fickle party politics, which he claimed distracted ethnic groups from achieving economic success in society, Sowell now is a major sycophant of the GOP. Although he rants about the cliches that permeated the old peace movement, he is a walking cliche for the war movement. Provoke war, just because you can, just because you’re bigger and stronger, and just because you’re the world’s only Super Power. This seems to be the heart of his message.
Sowell assesses the unwarranted invasion of Iraq through lofty references to the grand old wars of the past–most specifically the Big WW2. Like many rightwingers, he seems to view all conflicts through the prism of World War Two events. For example, he justifies this government’s decision to reject meeting with representatives of our supposed enemies by referencing Neville Chamberlain’s meetings with Hitler and Mussolini. Since Chamberlain clearly lacked judgment in his inept dealings with Hitler, it follows, according to Sowell’s implied admonitions, that there are never any reasons for opposing camps to try to adjust differences or make concessions to one another. Don’t meet and talk. Just drop bombs and show who’s boss.
Sowell does not have words vehement enough to describe those who, down through the years, have advocated for peace. It would seem, from his rhetoric, that those who seek peaceful solutions to conflicts are some lower form of human species. They can only be Communist dupes, naive fools, or evildoers with insidious intentions, to say nothing of being un-American.
In offering up his “lessons of Pearl Harbor,” he opines that “young men paid with their lives for the moral posturing of clergymen and editorial writers.” But, did they? Didn’t they really pay with their lives due to the deceitful shenanigans of Franklin Delano Roosevelt? Does the great scholar Sowell convey these unenlightened history lessons to the rest of us, in order to keep us on the straight and narrow track of right-thinking, or is he really this ill-informed?
Of course, his concern for young American men does not extend to those in Iraq, who are being morally corrupted by a debasing experience that is transforming their values and themselves, leading some of them to commit sadistic acts against the Iraqi people. They are living in a hell for no reason other than those of cynical special interests, whose representatives have sent them on a meaningless mission.
Sowell has on several occasions recited what has become a popular mantra of members of his beloved political party, that is, “The Constitution is not a suicide pact.” This clever little ditty is introduced to justify the Patriot Act, Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, the Military Commissions Act, and sending our young soldiers across the world to bring catastrophe and chaos to the Iraqi people, while overturning their society. It carries a meaning which says, now that the country is in crisis, all bets are off for acknowledging citizens rights as expressed in the Constitution. There’s hardly a neocon pundit who has not recited this slogan about the “suicide pact” (one has actually used it to title a book), apparently oblivious to what it reveals about their own cowardice and fear.
Traditionalist conservative Rev. Chuck Baldwinis right to deride today’s typical conservatives, by contrasting their fear-driven spirit to that of Patrick Henry. None of that “Give me liberty or give me death” stuff for them. Baldwin claims that the battle cry (or “surrender-cry”) of the current conservative is: “Give me security, anything but death.”
Today’s heroic American would probably sell his political birthright, in order to feel “safe.” The 1960s-70s race riot crises taught him to accept new, perverse laws and restrictions, if it means keeping peace and harmony in the land. He is willing to allow others to become his masters and follow their commands, if he believes this will curtail any social disturbance that might prevent him from playing with his ever-increasing cache of toys. He will submit even to his next door neighbor being charged as an “enemy combatant” and dragged off in the middle of the night, if he thinks this is a guarantee that he can continue buying and owning still more possessions. As we watch our nation’s civil liberties being trashed, and a military conflict designed to become a perpetual war, it is disheartening to observe the compliant nature of Americans.
In his syndicated column, “A military draft?” (8/1/06), Sowell claims that today’s ingrate youth would not be the kind of people one could trust to “protect this country from its enemies.” According to him, we no longer live in the spirit of those fine, old days of the “good war” of WW2, when men unquestioningly did their “duty.” Our current crop of youth, he says, are just too “non-judgmental about the differences between American society and its enemies.”
If what he says is true, then there is hope that an increasing number of young people are savvy enough to know the difference between patriotism to the United States and blind loyalty to special interests that have usurped the institutions of its federal government. Sowell complains, “On the home front, life goes on today as if there were no war. Consumer goods are as abundant as ever and no real sacrifices are demanded of the civilian population, who are spectators rather than even tangential participants. None of this is healthy.”
But wasn’t one of the first directives that came from his benighted President, just after the 9/11 tragedy, that we Americans should all go out and shop? Aren’t consumer goods as “abundant as ever” because we shop, shop, shop? But Sowell is right. None of this is healthy–not our government’s ceaseless meddling in the affairs of other countries, while instigating hostilities against ourselves, nor baiting other countries into war, nor the loss of trillions of dollars that could be put to service in our own land.
Norman Singleton, on the LewRockwell.com blog,expresses a lament shared by many who once held Sowell in high regard: “Thomas Sowell’s argument that America’s youth are not worthy of being drafted may be the most demented piece to emerge from the war party this year. Sowell used to be one of my favorite writers and was one of my earliest intellectual influences. What a shame to see him abandon whatever libertarian tendencies he may have once had to become just another apologist for the total state.”
And a similar sentiment comes from Karen De Coster, also on the Rockwell blog: “Thomas Sowell … has long been on my list of heroic intellectuals who dared to go up against the establishment line. But no longer. I�ve got news for Mr. Sowell. The fruits of my labor do not belong to the state. I will not surrender my ability to produce or consume to the state so that I can share in the ‘realism’ and moral bankruptcy of its oppressive wars, fueled by the political ambitions of collectivist tyrants … The day has now come wherein he carries his allegiance card, and has become a propaganda chief for the state.”
A dozen years ago, who would have guessed that government, whose deadly power Sowell warned us about so vigorously, would become the Holy State, because his political party of preference now rules it? In column after column, he urges Americans to adhere to the policies concocted by his merry band of Republicans, who, until recently had total control of Washington. Would obedience to his party, as presently constituted, necessarily spell loyalty to the nation founded by Jefferson?
Sowell expresses contempt for those “soft Europeans,” who disdain war, because they just don’t understand the “brutal realities and dangers” lurking in the world. Is it possible that since European governments have ceased to foment so much of the world’s brutal realities–through their senseless “world wars”–they have learned a few lessons from which the leaders of this country could benefit? According to some demographers, that pointless strife among Europeans in the 20th century is responsible for the region’s diminished native white population, and has indirectly led to the current need for alien immigrants.
Like the other neocons, Sowell never wavers from delivering the standard party line. In fact, he has a party line explanation for everything, especially for explaining the events in Iraq: If the war is lost, it will be because the troops “have their hands tied with restrictive rules of engagement.” Terrorists are pouring into Iraq, not to engage the despised Western invader, but only to “prevent a free, democratic government from being established.”
In a 1985 column, Sowell did not know it, but he was presciently writing about his future hero, George W. Bush. Here’s what he wrote: “It is those who are full of themselves, who are starving for glory rather than food, who … squander the blood and treasure of the human race–all for a few moments of strutting in a fading sun.”
The black neocon clones
Following just a few steps behind Sowell comes talk show host Larry Elder, who is also fixated on all the butt that’s been kicked by the tough USA in past wars. Although he references them in the same breath, Elder never makes clear what the Iraqi people have to do with Tojo’s Japan or Hitler’s Germany.
What is clear to him, however, is that the “Holocaust-denying country of Iran,” with its bellicose president’s insistence on his country’s right to develop nuclear power, should not be allowed to do so. If it takes a good whipping to send the message, then so be it. After all, hasn’t hindsight vision of WW2 (there it is again) taught us all we need to know about the necessity for pre-emptive military action? Remember that “sneak attack on Pearl Harbor?” he asks. And what about “Germany’s invasion of Poland?” And aren’t the intemperate words that have spewed forth from current and past Iranian leaders enough for us to consider showing them what our fire power can do?
Elder and his many Republican confederates would have us bomb any belligerent population (preferably of weaker, Third World status?) in some perverted vindication of the Big WW2. (Should we surmise from his “Holocaust” reference that his concerns for the welfare of a foreign country are greater than those for his homeland?)
The other well-known black radio talker, Ken Hamblin, appears to have taken a sabbatical from the airwaves, but not before he let his listeners and the readers of his Denver Postcolumn know his views on the Republicans’ invasion of Iraq. This was “necessary,” he claims, in order to “get the bit into the mouths of the wild men, women and, yes, even children.”
Offering no logical reasoning for this, Hamblin resorts to typical rightwing sloganeering: “Iraq is the chosen place to fight the ultimate donnybrook between good and evil.” And, by the way, he asserts, American citizens who are arrested and held without charges deserve “no sympathy,” since they “fall under the umbrella of suspicion.” Spoken like a true-blue, card-carrying Republican, who makes not even a pretense of bowing to the Constitution.
Of the many black commentators who have become known over the Internet, there is Joseph Phillips, who tells us that it’s okay for Americans to die for the sake of “infrastructure” in a foreign country. According to this sentiment, our 3,000-plus soldiers, have not died in vain, because, in Iraq, people “have held free elections, formed a new government,” and “vital infrastructure is being restored.”
Could Jefferson or Madison or Franklin have wrapped his mind around this kind of thinking? Can anyone justify the death of even one American soldier for the sake of transforming a civilization of people who did not ask for our intervention?
Another armchair warrior, the black blogger Cobb,is ready for American troops to expedite still more “collateral damage.” He writes: “My position is that America should be a military hegemony and that we can do so at an expense much lower than that of empire. Maintaining that hegemony may require more shock and awe and collateral damage than we expended in Iraq to date . . . .”
It’s too bad that Cobb is just a couple of years beyond qualifying military age, or else he might have been taught how to handle an assault rifle or drive a Humvee. Then, he could participate, in Iraq or Afghanistan, in helping to bring about the collateral damage that he calls on others to expedite.
A regular past time of rightwingers is attempting to discredit Americans who are critical of our government’s misdeeds. The only reason for listing this country’s “litany of sins,” goes the story, is to prove that the U.S. is worse than other countries. Yet, just the opposite is true. It is because patriotic dissenters believe America is better than most other places that they are disappointed and even mortified when our rulers prove us wrong. The true patriot cannot help but be distressed to learn that officials, under the auspices of the U.S. government, are sending human captives off to prisons in alien lands that we once denounced for their human rights abuses–where there is no hope or expectation for fair treatment.
Most dissenters are not naive and are aware that in times past much skullduggery and downright evil have been done under cover of darkness, and in the name of the USA, by agents and bureaucrats who covered their tracks as best they could. By fearing public exposure and even possible prosecution for criminal activity, these functionaries bowed to what were considered the sensibilities of the American people and to the constitutional principle that no one is above the law. Today, that fear is gone, as shadowy agents are granted prior amnesty for possible violations of human rights. Instead of hiding in the White House basement, they brazenly sit out on the White House lawn, as if to dare us to lay a finger on them.
But why shouldn’t operations be out in the open when the country has an Attorney General who says he questions whether the Constitution grants habeas corpusrights of a fair trial to every American. You know a new corner has been turned when, in the Justice Department, a cynical legal theorist like John Yoo can justify the mistreatment of military prisoners, can mock Congress by suggesting that it has no war making powers, and can find in the Constitution what amounts to an authoritarian monarch as President.
It was as much disappointing as enlightening to watch some reactions to an episode in 19th century American history. Instead of cursing Abraham Lincoln for spitting on the Constitution when recent articles revealed the facts of how he arrested, imprisoned, and exiled his political opposition, many Republican fawners, pleased to have a precedent to which they could compare current policy, justified the Republican Lincoln’s outrages. Some of them actually cited his actions with favor. After all, if Father Abraham himself saw fit to kick the Constitution aside, such behavior can’t be all bad. A true conservative would curse Lincoln, and John Adams, and any other President who appropriated to himself the right to overturn constitutional freedoms–no matter what excuses were offered.
These devotees are so eager to denounce the holier-than-thou liberals, or as Thomas Sowell aptly labeled them years ago, “The Anointed.” Liberals do, indeed, exasperate, with their ideological certitudes, but no more than those of their opposition who make claim to theological certitudes. When have we ever experienced, in politics, anything like this sanctimonious, self-anointed Republican elite, with their special pipeline to God? Say what you might about liberal sanctimony, they never got this carried away with their superior, know-it-all sense of righteousness.
Are the current religious guardians attempting to reverse the damage done to our society over the years by dissolute liberals carrying water for their special interest groups? If so, why do these holy apostles believe they can change anything for the better, by giving us a perverted version of Jesus, one who offers His partisan blessings to catastrophe and mayhem? Are we to believe that Christ would bring havoc even to a land of “infidels” and be instrumental in causing the deaths of tens of thousands (if not hundreds of thousands) of people? There is no reason to believe that any force in the Heavens gives a twit about our political follies or is concerned about whether people are governed by a tyrant who rules a closed police state or a tyrant who rules a democracy.
As for those black “conservatives,” obviously, it was too much to hope that those who joined the neocon bandwagon might come up with some singular insights of their own, instead of just giving their “me-too” endorsement to our current rogue state.