I have stumbled upon one of the more interesting pages that I have seen in some time—View from the Right, manned by Lawrence Auster. I am a bit shocked that I did not know of his page before, given that he engages several topics that have long interested me, such as politics, race, religion, traditionalism, and the problems of modernity. There is no shortage of conservative web sites, and there is no shortage of kooky web sites that deal with such topics, but there are not many places where Auster’s ideas are discussed somewhat soberly. I am sure that I have seen his name cited before on other pages, but the mind does not register unknown variables well. As when you learn a new word that you think that you have never before seen and then afterward see it everywhere, I expect to encounter Auster henceforth in many internet quarters.
I was surprised to discover that Auster is an Episcopalian; I did not think that such folks were allowed to say that someone else had incorrect opinions. The Anglicans are the most generously open-minded theists that I know. Then I found out that Auster’s background is Jewish, and he then made more sense to my frame of reference. The only Episcopalian that I know who maintains a robust faith is a convert from the rabbis’ way. Pretty soon, the only believers in the Anglican communion will be Jews and Africans. Now, that does sound faintly familiar . . .
Anyway, I spent hours into the night reading through his page, and I was delighted to see a flagrant dismissal of our society’s new doctrinal taboos. Auster even questions the wisdom of female suffrage. To my knowledge, only Lady Ann and Auster have suggested that female suffrage might be a mistake, and, well, who can be surprised at Coulter? No doubt, skeptics of “soccer mom” statesmanship must exist, but they dare not speak their minds. Being called a racist in America’s hierarchy of values is far worse than being called a sexist, but a man typically has to live with women, and he thus holds his tongue. In our segregation-by-choice culture, the (privately) less multiculturally enthusiastic try to avoid the browner denizens of their city—though surely they will wear their “I Voted for Obama” around in public to assuage their conflicted racist consciences. How brave and enlightened they are to try to overcome their naturally inherited bigotry! Aren’t you proud of them as much as they are proud of themselves?
In response to one of Auster’s entries, I sent a comment to him, and he published it and added a response. Elsewhere on the page, Auster addresses various criticisms of him, one of which is his supposed lack of humor. However, his title for my comment brought a smile to my face: “Lawrence Auster and the cult of white victim-hood.” He is a funny guy, and I am looking forward to reading his page.
My criticism simply pointed to his choice of language, which reminded me of revolting Marxist Hyphenated-Studies Speak with its post-modern obsessions with power, domination, perspective, and the rest of the intellectual rot. Clearly, Auster is not of that mold and is in no danger of falling into its abyss of lunacy, my attempt at humor in the comment notwithstanding. Yet, my profound disgust for that style of expression compelled me to respond. Similarly, there exist some jargon terms that elicit a small but real tremor of rage in me when I encounter them—it is irrational, but I am human. Among the words that instantly signal the red flags of crack-pot tomfoolery are “empower” and “authentic” and their forms. I do not mind when I hear about authentic Spanish coins or authentic Icelandic songs; those are legitimate, sensible employments of the word. Rather, I mean when some cognitively flaccid existentialist fop speaks of “inauthentic existence.” It pains me when otherwise insightful French Catholic philosophers wield the term; I cannot help but unjustly lose a bit of respect for them because some of their fellow spiritual wayfarers ruined the idea for me. Anyway, Auster’s “That new America is one in which whites can no longer be themselves, can no longer assert themselves as whites, can no longer express the truth as they see it, but must defer to the new, nonwhite order” sent me over the top for its resemblance to post-modern relativistic slop. My apologies to Lawrence Auster for reacting to a viscerally felt pet peeve; it was a matter of style, not content—how emblematic of our current election season.
Other than the dismal subject matter, I found something else disheartening on Auster’s View from the Right. As with other pages that deal with controversial topics and stir human emotions, Auster addresses some feuds that he has with various conservative figures. I know that writers are human beings like anyone else, but there is something voyeuristic and perverse about being privy to ugly disagreements, even when they are public. I remember first having had that sinking feeling when I read about the animosity between Ann Coulter and the National Review after September 11, 2001, or whenever less than gentlemanly barbs fly in conservative E-Space, as one sees occasionally among John Derbyshire, Ramesh Ponnuru, and others. Recently, I was saddened to read Peter Brimelow’s character assessment of William F. Buckley, Jr., whom I long fancied a hero. I do not know any of these people, though I have had the fortune to meet many of them at talks. However, they are like celebrities; I feel like I know them in some way because I have been reading them for the past decade on a weekly basis. The relationship is one-sided, but the human heart has its own laws. Therefore, I am kindly disposed to them, and it pains me to see them act in a manner unbecoming, at least in my opinion, towards one another . . . “Can’t we all just get along?” may be facile and naive, but it remains a sincere call from the human soul.
I certainly support an engaged and principled debate; men, especially such educated and insightful chaps, should be able to argue rationally with one another without offense or resentment. Yet, the internet is littered with thin-skinned squabbles wherein it appears, to an observer, at least, that both sides are operating under a hermeneutic of suspicion and of doubt. It may simply be the medium; folks somehow come to abstract the words from a computer monitor from their source and to forget that there is a living, breathing person who composed those words. Why should one be civil to a machine?
When I first ventured onto internet discussion boards in undergrad., I found them hopelessly tainted with rudeness and immaturity. On sites dedicated to Christian apologetics, I encountered men forty years older than I behaving like ill-bred little punks, and I grew disillusioned of web discourse very quickly. This past spring, Andrew introduced me to Orthodox Circle, but I did not remain long because I was afraid that it would become another temptation toward despair for me. As in real life, a couple of arses ruin everyone’s time at a party. It is my own shortcoming that I cannot just brush off such behavior; for it reminds me of the sorry state of mankind. As the Latins say, Beliefnet and similar sites provide an occasion of sin for me; they make me question God’s goodness in creating creatures so blessed with intellectual gifts but with such demonic propensity to irrationality. Of course, the theodicists can do an impressive juggle with the problem of evil, but I always suspect that a more immediate answer lies in a design flaw. That is my coarse fallen disposition at work, I suppose, but such thoughts come more readily to the mind when I try to engage someone with good will and thus incur irrelevant vicious tirades. I expect as much among heathens and infidels—but among Christians? It is scandalous, and I sin doubly by having the whole incident stroke my self-righteousness.
Anyway, I was saddened to follow Auster’s digital volleys—but still morbidly interested enough to read them, as one consumes sordid human affairs in the papers. Auster grills Derbyshire for his atheism, among other things, and he accuses Buchanan of anti-Semitism. I can see his points, but I just do not like the fact of a public dispute gone personal. Reagan popularized Gaylord Parkinson’s “Eleventh Commandment”: Thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican, the political benefit of which is obvious. However, there is a psychological benefit to conducting family business in a genial manner—one should not demoralize the faithful. I fear that recriminations among the Right, when done in a spirit of hatred and pride rather than charitable constructive criticism, harm everyone.
I am not claiming that Auster makes any unfair or fair feuding statements; I have no interest to play judge, and I certainly do not have the requisite knowledge to have such an opinion were I to fancy it. I am simply reflecting on the undesirability of a house divided. Nonetheless, View from the Right is overall a provocative read. Enjoy . . .