Tuesday, April 4

The Crunchy Bunch: As Always, It's a Pleasure To Say Goodbye to You

"We are a movement of arguments and ideas, right?"

--Jonah Goldberg

When all was said, and little or nothing was done, the key exchange of NRO's Crunchy Bunch blog happened at the end of its first week, in this Rod Dreher/Jonah Goldberg exchange:
Re: The Crunchy Third Rail
[Dreher 02/24 01:44 PM ]

To read a terrific explication of a closely related point, turn to the title essay of Wendell Berry’s 1992 book Sex, Economy, Freedom & Community: Eight Essays . Excerpt:

The conventional public opposition of “liberal” and “conservatives” is, here as elsewhere, perfectly useless. The “conservatives” promote the family as a sort of public icon, but they will not promote the economic integrity of the household or the community, which are the mainstays of family life. Under the sponsorship of “conservative” presidencies, the economy of the modern household, which once required the father to work away from home – a development that was bad enough – now requires the mother to work away from home, as well. And this development has the wholehearted endorsement of “liberals,” who see the mother thus forced to spend her days away from her home and children as “liberated” – though nobody has yet sent he fathers thus forced away as “liberated.” Some feminists are thus in the curious position of opposing the mistreatment of women and yet advocating their participation in an economy in which everything is mistreated.

The “conservatives” more or less attack homosexuality, abortion and pornography, and the “liberals” more or less defend them. Neither party will oppose sexual promiscuity. The “liberals” will not oppose promiscuity because they do not wish to appear intolerant of “individual liberty.” The “conservatives” will not oppose promiscuity because sexual discipline would reduce the profits of corporations, which in their advertisements and entertainments encourage sexual self-indulgence as a way of selling merchandise.

The public discussion of sexual issues has thus degenerated into a poor attempt to equivocate between private lusts and public emergencies. Nowhere in public life (that is, in the public life that counts: the discussions of political and corporate leaders) is there an attempt to respond to community needs in the language of community interest.

And Jonah surfaces:
Uh, Ok...Maybe, I think
[Goldberg 02/25 04:58 PM ]

...[I]t is flatly not true that conservatives do not denounce promiscuity or try to tackle it. This administration puts real dollars behind its advocacy of abstinence, here and abroad. Christian conservative Churches speak out against promiscuity. Right wing groups launch boycotts, letter writing campaigns and propose legislation for things like the V-Chip. They oppose distributing condoms in schools, precisely because they think doing so will promote promiscuity. Conservatives criticize the popular culture. And so on. Now, they may not do it enough. That's a legitimate argument to make. But it's patent nonsense to say they don't do it. That is not a trivial point.

For completeness' sake we should note that within twenty-four hours of that first post Dreher was saying that "divorced from the context of the long essay the quote doesn't stand up so well," and twenty-four hours after that he was saying Berry "wildly overstates his case."

Wendell Berry, polemicist, agrarian, poet, Christian, farmer, critic of the first Iraq war and the war on terror (and terra), anti-industrialist, social moralist, is a thoughtful and thought-provoking writer, which means Jonah Goldberg has no standing to slag him off and Rod Dreher no right to call on him for support, let alone toss him off the bus at the first sign of opposition.

What became obvious rather quickly on that blog was that what might have made it interesting--the collision of "Conservative" apologetics as practiced at The Corner with the prodigious brick wall between their social moralisms and unbridled affection for Big Bidness--wasn't going to happen. Instead we were treated, if that's the right word, to a mock battle over who gets to keep the logo.

It's a mock battle because Dreher had conceded before it began; his allegiance is to the religious, specifically the Catholic, Right, and he's trying to steer from the back of the bus. What insight Berry might have had into the issue didn't concern him, which is why he could scuttle the thing so quickly and so completely. That big business "conservatism" champions the very moral ills he warns about--that is, basically, sexual immorality--is a matter of "argument and ideas" in the Goldberg sense. What he really liked about the Berry essay was the denunciation of promiscuity.

On the other side stands our Jonah. If Dreher has purposely defanged his argument, Goldberg bites like a man with ill-fitted dentures. "It's not a trivial point," he insists, but he spits up a litany of trivialities. Berry said "conservative" power, not every last erotophobe in the country who pulls the GOP handle, refuses to oppose promiscuity. In response Jonah gives us one example, funding for abstinence advocacy, that's an actual government program (and, we might add, a particularly toothless one; there's not a high probability that preaching abstinence at teenagers is going to reduce the public appetite for porn). That's it? Twenty-five years of Just Say No? The Socialist libertine Bill Clinton, signer of the Defense of Marriage Act, opponent of same-sex unions, and Father of the V-Chip, did as much.

Instead of calling him on it, Dreher apologized for quoting someone so over the top. Onward Crunchy Soldiers, marching as to War, up until we see the Elephant.

Is this the preview of '08 the Doughboy seemed to imagine it was when he wrote (yet again) a couple weeks later that the supposed "conservative" rift was nothing of the sort? I've been saying since '96, when the rabid religionists stopped slavering, supported Dole, and allowed themselves to be pushed off the prime-time Convention podium the first of three times (only Zell Miller broke the rule, his maniac ranting acceptable because he's a Democrat), that the religionists saw '08 as their Big Chance. They were gonna dance with whomever the nominee was in the meantime just to defeat Clinton/Gore. Of course, things have changed, beginning with the popular notion that Bush was a Man of God, and ending with the recent suggestions that He's Not Really a "Conservative" at All.

I certainly didn't predict that the wheels would come flying off the Bush administration quite so spectacularly, or the mass frog marching of the Republican Congress. Whether that, and the best efforts of Tim Russert gives John McCain new hope is a question that'll be answered by money, not logic. But the religious Right is not going to roll over and beg to have its belly scratched the way Rod and his army of Crunchiness did. God, it's only Tuesday morning. I've already spent too much time with Neighbor Dog.

I'd returned to that first week of posts after checking out Check Out Day. As the End drew near Rod gave us a reading list, then added some titles from an emailer which included Aristotle's Politics. God I love reading "conservative" blogs.

The fun was from the day before, with this:
Battle lines
[Rod Dreher 03/30 11:05 AM ]

Things went pretty well with the Washington Post reporter, Hank Stuever, who turned out to be a really nice guy. At one point asked a perfectly reasonable question that I had hoped he might not, because I had to get into something controversial that’s difficult to talk about and which … well, I didn’t hold back, I told all, and I guess everybody will find out when the Style section hits the stands in a couple of weeks.

Anyway, at one point we talked a bit about the hardened battle lines between Left and Right in this country, which is something I decry in the final chapter of Crunchy Cons . I talk (in the book) about trying to think past the stale left-vs-right dynamic that has our political imagination so paralyzed right now, but how hearing some smug liberals in a local bar talk about how satisfying it would be if an Islamic militant drove a truck bomb into a conservative Baptist church in town made me so angry I was ready in that moment to vote Republican until kingdom come.

This, I wrote, is how it happens. How both parties and their partisan machines keep us all stuck on stupid when it comes to voting: they gin up such fear and hatred of the Other that they get us to be loyal to them no matter how badly they’re failing, or lousy their agendas. I told Hank that to look at the mainstream left and right today, one is reminded of trench warfare in World War I, in which two armies expend tremendous firepower and destructive effort to advance 50 yards. It’s dispiriting. “So, how do we break out of it?” the reporter asked. I didn’t know what to tell him. What should I have told him?

Five Weeks in a Balloon. We need to overcome this Left/Right trench warfare, and as an example here's something my cab driver told me I saw in a comment at Kos overheard in a bar. This from a guy who "can't even talk to" liberal members of his own Church. Republican hegemony has been a total disaster, not the least to supposed "conservative" values, but what gets Dreher is what some local says after several Cosmopolitans. I love the pretense that he's a potential swing voter. I'd love to see him confront either the logical conclusions of the supposed Crunchy manifesto (how, exactly, does a "free" economy eliminate the consumer demand for sex, and don't say by true believers thinking good thoughts). I'd like to see, just once, any of these Corner types deal honestly with their opponents instead of sharing "ideas and arguments" in an echo chamber (oh, right, Goldberg did just that by refusing to debate Juan Cole). I can hardly wait for that Style section in two weeks' time. In the meantime, we'll always have Paris. Hilton. that blatant dishonesty above.


Anonymous said...

Absolutely. Endless, equivocating drivel is the only hallmark of crunchyconnitude I can actually identify.

A mock battle to keep the logo indeed. From where I sit, the crunchycons' basic problem is that conservative orthodoxy will always trump their ersatz heresy, because deep down, they don't really have a manifesto to nail to the church door. In the religion they cling to, the economic integrity of the community ain't never gonna be a moral issue—not in this conservative heaven-on-earth where, by admirable design, hedge fund managers "make" a billion dollars a year (i.e. $22 million per week) while the minimum wage stagnates for a decade at $5.15/hr. (accruing to a yearly income that the aforementioned hedge fund manager will "earn" in the first 1.25 minutes of his workyear). The crunchycons want so badly to believe it's a wonderful life that they suffer the delusion that they can all be George Baileys in a movement that is wholly owned and operated by Mr. Potters. So, by necessity, talk of morality has to evaporate down to sex—anything else would be genuine apostasy.

Aside from all that, Dreher really put on the Dweebic chasuble to expound ex cathedra in one of his last crunchy posts about the Day That Changed Him Forever:
We [sic] collectively refused to take Islamic terrorism and extremism with appropriate seriousness, and in my opinion, we have not changed. I am fascinated by willful blindness — including my own; I have reproached myself many times for being unwilling to take seriously the warnings prior to the Iraq War that the US would inherit a fractured country that would tend to a civil war we couldn’t control. I didn’t want to see that, because I was so eager to see someone, anyone, pay for 9/11. But that’s another story.

Yes that's another story. Besides there's nothing immoral about a little willful blindness.

Anonymous said...

"reproached myself"... oh, if only that meant a really serious round of self-flogging... here, let me help instead.

Anonymous said...

Jonah's partly right, you know. They are a movement, but not of arguments and ideas. In fact, I feel one of their movements coming on right now. Excuse me while I retire to the ladies' room.