jimsleeper.com » Glenn Beck Shows Neocons it’s 1939 Again

Glenn Beck Shows Neocons it’s 1939 Again


Glenn Beck Shows Neo-cons it’s 1939

By Jim Sleeper – November 12, 2010

American Jewish Stalinists of the 1930s broke with Russian Communism in lurches, as what they called their “locomotive of history” kept on derailing. Some were jolted off the train by Stalin’s unofficially but patently anti-Semitic “purge trials” of the mid-1930s. Others, who downplayed Russian Communism’s “Jewish question” out of noble or hardened faith in its professed universalism, woke up only in 1939, when Stalin signed his infamous non-aggression pact with Hitler. Still others woke up only in 1956, when the USSR rolled over the Hungarian Revolution and Nikita Khrushchev acknowledged Stalin’s totalitarian crimes.

By then, most American Jewish Stalinist thinking was on its way to neo-conservatism, a new haven for unchanging, preternatural insecurities and the over-compensatory bombast that always accompanies them. As this mindset migrated from left-universalist socialism to right-nationalist capitalism — both ends of the spectrum “religious” and Manichaean in their different ways — it disdained most American Jews, who’ve never been Stalinists and will never be neo-cons because they’ve had the intellectual and political maturity to become civic-republican liberals in the American way.

“A neoconservative is a liberal who has been mugged by reality,” claimed neo-con godfather Irving Kristol, meaning the “reality” that most people who claim to be noble are actually duped by, or strategists of, movements dark and cruel. Kristol, believing that liberals are especially naive about this, didn’t suspect that a liberal might also be a neo-conservative who’s been mugged by a reality like Glenn Beck’s attacks on George Soros. Daily Beast columnist Michelle Goldberg has rightly called Beck’s rants “a symphony of the dog whistles of anti-Semitism.”

Yes, it is happening here, and neo-conservatives are experiencing another lurch that should jolt some more of them off the right-wing train. From Norman Podhoretz to Irving Kristol’s son William, they will have to take an unequivocal stand, not just against Glenn Beck but against Fox News: Beck has no First Amendment right to be on Fox, and Fox can exercise its First Amendment right (and moral obligation) to take him and its other bigots off the air. So far, Bill Kristol and his Murdoch-owned Weekly Standard have been silent about this. Most neo-conservatives have been silent.

The sickening, acrid feeling rising in their stomachs is just the beginning of what they’ve been asking for for 30 years. Soros today, Summers tomorrow; anything but blame casino-finance, corporate-welfare capitalism itself: “Anti-Semitism is the socialism of fools,” as August Bebel put it. Little-big-man fools like Glenn Beck will have their day, and other fools, like Kristol, will pay.

Under the elder Kristol’s tutelage, neo-conservatives made a Faustian bargain with what would become Beck’s blend of right-wing Christian fundamentalism, national-security state militarism, and casino-finance capitalism. That bargain disgusts many Burkean conservatives because it exposes their own as well as neo-cons’ inability to reconcile their ardent desire for ordered liberty with their equally ardent obeisance to every whim and riptide of the casino- and corporate-welfare capitalism that are subverting all they cherish.

This false bargain’s cheerleaders have broken with it in lurches, just as the old Stalinists did. The promise of American “Free World” hegemony has been derailed not by terrorists or Islamicists but by its own bankrupting of the American republic’s economy, military, and civic culture, in ways you’d have to wrap yourself in an awfully big flag not to notice.

For some neo-cons, the wake up came around 1992 with the collapse of the Soviet Union, which they had transformed from an object of obsessive desire into an object of obsessive hatred. Suddenly, neither object was there. This equivalent of sensory deprivation owed less to their own incessant warnings across thirty years about “the present danger” of Soviet Communism and about American “failures of nerve” to confront it than it owed to wiser Americans’ policy of steady containment. That policy drew subtly on deeper republican strengths instead of drawing down the republic’s stored moral capital, in blunder after blunder, from Vietnam to the Supreme Court’s decision early this year to open the floodgates to corporate electioneering.

It was the cultivators of a more sober containment who won the Cold War, to which neo-cons brought the same manic insecurity and bombastic over-confidence that their intellectual forebears had brought to Communism and, before that, to the national greatness of the German Kaiserreich on the eve of World War I.

For years, I’ve urged American neo-cons to read Chapter 9, “War Fever,” in Amos Elon’s The Pity of It All: A Portrait of the German-Jewish Epoch, 1743-1933. But they haven’t read it, because they’ve been too busy writing it all over again with their lives. The same propensity to clamber onto the national security state in the name of a popular majority that’s actually more ambivalent about it than these courtier-consultants who live in it and off of it; the same tawdry “revolver journalism,” as Rebecca West called it, that degrades public discourse and deliberation to stampede the masses toward war.

For some American neo-cons, the wake up came in 2006, with the embarrassment of their own desperate strutting during the Iraq War and with Republican setbacks in congressional elections. Still others, such as David Brooks and David Frum, woke up when the economic meltdown and Republican National Convention of 2008 brought to the surface chilling undercurrents of “Yoo Es Ay! Yoo Es Ay!” blood-think that were coursing through a body politic degraded by decades of supply-side economics and national-security militarism. These were the naked emperors that haberdashers such as Brooks and Frum had worked so deftly and energetically to clothe.

Because the neo-cons’ rickety bargain with fundamentalism, militarism, and casino capitalism is as self-destructive as Stalin’s “Socialism in One Country,” they’re caught, like the Communists, teetering back and forth between imperial overreach and, when it fails, the scapegoating of….

The rest of the sentence is, of course, the problem, just as it was in Stalin’s Moscow and Kaiser Wilhelm’s Germany. And the rest of that sentence has been written in the New York Times’ description of Glenn Beck’s recent programs on Soros.

For neo-conservatives, it is no longer 2006 or 2008. It is 1939. It’s time for them to leave Murdoch’s evil empire and the corruption of the American republic that it represents.

All that remains to be written is the response of people like the younger Kristol, who “discovered” and commended Sarah Palin to John McCain and recently penned yet another of his strained apologias for both her and Glenn Beck in a Weekly Standard editorial on the Beck rally in Washington.

I could name many other neo-con talking machines I’m waiting to hear from. They’ll harrumph that they’ve known all along that Beck is a bit deranged, but David Bromwich was making that clear enough in the New York Review of Books last week, when they were still denying it.

So let them speak out. No one needed to hear what the last Stalinists were telling themselves in 1992 or what the last Jewish apologists for German national greatness were thinking in 1932. But, for Jewish neo-cons, it is no longer 2006 or 2008; it is 1939. And the rest of the Jewish community, not to mention America, is listening.

mimi-katz 1 week ago

  • Excellent post. The hardest thing to do, after you’ve sold your soul, is to try to get it back.
Richardxx 1 week ago
  • This is the best (short) set of categories making up the right wing I have seen to date. I also agree with mimi-katz above. It’s damned hard to commit yourself body and soul to an ideology and its organization and then find that it totally contradicts the very reasons you committed yourself in the first place.

    The usual reaction is to totally ignore the contradictions, even to the extent of attacking those who bring them up, and recommit to greater effort to achieve the goals of the organization and ideology you have joined. It takes a really important emotional event to break the commitment.
Richardxx 1 week ago in reply to Richardxx
  • mimi-katz said the same thing a lot more succinctly. I, of course, am always looking for the social mechanism that makes it true.
DICKERSON3870 1 week ago
  • RE: Mr. Beck said he was “probably more supportive of Israel and the Jews than George Soros is.” – NYT article
    MY COMMENT: Whatever, Glenn. And I’ll bet that some of your best friends are Jewish. And you have a condo on the beach in Tel Aviv. Right?
DICKERSON3870 1 week ago
  • Hungary!
    First, Éva Gábor.
    Now, George Soros.
    Don’t you see the pattern?
    Proof positive that Beck is right!
stevecoh1 1 week ago
  • What of the historical fact, minutia though it may be that most of the leading lights of neoconservatism have a trotskyist, not a stalinist pedigree?

    This may not change much, and this ancient controversy may mean nothing to most of today’s readers, but accuracy still has its place.
jimsleep 1 week ago in reply to stevecoh1
  • Actually, most of the leading lights of neo-conservatism have neither a Trotskyist nor a Stalinist pedigree; Irving Kristol was briefly a Trotskyist in his youth, but that’s about it.

    My point wasn’t that neocons as individuals have flipped from Stalinism to McCarthyism or Palinesque patriotism but that both extremes have the same mental morphology, the same habits of mind. More than a few “red diaper babies,” children or grand-children of the old, heavily Jewish New York left, have become neo-cons, because what they picked up from their elders was not a specific doctrine but a disposition to think ideologically that is harder and deeper-wired than the points of doctrine as such.

    Thus it’s possible to love the Soviet Union from afar, or hate it from afar, for reasons that are strikingly similar in terms of political psychology.

    That’s the point that needs to be understood about neo-cons, and, yes, I think that Jewish historical experience trying to adapt to and overcome marginality via universalism and power has a lot to do with it. That’s why Glenn Beck’s anti-Semitic imbecile rant leaves neo-cons looking so hypocritical or helpless; its very predictability makes the neo-cons seem either naive (in having sucked up to the rising power of the right) or opportunistic and clannish (if they cross their current ideological lines to defend Soros, a fellow Jew). Neo-cons aren’t visibly enough committed to a civic-republican give-and-take to get out of this looking trustworthy.
felicitymb 1 week ago in reply to jimsleep
  • Neocons seem to have ended up in the unfortunate position of not qualifying for the position Leo Strauss’s proclamation laid out that the superior intellectually and morally men of insight and superior wisdom must rule.
DICKERSON3870 6 days ago in reply to jimsleep
  • RE: “…both extremes have the same mental morphology, the same habits of mind. More than a few “red diaper babies,” children or grand-children of the old, heavily Jewish New York left, have become neo-cons, because what they picked up from their elders was not a specific doctrine but a disposition to think ideologically that is harder and deeper-wired than the points of doctrine as such.” – Sleeper
    MY COMMENT: This is a very intriguing working hypothesis. It makes a great deal of sense to me, but I would need to see other instances of this phenomenon having operated similarly in the past. I suspect they are there, but I am not enough of a student of history to identify them.
    A POSSIBLE (WEAK) EXAMPLE: What about some of the formerly paleoconservative Republicans who have “flipped” (or may be in the process) to being fairly/somewhat liberal Democrats/Independents/Greens? Possibilities: John Dean, Andrew Bacevich, David Stockman, Julie Nixon Eisenhower, Bruce Fein..
jimsleep 5 days ago in reply to DICKERSON3870
  • Well, I don’t think that the examples of Stockman, Bacevich, et al really fit, because these people pretty clearly are thinking for themselves outside of their former ideological boxes, not just “flipping” from one ideology to another.

    Perhaps more typical of what I have in mind are:

    a) the “new” right-winger who’s an obsessive anti-Communist and even an anti-liberal, precisely some leftist movement broke his faithful, youthful heart — people like a Whittaker Chambers, or, in our own time, a David Horowitz, a Ronald Radosh, or maybe even a Sol Stern or a Fred Siegel, two former 1960s leftists who can’t stop acting out the drama of their disillusionment by crusading against the naivete of those who, in their view, aren’t yet as disillusioned and clear-sighted as they;

    b) on the other end of the spectrum, the obsessive anti-capitalist who’s an “old money” WASP, such as Henry Wallace — a familiarly obdurate type who remains willfully blind to, and indeed clings to, the left’s fault lines and follies because he’s so preoccupied with cleansing himself of the sins of the privilege and false piety in his upbringing. WASPS who fall into this mode don’t bend; they simply transpose their intrepid Calvinist, Presbyterian or Puritan certainties into their new loyalty to “progressive” movements even those that are in fact themselves quite horrible. It’s political psychology on parade.

    I’m trying to write a longer essay about this. We’ll see who’s interested!

    Both characters are letting down a civic-republican ethos, and I think that some neo-cons’ cathexis onto Israel is driven by their effort to escape facing their own betrayal of that ethos here in America. ….
jruddclio 6 days ago
  • In Aharon Appelfeld’s novel “Badenheim 1939” the future Holocaust victims explain away the antisemitism by blaming those nasty and smelly “Ostjuden” for the problem–if it weren’t for them there wouldn’t be any prejudice against Jews. It seems that the contemporary Left plays the same kind of role in the minds of neocons–if their gentile bedfellows on the Right are so bigoted it’s really George Soros’ fault.
jimsleep 5 days ago
  • Yes, and I went further in 2006, when I noted that several centrist and liberal journalists who were creatures of the corporate state — from David Brooks to Jacob Weisberg — were blaming the continuing conservative hegemony of that time on the “crazy” left of Michael Moore, Ned Lamont, and Daily Kos and MoveOn, all in order to spare themselves a long look in the mirror.