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Help, Help, I'm Being Repressed!

Such is the response from the critics of the entire "crunchy con" phenomenon and the blog Crunchy Cons. "Don't impose your crunchy values on me!" they cry. The blog has only been around for three days, and already there is such a strained and hysterical reaction--just imagine what a month of Crunchy Cons will provoke!

Are anarcho-syndicalist communes crunchy?

As for complaints of "imposing" a definition of conservatism (Jonah Goldberg has never done that, I'm sure), Caleb Stegall addresses and crushes this silly sort of objection fairly easily:

One more thought in response to those who would object to this discussion as certain people “imposing” their view of conservatism on the rest. First, regarding the word “conservative” itself and whether all this spilled ink can be justified by what is, after all, “just a word,” the answer is, yes, it is justified. The word conservative, like few others in the American lexicon, has an immensely powerful purchase on the American political/cultural/religious mind in a way that words like Tory, Whig, Mugwump, or Bull Moose just don’t. So long as that is true, debates like this will and should occur. Second, none should know this better than Buckley’s crew and their readers. As the premiere intellectual outlet of movement conservatism over the last fifty years, NR periodically engaged in these kinds of discussions exorcising first the John Birchers, then the Randians, and recently the Buchananites from the respectably conservative fold. That’s an observation, not necessarily a criticism. The point is just that the content of “conservatism” matters, and to suggest otherwise, or to pretend that no one can “impose” their version of what is conservative, is, shall we say, disingenuous.

Daniel Larison | February 24, 2006


I'm not sure the word conservative is worth all the fuss. As R.L. Dabney observed over one hundred years ago, it's a matter of which group is moving at a faster rate toward perdition.

[Northern 'conservatism'] is a party which never 'conserves' anything. Its history has been that it demurs to each aggression of the progressive party, and aims to save its credit by a respectable amount of growling, but always acquiesces at last in the innovation. What was the resisted novelty of yesterday is today one of the accepted principles of 'conservatism'; it is now 'conservative' only in affecting to resist the next innovation, which will tomorrow be forced upon its timidity; and will be succeeded by some third revolution, to be denounced and then adopted in its turn.

American 'conservatism' is merely the shadow that follows Radicalism as it moves forward towards perdition. It remains behind it, but never retards it, and always advances near its leader. This pretended salt hath utterly lost its savor: wherewith shall it be salted?

Its impotency is not hard, indeed, to explain. It is worthless because it is the 'conservatism' of expediency only, and not of sturdy principle. It intends to risk nothing serious for the sake of the truth, and has no idea of being guilty of the folly of martyrdom. It always - when about to enter a protest - very blandly informs the wild beast, whose path it essays to stop, that its bark is worse than its bite, and that it only means to save its manners by enacting its decent role of resistance. The only practical purpose which it now subserves in American politics is to give enough exercise to Radicalism to keep it 'in wind,' and to prevent its becoming pursy and lazy from having nothing to whip.

Jon Luker | 02/24/06 16:36

All of that is basically right. I take issue with the reduction of conservatism to defense of the status quo because all real philosophical and political conservatism that I consider worthwhile and meaningful regarded it as far more than that. If Yankees and Americans generally have not embraced that kind of conservatism, but are satisfied with the lukewarm alternative they have, that should not give anyone the right to strip the word of its better meanings. I also took issue with Goldberg in this case because his objection to "crunchies" imposing their ideas on other conservatives, as if conservatism has not always been contested, as Caleb Stegall said, is disingenuous and intended to make the entire discussion irrelevant or illegitimate. That is a sign that Goldberg knows his definition of conservatism is losing traction and cannot hold its own in an argument. The response to the "crunchies" among their critics has been almost entirely one of trepidation and loathing, because they are horrified at the prospect of being seriously challenged or perhaps eventually eclipsed.

Daniel Larison | 02/24/06 16:44

I give up, why the link to Monty Python?

The Scholastic | 02/25/06 00:12

Sorry if the Python reference wasn't clear. "Help, help, I'm being repressed" is what the member of the autonomous collective in the anarcho-syndicalist commune says to King Arthur. It was just to poke a bit of fun at Goldberg and the rest.

Daniel Larison | 02/25/06 12:17

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