As an adolescent attending middle school, I was familiar with two
types of bullies. Seeing that I had the misfortune of being both fat
and short at the time, this knowledge came in handy. The first type
of bully towered over his victim, and unless you immediately surrendered
your candy or change, he would not hesitate to push you around. Occasionally
in this Hobbesian world, another gigantic bully would come along and
beat up your oppressor, but then instead of ending the extortions,
the victorious tough would proceed to shake down those who had already
been exploited. It was truly an example of the circularity of history
that the ancient Greeks wrote about.
But there was also a second type of bully, whom my friend Taki mocks
to perfection. It was the puny, insecure kid who tried to act tough
as long as his bigger buds, who were usually in hearing range, could
rush to his aid. All that the bluffer had to do for protection would
be to shout for the big bruisers to rescue him. Once the incident was
dealt with, the faux bully would be able to go back to “talking
For those who might not have guessed, I consider the neoconservatives,
and particularly their minicon offspring and hangers-on, to exemplify
the second type of bully. By themselves they are quite ineffective
and, like the upstart editors of National Review, they are something
less than genuinely tough guys. What allows them to push around dissenters
on the American Right is that they have useful “connections.” Among
their helpers are the stooges who go after anyone who presumes to question
the present “moderate” leadership of the “movement.”
More important, the neocons have friends in the establishment liberal
press who have no desire to see political debate drift toward the right.
They therefore help the neocons to marginalize their right-wing critics
by trashing them as “anti-Semites” and extremists. It is
surely a plus to have stiffs like Rush Limbaugh, who insist that those
who use the term neoconservative in a noncomplimentary way or who are
small-government critics of the invasion of Iraq are really baiting
One also learns from reading this month’s British New
Statesman that Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul was engaging in an
anti-Jewish outburst when he asserted that the “neoconservatives
wanted this war.” And I won’t even go into the diatribe
against the late Russell Kirk done by Alan Wolfe in The
New Republic in June, since I responded to this rant at some length on another website.
But it would not be overspeculative to assume that Wolf’s invective
might have been published as a way of punishing those reactionary “anti-Semites,” who,
like Kirk, had not always treated The New Republic’s preferred
opposition with appropriate respect.
At one time, back in the 1980s and 1990s, the mock bullies were allowed
to get away with their intimidation; and I noticed how effectively
they blackened the reputations of Mel Bradford, Joe Sobran, and Sam
Francis. What has happened since then, however, is that the bullies
have gone from being feared to being despised, and the result has been
to change the rules of engagement. Before that juncture those whom
the neocons disgraced, such as the hapless Professor Bradford, withdrew
from the battle or else, like my departed, very close friend Sam, struggled
on with diminished resources.
Perhaps the fact that Pat Buchanan did not cave in before the onslaughts
of his neoconservative-liberal enemies somehow affected the way the
war would take shape afterward. What Pat called the “branding
iron of anti-Semitism” no longer necessarily achieved its effect
by reducing its victim to a cowed or thoroughly ruined object of obloquy.
Of course, Pat also had his own big guns to pull out in that struggle,
but the important thing is that he gave even better than he got and
is still an author and TV personality with a huge following.
Now the neocons themselves are being turned into punching bags, whether
or not they publicly acknowledge what is going on. They are being knocked
from pillar to post on websites that attract millions of readers; all
they do in response, save for an occasional, soporific reference to “anti-Semites,” is
try to ignore their attackers, while making sure they have closed all
their resources to their critics on the right.
But these responses are no longer adequate. The attacks continue to
come. Personally I hope the devastation never stops until we have humiliated
the cowardly bullies, who have marginalized so many of us professionally.
Special rules of engagement exist for such a struggle, in which one
finds oneself dealing with a less-than-honorable adversary. These are
the rules that applied when a phony bully at our school, perhaps someone
who looked like David Frum, was no longer seen as invulnerable. We
would be happy to rumble with their lefty protectors, once we have
finished with the blowhards on the playground.
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