Andy wastes no time presenting himself as the voice of reason and political rationalism in the first paragraph of his essay of dated September 14,2018. This essay is awash in self-congratulation , not to speak of outbreaks of rhetorical purple. The first paragraph is revelatory of Mr. Divine’s amour propre.
Headline: America Desperately Needs a Healthy Conservatism
‘In these fetid times, it’s easy to know what you’re against. And I’ve spent many diaries assailing the dueling Trump and “social justice” cults on the illiberal right and left these past several months. But what am I for?’
That’s a harder question but a useful one to ask yourself from time to time. You don’t defeat something with nothing. So I thought I’d take a brief detour from the tribal abyss, and go back to some first principles. I remain a conservative, pretty much where I’ve always been, with the exception of foreign policy where I’ve seen the folly of interventionism in the wake of Iraq. By conservative, I do not mean Republican. To my mind, the Republican Party has become — and not just recently — a cancer on this particular strain of Western thought. To those who believe that this is a cop-out, or a version of the “all true conservatives” gambit, I offer a new book, which sure buoyed my spirits, and helped me regain my bearings. Reading it, for me, was like feeling an unexpectedly cool, dry breeze on a stiflingly humid day.
Andy is not an original thinker , these thinkers/writers are the rarest of creatures, but Andy has found his touchstone in Roger Scruton’s new book ‘Conservatism: An Invitation to the Great Tradition’. But first read Scruton’s explanation of the why of his Conservatism from his Wikipedia Page :
In 1967 he began studying for his PhD at Jesus, then became a research fellow at Peterhouse, Cambridge (1969–1971), where he lived with Laffitte when she was not in France. It was while visiting her during the May 1968 student protests in France that Scruton first embraced conservatism. He was in the Latin Quarter in Paris, watching students overturn cars, smash windows and tear up cobblestones, and for the first time in his life “felt a surge of political anger”:
‘I suddenly realised I was on the other side. What I saw was an unruly mob of self-indulgent middle-class hooligans. When I asked my friends what they wanted, what were they trying to achieve, all I got back was this ludicrous Marxist gobbledegook. I was disgusted by it, and thought there must be a way back to the defence of western civilization against these things. That’s when I became a conservative. I knew I wanted to conserve things rather than pull them down.’ ‘
Scruton and Andy Divine share a contempt for the hooligans of the Left. Of the ‘Right‘, Scruton experience and its subsequent contempt for the Marxist of Paris 1968, does not address the ‘Right’ as representative of nihilism, it plays no part at all! Except that some of those ’68’s became a part of the Nouvelle Droite:
And The New Philosophers:
An historical inconvenience for Scruton. So is this part of his Wikipedia page that puts his status of Conservative paragon into the realm of political wishful thinking!:
Tobacco company funding
Scruton was criticized in 2002 for having written articles about smoking without disclosing that he was receiving a regular fee from Japan Tobacco International (JTI) (formerly R. J. Reynolds). In 1999 he and his wife—as part of their consultancy work for Horshells Farm Enterprises—began producing a quarterly briefing paper, The Risk of Freedom Briefing (1999–2007), about the state’s control of risk. Distributed to journalists, the paper included discussions about drugs, alcohol and tobacco, and was sponsored by JTI. Scruton wrote several articles in defence of smoking around this time, including one for The Times, three for The Wall Street Journal, one for City Journal, and a 65-page pamphlet for the Institute of Economic Affairs, WHO, What, and Why: Trans-national Government, Legitimacy and the World Health Organisation (2000). The latter criticized the World Health Organization‘s campaign against smoking, arguing that transnational bodies should not seek to influence domestic legislation because they are not answerable to the electorate.
The Guardian reported in 2002 that Scruton had been writing about these issues while failing to disclose that he was receiving £54,000 a year from JTI. The payments came to light when a September 2001 email from the Scrutons to JTI was leaked to The Guardian. Signed by Scruton’s wife, it asked the company to increase their £4,500 monthly fee to £5,500, in exchange for which Scruton would “aim to place an article every two months” in The Wall Street Journal, Times, Telegraph, Spectator, Financial Times, Economist, Independent or New Statesman. Scruton, who said the email had been stolen, replied that he had never concealed his connection with JTI. In response to The Guardian article, The Financial Times ended his contract as a columnist, The Wall Street Journal suspended his contributions, and the Institute for Economic Affairs said it would introduce an author-declaration policy. Chatto & Windus withdrew from negotiations for a book, and Birkbeck removed his visiting-professor privileges.
Mr. Divine’s view of the political extremes is attuned to the American present and the danger of both ‘Left’ and ‘Right‘ as the expression of nihilism. In sum, the reader is given a book review of Scruton’s conception of ‘Conservatism’, embellished with Mr. Divine’s interpretations. But Andy pulls out all the stops in one of his near penultimate paragraphs, of this part of his usual tripartite essays:
I despise it because I am a conservative. I don’t believe that conservatism can be revived on the right (it has been thankfully sustained, by default, by the Democrats in recent decades) until this hateful philistine would-be despot and his know-nothing cult is gone. And by revived, I do not mean a return to neoconservatism abroad or supply side crack-pottery at home. The 1980s and 1990s are over. I mean a conservatism that can tackle soaring social and economic inequality as a way to save capitalism, restore the financial sector as an aid to free markets and not their corrupting parasite, a conservatism that will end our unending wars, rid the criminal justice system of its racial blind spots, defend liberal education and high culture against the barbarians of postmodernism and the well-intentioned toxins of affirmative action, pay down the debt, reform the corruption of religious faith, protect our physical landscape, invest in non-carbon energy, and begin at the local level to rebuild community and the spirit of American civil association.
All that is missing from this list of what a re-imagined Conservatism can accomplish is the fact that Conservatives care not one whit about the concerns of Mr. Divine’s Utopian Vision of Conservatism. Scruton does not represent that Conservatism, that Mr. Divine pines for in The Age of Trump, but a completely corrupt opportunism. That shopworn cliche ‘actions speak louder than words’ offers the reader a usable explanatory frame, by which to judge Scruton’s opportunism.
Mr. Divine practices, with abandon, his moralizing politics , to remind the reader of his status as an American Cassandra, or better yet a Tiresias! Who has placed his wager on the utterly corrupt Scruton, as his political touchstone. Mr Divine is a superficial propagandist, fueled by his narcissism and by the absence of anything resembling judgement, in any of its iterations.