[This book review appeared in the July/August 1997 issue of Conservative Review, pp. 35-38.]
Why Do Americans Submit to This?
Dr. Susan Huck
: Newcomb Publishers, Inc., 1997 McLean, VA
Reviewed by Dwight D. Murphey
The title of this book raises a question that is central to the “culture war.” There is nothing that enemies, foreign and domestic, can do to American society that is nearly so damaging as our own docility. Were it not for the comfortable acceptance by Americans of the ongoing attack on American culture, that assault would be stopped in its tracks.
To What Are We Submitting?
Just in case anyone, perhaps awakening from a forty-year slumber, wonders what it is that Americans are submitting to, Sue Huck (as she is affectionately known around the office of the Conservative Review, where she is, along with this reviewer, an associate editor) sets out her “D list” on the back cover. It refers to “what liberals like to see in the rest of us.” Here is a sample from it, although it deserves a close reading in its entirety—one of several reasons for buying the book:
Liberals, she says, like to see Americans as:
· “Dumb, as in both ‘dumbed-down’ and mute.
· “Docile, ready to be guided and trained, ready to accept any outrage.
· “Deprived of as much of our income as we will allow to be taken from us…
· “Deceived by the current propaganda line, whatever it may be…
· “Denounced for destroying the earth, oppressing ‘others,’ harboring bad thoughts…
· “Deracinated, if white—forbidden a sense of racial identity or pride…
· “Displaced from schools and jobs by federal pressure favoring federally-privileged groups…”
This list captures the essential points in American submissiveness. It is by default that we are losing our civilization and our culture.
Why Are Americans So Submissive?
Sue starts with a review of Jared Taylor’s excellent recent book, Paved With Good Intentions, and relates a conversation with
in which he broadened the question: “‘I think future historians will ask why whites committed suicide.’ The trend, he notes, is now global. Yes, it is—everywhere in Taylor Europe, visibly so in , and even in South Africa .” So it isn’t just Americans. Western civilization itself is under attack, and is allowing itself both to be eaten away by the acids of an alienated intellectual subculture and ultimately to be caused, through the medium of a massive influx of non-Western peoples, no longer recognizably to exist. Australia
All of us who write on these issues are short on explanations of why so few people care. And, despite her title, Sue Huck doesn’t give much explanation. Her book is a compilation—much better organized than other compilations I’ve seen, and with a short introductory essay to each cluster—of the many articles and book reviews she has written for Conservative Review between 1990 and 1997. It is a splendid, angry, and yet delightfully told account of the assault upon us. She has positioned herself to “see the face of evil” by being in personal contact with the countless crazies of the Left. There is probably no better book than hers for someone who wants the down-in-the-trenches detail of the culture war. But her question—vitally important as it is—remains mostly unanswered.
She is on the mark about it, though, when she refers to “rootless, valueless, weak-minded, irresponsible, adolescent, ‘other-directed’ people,” and says they “constitute more malleable material, if remaking society is your game.” This gets to the root of the matter in perhaps more than one way.
Modern Western civilization has long been overwhelmingly “bourgeois,” centered on a commercial way of life, with the “acting man” of business and industry central to it. Indeed, the overwhelming portion of the population has become “middle class,” living a life preoccupied with vocation, family and friends. This has historically, as far back as the ancient Greeks, been a way of life that has preoccupied itself with the practical affairs of daily living. Their life has not been leisured, and the “bourgeoisie” has chronically been unable to raise from within itself an intellectual culture—writers and artists—who will celebrate it and formulate principles and policies appropriate to it. Instead, the “intelligentsia,” except during the Renaissance, has been characteristically at war with it. Certainly this is a chief hallmark of the modern age. What is relevant in the context of Western submissiveness is that, absent an appropriate intelligentsia, the so-called “bourgeoisie” has been without a voice. By its nature, it is a “silent majority.” And that silence creates a void into which alienated voices are quick to rush.
Not only that, but an “un-idea’d culture” produces the very “rootlessness” Sue refers to, at least under circumstances in which roots are not furnished by “hoary tradition.” A capitalistic economy thrives, however, precisely upon mobility, and even demands it as part of the ever-continuing economic adjustment that occurs in a market. It is impossible to develop and maintain “hoary tradition” when grown children move half-a-continent from their original homes for jobs and professions. It is even less possible when an alienated intellectual subculture attacks every “acculturation” that could provide tradition. So, “rootlessness” is part of the package, and this is in effect deracination.
The middle class is at the same time affected by the success that marks its existence. While supremely busy, its members do enjoy an affluence that exceeds that of any prior epoch. Affluence leads to complacency. People don’t welcome being budged from their comfortable round. It is easier to conform even their thinking than it is to bestir themselves in protest. This leads to setting up all sorts of rationalizations that claim it is most truly respectable to conform to what the alienated subculture sets forth so insistently. Who among us doesn’t know a great many “moderates” of this sort, who never become angry at the Left’s assault but harbor great resentment against anyone who would disturb their complacency. (This, in my opinion, was the central issue at stake in the controversy over Senator Joseph McCarthy 45 years ago. He wanted people to react to the fact that 600 million people had, within the five years immediately before the start of his campaign in 1950, fallen under Communist brutality. The really crucial fight was between those who cared and those who quite militantly insisted that we not care. Of course, the Left was in the tussle, too, providing, as always, the complacent moderates with its central vision.)
Out of all this is fashioned cowardice, at least of the moral, if not the physical, sort. Such people lead fearful lives, ever apprehensive lest anyone suspect their conformity is less than total. You would think they were threatened with a firing squad or something. The fact that they are not, and may often be threatened with nothing more than a temporary irritation from their fellow-conformists, shows the extent of their cowardice. It is so profound as to be existential.
These, then, are the marshmallows against whom we are pushing when we seek a revitalization of American culture. All it would take to reverse the assault Sue Huck traces so well would be for a few million of them to buy her book and care enough to talk with their friends about it. The despair of contemporary American conservatism lies, though, in our knowledge that they won’t.
A Sprightly Discussion of Issues in the Culture War
Sue Huck is not a heavy writer. Everything she produces is full of bounce and satiric humor. It is a good thing, too, because the subjects she discusses are deadly serious—so much so that, as the book goes along, one comes to know that the laughter is both a reflection of Sue’s own effervescent sense of life and a veil to soften her rage.
She discusses the inanities of “liberal” education, the omnipresent propaganda in which we are bathed and that produced the “sliming of Pat Buchanan,” the jackbooted excesses of Waco and Ruby Ridge, the abuse of science that runs riot in so much of the environmentalist movement. She moves on through the excesses of an annual meeting of the Modern Language Association, where in 1992 11,000 professors listened dutifully for four days to themes of sex (much of it homosexual), race and multiculturalism. She turns her incisive mind to the ongoing warping of American law, in the course of it passing along some commonsense talk from a federal judge. And she eulogizes such conservative heroes as Edwin Walker, J. Evetts Haley and Petr Beckmann.
These are just a few of the subjects discussed in her 58 essays. The book covers a lot of ground, but amazingly it does so without repetition and without superficiality.
Perceptive readers will want to notice that none of the subjects is “economic.” I am always amazed at my conservative and libertarian friends who continue to speak, as they did or might have in the 1950s, of the central issue as being “the growth of government” and its intervention into the economy. That encroachment will always be an issue for those of us who value a limited government. But the culture war has introduced a thousand other issues. They are perhaps of a more fundamental nature, since they pertain to the continued existence of a distinctively American society.
Her Conspiratorial Understanding
Sue Huck often speaks of the assault as coming from a central source. She has done her homework on the extent to which the big money of the Ford and Rockefeller foundations has, by decades of well-greased effort, permeated our public discourse. There is an “Establishment [that] stands above both of our allegedly competing political parties.” “The Council on Foreign Relations” is “our unelected ruling-class.”
From this center, the conspiracy broadens out to recruit powerful forces. There are then many strings to the bow. Picking up a term from Thomas Sowell that refers to what she often calls “the chattering classes” (the intelligentsia), Sue speaks of “the anointed,” who “know very well how to gain and keep power over us.”
That the assault on Western civilization is seen by her as the result of a conspiracy is made explicit when she says, “rather than lay it all on the impersonal ‘inherent rot’ of our civilization, I prefer to look for actual human agents of destruction.”
This has considerable justification. It is a human process we are talking about, and it takes place through living, breathing human beings. Sue has seen their faces, read their words, heard their declamations—and knows that the process is, in at least one of its dimensions, far from impersonal. Neither is it off-base for her to recognize that many of those faces have a lot of money, and have been willing to use it copiously to subvert our culture, and that others are people who have occupied positions of prominence. As human actors, they by all rights should be held accountable.
Just the same, care must be taken not to understand things purely in these terms (and I don’t see that she does). We are forced to ask, “why do the moneyed and prominent people choose to subvert?” This removes it another step and leads us to understand that it is because they are themselves creatures of their time, having absorbed the ethos of their era. They seem to lead, but actually they follow; or, at least, it is a circular process, with the inner group and the Zeitgeist feeding off each other. In any event, their subversion takes on significance only by virtue of the sufferance of the docile mainstream, whose members could readily throw them out. So causation, properly understood, is obscure.
A conspiratorial understanding can lead to a misdiagnosis of the solutions. It gives us reason to think that there is a central cancer, and that if we could just cut out the tumor the body would be healthy again. Our diagnosis is altogether different if we see the cancer as itself being caused by, perhaps, a deficiency of the immune system or too much time baking in the sun. It ought to be an objective of American conservatism, certainly, to “defund the Left” and to undo the Left’s “march through the institutions.” But it is almost certainly true that everything Sue sees as being at the center—the foundations and semi-secret organizations—could disappear tomorrow and still the sickness would continue.
Why a Jeffersonian “Rising Up” Isn’t the Answer
This leads to my final point. At various places, Sue Huck suggests that a popular rebellion remains an option. Speaking of
, she asks, “Wouldn’t it have made a difference if a really substantial number of citizens had gathered on the scene, to inquire closely as to just what was going on?... Suppose that ten thousand or so armed citizens had surrounded the goons?” Waco
On the back cover is a quote from
Jefferson: “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.”
Armed rebellion would work well against a finite and identifiable body of tyrants, but not nearly so well against an amorphous mass of haters and of crazies, backed by millions of “respectable” types who lend their condonation. Armed rebellion against the Left and its camp-followers today would entail a ubiquitous civil war against millions of our fellows. This isn’t a prescription for success.
The fact that it would be that sort of vast and internecine struggle virtually guarantees that, by the time it were over, there would be very little in it that we would recognize as feedom-loving. The revolution would itself become a beast threatening those whose idealism provided its initial stimulus. American institutions would be a thing of the past.
And what would the rebellion be for, if we went into it as bereft of ideas and of purpose as most Americans now are? Where would the rebels come upon a common core of belief that would hold them, amidst all the carnage, steadfast to a purpose?
No, the war must be won in the minds and hearts of our countrymen. We have a better chance of winning it there through peaceful means than through carnage. This is not to say that our chances are good; they aren’t. But they are non-existent through revolution.
It is best, then, to understand Sue Huck’s reference to ten thousand armed men metaphorically, as a striking image that captures our attention. If we had that sort of interest by people in general, even without taking up arms, the culture war could easily be won.