My young friend Richard Spencer has observed that whenever neocon employees take “conservative” positions on social issues, they find irreproachably leftwing reasons to do so. Thus when they object to abortion, it is because its advocates and practitioners refuse to extend the egalitarian principle far enough—to the unborn. Or when minicons grumble feebly about quotas for Black, Hispanics and women, it is typically because such programs have the putative effect of making their recipients feel “inferior,” because they were given benefits that they might not have earned. Although one could find legion examples of such attempts by “social conservatives” to seem more liberal than Obama, a case that has popped up recently and stands out in my mind is a commentary by Rich Lowry on why “Huck’s censors miss all the points.”
Rich’s column begins by going after the obnoxious censors who have removed all of the 219 uses of the word “nigger” from the new edition of Twain’s classic being put out by NewSouth Books. Along the way, Rich also makes fun of the immoderate PC, which extends even to purging “the use of the word ‘injun’ for good measure.” But he then pushes his commentary away from the obvious reasons for objecting to the censorship, which are not the most fashionable reasons, at least in Rich’s presumed social circles. One, once we start bowdlerizing classics to fit current political hysteria, there is no end to this process. Every time a new obsession comes along or some designated victim group starts griping, we’ll have to rewrite what authors wrote in the past.
Such a course will soon result in the kind of reconstruction of culture that we see previewed in Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty Four. The Western “heritage” will be refashioned, including the language used in the past, to fit current ideological needs. Even the Communists and Nazis didn’t go quite as far as our present PC gatekeepers. The old totalitarians allowed old classics to be reprinted as they had been rewritten, but then appended their updated introductions.
Two, it is sheer hypocrisy to bowdlerize past authors to fit ADL or NAACP requirements when we produce and distribute movies that should be infinitely more offensive to minorities and most everyone else. Are the bowdlerizers of Twain complaining about Tarantino flicks or “Gansta rap” albums that are packed with “niggas” and “motherfucking” language? Such products of our cultural industry are far more insensitive than any book published in the 19th century? Why this bizarre double standard? Perhaps it is justified by the fact that filmmakers and producers of blasphemous “art” are part of the “intelligentsia,” along with the totalitarians who are now bowdlerizing The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. One should apparently only censor dead White males who will be read by children of the booboisie in state-run institutions.
But Rich has own, more PC reasons for opposing the sensitizing Left. Twain’s censors are not serious enough about making us detest Southern racists. They do not force the reader to experience the atmosphere of repression that existed in the Mississippi valley in the 1840s, when a mob killed the editor of an abolitionist newspaper. They are helping to “whitewash our history,” by making us less conscious of the burden of our racist past. Such censors are in fact easing “the sting of Twain’s rebuke” of what the American South in its pre-civil rights phase looked like. Rich quotes the beatified Martin Luther King, who “noted that genteel Southerners still couldn’t get their mouths around the word ‘Negro,’ saying ‘Nigra’ instead.”
Although one might criticize Rich for sucking up to the social Left while going through the motions of disagreeing with it, there is one thing he does very well. He has picked the target of his rant perfectly. If movement conservatives are looking for targets of abuse that won’t talk back, then go after Southern Whites. They’ll vote Republican even if the Republican candidate insults their ancestors as redneck scum, and even as in the case of presidential contender John McCain, Republicans attack the display of the Confederate flag anywhere, not only on public buildings. Southern Whites don’t seem to mind being collectively belittled; and particularly from “patriotic” Americans who are in favor of wars in which Southerners will be given a chance to fight. There are of course other groups that are less likely to vote Republican or to subscribe to Rich’s magazine. Here I am thinking of such prideful groups as Jews and Blacks, neither of which Rich would ever dare to take on.
Let us imagine what would happen to Rich and his Schmierschrift if he noticed certain undeniable facts: for example, that Jews were disproportionately involved as NKVD officials in the Ukrainian famine and in those brutalities carried out in Eastern Europe under the Communists after the Second World War; or that the rate of violence in just about every Black society is far higher than in white and Asian societies. I mention these demonstrable facts not to insult any group but to provide examples of what Rich and his colleagues would never dare mention, for self-evident reasons. They’d be history the moment they uttered them, and perhaps even reduced to the indignity of writing for the alternative right. It is safer by far to beat up on compliant Southerners, who won’t object, particularly when insulted by someone from the “movement.” Being soft on Southern Whites is a safe and politically expedient reason for Rich to be against PC censors.