The difficulty we as conservatives face in trying to get a hearing for our ideas in the mainstream media and also in private conversations is that it does not really matter how right we are. We can go to great lengths to research political topics and to hone our arguments, but the more we do so, the more we prove to liberals just how “obsessed” we are. A cogent argument is a “rant”. The debate has moved way beyond facts and logical argumentation. Our conviction that the truth will win out is encapsulated in the saying that “a racist is someone who is winning an argument with a liberal”. Presumably, the liberal is expected to privately realize he has lost the argument, and perhaps be more amenable to reason next time. I am afraid that is not how it works.
What the accusation of racism means is that people who make conservative arguments are not nice people. It has nothing to do with the truth or otherwise of our arguments. This was pointed out in Allan Bloom’s Closing of the American Mind. Professor Bloom argued that cultural relativism was not a point of view arrived at after extensive research of the cultures of the world, but amounted to a saccharine moral that “we should all get along”. We should be “nice people”—and that means refraining from expressing negative attitudes towards other cultures, whether well-founded or not. A liberal will often stop a conservative from explaining his point of view in mid-sentence, not in fact because he fears our understanding and greater reasoning ability, but in order to prove his moral superiority. Quite simply our ideas are deemed to be nasty—supposedly, only nasty people want to retain their national culture or remain in a majority in their own societies. It is simple to point out that the same liberals value the attempt of minorities to keep their own cultures, and so their views contain double standards and logical errors, but to approach the question in this way just becomes a “rant”.
In order to understand why liberals like to grandstand morally, we need to understand the role that morality plays in society and how it underpins the rule of the social elite. This issue is key to the writings of Antonio Gramsci. Gramsci was a Marxist who noted the relative stability of “bourgeois society”, and drew the conclusion that this was because the ruling class enjoyed “cultural hegemony”. A ruling class cannot survive based on force alone; its power is buttressed by cultural support—buttressed by a moral image—that usually renders its monopoly of force redundant. Such a view can be described as conservative in that it is essentially contradictory to the “materialist” assumptions of Marxism, reflecting Gramsci’s disillusionment with the failure of the revolutionary movement in Italy. Gramsci’s theory of cultural hegemony was set out in his work The Modern Prince, which drew on the thought of Niccolò Macchiavelli, who argued that the Prince should promote whatever cultural and religious customs would unite society, regardless of whether they were true or not. As long as the population believed in those cultural and religious traditions, support for them would render the Prince’s rule morally acceptable. So it was that the leading figures in English society as late as the 1930s were required to appear to support the Christian church, the monarchy, and our customs and way of life more generally. The working class for their part were attracted in greater numbers to Methodism than to Marxism.
However, since the Enlightenment, Western culture has become more amenable to rational deconstruction, unlike its rivals in the Islamic and East Asian civilizations. While our traditions could have continued to buttress the rule of our elite, cultural hegemony is not entirely cynically accessed. An elite that no longer really believes in its mission begins to search for alternative value-systems—other systems of morality that can justify its rule. In the 18th and 19th centuries the British elite was required to support British culture as the price of its rule, but there was little reason why they should not want to do so. But once the culture had been subjected to ruthless Marxist and Freudian deconstruction, and following the traumatic experience of the two world wars, which intellectually discredited Western civilization, the search was on for a more workable morality, leading in the post-war period to the assertion that anti-racism and support for cultural diversity represent the acme of good morals. The discovery of the theory of evolution and modern Bible criticism had undermined belief in our traditional culture somewhat earlier. The Russian Revolution and the pointless barbarity of the First World War also knocked the West’s confidence in itself, but, as Gramsci noted, civil society, morality and patriotism allowed the system to trundle on, only to culminate once again in fascism, genocide and the 55m dead of the Second World War. Many soldiers returned from the war to find that their wives had been unfaithful (this prompted the formation of the Marriage Guidance Council in England). Patriotism was smeared by a (false) association with fascism. There was no energy or belief in imperialism left, and the British Empire was quickly disposed of.
The real arguments for morality and patriotism that conservatives are still trying to win were lost in the 1950s, and a gradual search for a different set of values to underpin the Establishment’s cultural hegemony was set in motion. The process was partly obscured by the Cold War—while our rulers were shifting their ground and putting in place the foundation for a new type of society, conservatives were mainly chasing down the dead end of anti-communism. Freedom was declared to be the defining point of Western society in the 40 years before the fall of communism, while policies were adopted that would dissolve the real fabric of society, in turn laying the foundation for a retreat from liberty more recently. We have traditions of liberty, but no society can be mainly about liberty alone; we are learning now that liberty becomes licence and diversity, which eventually corrodes any real social bonds. Put differently, real liberty depends on a society that still has the glue of a common culture.
No longer convinced that the nation-state represents an adequate moral project to justify its rule, the Western elite is anxious to portray itself in more universalist terms, and that requires a recreation of society demographically. The key point about immigration is not that business interests support immigration in order to get cheap labour—this somewhat reductionist analysis may be the easiest one to advance in a five-minute conversation—but that the issue is seen as a moral one by our new rulers. Business leaders who do want cheap labour are able to grandstand morally as if their self-interest were some kind of altruism. But the search for cheap labour is not really what drives the agenda of cultural diversity. It follows therefore that the cheap labour argument falls flat for us, because we are thereby not taking on the moral agenda of our new elite, one that inspires it with a sense of self-righteousness despite the negative effects of such an agenda on society as a whole. It is important to recognize that cultural hegemony has two aspects: justifying an elite’s rule to society at large, and justifying its own rule to itself. As long as the ruling class in society is cohered by a sense of values and purpose, it will bring enough middle class people along with it to remain in power. So, the second moment, that of justifying its rule to itself, is actually primary. Just as the Soviet Union fell because the Soviet nomenklatura no longer believed in itself, our rulers cannot be undermined without undermining their self-belief first.
True, there is the difficulty for the new Establishment that, unlike the old morality of family, church and nation, the morality of supporting diverse lifestyles and of encouraging cultural diversity cannot really unite society. True morality and patriotism hold a society together—social leaders were once forced to uphold these values as a price of their positions, but the quid pro quo for us was that a decent society was created. Diversity, by contrast, divides society into competing groups, and cannot realistically become an ideology that fully unites society. But by dissolving the national spirit and culture, English people (and the same process is at work in all other European and European-descended nations) lose their connection with one another. As real communities cease to exist, the population becomes individuated. Even the family is no longer the unit that it was, as most marriages end in divorce and children do not necessarily maintain contact with their parents. As civil society becomes weaker, state intervention is extended to more areas of life.
Society never really feels good about itself anymore, but the more problems there are, the more middle-class people become involved in attempts to manage social conflict. School teachers get a rush of moral superiority as they punish pupils—even infants, according to the newspaper reports in the UK—for politically incorrect language. Every company employs a phalanx of workers dedicated to the promotion of anti-harassment codes and equal opportunities. The diversity agenda continually wears society down with the negativity of social discussion, but anybody who is anybody embraces the new moral agenda. Traditional views become largely confined to the working class, or people nowhere near the trough. Those who are at the trough justify their position by their moral superiority over those who do not accept the new moral agenda. The middle classes have always sought respectability, but the current values that enable them to claim moral respectability just happen to be socially divisive. However, as long as they believe that their values are socially divisive only because nasty people—“racists”—are standing in the way of a more successful embracing of their values, these social values will remain an avenue for social respectability.
“Respectable” individuals enjoy to an extent the feeling of disgust they feel when confronted with someone who refuses to accept the anti-social values being promoted by the elite today. At the very least, it enables them to get a “fix” of moral superiority. These are the people who wrung their hands over Chile under Pinochet while studiously ignoring a much greater death toll during the same time period in Zimbabwe (where around 30,000 members of the Matabele tribe were slaughtered). This synthetic morality seems curiously selective. The eyes of the politically correct glaze over if you point out such details—they are not really interested in any of their causes as such—they do not really give a damn about the desaparecidos of Pinochet’s Chile any more than the Matabele—so much as the chance to prove their own moral superiority to themselves. Even people who disagree on the science behind claims of global warming can be seen as immoral, as utterly trivial issues such as the use of a supermarket plastic bag become touchstones of people’s moral characters.
We need to paint the current elite and its middle-class hangers-on in their true light, as immoral collectively and individually. This is a challenge, as these “respectable” people go to great lengths to demonstrate their niceness. They are not imperialists, or “racists”, or “sexists” or “homophobes”. They love everyone and everything. They fret—or claim to fret—about women’s rights in Mauritania and the plight of homosexuals in Iran. They are delighted to let you know they vote for parties that would enable people like themselves to pay a bit more in tax, because they are concerned about the poor. They are the very definition of the Pharisaical “whited sepulchres” that the Gospels speak of. Unless we can demonstrate that these seemingly nice people are actually self-serving and uncaring we do not stand a chance of undermining their rule. There are various arguments we could adduce. Liberals undermine the socioeconomic position of the most vulnerable in their societies by fostering immigration. Their enthusiasm for state intervention and welfare has led to the growth of single-parent families—it is “nasty” to criticize them, but what about the children? Such children are statistically highly likely to end up in crime, delinquency, welfare and prison. Support for divorce, abortion and homosexuality has in fact led to tens of millions of unhappy lives. We need to hammer home that these self-righteous people are spreading misery in their own societies. People who support the EU on the grounds that it represents international co-operation are actually closing off Europe from trade in agricultural commodities with the poorest of nations. Supporters of state spending are actually fostering the growth of a large group of public-sector workers, whose salaries and pensions are in many cases financed from the taxes of people who face greater challenges in struggling to make ends meet.
As far as immigration is concerned, we are robbing developing nations of their most mobile populations—whatever you think of immigrants, both legal and illegal, they are undoubtedly resourceful in managing to better themselves at our expense. As far as liberal concern for other nations and the human race as a whole is concerned, maybe we could point out the reality that, short of recolonizing the entire developing world, we must respect those nations’ right to sovereignty, as how can we be responsible for the plight of people over whose affairs we have no say? Real morality begins with creating a good society—and if other countries have less successful societies that is a problem for them to address. The self-righteousness of internationalist concern for failed societies beyond the seas leads directly to wars in countries like Iraq and Afghanistan, which the liberals, of course, claim to oppose. Self-righteousness in our own countries leads directly to a rise in crime and social anomie, complemented by the growth of an underclass. A desire for a national culture is not bigotry at all, but a quest for a social discourse that provides meaning and a place in society even for the economically disadvantaged. The smugness of liberals who oppose a national culture has written the most vulnerable out of society. Liberalism must be exposed as exploitative, nasty, cynical, hypocritical and self-serving. True, pointing out that business leaders want cheap labour paints them as self-serving in a financial sense. But liberals more generally exploit their moral grandstanding to paint themselves as wonderfully compassionate figures, despite the colossal negative impact of the policies they support. I am sure better conservatives than I can think of many ways in which the claims of “liberalism” to the moral high ground can be refuted. Until we get to the point where many of our rulers privately start to wonder whether multiculturalism, diversity, the large state and so on are actually deeply immoral projects, we will continue to lose all significant ideological battles.