During the torture session in Nineteen Eighty-Four, Winston Smith, mere minutes away from the horrors of Room 101, states through cracked lips that Big Brother can’t last. Telling the Inner Party Member O’Brien that he doesn’t believe in God, Smith also expresses a metaphysical faith that the regime would collapse: I know that you will fail. There is something in the universe—I don’t know, some spirit, some principle—that you will never overcome. Smith named this “something “the “Spirit of Man.” Such a moment flies in the face of George Orwell’s reputation as a rock-solid empiricist. That his creation, Winston Smith, would rely on gut feelings over fact, about…
When National Review debuted in 1955, the liberal columnist Dwight MacDonald lamented that the thrust of the new magazine was not conservative. In MacDonald’s lexicon, a true conservative was one who “sticks to his principles even when the results go against his prejudices,” for conservatives do not “appeal to the hearts of men” but to the “laws and traditions of a country.”
Reviewing the 2004 movie Fahrenheit 9/11, Michael Moore’s cinematic attack on George W. Bush and the War on Terror, the late Christopher Hitchens found that its message was all over the place. The movie supposedly revealed the unsavory true motive of the U.S.-led coalition’s invasion of Afghanistan: that the Americans wanted to establish an oil pipeline connecting Afghanistan to the Indian Ocean. It also aired the complaint that not enough troops were sent for the mission to succeed. The only thing unifying its not-very-compatible criticisms was the filmmaker’s disdain for Bush’s politics and his personality.
Dinesh D’Souza’s new movie, Hillary’s America: The Secret History of the Democratic Party, is the Rightwing version of this—a jazzy documentary that throws everything at its target but the kitchen sink. It has two agendas, both of which need work and frequently miss golden opportunities; and they don’t link up logically.
Democratic members of Congress recently staged an around-the clock sit-in to demand that gun-control legislation (their slogan was “No bill, no break”) be passed by the House of Representatives. This unification by Democrats reveals how, with a few Republican exceptions, they have owned the issue of gun control, pardon the pun, lock, stock and barrel. They proudly point to an honorable tradition of gun-control measures extending back to FDR, and continued by LBJ, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama.
On a movie set many years ago, actress Geraldine Page found herself seated between actor Ward Bond, an enforcer of the blacklist of communists then raging in Hollywood, and his friend, the conservative actor John Wayne. Page was only accustomed to being around her fellow show business liberals, so she listened to the two men’s conservative views with a sense of “horror.” But as the conversation went on, she developed a marginally more favorable view of Wayne, whom she called a “reactionary for all sorts of non-reactionary reasons.”
In a New York Times op-ed a week ago, Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) lauded the recently deceased Delmer Berg and other Americans who volunteered to fight on the Loyalist side during the Spanish Civil War, which began 80 years ago. Berg was thought to be the last living veteran of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, a unit of American volunteers who fought in that storied but oft-mischaracterized conflict that took place from 1936 to 1939.
Spying Through a Glass Darkly: American Espionage against the Soviet Union, 1945-1946 is about a little-known intelligence unit whose continued activity after World War II invalidates the conventional wisdom that the wartime Office of Strategic Services had been disbanded upon the victory of the Allies. The authors construct a heroic portrait of this short-lived Strategic Services Unit (SSU), arguing that it managed to provide vital assistance in the face of great obstacles—one being the calling home of embedded agents after Germany surrendered, and the other a bureaucratic power struggle with the FBI, which refused to step into the intelligence-collection void unless it was made supreme over all U.S. intelligence.
When Richard Nixon died in 1994, then-President Bill Clinton surprised many on the Right by giving a warm eulogy for a President he once protested against as an antiwar activist. Then Clinton’s campaign-finance and other scandals began piling up, followed by the out-of-court settlements and intimidation of sexual harassment victims to keep them silent, and the warmth of the eulogy became clear: Tricky Dicky and Slick Willie inhabited the same immoral universe.
On Friday, National Review published a scathing editorial in opposition to Donald Trump as the Republican candidate for President, followed by the statements of 22 prominent conservatives ranging from neocons like Bill Kristol, to social conservatives like Cal Thomas and Michael Medved, to radio/television personalities like Glenn Beck. The editorial slammed Trump as “a philosophically unmoored political opportunist who would trash the broad conservative ideological consensus within the GOP in favor of a free-floating populism with strong-man overtones.” True to pugnacious form, Trump fired back, asserting that “the late, great William F. Buckley would have been ashamed of what happened to his prize.”…