Skip to comments.Karl Keating on the Decline of the National Review and Other Matters
Posted on 07/06/2005 10:01:01 PM PDT by annalex
THE NEEDLE, PLEASE
I think I was in college when I first subscribed to "National Review" magazine. I kept renewing faithfully for more than three decades. Some years ago a youngish editor was brought in, and after a while I no longer saw any of the familiar names.
Of course, some long-time writers had moved into a well-deserved retirement, and some had died. It was natural for the roster to change, but other things also changed, including the magazine's intellectual level and commitment to principle.
This year I ignored the pleas to renew and let my subscription lapse. Occasionally I visit the magazine's web site, National Review Online, but the same new writers are there, producing much juvenilia and showing themselves to be more loyal to a political party than to traditional ideas.
Let me give one example. John Derbyshire, a transplanted Englishman, wrote this at the web site:
"At the Atlanta bash last month, an audience member asked the panel whether the [Terri] Schiavo case had caused us to change our minds about the underlying issues. I piped up and said, yes, the case had changed my mind in one respect. It had made me realise--a thing I never realised before--that I do favor euthanasia.
"Ramesh [Ponnuru, another writer for "National Review"] asked me at some point why, if I were willing to see Mrs. Schiavo have her feeding withdrawn so that she dehydrated to death over several days, I wasn't willing to just have her [be] given a lethal injection. I couldn't think of any satisfactory answer to this, and haven't been able to since; so in all honesty, I am bound to say I favor the lethal injection, in at least some cases.
"Since I have never had a strict anti-abortion position, I suppose I shouldn't be surprised to find that I don't have a strict anti-euthanasia position, either. I just hadn't thought it through before."
Sandra Day O'Connor has tendered her resignation, and President Bush is making preparations to nominate a replacement. We will know soon enough who that will be.
Liberals on the Senate judiciary committee are making the usual demands for a "centrist" nominee, which is to say someone who passes the pro-abortion litmus test. Unlike many others, I have no problems with litmus tests. I think the President should use one in making his choice.
The one he should use was given in our "Voter's Guide for Serious Catholics." The nominee should be someone who conforms to Catholic teaching on all five non-negotiables, even if the nominee is not a Catholic. Other considerations should be secondary: male vs. female, this ethnic group or that, long-time confidant of the President or not.
Just as a litmus test should be used in selecting a new member of the Supreme Court, so one should be used in selecting writers for a magazine that claims to articulate the conservative political position. While I hope that the President will have the courage to impose a litmus test (I have my doubts, but we shall see), I have no real hope that "National Review" will undertake an internal reform. I think the magazine is too far gone.
"National Review" has been reliably, if not ideally, pro-life, but why is a man such as John Derbyshire still associated with it?
I had not been aware that he "never had a strict anti-abortion position"--I do not recall his having written about abortion--but now he has admitted it, and he has gone further than most of the people who sided with Terri Schiavo's husband. Derbyshire says it would have been fine if she had been put to death the way inmates on death row are put to death (and the way pets are "put to sleep"), with an injection.
No matter what his skills as a writer--and he has produced nicely crafted columns--Derbyshire has shown himself to be a bad thinker. He may be expert at mathematics (I have enjoyed his frequent mathematical interludes), but he is hopeless at morals. That he remains at the magazine tells us much about its editors and their principles.
There was a time when "National Review" really did "stand athwart History, yelling 'Stop!'" (a line from its first issue). But that was a long time ago. Accommodation with the secular mind-set started several decades back, but with the almost complete changeover in staff the accommodation accelerated, and the result is a party magazine that increasingly follows the "big tent" strategy.
This is not a strategy based on firm principle but on the exigencies of political maneuvering. If today the magazine has no qualms running articles by someone who favors euthanasia, is there any certainty that in a few years it won't favor euthanasia as an editorial policy?
POPE PETER II
Yes, this is a look at another anti-pope. I ask you to read these few paragraphs because there will be a follow-up in next week's E-Letter. The follow-up will not be about the man who styles himself "Pope Peter II" but about a prominent American apologist who, it seems, has a connection with this anti-pope.
For now let me tell you about Maurice Archieri. He says he became the real pope in 1995 through the direct inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
Archieri was then 70, so he would be 80 now. Prior to his retirement he worked as an automotive mechanic. I have been unable to find at his site anything to suggest any sort of theological training. What I did find was a touching video. You can find it and his position papers at http://custodi.club.fr/Indexangl.htm
The video shows the 2002 episcopal ordination of Jean-Marie Archieri. The ordinand seems to be nearly as old as "Pope Peter II," so perhaps he is his brother. Be that as it may, the video shows a ceremony that takes place in a tiny chapel, cluttered the way most "independent Traditionalist" chapels are cluttered. The room may have been used previously as a bedroom. It is that small.
The two Archieris are assisted by a much younger man, dressed in a surplice. He looks a bit bored. He frequently turns his head to look around the room, and at one point he rubs his finger in his ear. I wonder what he really thought about these two elderly men playing bishop.
"Pope Peter II" heads a group called Catholici Semper Idem (Catholics Always the Same). Its web site is in French with an execrable translation into English. The translation apparently was generated automatically by a computer program--in this case a program that needs a more skilled programmer.
Despite the mock-English, you can make out well enough the group's arguments, the chief one being that John Paul II was not a real pope. In the mind of "Peter II," the late pontiff actually was a "prophet of the Antichrist" who merely dressed up as pope. This is ironic, coming from a man who dresses up as pope.
There are many anti-popes in today's world, perhaps more than at any time in history. In some cases--and perhaps this is one--it is hard not to feel empathy for the pretender because the man does not realize that he is pretending. For whatever reason, he really thinks that he is the head of the Church.
It is hard to be angry with someone whose actions may be the result of mental imbalance, senility, or grossly misguided idealism. (Some anti-popes are quite clearly con men, but most appear to be convinced of the authenticity of their papal status.)
As I said, these paragraphs about yet another anti-pope have a connection with something that will appear in next week's E-Letter. Stay tuned.
Until next time,
The content of this E-Letter is copyright 2005 by Karl Keating.
For your bumping pleasure.
Also, did anyone notice Wm. F. Buckley's final assessment of the Schiavo case? He sounded like Derbyshire. I'm not old enough to remember the glory days of NR under WFB's leadership, and to be honest I'm not as familiar with his earlier work as I should be. But I keep asking myself if he somehow got less conservative over the years. Is this the same guy who was a protege of Whittaker Chambers?
Disgusting. You should be ashamed of yourself. Doesn't the Novus Ordo teach about slander and detraction anymore?
"Disgusting. You should be ashamed of yourself. Doesn't the Novus Ordo teach about slander and detraction anymore?"
Eh? Who is slandering whom?
If Derbyshire cannot cobble together a pro-life, philosophical undergirding for the issues of euthanasia and abortion, then Derbyshire is not any kind of thinker....certainly not a conservative one.
Schiavo should have been lethally injected? Why not deal with all problem people that way?
And when will Derbyshire's turn be?
I also stopped reading NR several months ago and my subscription is lapsed and I will not renew it.
I recommend Chronicles.
Not only is NRO a poor reflection of its once-noble self, the The American Spectator, once my favorite magazine, has also declined to the point of just making me bored.
Is Mr Keating going to connect the dots and realize that what happened to National Review already happened in the Catholic Church? I'll be curious to see when he "cancels his subscription" to the Novus Ordo.
"Conservatives" in the popular political and theological circles are merely restrained liberals. You can't have "progress" without a progressive force and a conservative force in tension with one another. Pope St. Pius X opened my eyes politically and theologically when he stated this in "Pascendi"
And G. K. Chesterton encapsulated it perfectly with his famous quote, "The whole world is dividing itself into progressives and conservatives. The job of the progressives is to go on making mistakes. The job of the conservatives is to prevent those mistakes from being corrected."
There must be something rumbling in the "conservative" apologetics faction in the N. American section of the Catholic Church. I noticed Pat Madrid is now producing some book, video, series or such on lies that society tells us.
Or it could be just a marketing ploy in an effort to tap into a growing niche.
Please remember the WFB himself was, and as far as I understand, still in favor of compulsory community service for all citizens after their 18th birthday, and the complete legalization of drugs.
"still in favor of compulsory community service for all citizens after their 18th birthday"
What's wrong with that?
I think a lot of the young people I meet today could benefit from some time spent in a barracks environment with people from different parts of the country and walks of life.
From the get-go, it was infected by this Marxist paradigm of history as an inevitable force -- the myth of "progress" -- and viewed conservatism as nothing more than the hopeless dream of putting the clock back, instead of the truly Christian project of capturing history and directing it to a new and better place.
Perhaps, but utilitarianism is a slippery slope. Conservatives are supposed to be about principles. Conservatives are the ones who should be asking why the State, not in cases of emergency, but in the normal course of business, should have the right to compel service from its (wink, wink) "citizens".
Basically you are in favor of enforced slavery?
Anybody care to guess who this prominent American Apologist is? Anybody who knows Keating's M.O. will not be suprised.
"Basically you are in favor of enforced slavery?"
Oh, give my aching hillary a break with that.
If we as a society want to require two or four years paid service from young people, that's hardly slavery.
"Perhaps, but utilitarianism is a slippery slope."
I'm not a utilitarian.
"Conservatives are supposed to be about principles."
One of mine is that Americans owe something to America.
"Conservatives are the ones who should be asking why"
No, conservatives already know the answer. Pretending there isn't one is the province of (wink, wink) libertarians.
"Conservatives are the last to understand what is happening." - Fr. Malachi Martin
If we as a society want to require two or four years paid service from young people, that's hardly slavery.
Interesting. I wonder if we just change around a few words here and there, we'll see how much that position stands on principals.
If we as a society want to require two or four years paid sex from young people, that's hardly prostitution.
If we as a society want to require two or four years paid abortion from young people, that's hardly contraception.
If we as a society want to require two or four years paid food and shelter for young people, that's hardly welfare.
If we as a society want to require two or four years of wages from young people, that's hardly an unfair tax.
If we as a society want to require two or four years of government run health care from young people, that's hardly socialized medicine.
Even indentured slaves in the early history of America were voluntary.
"Fair" or "unfair" has nothing to do with it. Enforced service and freedom do not go together.
One of mine is that Americans owe something to America.
On what truth is this principal based? I thought that rights were endowed by God. And that the founding principals of America were on restricting government.
The Germans owed the Nazi party something and the Russians owed the Soviets something. They sold their principles for a supposed patriotism that had no grounding in true philosophical principals.
But, as I said earlier, Conservatives are simply a different stripe of liberal with a different function. They are the lukewarm water that acclimates the "slowly boiling frog".
Then don't talk like one. If you have a argument that explains why the time and energy of a free person should be at the disposal of the State, I'd like to hear it.
Societies are cooperative ventures. Everyone has to compromise to a certain extent. We refrain from doing things we'd like to do, and do things we'd rather not, for the sake of the common good.
That's a self-evident truth. The only thing to quibble over is how much we want to allow our society to demand of us.
You think two years of community service is too much; I don't.
If we were to carry your argument a little further, we might ask what right the state has to demand that kids go to school.
"I wonder if we just change around a few words here and there"
All invalid analogies.
"On what truth is this principal based?"
No man is an island. entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.
"I thought that rights were endowed by God."
If you believe in God, then you know that rights are only half of an equation, with responsibilities on the other side.
That aside, one of the rights cited in the Declaration is the right to order our society as we see fit.
As a matter of precedent, check out the US Code:
Section 311. Militia: composition and classes
(a) The militia of the United States consists of all able-bodied males at least 17 years of age and, except as provided in section 313 of title 32, under 45 years of age who are, or who have made a declaration of intention to become, citizens of the United States and of female citizens of the United States who are members of the National Guard.
(b) The classes of the militia are -
(1) the organized militia, which consists of the National Guard and the Naval Militia; and
(2) the unorganized militia, which consists of the members of the militia who are not members of the National Guard or the Naval Militia.
For the good of the child. Not for the good of the state. In this case, the state properly intervenes in the sacred relationship of child and parent only to the extent that it may be necessary to defend the rights of the child from a parental default of fundamental duty. However the state has no right to demand that kids go to school because it will make them "good citizens" or economically productive.
Whatever just powers state enjoys to intervene in private life derive from its mandate to be our servant -- not our master.
"However the state has no right to demand that kids go to school because it will make them "good citizens" or economically productive."
If we say it does, it does. We are the state. If we want to require service of young people to make them better members of society, that is quite within the constitution.
The fact that Karl is just now coming to this understanding of the NeoCon political media reinforces what has been obvious to many for years.
Karl Keating can apply his little analogy to my experience with his organization and his own publication "This Rock" several years ago. Why bother? There is much better apologetics and Catholic reading available in lots of different places.
It is nice to see Karl reveal this "inspirations" though.
"For the good of the child."
Hi, we're from the government, and we're here to help you.
No, that's social contract theory. You do know there are other organizational philosophies of societies right?
Social contract is a recent development that fueled the godless blood bath of the French revolution not to mention communism and nazism.
That the GOP and National Review, Weekly Standard, American Spectator and other organs of the neo-con propoganda machine have adopted Jacobin philosophy has become glaring obvious.
we might ask what right the state has to demand that kids go to school.
Good question, care to take a crack at it without resorting to rhetoric that is indistinguishable from that of Vladamir Lenin or Chairman Mao?
"No, that's social contract theory."
No, that's just life on Planet Earth. That's the way free people act, when nobody is pointing a gun at their heads trying to force some "organizational philosophy" on them.
I stopped subscribing to National Review years ago. Some of the old guard can be found at Chronicles. I used to subscribe to several periodicals; Reason, Conservative Chronicles, National Review, American Spectator, First Things, and Chronicles. Too much time was involved in keeping on top of all that reading. One by one I stopped subscribing. Reason went first as I didn't subscribe to the atomistic ethos of libertarianism. Conservative Chronicles went next as it was too topical. American Spectator was fun I liked Ben Stein's column but it was often too sensational. National Review is probably considered conservative by New York standards but creeping liberalism via the neo-conmen turned me off big time. Chronicles is consistent and traditional, I still subscribe.
And the source of all human rights, according to you. This is what passes for conservatism these days.
We have nothing further to discuss. Words fail me.
What is sad is that an educated adult could believe it is the only possible solution, there's your public education for you.
All within the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state.
His earlier stuff is still interesting. Some of it is relevant, some of it is merely historical arcana. Chambers stopped writing for NR for the same reason that I stopped subscribing. Buckley who was quite capable of sublime thought seemed bewildered by Chambers' resignation. Chambers' reasoning was that Buckley was a conservative while Chambers considered himself a "man of the right". IOW, NR and Buckley would always be conservative within a liberal paradigm, while Chambers considered Christianity as essential to a true traditional stance. A difference WFB once described as a difference between the status quo and the status quo ante. Neocons are status quo hence their compromising positions with liberalism while the paleocons are principle based and often appear as take no prisoners to the middle of the road conservatives.
Still one has to ask from time to time; What exactly are you conserving?
Hey, we're sympatico!
I'm not familiar enough with Keating's apologetics to know who he's refering to.
Well, since the crypto libertarians have decided to become abusive...
"Words fail me."
Apparently your little grey cells failed you first.
"And the source of all human rights, according to you."
Just to set the record straight, I am a practicing Catholic and hold that God is the source of human rights.
One human right God gives us, per the Declaration of Independence, is the right to establish government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to us shall seem most likely to effect our Safety and Happiness.
Your inability to deal with that is no part of conservatism.
"We have nothing further to discuss."
Just as well. Doesn't look like you're up to it.
"That's the hair-brained, godless ramblings of J.J. Rousseau."
The expression is "hare-brained," not "hair brained."
And yes, Rousseau was hare-brained.
The notion of members of a society having responsibilities to that society, however, is not.
We should be asking that question. It's the corrupt public school system that is brainwashing children en masse to subscribe to looney ideas of "community" and "conflict resolution" and "environmental love" etc. All junk. Parents are the custodians of their children and their education should be determined soley by them.
All invalid analogies.
How so? In each case the government is forcing someone to do something disregarding the free will of the victim. Tossing them a few dirty coins doesn't make something right.
The state does not have rights. That includes the right to indoctrinate children in government schools and forcing Christians to pay taxes for blatantly anti-Christian institutions.
"The state does not have rights."
That is correct. The state rightfully has only the powers that we give it constitutionally.
If we want to give it the power to require community service, we can do that.
And if the state becomes a communist oligarchy and demands our allegiance or a lifetime of "community service"? L'etat C'est moi?
Because each of the things you propose requiring people to do is malum in se.
Military or community service is not.
There is a difference in pushing a little old lady into the path of a speeding bus, and pushing a little old lady out of the path of a speeding bus.
As well as the right to alter or abolish government. That is if you regard the D of I as definitive. It's nice, but it's not Scripture.
"And if the state becomes a communist oligarchy"
How odd it is that several people have decided to attribute extreme positions to me, that go far beyond anything I have proposed.
Shouldn't it be obvious that arguments predicated on the Declaration of Indpendence presume that government derives its just powers from the consent of the governed?
"It's nice, but it's not Scripture."
Neither is the Constitution. What's your point?
In his #15 Romulus made the same disctinction in application tot he draft: "not in cases of emergency, but in the normal course of business".
Draft is morally permissible to defend the homeland. That is your lady on the path of a bus. Routine national service under any other pretext is temporary enslavement of the conscripts and is malum in se. Perhaps you forgot what the original argument was?