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 Schiavo have her feeding withdrawn so that she dehydrated to death over several days, I wasn't willing to just have her [be] given a lethal injection.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