[Paleopsych] LRC: Anthony Gregory: The Anti-Revisionist Establishment

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Anthony Gregory: The Anti-Revisionist Establishment

    How interesting it is that the mainstream left and
    neoconservative right are equally appalled by Tom Woods' book, [10]The
    Politically Incorrect Guide to American History. But it makes sense.
    Unlike many libertarians, I never really thought of the conventional
    history taught in schools as uniformly "leftist," but rather as simply
    pro-establishment. Statist liberals and conservatives both have a
    stake in preserving the historical interpretation that upholds
    Lincoln, Wilson and FDR as the great heroes in the sweep of American

    Notice one of the frequent critiques you'll hear from the mainstream:
    So-and-so's view sounds just like the "fringe" right (or the "radical"
    left)! Those who dare question the conventional wisdom on the Cold War
    are attacked as being in bed with the "anti-American" left. Those who
    point out Allied atrocities in World War II are condemned as being
    sympathetic to the "reactionary" right. A consistent libertarian
    history will be mischaracterized as being pro-Southern slavery,
    pro-Kaiser, pro-Nazi, pro-Communist, pro-inequality, pro-racism,
    pro-"Islamofascist," or pro-anything bad that the U.S. state
    supposedly expanded to defeat. These attacks often come from people
    who have adopted the worst possible memes of establishment history.

    After twelve years of boring, dull and transparently superficial
    history as taught in the state-school system after learning about the
    great Christopher Columbus and heroic George Washington many students
    understandably see leftist revisionism as a refreshing change. Leftist
    college professors expose many of the crimes of the U.S. military
    during the 20^th century, vilify various American presidents and big
    businessmen, attack both American capitalism and the American empire.
    Its not totally sound analysis, but it is nevertheless more critical
    and exciting than what is taught earlier.

    In reaction to leftist academia, a neoconservative historical
    tradition has blossomed. Offering a treatment of history not nearly as
    hostile to dead white men, this new interpretation attracts many who,
    after years of being exposed to leftist revisionism, seek a refutation
    of the leftism as well as a conceptual restoration of the United
    States to its unique pedestal of glory and place in the sun.

    Often, this leads to the worst of all worlds. Coming first from the
    primary-school mythology and then from leftist revisionism, and
    therefore never particularly loyal to or even familiar with the
    classical liberal principles of free markets, individualism, and
    spontaneous order, leagues of students leave behind the best, most
    anti-authoritarian and antiwar elements of leftist scholarship, while
    retaining its essential collectivism, and ultimately come to embrace
    to U.S. warfare state in all its endeavors in history. Thus we see a
    vast number of thinkers wield an anti-leftist and yet anti-libertarian
    view on virtually all American historical events. They end up
    cherishing the worst Founding Fathers, relishing the violence rather
    than the libertarian spirit of the American Revolution, making
    contextual excuses for slavery and the Mexican War in the Antebellum
    years, adopting Lincoln cultism and praising the defeat of Southern
    secession, brushing off the massacres of the American Indians,
    accepting unquestionably the establishment line on Reconstruction,
    championing both the genuine monopolist robber barons and the
    Progressive Era politicians with whom they conspired, glorifying
    Woodrow Wilsons idealism and his "reluctant" propelling of America
    into World War I, crediting the New Deal for ameliorating the Great
    Depression and World War II for vanquishing totalitarianism all while
    slinging mud at Roosevelts detractors, making excuses for such horrors
    as Japanese Internment, sanctifying the Cold War as an ideological
    struggle between U.S. democratic capitalism and Communist imperialism,
    admiring the Great Society, and excusing all recent U.S. military
    interventions, especially in the Middle East. The neoconservative
    version of American history sees 230 years of linear progress, with a
    U.S. state expanding at home and abroad to defeat all manners of evil
    and tyranny.

    Mainstream historical conventions are not naturally inclined to bend
    and adapt in the light of uncomfortable facts, and the New Right
    interpretation is probably more statist than that of the mainstream
    left. Whereas the mainstream left is at least somewhat critical of the
    post-World War II U.S. warfare state, the neoconservative history
    jumps at the chance to defend every war. And although the mainstream
    left is certainly more attached to many particulars of the domestic
    welfare state, the neoconservatives offer no fundamental opposition.
    The massive regulatory and welfare-state apparatuses that became
    fastened to the American economy, especially during the New Deal and
    Great Society, receive louder accolades on the left, but the statist
    right sees such programs as welfare as needing only tweaking around
    the edges and new management. Perhaps they see social programs as too
    robust, but, viewing the state as some sort of paternalistic figure,
    both for Americans and potentially for the world, cutting welfare
    programs is seen in the same vein as reducing an allowance to a child,
    rather than as returning liberty to all those suffering under the

    The New Right historical school is also worse than the mainstream
    left, in that it poses, much like the New Right in general, as the
    more politically incorrect, the more patriotic, and the friendlier to
    the ideas of freedom and free enterprise. But its reactionary
    political incorrectness is best represented by its willingness to
    apologize for U.S. crimes that the far left enthusiastically denounces
    and the mainstream left cautiously questions, and its affinity to
    "patriotism," "freedom" and "free enterprise" rarely boils down to
    anything more than an embrace of U.S. nationalism, warmongering and
    state-capitalism. The New Right scholarship seeks the benefits of
    positioning itself against the anti-American dogmatism allegedly
    saturating the left, which in turn allegedly dominates academia, all
    the while disassociating itself with the less politically correct
    elements of the right, which supposedly stand in the way of reasonable
    social engineering and the civilizing "progressive" welfare state. It
    is quite attractive to those who have rejected the leftist viewpoints,
    not out of a belief in individualism, but out of a reactionary desire
    to defend the conservative and militaristic aspects of the U.S.

    The mainstream left historians, if a little better, are not by much.
    Correctly seeing the enormous potential for social democratic
    engineering that exists in the framework of the corporate state, they
    are not nearly as critical of corporatism as those further on the
    left. They see the Progressive Era, New Deal and Great Society as
    wonderful developments, not as cynical schemes of the ruling class to
    entrench corporate power and keep the people from revolting, which is
    how many on the far left regard them. They do not have as much beef
    with the police state as their "fringe" colleagues on the farther
    left, nor are they nearly as critical of U.S. wars as they should be
    and are laughably accused of being by the New Right.

    So the mainstream forces, both left and right, seek to maintain a
    story of history most favorable to the status quo. They have small
    disagreements with each other, but by and large accept the historical
    case for the expansive U.S. state.

    It is little wonder that many of the most trenchant and fundamental,
    however imperfect, critiques of American history, and especially of
    the largest expansions and projects of the warfare state, appear on
    the fringes, outside mainstream historical opinion. As truly
    problematic as the fringes are, with their fair share of kooks and
    troubling economic and historical theories, they are much less
    inclined than the mainstream to show enthusiasm for violations of
    civil liberties, the war on drugs, perpetual warfare, or the
    corporate-social democratic state as it now functions. You will see
    the far left and far right more willing to condemn the atrocities at
    Waco and Ruby Ridge and U.S. military interventions and police-state
    terror and stand accused of sympathizing with all the views and sins
    of those enemy regimes and fringe elements pit against the U.S.

    Such accusations are a ruse. Those who seek fundamental change in the
    system are simply less attached to the conventional myths and legends.
    When those myths and legends involve the whitewashing of great
    atrocities, such as the firebombing of Tokyo, the carpet bombing of
    Cambodia, or the invasion of Iraq, it comes as no surprise that the
    people who consistently bring attention to such white elephants in
    American history are branded as extremists and friends of the fringe.
    Likewise, those who realize the stark depth of propaganda involved in
    the conventional history are probably more likely than others to move
    toward the "extreme" wings of political and philosophical thought,
    searching for fundamental answers to what appear to be fundamental
    problems in the ways humans have historically organized themselves and
    they, too, whether or not they deserve it, will be denounced as fringe
    intellectuals, as if that negates whatever valid ideas they may have.

    Conventionally accepted wisdom has served as cover for many of the
    greatest shams and crimes against humanity in world history. Now, it
    is true that conventionalism has at times been replaced by
    intellectual movements that were no better or even far worse than what
    they replaced, and surely many on the fringes would be very dangerous
    if they enjoyed power and universal, unquestioning obedience. But a
    principled sensitivity to peace, individualism and liberty, when
    applied to history, can hardly do evil. Furthermore, if it werent for
    those willing to stand outside the mainstream and challenge
    convention, human progress would grind to a halt. Slavery, theocracy,
    and feudalism were all at one time universally upheld in conventional
    thought. Today statism of various stripes still enjoys dominance in
    conventional historical study. When statism falls and liberty
    triumphs, it will necessarily be due to men and women who stood
    outside the bounds of what was rigorously defended as acceptable
    thought, shaking up and making trouble for the establishment.

                                           [anthony.jpg] February 23, 2005

    Anthony Gregory [[11]send him mail] is a writer and musician who lives
    in Berkeley, California. He is a research assistant at the
    [12]Independent Institute. See [13]his webpage for more articles and
    personal information.

                        [14]Anthony Gregory Archives


    8. mailto:anthony1791 at yahoo.com
    9. http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0895260476/lewrockwell/
   10. http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0895260476/lewrockwell/
   11. mailto:anthony1791 at yahoo.com
   12. http://www.independent.org/
   13. http://www.AnthonyGregory.com/

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