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On Monday, I took my camera across downtown DC to attend a speech at the conservative Hudson Institute where a noted British neo-conservative commentator was giving a speech.  I made no effort to hide my identity, or that I worked for an online video network that covers politics, and yes, does have a particular bent.

I've begun transcribing selections from the speech (given by author Douglas Murray) and doing additional research into whether some of his particular views of neo-conservatism are shared broadly or are unique to him.  From the little I know about neo-con ideology, my reactions upon hearing Murray's speech (presented in full on PoliticsTV) run the gamut from "this seems a cynical outlook of the world, but it's understandable given recent world events" to more often "it's disconerting to know that there are people who harbor this grim outlook on the world, and worse, that they have money and power at the present time."

More below the fold.

One of my good friends is an activist who has no problems bringing in conservatives to his campaigns to fight against certian neo-conservative policies.  He recently told me that conservatives, the 'Barry Goldwater small government types', hate neo-cons far more than they hate liberals or progressives.  The quote he used was "neo-cons are liberals gone bad."

I'm not sure if that assumption holds since in his speech, Murray explicitly stated he and many of his fellow neo-cons were never liberals, thus the conservative insult to those of the neo-con persuasion holds very little value to him and many others who share their beliefs.

Here is the first clip I've finished transcribing -- it's Murray's introduction where he attempts to define neo-conservatism [Windows Media / QuickTime / Full Speech]:

Neo-conservatism is not a cabal or a party, but rather a sense, an instinct, a way of looking at the world.  That way of looking at the world is in my definition a blend of idealism and realism.  We look at the world as it is, but act in the world to make it as we would like it to be.

This makes our instincts different than traditional conservatives, who often distrust social engineering projects or any form of alteration of a status quo they perpetually see as being an irreversible if often quietly enjoyable decline.  And of course, it makes us different from modern day liberals who simply don't see the world as it is.  I say that neo-cons look at the world through an idealist's eyes, but wear heavy and powerful glasses.  We're moralists with good eye-sight.

As such, I believe that neo-conservatism is the most valuable and indeed necessary political outlook of our time.  I should point out here that I'm not terribly worried here about offending or alienating what you call liberals and I call socialists -- people for whom in any case alienation-like self-flagellation seems to be a pleasure as well as a principle.  But before offending conservatives any further, I would like to stress that I see old school conservatism not as wrong in itself, but largely, merely tactically wrong.

As primarily an instinct and almost a non-philosophy, old-style conservatism today has, to my mind, two major flaws.  The first is that conservatism relies on a noble sense of loyalty to the status quo, but the status quo, as we know in much of the West today, has changed, especially in western institutions and thanks to socialist interferes, they've largely changed very much for the worst.

This being the case, the instinctive conservative is now often left trying to feel loyalty to a status quo that is not his status quo.  That is, he's left trying to feel loyal to things which have not been loyal to him.  I greatly sympathize with people caught in this dilemma.  As an Anglican, I'm like many Anglicans today, left permanently caught between the desire to express loyalty to what one regards as a true faith, and at the same time, experiencing rage and bafflement at a church hierarchy which has thrown out the book of common prayer, the King James bible, and aspires, it often appears, to become like more than Greenpeace at prayer.

I hope to have a longer diary once I've finished transcription and some additional background reading --- but if you notice anything I messed up in the transcript, please leave note in comments.

What's the goal of all this?  Well, in the same vein as the "Breakfast with Grover Norquist" diaries from last month were (see here and here): I want to understand these folks and how they do what the do and why.

If you don't know who you are up against, it's hard to win.

Originally posted to David Grossman on Tue Aug 15, 2006 at 10:13 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Interesting so Far (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Halcyon, irate, kidneystones

    I look forward to the rest, because so far I only see this guy as saying, "Hey, we are the best." with no real reasoning as to why their way is better.  

    To me they seem like selfish 2 year olds trying to remake their world with a hammer.

    There are bagels in the fridge

    by Sychotic1 on Tue Aug 15, 2006 at 10:13:43 PM PDT

  •  This . . . (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    peraspera, irate, gotgat54, kidneystones

    That way of looking at the world is in my definition a blend of idealism and realism.  We look at the world as it is, but act in the world to make it as we would like it to be.

    This makes our instincts different than traditional conservatives, who often distrust social engineering projects or any form of alteration of a status quo they perpetually see as being an irreversible if often quietly enjoyable decline.  And of course, it makes us different from modern day liberals who simply don't see the world as it is.  I say that neo-cons look at the world through an idealist's eyes, but wear heavy and powerful glasses.  We're moralists with good eye-sight.

    . . . seems like a fair description of neo-conservatism -- as a neo-conservative would describe it, of course.  It's a lot like a description Krauthammer offered in a talk I saw on c-span a few weeks ago.

    Of course, this:

    We look at the world as it is, but act in the world to make it as we would like it to be.

    . . . is how everyone describes themselves, no matter how boring or wingnut their worldview.  So it really doesn't tell us anything about neo-cons.

    His description of "traditional conservatives" :

    As primarily an instinct and almost a non-philosophy, old-style conservatism today has, to my mind, two major flaws.  The first is that conservatism relies on a noble sense of loyalty to the status quo, but the status quo, as we know in much of the West today, has changed, especially in western institutions and thanks to socialist interferes, they've largely changed very much for the worst.

    I guess he thinks Europe has moved left in the past 30 years.  That's an "interesting" opinion.  

    But leave that aside.  Yes: neo-cons view themselves as ideological and activist.  Traditional conservatives, I think, would cringe at the idea that they have an ideology.  They don't despise change, but they distrust it, and want above all to move slowly.

    I think Murray is confusing cultural conservatism (in the Allan Bloom sense, not the Pat Buchannon sense) with governmental conservatism, to some extent.  I'd need to read the rest of the transcript to be sure.

    Interesting read, thank you!

    "In the beginning the universe was created. This has been widely criticized and generally regarded as a bad move." -- Douglas Adams

    by LithiumCola on Tue Aug 15, 2006 at 10:41:39 PM PDT

    •  Mostly agree ... (4+ / 0-)

      ...but not with your take on this:

          We look at the world as it is, but act in the world to make it as we would like it to be.

      ... is how everyone describes themselves, no matter how boring or wingnut their worldview.

      Realists or Realpolitikists DON'T describe themselves that way. They act for national interests no matter what the outcome for the rest of the world. If that means overlooking apartheid, female genital mutilation and child labor, they've got no problem with that. If apartheid, fgm and little girls going blind sewing carpets in Bhutan causes problems for national interests, then they oppose these.

  •  Neocons believe in the Big Lie(s), so everything (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Halcyon, truong son traveler

    he said in your diary is crock.

    Neo-conservatism is not a cabal or a party, but rather a sense, an instinct, a way of looking at the world.  That way of looking at the world is in my definition a blend of idealism and realism.  We look at the world as it is, but act in the world to make it as we would like it to be.

    False. Neocons are part of a movement, worldwide, expressed in think tanks like PNAC and their (mostly unsuccessful) front groups in Europe that are very much a cabal. It is a cabal in that it has no popular support whatsoever and this movement is generated from an elite down to the masses as was advocated by Leo Strauss. They operate with an internal agenda for the advancement of power of their sponsoring elites. The external agenda is the p.r. you heard, that they are "idealists". It is of course absurd to say that they look at the world as is. They hate the world as is, they hate democracy, they hate freedom, and they act to make the world, through violence and propaganda, as their sponsoring elites would like to force it to be.

    As for the nonsense Murray spouted about Neoconservatism's differences with liberalism and traditional conservatism, it should be noted how he speaks in euphemisms and put-downs of other philosophies. The accusation that a) liberals are socialists and b) said liberals are self-flagellating speaks to the lack of self-introspection of any meaningfullness that the Neocons do. Their purpose is to conquer and subjugate, not empathize, understand or distinguish information in distinctive ways.

    You've been had by a Neocon so-called sholar propagandist.

    It is noble and worthwhile to try to understand what these guys are up to, and your diary is interesting, I do look forward to seeing the next installment, but I think your outlook on their agenda is very naive. These paid hacks who lecture are giving you a line of p.r. to try to make a porcupine Neocon totalitarian and sinister agenda look like a cuddly teddy bear.

    A little research will give you a more streetwise outlook on these totalitarian thugs.

    •  According to Leo Strauss, Neocons should lie to (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      truong son traveler

      the ordinary citizens who are too stupid and should be manipulated and governed by a wiser elite who should shape events and reality as is their right.

      Take that in mind the next time you listen to these Neocon so-called thinkers spouting off their gibberish to an audience, and read between the lines to what they are really saying and what the purpose is.

      Murray is trying to equate Neocon philosophies as being some kind of acceptable and more triumphant political formulation than prior democratic philosophies. That's a line of crap. They are trying to shove their totalitarian, freedom hating bullshit down your throat with a cover of clever words. There is nothing acceptable or redeemable about Neoconism. It is vile.

      •  What neo-con 'philosophies'? (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        truong son traveler

        Definition from my Mac Dashboard Dictionary:

        philosophy: a theory or attitude held by a person or organization that acts as a guiding principle for behaviour.

        I think neo-cons have the attitude - mean-spirited, selfish, swaggering, bullying and psychopathic - without any defensible theoretical underpinnings. And no consistent set of principles worth a damn.

    •  All goodpoints. But some of us .. (0+ / 0-)

      ..."liberal" ARE socialists.

      •  Not that there's anything wrong with that, but it (0+ / 0-)

        is the way conservatives use the term, and especially Neocons, to characterize everything they don't like, and all liberals, as socialist, a word that scares half the U.S. population.

        Endorsing the use of such a term is empowering your mortal enemy, the Neocon totalitarians.

  •  I just posted these (0+ / 0-)

    ruminations of the First Neo-Con of the USA, an exercise in projecting myself into his mind for a peek.

    Not a nice place to be.

  •  In taking at face value your neo-con (0+ / 0-)

    "conversation partner's" implicit assumption that the neocon end is a good end, it would be interesting to know the following:

    • What does Murphy think of the intermediate result?  That is, what does he think neoconservatism has "accomplished" so far, and are such things as chaos and war worth and death the price?  How and why do the means justify his ends?
    • The hatred in Murphy's expostulation for "liberals"; like many neocons is palpable.  What does he propose to do with us and "people neocons don't like" once his grand vision is achieved?  Which leads me to ...
    • What is the grand vision in Murphy's view of Neoconservatism?  What would a neocon world look like (as many people here undoubtedly do, I have my own view of this, but I am interested in his).

    Help keep America a one party state - vote Republican! (-6.25, -6.92)

    by AndyS In Colorado on Wed Aug 16, 2006 at 01:50:04 AM PDT

  •  According to one of neconservatism's founders (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    peraspera, gabbardd, Halcyon

    Irving Kristol (the most odious Bill's father), the definition of a neconservative is a liberal who was mugged by reality. So your friend wasn't just blowing hot air. Kristol himself, along with many other neocons, used to be ardent Troskyites back in the 40's and 50's, until it was no longer in fashion to be a communist. Well, it's a lot more complicated than this, but many neocons' roots are definitely on the left, often the far, far, FAR left. It's no surprising that they're just as radical now that they're on the right as they were when they were on the left.

    As I see it, it's less about ideology than about psychology. There's just something about these nutjobs that makes them believe in and and promote radical and quite authoritarian political beliefs, whether they're on the right or left. John Dean just wrote an excellent book on the right-wing versions of these authoritarians called Conservatives Without Conscience, which I just finished reading and highly recommend. He paints a dark and rather frightening picture of the kinds of people who tend to be drawn to these ideologies. E.g. authoritarian, disrespectful of others, racist, dishonest, approving of violence, etc. No doubt they still exist on the left.

    Anyway, these guys are all crazy, and not all that bright once you probe beneath the surface. They've caused enormous death, damage and destruction and still don't see that they're wrong. To be a neocon 5 years ago was basically wacky. To be one now is just plain insane.

    "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has." Margaret Mead

    by kovie on Wed Aug 16, 2006 at 03:37:17 AM PDT

  •  We need american values.. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    doinaheckuvanutjob

    Most of these neo cons. were kept in the basement as crazy until bush , the head crazy came to power...We need to help them  go back to the crazy basement..

  •  Holy Shit, Batman (0+ / 0-)

    "As such, I believe that neo-conservatism is the most valuable and indeed necessary political outlook of our time."

    That is one scary quote.  Looks Neocon is a new religion hell-bent on destroying the freaking world while telling all the dead people it was in their best interest.  Channeling Goebels must be a hobby for this clown.

    •  More like a club, a cabal than a religion. That's (0+ / 0-)

      why Murray was exercising his freedom to lie to his audience.

      If you're in the Neocon club, you get the perks, you are the intelligentsia, like the Communist elite. It's not a religion at all. Religion is to be used to control the masses in the Neocon Straussian view.

      I would submit some Neocons are also religious righties and believe in some Dominionist style Christianism, such as Condi Rice and W. Bush. But the pure Neocons are not at all religious.

  •  Neocon speech patterns (0+ / 0-)

    Every Neocon sounds like they've been through the same Neuro Linguistic Programming course, complete with the requisite "positive intent" and "visualization" BS. Neocons act like a cult because they get their talking-points from a very cult-like place.

    With all that NLP stuff in their heads, I wonder if they're any good at picking up women. Then again, looking at folks like Perle and David Horowitz, the answer is obviously "no".

    It's the beat generation, it's be-at, it's the beat to keep, it's the beat of the heart, it's being beat and down in the world and like all time low-down

    by Splicer on Wed Aug 16, 2006 at 05:44:46 AM PDT

  •  David, my reply took the form of (2+ / 0-)

    a diary that I hope you'll find interesting and helpful.

    I love the smell of impeachment in the morning!

    by gabbardd on Wed Aug 16, 2006 at 06:34:47 AM PDT

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