In the last few years, what we may conveniently call the “System” under which Americans live has begun to show unmistakable signs of strain, and, as in most other systems of the past, those who run and manage the System have responded to these signs with increasingly blatant tactics of repression. The most obvious strains have appeared in the emergence of potentially violent resistance in such movements as the militias, the Freemen, white separatists, secessionists of one kind or another, religious oddwads like the Branch Davidians and the Identity Churches, “sagebrush rebels” in the Far West, tax protesters, and even home schoolers. The repression visited upon such malcontents is equally obvious, immortalized in the cryptic and bloody sagas of the massacres perpetrated by federal agents at Waco and Ruby Ridge.
Regardless of how minute a portion of the entire population is involved in these tendencies or the validity of their complaints, enough of them have now exploded into repressive bloodshed, enough “counter-terrorist” and gun control measures have been seriously proposed, and enough ululations about “extremism” have been emitted to suggest that something rather serious is going on and that the System and its guardians know that it is serious.
What is going on, of course, is the incipient crumbling of the System, as its failures to engineer utopia or merely to maintain simple order and prosperity become obvious even to poorly educated men and women, and as those who have to endure the consequences of those failures penetrate the deceptions in which the System has cloaked itself. Nevertheless, the more violent and sensational manifestations of the crumbling by no means constitute the most significant evidence that the System is in trouble, nor are the brutal and clumsy efforts to paste the federal leviathan back together again at such places as Waco and Ruby Ridge the most insidious methods of repression that the guardians have at their disposal. What is far more serious a threat to the System than the emergence of the eccentric, politically illiterate, and socially displaced warriors of imaginary armies out in the woods is the rapid disintegration of the central ideologies and myths on which the System is founded, and far more important instances of repression than what happened at Waco and Ruby Ridge show that the System, the old regime, is by no means ready to pack it in without a fight.
In the last several months, on a number of occasions, the System has successfully visited repression upon the expression of ideas that directly challenge and undermine its ideological base. At the risk of immodesty, I might offer my own defenestration at The Washington Times, recounted in earlier issues of this magazine, as one of them, but by no means the most significant. In the other cases, the System in one way or another has succeeded in silencing those who deviated from various assumptions on which its dominance is based, although in no instance was any actual bloodshed employed and indeed the state itself was not involved. A brief catalogue of these cases may serve to illustrate what they share in common.
On April 3, spokesmen for the New York publishing firm of St. Martin’s announced that, after a campaign mounted for some weeks by the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith and its allies, the firm would not publish a new biography of Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels by the controversial revisionist historian David Irving. The Goebbels biography, based on Mr. Irving’s researches in Goebbels’ 75,000-page private diary that has only recently become available in the former Soviet archives, apparently challenges a number of established views about the Nazi government, World War II, and the roles of Hitler and Goebbels in them. No one seems to know exactly what conclusions Mr. Irving comes to, but his earlier published work, also based on intensive scrutiny of previously unexamined archival material, has been sufficiently shattering that his new book could be expected to follow suit.
What is unique about the decision not to publish the book is that St. Martin’s had already contracted to publish it and the Military Book Club had agreed to accept it as its main selection. Despite earlier defenses of the book and of the decision to publish it, St. Martin’s spokesmen announced that the Goebbels biography was in fact nothing more than “an insidious piece” of anti-Semitic propaganda and that St. Martin’s would be “condoning” or “lending its imprimatur” to the book if it appeared under its aegis.
That rationale is, on its face, absurd. With all due respect to the prestige of St. Martin’s, neither it nor any other publisher is so sacrosanct that whatever book it publishes is received as gospel. Mr. Irving’s earlier books have generated fierce controversy and criticism, and there is no reason to think his new one would have been spared, whatever its merits or flaws.
The real reason for the suppression of the Irving book is that the ADL and its allies, including New York Times columnist Frank Rich, had demanded that St. Martin’s drop it and were able to generate sufficient pressure on the publisher that it was afraid to honor its contract with the author. It is easy enough to blame “the Jews” for the pressure, but the real reasons for the campaign are somewhat deeper. World War II and the orthodox historical account of it as a crusade against a racist and reactionary regime constitute a major charter myth of the current System, and Mr. Irving’s oeuvre constitutes a major challenge to that myth. If indeed he has dug up materials from the long-unknown Goebbels diary that challenge the conventional wisdom about the Nazi regime, its persecution of the Jews, or World War II, the System has good reason to want to make sure it does not see the light of day.
On April 17, Bob Grant, New York City’s chief Right-wing radio host, was fired by his employers, Capital Cities/ABC Inc. Mr. Grant’s radio commentary reportedly makes such fire eaters as Gordon Liddy look like Dick Cavett, and according to the New York Times account, he “has consistently expressed the view that black and Hispanic people are genetically inferior to whites.” The immediate offense for which he seems to have been sacked was an admittedly rather tasteless wisecrack about the late Commerce Secretary Ron Brown, just after his sad demise in a Balkan plane crash, but it is likely that that was merely an excuse.
As in the case of Mr. Irving, Mr. Grant for some weeks had been the target of an organized campaign, mounted this time not by the ADL but rather by a group calling itself FAIR, for “Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting.” FAIR poses as a “watchdog” of the press, but the quickest glance at the materials it produces shows that it is in fact a hard-Left political battery dedicated to ridding the media of Right-wing noises. It has cranked out “dossiers” on Rush Limbaugh to prove he is not a reliable source of information and has produced a similar document on Pat Buchanan to “document” his “racism” and “extremism.” One of its abiding bugaboos is the corporate “concentration of media ownership,” and it loves to thump its chest about its passion to “invigorate the First Amendment by advocating for [sic] greater plurality and diversity in the media” and defending “working journalists when they are muzzled.” As a working journalist who was muzzled, I might have made use of FAIR’s talents, but for some reason I heard nothing from them.
But Mr. Grant did hear from them. On March 31, FAIR ran a quarter-page ad on the op-ed page of the Sunday New York Times in the form of an open letter to Michael Eisner of the Walt Disney Company, the corporate parent of Mr. Grant’s station. The ad claims that Mr. Grant on his program had promoted “the white supremacist American Renaissance conference in Louisville” and demanded of Mr. Eisner, “Is it the policy of the Walt Disney Company to allow hosts on its stations to make racial slurs?” and “Is it Disney’s policy to allow the promotion of white supremacist groups on its stations?” So much for “invigorating the First Amendment.”
FAIR’s ad and a good deal of its related activity were clearly intended to mount pressure on Disney or the station to force Mr. Grant off the air, and it is likely that his employer’s decision to send Mr. Grant’s program to the same oblivion as Mr. Irving’s book on Goebbels was largely due to the pressure from this Left-wing gang. Mr. Grant does in fact seem to have specialized in uttering provocative and indeed tasteless remarks, but so do a great many talk show hosts these days on matters that do not tread too close to the sacred precincts of the System. But by discussing race and challenging not only the egalitarian ideology of the System but also the public etiquette based on that ideology, Mr. Grant was threatening to accomplish a bit more than the militias and their imaginary armies are achieving. He was in fact delegitimizing the structural premises of the System itself.
A final example of recent repression occurred on the very same day that Mr. Grant was muzzled. On April 17 the President of the distinguished scientific publishing house John Wiley & Sons announced that it was withdrawing from publication a new book on human intelligence, The g Factor, by University of Edinburgh psychologist Christopher Brand. The book, which is a fairly technical discussion of intelligence from a hereditarian perspective, had been exciting some not very reliable news in the not very reliable British press, and Mr. Brand had been complimented by some of his colleagues as a “fool” and his views characterized by one student, described in the Scottish press as “affronted Zambian student Kashina Kashina,” as “hideous.” The statement from the publisher strutted that “The management . . . does not want to support these views by disseminating them or be associated with a book that makes assertions that we find repellent.” What exactly those “assertions” were no one bothered to specify.
Whether the silencing of Mr. Brand’s opus was the product of the kind of orchestration that slammed the lid on Mr. Irving and Mr. Grant I don’t know, but after a while orchestration becomes unnecessary. Indeed, two nationally known and academically distinguished experts on the intelligence issue have recently told me that they are finding it impossible to locate publishers willing to carry their most recent works on the subject. After you beat the dog enough times, it learns the lesson you want to teach it and you don’t need to beat it quite as much.
What is going on with the suppression of these dissident voices in recent months is an extended damage control by a leaking and perhaps mortally wounded System. The secret of empire is out: the empire rests on lies — lies about equality, lies about history, and most particularly lies about “freedom of expression” — and once that truth has been exposed, the only recourse the empire has is to try to stuff the truth back in the closet, by force, fear, and intimidation if necessary. The System cannot simply adjust to and accept the truth about human and racial inequality because that truth undermines most of what the System does and most of what the System is supposed to be for. The System is supposed to provide social management by which artificial and unjust inequalities are eradicated and the victims of inequality uplifted — through redistribution of income, equal and universal opportunity education, civil rights laws, affirmative action, various kinds of social therapy, and a jungle of other legal and bureaucratic devices that in fact yield unchecked power to the elites that design and apply them. The managed eradication of inequality, and with it of the traditional institutions from whence inequality supposedly derives, is indeed the System’s whole rationale. But if inequality is not artificial but natural, then inequality cannot be eradicated, is not unjust anyway, and has no “victims.” Therefore, those who expose the lies about equality are more dangerous than outlaws and must be suppressed if the System and its beneficiaries are to persist. Therefore also, those who do not bend the knee toward the myths and icons — World War II, the War Between the States, Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King — that perpetuate and incorporate the rationale of the System must also be suppressed.
And the need for repression is far more imperative now, when out in the boonies there are angry citizens with guns and trucks full of fertilizer who (perhaps because they may not be entirely sane) have long since seen through the lies on which the System is grounded. But those folks can be dealt with easily enough, through the FBI or the BATF or similar agencies. Professors who write technical monographs, historians who actually go to the archives instead of regurgitating what their colleagues have already written, and talk show hosts who don’t respect the etiquette that masks the lies are rather more dangerous and somewhat more difficult to get back into the closet.
What is happening, then, is that the System is fighting back and doing so in the only way that remains available to discredited regimes whose central myths and justifications have been exposed, and in the long run it cannot and will not work. “One can do almost anything with bayonets, Your Majesty,” the crafty minister Talleyrand remarked to Napoleon Bonaparte, “except sit upon them.” Unable to manipulate the masses into obedience by inculcating an ideology that the masses find credible, the System has now graduated to reposing upon bayonets, and those dissidents who are the targets of this tactic are no less victims of the System than the followers of David Koresh and the family of Randy Weaver. They will not be its last victims, and the more there are and the more widely their victimization is perceived, the more transparent will the hollowness and mendacity of the System become and the more precarious will be the uncomfortable and dangerous seat on which its guardians are now obliged to crouch.
This article was originally published in Chronicles Magazine in July 1996.