The Frum Firing Fiasco

"Scholar" Charles Murray used to think this was way cool.

In Yiddish, “frum” is a word denoting someone who is religiously observant and pious. David Frum is not, as far as I can tell, a frum in the literal sense but he has been a leading frum of the American conservative movement. Like the theologies of most religions, modern conservative thought is a farrago of inconsistent, ad hoc positions: “national security” (i.e., a foreign policy of militaristic nationalism), “traditional values” (i.e. 1950s-style patriarchy and heteronormativity) and “free enterprise” (i.e., the hegemony of corporate capitalism in the economy and society). Like a prize yeshiva student, Frum has faithfully adhered to even the most esoteric of the 613 commandments of conservatism and at times has been a more hardline frum than the chief rabbis themselves (i.e., he criticized Reagan for being a foreign policy squish when the Gipper decided, quite wisely as it happens, to negotiate with Mikhail Gorbachev).

Because of his long history of ultra-orthodoxy, Frum’s firing from his cushy sinecure at the American Enterprise Institute has provoked a tremendous amont of chatter. To switch religious metaphors, it’s as if a cardinal who had long been groomed to assume the papacy had been excommunicated. What’s shocking is that Frum was fired not over a major issue of doctrine but rather a relatively trivial question of tactics. He thought that the Republicans shouldn’t have opposed Obama’s health care reform effort outright but that they should have tried to water it down by co-operation. The American conservative really has become a fanatical sect that won’t tolerate even the smallest dissent from orthodoxy, not just in thinking but even in the minutiae of behaviour.

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Charles Murray and “Liberal Fascism”

Sans Everything is a blog that supports animal rights. So it seems amiss for me to keep beating the same poor broken-down horse, whether it’s dead or alive. Still, there is one last comment to make about Jonah Goldberg’s Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left, from Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning. The book has been enthusiastically endorsed by Charles Murray, a blurb that’s included on the book’s website. “Liberal Fascism is nothing less than a portrait of 20th-century political history as seen through a new prism. It will affect the way I think about that history-and about the trajectory of today’s politics-forever after,” Murray says.

What credibility does Murray have as a critic of fascism? As I noted in two earlier postings, Murray is most famous as the co-author, along with Richard Herrnstein, of The Bell Curve, a book tainted by its reliance on extreme racialists. The writers Muray drew on for his book are not the made-up “liberal fascists” of Goldberg’s imagination (Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt, Hilary Clinton). Rather, Murray built his case by relying on men who had genuine connections with dictatorial, racialist regimes. One of them was Nathaniel Weyl, a strong supporter of the apartheid-era South Africa.

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