Sunday, June 17, 2007

The Poverty of Paleoconservatism

I've been really hesitant to write this post. I've thought about putting up an entry in response to one of the worst trolls I've encountered since I've been blogging. I've got this guy named Mike Tuggle who's been hanging around this place a bit too much lately. Tuggle espouses one of the strangest brands of conservative thought one could imagine -- paleoconservatism -- and he's just become obssessed with the ideas represented in my blog, and their roots in Burkean political philosophy. I gave Tuggle a nasty whipping in the comment thread to this post awhile back. Each time I posted a riposte, Tuggle would be back to have the last word. He basically hijacked the thread after awhile, and started attacking other commenters who agreed with my views.

But that's not all. I started deleting his repetitive, abusive rants after a time, and then Tuggle went over to his own page to escalate his delusions with a number of juvenile and ill-considered ad hominem attacks on me in a couple of posts. I hate to link to him, and thereby feed his megalomania (one doesn't give a drink to a recovering alcoholic), but what can you do sometimes.
In this post, Tuggle claims to have won the upper hand in his exchange with me here at the Burkean site, but check out his really fatuous, self-serving puffery:

As you slog through the jingoistic mire in the comments section, just remember that I have inserted a few islands of solid ground on which there’s room to stand and catch your breath along the way. It’s tough going, but worth the effort, if for no other reason than to better understand the mindset of the red, white, ‘n bloodthirsty cheerleaders of DC’s endless wars. And readers of this blog know what those wars have done to our liberty, something the “nuke ‘em all” crowd doesn’t seem to grasp. Click on the link above, but watch your step.
Note something here: If you have the time to read the original comment thread, I never attacked Mike Tuggle's personal credibility, or called his integrity into question. I simply engaged the debate to see if Tuggle could come up with something compelling, yet to no avail. In his frustration, Tuggle put up his own post declaring his superior lucidity -- the "islands of solid ground" -- but then of course commences to attack me for alleged jingoism and bloodlust. That's the Tuggle style! It's apparent again in this post, where his frustration is just boiling over! You see, Tuggle's impotence in debate winds up leading him on a journey of distortion. He can't convincingly rebut the views of others, so he just twists opposing statements with really cheap and stinky shots. Tuggle calls conservatives who don't buy his paleo views "girly men," and he misrepresents my ideas on the Bush administration's earned legalization program as "amnesty."

At the crux of all of this, in any case, is Tuggle's dogged intolerance toward any conservative who deviates from his beloved
paleoconservative ideology. Tuggle promotes himself as a paragon of the conservative faith. He questions my philosophical groundings in Burkean thought, especially with respect to my staunch support for the Iraq war. Yet, when I challenged him to explain Burke's position on political reform -- and to tell me, for example, why Burke supported the American Revolution but not the French -- he ended up shooting blanks.

In the last few days, in his raging inefficacy, Tuggle's continued his denunciations of my alleged conservative heresies on
the page of another blogger whose bested him in debate once or twice. I trounced him in response to his attacks, and for the record, I'll post some of my remarks here. Tuggle cries like a baby about how I "banned him" from my page, and states:

He’s wrong -- I challenged him to defend his assertion that Burke would approve of the Neocon agenda of imposing “democracy” in Iraq, and he did not even attempt it. Instead he headed for the tall grass.
Tuggle's all bull, of course. So I had to set him straight:

Mike Tuggle: I have tried to take the high road with you, but it's hard. Here you go again, with the distortions, evasions, and provocations. You leave a putrid trail – from blog to blog – of extreme disrespect and intolerance! From what I can tell, you know nothing except what you've found in a couple of Lew Rockwell posts, and perhaps a stale copy of Pat Buchanan’s “A Republic, Not an Empire.” Buchanan’s marginal, discredited as a voice for the conservative movement. See, for example, “Pat Buchanan: An Embarrassment to Conservatives, an Embarrassment to America

Give me a break - I know my own job! You think I’ve never read this stuff? You’d be surprised – I actually like some of his ideas. But he’s not mainstream. I don’t care what the label – “paleo” this or that – he espouses the rankest form of neo-isolationist nationalism, completely out of favor! (
Here’s a link to your favorite hobbit.)

I’m tempted to deviate – again, within weeks – from my usual high standards of civility. So what the hell, I'll go easy: You're a no-good, losing megalomaniac (“a pathological egoist,” to help you here) – who just has to have the last word, yelling at the top of his lungs: “I’m right, everyone! Look, I’m right.” Further, you are – without a doubt – the slipperiest king of prevarication. You refuse to respond to any of the points I have raised on my page. Some of my immigrant students from Mexico, Korea, Russia – or elsewhere (we have plenty in California) – could debate you in circles, with one hand behind their backs. I could go on and on about the varieties of conservatism: Toryism, entrepreneurial, libertarian – the truth is most conservatives begin with Burkean foundationalism. Any theory evolves, numbskull! It’s called paradigm shift. You think Marx would be happy today with all the deviations from his original critique of capitalism? One of the main offshoots, Leninism, overturned a domestic theory of economic classes, became a world revolutionary ideology, bankrupted and impoverished the Russian people, with historical implications with which we still deal today! Now that I think about it, you ought to know something about the left: I teach ideologies, you fool! If one looks at the traditional, left-right political continuum, it’s possible to just pull the line up like a string, bring the two ends together in a circle, to find common ground.
According to one of my most basic – and I mean basic – introductory texts: “[R]adical and reactionaries share much in common. Both believe in dramatic change, though in different directions, and both contemplate the use of violence to achieve this change ....In fact, just as some liberals sometimes become conservatives and vice versa, radicals and reactionaries often cross over into each other’s camps.” (Source: P. O’Neil, “Essentials of American Politics”, 2nd ed., p. 59.) See also, "Gross-Out of the Week: Lew Rockwell & Cindy Sheehan Knock Knees."

Hey man, open your narrow little mind! You know, you must sit all day at your computer screen, just steaming that you can't get anyone to go along with your strange brand of conservatism. It’s amazing – you know who’s commenting on my blog better than I do. You’re obsessed. Get a life, man! Go troll elsewhere. Grow up and quit calling people names (really, "Stoogie"). I am comfortable in my views – rooted in traditionalism, but proud and welcoming, and accepting of the burdens of American power and ideals (you heard that right - gasp - neoconservatism!). If you've given it your best shot, hey man, I'm kickin'! For more foundations (which you'll need to spread the wings a bit), check out Peter Berkowitz recent essay, “
The Conservative Mind” – there’s no “paleo” mentioned.
In this last reference, Peter Berkowitz notes in his essay:

There can not be a conservative soul today in the way one can speak of a liberal soul or spirit. Whereas the latter revolves around the paramount good of freedom, modern conservatives, while loving liberty, differ over its position in the hierarchy of goods most in need of preservation, and indeed differ over the paramount good.
That's a point that illustrates the poverty of paleoconservatism, and it's a point Tuggle just doesn't get. Conservatism comes in a wide variety of flavors. As I noted to Tuggle in my riposte over at Saberpoint, I teach this stuff, and I'm not going to lay down like some "girly man" when someone impugns my pedagogical integrity. Here's one more good review of the vibrancy and diversity of the conservative intellectual enterprise:

Conservatives are the most supportive of the status quo and therefore are reluctant to see it changed. Being content with things as they are does not suggest that conservatives are necessarily happy with the existing system, however. Conservatives are often accused of lacking vision, but this charge is unfair....Of course, not all conservatives are equally resistant to change. Obviously, those closest to the status quo point on the spectrum are the least inclined to desire change. And, although it seems unlikely that many people are absolutely content with the system and are opposed to any change whatsoever, some people do take this position, and each of us could probably find some issues in which we would prefer no change at all. Still, most conservatives will accept some deviation from the status quo...and the change they will accept is progressive.
This quote is from Leon Baradat's Political Ideologies: Their Origins and Impact, 9th ed. (Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Prentice Hall, 2006), p. 22. The Baradat book is the most widely used in courses on introductory political science. Mike Tuggle -- obviously needing more grounding in the basics -- might do well to get his hands on a copy of the Baradat volume.

Tuggle, as well,
might take a look at this review of Andrew Sullivan's book, The Conservative Soul. Sullivan -- a disciple of British Burkean political philosopher Michael Oakeshott -- was a prominent early supporter of the Bush administration's policy of regime change in Iraq. Yet, in The Conservative Soul, he changed his stripes, reverting back to a more conservative skepticism toward an evangelical American foreign policy. As Tuggle likes to criticize Sullivan, it's appropriate to note that Sullivan himself make the case for conservative eclecticism, complete with a does of ideological uncertainty and reassessment. Conservatives are a diverse group, but it's no cause for alarm or enmity. So Mike Tuggle, loosen up, man, you're bothering me!

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