Evan McLaren has drawn my attention to a new article by Leonard Zeskind, chronicler of White Nationalism, in The Huffington Post. In his latest commentary, Zeskind warns Mark Lilla to reconsider his triumphalist narrative about the demise of the conservatism. He gives Paul Gottfried a backhanded compliment as a conservative intellectual whom the Left should take seriously. Gottfried has written a number of neglected books about conservatism (including one about Carl Schmitt) that have fallen on fertile soil outside the intellectual desert that is the mainstream American Right. These are the waters that Zeskind much prefers to traverse. Hence, his learned admonition of Lilla.
Zeskind briefly flirts with the notion that Gottfried’s admiration of Carl Schmitt links him to Nazism, but doesn’t seem to be able to swallow the idea. Schmitt’s work has become fashionable in recent years and a number of books have been written about him: to name a few, David Dyzenhaus (ed.) Law as Politics: Carl Schmitt’s Critique of Liberalism, John P. McCormick’s Carl Schmitt’s Critique of Liberalism: Against Politics as Technology, Jan-Werner Muller’s A Dangerous Mind: Carl Schmitt in Post-War European Thought, Ellen Kennedy’s Constitutional Failure: Carl Schmitt in Weimar, and many more. I read through all of these when I was in college. Several further volumes on Carl Schmitt’s thought have been published since then by critics and admirers. As the most significant anti-liberal legal theorist of the twentieth century, it is only natural that Schmitt has generated so much attention; that Gottfried would write about him doesn’t prove anything.
A more plausible case could be made that the roots of the postmodern intellectual Left trace back to fascism. Richard Wolin made this argument about Heidegger’s admirers in The Seduction of Unreason: The Intellectual Romance with Fascism from Nietzsche to Postmodernism. Personally, I don’t have the patience for this type of Reductio ad Hitlerum. When I read Nietzsche, Schmitt or Heidegger, their links to the NSDAP happens to be of little interest. I care only about the validity of their insights.
Paul Gottfried’s stated position on White Nationalism isn’t hard to track down. Within the past year, he has written about White Nationalism on a number of occasions. Each time it created a tempest in a teapot across our network of websites. He is willing to engage us in debate, treat us with respect, criticize our position, agree with us on some issues, but he is plainly not one of us. As a self-professed expert on White Nationalism, Zeskind has to know this.
It is true that Paleoconservatism and White Nationalism intersect on many points of mutual concern. The two movements overlap in many areas like Socialism and Liberalism on the Left, but they diverge on others, which is always a cause of heated debate between the two factions. This type of nuance on the Right will undoubtedly be lost on the Left Progressives who constitute the majority of Huffington Post readers.
Leonard Zeskind, our professional monitor, should know better.