During my European trip I passed through Heathrow airport twice. At one of the departure gates there was rack of free magazines, and the only one from the United States was The American Spectator, a venerable conservative rag of intellectual pretensions, featuring articles by editor R. Emmett Tryrrell, Jr., Ron Chernow, and Grover Norquist, among many othrs. Tyrrell proclaimed "Liberalism's Death Croak," George Gilder explained that Israeli settlments were the best thing that had ever happened to the Palestinian economy, and Joseph Shattan gave a glowing review to a book of essays by Irving Kristol, founder of neoconservatism. But the articles that really caught my eye were about Europe: a "Letter from Paris" by Joseph Harriss, and "The Rebirth of Nations" by Roger Scruton. As regular readers know, I generally reject comparisons between Fascists and American conservatives because I believe their goals are so different. This one, however, hit me in the face. Harriss' article, "The Power of Le Pen", was a paean of praise for the French National Front. Scruton went further, lauding all the neo-Fascist European parties trying to ride into power on a wave of nationalism and anti-Muslim incitement.
The focus of the article was the new leader of the National Front, Marie LePen, whom Harriss had to admit was pro-choice and twice divorced, but whom he nonetheless hopefully predicted might actually finish second in the first round of the forthcoming presidential election and first in the second round. Scruton begins with a warm paragraph about the Finnish True Finn party and proceeds to praise nationalist movements in the Netherlands, Flemisth Belgium, and Italy. (He was however careful not to praise Hungary's rightwingers, who have actually taken over the government and who are overtly anti-semitic.)
The reason for these rather troubling positions became apparent within the articles: these parties, first, are obsessed with the Islamic danger in Europe, but more importantly, they generally oppose the European Union, which has become a secular socialist bugaboo for the American right. One might have though, of course, that the twentieth century examples of Italian and German exceptionalism might have made Americans shy away from the idea of American exceptionalism, but the reverse, of course, is true. The European Union represents the most complete triumph of Enlightenment ideals in the world today, including the ideal of the perfectability of society with the help of a strong government, and thus to American conservatives it must be a bad thing. Today's American conservatives also seem to be well aware that the leaders of the European right, like Nicolas Sarkoczy, David Cameron, and Angela Merkel, are all considerably to the left of Nelson Rockefeller in their policies, and thus, if they want to find European allies, they must look further right.
The Anmerican Spectator was of course only one data point, but it was clear that rejection of the European union and praise for European nationalist movements are now part of its line. How widespread these views are among rightwing publications I do not know, but I found them very disturbing.
I have been most gratified to note that this blog now has a very noticeable readership in France--266 hits in the last week or so, for instance--and I would be very curious to hear comments from any French readers.
Meanwhile, see another post from yesterday, below.