Ross Douthat has a rather meandering followup to his previous column on ‘The Reactionary Mind’ (“Why Is Reaction Taboo?”) If his new column accomplishes one thing, it is to address the moral equivocation implicit in emotional reactions to neoreactionism:
…[I]f reaction was discredited by Hitler and Bull Connor, by race hatred and Jew hatred, why wasn’t left-wing radicalism discredited by Stalin and Mao and Pol Pot? If this is all about moral credibility and the company you keep, why did so many prominent historians and literary critics get to keep on calling themselves Marxists after every Marxist-Leninist regime committed mass murder on an epic scale? Why are Kipling’s politics or Eliot’s or Pound’s or even Heidegger’s considered so much more “problematic” and all-discrediting than the Stalinist strain in so much left-wing historiography and philosophy and criticism and art?
Conservatives have been asking these questions for a long time; they’re still good ones…
…[T]o the extent that we have any inheritance that’s even somewhat reactionary and aristocratic and old-regime-ish, it’s the inheritance of the Old South, which for all its gifts and graces is morally corrupted at its roots and freighted with all the weight of America’s original sin.
So as with the crimes of the Nazis in Western Europe, the familiarity problem comes in here: If reaction in the American context means a Confederate flag and radicalism a Che Guevara tee-shirt, well, Che was a wicked man with a wicked ideology and Marxist regimes have committed worse atrocities than the C.S.A., but the Confederacy’s evils are still ours, still American, in a way that the killing fields and gulags are not.