This 'Far-Right' Bit Is Getting Old

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by Tyler Durden
Friday, Aug 18, 2023 - 02:20 AM

Commentary by Jeffrey A. Tucker via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours),

A great new country music song comes out, by a completely unknown performer, and takes the #1 spot in charts. The mainstream press decries the artist and song as “far-right.”

Argentine congressman and presidential candidate Javier Milei delivers a speech with electoral proposals to agricultural businessman and representative of the agricultural unions at the Sociedad Rural Argentina in Buenos Aires on July 24, 2023. (Juan Mabromata/AFP via Getty Images)

An exciting movie based on a true story of child trafficking blasts forward to earn more than the expected blockbuster. The mainstream press denounces the film as “far-right.”

An insurgent campaign in Argentina by an economist rocks the election primaries. The candidate wants to crush the central bank and level state bureaucracies that interfere with freedom. The press universally decries him as “far-right.”

[ZH: And Milei punches back]

Your favorite newspaper covers facts that matter with tremendous accuracy. It’s called The Epoch Times. But your social circles says this paper is “far right.”

You get the message? Anything that rocks the boat these days is called “far-right. The point of the phrase is to recall Mussolini, Franco, Hitler, maybe even Torquemada and Attila the Hun, and conjures up images of shock troops, black boots, goose stepping, and the darkest forms of intolerance and coercion.

It’s all rather strange because each of the above is not about any of that. They are about the opposite. They are calling for ending oppression, curbing government, revealing the truth behind official lies, draining the swamp, ending corruption, and restoring freedom and dignity to the people against the elites.

What in the world is this “far-right” thing the press has going on? It is designed to broadcast the message that anything that is not conventional or left-of-center is necessarily flirting with some dark interwar catastrophe. That is to say, it is a smear.

The smear is so habitual at this point that it probably can’t be stopped. No journalist gets in trouble for deploying it. It cannot be challenged with defamation law, though it probably should be.

In fact, the phrase “far-right” is so opaque, unfalsifiable, and still damaging that it is flung around with abandon by anyone threatened by the slightest change in society’s relationship to the state and its allied interest groups.

Permit me a brief examination of the roots.

If looking to the roots of right and left, historians often consider France. On the right side of the parliament sat the monarchists, established business interests, the ecclesiocrats, and champions of the Ancien Régime. On the left sat the reformers, the liberals, the free traders, the republicans, and the proponents of religious liberty.

Is this where we get the idea? Not really. America didn’t really deploy the concepts of right and left in national parlance until the 20th century. Here the influence was not France, at least not directly, but Germany, especially the 19th century political debates between the end of the Napoleonic wars and the rise of Otto von Bismarck. It was during this time, particularly in the 1880s and 90s, that U.S. elite intellectuals frequently traveled to Germany to study under the fashionable gurus of the time.

We are not talking about American popular culture but intellectual culture, a world set apart but ultimately decisively influential over the commanding heights of civilization itself. The U.S. Ivys were all invaded rather dramatically by a Prussian spirit: historicist, elitist, and thoroughly statist.

Here is where we find the origin of American Progressivism. It was a Prussian/German import. And what was German politics and philosophy about in that period? The poet of the entire German intellectual scene was Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, a philosopher who came to prominence in the 1820s for his forecast of the inevitable return of the German empire and the unity of society, church, and state.

At least that’s what the old Hegelians wanted, and Bismarck was their champion. They wanted a giant welfare state, a central bank, a powerful military empire, society organized as a unified family, an economically self-sufficient nation, and a state with overweening power to dominate the social order. In music, the leader was of course Richard Wagner: nationalistic, romantic, idealistic, and fundamentally statist. This was the right, or, one might say, the far-right (and yes anti-Semitism and racism were part of that).

The left was more complicated because it was split between the old liberals as represented by champions of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Johannes Brahms, who had nothing to do with Hegelianism, and the rise of the Marxists, on the other. The Marxists were the successors to the French socialists who appropriated Hegel to weave into the cockamamie economics a deterministic view of history, which ended up being called dialectical materialism.

It’s a wonder this gibberish ever caught on but there is something strange about the Hegelian virus and the German academic mind. As Ludwig von Mises wrote, it utterly wrecked German academia for a century and a half. More than that, it had a profound impact on 20th-century politics. Marxism spread from Russia to China to Latin America, and Nazism engulfed Europe and painted the map brown.

Do you see where this is going? The Hegelians broke into two large branches: left for the Marxists and right for the nationalists, who ended up following Hitler to the doom of the entire project. That is a more precise way to understand the left and right as it came to be understood in the U.S. context from the turn of the 20th century and forward.

Indeed, the American Progressives were themselves split into left and right, with the left pushing great scientific planning over economic life and the right wanting to deploy national power in war and unifying society in a single familial model that forced women not to work and large-scale industry to replace agriculture.

In other words, in this parlance, left and right were both versions of statism, a basically insane confidence that experts with power, resources, and intelligence will improve the whole over what essential freedom would yield. They are two flavors of the same poison, both accusing each other of various forms of evil.

It’s always the same thing: confidence that intellectuals can outsmart everyone else in the peoples’ evaluation of their own problems, risks, issues, faith, and solutions. The heck of it is that it is never true. And this truth invalidates centuries of dangerous ideological fantasies which invalidate both left and right.

So when the media complains that people doing normal things and making justifiable complaints against the system as it is are “far-right,” what they are really confessing is their own ideological commitments. They are leftists in what they imagine to be a grand ideological struggle against the right. In this struggle, they want no one to be independent.

The tragedy comes when people take the bait. They believe that because the left is so nuts, they themselves must associate with the right. I’m telling you that none of this is necessary. You can be independent. You can reject both flavors of top-down rule.

Freedom is an idea that has always stood apart from the insane ravings of the intellectual class. It’s a cry for plain freedom itself, which is part of the normal human moral intuition. It requires no ideological structure. It just is what it is. And in this, it is neither left nor right.

And that’s okay. But apparently, this desire to be left alone and not be manipulated by elites is so unfamiliar these days that everyone’s aspiration for freedom itself is conscripted into an ideological tribe. The best strategy for resistance is to trust those instincts and follow your gut. You have every right to be free, and also to like the latest song, movie, to follow media with facts and truth, and to celebrate the resistance.

We are today battling all the powers that be. That doesn’t make us left or right but rather normal and hopefully free at some point in the distant future.

Jeffrey A. Tucker is the founder and president of the Brownstone Institute, and the author of many thousands of articles in the scholarly and popular press, as well as 10 books in five languages, most recently “Liberty or Lockdown.” He is also the editor of The Best of Mises. He writes a daily column on economics for The Epoch Times and speaks widely on the topics of economics, technology, social philosophy, and culture.