Category Archives: Bruce S. Thornton

What Eric Holder Doesn’t Want to Talk About

by Bruce S. Thornton // FrontPage Magazine 

Remember when Attorney General Eric Holder called Americans a “nation of cowards” who put “certain subjects . . . off limits”? Holder,

Claude McKay

Claude McKay

of course, was referring to “subjects” that in fact we do nothing else but talk about non-stop – the refusal of whites to admit the persistence of white racism and its responsibility for all the ills afflicting the black underclass. To quote Paul Krugman for this received wisdom, “Race is the Rosetta Stone that makes sense of many otherwise incomprehensible aspects of U.S. politics.”

Yet Holder was unwittingly accurate, for there is a subject the mainstream culture and political discourse never touches: what Harlem Renaissance novelist Claude McKay called the “yellow complex.” This is the psychological condition of light-skinned blacks that was explored in novels of the 1920s like McKay’s Home to Harlem and Wallace Thurman’s The Blacker the Berry.  Back then, the mulatto or light-complexioned black, especially the well educated, lived in a social and psychological limbo, excluded by racism from the white world, and forced by segregation to live among darker blacks whom they often despised and looked down on. Yet darker blacks themselves experienced conflicting emotions, at once attracted to and resentful of the light-skinned who scorned them.

Thurman’s Emma Lou is a sympathetic portrait of this complex from the perspective of a woman whose mother is a mulatto, but who inherited her father’s black skin: “Emma Lou had been born in a semi-white world, totally surrounded by an all-white one, and those few dark elements that had forced their way in had either been shooed away or else greeted with derisive laughter.” When she matriculates at an exclusive Negro college, she despises Hazel, another dark-skinned girl who attempts to befriend her, as “just a vulgar little n***** from down South.” Emma Lou “was determined to become associated only with those people who really mattered, northerners like herself or superior southerners, if there were any, who were different from whites only in so far as skin color was concerned.” What she discovers, however, is that most of the light-skinned students to whom she is attracted despise her as much as she despises Hazel.

A creation of racism and segregation, the psychology explored in this persistent theme of classic black literature was supposedly transcended by the “black is beautiful” movement of the 1960s. In black identity politics the poles of value were reversed: the snobbish mulattoes or blacks who lived by so-called “white” values were attacked for “acting white,” and authentic black identity comprised Read more →

Illiberal Liberalism

The left’s disdain for ordinary Americans has deep historical roots.

by Bruce S. Thornton // Defining Ideas 

During the 2008 presidential campaign, Barack Obama let slip his disdain for the middle-class when he explained his lack of traction among such voters. “It’s not surprising then,” Obama said, “that they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade482px-Presidentwoodrowwilson sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.” More recently, U.S. Senate candidate Bruce Braley mocked his opponent incumbent Chuck Grassley as “a farmer from Iowa who never went to law school.” The liberal disdain for ordinary Americans has been around for a long time. Beneath the populist rhetoric and concern for the middle class that lace the campaign speeches of most liberal politicians, there lurks a palpable disgust, and often contempt, for the denizens of “flyover country,” that land of God, guns, religion, and traditional beliefs.

In Revolt Against the Masses, the Manhattan Institute senior fellow and New York Post columnist Fred Siegel presents a clearly written and engaging historical narrative of how nearly a century ago this strain of illiberal liberalism began to take over the Democratic Party. Along the way he also provides an excellent political history of the period that illuminates the “ugly blend of sanctimony, self-interest, and social-connections” lying at the heart of liberalism today.

Siegel begins with a valuable survey of the “progenitors,” the early twentieth-century thinkers and writers whose ideas shaped the liberal ideology. Those who know English writer H. G. Wells only as an early pioneer of science-fiction novels Read more →

Israel’s Worst Enemy: Lies and Myths

by Bruce S. Thornton // FrontPage Magazine 

The Washington Post reports that some members of Secretary of State John Kerry’s senior staff think it’s time to say “enough” of Kerry’s futile and delusional attempts to broker peace between the Israelis and Arabs and implement the “two-

Templar1307 via Flickr

Templar1307 via Flickr

state solution.” That’s a revelation one would think the chief diplomat of the greatest power in history would have experienced decades ago. Since the failed 1993 Oslo Accords, it has been obvious to all except the duplicitous, the ignorant, and the Jew-hater that the Arabs do not want a “Palestinian state living in peace side-by-side with Israel,” something they could have had many times in the past. On the contrary, as they serially prove in word and deed, they want Israel destroyed.

As Caroline Glick documents in her new book The Israeli Solution, the “two-state solution” is a diplomatic chimera for the West, and a tactic for revanchist Arabs who cannot achieve their eliminationist aims by military means. But the “Palestinian state” is merely one of many myths, half-truths, and outright lies that befuddle Western diplomats and leaders, and put the security and possibly the existence of Israel at risk.

First there is the canard that Israel is somehow an illegitimate state, a neo-imperialist outpost that Westerners created to protect their economic and geopolitical interests. In this popular myth, invading Jewish colonists “stole” the land and ethnically cleansed the region of its true possessors, the indigenous “Palestinian people.” This crime was repeated after 1967 Six Day War, when Israel seized the “West Bank,” occupying it as a colonial power and subjecting its inhabitants to a brutally discriminatory regime. The continuing power of this lie Read more →

Winners and Losers in the War on Poverty

by Bruce S. Thornton // FrontPage Magazine 

Progressives and liberals love William James’s idea of a “moral equivalent of war.” As Jonah Goldberg defines this concept, “The core idea, expressed in myriad different ways, is that normal democratic capitalism is insufficient. Society needs an

Steve Rhode via Flickr

Steve Rhode via Flickr

organizing principle that causes the citizenry to drop their individual pursuits, petty ambitions, and disorganized lifestyles and unite around common purposes. Naturally, the State must provide leadership and coordination in this effort, just as it does in a war.” The redefining of social problems as battles in a “war” also expands the regulatory and intrusive power of the federal government, and justifies its appropriation of wealth in order to finance the programs that are de facto redistributions of property. The fundamental purpose of the Constitution, limiting the government in order to allow problems to be solved at the closest possible level to the people, is gutted by a false analogy.

Up until Obamacare, no greater example of costly failure of this idea has been Lyndon Johnson’s “War on Poverty,” a congeries of various federal programs legislated 50 years ago. Johnson’s grandiose utopian aim for his “unconditional war on poverty” was the “total victory of prosperity over poverty.” Recently the House Read more →

The Race-Hacks Defend Their Industry

by Bruce S. Thornton // FrontPage Magazine 

The race-hack usual subjects recently attacked Congressman Paul Ryan for stating that the problems plaguing the poor––incarceration, fatherless children, drug abuse, rampant violence, and welfare-dependence–– are a consequence of a dysfunctional culture that scorns marriage, parenthood, education, work, and virtues like self-control. Given that blacks are overrepresented among the underclass, these unexceptional observations––regularly made by others, including Barack Obama––called down a firestorm of racialist invective on Ryan. The abuse ranged from the usual clichés about “blaming the victim” and racist “dog-whistles,” to a New York Times columnist accusing Ryan of being as callous as the Brits were about the 19th century Irish famine. Such ad hominem calumny suggests that somebody’s ox is being gored and doesn’t like it. Read more →

The Incoherence of Western Foreign Policy

by Bruce S. Thornton // FrontPage Magazine 

The crisis in Ukraine is just the latest in a long series of foreign policy failures brought about by the incoherence in our thinking about foreign relations. On the one hand, we have championed ethnic-national self-determination as the highest international good, while on the other we have assumed that all these various nations and peoples share the same ideals, principles, and goods, and so can comprise a transnational order that will eliminate war and conflict and create peace and prosperity. Over a hundred years of history reveal these ideals not just to be incompatible, but also to foment and worsen inter-state violence. Read more →

Western Arrogance and Decline

by Bruce S. Thornton // FrontPage Magazine 

For three centuries the West built up enormous economic, cultural, and military capital that dwarfs and dominates that of the rest of the world. Other countries may hate and resent Europe and the United States, but they still have to imitate, adapt, or steal the technology, financial systems, and even popular culture of the Titus_LiviusWest. Yet this dominance has come at a price for Westerners, one that contains the seeds of our decline.

One baleful effect of this achievement has been the erosion of the virtues and ideals that created Western dominance in the first place, a phenomenon long recognized as the cost of national success. Two thousand years ago the Roman historian Livy, surveying the wreckage of the Roman Republic, invited his reader to contemplate the “life and manners” of his ancestors that led to their dominance, and “then, as discipline gradually declined, let him follow in his thoughts their morals, at first as slightly giving way, next how they sunk more and more, then began to fall headlong, until he reaches the present times, when we can neither endure our vices, nor their remedies.” Livy specifically linked this decline to the vast increase of wealth that followed the success of Rome, and that “introduced avarice, and a longing for excessive pleasures, amidst luxury and a passion for ruining ourselves and destroying every thing else.”

Clichés, one might say, but no less true for that. The astonishing wealth of the West, more widely distributed than in any other civilization, the abandonment of religion as the foundation of morals and virtues, the transformation of political freedom into self-centered license, and the commodification of hedonism that makes available to everyman luxuries and behaviors once reserved for a tiny elite, have made self-indulgence and the present more important than self-sacrifice and the future. Declining birthrates, a preference for Read more →

Sacrificing the Military to Entitlements

by Bruce S. Thornton // FrontPage Magazine 

Vladimir Putin, playing geopolitical chess while our president plays tiddlywinks, has effectively taken over Crimea. Armed men, looking suspiciously like Russian military personnel, have seized both airports and established border checkpoints decorated with Kalashnikovs and Russian flags. This comes after other armed men seized two government buildings and raised Russian flags, as the legislature appointed a pro-Russian regional

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, center, is escorted by U.S. Air Force Gen. Jack Weinstein after arriving at the missile alert facility and launch control center at F.E. Warren Air Force Base in Cheyenne, Wyo., Jan. 9, 2014. Hagel was on a two-day trip to visit commands in the western United States.

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, center, is escorted by U.S. Air Force Gen. Jack Weinstein 

leader. Meanwhile Russian military forces are gathering on the border, with Russia’s parliament unanimously voting to approve deploying troops in Ukraine.

This is just Putin’s latest revanchist expansion of Russian power throughout the region. He’s been at this for a while. Remember that during the Bush administration he stole chunks of Moldova and Georgia, using the same argument of ethnic self-determination that served Hitler so well in 1938, when he made the Sudeten Germans the pretext for gobbling up Czechoslovakia. Remember when in 2005 Putin said that after the collapse of the Soviet Union––the “greatest geopolitical catastrophe” of the 20th century, as he put it–– “tens of millions of our fellow citizens and countrymen found themselves beyond the fringes of Russian territory”? And just as England and France did nothing except talk about Hitler’s aggression, so too the West has blustered Read more →

Class Warfare, An American Tradition

We are no more partisan today than we were at the nation’s founding.

by Bruce S. Thornton // Defining Ideas 

Are we more “polarized” and “partisan” than we were in the past? Political commentators think so. In a recentAtlantic profile, conservative pollster Frank Luntz attributed his cynicism about American politics to the unprecedented polarization of the American people he has seen in his recent work with focus groups. They are “contentious and argumentative,” don’t “listen to each other as they once had,” and are not “interested in hearing other points of view.” The fault lies in Washington, where the people are “picking up their leads.” Read more →

Fat Cats and Democrats

by Bruce S. Thornton // FrontPage Magazine 

The progressive mind functions by means of mythic narratives that have tenuous

Minnesota Historical Society

Minnesota Historical Society

connections to reality. Cops shoot a black man, and Eugene Robinson of The Washington Post begs “please don’t shoot me,” indulging the myth of a lethal American racism endangering black people’s lives, even though black offenders kill 90% of black murder victims, and 85% of interracial crime is perpetuated by blacks against whites. Criticize Sandra Fluke for demanding that a Catholic university’s health care plan subsidize her birth control, and you’re waging a sexist “war on women” for making them pay a whole $30 for their monthly pills. Another particularly persistent and long-lived political folk tale is that conservatives and Republicans are the party of robber barons who use their exorbitant wealth to undermine democracy for their own nefarious ends. Read more →