Mark Levin, a True Conservative

I put a version of this comment on FB a few days ago....

I just went into the kitchen to put a shaker of Beefeater's and Noilly Prat into the freezer. I thought just for a change I'd turn on some radio news. After about three seconds of NPR, I felt my IQ level going into a nosedive and my will to live oozing away. They are as ignorant and inarticulate as a New York Times editorial writer trying to explain Global Warming or justify the violent thugs, who are burning, and looting their own cities because cops in Minneapolis may have overreacted in arresting a drunken five-times loser felon.

So I switched to the local talk radio channel. A treacly voice with a New York nasal accent was gushing about battlefields.  I recognized the repulsive voice.  What, it can't be!  Mark Levin having something nice to say about Confederate war heroes?  Not at all.  What a relief, when he explained that the Democratic Party was the party of evil, the party of slavery, and thank the almighty for the Union heroes who crushed the Southern Democrats, whose children would go on to join the Klan, impose Jim Crow, and lynch completely innocent black  men for crimes they would never commit.  

I remember when even Northern leftists would have guffawed at such nonsense, when a genuine Marxist historian like my late friend Gene Genovese stood as a tower of truth in the lying academy of the 1970's and 1980s.  Come to think of it, I have never known a serious Communist or leftist of the old school who hated the real America as much as "conservatives" today. Eugene Debbs and Big Bill Haywood were tough men who hated the Robber Barons and the politicians they owned, but they were as American  as cowboys, vigilantes, and lightning rod salesmen.

When a nice lady politely asks what constituted "the real America," I replied:

It is the flesh and blood people living and dying in their homes, villages, and states, toughing it out for good and ill, whether we like them or not. John Smith, the Pilgrims, the Southern slave-owners, the Yankee slavers, the benevolent Southerners who did their best in an ambiguous  cause,--prserving order and decency after the war--and the bigots of Illinois and Minnesota that enacted vicious Black Codes. blacks, whites, Indians, immigrants..... Everyone grateful for a chance to start a new life after failing in the Old World.

Some well-intentioned conservative suggested that Levin was guilty of painting history with a broad brush.  I wrote but did not post this response:

A well-intentioned comment on my last post suggests that Levin is only guilty of painting history with a broad brush.  If that is true, why are the colors on the palette restricted to various shades of red and pink?  Someone who enjoys beating up on the defeated South has no understanding of American history and no affection for the real men and women who settled this country.  He is in the same camp with James Carville, who draws the line between Left and Right between those who think America is just a place and those who, in Lincoln’s language, regard it as a proposition.  However the Left has stood on other issues, they are united in agreeing with Lincoln:  Tom Paine and his Jacobin followers, the editors of the New Republic from the beginning,  John Dewey, the Clintons.  The difference between Carville and Levin is simple:  Carville is an intelligent and able man who clawed his way to the top, while Levin failed in his attempt to become a Republican Party strategist.

To paint history with a broad brush is the privilege reserved to serious scholars and good writers.  The only alternative is to be a shill for the interests who pay you.  Since Levin cannot write and gives no evidence of being a reader--much less a scholar--where does that put him?  

I have at least a dozen reasons for despising the conservative movement, some of them connected with what they did to Sam Francis, Murray Rothbard, Mel Bradford, and many others, but even worse is the adulation paid to absolutely worthless celebrities like Mark Levin, Ann Coulter, George Will, Sean Hannity, the Kristols and Podhoretzes, Charles Krauthammer,  and so many others it is better not to soil the fingers by typing their names  .So long as self-styled conservatives continue to treat the painted prostitutes and monkey-boys at FOX as voices of authority, they will continue to be the helots of the American political system.  

In fact they are far worse than helots, who occasionally rose up against the Spartans.  They are the capos in the concentration camp, selling out their fellow-prisoners for an extra bowl of soup.  At least mainstream liberals get to run the country according to their ideology, and serious leftists can at least make angry noises and point the finger at some of the serious wounds inflicted by this national-socialist state I used to call the USSA.  Apart from the dozen or so good men and women I knew on the right, lefties like Erwin Knoll and Paolo Piccone had a much better grasp of political reality.   Whenever they crossed the line into liberal-conservative territory, however, they became, objectively speaking, lackeys of the regime.  

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Thomas Fleming

Thomas Fleming is president of the Fleming Foundation. He is the author of six books, including The Morality of Everyday Life and The Politics of Human Nature, as well as many articles and columns for newspapers, magazines,and learned journals. He holds a Ph.D. in Classics from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and a B.A. in Greek from the College of Charleston. He served as editor of Chronicles: a Magazine of American Culture from 1984 to 2015 and president of The Rockford Institute from 1997-2014. In a previous life he taught classics at several colleges and served as a school headmaster in South Carolina

29 Responses

  1. Andrew G Van Sant says:

    I have absolutely no room in my freezer for a shaker of martinis. Fortunately I am drinking bourbon and cognac, although supplies are dwindling.

  2. Andrew G Van Sant says:

    Gerald Russello and some other writers engaged in a forum recently on whether or not the right can be patched up. Here is a quote from Lee Edwards:

    “The task of coming together has been made more urgent by the coronavirus crisis which is forcing all of us, traditionalist or libertarian, to set aside ideology and determine the best possible plan of action for the nation and its people, especially the role of our federal government. As the disease spreads and the fatalities mount, conservatives of every persuasion confront an indisputable truth: in this present crisis, government is not the problem, it is the solution, or at least a large part of it.”

    I think it is intuitively obvious to the casual observer that governments at every level throughout the world have made things worse, not better. One can make a good argument that the recent riots throughout the country are the results of bad government policy. The government cannot stop the riots. They will end when there are no stores left to loot and burn down and the rioters get tired and return to wherever they came from to enjoy the fruits of their labor.

  3. Avatar photo Thomas Fleming says:

    A letter-perfect answer from a careerist “conservative” operative and Heritage Foundation apparatchik. I only met him a few times, very nice fellow. No harm in him, and this being America, no one can blame him for seeing to it that he has his reward. If I were a liar, I say he is entitled to his opinion.

  4. Andrew G Van Sant says:

    The other two participants in the forum were Andy Smarick and David Frisk. If I recall correctly, one had some approving words for Lincoln.

  5. Andrew G Van Sant says:

    Perhaps we need a forum on whether or not civilization can be saved or recovered.

  6. Robert Reavis says:

    Perhaps we need a forum on whether or not civilization can be saved or recovered.

    Mr Van Sant,
    Homer is a lot like civilization. If Carville and Levin are our only defenders of Homer, I would say no to your question. But I am going to try and strike a blow for
    Western Civilization and attend the conference this summer. (If Illinois lifts the
    travel ban ) Hope you will be there too.

  7. Andrew G Van Sant says:

    Mr Reavis, your comment on whether or not Illinois lifts the travel ban so you can attend the summer conference answers my question.

    I will probably not attend regardless of the travel ban. I find that the older I get, the less I want to travel.

  8. Robert Reavis says:

    You will be missed

  9. Avatar photo Thomas Fleming says:

    There’s no actual travel ban here, and we have entered Phase III, which means groups of 10 may assemble. Some bars and restaurants are opening if they have outdoor seating. We have been exploring a fallback plan–retreat from enemy country into the Wisconsin Free State, where there are no state-wide restrictions. Rock County, to the north of Rockford, is more or less completely open, and Beloit is a nice town in the process of massive restoration. It would cost a bit more, but there are hotels right downtown on the river.

  10. Avatar photo Thomas Fleming says:

    PS The older I get, the less I enjoy actual travel and the more I enjoy being in other places and seeing old friends.

  11. Khater M says:

    I used to listen to Levin quite a bit when I was in high school. He’d say the same things every single day, and didn’t allow any callers to even question him( he’d screech and hang up if any of them dared to) It got to the point where I’d listen to him for laughs ( he’d often say he had the “smartest audience”) but by the end of 10th grade I abandoned radio altogether. He really does have an impact though. The one devotee of his ive known( a fellow college student) acted exactly like him. Anyone who questioned her recycled ideas would be subject to a vicious ( and often amusing) rant.

    Dr. Fleming- any thoughts on Charles Coulombe?( particularly his work on American history) I’ve been reading Puritan’s Empire lately. While I personally find it excellent, I think it’d be very hard for any non-Catholic to appreciate his work.

  12. Raymond Olson says:

    The bigots of Minnesota, however, made the state one of the first two Northern states (the other: Iowa) to grant black voting rights by referendum in 1868. In 1869 the legislature quashed segregation in the St. Paul public schools, which is the only school authority that had established a blacks-only school. Integration in accommodations, etc., etc., had to wait longer, it seems, but they were gone by the 1950s, the earliest period I can remember.

  13. Robert Reavis says:

    I received video today from s friend in St Paul. Looks like Lebanon or Beirut in parts of the Twin cities. Can you give us any honest reporting about the situation?

  14. Raymond Olson says:


    Yes. Why I think it is honest I explain by way of introduction. Also, it does not make any assertions or speculations about riots elsewhere.

    For all of my friends who think the riots in the Twin Cities are the work of antifa. Here’s the first round-up on what real people on scene reported. This piece squares with personal testimony and reflections of FB friends including my daughter and fellow Quakers.…/outsiders-extremists-are-among-th…
    Outside extremist agitators are among those fomenting violence, chaos and destruction in the Twin Cities, seeking to co-opt protests following the police killing of George Floyd to their own ends.

    Outsiders, extremists are among those fomenting violence in Twin Cities
    Outside extremist agitators are among those fomenting violence, chaos and destruction in the Twin Cities, seeking to co-opt protests following the police killing of George Floyd to their own ends.
    Outside extremist agitators are among those fomenting violence, chaos and destruction in the Twin Cities, seeking to co-opt protests following the police killing of George Floyd to their own ends.

    Hope the link works for you.

  15. Andrew G Van Sant says:

    Mr. Olson – your link does not work but I found the article. It also notes that not all of the rioters are outsiders. I suspect that the article is not unbiased. It highlights the participation of far right agitators and downplays left leaning groups. Progressives have taken over public radio as well as other media throughout the country.

  16. Andrew G Van Sant says:

    Dr. Fleming, my sister sent me a link to an order from the county health officer that maintained the lockdown in Kenosha county when the court ordered it unconstitutional in Wisconsin. Wisconsin may not be as open as you think.

  17. Avatar photo Thomas Fleming says:

    I just returned from Beloit, Wisconsin, where I was greeted by a maskless hotel rep who shook my hand. I went to lunch at Lucy’s, no masks, no gloves, no social distancing. Since State law is not operative, it is county by county. Rock Co has a plan. They are finishing phase I which allows 25 %d capacity and will soon by at 50% and before the end of the month they’ll be more or less back to normal. Stores are open, people are on the streets. Kenosha, alas, is caught in the Chicago-Milwaukee axis.

  18. Avatar photo Thomas Fleming says:

    Even the lying mayor has been compelled to retract his ridiculous statement that the problems are caused only by outside agitators. Someone asked me the other day, what had happened to cause these riots. The simple answer is
    “the beginning of summer.” This is thuggery being instrumentalized by leftist crazies, without whom there would still be the usual thuggery that ushers in the month of June. Edward Banfield’s great essay on the Watts Riots, “Rioting for Fun and Profit” should be read by everyone. The networks are loving every minute of the violence they have done so much to incite by misreporting an incident of improper arrest technique of a career criminal on drugs and drink, violently resisting arrest and later suffering heart and respiratory collapse.

  19. Avatar photo Thomas Fleming says:

    PS. The day I believe anything reported on Minnesota Public Radio will be the day for me to quit having opinions on any subject.

  20. Raymond Olson says:

    Tom–Please, stick to your resolve. Since, as I said in introducing it, the piece is said by people I know who live there to jibe with what they have seen and heard, your remark comes irritatingly close to telling me that fellow Quakers and my daughter are lying. They live right there. You do not.

  21. Raymond Olson says:

    Mr. Van Sant–You are right, and I do not believe that only right-wing crazies are involved in the violence. From what I gather from people I trust who are eyewitnesses, I believe that antifa people and other leftists are barely involved, if at all, in rioting in the Twin Cities; I cannot speak for any other place in the United States, and neither does the MPR report. The report I sent on was focused on right-wing incitement. In the solicitation for witnesses that one of the writers put out and that I saw a reduction of, he made clear what he was looking for. He was not looking for information about leftist provocateurs. That was because, from very early on, people involved in the protests and standers-by had said they saw right-wing people among the rioters. The report verifies that that is what some witnesses say and provides some explanation about what they said they saw.

  22. Andrew G Van Sant says:

    Of course. The lefty bias is baked in. Eye witnesses are not always reliable. MSM is seldom reliable.

  23. Avatar photo Thomas Fleming says:

    Friend Ray, the next time you feel impelled to issue commands in the imperative mood, I implore you to take a deep breath, count to ten, and crack open one of Minnesota’s lesser known craft beers. To be quite candid, I do not know what you are arguing. I have reread your comments twice, and I still don’t know. Providing links is not a mode of argument any more than an ipse dixit. I made two points, neither of which have anything to do with your daughter or your Quaker friends. One point is that public broadcasting, especially in the land of 100,000 Lakes, is not to be trusted. If you’d like to debate the point, it will be an amusing exercise. Second, I said that people had been lying and were not to be trusted. This is not difficult to prove. When this criminal insurrection was breaking out, I observed on FB that we had insufficient information on which to base an opinion. The pattern in previous outbursts of violence had been false reports in the media, suppression of evidence of the “victim’s” criminal record, doctoring and suppression of of video .

    In this case, we were told that George Floyd surrendered peacefully to the police and the strong implication was that he died at the scene. In fact he died later with drugs and alcohol in his system. This was to be expected since the initial police report was that he was acting really drunk. We were not told about his five criminal convictions for felonies or of the video clip showing him resisting arrest. We are also curiously not informed that of the four officers involved, one was white, one Asian, one Mexican, and one black nor were we initially shown footage of all of the officers taking part.

    Of course, any time there is an outbreak of thuggery, a variety of agitators will show up to get in on the action–white supremacists, black supremacists, self-righteous Iowans, Trump-hating Democrats, each with his own agenda. But when the mayor said point blank that no locals had been arrested, he had been lying, not misinformed, but lying, pretending he had information that supported his statement, when he either had none or was simply lying in his teeth. What a city that would elect such a creature! Then again, this is the state that sent a comedy writer to the Senate of the United States and elected a rassler as governor.

    The media rushed to judgment as they always do, lying, distorting, fabricating, with the clear intention of revving up the annual outburst of violent crime that usually accompanies the beginning of summer. Why? Well, why are weathermen protesting that stations and networks are forcing them to hype up storm coverage: Increasing audience means increased ad revenue.

    I do not know what happened, but I know this: the media is lying, the mayor is lying, prosecutors are lying, intentionally and perversely misleading the public.

    As for your informants, let’s take a closer look. You are asking us to take on trust hearsay evidence. You say they were on the spot. First of all, I don’t know that at all because I am not there. More importantly, there are about 3 million people living in the Twins. So there are three million stories. One doesn’t have to watch Rashomon to know that people pretty much see what they expect to see. Ask any cop about the different stories witnesses give of the same incident. Some people are trained or have trained themselves to observe accurately and without prejudice. That is extremely rare. Most show the same tendency toward bias, toward finding significance that may not exist as you have done in answering my observations.

  24. Frank Brownlow says:

    Children, teenagers, and undergraduates are out of school, and most of them, plus the 20-40 year 0lds, are out of work, all with plenty of incentive to riot and loot. And there is certainly a good deal of organization by outfits like Black Lives Matter and their backers. If the stories of buses, hotel rooms, and payment are true, then one can only hope that the FBI does what it’s supposed to do, and hands those responsible over to the justice department. My own view is that anyone found to have funded rioting should be stripped of every penny he owns. As for the rioters themselves, to quote the late Princess Margaret, “I’d hose them off the streets.”

  25. Raymond Olson says:

    Friend Tom: Alright, I overreacted. I took the remark about not believing anything MPR reports to be heavily implying that the piece I sent on was dishonest and that those who vouched for it are, as well. I sent it not to make an argument but to respond to Judge Reavis’s request. I took the word of friends and family when they said the piece fadged with what they observed from their own homes. Prima facie, I don’t see what’s dishonest in the piece, but I wouldn’t have linked it at all had I not had friends and family saying it was truthful. I did not witness the rioting, so I am not entitled to have an opinion, much less an argument. It well may be that antifa started and maintained the rioting, and my friends and family are deluded. I agree with your counterargument to the argument I did not make, including the doubts you cast at the end on the veracity of those who told me the MPR story was truthful.

    I admit to being sensitive to what I take to be glancing insults to people I love and trust. If I offended you, I apologize.

    P.S. The MPR story I linked to is the first MPR story I have ever read. I don’t know whether it was broadcast because I don’t listen to MPR news.

  26. Avatar photo Thomas Fleming says:

    Friends have a hard time offending me. In your case, I absolve you of your life’s biggest mistake, getting born in Minnesota. I think it was somewhere in Wisconsin I saw the bumper sticker, “Friends Don’t Let Friends Go to Minnesota.” This summer, though, there is no cause to worry. By the power vested in me (by me) I hereby pronounce you an honorary badger for a week.

  27. Raymond Olson says:

    I’m honored to accept, especially since the Badger State has been the home of a quite a few friends throughout my life. The church reunion my family attended religiously (so to speak) was held outside of Chetek, the church youth camp was held somewhere round about Prairie du Chein, the only football homecoming I ever attended was in Madison., etc. etc. My favorite American fiction writer–friend of yours–lives in Superior, a town I knew previously as home to the regionally famous, huge St. Vincent de Paul’s store. I’ve enjoyed summer getaways to Madeleine Island as a boy and as an old man. It’s a gracious gift you accord me.

  28. Ken Rosenberger says:

    Best thing to come out of Minnesota: I-94?

  29. Raymond Olson says:

    Ken–Unfortunately, you could say, go one way, and you’re in Detroit; go the other, you’re in Seattle. Lots of territory and people to hate. Fortunately, there are more than too many to meet the challenge.