In a recent piece for Conservatives Global, Dr Gabriel Andrade urged conservatives to separate the wheat from the chaff in Solzhenitsyn’s work, and acknowledge that authors ought to be read critically, and not simply worshiped. (Apparently, because the American Right “worships” Soviet-era literary giant Alexander Solzhenitsyn, as evidenced by the fact that Jordan Peterson said something praiseworthy about him in the preface to his book, The Gulag Archipelago.)
The title of the article caught my eye because I am planning to read that book soon, and I am a fan of Jordan Peterson. But I wouldn’t say I “worship” either of them, and I’m not aware of anyone who does.
Citing another article for Conservative Global by Georgi Labadze, Andrade went on to agree with him in his expression of concern about the way some American conservatives – Tucker Carlson, Josh Hawley – appear to simply not care about Ukraine, and implicitly support Putin. I have listened to Hawley and Carlson extensively, and I have never got the impression that either of them “does not care” about Ukraine, nor do they in any way support Putin.
What I have heard them say is that these are dangerous times, where we are potentially facing World War III if cooler heads don’t prevail, and that this is a time for measured, sober discussion as to what the appropriate response should be in light of recent events. That does not equate to “not caring” about Ukraine, or in any way supporting Putin. On the contrary, that is a message in support of peace, and saving lives.
Andrade said Labadze’s concern is, “of course, legitimate.” Is it? Why? Because that is the narrative being spun on MSNBC on a nightly basis? Are there any facts to support the notion that concern is, “of course”, legitimate? If so, I haven’t seen any.
He went on to say that “we must consider that the American Right’s cosiness with Putin has deeper roots, and conservatives must reconcile with this uncomfortable fact.” What conservatives is he referring to, exactly? Who are these conservatives who are alleged to be “cosy” with Putin?
I agree that we have an entire class of establishment Republicans who are “cosy” with China, as evidenced by Peter Schweitzer’s recent book, Red Handed, and it’s been alleged that some, including Mitt Romney’s son have held board positions on Ukrainian energy companies, similar to Hunter Biden – but I’m not aware of any who are “cosy” with Putin. In Andrade’s call for us to separate the wheat from the chaff, I think the separating should be done with those who are, in fact, supporting conservatism, and those who are not. I would argue that those like Romney, US Congressman Adam Zinzinger et al, are not. Those like Tucker, and Hawley, from this conservative’s position – are.
To properly make these separations, we have some very important decisions coming up very soon. For example, we have a leader in the Senate in Mitch McConnell who has been there for a very long time and is potentially going to be replaced by Rick Scott – who has been endorsed by President Trump. Trump got 59 per cent of the straw poll vote at CPAC this last weekend, so he is likely to be the nominee. There are similar inside baseball fights happening across the country in terms of populist/Trump Republicans versus establishment/beltway Republicans.
So, as much as I’m interested in examining the work of Solzhenitsyn in terms of what it can offer for modern Americans, and all those facing the tyranny of oppressive regimes, I don’t think that a thorough reexamination of his stance on the right of Ukrainians to maintain their independence will be of much help in doing this separation.
As Andrade said, “there is much to admire in Solzhenitsyn. He bravely resisted Soviet totalitarianism, and his literary skills were put in the service of freedom, by exposing in full detail the harsh realities of gulags and the rot of the Soviet regime.” So, I’m happy to leave it at that for now.
Andrade said Solzhenitsyn “also had some very disturbing ideas about the imperial ambitions of his native country, and sadly, those ideas are also having consequences tragically felt by Ukrainians.” I don’t claim to be well versed in what those “very disturbing ideas” were, but I think there are enough people in positions of power now who have “very disturbing” ideas about what ultimately needs to transpire in Ukraine, that will have much more impact than anything said by the late Russian author.
For example, we are still buying our oil from Putin and Russia, while at the same time shutting down our capability to drill for oil and once again make ourselves energy independent.
We have a Secretary of State who seems to be more concerned about the threat of global warming and securing the nuclear deal brokered back when Obama was in office than he is about putting the squeeze on Putin with harsher sanctions, or refusing to purchase our oil from him.
I wonder why these positions don’t warrant Kerry and Biden being accused of being “cosy with Putin”? That oil Russia is selling is flowing through Ukraine. Russia is paying Ukraine taxes for allowing that service. Why are these uncomfortable facts not called on to be reconciled more often by those of us claiming to be conservatives?
Solzhenitsyn, as stated by Andrade, “bravely stood up against Soviet censorship” and it was his ideas that eventually led to the collapse of a murderous totalitarian regime”. So why, on earth, would he be calling for more censorship, having been the victim of it? He wasn’t.
When he said: “Without any censorship, in the West fashionable trends of thought and ideas are carefully separated from those which are not fashionable; nothing is forbidden, but what is not fashionable will hardly ever find its way into periodicals or books or be heard in colleges,” he was simply pointing out how the powers that be implement(ed) a soft form of censorship. They just don’t print it. That worked for a long time because they had control, by and large, of what was printed. That control has changed with more and more outlets for information like Joe Rogan’s podcast and citizen journalists, armed with nothing but a cellphone and an internet connection. It’s their lack of ability to control the narrative that has them petrified.
As a result, we’ve seen that soft censorship ripen into hard censorship in the form of conservative voices being banned from Twitter and Facebook; Parler being shut down from Amazon Web Services; and the Department of Homeland Security declaring our “number one threat” being “misinformation and disinformation” and those spreading “false narratives” that call into question official dogma.
That is a fundamental threat to our liberty. That ability to dissent and to voice our dissent is protected by our First Amendment. It is precisely the thing that separates us and our form of government from those that are more similar to ones like Putin’s.
That is what Tucker, Peterson, Hawley, and Solzhenitsyn were or are arguing in support of – preserving that system of freedom to dissent.
That’s what the Democrats and those like Kinzinger and Liz Cheney who allow them to dictate policy are threatening right now. In my opinion, that is what we, as conservatives, need to be unified in opposing. We can debate the merits of Solzhenitsyn later (hopefully).