One virtue of the Randian right – it may take a tycoon’s shilling, but it won't do his bidding. It’s not easy to tell Random House to take back their cash and go fuck themselves, as Ayn Rand did when Bennett Cerf asked her not to say the New Frontier smacked of Fascism. Or to tell the owner of two pro sports teams and an arena to take back his cash and go fuck himself, as the representatives of West Randistan reportedly did. When sugar daddies flash their wads, Objectivists don’t spread their legs. They’re holdouts.
The Objectivist ethos contrasts starkly to that of the institutional right. Having toiled for twenty years in "Conservistan" -- the archipelago of donor-dependent think tanks, media, and campus outreach programs -- I watched a cancer form on the movement. The influence of patrons like Rupert Murdoch and rent-seeking Big Pharma grew. The purse became mightier than the pen.
In 1991, for instance, I proposed to the president of a well-known conservative institute that flaws in America's counter-terrorism system neded intellectual attention. He told me that no rainmakers on the right would fund national-security research. The big donors – he mentioned Citicorp – wanted access to markets in Russia and China. “The Cold War is over,” this honcho told me. “Not only that, human nature has changed. Fukuyama proved it.” History had ended, I was told, so the country could go back to what Samuel P. Huntington called “business pacifism.”
When I lunched with National Review editor Rich Lowry after 9/11, he asked me how conservatism had fallen so far behind the counterterrorist curve. I reminded Rich that the Medici of our movement had defunded and discouraged national-security discourse. Life was all one big Microsoft commercial, remember? The Internet would bring us together. The Dow would soon hit 100,000, or so said AEI's James Glassman. Anyone who rained on that garden party was going to eat in the conservative cafeteria alone. I did; the Kagans did. I don’t recall seeing Victor Davis Hanson there.
The attack on Clinton’s China graft, led by Rep. Cox and cheer-led by Washington Times reporter Bill Gertz, represented only a blip of partisan "gotcha." During 1998, after Al Qaeda destroyed two of our embassies, conservative pundits protested cruise-missile attacks on bin Laden’s training camps, claiming that Clinton was doing it all because of a girl.
After 9/11, when the right re-funded national-security research, the conservative chickenhawks reappeared and puffed their chests. No one asked them to account for their intellectual whereabouts over the previous decade. They've claimed Churchill’s rhetoric and mantle -- but they're just weathervanes, posturing as prophets. When it counted, before the fact, they showed little of the go-it-alone character of true thinkers, who follow facts rather than funds.
The true leadership on Islam came from the holdouts. Ayn Rand’s heir, Leonard Peikoff, led the only organized intellectual response to the first shot fired in the Third World War. That shot came on the day the Cold War effectively ended -- February 14, 1989, when the last Soviet solider left Afghanistan. As the hatch shut on the Red Army transport plane at Kabul, Khomeini sentenced Salman Rushdie to death for insulting The Prophet.
Dr. Peikoff bought a full page ad in the New York Times and warned that an unwillingness to confront political Islam meant the end of Western Civilization. One looks in vain for any other voice on the right saying so early and so clearly what has now become commonplace.
Pokey old objectivism, with its taped lecture courses, its newsletters, and its latter-day “sophists” -- itinerant, self-employed scholars -- remains a legitimate if marginalized movement. By comparison, institutional conservatism lacks integrity and legitimacy.
Its non-response to Murdoch's malfesance shows that the mainline right has become morally crippled. When the publisher of Hustler magazine claims the high moral ground without a fight, avowed defenders of "family values" have, as Ricky Ricardo would say, some 'splaining to do.
I understand the silence of Murdoch editorial employees on the confessed evils of the News Corporation. But the rest of you – what’s your excuse? You, who have stayed silent -- or, worse, denounced a probe into criminal activities as “an attack on free speech”–– you, I say, are not even prostitutes. You're just whores. You take the king’s bidding, without getting a shilling in return.