Domestic Faction in a Republic, Part III

George Seaver

Editor’s note: The following article is a research essay by one of our members, George Seaver, a former Teaching Fellow and postdoctoral Fellow at Harvard University and at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. It is the second of a series of three essays on the key elements of stable republics: public virtue, the control of factions, and religion. In this essay Dr. Seaver emphasizes that factions—groups united by common beliefs—may be beneficial to a republic when properly checked, but they can become poisonous if given too much political license. He illustrates this by examining the various ways factions have been treated from the ancient republics to the United States today.

NAS is publishing this essay in three daily installments: 

Part 1: Factions in Sparta, Athens, Plato’s Republic, and Rome
Part 2: Factions in the Renaissance, the Enlightenment, and the United States Founding
Part 3: Factions in the Postmodern United States

 

The opinions expressed in this guest article do not necessarily reflect the official position of the National Association of Scholars.

Domestic Faction in a Republic
From the Invisible Hand to Postmodern Poison

V.  Factions in the Postmodern United States

By 1960 an ideology, emanating from higher education, began to compete with the Classical Liberalism of the American Founding and Constitution. Historicism, of 18th century origins, was a philosophy that cited time, place and local culture as determinate, rejecting immutable laws and transcendent properties. In the 1950s the New Historicism was introduced by French philosophers Foucault and Lacan, found a home in higher education and added to this lack of transcendency. Now, truth was relative to the power structure of the society at that time and place. French philosopher Jacques Derrida in 1967 both applied this to literature and brought it to the United States, where it flourished under the name, first of deconstruction, and later as postmodernism. Deconstruction initially attracted disaffected Marxist and postwar skeptics. Marxism with its economic, not cultural, focus and its dialectic and absolute historical narrative, clashed with the cultural relativism of this new rival. Oxford professor and Marxist Terry Eagleton describes the engagement (Literary Theory, 1983) and the later disengagement (After Theory, 2003) of Marxism with literary theory and deconstruction.  But for a time it provided shelter for Marxists and benefited from their rhetorical and movement skills. Deconstruction spread throughout academia, and then, as Foucaultian Discursive Practices, broadened throughout the culture. Its ideology came to be termed postmodernism, with social justice and concepts of relativism, privilege and oppression, and an abhorrence of hierarchies reaching far and wide. Its collision with classical Constitutional liberalism was at the point of faction; where justice addressed the individual, social justice championed factions. In one, as recited above, it is controlled, in the other it is liberated and dominant. I will describe this conflict over faction as it is manifested in education, the media, the law, family policy, national security and the senior military officer corps.

Education

Higher education was the mainspring of deconstructive philosophy in the United States, beginning in 1967. In 1988 deconstruction's leading proponent, Paul de Man, was discovered posthumously to have written for the Nazis during WWII. This led to major internal division over motivation, the fragmenting of the movement and its being discredited in academia. This was carefully described in David Lehman's 1991 book, Signs of the Times: Deconstruction and the Fall of Paul de Man. However, simultaneously postmodern ideology became dominant throughout education, particularly in its administration. A central tenant of this is that differences (of ability, gender, race, sexual orientation, color, culture, etc.) are socially constructed, expressed as hierarchies, privilege and oppression, with social justice requiring corrective action. A representative example of this at the university level can be seen in the Strategic Diversity Plan of Virginia Polytechnic Institute instituted in December 2009. In its "Principles of Community" the university states:

"We...acknowledging that socially constructed differences based on certain characteristics exist within systems of power that create and sustain inequality, hierarchy, and privilege. The College of Liberal Arts and Human Services is determined to eliminate these forms of inequality, hierarchy, and privilege in our programs and practices.26

The schools and profession of Social Work have encouraged the poisonous nature of factions in their courses and accreditation requirements. The Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) accredits the programs for social work education. One of its primary requirements for both the Bachelor and Masters degrees is to "understand the forms and mechanisms of oppression and discrimination and apply strategies of advocacy...that advance social and economic justice," and its Commission for Diversity and Social and Economic Justice states that the "...well documented disparities based on race, ethnicity, class, gender, sexual orientation, disability, age, religion,...remain stubbornly resistant to eradication as the different treatment based on these traits remains structured into prevailing systems of power and privilege."27 The Council and the Center pursue "..institutional arrangements that foster the achievement of diversity and social and economic justice as a central priority"27b.

Media

In 1992 and again in 1999, diversity summit meetings were held by the American Society of Newspaper Editors (policy), the Newspaper Association of America (business), the New York Times, the Washington Post, ABC, NBC, CBS, Times-Warner, Knight-Ridder, Gannett, Times-Mirror and 190 other media corporations, to set policy in regard to race, gender and other minority factions. The policies adopted were "style guides" to guide editors on language to use in writing about race; photo policies do the same for images; "mainstreaming guidelines" seek to increase the number of citations of minority sources in news reporting; "content audit" to measure the way that minorities have been portrayed in the news; and "diversity management" seminars to point out institutionalized cultural privileging and how this oppresses and holds back minorities.28 In 1993 Arthur Sulzberger of the New York Times declared, "We can no longer offer our readers a predominantly white, straight male version of events and say we, as journalists, are doing our job."29 Two months later he followed up in the Columbia Journalism Review, "you can't merely bring in Hispanics or African Americans or Asian Americans and hold them to a standard that says, 'Fine, you're in, now behave like a white male.’"30 Summarizing the state of the media in his 2001 book Coloring the News, William McGowan wrote, "One of the academic clichés that has penetrated journalism to its detriment holds that 'reality' is merely a set of power relationships in which those who are in control—i.e. white people—impose their vision of the social order on people of color, who in turn must defend themselves by creating 'competing narrative'...the deconstructionist belief that language controls reality."31

Law

The rise of factions in legal thinking and decisions is consistent with the concept of social justice, although incompatible with that of individual justice. In 1977 Critical Legal Studies (CLS), and later Critical Race Theory, was introduced at HarvardLawSchool; Harvard frequently sets the trend for the legal community nationwide. CLS states that law, including the U.S. Constitution, is a tool of those in power and, therefore, has no rational basis. Harvard Law professor Duncan Kennedy and Harvard’s premier constitutional scholar, Lawrence Tribe, have been prominent proponents of CLS. Professor Tribe in a 1989 lecture to the City Bar Association of New York compared this "paradigm shift" in the field of law to the discovery of the curvature of space in Einstein's relativity: "The still-reigning paradigm of constitutional law stands in sharp contrast to most contemporary modes of social thought, which recognizes the pervasive relationship between observer and observed."32 Twenty years later in his book, The Invisible Constitution, Tribe describes "constructing" the Constitution out of an "invisible ocean of ideas"33 that both forbids racial segregation and can order racial preferences. In practice this ideology is imposed on law schools across the country by the American Bar Association in their statutory accrediting function for all law schools. By 2008 the ABA refused accreditation if the law school had not achieved racial diversity, meaning black students’ enrollment, to a predetermined level, usually by reducing standards.34a This is required even if the procedure violates state laws, such as in California.34b

Family Policy

In January 2009 a lawsuit was heard in Federal District Court in San Francisco, California to overturn the recently and democratically passed ban on homosexual marriage (Proposition 208). As part of that proceeding the federal district judge issued an order permitting the live video broadcasting of the trial, reversing a standing rule. This order was appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court in January 2009, who reversed that order, finding that: "...applicant has demonstrated the threat of harm they face if the trial is broadcast."35 This ruling was supported by a 14-page document, cataloguing retaliation against supporters of the original California State referendum 208 that banned homosexual marriage. This latter report provided a detailed description of "harassment, intimidation, vandalism, racial scapegoating, blacklisting, loss of employment, economic hardship, angry protests, violence, at least one death threat, and gross expressions of anti-religious bigotry"36 against those who publicly support traditional marriage. This level of factional activity is typical of previous republics as they became unstable, the actual threat to stability coming from the unrestrained, murderous reaction of the majority against the original mob action, and the inability and/or unwillingness of elected officials to restrain it.

National Security

The leadership of the CIA, the FBI, and the senior officer corps of the military have empowered factions through a commitment to social justice, under the guise of diversity, and with lethal results. In 1997 George Tenet was appointed Director of the CIA; he soon sent out a letter to the personnel of the CIA entitled, Intelligence Community Functional Diversity Strategic Plan. In it he states, "...we are going to have to become a much more diverse intelligence community...We must see diversity as a corporate imperative—a strategic goal...Our community will need to attract, train and retain talented employees who have a deep understanding of other societies, cultures and languages...I consider the advancement of diversity to be a vital part of our strategic plan for the Intelligence community"37 [emphasis in the original]. In 1999 Donald Rumsfeld was appointed to head a commission looking into the effectiveness of the CIA. In his March 1999 report to Congress he stated that there were "problems within the intelligence community [the CIA]" and that these involved "excessive turnover, a decline in scientific and engineering competence,...[and] a highly-charged political atmosphere..."38. In 2002 Bernard Goldberg, in his book Bias, attributed "political correctness" for the inability to "connect the dots"39 prior to the September 11, 2001 attack on the World Trade Center.

A similar culture grew up at the FBI under Director Louis Freeh, and with similar results. Charles Hill, a fellow at the Hoover Institution of Stanford University, editorialized in the Wall Street Journal that the "main cause of inadequate intelligence performance over the past three decades has been a decline in the quality of personnel, brought about by the pressures for diversity."40 At his retirement from the FBI in June 2001, Louis Freeh cited as his greatest accomplishment that he diversified the agents in the force; and that he had increased the numbers of blacks, women and 'sexually-diverse agents,' and the bureaucracy to go with it.

The military is in general a traditional culture, but in peacetime the senior officer corps becomes dependent upon politics for advancement, and soon reflects the current political climate. This was demonstrated by an event that occurred on November 5, 2009 at Fort Hood, Texas. Thirteen soldiers were killed and 30 were wounded by a Muslim Army officer who proclaimed "Allahu Akbar (Allah is the greatest), as he shot his victims. Major Nidal Malik Hasan had, for several years prior to the shooting, been demonstrating publicly his contempt for Christianity, for the United States, and for its policies in Iraq and Afghanistan. Nothing was done at the senior officer level out of fear, as the Army Chief of Staff General George Casey stated, of "fueling a backlash." General Casey was appointed by President George Bush and was serving under President Barack Obama. After the killings, General Casey, the highest ranking officer in the U.S. military, concluded, "...as horrific as this tragedy was, if our diversity becomes a casualty, I think that's worse."41 The only way that "diversity" can be more important than the lives of soldiers is through an ideology, as described above.

Conclusion

The 2000-year history of republics tells us that unfettered faction has caused great internal mayhem and ultimately, the collapse of the republican structure. The actual encouragement of faction will bring about that result faster, as Machiavelli told us of the 1498 events in Florence. As related in section I, the factions in Athens became very poisonous, particularly during the era of Socrates and Plato; the parallel with today's postmodernism extends beyond irreconcilable factions. The Sophists were influential during this period in Athens; they came to represent a relativistic (as opposed to virtuous) view of society, that knowledge was socially constructed. The way back, as Socrates saw it for the "disillusionment, cynicism and doubt to which Athenian disasters and sophistic reasoning had brought too many of the youth of the day, was to push reasoning further."42 This was not to happen, and many accused Socrates himself of being a Sophist, of "corrupting the youth" and of "disbelief in the ancestral gods."43 He was formally accused of blasphemy, convicted and sentenced to death. It was not the assault by the Sophists on tradition, but rather the mindless and violent reaction to it that created the ultimate debacle. After Socrates death in 399 BC, Athens experienced "...continual factions, proscriptions, and death of the best citizens."44 Plato finally concluded of his time, "...all existing states are badly governed and the condition of their laws practically incurable without the application of drastic remedies and help of fortune."45 Soon after Plato's death in 347 BC, Athens found itself unable and unwilling to resist the armies of Philip of Macedonia, and its republic came to an end.

Today, the prevailing opinion amongst cultural observers seems to be that the civil rights movement, beginning in the 1960's, along with the subsequent legislation providing special attention to minorities and women, was necessary, but went too far. Robert Putnam, Professor of Public Policy at Harvard University, in his 2000 Bowling Alone describes the resultant consequences to society of the decline in social capital, specifically in civic, religious and volunteer participation. He states unequivocally that "the bonds of our communities have withered, and...this transformation has very real costs." But he also explicitly exempts from 'blame' the rise in feminism and sexual liberation, the decline in the traditional family or the "affirmative action" movement. He states that "I explicitly disclaim the view that working women are to blame for our civic disengagement," and praises the generation born in the1960s as being "unusually tolerant - more open-minded towards racial, sexual and political minorities."46 Professor Putnam was compelled to embargo later research that revealed negative consequences to this "diversity," because there were no "proposals to compensate for the negative effects of diversity."47

These "negative effects of diversity," as discovered by Professor Putnam and presented in section V, suggest that the "era of civil rights" is better seen as the "era of the rise of faction," Professor Samuel Huntington, almost alone as an academic in 2004, described this in his book Who Are We when he concluded: 

These efforts by a nation's leaders to deconstruct the nation they govern were, quite possibly, without precedence in human history. Substantial elements of America's elites in academia, the media, business, and the professions joined government elites in these efforts.48

Thomas Sowell in his 2009 book Intellectuals and Society finds specifically that academic institutions in which "intellectuals have their greatest direct control" are the origin and mainspring of this rise of faction. "Setting group against group...through the prism of race, class, gender," we have "fragmented...society into jarring segments" under the ideology of social justice. He concludes that "...there is a limit to the...ferocity of these disintegrative forces which a society can survive..."49

Today, under the imprimatur of social justice, Hispanic immigrant groups such as La Raza aggressively reject public virtue and demand exception from the laws; homosexual groups demand repudiation of religious fundamentals, labeling them hate speech; black racial groups aggressively assert "no justice no peace"; and Muslim groups demand separate and victim status. The first three of these factions represent a significant portion of the citizenry and stage large demonstrations that frequently turn violent50a,b,c; the last inflames the particularly poisonous nature of religious faction. In the absence of self-restraint, of public virtue, faction turns the invisible hand of exceptionalism into incurable poison. A tipping point would occur if the "Tea Party" movement was to become an aggressive counter-faction and respond in kind, as did the Tiberius Gracchus faction in Rome in 134 BC. Whether they be from the Sophists of Athens, the populace land reformers of Rome, or the postmodernists of today, poisonous factions left to fester ultimately destroy their republic.


References

25.  Meszaros, Peggy, 2009: Strategic Diversity Plan. Virginia Polytechnic Institute, College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences.

26.  Council on Social Work Education, 2001: Educational policy and accreditation standards. Last corrected, November 2002, pg. 6. www.cswe.org.

27b. CSWE, 2010: Mission Statement, Center for Diversity and Social & Economic

      Justice. June 2010. http://www.cswe.org/CentersInitiatives/Diversity-CDSEJ.aspx.

27.  McGowan, William, 2001: Coloring the News. Encounter Books, San Francisco, p.12-13.

28.  Sulzberger, Arthur, 1993: New York Times: Sept. 10, 1993.

29.  Sulzbeger, A., 1993: Columbia Journalism Review. Nov.-Dec. 1993.

30.  McGowan, W., ibid., p.232.

31.  Lehman, David, 1991: Sign of the Times. Poseidon Press, p.38, 39.

33.  Tribe, Laurence, 2008: The Invisible Constitution. Oxford Press USA, Sept 2008.

34a. Heriot, G., 2008: The ABA's diversity dictat. The Wall Street Journal, April 28, 2008.

34b. Neal, A., 2008: Dis-Accreditation. Academic Questions, 21(4). Fall, 2008. National Association of Scholars, NJ.

35.  Supreme Court of the United States, 2010: Dennis Hollingsworth et al. v Kristin M. Perry et al. on Application for Stay. 558 U.S.___January 13, 2010.

36.  Messner, Thomas, 2009: The Price of Proposition 8. October 22, 2009, The Heritage Foundation.

37.  Gertz, Bill, 2002: Breakdown. Regnery Publishing. Washington, D.C., Appendix.

38.  Ibid., pg. 76.

39.  Goldberg, Bernard, 2002: Bias. Regnery Publishing, Washington, D.C. p.200.

40.  Hill, Charles, 2004: "Commissionism". Wall Street Journal, July 123, 2004. Op-Ed Article.

41.  Casey, G., 2009: Meet the Press. Sunday, November 8, 2009. www.msnbc.com/meetthepress.

42.  Loomis, Louise, 1942: Plato, Introduction. Walter Black, NY. Pg. 6.

43. Plato, ibid., Apology. Pg. 31.

44. Adams, John. Ibid., pg. 284.

45. Loomis, Louise. Ibid., pg.8.

46.  Putnam, R.. Bowling Alone, op. cit. P.402, 17, 201, 195, 202.

47.  Leo, J., 2007: Bowling with our own. City Journal, 25 June 2007. www.cityjournal.org

48.  Huntington, Samuel, 2004: Who Are We. Simon&Schuster, NY. Pg. 43.           

49.  Sowell, T., 20089: Intellectuals and Society.  Basic Books. New York. 2009. pgs. 314, 310, 305, 317.

50a. Messner, T., 2009: The price of Prop 8. Backgrounder, Heritage Foundation, Oct. 22, 2009. <www.heritage.org/research>       

50b. Supreme Court of the United States, 2010: Dennis Hollingsworth et al. v Kristin M. Perry et al. On application for stay. Jan. 13, 2010. pgs. 2, 3, 7, 13.     

50c. McCough, K., 2010: Banned: The American Flag on Cinco de Mayo. <townhall.com>

 

  • Share

Most Commented

September 16, 2019

Slavery Did Not Make America Rich

'King Cotton' isn't King

September 18, 2019

Most Read

January 03, 2011

May 26, 2010