Support and Encouragement on the Right


Spend much time thinking about how to advance a conservative vision in the world, and eventually you’ll encounter a structural problem that we have.  When progressives want to create incentive for people to follow their approach to government and society, they take over government agencies and use them to directly fund their allies, or they take over other institutions, like news organizations and universities, and only hire or otherwise advance those who espouse their views.

Deep in the bones of conservatism, in contrast, is the principle that we shouldn’t do those things.  Oh, individuals differ, and we all prove to be human when facing specific decisions, but as an ideological reference, conservatism precludes confiscating people’s money just to give it away to allies.  It also tends to encourage debate and diversity of viewpoints within organizations, where those viewpoints aren’t inimical to their mission.  That is, if your news organization or university isn’t sold explicitly as a conservative offering, then it oughtn’t exclude writers and teachers who don’t hold conservative views.

This state of affairs leaves us having to rely more on principle and personal encouragement in order to recruit and support those who share our perspective, even as the Left seeks the power to destroy our careers and engages in strategies of personal vilification in order to overwhelm the support we may have.  For a case study, read this Catholic World Report essay by Michael Rubin, a former student of embattled Providence College professor Anthony Esolen:

… there was no better example of PC’s inability to recognize its real treasures than the way it completely ignored Dr. Esolen.  Not once during all my time at the school did I hear Dr. Esolen praised or even mentioned by the administration, even as his list of best-selling publications continued to expand.  As a result, mentioning Dr. Esolen’s name at Providence College was usually met with a blank stare, and occasionally a dismissive remark from more liberal students.  The only exceptions were people who actually knew Dr. Esolen personally or had taken one of his courses, and they of course spoke favorably of him. …

In all justice, Esolen should have won the Accinno Teaching Award at Providence College the first year it was established, or at least once in the fourteen years since then. But, despite being nominated almost every one of those years by students like myself, he never won it, and no doubt never will. A friend and colleague of Dr. Esolen’s informed him years ago that he should never even bother applying for it, such was the disdain that members of the selection committee had for him. Again, a revelation that only confirms what I have long suspected.

I came across Professor Esolen’s name some years ago via some national Web site, and I remember being surprised that I didn’t know Rhode Island contained such a man.  The problem is that we’ve precious few channels by which to celebrate his like, around here, even when Rhode Island Esolens are able to find some way to make a living that doesn’t require their silence.

  • stereorealist

    I had a similar experience with a teacher who you never heard of, but probably should have.

    Many years ago, as a student at University of California at Berkeley, I took my one and only Poli Sci course, “War: Means and Ends,” taught by Paul Seabury. He was one of the fathers of the modern conservative movement, as well as the neo-con movement which led me to him.

    He was once a prominent liberal Democrat and founder of Americans for Democratic Action. He later rejected liberalism and worked to defeat them throughout the 1960s until his death in 1990. (The ADA no longer acknowledges his contributions to their founding.)

    Professor Seabury’s course on War taught me how to think about world politics clearly and correctly. For a brief period, Prof. Seabury brought me into his inner circle of friends and students. He recommended me to Roy Godson at Georgetown University. In 1979, I took a series of his seminars in Virginia on geo-global threats to world peace, where we focused on Iraq, Iran, and Pakistan as hubs of Islamic terrorism and nuclear war. This led to a visit to Israel where I met with Israeli leaders, including Israeli Arabs.

    Anyhow, Seabury once confided in me that the faculty at Berkeley were working hard to remove him from his position (he was tenured in the 1950s) and prevent him from teaching. His course was *not* about how to *make* war, but about how war was conducted, the goals of war, and how to end war. It was a very different message than what we were getting from the MSM and other teachers. They focused on achieving peace through “negotiation” and “detente”. Seabury asked questions like, “What if that doesn’t work? What if negotiation is being used as a delaying tactic? What if you are being lied to? What if your opponent’s goals are not compatible with yours? What should you give up to please a tyrant? When do you walk away from the table?”

    These were powerful questions. He didn’t always have answers, but he explained how tactics like spying, posturing (with threats, naval exercises or war games), disinformation, or wearing down an opponent’s resolve were effective tools in preventing war, which he saw as a last resort when aggression could not be avoided.

    He was a genius, a deep thinker, a witty lecturer, and inspired many students such as myself. I owe much of my intellectual courage to this man.