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UC Berkeley Center for Right-Wing Studies Launches Journal

The notion that it is ‘the left’ that is the guardian of freedom has been utterly decimated by the past few years

By Thomas Buckley, July 18, 2023 4:21 pm

Okay, I know what you’re thinking: all of Berkeley is one giant leftist science experiment so of course they have to study the “right wing” as if peering at Ebola under a microscope.

And “Why don’t they have a center for left-wing studies, too?  Seems fair” almost certainly comes to mind for many.

But those are “sun sets in the west” givens and the objective for today is to discuss what is the Center for Right-Wing Studies (CRWS) and what is in its first-ever Journal of Right-Wing Studies publication.

The CRWS was started about 14 years ago and is part of Berkeley’s Institute of the Study of Societal Issues (ISSI) and is a “research unit dedicated to the study of right-wing movements in the 20th and 21st centuries.”

The ISSI also houses other niche academic ponder pads like the Berkeley Center for Social Medicine, which posits that being mean to illegals won’t solve the fentanyl crisis, and the Latinx Research Center, which apparently has not come across in its research the fact that an overwhelming majority of Hispanics loathe the term “Latinx.”

The CRWS does stand apart as being so explicitly, unapologetically political for an academic group.

But is it another blindly blithering Othering and Belonging Institute (OBI)  sucking up tax money to promote abject silliness?

Or is it another California Foundation, straying far afield from its intended purpose and doling out millions to sway public political opinion in the name of health care?

Actually, it’s neither.

CRWS chief Lawrence Rosenthal said no tax money is used to fund the center, that it has one “very part-time” employee, labor is “by and large” donated by those involved, and any other incidental expenses are covered by private donations.

So that’s a plus.

And, very unlike in the OBI and California Foundation groupthink bubble, the CRWS acknowledges quite clearly that its staff could not be even remotely described as “right wing” and therefore they understand their own bias.

Rosenthal noted that the Journal largely eschewed the use of the oh-so-woke epithet “fascist” to insta-tar conservatives as it is not “any kind of serious descriptor of the right, conservatives or the far right.”

Another admirable quality of the CRWS is that it appears at least open to the idea of a Center for Left-Wing Studies (maybe not at Berkeley, but somewhere at least.)

“Illiberal democracy is a relatively novel emergence in thought and in political movements on the right,” Rosenthal said.  “The wind has been in its sails since about 2009. The magnitude and political successes of this new right is not paralleled by successes of an extreme left. If others see it that way a CLWS would be an appropriate vehicle.”

And a final plus – they actually answer questions and stand by their convictions.

None of that is at all to say the Journal  is in any way “neutral” or “objective.”

It’s not supposed to be, of course, but the overall tenor of the Journal is not just openly partisan it is infused with a repellent academic sneer that can only be seen as intentionally demeaning to those who occupy political space anywhere to the right of Bernie Sanders.

To start, Rosenthal wrote that the CRWS is “launching the journal in a period of extraordinary right-wing mobilization across the globe. Democracy versus autocracy has become a standard talking point of liberal politicians in the Western world. Militant movements in these countries have aligned ideologically with illiberal regimes, where political discourse focuses on maintaining ethnic, religious, gender, and racial hierarchies in the name of “traditional” values versus the imposition of the “woke” agenda. Such a government has come to power in Italy. Red states in the USA are copying the model of Hungary’s Orbán government by institutionalizing in law restrictions on voting, on education, on the independence of the judiciary, and even on corporate behavior.”

In the Roundtable section of the Journal, a number of leading scholars opined on various topics around the meaning of right-wing studies, offering some startling commentary.

The Republican Party  – formerly merely conservative – has “transformed into a fully-fledged far-right party…”

Janet McIntosh, an anthropology professor at Brandeis University, laid out the threat of the right as she sees it:

“The right’s racist, sexist, xenophobic, heteronormative, corporate-capitalist nostalgia for some imagined earlier version of the nation is cataclysmic for the socially vulnerable and threatens the loss of our democracy. Misinformation campaigns rampage over mass and social media, allowing ignorance and amnesia to reign. The courts are packed and systematically deleting human rights, electoral districts have been (re)drawn, the right is heavily armed and talking about violence against the left. The Overton window has been stretched to the point that some right-wing political thinking has become apocalyptic, and some pawns taken in by, for example, QAnon or the Big Lie are willing to go down with the ship.”

As to the once-common “Let’s Go, Brandon” phenomena, McIntosh denigrates it as “a little game of semiotic peekaboo that mocks the verbal respectability and empathic sensitivity so important to many liberals. At the same time, its concealment offers a big tent, welcoming in those who enjoy profanity, evangelicals who prefer to avoid it, and even children, who can be seen sporting Let’s Go Brandon T-shirts.”

One sees the utter dismissiveness of any deviation from the elite academic norms in McIntosh’s writing. And one can almost hear her complain about regular people as fat and stupid and deniers and evil and stupid, leading one to wonder if it really matters what a person has to say about her, um, inferiors.

Another entry essentially said that if the federal government spent more money people would trust it more, another noted that since America has always had a racism problem the centrality of the issue to far-right thinking should not come as a surprise, a third mentioned that both “people of color and politicians” are unfortunately being demonized, and, of course, a fourth item mentions that most right-wing movements share “a blatantly sexist, misogynist, and queerphobic position vis-à-vis women and gender issues. Reactivation of a militant ‘white masculinity’ in the US and Europe, and a militarized masculinity in other parts of the world, has been consistently energizing these movements…”

Carol Mason, a professor of Gender and Women’s Studies at the University of Kentucky, claims that a key – but terrible – tactic of the far-right is to dare to say that maybe experts (see pandemic) should not be followed blindly:

“(The far right) also advances the thinking that people educated and trained to do professional jobs can and should be doubted, checked, or surpassed by regular people, amateurs with no training or formal education. This thinking infuses many right-wing campaigns now, including the granular approach of installing first-time polling place workers who, believing the Big Lie of supposed voter fraud, aim to challenge their superior election officials,” Mason wrote, apparently with exactly zero sense of irony.

Finally, while Rosenthal specifically stated that the CRWS absolutely opposes censorship, Journal contributor Roger Griffin, Emeritus Professor, Oxford Brookes University seems not have got that particular memo.  

Griffin specifically calls for a global effort to coordinate academician and state security apparatus:

“…far more effort should be devoted to building bridges and networks connecting academic research into the illiberal right and counterextremism policies or laws to investigation by security forces, governmental and nongovernmental agencies, and foreign policy officials, both at a national and international level,” wrote Griffin.

And even more ominously – if possible – he continued:

“a greater alignment of academic with state intelligence in understanding the illiberal right, both secular and religious, whether in antistate or state manifestations, is a proactive policy to inform the official media about what terms such as “the right,” “populism,” and “fascism” actually mean…”

And even even more ominously:

“Even more utopianly, I would welcome an international initiative led by academics and state agencies concerned with “the right” to call for the creation in every liberal democracy of an official body conceived on the lines of the German “Office for the Defense of the Constitution” (Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz)—a committee of state and academic experts whose job it is to monitor politics hostile to liberal democracy, whether within or against “the system.” This would enable genuine fascist formations or undertakings—such as neo-Nazi revisionism and organizations with demonstrable links with, or roots in, the extreme secular or religious right—to be monitored, exposed, and banned as illegal.”

Monitored, exposed, and banned.

For his part, Rosenthal noted that Griffin is a European and that “Germany, like other European countries with post-WWII constitutions, makes things like fascist organizing and spreading such ideas as holocaust denial illegal. If you’re saying this is anathema to the U.S. constitution I agree. In a funny way, compared to Germany, Americans across the left-right spectrum are free-speech radicals. By and large countries like Germany & Italy & France have managed to maintain liberal democracies for many decades now despite this distinction from the place of the first amendment tradition in US liberal democracy.”

As we have all come to know, many in the woke/equitarian/progressive movement quite often point to the joys of Europe as a more communitarian style of government led by a permanent elite.  

It used to be lords and dukes and such who kept the Europublic in line. Now it is deputy under-secretaries and regulators and non-governmental organizations and born to the purple bureaucrats who make sure to keep people happily in line and maintain the fiction that a nation can be truly free even without the absolute core right of free speech as embodied in the First Amendment.

One key point missing from the entire discussion, the entire notion of studying the “right-wing” is that as the left moves further left it more and embodies the totalitarianism academics typically claim is absolutely and exclusively associated with the far right.

That notion – that it is “the left” that is the guardian of freedom – has been utterly decimated by the past few years.  From government censorship to speech codes to cancel culture to the creation of that real feeling people have now that saying the “wrong” thing could get them fired or socially ostracized or worse, the attacks on the rights of the individual have come exclusively from “the left.”

 And figuring out why that has happened may be a more important thing to study.

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