This recent murder at the Holocaust museum has brought up a number of issues about right-wingery, Jewry, hatery, and free speechification. In some liberty deficient states, like Canada and Britain, there is a notion of certain kinds of ideological speech being so inexorably linked to violence and deviance that they must be outlawed for the public good. We need to examine that notion in so many ways that I anticipate this might be another long post.
First things first. The First Amendment clearly ties the hands of the U.S. Congress from embracing any such notion. Even if there was a 100% correlation between a certain kind of speech and a certain kind of action, it would be outside the scope of the U.S. Congress. We - that is, Constitutionalists - like police power type acts to be handled by the several States. We cannot point out too often how shameful it is that the government's hands had to be specifically tied in such a way, when the Constitution itself was supposed to be a document of enumerated powers. It is beyond shameful that despite the explicit restriction, the Congress still makes laws in clear violation of these amendments, which themselves were redundancies to an already enumerated government. In any case, the U.S. Congress has no place making laws about speech at all. Let's leave alone the unconstitutional campaign laws that our good friend McCain thought were either more important than the Constitution or outside its scope. The First Amendment, abused and ignored as it may be, has come to represent a general notion of freedom of speech in the West. So let's agree that the states have the authority to regulate certain kinds of speech and the Congress does not, for sake of argument (since I think even the states might be out of line, and some leftists might think the Congress does indeed have such a power.)
At this point, we have to say that in order to restrict individual freedom of speech, we have to demonstrate a prevailing community interest or a clear threat of harm. Are there certain ideological frameworks that make meet these criteria? The answer may well be yes, though I will leave this alone for now and say that there maybe conditions under which a state can do so.
The real question here for me is whether American conservatism, or the American right, has such an ideology. I cannot see in any way how it follows from anything I believe and cherish, and I am one of the most conservative people I know. The pillars of the American right are these: anti-statism, individual liberty, the efficacy of private markets, and American exceptionalism (that is best summed up by the notion "the best hope for any kind of peace is a strong America). Let's keep the architectural example going. The foundation of the American right is made of several different stones, going back to Edmund Burke. One of these stones is where the term conservative derives, a reaction to the rationalist or revolutionary frame of mind, and a reliance on tradition. Another stone, perhaps the cornerstone of the foundation of the American right, is the philosophy of the founders as enshrined in the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution, a limited government of enumerated powers, a voluntary association of sovereign states that surrender their foreign policy and monetary powers for mutual benefit. And key to this, the mortar for the bricks or the bond for the concrete, is that only a virtuous people can be so governed.Mixed into the building is some agrarianism (a la Jefferson or a la the early 20th century folks), some anti-war defense only stones (think Ron Paul). This entire edifice has traditionally been broken down into the foreign policy, economic, and moral wings. This is perhaps a fair division, but when so divided one must keep in mind that they share some pillars in common and much of the same foundation.
So whence the link of right-wingery to this sort of anti-semitism, etc.? Of course, there are the skinhead types. I don't exactly know what they believe, but I'm pretty sure it isn't all that close to what I believe, which is described in the previous paragraph. The American right is markedly pro-Israel, and much of that sentiment is based on an underlying affinity for the Jewish race, believing them to have been much abused and persecuted, and believing the land of Israel to be rightfully theirs. So I don't say that the American left is anti-semitic (which would be racist: thanks to Professor Susan Sheridan for helping me draw this out), but that the right is often criticized for being perhaps blindedly pro-Israel. The skinhead crowd is usually called right-wing. (I don't want to get into spectrum-building here, but I have another thesis that we have implicitly been using a European spectrum that is inappropriate for the American establishment.) So if we want to call the neo-Nazi types "right wing" then I suppose I see how this is linked to the right.
But none of this has anything to do with any of the things that the standard-bearers of conservatism say or do on a regular basis. You have the tax-mongers who constantly harangue us about the burdens of taxation. There are the moralizers who talk about the culture of death and moral equivocation. The Constitutionalists and rule-of-law types preach against abrogations of process such as in the recent restructuring of auto companies. Some pundits just rail against incompetent actions, which is fine as far as it goes.
I don't see how either the foundations, pillars, politics, policies, or rhetoric of American conservatism has anything to do with antisemitism, let alone murder. My understanding is that this fellow wasn't too keen on Christianity, or America, either. And the American right as a caricature is all about these two things.
There is a strain of ideology that seems, well, off the reservation. I have tremendous respect for Representative Ron Paul, but he seems to attract this type in droves. There is some murky area that seems to have an affinity for the right (regardless of our distaste for them). It stems from libertarianism, which contains conceptually all the seeds of this odd, and by no means prominent, strain of ideology. For evidence of the disparity between the conservative movement and these other types, see Russell Kirk's essay on the topic of libertarianism, or Bill Buckley's rejection of the John Birch Society.
I do want to fairly consider this question, so readers, I ask you to provide me with some fair ways in which conservatism has been mis-described, or perhaps elements of it that are missing from my description of it that can help me make sense of the punditocracy's insistence that opposing Obama has something to do with shooting a random guy at the holocaust museum.