Friday 28 September 2012

Why is Robert Conquest's Second Law so horribly true?


Robert Conquest's Second Law is something like:

Any organization not explicitly right-wing sooner or later becomes left wing.

It applies to people as well, as I argued in yesterday's post on the apostasy of JK Rowling.

But why is it true?


Clearly the law only applies to The Modern West - where Leftism is the long term trend - it is not a law applicable to all societies and throughout all of history.

But it does seem to apply, without any significant exceptions I can think of, to The Modern West.


In the modern situation, the Left sets the baseline assumptions: for example in terms of atheism (i.e. the denial of Christianity), equality (i.e. the essential sameness of people), democracy (i.e. the denial of traditional authority), feminism (i.e. the essential sameness of sexes), an egalitarian concept of the nature of anti-racism (i.e. the essential sameness of races), and the sexual revolution (whatever appeared bad is now recognized as Good; and vice versa).

Since these are assumptions, they frame institutions, and shape their organization over time, unless and except the institutions explicitly defines itself against them.

The institution (or individual) that does not wish to become swept Leftwards (or person) must therefore either isolate itself from modernity; or set up a screen to filter the mass of incoming stimuli for any such assumptions - and then react against them.


So, to take the example of JK Rowling. The Harry Potter series successfully walked a tightrope between its superficial postmodern Leftism and an underling Christian traditionalism - but the underlying reactionary structure was indirect and implicit, while the surface was obvious and in-your-face.

Thus in the fullness of 'sooner or later' Rowling had to do one of two things: make explicit and clear the underlying Christian and reactionary structure (in effect admitting she had successfully tricked tens of millions of people into reading covert religious propaganda); or else she would be swept Leftwards by the prevailing assumptions of society.

If she had chosen the first path, there would without any shadow of doubt have been an immediate, immoderate, coordinated and sustained campaign to discredit and demonize the Harry Potter books; in which the whole weight of international mass media (ie the centre and origin of world Leftism) would have been involved.


But, as we know, she did not do this; consequently she has been swept into providing (with her new novel) an over-the-top endorsement of the vilest and most demoralizing Leftism; the inversion of Truth, Beauty and Virtue.


I find it tempting to put Rowling's very obvious corruption down to her friendship with the egregious ex-Prime Minister Gordon Brown - who is surely the most pervasively dishonest British of Premiers since Lloyd George; but of course Rowling chose the friendship; and in truth Conquest's Law operates without any need for specific factors or agents.

It is a sign of the intrinsic short-termism and impatience of Leftism that JKR did not pause to sugar coat her message of nihilism, but lets the reader have it full-on and in their guts - or else the book would probably have been vastly more harmful.

As it is, the new novel is such a naive, open faced, unmasked instance of horribleness that even Leftists are embarrassed and disgusted by it.


At least for a while.

Probably, 'sooner or later', as the desensitization and inversions of unrepentant modernity continue to accumulate, The Casual Vacancy will come to be touted as a work of genius and the Harry Potter books (which are a work of genius) will be downgraded to 'kids' stuff'...


Bruce Charlton said...

JKR has said that, for her, courage and love are the primary virtues.

Yet of course, she has done the cowardly thing in repudiating her Christianity and traditionalism.

However, she imagines she is being courageous because the new novel contains (and normalizes) swearing, sex and extreme sordidness:

"In an interview, [JKR] also admitted that she had considered publishing her debut novel for adults under a pseudonym.

"She said: “But in some ways I think it’s braver to do it like this. The worst that can happen is that everyone says, “Well, that was dreadful, she should have stuck to writing for kids” and I can take that.

"If everyone says, “Well, that’s shockingly bad - back to wizards with you,” then obviously I won’t be throwing a party. But I will live.”

- You see how it works?

This way she gets to feel 'brave' for publishing a completely mainstream (i.e. Leftist, sordid) modern novel, thereby risking a few snide comments or criticism from people who have no power to hurt her career; but at the same time avoids the genuine, career-sacrificng, bravery which would have been necessary to stick by Christianity and traditionalism.

I have seen altogether too much of this kind of risk free, self-congratulatory, so-called courage: the 'courage' to shock and disgust decent people while pandering to the powerful Leftist establishment elite.

Samson J. said...

I have seen altogether too much of this kind of risk free, self-congratulatory, so-called courage: the 'courage' to shock and disgust decent people while pandering to the powerful Leftist establishment elite.

It would be something worth writing about: this peculiar effect whereby no matter how entrenched leftism becomes, no matter how outnumbered the *reactionary* side is, no matter how extensively traditionalist values are marginalized, no matter how much numerical and cultural superiority the Left has, leftists and atheists ALWAYS think they are being "brave" and nobly "rebellious" when they produce their works. You see it across the spectrum, from angry teenage atheists to hardenened leftists in high places - they *all* think they are being "edgy" even while their side controls almost every pop cultural message.

Does it have to do with the fact that no matter how much progress the left seems to make in this world, in their hearts they know the ultimate battle against God can never be won? I'm not sure.

dearieme said...

"... gets to feel 'brave' for [doing anything] Leftist": I always sneer at those Lefties who congratulate themselves on courage for being entirely conformist. Comedians and playwrights seem to be particularly prone to it.

Bruce Charlton said...

@SJ and d - It must relate to the fact that Leftist (as a sub-office of Evil) is essentially destructive; therefore it must have something to destroy; and - to impress itself - it must act as if that which is being attacked is terribly strong and dangerous.

Of course, when 'the establishment' really was strong and dangerous, almost nobody ever dared to attack it; and they really did need to be brave to attempt it.

This is phenomenon is memorably described in the books of (ex-Black Power radical, now Black Conservative) Shelby Steele - such as White Guilt - the way that the magnitude of protest has been inverse to the rationale for protest.

JP said...

Seems to me you should re-evaluate the hypothesis that JKR was ever a covert reactionary. If she was always a Leftist, then Conquest's law does not apply.


Somehow those brave, noble comedians never get around to mocking Islam...

Anonymous said...

Dr. Charlton,

I have long been of the opinion that anything on the side of light in Rowling’s works was not intentional on her part and that she was never on “our” side. Any Christian themes in the Harry Potter works were due either to the residual zeitgeist of Christianity or perhaps because of an unconscious adherence to something like Lewis’ Tao, so calling what she has done apostasy may not be right.

The power of the attraction of the world cannot be underestimated. Satan himself used it as his last resort against our Lord. To resist it requires great spiritual strength, and it is easy to see it at work in our day. For instance, here in America, it appears that the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court changed his mind on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act because he was worried about the damage going against it would do to the reputation of the Court and his own legacy-see here:;contentBody

In your country, one has the examples of Sts. Thomas More and John Fisher (regardless of what one’s position is on Papal Supremacy, the more relevant point is that they rejected the honor of the world). As long as the Left control the institutions which give honor and fame, this will be the case.

The Left has for decades scored cheap points by “fighting” against the long dead authority and norms that they deposed long ago. After all, we have always been at war with Eurasia and against Goldstein, haven’t we?

Anonymous Long-time Lurker

Bruce Charlton said...

@JP and Anon Lurker - No, I absolutely stand by the fact that the Harry Potter novels are profoundly Christian, good, and fundamentally reactionary books.

If you want to see why, then search Harry Potter on this blog for the evidence and arguments; or better still read the works of John Granger (who is a reader in the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia).

baduin said...

In my opinion, the current situation is best described in the Mahabharata.

The best explanation of this epic is to be found in Dumezil.

It is a fundamental Indoeuropean archetype, appearing also in the Scandinavian myth as the battle of Bravellir.

It is a great battle ending the age, when the universal kingdom, although in itself glorious, powerful, wise etc, happens to be governed by a fundamentally evil king, or rather usurper. The civil war against this usurper ends with his defeat, but the kingdom is ruined and the age of the world comes to an end.

The problem with the evil usurper is that he is supported by essentially good heroes, and most of all by the greatest hero of the age, the Sun-Hero, master of all arts, invulnerable except for one weak spot (very often of humbly origins, who is amongst other abilities a skilled shoe-maker).

In Mahabharata he is called Karna. And Harry Potter belongs to this kind of heroes.

James James said...

Just to check, have you read "The Casual Vacancy"?

(Disclaimer: no, my question doesn't have anything to do with the strength of your argument. I'm just interested.)

Bruce Charlton said...

@JJ - bits. It was like being sucked into a foetid swamp.

The Crow said...

The siren song of leftism is that it is all about talk.
What you do is far less important than what you say.
And what you may think, even more important than that.
So nobody actually has to do anything, to be in the thrall of leftism. They can all just talk about stuff that should be done, and score big points.
It's the lazy, selfish man's utopia.
Do anything you like, while saying stuff to look good.
And move ever further out of touch with cause and effect.

Anonymous said...
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Sylvie D. Rousseau said...

I just read some bits of reviews of Rowling's book and I'm wondering if there is not a bright side to it.

I would have to check where the author puts the cause of the social problems she describes. If she puts it on the religious "bigots" (there was a comment to that effect - I cannot know if it is true), then she has lost her soul while gaining the world. Let us hope it is not forever.

But what if she was brushing a painful painting of vice for her readers to put in parallel with virtue as practiced in Harry Potter's world? In this new novel, she seems to illustrate how vice is the destruction of all happiness, while the practice of virtue was advocated everywhere in Harry Potter: familial virtues displayed even by the Malfoys, fidelity in friendship and love, a frame of necessary but uncoercive discipline, selflessness, responsibility in the community...

Would it be possible for teenagers or young adults who loved the Harry Potter books to understand the parallel? Is it there?

cardo said...

"Robert Conquest's Second Law is something like:

Any organization not explicitly right-wing sooner or later becomes left wing."

See this:

"That is explained by O'Sullivan's First Law: All organizations that are not actually right-wing will over time become left-wing. I cite as supporting evidence the ACLU, the Ford Foundation, and the Episcopal Church. The reason is, of course, that people who staff such bodies tend to be the sort who don't like private profit, business, making money, the current organization of society, and, by extension, the Western world. At which point Michels's Iron Law of Oligarchy takes over — and the rest follows.

Is there any law which enables us to predict the behavior of right-wing organizations? As it happens, there is: Conquest's Second Law (formulated by the Sovietologist Robert Conquest):

The behavior of an organization can best be predicted by assuming it to be controlled by a secret cabal of its enemies. Examples: virtually any conservative party anywhere, the Ronald Lauder for Mayor campaign, and the British secret service. That last example is, however, flawed, since the British secret service actually was controlled by a secret cabal of its enemies in the form of Kim Philby, Anthony Blunt, et al. In which case, Conquest's Law should have operated to make M1-6 a crack anti-Soviet intelligence service of James Bond proportions. But these are deep waters."

O'Sullivan latest piece.

Ariston said...

I doubt Vacancy will ever be declared a masterpiece— even lefty critics are lambasting it.

I have yet to see a good review from anyone remotely respectable.

Harry will live on; good children's literature has a way of doing so, unless allowed to fall out of print.

Feeney said...

IMO the reason is simple; the left is active. The right is passive. We hear about 'Left wing activists,' all the time. We never hear about 'Right wing / Conservative activists.' We do hear from time to time however about 'Right wing reactionaries.' What are they reacting to? Left wing activists.