The Clare Spark Blog

August 8, 2013

Neocons, academics, melodrama

Dallas flyer Nov. '63

Dallas flyer Nov. ’63

A welcome voice of moderation and self-examination has crept into some writing on the internet and other mass media. Yesterday, published Ronald Radosh’s “take-down” of Diana West’s new book that in his view revived the take-no-prisoners approach of Joseph McCarthy and the John Birch Society (See Today, August 8, 2013, I have been in touch with other writers who are calling for a renewed attention to the style in which various commentators who write for a generally conservative audience are addressing their concerns. [Added 8-11-13: Clarice Feldman quoted passages from this blog here:]

(At the same time, a major realignment seems to be underway within the Republican Party as libertarians, classical liberals, and “moderates” or “RINO”s slug it out. I find the “neocons” in this debate to be more appealing, though I understand the outrage of those libertarians who have had it with authoritarian governments, leaders, and families, even as I disagree with their sometimes illiberal views on such questions as gay rights and feminism.)

Since I have been critical of those “moderate conservatives” who masked themselves as New Deal liberals on this website, I think it is time I clarified my own stand on “moderation.” (See

True moderation is linked to balance. These are powerful words that send a signal to the emotions of the reader that s/he will not be humiliated or stomped underfoot with ridicule. The reader will not fall down or be tossed over a cliff. So far, so good. I have tried to be forthright and scholarly, specifying my sources and giving weight to those opponents whose considered opinions clash with mine. The key word here is “considered.” I have little patience with amateurs who take advantage of the internet and cable news to delve into political and diplomatic history willy nilly, taking advantage of the poor educations of their target audience—an audience that is hurting, confused by conflicting truth-claims, and looking for guidance. It is possible to be moderate without being wishy-washy or wavering. We are all limited by limited access to documents and to our own inner psychodramas. And yet we strive for objectivity and for truthfulness. But the heated political language of our time, playing on our emotions, makes moderation a wish, rarely achieved. Some of our “unmaskers” are self-righteous opportunists, unbalanced and averse to even friendly criticism. True, they seek your financial support, but there must be more to it.

Here is a tentative suggestion: Popular culture is often expressed in a language of melodrama that turns us back into the dependent states of childhood, even infancy. How ironic that a wildly popular book that celebrates sadomasochism is entitled “Fifty Shades of Grey.” For the images of S-M are black and white, elevating domination and submission, sometimes simultaneously. In this regressive alternative universe, we are Heroes, Villains, and Victims, switching places at alarming speed. Insofar as we are attuned to these archetypes, we are stuck and dependent on demagogues.

There is no place for true moderation in the S-M universe, or in the language of paranoid populists who hate the more emotionally and intellectually responsible and mature. There is something to be said for the moderate tone and demeanor of the public intellectual/statesman, self-revising, self-critical, and attuned to the worries and fears of the reader. (For part two of this analysis see



  1. This melodrama uses signifiers — McCarthy, the JBS — to trigger a pre-programmed emotional response (founded on ignorance, sloth and fear of ostracism), the better to throw heretics like Ms. West off the cliff.

    Comment by marklarochelle — September 9, 2014 @ 1:20 am | Reply

    • There was nothing original about Ms. West’s “heresy.”

      Comment by clarelspark — September 9, 2014 @ 1:24 am | Reply

  2. […] give Clare Spark the final word on the vicious, personalized, heated responses to Radosh’s criticism of West’s work by […]


    • Clarice Feldman reported the controversy. She didn’t have to read a terrible book written by an amateur, and that was fully described by Ronald Radosh. Diana West was given the opportunity to reply and all she came up with was ad hominem attacks and hysteria.

      Comment by clarelspark — August 11, 2013 @ 2:51 pm | Reply

  3. […] professional historian, with a further exploration into the dream world of melodrama. It follows, and is best read in […]

    Pingback by Melodrama and its appeal | YDS: The Clare Spark Blog — August 9, 2013 @ 8:58 pm | Reply

  4. I must take issue with the statement that libertarians, who, as you suggest “have had it with authoritarian governments, leaders, and families” hold illiberal views on social issues like gay rights and feminism. Some may, but the idea that the government should sanction and interfere to enforce discriminatory attitudes or that gender or sexual preference should be obstacles in an individual’s full participation in political, social and economic life of society is old style right-wing conservatism (or old style left-wing neo-puritanism) and not libertarian. There are obviously degrees of both neoconservatism and libertarianism and many, who have read and appreciated “Atlas Shrugged” but do not refer to it like a Bible, are comfortable with a blend of the two, on some issues leaning more heavily on one side, on other issues on the other.

    Comment by Ioannis — August 8, 2013 @ 11:28 pm | Reply

    • To Ioannis: Thanks for your able defense of your position. I thought that I had left some wiggle room, but apparently not.

      Comment by clarelspark — August 8, 2013 @ 11:31 pm | Reply

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