The Southern Point: Rhetorically Speaking

The U.S. Senate Chamber, 1850 – Robert Whitechurch

A world is supported by four things…the learning
of the wise, the justice of the great, the prayers of
the righteous and the valor of the brave. But all of
these are as nothing…without a ruler who knows the
art of ruling. Make that the science of your tradition!

                                      -Frank Herbert, Dune

The Old South was far ahead of the New World Order.  What it lacked in technological development, it made up for in a concrete understanding of human nature that was grounded in reality. That reality was firmly rooted in two principles based upon experiential observation: the existence of ineradicable distinctions between different races and the danger of concentrating power in one unitary source that could arbitrarily determine the outcome of local domestic issues from afar. Indeed it may be stated unequivocally, that American civilization cannot truly go forward at all if its interpretation of human relationships and psychology deniesthese two points. It is for this reason that the philosophic fountainhead of resistance to the New World Order in the United States must inevitably begin with an endorsement of Southern rhetoric.

The term “rhetoric” has come to mean one of two things in contemporary culture: artificial speech or dishonest propaganda. This is a sorry state of affairs. It represents, in part, the overwhelming distortion that a purely nominal and positivistic machine age has introduced into human discourse.  The ancients had a much more elevated conception of the term, viewing it as a necessary analogue to the process of dialectic. Rhetoric was the high art of persuasion and the power of a particular style. Elsewhere I have addressed the polarization between the scientific and poetic modes of discourse and the need for redressing a balance between the two. The original ideal concept of rhetoric represents another evolutionary component of the poetic mode, a category that I previously dubbed the Bardic Dynamic.

Richard M. Weaver

This is a point of departure where we can begin to explore the philosophy of Richard M. Weaver, an outstanding Southern conservative thinker who published several important texts and gave many valuable lectures, primarily in the 1940s, 50s, and 60s, which are relevant to our struggles today as White Americans. There are plenty of essays and books available covering his ideas, However, very few of them explicitly frame Richard Weaver as the racially conscious traditionalist that he most certainly was. Weaver’s thought represents the full flowering of what the Southern Agrarians of the 1930s had first begun with the “I’ll Take My Stand” symposium, which in itself was a continuation of the South’s stand during the American Civil War. This is an important strand of his thought to follow because it suggests that there has been a survival of Old Southern ideas about race up into the modern world of the twentieth century. The trajectory of Weaver’s thought would challenge any who continue to view the Old South as a backward and retrogressive section or phase in American history.

Writing from the perspective of a later generation, Weaver was able to synthesize the impetus of Agrarian thought and channel it into wider applications for White Americans today. Agrarianism was not just a defense of the farm, but contained within its rejection of unfettered industrialism and the monolithic State, the fundamental premises of the defense of any high civilization worthy of the name, especially one that recognized the importance of blood, familial ties, and the continuation of a proud European tradition.

In an essay entitled “‘Defending the Little Platoons’; Communitarianism in American Conservatism,” Thomas E. Woods, Jr. argues that Weaver was one of the chief post World War II traditionalists next to Russell Kirk and Robert Nisbet. The traditionalists emerged from the war as a distinctive branch of the American Right wing, next to the libertarians and anti-Communists and those who would ultimately evolve into Neoconservatives. Woods defined the basic tenets of the traditionalist stream thus:

Traditionalists believed in prescription over rash innovation, emphasized the importance of private property and social distinctions, and denied the perfectibility of man. They viewed man and his condition in the concrete, and not with reference to an imaginary state of nature (127)…[T]raditionalist conservatives consistently fought the leveling forces, whether federal edicts or business combinations, that threatened to dissolve the organic network or interpersonal relationships that comprised a community.

Weaver was both a Platonic idealist and a political conservative (Language is Sermonic, 15). But he is much more important for our purposes because his conservatism was of the racially conscious sort, as was typical of much intelligent Southern thought prior to the civil rights movement.  He is the only one of the aforementioned triumvirate of traditionalist American thinkers who was actually a Southerner. It is thislegacy that offers White racialists a substantial scaffolding and a rhetorical style to build a new platform with traditional roots based in our actual historical experience. It is a version of the American dream that discounts liberal egalitarianism and remains focused on the animating genius of the original republic.

Another reason for concentrating on this thinker is because he effectively sidestepped the aberration that William F. Buckley and the National Review became hostage to, namely, Neoconservatism, which continues to embrace many apostasies which can in no way be considered either conservative or traditional. Woods suggests that the traditionalists would have been exceedingly wary of the Neoconservatives’ belief in Executive hegemony and an adventuresome, aggressive foreign policy. He writes

Coupling moralism and foreign policy, the traditionalists were convinced, virtually guaranteed ongoing American intervention across the globe, the domestic consequences of which could only be disastrous. They saw in war and in ceaseless military intervention not a recipe for national glory but a deadly poison for civil society. War not only leads to still more political and economic centralization, but it also at least implicitly calls on Americans to transfer their primary allegiance from the locality to the central state (140).

Neoconservatism also buys into the liberal elements underlying Civil Rights era assumptions regarding racial equality and forced integration. In my opinion, Weaver’s specific rejection of egalitarian nostrums as a Southern traditionalist therefore elevates his thought above that of Kirk and Nisbet, who could get away with more general Conservative platitudes, though it is clear that they may well have felt similarly.

Consider the following from Weaver’s seminal text, Visions of Order, published posthumously in 1964:

A culture integrates by segregating its forms of activity and its members from those not belonging. The right to self-segregate then is an indispensable ground of its being. Enough has been said to show that our culture today is faced with very serious threats in the form of rationalistic drives to prohibit in the name of equality cultural segregation. The effect of this would be to break up the natural cultural cohesion and to try to replace it with artificial politically dictated integration. Such “integration” would of course be a failure because where deep inner impulse is lacking cohesiveness for any length of time is impossible. This crisis has been brought to our attention most spectacularly in the attempt to “integrate” culturally distinct elements by court action. It is, however, only the most publicized of the moves; others are taking place in areas not in the spotlight, but all originate in ignorance, if not in a suicidal determination to write an end to the heritage of Western culture (21).

Weaver was writing when most people, outside of the South, were encountering the whole idea of racial conflict in their conscience for the first time. For Southerners, it was old hat. Weaver naturally saw the need for an opposing current that did not ignore the history of the conflict. And because these topics had been so deeply ingrained on the native regional mind since even before the Civil War, his analyses almost have an apostolic religious or metaphysical depth that a contemporary White advocate might initially skip over due to naiveté.

Weaver dealt in first principles rather than in appeals to the apparent emergency brought on by the events of the day. He probes deep into the underlying philosophic flaws of the modern world and liberalism. He saw rhetoric as a necessary social and political discipline, with its object being the entire man, his position within history, and a cultivation of the Permanent Things.

Rhetoric seen in the whole conspectus of its function is an art of emphasis embodying an order of desire. Rhetoric is advisory; it has the office of advising men with reference to an independent order of goods and with reference to their particular situation as it relates to these. The honest rhetorician therefore has two things in mind: a vision of how matters should go ideally and ethically and a consideration of the special circumstances of his auditors. Toward both of these he has a responsibility. (Language is Sermonic, 211)

For much of his professional career, Richard Weaver taught English literature at the University of Chicago. However, he was a Southerner to the core. He was born in Asheville, North Carolina in 1910. He received a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Kentucky in 1932.  He studied under Donald Davidson at Vanderbilt University where he obtained an M.A in 1934. Davidson, as the intellectual leader of the Southern Agrarians, exerted considerable influence on Weaver during his formative years. They maintained a lifelong correspondence. Weaver was even slated to replace his mentor when he was ready to retire in the mid-60s from Vanderbilt’s English department. Unfortunately, he never realized the transition because he had a heart attack and died in 1963. Davidson outlived him by five years.

Weaver received his Ph. D. in 1943, from Louisiana State University, where Cleanth Brooks, another prominent Agrarian, advised him. His thesis, originally entitled The Confederate South, 18651910: The Survival of a Mind and a Culture would be published posthumously as The Southern Tradition at Bay. It contains a bold examination and defense of the Old South. It is well worth studying for trustworthy source material regarding White identity in the South in the two generations following the War Between the States.

Weaver’s racial consciousness, when not explicit, is often couched in appeals to the rational structures of hierarchy, the natural inevitability of aristocracy when unimpeded by committee rule or unlimited democracy, the importance of private property, the respect for historical context, and the need for a recognizable scale of values. The connections here to the general thrust of White advocacy are obvious. M.E. Bradford, another one of Donald Davidson’s protégés, made a specific reference to the value of Weaver’s thought to White Americans in his essay, “The Agrarianism of Richard Weaver.”

Richard Weaver never lost interest in defending what survived of the historic Southern order. His political journalism plus certain of his papers in opinion document this devotion. Indeed it was so strong as to move Weaver into a professionally dangerous public support of the South’s position in racial matters. For he perceived from the start that this second Reconstruction had objectives far more ambitious (and perhaps other than) “justice for the Negro”: in a word, abolition of the subculture itself, which could not survive such coercive dislodgment of its “wisest prejudice.” However, the fortune of the Agrarians (and their individual experiences after dispersal) had convinced him that such defendings were in vain – that is, unless the set of mind that made them necessary be discredited at its source: unless liberalism (as we speak of it loosely) be exposed for the pathology it is. The mind informed by memory (history humanized), by literature (rendering the real, including memory), and by rhetoric (bringing memory and its rendering to bear) cannot find in the South only a scandal. The universities were the place for that labor, or most of it. They were a base of power. Since the English Revolution of the 1640s, the French Revolution, the American Civil War, and the Communist triumph in Russia, our wars have been wars of doctrine. They are won or lost on that ground. And what is needed for them is an aristoi, a new version of the old idea called “gentleman”: a body of informed men and women within the Academy – personally loyal to one another, courageous, and indefatigable (Remembering Who We Are, Observations of a Southern Conservative, pp. 81).

In order to do anything positive, therefore, we would do well to redevelop an aristoi or intelligentsia that is able to  more effectively communicate with the White folk, whose support we must eventually win, for any long-term turnaround. This is where understanding the higher concept of rhetoric comes into play. For instance, appeals to National Socialism won’t work because they utilize a European rhetoric that goes completely against the tastes and historical experience of modern White Americans. Appeals to a further consolidation of central power are also mistaken because this has generally been the tack of Northern rhetoric as it manipulated the federal mechanism to try and extirpate the Old South in the name of humanitarianism or Equality or the Union etc. The correct angle of white activism in the United States has historically been through the vehicle of a distinctly Southern-derived rhetoric which has consistently aimed at a defense of White interests and the integrity of the local regional entities. Fortunately, this is a portable rhetoric with roots in the original tradition of the country, which is what makes it so completely all-American.

This rhetorical style also involves studying up on the particular tastes and styles of hillbillies, rednecks, crackers, hicks and the average Joes and Micks. Coming off as too rich or too corporate would tend to make enemies of this working class contingent. For the most part, we want to capture the hearts and minds of Middle America, as Sam Francis, another latter day Agrarian, conceptualized it. What do they like? How do they talk? What gets them riled up? How can we punch their buttons? What motivates them to action?

In this context, Richard Weaver’s writing lays an ideal groundwork for a counter movement towards a more authentic American conservative position that is able to embrace the racial concerns of Whites. Weaver teaches us how to persuade without exploiting, in a format conducive to the natural tendencies of a rural conservative.

Richard M. Weaver on Rhetoric and Individualism

Here my main concern is to demonstrate that Richard Weaver’s conclusions about rhetoric indicate an awareness of the difficulty of objectivity in discourse that touches on human interests—a conclusion that would not surprise readers aware of the culture of critique that has dominated intellectual and media discourse at least since World War II.

It seems that one of the big traps that White Americans constantly fall into is the idea that there’s something wrong with, as Michael Polignano phrases it, “taking our own side.” It is well known that Jewish groups have no such hang up. Indeed, Jewish groups are famously self-interested (despite a long series of rationalizations and apologia casting Jews as altruistically working for the good of all mankind; see here). And does anyone think that La Raza and the NAACP have the interests of all Americans at heart?

Pursuing our ethnic self-interest is, theoretically, an unassailable position. But there are many millions of Whites in this country who are a long way from catching on to his excellent analogy. And minority ethnic groups know it and they exploit it. For this reason, another element is needed.

Rhetoric must be viewed formally as operating at that point where literature and politics meet, or where literary values and political urgencies can be brought together. The rhetorician makes use of the moving power of literary presentation to induce in his hearers an attitude or decision which is political in the broadest sense. (Weaver, Language, 225)

That element involves a wider application of the art of rhetoric by those who have leadership abilities. Our advantage as individuals spread out over an immense area, is that we can reach people at an immediate, local level. The bigger and more overextended the establishment becomes, the more it will ignore the subtle nuances of the diverse regional identities and folkways within the White populace. Eventually, this will inevitably cause the citizenry to look for actual, visible people, in their vicinity, who really care about them and who know how to talk their talk.

Then we can focus on the basic issue: showing Whites how to stop nullifying themselves, thereby empowering other minorities. We can reemphasize to them how other groups either feel no compunction about cutting to the front of the line, or are vengeful towards Whites because of historical grievances and thus unlikely to negotiate equitably. In any case, the task involves changing this self-defeating point of view in Whites so that they feel comfortable to stand and deliver a passionate testament on behalf of their own kind. And yet, it is more than that, too.

We should not only want to stand up for ourselves, we should be willing to sacrifice the self to the greater good of the whole. So, it is both a call to self-affirmation and self-sacrifice, properly conceived. This may, at first, seem to be a strange and foreign concept to American Whites, raised on Emersonian conceptions of individualism and the virtue of an atomized self-interest in the context of Adam Smith’s philosophy and the free market mentality. However, there are many areas in this country, the South in particular, where the concept of communal kinship along racial/tribal//familial lines has borne an important meaning and value in the past.

Richard Weaver developed a peculiar combination sometimes referred to as “communitarian individualism” or “social bond individualism” that is pertinent in this consideration. By contrasting the styles and backgrounds of two famous individualists from the North and South, Henry David Thoreau and John Randolph of Roanoke, he establishes an original American alternative form of communal allegiance that avoids the isolated individualism of the Transcendentalists. In his essay, Two Types of American Individualism, he develops the following paradigm.

Light can be shed on our problem by examining two types of American individualism, each of which has had a major prophet. One of the types is not now, and I think never was, a feasible form of individualism, though there is something about it which fascinates a part of our nature. The other is not only feasible but is today very much needed, when the forces of regimentation and the example of totalitarianism are threatening to sweep away every principle of distinction that stands in their path. … Thoreau stood for individual isolation, but failed to see the consequences. Another way of meeting a dilemma is to slip between the horns, which means to find a third alternative without the painful consequences of the other two. The exponent of that method was John Randolph of Roanoke, now a half legendary figure, termed a “political fantastic” by one of his recent biographers and called a dangerous person by another critic, yet a figure of unique interest to one who has studied his career. Randolph stood with equal firmness against imperialism, especially in its disguised form of government welfarism, but he found an alternative to this and to simple withdrawal (p. 2). … As a defender of the dignity and autonomy of the smaller unit, he was constantly fighting the battle for local rights. But it was the essence of his position that the battle must be fought within the community, not outside the community and not through means that would in effect deny all political organization. … Randolph never lost sight of the truth expressed in Aristotle’s dictum that man is a political animal. His individualism is, therefore, what I am going to call “social bond” individualism. It battles unremittingly for individual rights, while recognizing that these have to be secured within the social context … The point I seek to make is that Randolph could not visualize men’s solving political questions through simple self-isolation (p. 4). … Common interest was the final justification of government, the source of the means of operation, the assurance that it would not become perverted or despotic (p. 7). … [I]f we are interested in rescuing individualism in this age of conformity and actual regimentation, it is the Randolphian kind which we must seek to cultivate. Social bond individualism is civil and viable and constructive except perhaps in very abnormal situations. Anarchic individualism is revolutionary and subversive from the very start; it shows a complete despite for all that civilization or the social order has painfully created, and this out of self-righteousness or egocentric attachment to an idea (p. 16).

Weaver’s analysis of Randolph was based on his defense of the sovereignty of states’ trying to come into the Union in the early 19th century. Despite personal misgivings towards the institution of slavery, Randolph was an outspoken defender of Missouri’s right to come into the Union as a slave state. The principle that he operated from was the integrity of a basic common interest at a local level. Thomas Woods further refines Weaver’s development of communitarianism. He suggests that the communal orientation of the American traditionalists has been nearly forgotten in today’s American right wing but that it used to occupy a central spot in our conservative thought.

Traditionalists based their attachments to community life, they insisted, not on a mere sentiment or nostalgia, but on serious reflections on history and human nature,. … Central to the traditionalist’s view of human nature, therefore, was the insistence that the fundamental unit of society was not the individual but the group, that it is only within a social context that the goods of human excellence can be cultivated (130). … Traditionalists therefore insisted that society be viewed not as a mere aggregation of individuals but as a delicate edifice consisting of numerous geographic communities, each with rights and traditions of its own (132)…The existence of myriad autonomous political communities, they agreed, serves to frustrate the would-be reformer who seeks to impose a uniform General Will upon the nation as a whole. A unitary state may originate in the name of freedom, Weaver explained, “but once it has been made monopolisitic and unassailable, it will, if history teaches anything, be used for other purposes(133).

Richard Weaver argues for the cultivation of positive rhetoric in order to accomplish the goal of securing White Western civilization in the United States. He leads us to reject the ostensibly ‘objective’ forms of ethnic and sociological discourse, which dominated the 20th century, and towards a development of a noble defense for our own culture. The spirit of Weaver’s sensibility was well captured by Russell in his foreword to Weaver’s Visions of Order (1964):

According to Gregory the Great, it has not pleased God to save men through logic. Richard Weaver would have assented to this, knowing as he did the nature of the average sensual man and the limits of pure rationality. Yet with a high logical power, Weaver undertook an intellectual defense of culture, and of order and justice and freedom.”

Russell then quotes Weaver’s fundamental idea that there is more to humans cold rationality and that there must be a melding of the rational and the affective side of human nature:

 Somehow our education will have to recover the lost vision of the person as a creature of both intellect and will. It will have to bring together into one through its training the thinker and the doer, the dialectician and the rhetorician. Cognition, including the scientific, alone is powerless, and will without cognition is blind and destructive. The work of the future, then, is to overcome the shallow  rationalisms and scientificisms of the past two centuries and to work toward the reunion of man into a being who will both know and desire what he knows.

This is the mission of the Southern Point: to facilitate a more comprehensive American front based on the Southern Tradition. The Southern Tradition, correctly understood, is an authentically patriotic American Way that stretches all the way back to the founding generation of this country. And it eventually grew to embrace the Great West. The South became the West. As I’ve mentioned before, we might do well to refer to this side in a more poetic fashion, as the Rest of the West. The Rest of the West opposes the Eastern Establishment and represents its greatest threat in the world. It is up to us, the 200+ million Whites within this country, to restrain our government as we were originally empowered to do by our Constitution and the men who died so that we could be free. If we cannot then we have lost our mandate as a capable and potent people.

For those interested in following up on some other available online Weaver essays and summaries, try herehereherehere, and here. Those who want to go further should move to his three primary texts: Ideas Have Consequences, The Ethics of Rhetoricand Visions of Order.

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