I am not going to beat around the bush. I am the embodiment of all that the Burkean Journal hates: a liberal/leftist/progressive/feminist/[delete error]/whatever they call people who believe that the 19th century isn’t a century to be copied. And I’m not going to outline my ideological differences with them: you know the arguments, I know the arguments, they know the arguments.
Instead I want to point out that the Burkean Journal’s raison d’être – to provide a fresh, alternative and new take on events – is utter nonsense.
It fails to provide anything other than a place to air poorly made arguments copy-pasted from literally any other reactionary website. The reactionary right likes to claim that everyone else lives in a permanent bubble, avoiding all conflicting arguments.
Browsing libertarian magazines, Nazi apologist Twitter accounts, redpilling subreddits, and even (rarely) /pol/, is arguably my most self-destructive habit because it means I see some truly despicable opinions.
It also resulted me in making a small hypothesis about the reactionary right: that they do not actually have a pre-existing set of coherent beliefs. Instead, they determine their beliefs by looking at what the left believe and argue just the opposite. With this in mind, I made a checklist of article topics and rhetorical devices that I expected to come up.
This checklist was:
- A call for dialogue on a topic is in fact a one-sided argument that ignores the liberal/leftist/progressive arguments totally.”University is not a safe space”
- Lumping everyone left of Theresa May into one enemy to strawman
- Climate change isn’t real
- The media is out to get us
- Young people don’t know what they are talking about
- “Liberal elites”
- Globalisation is destroying identity
- Identity politics is bad
- Keep the 8th, the Repeal campaign is evil.Defend George Hook for free speech, but Colin Kaepernick doesn’t matter
- A gay person arguing that gay marriage is bad
- “This is an attack on the family”
- An Alex Jones-tier conspiracy theory
And so, checklist in hand, I opened the Burkean Journal’s website. I immediately checked Venezuela off my list, because it is the very first thing that appears: an article entitled “Socialism is Dead, Long Live Socialism”. In it, the writer attempts to brand as “socialist” a state which entirely depends on engaging in the capitalist oil trade, has a commercial rent market, and protects the right to private property in its constitution. Further, it builds into an attempt to lambast Michael D. Higgins for, on the one hand, not unequivocally condemning Castro and for criticising capitalism on the other.
The hysteria around Higgins in the article is quite funny, calling him a “pound shop Karl Marx” and “poison”. Maybe I’m just too much of a fragile liberal or special snowflake to see what the panic is about, but I think with regards to President Higgins, this article is getting worked up over very little.
If I had submitted the piece to turnitin, it would have been crucified, because large chunks of text seemed to have been swiped directly from reason.com articles.
This should come with the obvious caveat that no, I don’t think the situation in Venezuela is fine, nor do I support the repressive actions Maduro is carrying out. But attributing the Venezuelan crisis purely to “socialism” is simplistic.
An economy being shattered by an overreliance on one natural resource is hardly a product of socialism, but is common in many resource-rich states. There is even a name for this phenomenon: Dutch disease. So to recap, the article is only engaging when it’s hysterical about Michael D. Higgins and his Marxist plot to starve Ireland, and otherwise lacks nuance in understanding why the crisis is occurring.
Most articles were astonishingly standard and bland (“Again… University is Not a Safe Space”), and completely interchangeable with pretty much any other reactionary websites articles. In all, only the “climate change” and “Alex Jones-tier conspiracy” indicators from my checklist were missing.
I was annoyed with myself, however, that I had forgotten to include anti-EU rhetoric; after all this publication is being sponsored by Declan Ganley. I probably should have included some focus on dragging down a female politician, as I found one writer’s obsession with Katherine Zappone both concerning and odd, though despite the initial veneer of strangeness, it soon lapsed into standard liberal-bashing.
All though ostensibly based in Ireland and Trinity, a lot of articles seemed to think they were arguing over American policy. There was an article arguing that Iran is the next enemy that “the West” should target after ISIS.
Setting aside the Cato-esque “Iran must be destroyed” tone of the article, it makes one wonder what exactly does Iran do that Saudi Arabia doesn’t? It feels more like an article that belong in an American reactionary website, rather than an Irish one.
The article arguing that Colin Kaepernick kneeling is disrespecting the flag felt far more American-centric, and even more like it had been created by mashing lots of other articles and tweets together. The article entitled “Are You Liberal or Are You Kind of Liberal?” literally contains the phrase “plead the fifth”, an American colloquialism.
The journal only acquires a sense of real identity, other than being generic and reactionary, when it goes utterly bonkers, and argues that the natural state of humanity is poverty and that we should just let old people die (“’Abundistan’: The Perception of Infinite Resources”), or that the EU is promoting “neo-socialism” (whatever that is) and explicitly compares the independent Polish judiciary to the actual Nazis (“A Letter to Western Europeans From Poland”).
Another article manages to both argue that globalisation is destroying identity, and that left/liberal identity politics is bad (“To Turn Back From the Rubicon”). The article makes a ridiculous (and hilarious) comparison between the Irish constitution and Jenga.
I could go on about the various bizarre and concerning implications of many articles within the journal (being Irish inherently means being Catholic according to “Reclaiming the History of Irish Catholicism”, as if James Joyce and Wolfe Tone don’t exist), but I think you get my point.
The reason the Burkean Journal was established was, ostensibly, to provide a coherent and fresh counter-narrative to the prevailing liberal narrative provided by the two big Trinity newspapers. It fails to do this. Its articles are often self-contradictory messes with what seems like a tenuous grip on reality.
All it does is repackage the exact same, standard, stale, reactionary arguments that dominate portions of the internet in a new, shiny-red website, reminiscent of an 18th century waistcoat. It is nothing special, even writing this article is giving them more attention than they deserved. If you want to read reactionary nonsense, read Brietbart or Ian Miles Cheongs Twitter. To the rest of us, I recommend we leave them to their circlejerk.