It’s often said that the American neoconservative Bill Kristol never met a war he didn’t like. Certainly, Kristol played a key role in promoting the US attack on Iraq in 2003 – and since then he’s been advocating new military interventions just about everywhere.
But, with the release of the new Star Wars trailer, Kristol’s adopted an unexpected cause. He’s now lobbying for Darth Vader.
In a Twitter exchange with the New York Times columnist Ross Douthat, Kristol announced, ‘Needless to say I was rooting for the Empire for the first moment. It was a benevolent liberal empire, after all.’
He then doubled down on his support for Team Palpatine: ‘No objective evidence empire was “evil”. A liberal regime with meritocracy, upward mobility. Neocon/reformicon in spirit.’
Now, Wikipedia may be a questionable source on some issues but, when it comes to pornography and Star Wars, it’s undeniably authoritative. When we consult the Wiki entry on the Galactic Empire, we learn:
Star Wars creator George Lucas sought to make the Galactic Empire aesthetically and thematically similar to Nazi Germany and to appear to be fascist. Like Nazi Germany, the Galactic Empire is a dictatorship based on rigid control of society that dissolved a previous democracy and is led by an all-powerful supreme ruler. The Empire, like the Nazis, desires the creation of totalitarian order and utilizes excessive force and violence to achieve their ends.
Not surprisingly, the news that a key neocon ideologue like Kristol found a regime modelled on Nazi Germany rather to his liking caused a great disturbance in the Force.
— jay svoboda (@jaysvoboda) October 20, 2015
— Will Menaker (@willmenaker) October 20, 2015
[Bill Kristol sees an imperial power commit resources to a guerrilla war that it can't win] “Yes, this is good.”
— James Hell Brooks (@BobbyBigWheel) October 20, 2015
In some ways, though, Kristol’s Twitter critics rather miss what Bill’s admiration for the Sith truly reveals about modern conservatism.
Kristol’s father Irving was a key figure in the so-called ‘New York Intellectuals’, a gaggle of writers and thinkers influenced by Trotsky and then evolving from anti-Stalinist Marxism into right-wing anti-communism. For better or for worse, Kristol senior deployed his not-inconsiderable abilities engaging in the great debates of the twentieth century. It’s an obvious contrast with the activities of his far less talented son, a man spending his time goading the chattering classes in idiotic culture wars. Let’s remember, Kristol’s intervention into the politics of a galaxy far, far away took place immediately after white supremacists attacked the franchise for casting a black actor. In other words, it was an obvious provocation, embarked upon at that moment specifically because of the reaction it was calculated to produce.
Irving Kristol’s generation of conservatives saw the struggle against communism as an antidote to the nihilism of contemporary society. Bill Kristol and his cohorts make do with upsetting liberals.
In that, they’re far from alone. If you look at the most prominent conservative commentators both in the US and Australia, it’s very difficult to identify what they stand for, other than provoking a backlash from progressives.
Which is not to say they have no influence. Despite a justified reputation for being wrong about everything, Kristol maintains a high-profile media career, which he still uses to lobby for wars, wars and more wars.
But his declaration of solidarity with the Galactic Empire exemplifies how the Right’s now held together as much by its opposition to liberalism as by any positive program. As Yoda might say, ‘Become trolls, have they.’