Saturday, June 13, 2020

The Great American Cultural Revolution

America’s cultural revolution rolls on. In all fairness, I did predict it in a book some twenty four years ago. One of that book’s chapters was: The Great American Cultural Revolution.

Anyway, in today’s post I collect some of the pushback against the cultural imperialism being practiced around our once-great media. The cancel culture of brain-dead wokeness has decided to expunge and expurgate any opinion, any inconvenient fact, that tends to counter the currently favored cultural narrative-- namely that America is and always has been a bigoted nation and that the minds of white Americans are filled with bigotry. It has taken special aim at the media and the academy. Now, ask yourself, are they more or less diverse than the rest of corporate America. If they are more diverse, we can ask how that is working out?

If you do not think that the lords of China are watching this spectacle with wry amusement, and are feeling fully justified in not allowing democracy to take root in their country, you are beyond hope. 

For a change, we should get over ourselves and think about how this looks to the rest of the world. Does America’s current orgy of self-flagellation make it look like a world leader or a suicidal maniac?

So, saner media voices are pushing back, against the New York Times effort to self-flagellate over a Tom Cotton op-ed piece and against the myriad of media executives whose careers have now been sacrificed on the bonfire of our enhanced moral certainty.

So, here is a sampling, beginning with Timesman Bret Stephens. Why, he asks, would the Times be convulsed with guilt over publishing an opinion that most Americans agree with?

But the value of Cotton’s Op-Ed doesn’t lie in its goodness or rightness. It lies in the fact that Cotton is a leading spokesman for a major current of public opinion. To suggest our readers should not have the chance to examine his opinions for themselves is to patronize them. To say they should look up his opinions elsewhere — say, his Twitter feed — is to betray our responsibility as a newspaper of record. And to claim that his argument is too repugnant for publication is to write off half of America — a remarkable about-face for a paper that, after 2016, fretted that it was out of touch with the country we live in.

As for the vapid argument, to the effect that Cotton’s op-ed might threaten African-Americans, no one seems to care that most of the victims of crime are black, and that most of the perpetrators are black. No one cares about the black businesses that were fire bombed and looted. We could go on, but allow Stephens his say:

But as important as it is to try to keep people safe against genuine threats, it is not the duty of the paper to make people feel safe by refusing to publish a dismaying Op-Ed. Even if one concedes that Cotton’s call to send in the troops poses potential risks, it poses those risks whether his call appears in these pages or not. To know Cotton’s views is, if nothing else, to be better armed against them.

Matt Taibbi made the same point in his own screed:

Cotton did not call for “military force against protesters in American cities.” He spoke of a “show of force,” to rectify a situation a significant portion of the country saw as spiraling out of control. It’s an important distinction. Cotton was presenting one side of the most important question on the most important issue of a critically important day in American history.

As Cotton points out in the piece, he was advancing a view arguably held by a majority of the country. A Morning Consult poll showed 58% of Americans either strongly or somewhat supported the idea of “calling in the U.S. military to supplement city police forces.” That survey included 40% of self-described “liberals” and 37% of African-Americans. To declare a point of view held by that many people not only not worthy of discussion, but so toxic that publication of it without even necessarily agreeing requires dismissal, is a dramatic reversal for a newspaper that long cast itself as the national paper of record.

Of course, the current war over the American mind is being conducted by cultural imperialists who do not wish to discuss or debate, but to force people to believe what they want them to believe. Do you really believe that this will advance anything, whatever?

Ross Douthat explains:

But part of the anti-racism movement is seeking much more than just changes to policing. It’s interested in spiritual renewal and consciousness raising — something evident from the revivalism of so many protests in the last week — and its capacious definitions of racism imply, in the end, not reform but re-education, not interracial dialogue but strict white deference, not a liberal society groping toward equality but a corrupt society being re-engineered.

There is something terrifying about it all. Andrew Sullivan is back from a forced hiatus to enlighten us. The new thought police believe that the nation was founded, not on freedom, but on oppression. And if you do not agree they will ruin your life:

The orthodoxy goes further than suppressing contrary arguments and shaming any human being who makes them. It insists, in fact, that anything counter to this view is itself a form of violence against the oppressed. The reason some New York Times staffers defenestrated op-ed page editor James Bennet was that he was, they claimed, endangering the lives of black staffers by running a piece by Senator Tom Cotton, who called for federal troops to end looting, violence, and chaos, if the local authorities could not. This framing equated words on a page with a threat to physical life — the precise argument many students at elite colleges have been using to protect themselves from views that might upset them. But, as I noted two years ago, we all live on campus now.

In this manic, Manichean world you’re not even given the space to say nothing. “White Silence = Violence” is a slogan chanted and displayed in every one of these marches. It’s very reminiscent of totalitarian states where you have to compete to broadcast your fealty to the cause. In these past two weeks, if you didn’t put up on Instagram or Facebook some kind of slogan or symbol displaying your wokeness, you were instantly suspect. The cultishness of this can be seen in the way people are actually cutting off contact with their own families if they don’t awaken and see the truth and repeat its formulae. Ibram X. Kendi insists that there is no room in our society for neutrality or reticence. If you are not doing “antiracist work” you are ipso facto a racist. By “antiracist work” he means fully accepting his version of human society and American history, integrating it into your own life, confessing your own racism, and publicly voicing your continued support.

They do not seem to realize that calling everyone a racist is going to diminish the sting of the charge and to deprive the word of meaning. And to remove all exercise of reason from the debate.

Sullivan continues:

If you argue that you believe that much of this ideology is postmodern gobbledygook, you are guilty of “white fragility.” If you say you are not fragile, and merely disagree, this is proof you are fragile. It is the same circular argument that was once used to burn witches. And it has the same religious undertones. To be woke is to wake up to the truth — the blinding truth that liberal society doesn’t exist, that everything is a form of oppression or resistance, and that there is no third option. You are either with us or you are to be cast into darkness.

We will close with Taibbi. In this passage he shows that he is clearly not a Trump defender. We allow him his view:

Our president, Donald Trump, is a clown who makes a great reality-show villain but is uniquely toolless as the leader of a superpower nation. Watching him try to think through two society-imperiling crises is like waiting for a gerbil to solve Fermat’s theorem. Calls to “dominate” marchers and ad-libbed speculations about Floyd’s “great day” looking down from heaven at Trump’s crisis management and new unemployment numbers (“only” 21 million out of work!) were pure gasoline at a tinderbox moment. The man seems determined to talk us into civil war.

But then, Taibbi, a man of the left, points out that the American left has completely lost its mind. I am sure you will concur:

On the other side of the political aisle, among self-described liberals, we’re watching an intellectual revolution. It feels liberating to say after years of tiptoeing around the fact, but the American left has lost its mind. It’s become a cowardly mob of upper-class social media addicts, Twitter Robespierres who move from discipline to discipline torching reputations and jobs with breathtaking casualness.

You have to assume that the movement is being led by a band of imbeciles, all of whom have been granted serious academic credentials, who are incapable of engaging in the least argument or debate with those of opposing viewpoints. Thus, better to shut them down:

The leaders of this new movement are replacing traditional liberal beliefs about tolerance, free inquiry, and even racial harmony with ideas so toxic and unattractive that they eschew debate, moving straight to shaming, threats, and intimidation. They are counting on the guilt-ridden, self-flagellating nature of traditional American progressives, who will not stand up for themselves, and will walk to the Razor voluntarily.

They’ve conned organization after organization into empowering panels to search out thoughtcrime, and it’s established now that anything can be an offense, from a UCLA professor placed under investigation for reading Martin Luther King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” out loud to a data scientist fired* from a research firm for — get this — retweeting an academic study suggesting nonviolent protests may be more politically effective than violent ones!

True enough, Taibbi is correct to call it a cult religion:

Each passing day sees more scenes that recall something closer to cult religion than politics. White protesters in Floyd’s Houston hometown kneeling and praying to black residents for “forgiveness… for years and years of racism” are one thing, but what are we to make of white police in Cary, North Carolina, kneeling and washing the feet of Black pastors? What about Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer kneeling while dressed in “African kente cloth scarves”?

There is symbolism here that goes beyond frustration with police or even with racism: these are orgiastic, quasi-religious, and most of all, deeply weird scenes, and the press is too paralyzed to wonder at it. In a business where the first job requirement was once the willingness to ask tough questions, we’ve become afraid to ask obvious ones.

When it comes to stupid, how about Lisa Bender, President of the Minneapolis City Council. She is an elected official who does not have a brain in her head. Thank God for democracy:

On CNN, Minneapolis City Council President Lisa Bender was asked a hypothetical question about a future without police: “What if in the middle of the night, my home is broken into? Who do I call?” When Bender, who is white, answered, “I know that comes from a place of privilege,” questions popped to mind. Does privilege mean one should let someone break into one’s home, or that one shouldn’t ask that hypothetical question? (I was genuinely confused). In any other situation, a media person pounces on a provocative response to dig out its meaning, but an increasingly long list of words and topics are deemed too dangerous to discuss.

And, what would this woke politician do if it were not her home, but her who was being broken into. Would she call the police to stop a rape?

Taibbi says that the media is suffering from moral manias. It means that they no longer care whether it happened or not. There is no such thing as objective reporting of facts:

The media in the last four years has devolved into a succession of moral manias. We are told the Most Important Thing Ever is happening for days or weeks at a time, until subjects are abruptly dropped and forgotten, but the tone of warlike emergency remains: from James Comey’s firing, to the deification of Robert Mueller, to the Brett Kavanaugh nomination, to the democracy-imperiling threat to intelligence “whistleblowers,” all those interminable months of Ukrainegate hearings (while Covid-19 advanced), to fury at the death wish of lockdown violators, to the sudden reversal on that same issue, etc.

It’s been learned in these episodes we may freely misreport reality, so long as the political goal is righteous. It was okay to publish the now-discredited Steele dossier, because Trump is scum. MSNBC could put Michael Avenatti on live TV to air a gang rape allegation without vetting, because who cared about Brett Kavanaugh – except press airing of that wild story ended up being a crucial factor in convincing key swing voter Maine Senator Susan Collins the anti-Kavanaugh campaign was a political hit job (the allegation illustrated, “why the presumption of innocence is so important,” she said). Reporters who were anxious to prevent Kavanaugh’s appointment, in other words, ended up helping it happen through overzealousness.

It’s easy for journalists and media types to criticize Trump. Not so easy for them to criticize themselves.

Today no one with a salary will stand up for colleagues like Lee Fang. Our brave truth-tellers make great shows of shaking fists at our parody president, but not one of them will talk honestly about the fear running through their own newsrooms. People depend on us to tell them what we see, not what we think. What good are we if we’re afraid to do it?


trigger warning said...

The myopic word-theorists nesting in the heights of Masthead Mountain think there's a "crisis". For them, maybe, but Out Here, strawberries are being picked, roughnecks are sucking the dragon out of the ground, welders are keeping it glued together, sixpacks are cold, and ribs are in the smoker. A "crisis" is a problem with the septic tank.

"We are told the Most Important Thing Ever is happening for days or weeks at a time, until subjects are abruptly dropped and forgotten..."

Tnx, Matt, but we already knew that. That's why nobody Out Here gives a s*** what happens to Minneapolis, Seattle, or New York City. Burned-out blocks and gutted grocery stores just mean more money for us.

Janszoon said...

Englishman here. Probably the most despicable thing that I can remember witnessing in years was that recent clip of the Washington State governor replying “It’s news to me” when being questioned about the CHAZ and the insurrection that has happened unchecked in the middle of Seattle. The casualty dishonesty, the flip brush-off of any question about it, as though it were a topic of no more significance than UFO sightings or Himalayan crystal healing. That’s the level of political thinking and decision making by those in power.

As a rule, I detest reality TV, but I would pay good money (and I suspect many, many other people would too) to see the on-going reality of the CHAZ broadcast nightly for us all to see. It will be a textbook, real-time example of left wing ideology in action as one little Robespierre after another gradually reduces the place to a smoking Hell-hole. A gulag archipelago with vegan meat substitutes and crusty dreadlocks. Good luck with that one, have fun kids.

UbuMaccabee said...

America is finished. I would tell you why, but I am not permitted to do so. I'll give you a hint: it is connected to the thing we must never consider or discuss openly. Because there are layers and decades of lies around this thing, it can only barely be identified any longer. Any honest discussion of it will soon entail a punishment of exile or death. It is a deadly malady, it is a type of poison, and it is being grossly misdiagnosed; the remedy is actively killing the patient. As a result, America as we have known it will perish. You are quite correct, the Chinese are looking at our insanity with exactly the admixture of content and bewilderment that it rightly calls for. The internal disintegration of the United States may the greatest catastrophe in world history, and I firmly believe we will all be held accountable for it. China had nothing to do with it. Russia had nothing to do with it. I would curse my ex-countrymen, but what's the point? Just more empty rhetoric in an echo chamber of empty rhetoric. Tom Cotton or Bret Stephens can talk all they want at this point; it will not change one thing on the trajectory of this nation.

But I am a practical man, and I have to make a decision to act according to a rational plan. I can have this discussion freely with the Chinese. I can also have it freely with the Indians in India (the ones here are brainwashed from the university). I am currently looking to form an alliance with another culture, another regime, another blueprint that will not make these unforgivable mistakes. I want to invest in the team that will win.

I see no point in having a further discussion about the details of our degradation; it's "pouring empty into the void." Ex nihilo nihil fit. I only have questions as to practical next steps.

1. Is it possible to remain here in the US and, if so, where is the best place to conceal oneself and what kind of occupation would make sense to do so? Also, what kind of OPSEC do you need to keep under the radar? Can one stay put and live a dignified life without being spotted? I do think that is possible.

2. If you leave, what is a good choice, and what is the best path to ensure your integration into a new society? How much money will you need?

Since nobody can predict what is coming with any real certainty, things may change in ways unforeseen. A way might open that is not open now. If it does, the circumstances might look different. Octavian may rise. I would not object.

Here is one other possibility that might change things: if the normals united around a comprehensive strike against all the woke corporations. If half of America declined to purchase their services and widgets, I think it would alter the balance of power. The lies about the thing that may not be discussed would remain, but the multi-billion dollar financing of it would not. It might hit the propaganda machine in the gears and cause it to freeze up. But that is a great longshot.

What organizing structure would best support the organization of the great strike? I think the Christian church is the only institution left that would have any chance (yes, I am well aware of the leftist infiltration of the major religions here in the US).

Everybody knows the good guys lost, now what?

Sam L. said...

I believe the Left has done the cartoon gag in which the character goes out to the end of a diving board, and then saws himself off.

Unknown said...

Awesome Stuart. You are right on target as usual. I am getting a little frightened because if people say things that the leftist deem in appropriate they are fired. I am thinking now of the man at the car rally who made a comment re the Confederate flag and he was fired for it.
That you can lose a job for such things is truly terrifying. What has America become? I thought freedom of speech was one of our unique rights not often found elsewhere in the world. That has come to an end. Governments will defund police departments so they can hire more thought police.
J David Adler

urbane legend said...

Quite right about the casual dishonesty.

I like your idea for the CHAZ reality show. The only problem is I expect the dialog to consist largely of " F******. "

Anonymous said...

"I like your idea for the CHAZ reality show. The only problem is I expect the dialog to consist largely of "F******. "
Buy a lottery ticket: you're clairvoyant.

I saw a video clip in someone's twitter feed yesterday: a guy dressed only in his pajama bottoms, apparently high on something, was smashing the windows of his own Volvo sedan, screaming the F-word and hollering someone had stolen his car keys.

- shoe

urbane legend said...

Thanks. I got a good laugh at that.