Ancien Regime Change
It might surprise contemporary Americans that for most of our history, what we call “culture war” debates — arguments about rights, social justice, the moral organization of society — were often settled through democratic deliberation, rather than the kind of ruling the Supreme Court just delivered on gay and transgender civil rights. Congress debated and passed laws. State legislatures did the same. Constitutional amendments were proposed, passed, ratified — and when necessary, repealed.
Not anymore, as Douthat explains, concluding:
We may officially have three branches of government, but Americans seem to accept that it’s more like 2.25: A presidency that acts unilaterally whenever possible, a high court that checks the White House and settles culture wars, and a Congress that occasionally bestirs itself to pass a budget.
What sort of Republic this is, and whether we will keep it, is for a higher court than Neil Gorsuch’s to decide.
I read this column after watching clips of another day of hysterical mobs tearing down statues in spasms of primitive iconoclasm. Look at what they did to a statue of a canonized Catholic saint:
Activists just toppled the Junipero Serra statue in Golden Gate Park here in San Francisco
Now they’re onto Francis Scott Key, slave owner and writer of the Star Spangled Banner pic.twitter.com/Ykv0hFMZvK
— Joe Rivano Barros (@jrivanob) June 20, 2020
And Francis Scott Key is down, *right* as a police officer says “you’ve made your point, we’re not gonna let you pull this statue down,” with the crowd cheering and shouting “next one!” pic.twitter.com/8sbjmhMRXf
— Joe Rivano Barros (@jrivanob) June 20, 2020
Nearby statue of Ulysses S. Grant is also toppled. He was a slave owner too, before the Civil War. That’s three for three this night. pic.twitter.com/Lyw6bXeOTO
— Joe Rivano Barros (@jrivanob) June 20, 2020
Meanwhile, in the nation’s capital:
And protesters just toppled the Albert Pike statue in DC pic.twitter.com/gEzJm0OYjd
— Perry Stein (@PerryStein) June 20, 2020
I knew nothing about Albert Pike, other than he was a Freemason. Turns out his life was really interesting, especially his relationship with Indian tribes; he fought for their causes in the courts. But of course he must be toppled too, because Everybody Must Go.
What is more interesting to me is not so much the iconoclasm of these left-wing haters as the fact that the police, and the public officials who control the police, are letting this happen. And national political leaders are barely saying a word.
This iconoclasm is a primitive manifestation of rage. These mobs are pulling down these statues and committing violence on them as substitutes for human beings they consider to be their intolerable enemies. There is no real reason behind a lot of this. They are exterminating all symbols of the social and political order. The liberal democratic order is under attack, and the police and politicians will not defend it, any more than university presidents, newspaper publishers, or other institutional leaders, will defend it.
I have mentioned here in the past the excellent 1980s-era Spanish Civil War historical documentary series, available on YouTube. Watch the first episode, on the background to the conflict. You will learn that after the king abdicated and the Republic was declared in 1931, anarchists began to sack and burn convents. That was the beginning of a spiral of violence that five years later broke out into open warfare.
For the past few weeks have also demonstrated that all the pillars of British freedom and civilisation are hollow and rotten, and that we are ripe for a sweeping cultural revolution as devastating as the one Lenin and Dzerzhinsky launched in Petrograd in 1917.
Except that this time there will be no need to storm the Winter Palace, seize the railway station or the telephone exchange or the barracks. The Left are already in control of every lever of power and influence, from the schools the Tories are too weak to reopen to the police, the Civil Service, the courts and the BBC.
It is regime change. Do not worry too much about the statues which are now coming down. They mean surprisingly little. Worry more about the ones they are soon going to be putting up, and what they will represent. Perhaps our grandchildren will find the courage to pull them down.
This is happening in the capital of the global superpower and has been for several weeks. These images being sent around the world w/ lightning speed make an impression – namely that the US is chaotic, weak, unstable & seemingly intent on abandoning basic governance. https://t.co/qfbFJEakSC
— Boris Ryvkin (@BRyvkin) June 20, 2020
As some conservative commentators have observed, there are striking similarities between woke militants and the Bolsheviks who seized power in 1917. But what is unfolding, in the US and to a lesser extent in other countries, is at once more archaic and more futuristic than a twentieth century revolutionary coup. The current convulsion is an outbreak more closely akin to the anarchical millenarians movements that raged across Europe in the late Middle Ages, whose vision of redemption from history was shared by America’s founders, who carried it with them to the New World.
Nevertheless, Bolsheviks and woke militants do have some things in common. In late nineteenth century Russia, under the influence of their progressive parents, a generation of educated young people was convinced of the illegitimacy of the Tsarist regime. Dostoevsky’s Demons (1871) is a vivid chronicle of the tragic and farcical process by which progressive liberals discredited traditional institutions and unleashed a wave of revolutionary terror. Not only Tsarism but any form of government came to be seen as repressive. As one of Dostoevsky’s characters put it, “I got entangled in my data…Starting from unlimited freedom, I conclude with unlimited despotism.”
The woke generation have learned a similar lesson from their elders, this time about the failings of American democracy. Rejecting old-fashioned liberal values as complicit in oppression and essentially fraudulent, they extend their power not by persuasion but by socially marginalising and economically ruining their critics. As in the show trials orchestrated by Lenin’s disciple Stalin and Mao’s “struggle sessions”, woke activists demand public confession and repentance from their victims. Like the communist elites, woke insurgents aim to enforce a single worldview by the pedagogic use of fear. The rejection of liberal freedoms concludes with the tyranny of the righteous mob.
The difference between the Bolsheviks and the Woke, according to Gray, is that the Bolsheviks actually had a vision of what they wanted to see replace the order they destroyed. Other than “defund the police,” the Woke do not. Gray says the Woke are more like medieval millenarian cultists who only wanted to prove their moral purity by destroying. Says Gray, “In both cases, nothing needs to be done to bring about a new world apart from destroying the old one.”
One major difference is that the medieval cultists were the socially marginalized and oppressed masses. But our Woke are from the ruling classes. Gray:
But, possibly uniquely in history, their antinomian rebellion emanates from an antinomian establishment.
The rise of the woke movement has not occurred as a result of a takeover of American institutions by a dictatorial government. Key American institutions have overthrown themselves, while Trump’s attempts to assert dictatorial power have so far been ineffectual. It may be that the scenes of anarchy that are part of the uprising will work in Trump’s favour in November. At least a third of the American population is opposed to woke values, a number that could increase substantially the more the uprising involves public disorder. Equally, Biden may prevail by promising a more peaceful future and find himself compelled to rein in the insurgency in order to preserve some degree of public order. Either way America will remain more or less ungovernable.
America is on the way to becoming a semi-failed state. Its soft power has collapsed, probably irrecoverably. Yet it does not follow that it will cease to be a globally powerful actor. In a competition with totalitarian China, an American regime that mixes authoritarian control with zones of anarchy may have a comparative advantage. …
As the woke movement spills over into parts of Europe and the UK, it should be clear that this is no passing storm. Here, as in the US, woke militants have few, if any, definite policies. What they want is simply the end of the old order. The paroxysm we are witnessing may be remembered as a defining moment in the decline of the liberal west. Perhaps it is time to consider how to strengthen the enclaves of free thought and expression that still remain, so they have a chance of surviving in the blank and pitiless world that is being born.
Hmm, John Gray’s classical liberal Benedict Option. Whole thing here.
This is a revolution led by the Establishment.
You’ve got rioters tearing down statues and spray painting them 1619. Whatever that is, it’s not “anti-Establishment.” It’s destruction by reference to an ideological project created, branded, & propelled by the republic’s most powerful media, cultural, and academic institutions.
— Omri Ceren (@omriceren) June 20, 2020
Here’s the Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times writer taking credit for the riots toppling statues and tearing America apart:
It would be an honor. Thank you. https://t.co/W4HXKY8kCm
— Ida Bae Wells (@nhannahjones) June 20, 2020
And here is a co-founder of Black Lives Matter openly admitting that they are Marxists:
BLM co-founder confirms what anyone who’s read their work knows: they’re proudly marxists. pic.twitter.com/vvUk5jTp7j
— Rita Panahi (@RitaPanahi) June 18, 2020
And yet, BLM is now the voice of the liberal Establishment. In many places who cannot criticize that organization without risking your job. Ask Tiffany Riley, the outgoing principal of a Vermont school, who was fired because she said she supports black lives but not the organization Black Lives Matter (see “The Left’s Rwandification Of America”).
I’m writing this while listening to the Trump rally in Tulsa. The country is in grave crisis, but he’s going on and on and on about how unfairly he was treated by the fake news media for drinking water and toddling down the ramp at West Point. His plan to deal with rioting and desecrating America public symbols, and the meaning ? Congress should pass a law banning flag burning. That’s his big idea. The country desperately needs a strong, intelligent, competent leader, and this is what we have. The weakness of this man is agonizingly apparent. The feebleness of the Democratic Party establishment, and liberal institutional leaders, in the face of the radical challenges from the Left is a sign of America’s decadence. So is this roostery strutting and barstool gibberish from Trump. Now is the moment for the Right to assert itself against these anti-American radicals, but in the moment of crisis, the leader of the political Right is nothing but bumper-sticker sloganeering.
Regime change. It’s happening. It’s not “regime change” in the sense of the changing of the ruling party. This is regime change in the ancien régime sense. It’s happening, and at this point, there doesn’t seem to be anyone prepared to stop it. Does this country even have the internal resources to stop it? Remember what Peter Hitchens said:
Do not worry too much about the statues which are now coming down. They mean surprisingly little. Worry more about the ones they are soon going to be putting up, and what they will represent.
UPDATE: Here is what’s going to happen. The Democrats are going to take power, in part because of Trump Republican incompetence and weakness. They are going to move to build a Social Credit System to fight “white supremacy,” which will be anything they don’t like. Censorship by Twitter, YouTube and others (you saw YouTube has banned as “hate speech” the video of the detransitioned man expressing regrets about his trans experience?), including demonetizing any independent dissenting media, is going to be part of this. The US will follow China in going cashless. This will mean that under the Social Credit System, it will be next to impossible to buy or sell or work if the state lists you as anti-social. It’s a lot harder to do this if we keep using cash, so watch the US government, under Democratic rule, push harder to make us cashless.
You think this sounds paranoid, but I’m telling you, this is already happening in China (read Kai Strittmatter’s great book about it all). This is coming here, and as I explain in my forthcoming book Live Not By Lies, ordinary people who have Alexas in their house, and who use smart devices, are preparing the way. The hour is much later than you think.
What has the party of law and order actually done to preserve law and order, aside from talk about it? https://t.co/G1RqNrOjgj
— Matt Walsh (@MattWalshBlog) June 21, 2020
UPDATE.3: From the reader Secular Misanthropist:
It’s obvious the attacks on statues are displaced aggression against the real targets of their hated. Eventually property destruction won’t satiate them and they’ll graduate to murder. At that point the authorities had better act, or as the mayor of Portland learned, they’re also members of the evil overlord class.
Of course it would be better to act early before it gets out of hand. But it’s clear the authorities are sympathetic to the BLM cause, and can’t bring themselves to act. Perhaps they’re hoping to coopt the movement, but that’s playing with fire.
Basically Marxists found a way to insinuate themselves into Democratic politics in a manner that prevents checking their aggression. It’s honestly frightening to anyone who’s read about how they act when they obtain power.
They start with pulling down and abusing statues; they will end by doing this to people. The Republicans and the Democrats are too afraid to do anything about it. All Trump does is bark.