Home/Rod Dreher/To The Judean Hills

To The Judean Hills

Barbarians at the gates (Photo by Michael Nigro/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Here’s how the MAGA thuggery began yesterday:

A reader e-mailed last night:

Watching the events in Washington today, I kept coming back to one basic reaction: This is the moment that the American national security state will truly turn its gaze inward. Of course, Edward Snowden and others have showed us that that has already happened, and even a basic glance at the history of J. Edgar Hoover, RFK, etc., proves that this is nothing new. And as a Catholic, an American, a conservative, a Republican, and a lawyer, I had lots of other reactions to what happened today, but this preoccupation with the inevitable backlash was the one that kept coming back. It is already well known that the FBI and other agencies regard far-right domestic terrorism as a major threat, and Kamala Harris, Hillary Clinton, and other prominent people on the left have made it clear that they want to use the counterterrorism apparatus that this country built after 9/11 to go after MAGA world. There is no telling where that ends.

To be clear, there is a very real white nationalist threat in America today, and we saw it this afternoon, but I think this can very easily form the beginning of a crackdown that will have much greater reach than anyone would currently think or intend. Mind you, I’m not saying that I think the FBI is about to start kicking down doors in every conservative community, but I do think that conservatives in America might soon have a greater appreciation of what Muslims have been living with for the last twenty years. As Matt Taibbi put it on Twitter today, these idiots guaranteed that every third attendee of MAGA events will be an FBI agent from now on. My hope is that a Justice Department led by Merrick Garland will be responsible and measured in addressing these problems, but I have no faith in the long-term ability or willingness of Democratic politicians to restrain themselves from using the vast power and might of the surveillance state as a cudgel with which to attack the opposition. In America, once something becomes a matter of National Security™, all bets are off.

The frustration for conservatives, and social conservatives in particular, is that voting Trump was largely meant to be a hedge against this threat, and against the broader threat of soft totalitarianism that you have so eloquently written about. But now, it seems that Trump has made it worse. And we have no remaining institutions that can serve as honest brokers.

An enduring alliance between the military-industrial complex and woke capital became more likely today.

This is true. All of the things I write about in Live Not By Lies are now on an accelerated path. If you are not preparing yourself and your family, you are not reading the signs of the times. Yesterday I quoted Jesus’s prophecy of the coming destruction of Jerusalem — the time Jesus, quoting the Prophet Daniel, said that when you see the “abomination of desolation standing in the holy place” (the Temple), then it is time to head for the Judean hills. Jesus was making a particular prophecy; I certainly am not. What I’m saying is that the symbolic desecration of the Capitol yesterday by a political mob was a massive sign of underlying instability (as was Trump’s election in 2016; as Tucker Carlson has written, a happy nation does not elect a man like Donald Trump). And now I’m hearing reports from conservative friends all over saying that their MAGA family members are doubling down on the belief that the insurrection was caused by Antifa disguised as Trump supporters who were allowed into the Capitol to discredit opposition to the socialist New World Order agenda.

The prophet of the Catholic Far Right certainly seems to think  something along those lines, tweeting the following out yesterday, heedless of the shocking events at the Capitol. Naturally he was retweeted by the Evangelical radio personality who has spent weeks calling people to prepare to die to protect Trump’s presidency, and who is still pushing the Stop The Steal line:

 

So this is not going away. This is the point at which I say, in my helpful way, that Hannah Arendt’s list of signs of a pre-totalitarian society includes that people are unwilling to believe anything that doesn’t cohere with their inner narrative. The MAGA Right does this, as does the Woke Left. I’m especially sorry to see wide sections of the Right fall victim to this Trump madness, because these people, this mob, subverts the cause of legitimate resistance to the Left’s broader project.

Consider that for much of the past year, we have all watched as left-wing mobs torched parts of cities, ransacked businesses, physically harassed and intimidated innocent civilians, all in the name of racial justice. We have watched these same mobs tear down statues of American historical figures with impunity. People like me objected, but not many in our media and liberal establishment. It was all necessary, we were told, to achieve Social Justice™. True, some on the Left may have objected to violence in principle, but we were all instructed that we had to understand the pain of the protesters. Yes, it might have been mob rule, but it was a righteous mob, we were led to believe. We have seen our universities, and our leading media institutions, throwing out their professional and academic standards in an effort to appease the leftist mob and its ideological madness. So please do not come pee up my leg and tell me that the MAGA insurrection was a shocking attack on American democracy and the liberal order, one that is completely disconnected from the Left’s sustained assault on the same.

One of the most astute black commenters on public affairs tweeted this yesterday:

He’s right, of course. And it’s not at all whataboutism! You cannot understand the insanity that took place on Capitol Hill yesterday — something that I have condemned and do condemn without equivocation — without understanding it in context of what the Left has been doing. The MAGA mob and its supporters acted yesterday to dismantle the American system of government, as a manifestation of classical liberalism. The radical Left has been doing this for some time now, more broadly. The MAGA mob has the Crackpot-in-Chief behind them; the Left has Establishment leaders in the media, academia, progressive state governments, and in corporate America.

Remember NPR’s puff interview last summer of the leftist author of a book titled, “In Defense Of Looting”? The liberal media elites have been embracing this stuff for a long time. They would never in a million years allow some MAGA nut to elaborate on why sacking the Capitol was morally just action. They have standards, after all. It’s just that those standards only apply sometimes. This is exactly why so many Americans despise and mistrust the media.

Here’s another example. I was texting with a Democratic friend earlier this week. We were talking about the massive demographic changes America is now undergoing, and how conservative whites really are losing power relative to other demographic groups. The UK political scientist Eric Kaufmann talks about this in his book Whiteshift. He did an interview last year with Isaac Chotiner of the New Yorker about his thesis. Excerpts:

You write, “If politics in the West is ever to return to normal rather than becoming even more polarized, white interests will need to be discussed. I realize this is very controversial for left-modernists. Yet not only is white group self-interest legitimate, but I maintain that in an era of unprecedented white demographic decline it is absolutely vital for it to have a democratic outlet.” Can you say a little bit more about what specifically you’re arguing for?

Yes. Part of this comes from a view that what’s ultimately behind the rise of right-wing populism are these ethnic-majority grievances, particularly around their decline, and that ultimately this is about nostalgia and attachment to a way of life or to a particular traditional ethnic composition of a nation. Wanting for that not to erode too quickly is the motivation. I think the survey data show that it’s much more about that than about material things, for example, or even fears. It’s about attachment to one’s own group rather than hatred of other groups. This is an important distinction. The survey data from the American National Elections Study show that whites who feel very warmly toward whites are not any more cold toward, say, African-Americans, than whites who aren’t very warm toward whites.

When you say that “white interests” will need to be discussed in politics, I presume you acknowledge that the interests of white people are generally taken into account as much as any group, if not more than other groups. Do you mean explicitly discussed?

There should be an equal treatment of groups in the cultural sphere. There’s no question whites are advantaged economically, politically. I’m not going to dispute that. But in the cultural sphere, on immigration, the group whose numbers have declined, or who experienced a more rapid sense of change and loss due to migration, are the white majority. If, for example, they’re saying, “We would like to have a slower rate of change to enable assimilation to take place,” I think that’s actually a legitimate cultural interest. It doesn’t mean that it should drive policy. I think a moderate group self-interest is fine.

This is seen as toxic, as expressed by a majority group, but when minorities express these interests, that’s seen as quite normal. I think that when it comes to white liberals, there tends to be a double standard, as there is with white conservatives, by the way, when it comes to groups expressing their self-interest.

Are you saying that it is in the “self-interest” of white people to have lower immigration rates, or are you saying that if white people perceive that it’s in their interest, they should be able to express that without being shamed for being racist? Or both?

I’m saying that for the conservative members of the white majority who are attached to their group and its historic presence, I think that sense of loss and wanting to slow down that sense of loss is an understandable motivation. The problem is when you bar that from the discussion. It then gets sublimated and expressed in what I think actually are more negative ways, when it comes to racism. I think it’s not very different from African-Americans in Harlem not wanting Harlem to lose its African-American character. It’s a similar cultural loss-protection argument, which is actually not that different from wanting to preserve historic buildings or ways of life. The problem is that then they go toward fear of criminals and terrorism, and immigrants putting pressure on services, and all the things which there’s very little evidence for, and I think are more negative because they actually stigmatize an out-group, which is closer to the definition of racism than simply being attached to one’s own group. Not that that doesn’t carry some risks as well, but I think that it’s more problematic to suppress it for the majority and not for minorities. I think that’s creating a quite negative situation.

I told my Democratic friend that future historians will look back at this era of American politics and find it absolutely deranged that the political left, and mainstream institutions, embraced antiwhite identity politics at the same time that the United States desperately needed to strengthen its traditions of classically liberal civic nationalism, which offers the best hope for a racially pluralistic democracy to hold together. But that’s not what’s happening.

Bizarrely, as blacks and other minorities are growing in power, wealth, and influence, the Left acts as if America is little better than apartheid South Africa, and in need of radical antiwhite policies to bring about justice. Just yesterday I was speaking to a fellow white Southerner, a guy of my generation, and we were talking about how much things have changed for the better in terms of black-white relations, over the course of our lifetimes. We were talking about how things were when our parents were kids, and how things were when our grandparents were kids. The progress has been vast, and measurable. He said that one of his family members is married to a black person, and is accepted by everybody in the family. That simply would not have happened in the past, he said — and of course he’s right. It’s so bizarre how on race, our progressives don’t believe in progress. We are not living in a racial utopia, and never will, but things are so much better than they were. I mean, look, a black preacher who holds the Rev. Martin Luther King’s old pulpit was just elected US Senator from the state of Georgia! That doesn’t make Georgia the Garden of Eden, but you’d have to be blinded by ideology to fail to see that America is a much less racist place than it was within living memory.

Let me put it to you like this: Raphael Warnock was born in 1969. Who was the governor of Georgia at the time? Arch-segregationist Lester Maddox. Now Lester Maddox is dead, and Raphael Warnock is headed to the US Senate to represent Georgia. If you don’t see that as progress, you are choosing to be blind.

What is going to shock historians in the future about this era is how left-wing race radicalism emerged and became the dominant ideology within institutions at the same time that white hegemony was in decline. The race radicals have marched through institutions, and are transforming them into factories that manufacture race hatred. This cannot possibly end well.

The independent journalist Christopher Rufo does great work documenting what’s happening in the most radicalized places. Someone at the San Diego public schools leaked to Rufo a document about the “antiracist” training being done there now. He writes:

In recent months, the district has announced mandatory diversity training for teachers, added a new “ethnic studies” curriculum focused on racial grievance, and even abolished the requirement to turn in homework on time—all in the name of becoming, in the words of school board member Richard Barrera, “an anti-racist school district.”

Last month, I reported on one of these training sessions, focused on “white privilege,” in which white teachers were accused of being colonizers on stolen Native American land and told “you are racist” and “you are upholding racist ideas, structures, and policies.” The trainers demanded that the teachers “confront and examine [their] white privilege,” “acknowledge when [they] feel white fragility,” and “teach others to see their privilege.” After the story caused an uproar, school officials defended the training as a form of “racial healing.”

According to new whistleblower documents, San Diego Unified held an even more radical training program featuring a speaker who believes American schools are guilty of the “spirit murdering of Black children.” The school district hired Bettina Love, a critical race theorist who believes that children learn better from teachers of the same race, for the keynote address at the August Principal Institute and for an additional district-wide training on how to “challenge the oppressive practices that live within the systems and structures of school organizations.”

Though the school district explicitly forbade attendees from recording the session, one whistleblower took detailed notes of the speech and captured screenshots of the presentation. According to these notes, Love began her presentation by claiming that “racism runs deep” in the United States and that blacks alone “know who America really is.” She argued that public schools in particular “don’t see [blacks] as human,” are guilty of systemic “anti-Blackness,” and “spirit murder babies” in the education system.

 Spirit murder. This is insane propaganda. It can only lead to violence, even bloodshed. What would you do if you became convinced that people of another race were murdering the spirits of your children? Suffer not a witch to live!

It is clear that if you are a white teacher or student in the San Diego public schools, you had better get out of there while the getting is good. This madness is not about improving education; it’s about teaching race hatred, and institutionalizing race hatred. What happens when, having driven “whiteness” out of the education system, minority students still lag behind in educational achievement? Obviously, it means that whites are so clever that they managed to spirit-murder black and brown kids despite the best efforts of antiracist educators. What will be done with the white devils then? Do you really want to stick around to see?

You can escape this for now by leaving California. But don’t think there is any safe place to hide. Bettina Love, is a professor of educational theory and practice at University of Georgia. She is poisoning the minds of education students there. Graduates of her teaching will march through the institutions of Georgia and other states as militant antiwhites.

This is an example of what I mean by “soft totalitarianism.” The toxic idea that racism is concentrated in a single race, that guilt is collective, and that the line between good and evil passes between whites and other races — all of this is straight out of Marxist theory. In Live Not By Lies, I write:

One imagines an entry-level worker at a Fortune 500 firm, or an untenured university lecturer, suffering through the hundredth workshop on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion and doing their very best not to be suspected of dissent. In fact, I don’t have to imagine it at all. As a journalist who writes about these issues, I often hear stories from people—always white-collar professionals like academics, doctors, lawyers, engineers—who live closeted lives as religious or social conservatives. They know that to dissent from the progressive regime in the workplace, or even to be suspected of dissent, would likely mean burning their careers at the stake.

For example, an American academic who has studied Russian communism told me about being present at the meeting in which his humanities department decided to require from job applicants a formal statement of loyalty to the ideology of diversity—even though this has nothing to do with teaching ability or scholarship.

The professor characterized this as a McCarthyite way of eliminating dissenters from the employment pool, and putting those already on staff on notice that they will be monitored for deviation from the social-justice party line.

That is a soft form of totalitarianism. Here is the same logic laid down hard: in 1918, Lenin unleashed the Red Terror, a campaign of annihilation against those who resisted Bolshevik power. Martin Latsis, head of the secret police in Ukraine, instructed his agents as follows:

Do not look in the file of incriminating evidence to see whether or not the accused rose up against the Soviets with arms or words. Ask him instead to which class he belongs, what is his background, his education, his profession. These are the questions that will determine the fate of the accused. That is the meaning and essence of the Red Terror.

Note well that an individual’s words and deeds had nothing to do with determining one’s guilt or innocence. One was presumed guilty based entirely on one’s class and social status. A revolution that began as an attempt to right historical injustices quickly became an exterminationist exercise of raw power. Communists justified the imprisonment, ruin, and even the execution of people who stood in the way of Progress as necessary to achieve historical justice over alleged exploiters of privilege.

A softer, bloodless form of the same logic is at work in American institutions. Social justice progressives advance their malignant concept of justice in part by terrorizing dissenters as thoroughly as any inquisitor on the hunt for enemies of religious orthodoxy.

There are no gulags, and no firing squads, as there were in the Bolsheviks’ Red Terror. But the logic is the same. White people are guilty of murdering the spirits of black and brown people, according to Bettina Love and the San Diego Unified School District. If others come to believe this, do you think that they will just sit with that knowledge? Come on. 

And in turn, do you really think too that white people are going to sit back and do nothing? Those within the institutions — corporations, universities, media — they will submit to the soft totalitarianism. But for every action, there is an equal and positive reaction. We are going to see some bad, crazy stuff happening. Yesterday’s assault on the Capitol was just the beginning. It is fair to say, of the MAGA mob, that because the normal, respectable leaders did not speak out against this, and act against it when they had the opportunity to, the fire in their brains led them to insurrection. It is also fair to say, of the leftist revolutionaries marching through the institutions and remaking them along identity-politics lines, that because normal, respectable  liberal leaders did not stand up for old-fashioned liberalism when the had the opportunity to — and in fact helped tinder the fire of radicalism on the Left — then, when extremists who are the mirror image of these racist power-holders emerge, the Left will bear its share of blame.

Seriously, think about it: the public school district in a major American city is teaching its teachers that white people wish to murder the souls of black and brown people — and nobody in the media objects, or even notices. What the hell do they think is going to happen?

The Democratic Party is now going to control Congress and the executive branch. But note well that this has all happened under a Republican president, and with Republicans controlling Congress for half of his administration. Note what the conservative commentator Michael Brendan Dougherty said yesterday about Trump booster Sen. Josh Hawley:

This fake politics is designed to raise hopes among the disaffected and untrusting Trump voters and keep them engaged in the process. But there is a price for this fraud; namely, it erodes the adherence of the American people to their constitutional system of self-government. It atrophies their political muscle by feeding it with empty calories and giving them fake exercises of their political faculties.

Senator Josh Hawley claims to be speaking for 70 million Americans in asking questions about election integrity and saying he objects to the process — in some underspecified way. He is a legislator. He could try to advance legislation. If he doesn’t like the influence of tech, he could support laws limiting what tech could say. He could promote periods of media and social-media silence as some countries do. Maybe he doesn’t want this; Republicans typically have preferred the management of elections to remain with the states. So grant that. He could — as a man with real knowledge of the law and influence with the Republican Party — lend his bully pulpit to efforts in the states to better govern mail-in voting, ban any practices such as “vote harvesting” where it exists, and tighten up election-security measures. He’s not doing so. Instead, we have this gesture politics.

This is becoming something of a pattern. Last year, Hawley gave a memorable and biting speech on the floor of the Senate after the Supreme Court handed down the Bostock decision, which extended the 1964 Civil Rights Act to be inclusive of novel gender identities and transgendered persons. He demeaned the decision as “legislation” written by a court. “Courts are supposed to leave legislating to legislators,” he thundered. He was utterly correct that the Court usurped the role of Congress and had done something Congress had “pointedly declined to do for years now.” All of this was 100 percent bang-on. The problem was that Hawley did not finish the speech by introducing superseding legislation himself. He had just outlined the duties of his job but then failed to do them, letting the Court prevail by default.

It’s despicable, the games these Republican leaders play, and it’s despicable how eagerly Republican followers are to fall for them. We on the Right can’t just keep pointing to the Left and say, “But they’re worse!” Yes, in some ways, they are. But look at what our side’s lunatic fringe did yesterday: carried out an act of insurrection against the US Capitol, instigated by the President of the United States.

The stupid, shocking, deplorable MAGA insurrection in Washington yesterday will only accelerate the leftist internal revolution. Now the commissars will do what they want to do anyway, but in the name of suppressing the kind of people who violated the temple of democracy. The MAGA idiots gave the Left its Reichstag fire. We saw that ridiculous QAnon shaman, that selfie-ready barbarian, standing in the well of the Senate yesterday. But that cartoon man, potent symbol though he was, is impotent. The real barbarians are the ones in suits and lab coats, the ones who are dismantling our civilization. Time to revisit this final passage from MacIntyre’s After Virtue:

The imperium is dissolving before our eyes. You might think that this is a time for responsible leaders — and responsible followers! — of the Left and the Right to come together to recognize what we are fast losing, and to turn back from the brink. But it is probably too late. Stacey Abrams, the architect of the Democrats’ stunning sweep of the Georgia Senate races, has said that she 100 percent believes in identity politics. The Left is not turning back from them. If you think that the Right is going to fight this with one hand tied behind its back, you’re deluding yourself.

Is it possible for any kind of coalition of the center to emerge to counter the extremes of the Left and the Right? I would hope so, but honestly, I fear the time for that has passed. If this were 1930s Spain, I would say we were at about 1934 (the civil war broke out in 1936). But we aren’t Spain, and a country as middle class and as comfortable as ours is not going to have a civil war (though it probably will have widespread acts of violence by Left and Right wing extremists). The Establishment is going to pacify the country with a Chinese-style social credit system. If you are now or ever have been associated with MAGA, or any other Deplorable™ movement, organization, or entity, you will find yourself popping up on a lot of people’s computer screens, and denied economic and other opportunities. Corporate America will be eager to help the state. Things will move fast.

Remember the so-called Patriot Act? What’s coming is going to make that look like small beer. And the Judean hills — I speak metaphorically — suddenly look a lot more reasonable.

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. A veteran of three decades of magazine and newspaper journalism, he has also written three New York Times bestsellers—Live Not By Lies, The Benedict Option, and The Little Way of Ruthie Lemingas well as Crunchy Cons and How Dante Can Save Your Life. Dreher lives in Baton Rouge, La.

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