Divided, Weimar America Is Falling
The same poll shows:
- 64% of Republicans said they support Trump’s recent behavior.
- 57% of Republicans said Trump should be the 2024 GOP candidate.
- Only 17% think he should be removed from office.
House and Senate Republicans tell me they strongly believe Trump will remain a force in the party’s 2022 and 2024 races — even if he were to be convicted in the forthcoming Senate trial, and barred from holding federal office himself.
I, for once, am speechless. It is all happening so fast. I cannot in any way support, condone, or appear to condone the way Donald Trump has behaved recently. I think he should be removed from office, and barred ever from running again. I support populist conservatism, and do not want a return to the pre-Trump GOP status quo. But Trump has to go. If that puts me on the other side of my crowd, then fine, it puts me on the other side of my crowd.
Yet I have every confidence that the Democrats, understandably outraged by all this, will massively overreach, and further radicalize the Right. We’re not talking about a minority here, the pro-Trump Right. We’re talking about tens of millions of people. The Democrats will control both the presidency and the legislative branch. They also have on their side the media, universities, Big Tech, and corporate America. This Establishment will deploy all its resources to suppress and control the Right, and to protect the state. As I have been predicting, a social credit system — informal at first — will be instituted as an indirect means of controlling and suppressing right-wing dissent.
What do I mean? Under present laws, or perhaps a new domestic terrorism law passed by a Democratic Congress and signed by a Democratic president, everyone’s Web history will be constantly accessed and assessed by artificial intelligence algorithms. Do you now or have you ever frequented pro-Trump websites? Have you ever been to a pro-Trump rally (GPS coordinates from your phone, and photographs from street cameras and social media photos uploaded into the cloud will get the once-over by facial recognition software). Who are your friends and contacts? Does your spouse or adult child have MAGA contacts?
And on and on. I was going to write a long post about this, but I have written about this in my most recent book. It is amazing to me how many people still don’t understand how pervasive and invasive technology is. As I explain in Live Not By Lies, the technology already exists to do all this surveillance on us. I spoke earlier this week with someone in the tech field who read the book and reached out to tell me that it is spot on in what it predicts coming. Excerpts from the book:
Should totalitarianism, hard or soft, come to America, the police state would not have to establish a web of informants to keep tabs on the private lives of the people. The system we have now already does this—and most Americans are scarcely aware of its thoroughness and ubiquity.
The rapidly growing power of information technology and its ubiquitous presence in daily life immensely magnifies the ability of those who control institutions to shape society in according to their ideals. Throughout the past two decades, economic and technological changes—changes that occurred under liberal democratic capitalism—have given both the state and corporations surveillance capabilities of which Lenin and Stalin could only have dreamed. In East Germany, the populace accustomed itself to total surveillance and made snitching normal behavior—this, as part of the development of what the state called the “socialist personality,” which considered privacy to be harmful.
In our time and place, the willingness of people to disclose deeply personal data about themselves—either actively, on platforms like Facebook, or passively, through online data harvesting—is creating a new kind of person: the “social media personality,” who cannot imagine why privacy matters at all.
Why should corporations and institutions not use the information they harvest to manufacture consent to some beliefs and ideologies and to manipulate the public into rejecting others?
In recent years, the most obvious interventions have come from social media companies deplatforming users for violating terms of service. Twitter and Facebook routinely boot users who violate its standards, such as promoting violence, sharing pornography, and the like. YouTube, which has two billion active users, has demonetized users who made money from their channels but who crossed the line with content YouTube deemed offensive. To be fair to these platform managers, there really are vile people who want to use these networks to advocate for evil things.
But who decides what crosses the line? Facebook bans what it calls “expression that . . . has the potential to intimidate, exclude or silence others.” To call that a capacious definition is an understatement. Twitter boots users who “misgender” or “deadname” transgendered people. Calling Caitlyn Jenner “Bruce,” or using masculine pronouns when referring to the transgendered celebrity, is grounds for removal.
To be sure, being kicked off of social media isn’t like being sent to Siberia. But companies like PayPal have used the guidance of the far-left Southern Poverty Law Center to make it impossible for certain right-of-center individuals and organizations—including the mainstream religious-liberty law advocates Alliance Defending Freedom—to use its services. Though the bank issued a general denial when asked, JPMorgan Chase has been credibly accused of closing the accounts of an activist it associates with the alt-right.7 In 2018, Citigroup and Bank of America announced plans to stop doing some business with gun manufacturers.
It is not at all difficult to imagine that banks, retailers, and service providers that have access to the kind of consumer data extracted by surveillance capitalists would decide to punish individuals affiliated with political, religious, or cultural groups those firms deem to be antisocial. Silicon Valley is well known to be far to the left on social and cultural issues, a veritable mecca of the cult of social justice. Social justice warriors are known for the spiteful disdain they hold for classically liberal values like free speech, freedom of association, and religious liberty. These are the kinds of people who will be making decisions about access to digital life and to commerce.
The rising generation of corporate leaders take pride in their progressive awareness and activism. Twenty-first century capitalism is not only all in for surveillance, it is also very woke.
Nor is it hard to foresee these powerful corporate interests using that data to manipulate individuals into thinking and acting in certain ways. Zuboff quotes an unnamed Silicon Valley bigwig saying, “Conditioning at scale is essential to the new science of massively engineered human behavior.” He believes that by close analysis of the behavior of app users, his company will eventually be able to “change how lots of people are making their day-to-day decisions.”
Maybe they will just try to steer users into buying certain products and not others. But what happens when the products are politicians or ideologies? And how will people know when they are being manipulated?
If a corporation with access to private data decides that progress requires suppressing dissenting opinions, it will be easy to identify the dissidents, even if they have said not one word publicly.
A friend who reads this blog wrote to me just now:
I get to your blog via google. The blog used to be the #1 result for “Dreher.” Yesterday it was 3 or 4, and now it’s down to #7. Less popular than the high school and the brewery and the state park.
See how that works? I’m a conservative who has been adamantly and publicly opposed to the way Trump and his advocates have behaved post-election. Doesn’t matter to Google. Being pushed more to the margins on a search engine isn’t Siberia, but it does affect my livelihood, and it’s a small sign of what is coming for all of us on the Right. Corporations — tech and otherwise — are going to be making decisions that affect our lives, with no democratic accountability.
This too is true. I had a long conversation with a former intel guy who verified this part of Live Not By Lies:
What is holding the government back from doing the same thing? It’s not from a lack of technological capacity. In 2013, Edward Snowden, the renegade National Security Agency analyst, revealed that the US federal government’s spying was vastly greater than previously known. In his 2019 memoir, Permanent Record, Snowden writes of learning that the US government was developing the capacity of an eternal law-enforcement agency. At any time, the government could dig through the past communications of anyone it wanted to victimize in search of a crime (and everybody’s communications contain evidence of something). At any point, for all perpetuity, any new administration—any future rogue head of the NSA—could just show up to work and, as easily as flicking a switch, instantly track everybody with a phone or a computer, know who they were, where they were, what they were doing with whom, and what they had ever done in the past.
Snowden writes about a public speech that the Central Intelligence Agency’s chief technology officer, Gus Hunt, gave to a tech group in 2013 that caused barely a ripple. Only the Huffington Post covered it. In the speech, Hunt said, “It is really very nearly within our grasp to be able to compute on all human-generated information.”
He added that after the CIA masters capturing that data, it intends to develop the capability of saving and analyzing it.
Understand what this means: your private digital life belongs to the State, and always will. For the time being, we have laws and practices that prevent the government from using that information against individuals, unless it suspects they are involved in terrorism, criminal activity, or espionage. But over and over dissidents told me that the law is not a reliable refuge: if the government is determined to take you out, it will manufacture a crime from the data it has captured, or otherwise deploy it to destroy your reputation.
Last week, we saw a contingent of right-wing radicals invade the US Capitol en masse, some of whom apparently had the intention of taking hostage members of Congress, and some of whom shouted threats of deadly violence — “Hang Mike Pence!” — with Mike Pence in the vicinity. The president was complicit in this, but it hasn’t really hurt him with Republican voters.
The state really was under direct attack, at the heart of the government, by Americans. There is no way that it is going to sit back and let something like that happen again. As Prof. Nicholas Grossman wrote, the national security state is going to kick into action aggressively to defend itself. This is just a fact. If you are not making provisions for that in your own thinking, you are being foolish.
But if you don’t also understand that corporations and the media are going to go pedal-to-the-metal on the wokeness that was already in place, you are going to be roadkill, and you won’t even have seen it coming. The Left cannot resist racializing the attack. For example, today NYT columnist Farhad Manjoo describes it as “a big tent of whiteness”. Imagine what would have happened had a journalist described any of last summer’s BLM riots as “a big tent of blackness.” Never would have happened, of course. We know the double standard has been there for a while. Left-of-center journalists and institutional leaders are going to use the criminal attack on the Capitol as an excuse to further attack and stigmatize the people they hate, along racial and other identity-politics lines. It’s already happening.
Look at what a reader just sent me:
Progressive women catfishing conservative men to turn them in to the FBI. They think it’s a game. Politics justifies everything, right? What could possibly go wrong?
To return to where we started: Four out of five Americans believe that America is falling apart. They’re right. For faithful Christians, the Benedict Option is rapidly ceasing to be an option, but a mandate.
UPDATE: From a reader:
I am a conservative Catholic millennial living in one of the most liberal areas of the country. I have been insulated by my conservative family within the liberal bubble where I live, and I have noticed a couple of strange things. Your recent blogs have struck a nerve on some thoughts I have had in recent times.
The past 4 years have given rise to 2 movements – MAGA and #Resist – where we were forced to pick a team. Any time someone said anything negative about President Trump the #Resist team would celebrate him or her, only to completely move on and look for new members the next day. The MAGA people supported their hero every step of the way and grew louder as time went on. Living with my Day 1 MAGA father in the middle of #Resist country has opened my eyes to the fact that objectivity has seemingly vanished and the fight for reality is all that matters right now.
For years I was a Never Trumper because he violated my Catholic sensibilities in every way possible, and I could not understand why my father adored him. I eventually gave in because I saw my left-leaning friends lose their minds over Trump to the point where they believed every conspiracy about him – Russian collusion hoax, misrepresenting his “very fine people” quote about Charlottesville, etc. I was surrounded by Trump Derangement Syndrome (TDS) every day and I could not believe that my previously normal friends believed these lies. I became convinced that the crazy billionaire was telling the truth and that the media was lying about him, especially because his policies were fairly moderate and productive despite his rhetoric. I felt like I was the sane person in the room even though I stopped acknowledging the possibility that CNN does report a lot of honest news, including stories about Trump.
I noticed in 2018 that my father starting making comments about military tribunals, sealed indictments, and the evil tyranny of “the establishment”. He is a lifelong Republican and Catholic convert who is painfully pragmatic and logical, yet has always been prone to conspiracy. I will add he is quite Evangelical in his theology as he reads the entire Bible literally, which as you know Catholics do not do. Post-election I have seen a new side to my father – he has boycotted his formerly beloved Fox News because they “betrayed” Trump, believes that Antifa stormed the Capitol, and says that Mike Pence is a traitor. He still thinks that Trump will be inaugurated next week and will serve an additional two terms (yes, two). I see now that the QAnon people have gotten to him, and I am distraught. He is convinced that the Senate races in Georgia were stolen, and does not care because “once the fraud all comes out” those races will be overturned too. It is not hard to see that Trump told his followers to stay home, so of course they lost. But my father will not listen.
I recognize my story is anecdotal but it is largely congruent with what you have been writing about. The MAGA people have disregarded the media to the point where they only listen to Trump or pro-Trump people – so of course QAnon has become widespread. On the flip side the #Resist people have been told that everything Trump says is a lie, so naturally they see him as a tyrant. The difference is that the #Resist people have been told tamer lies by mainstream sources, but they too have left themselves vulnerable to a different conspiracy – wokeness. I believe that BLM is essentially a purity test for white people to separate the believers from the deniers of systemic racism – what better way to identify allies and targets for the social credit system you talk about?
I will conclude by noting how spiritual these movements and conspiracies are. Sports rivalries and religious tensions have seemingly disappeared in favor of the fight between MAGA and #Resist the last 4 years. Outside of practicing Catholics, every Christian I know has let politics and their view on Trump be the guiding force in their lives. Evangelical church-goers are decked out in Trump apparel, MAGA hats are seen everywhere at the March For Life, and every liberal church has a BLM sign out front. The king of branding has put his stamp on every facet of our daily discourse. I fear now that the Georgia runoffs were a test of his influence on the GOP, and in future elections he will tell his voters to stay home if the Republican running for election is not loyal to him. Forget DC statehood, the Democrats will easily pad their numbers in 2022 because Trump will use his voters to make Republicans dependent on him. Unless there is a Biden-Sanders style agreement where the GOP adopts Trump’s American First policies (which I wholly support) then we are in for a long decade. In the meantime please keep doing your thing Rod, we need to restore trust in journalism to fight the conspiracy of “reality”.
UPDATE.2:Trump supporter Curt Schilling lost his insurance because of his opinion. I’m not kidding:
Baseball star Curt Schilling has claimed his insurance policy has been canceled by AIG after the Donald Trump fan tweeted in support of the Capitol rioters.
The Red Sox legend tweeted: ‘We will be just fine, but wanted to let Americans know that @AIGinsurance canceled our insurance due to my ‘Social Media profile’.’
Schilling – who goes by ‘President Elect Curt Schilling’ on Twitter – had last week shared his thoughts on the siege at the Capitol, saying the rioters started ‘confrontation for sh*t that matters’.
He tweeted: ‘You cowards sat on your hands, did nothing while liberal trash looted rioted and burned for air Jordan’s and big screens, sit back, stfu, and watch folks start a confrontation for s**t that matters like rights, democracy and the end of govt corruption. #itshappening.’
After some followers questioned his claims about AIG Tuesday, Schilling replied with a screenshot of his alleged correspondence with the company. He later said he was a ‘AAA customer with zero claims in our 17 years with them’.
The screenshot read in part that canceling Schilling’s insurance plan was ‘a management decision that was made collectively between underwriting and marketing teams that could not be overturned.’
Do you think people should have their insurance cancelled because of their obnoxious opinions? What about their electricity cut off — you for that too?