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Home/Rod Dreher/Left Summons Demons Of Ideological Terror

Left Summons Demons Of Ideological Terror

Leftist demonstrators in Washington, DC, erect guillotine outside of Jeff Bezos's house

Look at this:

Silly me, I wasted an hour or so writing a post about a Christian radio host who delivered an uneventful, glancing punch to the helmet of an antifa cyclist, when oh my God, a Chicago union representing 28,000 public schoolteachers has endorsed the concept of guillotining the rich!

You know how I’ve been saying for years that these left-wingers have no idea at all what demons they are summoning up? I am screaming that into a bullhorn now. My God, think of it! We’re not talking about campus Maoist weirdoes associating themselves with public executions of the wealthy. We’re talking about public schoolteachers.

NPR published a lengthy interview with a woman who has written a book titled In Defense of Looting. I don’t want to blame NPR, exactly, for paying attention to this argument, but I do simply want to point out that here is a mainstream media outlet injecting into the mainstream a radical argument that should not be entertained. The left is talking itself into embracing and ratifying violence, anarchy, and theft.

And liberals wonder why so many people are buying guns and ammo. They wonder why some conservatives think that that Kyle Rittenhouse kid is a hero.

A reader e-mailed today to point me to a 2018 debate about political correctness. Speaking for the left was Michael Eric Dyson and Michelle Goldberg; for the right, Stephen Fry and Jordan Peterson. The reader suggested taking a look at the part in which Peterson asks the left-wing panelists how we are to know when the left goes too far. I’ve cued the two-hour video to that moment. Take a look:

Goldberg says censorship and violence. “I’m against violence, and I’m against censorship” — that’s it. No elaboration. Then she says that “there’s a lot of left-wing annoyance,” and that’s bad, but there’s nothing we can do about it, and anyway, a reasonable person cannot possibly believe that the radical left is more of a threat than the radical right. Dyson, who is black, behaves with shocking arrogance, accusing Jordan Peterson of being drunk on his own white privilege for even asking the question. “You’re a mean, mad, white man, and the viciousness is evident,” says Dyson.

Peterson responds by saying that “violence” is not enough. Everybody is against violence, but much of the the violence of the 20th century came out of certain left-wing ideas. These have to be accounted for.

It appears that neither Goldberg nor (especially) Dyson can conceive of the left going too far. This is how you get guillotines erected in front of the home of a rich man, and a Chicago teachers’ union tweeting its total “support for wherever this is headed.”

The Terror is where the first guillotines led France. The Red Terror, which took vastly more lives, was the same principle at work in the Soviet Union. The ideas that led to both Terrors — well, they’re right there in Dyson’s racist harangue, in which he refuses to answer Peterson’s perfectly legitimate and necessary question because it is posed by a white male.

I write about this stuff in Live Not By Lies. Check this passage, in which the late Sir Roger Scruton talks about how leftist ideologues cancel people:

“It’s just like ‘homophobia’ or ‘Islamophobia,’ these new thoughtcrimes,” Scruton continued. “What on earth do they mean? And then everyone can join in the throwing of electronic stones at the scapegoat and never be held to account for it, because you don’t have to prove the accusation.”

The reach of contemporary thoughtcrime expands constantly—homophobia, Islamophobia, transphobia, biphobia, fat-phobia, racism, ableism, and on and on—making it difficult to know when one is treading on safe ground or about to step on a land mine. Yet Scruton is right: All of these thoughtcrimes derive from “doctrines”— his word — that are familiar to all of us. These doctrines inform the ideological thrust behind the soft totalitarianism of our own time as surely as Marxist doctrines of economic class struggle did the hard totalitarianism of the Soviet era.

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.

Live Not By Lies will be published one month from today. Please pre-order it — you’re going to want to read it to understand the meaning of this moment, and start building the resistance within yourself, your family, and your community.

Michael Eric Dyson is the kind of person who would make a first-rate commissar, sending people into exile or worse for being an enemy of the people — his kind of people, that is. And Michelle Goldberg would sit there justifying it by saying that the right is so much worse. This is what we’re dealing with today. The guillotine was an instrument of mass terror. If some right-wing loons had displayed a hangman’s noose on the streets of Washington DC, it would be front page news everywhere. These leftists parade a similar instrument of ideological terror, and not only do our media not much care, but a Chicago teachers’ union endorses it.

They do not see what’s happening, our leftists and liberals. They don’t believe the left can go too far. No enemies to the left. To object to it is to admit your guilt.

Eric Zorn, a liberal columnist at the Chicago Tribune, objected to the Chicago teachers’ union tweet, and the Black Lives Matter mob harassing peaceful diners in DC, not because it’s bad, necessarily, but because it stands to help Trump. Excerpt:

Yes, like the display of a mock guillotine, it was a peaceful protest in that nothing was thrown, broken or set on fire. But it was ugly, portentous and helped to sell the narrative the GOP was peddling all week about the looming threat of “left-wing anarchy and mayhem,” as President Donald Trump put it during his convention speech Thursday night.

Yes, there’s plenty for the agitators to be agitated about. But providing B-roll for Trump reelection commercials is tactically insane.

Tactically insane. Not morally wrong — “tactically insane.” Because these incidents show the contemporary left for what it really is.

Do not be fooled.

UPDATE: Wait, so I gave NPR the benefit of the doubt about that pro-looting book, assuming that maybe they just thought it was an interesting and provocative title worth talking about. Nope. Turns out the NPR staffer who did the interview thought the book was swell because it taught her how to stop worrying and embrace the looters and rioters:

What in the actual hell? From that interview, here’s author Vicky Osterweil:

Importantly, I think especially when it’s in the context of a Black uprising like the one we’re living through now, it also attacks the history of whiteness and white supremacy. The very basis of property in the U.S. is derived through whiteness and through Black oppression, through the history of slavery and settler domination of the country. Looting strikes at the heart of property, of whiteness and of the police. It gets to the very root of the way those three things are interconnected. And also it provides people with an imaginative sense of freedom and pleasure and helps them imagine a world that could be. And I think that’s a part of it that doesn’t really get talked about—that riots and looting are experienced as sort of joyous and liberatory.

More:

But there’s also another factor, which is anti-Blackness and contempt for poor people who want to live a better life, which looting immediately provides. One thing about looting is it freaks people out. But in terms of potential crimes that people can commit against the state, it’s basically nonviolent. You’re mass shoplifting. Most stores are insured; it’s just hurting insurance companies on some level. It’s just money. It’s just property. It’s not actually hurting any people.

There is nothing more hurtful to black people who live in riot-torn areas than riots. Riots destroy the local economies. But transgendered white person Vicky Osterweil does not care:

To say you’re attacking your own community is to say to rioters, you don’t know what you’re doing. But I disagree. I think people know. They might have worked in those shops. They might have shopped and been followed around by security guards or by the owner. You know, one of the causes of the L.A. riots was a Korean small-business owner murdering 15-year-old Latasha Harlins, who had come in to buy orange juice. And that was a family-owned, immigrant-owned business where anti-Blackness and white supremacist violence was being perpetrated.

White supremacist Korean immigrant shopkeepers who deserved to be looted. Right. This is the kind of lunatic NPR puffs. It’s almost like NPR exists to serve the interests of college-educated progressives, and that means hating anybody who isn’t a college-educated progressive and the bearers of identities of which they approve. And not only hating, but approving the destruction of those enemies’ lives. NPR, what has happened to you? You used to be liberal, and that was cool, I could swing with that; I would learn things about the world that I didn’t know. But now you’ve lost your collective mind.

Vicky Osterweil

UPDATE.2: This letter from a Texas friend:

Just to give you an idea of just how many people are buying guns and ammo.
9mm, one of the most common handgun cartridges in the world is selling out in minutes, sometimes seconds, online at prices more than double what they were last year.
This year is so bad the ammo manufacturers are not selling as many primers to consumers (thats the part at the back where the hammer hits to ignite the powder).  They are keeping these components in house to try and meet the staggering demand for completed ammo.  Doubling the normal election reloading component shortages we usually see.
You would think with all these new guns the ranges would be packed right?  Last couple I’ve been too have been quieter than normal.  If you can’t restock your ammo you won’t want to use it.
I know I’ve been moderately stocked on ammo and reloading gear, I’ve topped that off and bought a new long gun more suited to protecting the house than a pistol alone.
People are scared.  I still couldn’t say I’d vote for Trump but I really kind of hope he wins so I don’t have to deal with what comes after on the other side yet.  Although, I have a bad feeling that whoever wins the cities will burn for weeks.
I would say that people are scared in part because idiot left-wing media like NPR do things like valorize radicals, such as Vicky Osterweil, who tells NPR’s audience that looting and rioting is a positive thing.
Another reader writes:
In your most recent post, you wrote:
“You know how I’ve been saying for years that these left-wingers have no idea at all what demons they are summoning up?”
While I appreciate your desire to assume/grant the good will of the Left, I think continuing to do so may be naïve and self-defeating.
I think at least some of these Leftists know *exactly* what they are doing, and what demons they are summoning. For example, the leadership of the Chicago Teachers Union has been of the hard-core ideological Left for at least a decade. Just Google their former president, Karen Lewis. The current president, Jesse Sharkey, is a disciple of Lewis and every bit as hard left as she is.
People like Lewis, Sharkey, and Dyson know exactly what they are doing and what demons they are summoning. They *want* the demons, because they believe that *they* will be the ones controlling them. They’re wrong, of course, but, as always, they won’t find out until it’s too late.
There will be violence. And the way the Democratic-run State and its corporate collaborators in Woke Capitalism will maintain order in the future is through an American version of China’s social credit system. That’s how they will keep any resistance from forming. From Live Not By Lies:

“China is about to become something new: an AI-powered techno-totalitarian state,” writes journalist John Lanchester. “The project aims to form not only a new kind of state but a new kind of human being, one who has fully internalized the demands of the state and the completeness of its surveillance and control. That internalization is the goal: agencies of the state will never need to intervene to correct the citizen’s behavior, because the citizen has done it for them in advance.”

He is talking about Beijing’s pioneering use of artificial intelligence and other forms of digital data gathering to create a state apparatus that not only monitors all citizens constantly but also can compel them to behave in ways the state demands without ever deploying the secret police or the threat of gulags (though those exist for the recalcitrant), and without suffering the widespread poverty that was the inevitable product of old-style communism.

More:

The Chinese state is also utilizing totalitarian methods for ensuring the coming generations don’t have the imaginative capacity to fight back.

In his 2019 book, We Have Been Harmonized—China’s term for neutralizing citizens as a threat to the social and political order—veteran journalist Kai Strittmatter, who spent years in Beijing reporting for a German daily, reveals the techno-dystopia that modern China has become. He interviews a Chinese teacher who gives his name as “David,” and who despairs of his country’s future.

“People born in the 1980s and afterwards are hopelessly lost,” David says. He continues:

The brainwashing starts in nursery school. It was different for us. They called us a lost generation because schools and colleges were closed back then, and many of us were denied an education. But in reality, we were probably the lucky ones. We fell through the cracks. The brainwashing didn’t get us. Mao was dead, and everyone was desperate for China to open up, for reform, freedom.

The state’s information-control apparatus has demolished the ability of young Chinese to learn facts about their nation’s history in ways that contradict the Communist Party’s narrative. The 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre, for example, has been memory-holed. This is something that we will almost certainly not have to endure in the West.

But the condition of the youth in consumerist China is more Huxley than Orwell. As the American media critic Neil Postman once said, Orwell feared a world in which people would be forbidden to read books. Huxley, by contrast, feared a world in which no one would have to ban books, because no one would want to read them in the first place. This, says David, is China today. Even though a great deal of information remains available to students, they don’t care about it.

The state does not have to forbid the people to read anything if most of them don’t want to read it in the first place. In my anecdotal experience, young Americans born after the Cold War ended in the early 1990s have no idea what totalitarianism is. They are defenseless against it. And look, now they are taught in schools from kindergarten on a progressive catechism, one that is reinforced constantly by media and pop culture. It’s coming. It’s 1943 in America.

UPDATE.3: A college prof friend e-mails to say he feels total sympathy with Eric Metaxas, re: Metaxas’s punching the antifa dude pedaling his bike towards the Metaxas party, screaming “F–K YOU! F–K TRUMP!” The friend writes that he was having dinner in suburban DC recently when a young black progressive walked by screaming racist abuse at the diners. The professor stood up to him:

I talked back to him on his level. Angry as hell. The fact that I acted impulsively tells me a lot about were we are. The strange thing is that I did not feel offended personally. If he yelled at me I would have just shrugged. It was the fact that this is now the accepted norm pushed me over the edge. His presence and behavior was an offense against everything I value. It was an affront to the thousands of years of Civilization. What’s happening now is much deeper than personal. It is an attempt to undo what we are, perpetrated by people who are nothing.
He goes on:
People who we know as gentle, balanced, educated are being pushed to the edge. Everybody is arming to teeth. It’s a powder keg waiting for its spark. Anybody can become a monster.
The left is pushing the rest of America to a Dirty Harry moment. I just heard from another Republican friend who despises Trump, and was talking herself into voting for Biden — but after this week, can’t do it. “Lawlessness in the cities” is a big one for her.
UPDATE.4: Reader Voltaire:

I am voting for Trump. I cannot stomach him and was a never Trumper, but I am fed up with the rioters and the left’s lying and sense of entitlement to destroy.

Your friend’s comment about ammo hoarding is 100% correct and is absolutely being driven by the rioting. People are very open about that.

I was extremely open to voting for any Democrat who ran against Trump. I liked guns but was not passionate about them. When the Third Precinct in Minneapolis was overrun it was as big of a shift for me mentally as was 9/11, probably bigger.

I am scared as to how we put this country back together again. We cannot become like the hard left. We need to remain decent, humane people. But by not fighting back we are letting evil spread. I just don’t know, and I don’t like who I feel myself becoming.

UPDATE.5: And here we are with dinner in Washington DC on Saturday night, with Black Lives Matter protesters winning hearts and minds through screaming and intimidation:


Elsewhere in our nation’s capital, the left is doing its best to campaign for Trump:

UPDATE.6: As I figured, Vicky Osterweil used to be a Willie. If you follow Andy Ngo on Twitter, there are a startling number of transgendered people in the police mug shots of antifa arrested in Portland:

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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