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Home/Rod Dreher/They Came For The Tweeting Cyclist

They Came For The Tweeting Cyclist

Quinn Simmons, thought criminal (Photo by Bas Czerwinski/Getty Images)

In the first part of Live Not By Lies, I write about Hannah Arendt’s great book The Origins Of Totalitarianism, and discerned a list of aspects of pre-totalitarian societies. Elsewhere in TAC, we publish a lengthy adaptation of the Arendt material from the book, focusing on her symptoms of pre-totalitarian societies. In this excerpt, here are two:

A Mania for Ideology

Why are people so willing to believe demonstrable lies? The desperation alienated people have for a story that helps them make sense of their lives and tells them what to do explains it. For a man desperate to believe, totalitarian ideology is more precious than life itself.

“He may even be willing to help in his own prosecution and frame his own death sentence if only his status as a member of the movement is not touched,” Arendt wrote. Indeed, the files of the 1930s Stalinist show trials are full of false confessions by devout communists who were prepared to die rather than admit that communism was a lie.

Similarly, under the guise of antiracism training, U.S. corporations, institutions, and even churches are frog-marching their employees through courses in which whites and other ideologically disfavored people are compelled to confess their “privilege.” Some do, eagerly.

One of contemporary progressivism’s commonly used phrases—the personal is political—captures the totalitarian spirit, which seeks to infuse all aspects of life with political consciousness. Indeed, the Left today pushes its ideology ever deeper into the private realm, leaving fewer and fewer areas of daily life uncontested. This, warned Arendt, is a sign that a society is ripening for totalitarianism, because that is what totalitarianism essentially is: the politicization of everything.

Early in the Stalin era, N. V. Krylenko, a Soviet commissar (political officer), steamrolled over chess players who wanted to keep politics out of the game.

“We must finish once and for all with the neutrality of chess,” he said. “We must condemn once and for all the formula ‘chess for the sake of chess,’ like the formula ‘art for art’s sake.’ We must organize shockbrigades of chess-players, and begin immediate realization of a Five-Year Plan for chess.”

A Society That Values Loyalty More Than Expertise

“Totalitarianism in power invariably replaces all first-rate talents, regardless of their sympathies, with those crackpots and fools whose lack of intellect and creativity is still the best guarantee of their loyalty,” wrote Arendt.

All politicians prize loyalty, but few would regard it as the most important quality in government, and even fewer would admit it. But President Donald Trump is a rule-breaker in many ways. He once said, “I value loyalty above everything else—more than brains, more than drive, and more than energy.”

Trump’s exaltation of personal loyalty over expertise is discreditable and corrupting. But how can liberals complain? Loyalty to the group or the tribe is at the core of leftist identity politics. This is at the root of “cancel culture,” in which transgressors, however minor their infractions, find themselves cast into outer darkness.

Read it all.

Last night I wrote about the late artist Philip Guston, a victim of cancel culture as carried out from the marmalade-spined leaders of four top museums. This morning, I have found the newest victim of cancel culture: 19-year-old cyclist Quinn Simmons who committed a crime against wokeness: with one word and a single emoji, he expressed support for Donald Trump. Here’s what happened:

American neo-pro Quinn Simmons, a 19-year-old who signed to Trek-Segafredo after his junior world championship in Yorkshire in 2019, has been pulled from racing by his team following an incendiary tweet.

“Regrettably, team rider Quinn Simons made statements online that we feel are divisive, incendiary, and detrimental to the team, professional cycling, its fans, and the positive future we hope to help create for the sport,” the team said.

“In response, he will not be racing for Trek-Segafredo until further notice.”

It was the Trump support, and the fact that Quinn Simmons, who is basically worthy of a Nuremberg trial, used a brown emoji! Oh, the humanity.

That’s what it takes to get you kicked off a cycling team here in Wokistan. It is not a weird one-off In our Sentinel-sponsored Zoom event yesterday, J.D. Vance says he has lots of friends, both liberal and conservative, who walk around on eggshells constantly, terrified that something they say will get them fired. Yesterday there was this extraordinary tweet by Dick Costolo, a Silicon Valley big who served as CEO of Twitter from 2010 to 2015.

It’s like I said above:

One of contemporary progressivism’s commonly used phrases—the personal is political—captures the totalitarian spirit, which seeks to infuse all aspects of life with political consciousness.

The former CEO of Twitter saying that those who believe politics should be kept out of the workplace should be the first people massacred in the revolution — gee, you think there might be a totalitarian mentality among Silicon Valley elites?

Say, folks, I’m going to be on Raymond Arroyo’s EWTN show The World Over tonight at 8pm Eastern, 7 Central, talking about Live Not By Lies, of course. If you don’t have satellite or cable, you can watch the show broadcast live online by clicking here. 

UPDATE: A reader who is also a cyclist writes to say that I’m not seeing the business angle here. He says that Trek is a bike manufacturer who sells a lot of their product to police departments. They’ve been catching hell among the woke for being cop suppliers. Cutting Quinn Simmons loose is a way of restoring their woke bona fides.

Ah, woke capitalism…

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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