Living In The 8:20
I am an educator at a Catholic school in Canada (I’ll refrain from being too specific). I’ve been at this position for about 3 years. I am a product of the Catholic education system. I never went to public schooling except for university.At first, I was very excited to start a new job in education. I had planned to become a teacher for a number of years. I thought this would be a good experience to see if teaching was right for me.I had also recently come back to the Catholic faith and was actively practising and volunteering within my parish. For me, this was a win-win situation as I would be able to practice my faith in a Catholic environment.However, I soon realised that this was not the Catholic education that I was brought up in. From the get go, I could see that an overwhelming majority of my colleagues didn’t respect or even understand basic Catholic theology. To make matters worse, we were forced to hire more and more non-Catholics to help fill an employee shortage. Some of them had no idea about the Catholic faith and practices.A majority of staff members espoused various beliefs that were in direct conflict to Catholic teaching. Almost everybody else was pro-choice, pro same sex marriage and supportive of some elements of the woke tyranny that we are now seeing. Staff members took pride in bashing the Catholic faith and calling it archaic! Almost nobody took a traditional stance on things such as marriage, gender and sex. If you did have a personal opinion that actually matched the Catholic Church’s, then you would essentially be ostracised and ridiculed.We did have a pro life club, but it was a joke to say the least. Students were open in saying that they joined it just to get out of school. Other teachers would often mock the club and the teacher sponsors who were in charge of it. I can’t recall talking to a student or staff who legitimately believed in the pro life cause. When the heartbeat bills in your country came out, I expected various staff members to be supportive. To my dismay, almost all of them repeated the typical woke narrative that these men were just trying to control women and that America was full of misogyny and sexism that had gotten worse since Trump.To make matters worse, there is hardly any religiosity amongst the students. Most of them don’t go to Mass, and those that do are often too embarrassed to admit it. Many openly challenge Catholic teachings in class, which is then met by teachers just shrugging their shoulders and for the most part agreeing with them. We have various LGBT students who are allowed and encouraged to embrace themselves. We have male students wearing makeup and borderline cross dressing. In response, the administration simply says that they will not police what people wear, despite there being a clear uniform guideline.When we do have school Masses, the priests often go on about the same thing over and over again. “Be nice and help one another” sermons that don’t have any substance in them whatsoever. The one time a visiting priest came in and talked about how being a Catholic requires discipline and hardship, he was mocked behind his back and never invited back again. Our Religion classes often revolve around “kumbaya” and being accepting of everybody regardless of how they live their life. There is literally nothing substantive in the topics that we discuss. Catholicism to these people is simply believing in some higher power and being nice to your neighbour.To make matters worse, our school has sold out to international students and special needs students. International students often pay a drastically higher tuition, while special needs students generate more funding from the government. Our staff is stretched to the max, and is seeing increasingly high turnover rates. When confronted about this, our administration simply states that our school is concerned about “equality and equity” and the whole woke education crap that has infiltrated pretty much every level of schooling in the province. Discipline is extremely discouraged and teachers have been reprimanded for rightfully putting a disrespectful student in their place. We are also discouraged from penalising students for handing in late work. People are walking on eggshells trying to please students and their parents. Oftentimes teachers will have to chase down a student to get homework or a project as we are heavily discouraged from failing a student, even if their lack of work or abilities completely warrants it!Overall, my experience in education has not at all been a good one. Not to mention that my Catholic faith has suffered. The mindless platitudes that we hear at school Masses and the lack of any religiosity amongst staff members has me rethinking my faith. I thought Catholic education would provide relief from the woke tyranny. Instead, I found that the Pink Terror you and other readers speak of, have infiltrated the very institution that I grew up in. I have chosen not to become a teacher anymore as I don’t wish to work in an environment like this for the rest of my life. While the experience hasn’t been as horrific as the ones you have posted before, it has been eye opening and soul shattering that this is what Catholic education looks like in 2020.
I shared that e-mail with one of my Catholic teacher friends, who has been telling me similar things about his school. In his response, he said in the many years that he has been on faculty, he estimates that maybe about one in 20 of the students his school has graduated still practice the faith. As he sees it, it’s not just the ethos of the school, but the ethos of the people who send their kids to it.
This teacher — let’s call him Mr. Smith — told me that he attended Catholic high school in a red state, and graduated decades ago. He’s bitter about it, and says that the entire purpose of that school was to train Catholics in his hometown on how to be good middle class conformists, not Christians. Not one of his religion teachers believed in the Resurrection, he said. How did he know this?
Mr. Smith said he lost his Catholic faith after that, but regained it later, in the process or re-conversion. He had to teach himself all the things that he never got in Catholic school, or in his parish. Today, said Mr. Smith, he figures that 80 percent of the Catholic schools in the US are pretty much like the Canadian Catholic school the reader above describes. Mr. Smith estimates that there are about 17 percent that are wavering, but only about three percent that really teach the faith and take formation of students seriously. He said:
There’s about 3% that are rock solid, but very few of these are diocesan. Most are Ben Op independent Catholic schools. But there are literally about 100 of these nationwide. At best.
Of course you are free to disagree with him. I can’t identify Mr. Smith for obvious reasons. All I can tell you is that he is a veteran Catholic school teacher who knows that world pretty well. I would invite everyone involved in a religious school (teachers, administrators, parents, and students), Catholic or not, to reflect on the extent to which the Canadian Catholic teacher’s description of his school fits your own.
Smith and I kept texting last night. He is pretty down about the future of Catholicism in this country, post-Covid. In his view, the virus and its forced breaking of the habits of mass-going is going to devastate US Catholicism. Mr. Smith says that Covid will have been an apocalypse for the American church, because it will have revealed its true condition — something that will be undeniable once the crisis passes, and Catholics are free to return to masses unimpeded. Mr. Smith predicts that Americans will see a European-style collapse in church attendance.
We have been living, he said, in a condition “like the eight minutes twenty seconds between when the sun dies and we experience it.” He’s talking about the time it takes for light from the sun to reach earth. If the sun suddenly went out, it would take eight minutes and twenty seconds for people on earth to realize it, because that’s how long it will take for the sun’s final rays to arrive here.
That 8:20 metaphor has been sticking with me since my conversation with Mr. Smith over the weekend. An alternative title for The Benedict Option would be The 8:20 Project, given that the point of that book is that we are facing the collapse of Christianity, and that Christians should use the time we have now to prepare themselves, their families, and their communities for a situation unlike that seen in the West since the collapse of the Roman Empire. No, the Church itself did not collapse when the Roman state and economic apparatus did; my point is that there was a dramatic collapse of a civilizational ethos and system. For Christianity in the advanced industrial nations of the West, the 20th century was like the 4th century was for the Western Roman Empire: a period in which decay advanced to the heart of the civilization, but the institutions and habits of the old ways still remained, concealing the depth of the rot. Historian Edward J. Watts’s book The Final Pagan Generation is a startling account of how the world of pagan Rome declined rapidly during the fourth century, even though all the outward signs were relatively normal.
Imagine a school like the Canadian Catholic one above, but set in fourth-century Rome. Now imagine it is a school whose purpose is to educate young Romans within an ethos that instructed them also in piety towards the gods of Rome. What if that school instead made all the motions of teaching the old religion, but in truth was faking it, and even taught the precepts of the new religion? And what if deep down the parents of these young Roman children didn’t really care about this, but rather wanted their youth to gain whatever knowledge they needed to succeed in what Roman society was becoming? How likely do you think it would be that these Roman schools would successfully transmit the faith to the next generation?
That’s what Christians in 21st century America are facing. We are living in the 8:20. We are a post-Christian civilization, but most people haven’t yet realized it. Those who do must busy themselves making preparations for keeping the light alive through the long night ahead. I’ve mentioned here before, and mentioned over the weekend in conversation with Mr. Smith, the story I heard from a German Catholic I met in Rome. This man told me that he and his Catholic friends have accepted that at some point in their lifetime, and certainly in the lifetime of their children, the institutional Catholic Church is going to collapse in Germany. They are busy now thinking of ways to keep the faith alive. One thing they can do is to form their children strongly in the faith at home, and to encourage them to marry only other strong Catholics raised in the same way. Endogamy, in other words: marrying within the “tribe.”
That’s one way to live in the 8:20. There are others; there has to be. I talk about them in The Benedict Option, but that book is not meant to give all the answers, but rather to catalyze creative thinking among Christians living in the 8:20.
Do you not believe that we are living in the 8:20? Please explain yourself.
If you accept that we are living in the 8:20, what are you going to do about it? Can you point to rallying points for the faithful? Here’s one: Martin Saints Classical High School in suburban Philadelphia, a strongly Catholic, Benedict Option-style Catholic school started by laity who are completely supportive of the Catholic Church’s Magisterium.
This is not, by the way, a questions for Catholics only. The sun that is going into eclipse by our godless civilization is not just a Catholic sun.
UPDATE: Great comment by reader Annie of Arc, who is a Catholic convert:
In the last ten years I have met a half-dozen people employed by the Catholic Church who do not seem dead set on destroying the Church, or who do not consider it their personal middle-class fiefdom with a few hymns. What does one do when one is raising small children, but every single authority figure from the Church to the Government to Education to the Media, seems absolutely hellbent on smashing everything around them? I pray everyday for either a miracle by which my family will have enough money to go buy land and a well in some quiet place, or for a tragedy to come sooner rather than later so that perhaps there is something left to pick up.
There are a great many people who read you with an angry eye, looking to scorn the people who say “the sky is falling.” This is because the sky has not fallen for them, and thank goodness they have been so blessed. There are people who accuse those of us who are worried of merely pining for Eisenhower and public Christian prayer. My goodness, what a joke. It is not “mere Christianity” which is vanishing before our eyes, it is the shared trust and structures and pace of life which allow people to be mentally healthy.
Over the weekend I was asked to talk with some young women trying to navigate the culture and figure out how to build families (no adult entrusted with their education ever considered it important!), and when I talked about my fear of raising daughters in a culture saturated with porn they became despondent: they’re living it. They’re living the brutality, the lovelessness, the dull glaze of addiction which overtakes the victim as much as opiates. They talked about how the culture is so rootless, you make friends for 2 years and then 90% of your friend group has relocated. These were strong, healthy, inquisitive, bright young women, certainly not all Christian, completely capable of navigating the urban coastal scenes, and they are saying behind closed doors that what once was natural and normal has been decimated. It takes angelic strength to do what almost everybody once did. Young people don’t know how to form relationships let alone families. Young men don’t know how to build intimacy. Young people are having pills pushed on them from every angle, and who are they not to take them when everything is so broken and they really are hurting?
The public Christianity of my grandparents generation was a joke, a wicked joke that ushered this age forward. Nonetheless it was still a real structure, not totally melted by the French philosophers or the American cults of speed, power, control. Without the public Christianity the rot has come to the surface and we see it in millions of suffering mentally ill young people who are absolutely lost. God have mercy on us.
UPDATE.2: I’ve been reading for the past three days a book recommended by a reader: The Revolt Of The Public And The Crisis Of Authority In The New Millennium, by Martin Gurri. It’s really eye-opening. So far in the book, it’s an analysis of how and why the Internet is so politically revolutionary, like nothing we’ve ever seen. It’s about information theory and the radical undermining of traditional hierarchies and authorities by the Internet. I’m not too far into the book, but it helps me understand why, for example, same-sex marriage went from being unthinkable to inevitable almost instantaneously. Yes, it took about twenty years of sustained campaigning by its supporters, but to make a social change as radical as changing the definition of marriage in such a short time is virtually without precedent.
I have said since the mid-2000s that same-sex marriage is inevitable because it depends on what most people already believe that marriage is: a contract between two people who love each other, and wish to formalize their commitment. Marriage was believed to be something more than that up until around the middle of the 20th century. That’s why the divorce culture was so quick to be accepted. You cannot separate marriage and divorce from the Sexual Revolution, and as Philip Rieff and others plainly saw, there is an inverse correlation between Christian faith and the Sexual Revolution.
By the early part of the 21st century, traditional beliefs about marriage had grown very thin. When the news and entertainment media began campaigning to normalize homosexuality, the mass audience began to see that an alternative to the status quo was possible. Yes, it is certainly true that the news media had no interest in presenting the traditionalist case fairly or with balance, and it is unquestionably the case that the entertainment media propagandized for the cause. But we must not neglect the fact that they were planting seeds in soil that had been well-tilled by forty years of Sexual Revolution, with its valorization of sexual individualism and autonomy. What the masses needed to see was that the way things were, in terms of marriage, did not have to remain that way.
Now, progressives flatter themselves, and make a serious mistake, by believing that History is unfolding according to a plan, and that History’s plan favors their beliefs and priorities. The election of Donald Trump and the victory of the Brexit referendum are two counterexamples to the “right side of history” thesis. Nevertheless, events rarely come as a bolt out of the blue, even if they feel that way to many of us, owing to our own epistemic bubbles. One reason many conservative Christians have rejected the Benedict Option diagnosis (i.e., that Christianity in the West is in what might be a terminal decline) is because they still see people showing up at church on Sundays, and most people they know still more or less believe in God.
A small but telling example: Just last night I was talking to my mom, who is in her 70s, and she said that she was appalled that an obituary for a friend of hers did not mention that the woman was a member of such-and-such church. I knew the lady too, and I knew that she had not been to church for half a century. My mother said yes, that’s true, but the lady had been baptized in that church, and was therefore a member. I’ve noticed this is a fairly common view among my parents’ generation: that to be formally a member of a church, however tenuous the connection, is the same thing as being a Christian. And in some sense, they’re right: to have been baptized is to be in some mystical sense part of the universal Church. But sociologically speaking, it’s not very meaningful. The lady who passed away did not raise her children in any church, and none of them, and none of her grandchildren, to my knowledge, are churchgoers. Christianity has de facto ceased to exist in that family’s line.
In 2002, I went to Catholic mass near Amsterdam (I was Catholic then). There only people among the small congregation who didn’t have gray hair was a family. We introduced ourselves to them, and they invited Julie and me and our toddler over to dinner. We talked about their experience as practicing Catholics in the Netherlands, a profoundly post-Christian nation. The father said that he was one of eleven children born to a Catholic family in Rotterdam. He must have been in his mid-40s when we met, and he told me he was the only one of his siblings who still practiced the faith. Eleven children baptized into the church, but only one still Catholic in any socially meaningful sense.
Anyway, my point is this: when people conceive of an alternative to the status quo, and experience it as a realistic possibility for themselves, it undermines the status quo. This is pretty basic stuff, I grant you, but social change can happen in the same way that Hemingway’s character said he went bankrupt: gradually, then suddenly. In the Netherlands, the middle-class consensus behind the Christian faith collapsed suddenly in the 1960s. It had been shattered by the war and the Nazi occupation, and people tried to rebuild it afterward, but their hearts weren’t in it. When the first winds of the counterculture began to blow, the whole thing fell apart.
Mr. Smith, above, believes that the Covid crisis, which has halted churchgoing in many places, will prove to be one of those events that causes most Catholics to recognize that they have been going through the motions for a long time, regarding mass attendance, and that they won’t feel any special obligation to return when things get back to normal. I hope he’s wrong, but I’m strongly inclined to believe him. And I bet other churches — non-Catholic ones — will suffer something similar. I really hope I’m wrong about this, but reading this Gurri book makes me think that Covid will have proven to have been a real crossroads moment in which a whole lot of churchgoing people reckon with their lack of conviction, and slough off their commitment to church.
UPDATE: Amazing comment by reader Heidi:
I haven’t been adding to the conversation in many months now, but I’ve been keeping up with you, with us, this group of radicals and our very real concerns. I want to give you a small positive note, based on my personal experience of this last weekend and in response to this post. I’m sure you don’t remember, but last year, prior to the current state of affairs, I had been in very serious spiritual trouble and was at the point of leaving the Catholic church after all the scandals. I had, in fact, stopped going to mass and was very vocally angry about how I felt about the church and how I “didn’t care what happened to her” any more. Well, and isn’t God just the funniest…enter Covid and now Heidi *can’t* go to church and isn’t going to church just exactly the thing she wants The Most in Life At The Moment. Yes, yes…a master of irony is our God.
Anyway, the lesson was not lost on me, praise the Lord. At any rate, our churches only began to be open to mass in June-ish and there were very strict limitations on attendance and meanwhile I’m beating my breast in repentance over my flippant attitude and berating myself on a regular basis about taking church for granted. Cathedrals! Shuttered! Locked doors! What had we done?!? And wasn’t this anti-constitutional?! There were protests and riots but locked churches?!?
Anyway, once it opened, my regular church was only open to allowing people in on an alphabetized schedule and the weekend that our letter came up, we were out of town. The images of the service online were shocking. In a church that once had hundreds of parishioners on a weekend there were 13, yes 13, people. And a priest in his undershirt. I just don’t know what to say about that. I can say that on-line mass ain’t cutting it. Period. And I did try.
At any rate, I searched and found a church in a neighboring town which had fewer restrictions on attendance and went. Lo and behold it was a Tridentine mass and there were…dozens of people. I started counting and had to stop at 70 because I couldn’t very well crane my neck during the gospel to see who was behind me. I’m going to say between 70 and 80 people. And! There were several large families with lots of children, small children! Dressed up and quiet! They had clearly been here before… The age mix was very healthy; it was definitely not just a blue-haired service. And it was the third mass of the weekend! I’m not ashamed to say that I cried during the Eucharist; fortunately the mask hid my tears pretty well.
Part B of this story is that I came home and was singing the praises of the mass to my now non-church going family (yes, it’s true, you can lead a kid to church for their entire lives and they will still give it the back of the hand when they are 20 and your spouse will get disillusioned and decide they aren’t going anymore etc. etc.) and one of my young adult children said that it sounded amazing (there was organ music and singing and gorgeous light streaming in through the stained glass windows) and then asked me the name of the church because her boyfriend’s father wanted to go. He’s not Catholic, but, because his life-long Presbyterian southern father has been attending Catholic mass in TN and had been speaking so positively about it he was interested. So, there you have it. All is not lost, although it may be greatly diminished.
I’m not even remotely suggesting that Christendom is not in deep trouble. We are. But we do need these bits of hope.
UPDATE.2: Another hopeful comment, this one by Frances Moyer:
All this is very painful to read. One thing I hate to read it that all of anything is true. All Catholics are this, all schools are that. So I will tell you about my parish. My husband and I retired to this county four years ago. We had visited relatives in this state for 45 years, but never lived in it. We were convinced to choose this specific town because of a Mass we attended. We had attended fairly liberal churches for 25 years, but believed and felt that they failed to emphasize the Eucharist and many important tradition, as well as ignoring all Catholic teachings on sexuality, pro-life, etc.. This church is conservative: large families: a thriving K-8 school; good sermons by all three priests (in the case of the pastor, superior); very pro-life.
Ours is the only church in the county and has 10,000 members. After our first year the young pastors were transferred and the elderly, ill pastor moved to a smaller parish and then retired. Our new pastor is a dynamo. I’ve heard him talk numerous times and he is quite aware of the state of the Faith among Catholics and is determined to evangelize them. He has a dedicated staff and many active parishioners. He is transforming this parish. He knows that the foundation of the faith comes through the parents and has brought two people (a priest and a lay person) from the Augustinian Institute 2000 miles away to establish a solid four year Bible Study as well as a program for parents. He has established a summer camp for young children, the main purpose of which is to evangelize the older high school students and college students who teach and lead the camp through: prayer, adoration of the blessed sacrament, and classes. Several times a year the Institute of Catholic Culture offers dinner and an educational talk. Our church offered a retreat for those suffering deep emotional and spiritual pain. I really feel that our pastor is building a Benedict Option Community in that all his programs have a clear goal of building the Faith in adults and the younger generation,.
Our church has a Spanish mass and ministry; a more traditional mass; a mass that appeals more to those accustomed to the reforms of Vatican II and subsequent hymns; and a Latin mass.
The Knights of Columbus operate a Wednesday Soup Kitchen and a weekly donation of food and toiletries to 70 people. And they do so much more charity work. Eight years ago our parishioners started a home for homeless pregnant women and their children. It takes about 60 volunteers to support all the needs in small and large ways. Our pastor just blessed a second home the board just purchased.
I would like to inform you of nationwide Catholic apostalates. Look them up: FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students): Students for Life; Walking with Purpose: The Modern Woman’s Guide to the Bible (40,000+ Bible students throughout the US including 50 last year in our parish). And there are web sites such as Bishop Baron and Magis; the later has solid science articles as part of its focus on faith. Then there are The Augustinian Institute and the Institute of Catholic Culture.
PS I am in a Book Club of some parish women and I have suggested The Benedict Option which I have read. We will read it in September!
I feel much hope in my parish and I am so sorry so many people feel disappointment and despair in theirs.
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It’s not just me who thinks the US is sliding into a woke-led totalitarianism. Prof. Andrew Michta, writing in last weekend’s Wall Street Journal, says that America is “resegregating.” More:
Czesław Miłosz, a future Nobel Prize-winning poet who had just defected from Poland, began work in 1951 on a book called “The Captive Mind.” Even as Stalinist totalitarianism tightened its grip on Eastern Europe, many Western European intellectuals lauded the brave new world of Soviet communism as a model for overcoming “bourgeois forces,” which in their view had caused World War II. Living in Paris, Miłosz wrote his book, which was published in 1953, to warn the West of what happens to the human mind and soul in a totalitarian system.
Miłosz knew from experience, having lived through the Communist takeover, how totalitarianism strips men and women of their liberty, transforming them into “affirmative cogs” in service of the state and obliterating what had taken centuries of Western political development to achieve. Totalitarianism not only enslaved people physically but crippled their spirit. It did so by replacing ordinary human language, in which words signify things in the outside world, with ideologically sanctioned language, in which words signify the dominant party’s ever-changing ideas of what is and is not true.
Since the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, nationwide protests, which quickly turned to riots, have been hijacked by the neo-Marxist left, morphing into an all-out assault on American cities and institutions. This assault is underpinned by an audacious attempt to rewrite history that turns specific past events into weapons not only to overpower political opponents but also to recast all of American history as a litany of racial transgressions.
The radicals have turned race into a lens through which to view the country’s history, and not simply because they are obsessed with race. They have done so because it allows them to identify and separate those groups that deserve affirmation, in their view, and those that do not. What is taking place is the resegregation of America, the endpoint of which will be the rejection of everything the civil-rights movement stood for.
Michta offers a solid, useful definition of the difference between authoritarianism and totalitarianism; the woke militancy is unquestionably totalitarian:
What is driving the radical protesters and rioters—who are enabled and manipulated by the “digital intelligentsia” in the press and an expanding segment of the political and business classes—is contempt for the freedom of anyone who fails to comport with their image of a just society. In authoritarian systems those in power seek to proscribe certain forms of political speech and social activity. Totalitarians claim unconditional authority to reach deep into each person’s conscience. They prescribe an interpretation of the world and dictate the language with which citizens are permitted to express that interpretation. Authoritarian regimes leave largely untouched the private civic sphere of human activity; totalitarians destroy traditional value systems and reorder the culture. That is why they are harder to overthrow.
This is about more than statues and history. Those who control the symbols of political discourse can dominate the culture and control the collective consciousness. If you doubt this, ask yourself why there has been so little backlash from ordinary, non-elite Americans. Our sense of self has been progressively deconstructed. We feel in our bones the wrongness of the violence being visited on the nation but lack the language to speak against it.
American society is faced with a stark binary choice. Either we push back against the unrelenting assault of the neo-Marxist narrative, or we yield to the totalitarian impulse now in full view in our politics. It is no longer enough to wait for the next election, or to pin our hopes on a “silent majority” that will eventually stop the madness. There may be no such majority. If there is, its members may no longer be able to articulate what they see unfolding around them.
Read the whole thing (if you have a WSJ subscription; it’s behind a paywall).
None of this is news to me, of course — all of this and much more is in my forthcoming book Live Not By Lies— but what struck me the most about Michta’s essay is his speculation that there may not be a “silent majority” waiting to rise up against this.
Last week in this space I wrote about a long lunch conversation with a pastor who is deeply frustrated by what he says is the inability of his fellow clergy to grasp the scale and the significance of the present crisis within the churches (or rather, the related crises of people falling away from the practice of Christianity, and those who remain knowing nothing at all about the faith, meaning their ties are highly tenuous). In his telling, the pastors he knows either refuse to acknowledge the facts right in front of their noses, or get angry at him for pointing them out. The result is a leadership class in the churches that huddles in false security behind the Maginot Line in their mind. They are not prepared to fight the war that’s actually upon the church, and are not preparing their flocks to resist.
I told the pastor over lunch that I had been dealing with this kind of thing for the three years since The Benedict Option was published. Lots of pastors and church leaders — Protestant, Catholic, and Orthodox — have rejected the book’s diagnosis and prescription without giving any indication of having read it. As Alan Jacobs has written about this phenomenon, Dreher might be wrong in his prescriptions, but only a blind person could deny that the churches are in big trouble today. So what’s their solution? (says Jacobs). “More of the same things we’ve been doing” is a suicidal strategy.
Having read Michta’s piece this morning (thanks to the reader who sent it), I think I understand better why these pastors are so paralyzed with fear. They may have no strong reason to believe that their congregations would be behind them if they stood up to this madness. Four years ago, when I was traveling around researching The Benedict Option, I spoke to the pastor of a large conservative Protestant congregation. He told me the main obstacle he faced in his congregation was the constant fear of the people. What they were afraid of, though, were the threats they perceived Out There: e.g., radical Islam. He said that when he would preach on other things, things that had to do with the spiritual lives and threats they faced within their own hearts, they tuned him out. They only wanted to hear that the threats were external. He was pretty discouraged, and I found out later that he left that congregation.
Mind you, these were all conservative people, theologically and otherwise. But they had a fixed idea of what the threat to their existence was, and it had nothing at all to do with their way of life. This pastor I talked to, I don’t know if he supported the Benedict Option idea, but having spent time with him, I came to believe that he absolutely was trying to pastor that church in a way to make its members more truly and deeply Christian, and that he (the pastor) understood deeply how the currents of ordinary American life bear the church farther and farther from shore. But if his account of the congregation was true, the people of that church did not want to hear any of this. They only wanted their own prejudices validated.
I heard something very similar from the pastor in Louisiana with whom I lunched last week. (I wrote about it in “The Finder-Friendly Pilgrim Church,” in case you missed it.)
Now, think about that in context of the Michta column. Michta isn’t writing about religion. He’s writing about an American public that has been so propagandized and demoralized that it cannot see the true nature of the threats to it, or if it can, it lacks the wherewithal to respond appropriately. The rot has gone very deep. On this blog, I report on things going on within the culture of universities, of major corporations, of schools and religious institutions, and so on — as well as reporting on things happening in the public square. We are witnessing the dismantling of American liberal democracy, and the conditions under which it thrives. It is an emergency, but relatively few people are treating it like an emergency.
Are people waiting for this supposed “silent majority” to rise up and save the day? With Michta, I ask: How do you know that such a silent majority exists? I know a lot of people are planning to vote for Trump as their contribution to the fight against this madness. Vote for Trump if you want to, but understand that all of this has happened under Trump. I think there’s no question that it will accelerate under Biden, and in that sense, a vote for Trump is reasonable. But don’t think for one second that Trump is going to stop any of it. He doesn’t know how. Whether Trump is re-elected or not, the war on faith, family, and the foundations of American democracy will continue.
Again, let me be clear: I’m not telling you to vote for Trump, or not to vote for Trump. I am telling you that your vote matters a lot less than you might think.
Here’s a big reason why: consumer surveillance technology. The Houston Chronicle reports:
Operating in the shadows of the online marketplace, specialized tech companies you’ve likely never heard of are tapping vast troves of our personal data to generate secret “surveillance scores” – digital mug shots of millions of Americans – that supposedly predict our future behavior. The firms sell their scoring services to major businesses across the U.S. economy.
People with low scores can suffer harsh consequences.
CoreLogic and TransUnion say that scores they peddle to landlords can predict whether a potential tenant will pay the rent on time, be able to “absorb rent increases,” or break a lease. Large employers use HireVue, a firm that generates an “employability” score about candidates by analyzing “tens of thousands of factors,” including a person’s facial expressions and voice intonations. Other employers use Cornerstone’s score, which considers where a job prospect lives and which web browser they use to judge how successful they will be at a job.
Brand-name retailers purchase “risk scores” from Retail Equation to help make judgments about whether consumers commit fraud when they return goods for refunds. Players in the gig economy use outside firms such as Sift to score consumers’ “overall trustworthiness.” Wireless customers predicted to be less profitable are sometimes forced to endure longer customer service hold times.
Auto insurers raise premiums based on scores calculated using information from smartphone apps that track driving styles. Large analytics firms monitor whether we are likely to take our medication based on our propensity to refill our prescriptions; pharmaceutical companies, health-care providers and insurance companies can use those scores to, among other things, “match the right patient investment level to the right patients.”
Surveillance scoring is the product of two trends. First is the rampant (and mostly unregulated) collection of every intimate detail about our lives, amassed by the nanosecond from smartphones to cars, toasters to toys. This fire hose of data – most of which we surrender voluntarily – includes our demographics, income, facial characteristics, the sound of our voice, our precise location, shopping history, medical conditions, genetic information, what we search for on the Internet, the websites we visit, when we read an email, what apps we use and how long we use them, and how often we sleep, exercise and the like.
The second trend driving these scores is the arrival of technologies able to instantaneously crunch this data: exponentially more powerful computers and high-speed communications systems such as 5G, which lead to the scoring algorithms that use artificial intelligence to rate all of us in some way.
This is the basis for the coming American version of China’s social credit system. Notice that none of this has to do with the government. If you think totalitarianism is only something that the state can impose, you’re wrong. This is what Woke Capitalism is doing to us. We are in a different world now. As I write in Live Not By Lies:
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. [Age of Surveillance Capitalism author Shoshana] 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.
I’m telling you, this new order is already largely in place, and we are passively accepting it. We are being conditioned to accept it. I am absolutely not saying that we should surrender to it — in fact, quite the contrary. What I’m saying is that it is no surprise that the American people have been demoralized and manipulated. The “silent majority” is not going to save us, because if it even exists, it is likely already neutralized, or soon will be — and might never understand why or how. We should be standing behind political leaders who recognize the threat from this data grabbing, and who are prepared to fight it, and fight it hard. (Donald Trump is not that leader; Sen. Josh Hawley and Sen. Mike Lee might be.) But in the meantime, we should be preparing ourselves for the long resistance. Totalitarianism is coming. It will be softer than what existed in the Soviet bloc, but totalitarianism it certainly will be.
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In true progressive form, the City of Minneapolis, which has decided that it doesn’t need the police, is now advising its citizens how to surrender more effectively to criminals:
I moved to New York City in 1998. It was fascinating to be a newcomer to the city and to hear native New Yorkers talking about the bad old pre-Giuliani days, when the city seemed ungovernable. The city had learned its lesson, they would say, and would never go back to what it once was. Well.
On the Left Coast, looks like the city of Seattle really is going to abolish its police department. Christopher Rufo reports:
The Seattle City Council is moving to abolish the entire Seattle Police Department and replace it with a “civilian led Department of Community Safety & Violence Prevention.”
In the proposed legislation, the council argues that the Seattle Police Department “[perpetuates] racism and violence” and upholds “white supremacy culture.”
The council endorses the “Decriminalize Seattle” agenda that would replace the police force with:
–”Culturally-relevant expertise rooted in community connections”
–”Housing, food security, and other basic needs”
–”Trauma-informed, gender-affirming, anti-racist praxis”
And finally, the plan demands that the City conduct an “immediate transfer of underutilized public land for BIPOC community ownership”—in essence, the redistribution of land, which is a hallmark of Marxist regimes.
This is madness. If Seattle moves forward with its plan to abolish the police and permanently close the region’s largest jail, it will lead to the immediate collapse of public order. But for now, the political class is following the mob.
The left-wing lunatics really are in charge of the city’s government. Look at these other documents someone linked to Rufo. Excerpts:
Seattle’s Office of Civil Rights has developed a “race and social justice” curriculum for all 10,000 city employees.
I’ve obtained new documents from the city’s segregated “whites-only” trainings, which induct white employees into the cult of critical race theory.
The trainers require white employees to examine their “relationships with white supremacy, racism, and whiteness” and explain how their “[families] benefit economically from the system of white supremacy even as it directly and violently harms Black people.”
Under the banner of “antiracism,” Seattle’s Office of Civil Rights is now explicitly endorsing principles of segregationism, group-based guilt, and race essentialism—ugly concepts that should have been left behind a century ago.
Rufo has screenshots of the documents and Powerpoint slides of this racist anti-white insanity. For example:
The reader who passed the Seattle news on comments:
I guess at this point, I want them to hurry up and do it. We can sacrifice Seattle so liberals all over the country can see what a disaster this is and in the long run we’ll all be better off. If Seattle actually goes through with this, we are going to see a complete collapse. I mean epic. When people and businesses start fleeing and property values plummet, Seattle might make Detroit look like a healthy city.
Can it really be that the people of Seattle want this?
UPDATE: For more details of the anti-white training the Seattle city government is inflicting on white employees, check out Christopher Rufo’s Twitter feed.
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The Finder-Friendly Pilgrim Church
This week I had quite a lunch. An old college friend whom I hadn’t seen since our 1980s undergraduate years reached out last week. He’s now a Protestant pastor of a large-ish church in Louisiana, and wanted to know if I wanted to have lunch sometime. Sure, I said. We found a place halfway between his town and mine, and got together. It was something of a drive, but it was well worth it. We hadn’t seen each other in over thirty years.
When Pastor and I knew each other in school, neither one of us was religious. He had a powerful conversion, as it turned out, years after college, after having made his fortune in the world. He gave it all away, and took up the life of a pastor. He told me stories about his journey that made my jaw drop, literally. There is no way to explain some of these things absent the miraculous. Again, it caused him to give away his wealth, and to change his life radically.
We talked for a long time. He finds himself really worked up about what he sees as a massive crisis in the Christian churches, one that the churches are largely unwilling to face. I didn’t get the idea that he’s readThe Benedict Option, so it was interesting to hear him articulate a diagnosis that’s very close to what I say in that book. I won’t repeat it all here; you regular readers have heard it all before from me. The core of what this pastor said was that there is almost no consciousness among American Christians — pastors and laity — of the need for discipleship. That is to say, the church (by which he means all churches in this country) no longer understands Christianity as a way of living that requires submission and spiritual discipline. It’s all about a consumerist approach to God, picking and choosing what we want to believe, based on what satisfies our feeling.
The sociologist Christian Smith calls this Moralistic Therapeutic Deism, and says it is the true religion of America. When the concept first became popularized in the mid-2000s, Al Mohler wrote a good essay explaining it. It is a very powerful heresy, because it is based entirely on the idea that the only thing God wants of us is to be nice and happy and successful. Christian Smith points out that MTD has colonized many American churches and religious institutions. The pastor with whom I had lunch the other day did not use the term, but he expressed deep frustration over the inability or unwillingness of clergy to deal with the crisis. He said whenever he tries to talk to them about these things, his colleagues either look at him with befuddlement, or get really angry.
The pastor told a lengthy story about spending some time with the leadership team of a well known Evangelical megachurch, and of his shock at discovering that this church had a massive churn rate. People came to the church, but didn’t stick around long — this, even though the church was often full. This pastor discovered that there was no discipleship at this famous church, and no sense that there ought to be discipleship. The clergy there seemed to think that the only thing that mattered was getting people to accept Jesus as their savior, and to stay emotionally interested in Jesus. There was no mechanism at this church for forming disciples. In fact, under their system, people who had just joined the church and become Christians were sometimes put in charge of leading small groups. The point, this pastor discovered, was not to lead people to any place in particular; just showing up and being present and saying that you love Jesus is sufficient.
He told me that when he gets together with other pastors, fellow theological conservatives, they all share with each other their grave concerns about the condition of American culture. The thing is, he said, is that the threats to the church’s integrity that they identify are all out there. It never occurs to them that the problem is also within the church, and within their own congregations. In other words, the problem is only Them; it is never Us.
Over lunch, this pastor shared with me his fears that the churches in America are being shattered, and that they (we) face a time of scattering — a devastating crisis that very few churches are prepared to meet. Again, this is all in The Benedict Option, but it was really interesting to hear these things from a Protestant pastor who had come to similar conclusions based on his experience. He said that he’s struggling to figure out how the American church can survive when it is based so heavily on emotion and self-satisfaction, versus the traditional Christian model of conforming ourselves to objective standards of moral truth.
As we stood in the parking lot finishing our conversation before saying goodbye, the Pastor explained why he thought that the “seeker-friendly” church movement has been a total catastrophe for American Christianity. Churches that want to be “seeker-friendly” center the worship around appealing to people who are outside of Christianity. They soft-pedal doctrine and anything distinctive, so as not to frighten people away by strangeness. The main problem with this, said the Pastor, is that churches don’t disciple anybody. The churches keep changing their worship and approach to fit with market demands, to keep customers in the pews. And, in so doing, they condition the laity to expect the experience of church to satisfy their preferences. Discipleship is impossible under those conditions.
“I wouldn’t want to give you the idea that the Orthodox Church is free of problems,” I said to him. “We have lots of problems. But that is not one of them. We are not a seeker-friendly church. We are a finder-friendly church.”
On the long drive home, I listened via the Mars Hill Audio Journal app to excerpts from Ken Myers’s 2006 interviews with Stephen Gardner and Elisabeth Lasch-Quinn about the work of Philip Rieff. That link takes you to a web page where you can buy an MP3 of that issue of the Journal. Unfortunately I can’t link to the recent recap of those interviews; you can only get that via the app — but the app is free, and there’s always good free content available there. I really do wish I had some way of hooking you up with those interviews — they’re Mars Hill Audio Journal at its finest. What both of those scholars discuss is how Rieff’s prophetic insights into how our culture has changed in the 20th century, post-Freud, and how radical those changes are for public reason, morality, and religion. Both of those scholars have interpretive essays in ISI’s 2006 fortieth anniversary edition of Rieff’s The Triumph of the Therapeutic, a book apart from which it is virtually impossible to understand our culture today.
A key insight from Rieff, as relates to the conversation I had just had with the pastor, is Rieff’s idea of the “anti-culture.” TAC’s own Jeremy Beer once wrote about Rieff for this magazine, and said in part:
Rieff evinces more concern about the “triumph of the therapeutic” in his famous book of that name published in 1966. That work opens with the text of Yeats’s “Second Coming”—a sure sign that what follows will not be painted in the sunny colors of American progressivism. Rieff now worried that, though Christian culture had been all but entirely shattered, nothing had succeeded it; there were therefore no extant authoritative institutions whose demands and remissions (the culturally regulated relaxation of those demands) could be internalized, thereby acting to “bind and loose men in the conduct of their affairs.” This failure of succession was no accident but rather the explicit program of the “modern cultural revolution,” which was deliberately being undertaken “not in the name of any new order of communal purpose” but for the “permanent disestablishment of any deeply internalized moral demands.”
This revolution posed an unprecedented problem, for at the heart of Rieff’s theory of culture lies the insight that all cultures consist precisely in a “symbolic order of controls and remissions.” Lacking such an order, one gets not a new culture but rather a kind of anti-culture. For that reason, in Rieff’s view, therapeutic ideology rather than communism represented the revolutionary movement of the age. Communism inverts religion but accepts, at least in theory, the idea of a social order that embodies certain moral commitments; therapeutic society, on the other hand, stands both against all religions and for all religions. That is, it refuses to engage religious claims on their own terms, to take them seriously as a “compelling symbolic of self-integrating communal purpose.” It represents the absolute privatization of religious doctrines, absorbing them as potentially useful therapies for individuals. “Psychological man,” remarks Rieff, “will be a hedger against his own bets, a user of any faith that lends itself to therapeutic use.”
Indeed, compared to the emergent Western rejection of all “moral demand systems,” Rieff notes that communism was, in a certain sense, conservative. Americans, on the other hand, had been released by the anti-cultural doctrine of the therapeutic to be “morally less self-demanding,” aiming instead to enjoy “all that money can buy, technology can make, and science can conceive.”
What he’s saying — or rather, what Rieff is saying — is that people have stopped seeing the moral life as submission to an external set of demands, but rather as doing whatever it takes to feel good about yourself. This goes far deeper than a shallow critique of “cafeteria Catholicism” or “feelgood Christianity.” What Rieff is saying is that that therapeutic culture is an anti-culture — that is, that no culture that accepts the therapeutic ethic will be able to survive. Absent a shared sense of a sacred order, it will disintegrate. There is nothing to bind it. Rieff was not a Christian, or a religious believer at all; he was writing as a sociologist and cultural critic. If you want to understand why the churches are dissolving — both in terms of people falling away, and those who remain knowing little or nothing about the faith and what it demands — you need to deal with Rieff.
A therapeutic culture is an emotivist culture — that is, one in which feelings determine truth. In an emotivist culture, there is no agreed-upon means to reason about our differences. It all becomes a matter of who can assert their power more effectively. Alasdair MacIntyre, as my regular readers know, famously said that in our emotivist culture, it becomes impossible to settle disputes. We are living through that now. An emotivist culture is an anti-culture, and an anti-Christian culture. When a church gives itself over the emotivism (which is to say, to MTD), it becomes anti-Christian. It cannot be otherwise.
Later in the week, I heard a true story about a different pastor, this one struggling with his congregation. According to the friend who told it to me, the pastor is discouraged and ground down by trying to lead this church. The gist of it is that most people in the church take a consumerist approach to church life. Nothing satisfies them, because they have come to expect that church is about keeping them happy and satisfied — and that means telling them exactly what they want to hear, and nothing else. The friend who passed this story on to me, asking me to pray for that pastor, gave details about what the man is dealing with. It’s a perfect example of the kind of thing my lunch Pastor friend was talking about.
This morning we had the Divine Liturgy at our little mission parish in Baton Rouge. It’s unusual to have Saturday morning liturgies, but our priest is doing things differently to accommodate everyone in the parish in this Covidtide. The building isn’t big enough to accommodate us all at once, and maintain proper social distancing, so we usually have two liturgies each weekend. I was thinking during the liturgy about the whole “finder-friendly” concept. What I mean by it is that Orthodox parishes are not going to water things down to make it easy for newcomers. It’s not that they’re unfriendly. Some might be, but that’s not at all a feature of Orthodoxy; rather, if you see it, that’s a problem with that particular parish.
To be “finder-friendly” means that the church experience is going to reward commitment, and prioritize discipleship. When I first started going to Orthodox liturgies, I barely had any idea what was happening. I could see that it was all beautiful, and that the sense of sacredness was vividly palpable. But I wasn’t close to grokking what was happening. That came in time, though, with familiarity.
The thing that was so striking to me about Orthodoxy at first — and still is — is how radically opposite it is to what we modern Americans expect of church. For one, Orthodoxy treats suffering and struggle as a normal part of the Christian life. We are not meant to escape pain and suffering, but rather to meet it as faithful Christians, and allow it to transform us. This is difficult, but the Orthodox Church teaches that the ancient way pioneered first by Christ, and then by the fathers and mothers of the Church, is still valid for all time. It is a way of dying to self to live in Christ. That sounds pious and abstract, but once you submit yourself to the disciplines of the Orthodox Church, you get it. Life in the Church is a never-ending cycle of fasting and feasting, repentance and rejoicing, of falling down and getting up.
The thing is, this is therapeutic. A phrase Stephen Gardner used in his Mars Hill interview came to mind this morning in church: that the ancient Greek sense of “therapeutic” came from the belief that we are healed by our care for the gods. In a Christian sense, this means that if we follow the prescriptions of the Church, and learn to love first not ourselves, but the Lord our God, and then our neighbor, we will be healed in time. It won’t happen like a bolt out of the blue (if it does, then we have a miracle), but it will happen if we patiently apply the spiritual medicine.
My former Orthodox priest Father Matthew once put it to me like this: “People come to the church in pain, wanting to be healed. You find out, though, that what many of them really want is not healing, but something to dull the pain. But some of them are willing to undergo spiritual surgery to get better. I tell them that this might hurt even more for a short time, but this is the only way that you are going to get better.”
Moralistic Therapeutic Deism is the spiritual opioid that masks the pain. It tells us that we should expect church life to be God caring for us by catering to our desires. Real spiritual therapy leads us through the pain to healing by putting the worship and service of God, and keeping his commandments, first. For Orthodox Christianity, to restore us to spiritual health is to heal all the brokenness in our life, which separates us from God.
Sorry, readers, I didn’t mean to give a sermon today, and I’m not trying to tell you to go to your nearest Orthodox Church, either. What I’m trying to do is suggest that if Christianity is going to survive this time of dissolution, it is going to have to be in finder-friendly churches. Churches with roots. Churches that demand something of the people who worship there.
What would a finder-friendly church look like in your religious tradition? Is it possible? What needs to change in your church to make it finder-friendly? What needs to change within yourself to make you a finder, not a seeker?
As I write this, I’m thinking about a woman my lunch Pastor friend told me about. He met her at some non-church function. She told him that she was a member of his church. That’s funny, he said; I’ve been there for xx number of years, and I’ve never seen you. She said that that’s because she goes around to three or four different churches, taking what she needs from them spiritually. The Pastor said that this woman is far from alone in this practice. He said it’s pretty common where he lives: people calling themselves part of a church, but rarely showing up, and certainly not committing to it, except in the notional, consumerist sense of coming to take what they feel that the need at a given moment, and moving on.
“St. Benedict called that kind of person a gyrovague,” I told the Pastor. “He said they are the worst kind of monk, because they have no stillness. They just take and take and take, and never grow spiritually. They are ruled by their desires and passions.”
The problem we have with the Christian churches in America is that we are a nation of gyrovagues. We live in a secular culture that holds up gyrovaguery as a normative way of life. The churches cater to that. No wonder nobody takes us seriously, least of all our own people. We think we’re pilgrims, but in truth, we’re nothing but tourists. The pilgrims seeks to find; the tourist is in love with the novelty of seeking.
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White Power At Boston Globe?
This went out to employees of the Boston Globe:
A few weeks back, we expressed our desire to make changes to the newsroom ethics policy that would allow for participation as an individual in protests or marches that are tied to identity. As we know, more now than ever, having the ability to stand up for or defend one’s own identity and/or very existence is not a political statement. There are not sides to be taken and the fairness of our journalism should not be called into question as a result of our employees engaging in these kinds of demonstrations.
To that end, the company and the Guild have agreed on language in the section of the Ethics Policy referred to as “Participation in Public Life” that expressly grants permission to participate in these kinds of events no matter your role in the newsroom. Here’s the excerpt that addresses this particular issue:
PARTICIPATION IN PUBLIC LIFE
Staff members do not take part in politics, run for office, wear campaign buttons, or display any other sign of political partisanship. While staff members are entitled to register as members of political parties and to vote, they must do nothing to raise questions about their professional neutrality.
We do not, however, deem rallies or marches in support of racial, ethnic, gender or identity equality to be political in nature, and thus staff can participate and make financial contributions to organizations that support similar causes. Reporters should avoid engaging in specific policy prescriptions that are likely to be part of our news coverage.
This change is effective immediately. While some other unrelated aspects of the rest of the ethics policy are not completely revised and are still being worked on between the parties, we are excited to share this progress and thought it was both timely and incredibly important for you all to know about this immediate change. Please do not hesitate to raise any questions to newsroom leadership or to Guild leadership on this change.
Once the rest of the updates to the ethics policy are completed, we will be sure to send a full copy to everyone.
Brian McGrory and Scott Steeves
Brian McGrory is the editor of the Globe. Scott Steeves is the head of its employees’ union.
So, this is interesting. Now, according to the new ethics policy of the Boston Globe, employees are free to march in protests that claim “All Lives Matter,” “White People Are Just As Good As Anybody Else,” “Heterosexuality Is Okay,” and suchlike.
What is “identity equality,” anyway? How can an ethics policy permit reporters to rally for “identity equality” without defining “identity”? Where are the lines? There are many sexual paraphilias — incest, pedophilia, etc. — and those who have them usually say these are immutable parts of their identity. On what grounds would the Globe disallow an employee from giving to and marching with the North American Man-Boy Love Association, which advocates for pedophilia? What if a white copy editor wished to donate money or protest with one of the non-violent white nationalist organizations? On what grounds could the Globe object and still be faithful to this new ethics policy?
We all know perfectly well that the Globe only wishes to approve of its employees participating in identity politics that correspond with socially acceptable progressivism. This dishonest new policy is yet another reason why many people do not trust the media. They are abandoning old-fashioned liberal standards. They’re not even pretending anymore.
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BO$$ Racial Shakedown In Louisville
In Louisville, Kentucky, a black social justice organization with the rather unsubtle name of BO$$ is threatening businesses in the NuLu district with public denunciation if they don’t conform to its demands, including making donations to black organizations. If you want to get a passing rating from these thugs, this is what you have to do:
“Social Justice Health and Wellness Code” = a social credit system for small businesses. If you don’t comply, this is what you get:
You can see a complete list of the demands these grifting bullies presented to the small business owners here. They accuse these shopkeepers and restaurateurs of destroying the black community.
Several protesters confronted a local restaurant operator outside his establishment Thursday after he publicly denounced a list of demands that activists have issued to dozens of businesses in NuLu, a small commercial district in downtown Louisville.
The protesters say business owners in the area have benefited from years of gentrification following the demolition of a public housing complex that displaced many Black families. And they put forth the demands during a demonstration last week, calling on the owners to employ more Black people, purchase more inventory from Black retailers and undergo diversity training.
Some owners have embraced the requests, saying they recognize the area’s history and want to make their businesses more inclusive.
But others, including restaurateur Fernando Martinez, say they take issue with how the demands were presented. Martinez dubbed them “mafia tactics” used to intimidate.
“There comes a time in life that you have to make a stand and you have to really prove your convictions and what you believe in,” Martinez wrote in a public Facebook post. “… All good people need to denounce this. How can you justified (sic) injustice with more injustice?”
Martinez is a Cuban immigrant. Not all NuLu business owners agree with him:
Lauren Justice, co-owner of Nouvelle Bar & Bottle, said she and other NuLu business owners have “a responsibility to admit” that gentrification occurred and to actively participate in increasing diversity in the area.
As a white business owner, she said she thinks the protesters’ demands are legitimate, and she and her business partner “humbly welcome feedback.”
“As owners of Nouvelle, we realize we could and should have been doing more and we are trying to do better,” she said by email. “… We know there’s a lot more work to be done and that a long-term commitment is what it takes to make sustainable change.”
The whole “gentrification” charge is all but impossible to defend against. The part of town known as NuLu was once poor and crime-ridden. There was a concerted effort to bring it back to life with new businesses and residential spaces — and it succeeded massively. But this effort also displaced some poor black people who lived there. Naturally, you cannot imagine that they were happy about it. The BO$$ activists are trying to extort white guilt money from the businesses there who benefited from gentrification.
Nobody ever favors “gentrification,” but most people favor it when it’s called “redevelopment.” I was once a gentrifier. In the mid-2000s, my wife and I bought a restored bungalow in Junius Heights, a “transitional” Old East Dallas neighborhood — meaning it was once a violent, run-down neighborhood, but was now gentrifying. We paid $165,000 for this three-bedroom, 1914 house. The neighborhood was not bad at all, but it was still considered somewhat risky. Let me put it to you like this: sometimes late at night, we could hear gunshots from the poor Hispanic neighborhood not too far away.
During the 1980s and into the 1990s, all those beautiful Arts and Crafts bungalows were falling apart, and the neighborhood was infested with violent crime. Our neighbors were an older working class Latino couple who had been there since the 1980s. They told us that for the longest time, they could not sit on their front porch at night because it was too dangerous, given stray gunshots from rival drug gangs. They were very happy with the gentrification, because it gave them the freedom to be outside, and to walk around the neighborhood.
We put $50,000 into improving the house — money that we lost when we had to sell the house in 2010 when we moved to Philadelphia. The real estate market in Dallas was depressed in the wake of the 2008 crash. We sold the house for exactly what we paid for it. That was our only offer.
Junius Heights took off after the economy recovered. A couple of years ago, we stumbled across our old house on a real estate website. The couple who bought it from us was selling it after owning it for only seven or eight years, an apparently doing nothing to it. The asking price was around $400,000 — which was the going rate for that neighborhood then. On a subsequent trip to Dallas, we drove through the neighborhood, and it looked as if our old Latino neighbors had sold out and moved away. Their house was not in good shape at all, but I bet they got a good price for it. Was that a good or a bad thing? I don’t know where they moved to, but as working class Latinos in a neighborhood that had suddenly become middle class and diverse, but heavily white, they probably felt out of place. On the other hand, maybe the relatively high price their home surely commanded allowed them to buy something nice in a neighborhood they preferred.
Or, maybe they didn’t want to leave, but could no longer afford the property taxes on a home that, despite its condition, was suddenly valued much more than it ever had been. Maybe they were sad to go.
The thing is, what is the alternative to gentrification? Would Dallas have been better off allowing its Arts & Crafts bungalows to fall down rather than see them purchased by middle-class, mostly white people, who had the money and the desire to restore them? Junius Heights is now an official historic district. They’re not making any more Arts & Crafts bungalows. The gentrifiers saved it. Unless you’re going to tell people that because of their race and/or their economic class, they cannot move into a neighborhood, you are going to have gentrification as a result of living in a free society. Unless you forbid people from moving out of a neighborhood when they no longer wish to live there, for whatever reason, you are going to have “white flight,” or “brown flight,” or “black flight” — this, because we live in a free society.
I don’t know anything about the NuLu neighborhood development, so I welcome correction or clarification. My analysis here is based on a general knowledge of how gentrification works. I would like to know, though, if these Louisville activists believe it would have been better for that Louisville district to remain poor and rundown, and its historic buildings left ramshackle. If they believe it would have been better to redevelop the neighborhood while making it possible for its impoverished black residents to have remained there, what would have been the mechanism for achieving that outcome? Where would the money to have renovated and kept up those old buildings have come from?
Again, in my old gentrifying Dallas neighborhood, nobody pushed out the Latino couple. They left either because they could no longer afford the property taxes, or because they received an offer for their house that was too good to pass up. And now, we Drehers couldn’t afford to buy a house there, and if we still lived there, we would be faced with a rising property tax bill too. If property values went up so much that we middle-class white people could no longer afford to pay our taxes on the place, and had to sell, would anyone feel sorry for us for having to move? Should they? Would we be victims of the evil of gentrification, or would this simply be how life goes in a free country?
When it comes to “gentrification” and related issues, this chart tells a hard political truth:
Anyway, the BO$$ shakedown in Louisville has to be resisted. God bless Fernando Martinez, who is standing up for himself and for what’s right, and who, not being an American middle-class educated white person, is not easy to intimidate by appeals to white liberal guilt. I encourage all my Louisville readers — liberals, conservatives, white, black, Latino, Asian, everybody — to patronize his restaurant, La Bodeguita de Mima, to stand with him against this woke racist mafia. All those who refuse to be bullied by bullies deserve our support — and our business.
Besides, Cuban food is delicious. Try the vaca frita.
UPDATE: News from Louisville’s El Kentubano newspaper, which has organized an event to show solidarity with the business:
The Louisville Cuban community and friends of the Louisville Cuban community will be gathering Sun. at 4pm at La Bodeguita De Mima in support of the local immigrant-owned business that has been subject to vandalism & extortion in recent days. On Fri., protesters shut E. Market. The vast majority were friendly, and Bodeguita staff gave out ice and also allowed individuals to use the restaurant’s dumpster and trash cans. Others were more hostile and presented the business with a list of demands. They told Fernando and his partners that they, “better put the letter on the door so your business is not f*cked with.”
The restaurant could not open on Fri. evening because roads were blocked. Management and staff were concerned about safety and did not open Sat. or Sun. 30+ staff members (mostly immigrants) were unable to earn a paycheck.
Co-owner Fernando Martinez, a man who escaped Cuba on a raft, spoke out against intimidation and threats on Facebook.
While most were supportive of Fernando’s comments, others were not. Orders on Facebook were given to “get him”, and a small group mobilized and came to the restaurant yesterday afternoon. More threats were made and some property was destroyed.
Fernando and his partners have always been willing to participate and are known for helping the community, but threats, extortion, and destruction will not bring people closer. They only sow more division.
I hope you can make it Sun. as community members speak out against this behavior.
If I were in Louisville, I would go to show support for this man. Someone who knows him sent to me some of the things that have been said about him and to him on social media. Here’s someone criticizing a defender of the restaurant (remember that Martinez escaped communist Cuba on a raft):
[Placeholder: I posted a social media exchange, but wasn’t clear from the person who sent it to me if that was permissible. I’ve taken it down as I double-check. Hang on…]
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Pink Terror Mailbag.2
A reader writes:
I’m a long time reader, and to be honest I always thought you were a little over the top, although I enjoy your writing and perspective. I no longer think you’re exaggerating the threat we face.I’m happy for you to share anonymized excerpts of this email, but please do not share my name, the specific industry I’m in, or anything else that could be connected to me other than the city. I’ve used  to indicate things I especially don’t want shared. I’m sure I would be fired for sending you this. [Note from Rod: I have put “deleted” inside the bracketed information.]I have a PhD from [deleted] and I’m in a senior role at [deleted] firm in Washington DC; I specialize in our [deleted]. I’ve been highly successful — in 3.5 years with the company I’ve gotten a raise or promotion every 6 months. I’m well respected and I now run my own team. Despite this, I have no doubt if my political beliefs were public I would be fired instantly.When I interviewed with this company, I was asked point blank if I could “put my political beliefs aside” to do unbiased [work in this field], because I had previously worked for a Koch organization. For years I have routinely heard my Roman Catholic faith and my politics (libertarian-GOP) mocked. To be clear, no one knows about my beliefs because they assume everyone is a far leftist. People (including executives) hate-watched the Kavanaugh hearings in the office during the workday; people loudly proclaim their hatred for Trump, Kavanaugh, Barr, etc. The one openly GOP/Trump guy in the office is roundly attacked and mocked daily. These people are so sure everyone agrees with them that many times, they have ranted to me about their hatred of Trump, Kavanaugh, Barr, and even Koch (my former employer), assuming I agree.Even with all that, I spent enough time in higher education to put up with intolerance towards me (and my libertarian side ends up causing me to agree with the left on enough issues to provide cover without lying). I’ve enjoyed the work and the success of the last several years. I didn’t become truly scared until the last couple months. In that time, we’ve been encouraged by our HR executive and other C-level executives to take a free day off to protest, and to donate to BLM and similar radical leftist groups (not even the UNCF, the NAACP or similar). Of course, they have also promoted all the same “anti-racist” stuff you’ve pointed out from Baylor and other orgs recently. Over and over it has been affirmed since May that either you support these specific organizations/principles or you don’t belong at the company.Our HR exec said in a company wide meeting that we have been prioritizing hiring on the basis of race and will continue to do so, and that moving forward, people will be assigned to interview candidates based on the race of the interviewer and interviewee. This is all obviously illegal. Did I mention that my company is more than 50 percent female and is only 55 percent White? So what’s the problem? It’s that we have relatively few Black colleagues (about 10 percent) but many Chinese, Korean, and Indian colleagues. (Note that the logical outcome is that “diversity” means that every organization has slightly more Black members than the population as a whole…not sure the math works out).Our CHRO and CEO pointed out that whole we have special social/activism groups at work for Blacks, Women, LGBTQ, there are likely other groups that could be formed. They are asking for suggestions. Should I suggest Men in [deleted], or Company Republicans? Catholics? Christians? Only if I want to be fired. And remember, even without these clubs, this is a very leftist company that is overwhelmingly welcoming and even biased towards women, LGBT, racial/ethnic minorities, etc. The only people who are unwelcome are White Christians/Republicans. So what are we even trying to “fix”?For the first time in my life, I’m truly scared — for myself and my family, and for the country. For now, I’ll continue to try and keep my head down but I don’t know how long it can last.Thanks for your writing, and for reading this.
I’m a graduate student and a Catholic. This is my second program, as I left voluntarily from my previous graduate program. I was there nearly two years at great cost of wealth and time and I lost it all. Chock full of naivete, I had made the mistake of writing a term paper taking a philosophical position that violated a particular left-wing orthodoxy. I took a position that is not terribly controversial outside of academia, but apparently nuclear inside that particular university. My work was attacked from within the department, based on the supposed intolerability of my position. Though I found some faculty support, the ordeal left me deeply depressed, desperate, and almost suicidal. Were it not for a traditional Catholic fear of rational suicide and some particular attention by my family, there’s an even chance I would have gone through with it. I was so constantly on my guard and paranoid that my health, already fragile, deteriorated. All the jibes, snide comments, put-downs, or disingenuous representations of my points were wrapped in a veneer of professional courtesy and concern. When I finally changed to a different topic to try and save my grade, I just didn’t care anymore. I wrote an even worse paper, failed the class, and was glad to be free of the department. Certainly not my finest hour, by any means.My new university was, at first, a breath of fresh air. I should stop here and mention that I am physically disabled and racially mixed. I should be a winner in the Woke Olympics. But, I’m also Catholic, male, and closeted as a conservative. All this is relevant because no sooner had I started at my new school than I faced a political inquisition in a hallway–an undergraduate took me to task when I merely declined to indicate support for [a left-wing politician]. He did it right there in front of some of my classmates, who were clearly uncomfortable but wisely remained silent.
I’ve also been told that I made a particular point in class “only because you’re a white male,” even though I’m not white. Take these and the sum total of other incidents and combine them with a complete inability to freely express myself politically, theologically or philosophically for fear of repeating my previous experience all over again, and one might begin to understand why I wouldn’t mind the “other guy” getting a taste of this hell. It’s a nightmare, and I’m so sick of it. In my best moments I’m not proud of the part of me that can’t forgive these slights. I know I should. But, in my worst moments I just want…retribution? Poetic justice? Revenge? I don’t even have to administer it; just watch it. It’s that same part of me that was delighted by the emotional angst of the left in 2016…even though I wasn’t at all thrilled that Trump won. Seeing that smug satisfaction and self-righteousness collapse on so many people was so…liberating.There’s another part of me, the part I leave in control, that doesn’t want anyone to have to go through this kind of treatment. It’s truly soul-crushing. No one should have to face it, especially in a free, pluralistic society. I might not really be rising above these slights, so much as I’m afraid of becoming the very kind of person that hurt me, the kind that I really do detest in flesh and blood. In the end, I sympathize entirely with your position on the unsustainability and undesirability of the nation the Cato survey indicates we have. But, I absolutely understand why some highly educated conservatives/Republicans might want to see the other guy punished for political support of Biden, even as they fear punishment themselves.Living in the midst of academia has always done things to people; most academics are odd apples one way or another. That’s why universities keep us away from the real world. But these days it seems like an entirely different ball game. It messes with the head not in a hoary, absent kind of way, but in an oppressive, stifling, numbing kind of way. I’m terrified to write anything at all now, much less let someone else read it. I’ve no idea how I’m going to be able even to speak in class this fall.
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The Global Basilisk
Sometimes I get letters that I don’t have an easy answer for, or a definite reaction to — but that makes me think. This is one:
I’ve been a reader of your blog for a couple of years now. I’ve never commented or written any emails to you before, I generally prefer to keep a pretty low profile. I’m writing in reference to your recent blog post “What’s Really Happening in America?”. I wanted to tell you about some incidents which occurred in my city recently.
In the week or so prior to these incidents, there had been some minor protests, all generally peaceful and nothing out of the ordinary for my city, causing at most some minor inconveniences, but no real destruction or problems. On Friday that changed. Large numbers of masked protestors basically took over the subway system, causing huge traffic jams all throughout the city as all lines were eventually shut down just before rush hour as police and subway staff tried to get the protestors out of the stations and off the lines. The situation descended into chaos as night fell and the rioters clashed with police, threw up barricades in the streets, looted stores all across the city, and committed arson attacks against large portions of the subway system, as well as multiple businesses. I’ve heard reports, although nothing officially confirmed, that there were people in cars and motorcycles traveling between different protest points supplying the rioters with fire accelerants and other tools of destruction.
Sounds familiar, right? However, this sequence of events wasn’t a recent BLM protest in the US, but something that happened starting around October 18th of last year in Santiago, Chile, where I live as an expat, in response to a 30 peso increase in the metro fare (for reference, the exchange rate at the moment is about 775 pesos to 1 dollar).
All of the events followed a similar pattern to what I’ve been seeing in the news reports from the US. What started as a riot over the price of the metro fare in the capital spread in just a day or two to all the cities in the country. There was mass destruction of small businesses and infrastructure, attacks on police and private citizens who opposed the riots, even the clothing and tactics of the rioters is similar. Also similar is the fact that these riots and rioters didn’t (don’t) seem to have a specific, concrete change their pushing for. Some want a new constitution, some want to abolish the police, some say they’re protesting against violence against women, but there’s no spokesperson to say what, specifically, the government can or should do in response. Violent crime has increased dramatically since the riots started. I was attacked on a bus coming home from work one day, and wasn’t able to file a police report against my attacker because a group of rioters started attacking the police station while I was there and the rest of the civilians and I had to be evacuated out the back of the station.
I generally avoid conspiracy theories, and I think of myself as a fairly rational person, but it’s been difficult not to get conspiratorial since the riots started in the USA. Maybe it can be explained by saying this is the natural way riots happen in the time of social media, and I don’t even know who would benefit from orchestrating them, but every time I read the news from the USA or hear something about the riots from friends/ family back home, the deja vu is so intense I get a little more worried and paranoid.
In any case, the riots here led the (conservative) government to agree to a plebiscite to change the constitution. That didn’t satisfy the rioters, and everything was about to start up again when coronavirus hit and everyone entered lockdown. So far things have been quiet, but everyone expects the worst when the lockdown ends…
A week or two ago Angela Nagle wrote a very good piece for Unherd about wokeness coming to Ireland. Excerpts:
Talk to an educated Irish person in a global city today, and you will quickly discover that they hold the twin ideologies of post-Celtic Tiger Ireland: a vague sentimental remnant of the Irish ethno-nationalism of the revolutionary period and the internationalist and multicultural open society values of Google.
Point out that these are contradictory in any way, like mentioning Ireland’s role as an international tax haven or asking why there are so many Irish nationalists living in London, Berlin and San Francisco and so few living in Dublin, and you will be met with defensive anger.
As a former colony, historically unsullied by the sins of slavery and imperialism, Ireland’s national identity has been largely free of the culture of pathological self-hatred found across most of the liberal West today. An uncomplicated sense of national pride has remained the default, even and sometimes especially on the political Left. But all of that is about to change.
“Toppling statues is just the beginning”, ran a recent Irish Times headline, if the goal is “How to make Irish culture less racist.” As self-flagellating stories about the Irish public’s racism are set to now become a daily part of life, Ireland’s elites can breathe a sigh of relief. Any populist pressure they sensed brewing while overseeing a deeply economically unequal society with skyrocketing homelessness, rents and outward youth migration can now be replaced with an imported moral narrative that turns the spotlight around on the reactionary masses who must, in the name of equality, learn to think of themselves as privileged.
While its subservient relationship to the British Empire brought famine and hardship, Ireland’s subservient relationship to an American progressive tech oligarchy brought about the Celtic Tiger and as a consequence we were happy to ignore the truth of the arrangement: that we were simply passing from one form of colony to another. It will now be a second but no less bitter irony that the native Irish working class will soon find themselves in the same position as the British have — despised as reactionary by our own elites and morally and economically blackmailed into accepting their more enlightened values.
Like all doomed traditions, our banal ethno-nationalism has been passively held by the majority while the intellectual and moral foundations that once justified it have been slowly replaced and degraded while nobody was paying attention. When a full confrontation with the liberal internationalism we invited in during the Celtic Tiger years inevitably happens, those foundations will already be gone and we will no longer be able to explain why having any right to a national culture or national sovereignty is anything other than racist and exclusionary.
What does Ireland’s status as a cultural colony have to do with the letter from the reader in Santiago? Maybe nothing. But on a week in which tech CEOs have been grilled by a House antitrust committee, it is hard not to think about the role this technology plays in universalizing certain memes, and activating mobs. I’m not claiming any kind of conspiracy here (though maybe there is one, I dunno), as much as I am pointing out that technology is not neutral, and neither are those who own it and manipulate it. If you haven’t yet read Paul Kingsnorth’s dynamite short story “The Basilisk,” by all means do.
One more thing: the veteran Chicago Tribune columnist John Kass has been demoted at his newspaper for writing a column critical of billionaire left-wing financier George Soros’s donations to leftist political causes. Kass explains what happened. Excerpts:
Last week, with violence spiking around the country, I wrote a column on the growing sense of lawlessness in America’s urban areas.
In response, the Tribune newspaper union, the Chicago Tribune Guild, which I have repeatedly and politely declined to join, wrote an open letter to management defaming me, by falsely accusing me of religious bigotry and fomenting conspiracy theories.
Newspaper management has decided not to engage publicly with the union. So I will.
For right now, let’s deal with facts. My July 22 column was titled “Something grows in the big cities run by Democrats: An overwhelming sense of lawlessness.”
It explored the connections between soft-on-crime prosecutors and increases in violence along with the political donations of left-wing billionaire George Soros, who in several states has funded liberal candidates for prosecutor, including Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx.
Soros’ influence on these races is undeniable and has been widely reported. But in that column, I did not mention Soros’ ethnicity or religion.
You’d think that before wildly accusing someone of fomenting bigoted conspiracy theories, journalists on the union’s executive board would at least take the time to Google the words “Soros,” “funding” and “local prosecutors.”
As recently as February, the Sun Times pointed out roughly $2 million in Soros money flowing to Foxx in her primary election effort against more law-and-order candidates.
In August 2016, Politico outlined Soros’ money supporting local DA races and included the view from opponents and skeptics that if successful, these candidates would make communities “less safe.”
From the Wall Street Journal in November 2016: “Mr. Soros, a major backer of liberal causes, has contributed at least $3.8 million to political action committees supporting candidates for district attorney in Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Missouri, New Mexico, Texas and Wisconsin, according to campaign filings.”
The Huffington Post in May 2018 wrote about contributions from Soros and Super PACs to local prosecutor candidates who were less law-and-order than their opponents.
So, it seems that the general attitude in journalism is that super PACs and dark money are bad, unless of course, they’re operated by wealthy billionaires of the left. Then they’re praised and courted.
Soros, of course, is Jewish, so now Kass has been condemned falsely as an anti-Semite, not because he criticized Soros’s Jewishness, but because he criticized Soros’s politics. This is old hat to Hungarian supporters of Viktor Orban. Soros has given a lot of money to try to turn Hungary, and other Central European nations, into progressive globalists. Back in 2016, I wrote about how Soros’s foundation once partnered with the Obama-era US Agency for International Development to translate and distribute Saul Alinsky’s Rules For Radicals in the country of Macedonia — this, to counter its religiously Orthodox, conservative politicians.
If you criticize Soros, some leftists call you an anti-Semite, and succeed at getting you demoted at your own newspaper. More from Kass’s column:
We come into this world alone and we leave alone. And the most important thing we leave behind isn’t money.
The most important thing we leave is our name.
We leave that to our children.
And I will not soil my name by groveling to anyone in this or any other newsroom.
The larger question is not about me, or the political left that hopes to silence people like me, but about America and its young. Those of us targeted by cancel culture are not only victims. We are examples, as French revolutionaries once said, in order to encourage the others.
Human beings do not wish to see themselves as cowards. They want to see themselves as heroes.
And, as they are shaped and taught to fear even the slightest accusation of thought crime, they will not view themselves as weak for falling in line. Instead they will view themselves as virtuous. And that is the sin of it.
Those who do not behave will be marginalized. But those who self-censor will be praised.
What’s the possible through-line connecting Santiago, Ireland, and Soros’s influence? The hand of globalist oligarchy operationalized through the news media and global information technology vectors. The cultural colonization of the world by Silicon Valley and American-based multinationals and financiers. Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you.
UPDATE: A reader writes:
This email is in response to your post titled The Global Basilisk, and the discussion of the Chilean riots. It reminded me of an author, Martin Gurri, that I discovered late last year. He was a guest on a podcast, and presented what I think is a very reasonable and coherent Unified Theory of Why Everything is Going to Hell all at once. I immediately ordered his book, which was written in 2014, and which gained much more interest after the 2016 election. https://
www.amazon.com/Revolt-Public- Crisis-Authority-Millennium/ dp/1732265143For the first time, someone laid out a plausible explanation of why social media and the internet has so radically changed our lives. Further, it explains why, even in places of relative or increasing prosperity (he uses Chile as an example in later blog posts and interviews), we are seeing rapid and violent explosions of nihilist rage. I cannot recommend him strongly enough, and nothing he’s saying contradicts much of what you’ve been chronicling. For me, it helps explain how the culture war is having such outsize impacts. Yes it’s the culture war, but it’s also different this time because we’re living through an information revolution that has changed everything.I’m not a Vox fan, but this interview from the end of last year with Gurri is an excellent explainer: https://www.vox. com/policy-and-politics/2019/ 12/26/21004797/2010s-review-a- decade-of-revolt-martin-gurriThis YouTube video of a presentation from a few years ago will give you a great feel for him too: https://www.youtube.com/ watch?v=HpfgN3KqL1o&t=112sHe’s written a couple of pieces recently that you may find interesting too:These are dangerous times, and it’s not just because of the soft totalitarianism creeping into every corner of our lives. Reading Gurri’s book helped me understand that there doesn’t have to be any good reason for riots, violence, and unrest. This is incredibly helpful when analyzing or anticipating what’s in store, because we should not be constrained by (too much) history or theory. What’s happening and coming, doesn’t have much precedent, except for Chile, Egypt, etc. (and now us!).
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Trump’s Unfitness For Office
I have been away from the keys all day, for a reason I’ll explain in a subsequent post. But I have to say something about this thing that our president tweeted this morning:
With Universal Mail-In Voting (not Absentee Voting, which is good), 2020 will be the most INACCURATE & FRAUDULENT Election in history. It will be a great embarrassment to the USA. Delay the Election until people can properly, securely and safely vote???
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 30, 2020
He pretty clearly knows he’s going to lose, and lose badly. The US is already greatly embarrassed before the world over our pathetic Covid-19 response. Today we learned that the economy contracted by over nine percent in the second quarter — an annualized rate of over 32 percent. That’s not entirely his fault, but he has done little or nothing to inspire confidence that he’s in charge of this crisis, and is capable of moving the numbers in a more positive direction. Hey, anything can happen between now and November, but it looks very bad for Trump. This morning’s tweet is a sign that he’s surrendering inside.
Of far more importance: think about how dangerous it is for a sitting American president to work to undermine faith in the upcoming election that he’s probably going to lose. It sets the stage for making the country ungovernable. If enough people really believe that the election results were faked (in the case of a Trump loss), the new government would have a terrible time trying to do its job. This really is a selfish act that shows contempt for the democracy he was elected to lead. Trump is unfit for office. He makes me miss the stability and competence of Richard Nixon.
I say that even though, as I had explained in this space many times, I believe a Biden presidency will bring with it a host of very serious problems, the worst of which (from my point of view) will be empowering the entire US Government’s executive branch with militant wokeness. The awfulness of Biden does not, however, negate the awfulness of Trump — and vice versa. I can’t bring myself to judge someone who votes either for Biden or for Trump, considering how rotten the alternative is. Yes, I believe Biden is personally a much better man than Trump. But we’re not just voting for a single man; we are voting for a party and the thousands of appointees throughout the federal government, including the judiciary, that come with his administration.
No matter who is elected in November, the next four years are going to be very bad for the United States, I’m convinced. If you’re a progressive, you might be justified in seeing the possibility of a recovery and backlash to punish all the Deplorables. That might look appealing to you, and encouraging, but let none of us forget that in Spain, between 1931 and the outbreak of civil war in 1936, the nascent Spanish republic destroyed itself through cycles of left-right vengeance when each side gained the political upper hand in Parliament. In our American case, there’s nothing we can do about it but prepare to ride it out. Trump had a phenomenal opportunity, and though he certainly faced hostile and clever enemies (as all presidents do), he blew that opportunity by governing badly. If he were only a tiny bit of the hard man his enemies think he is, wokeness would not be saturating US Attorneys offices in the Department of Justice.
Now we conservatives are left with the vital task of seeing matters as clearly as possible, so we can act with clarity and resolution, instead of on false hope.
Seeing things with clarity requires calling out this alarming presidential tweet as the danger to democracy that it is. We have all had to put up with a lot from Trump, but there is no defense of this. How can anyone see him as fit to hold the office after something like this? This is not just one more crazy thing he’s done. The man is trying to delegitimize the entire constitutional democracy to shield himself from the disgrace of losing re-election. Stephen Calabresi, a law professor who is a co-founder of the conservative Federalist Society, is scandalized by it. He writes:
I have voted Republican in every presidential election since 1980, including voting for Donald Trump in 2016. I wrote op-eds and a law review article protesting what I believe was an unconstitutional investigation by Robert Mueller. I also wrote an op-ed opposing President Trump’s impeachment.
But I am frankly appalled by the president’s recent tweet seeking to postpone the November election. Until recently, I had taken as political hyperbole the Democrats’ assertion that President Trump is a fascist. But this latest tweet is fascistic and is itself grounds for the president’s immediate impeachment again by the House of Representatives and his removal from office by the Senate.
Calabresi goes on:
President Trump needs to be told by every Republican in Congress that he cannot postpone the federal election. Doing so would be illegal, unconstitutional and without precedent in American history. Anyone who says otherwise should never be elected to Congress again.
To be precise, Trump wasn’t calling for a postponement of the election, only floating the question. But that was bad enough. The man is a degenerate political personality. He has the instincts, but not the capability to be an effective authoritarian. What kind of fascist can’t even make the trains run on time? Michael Brendan Dougherty writes today:
As he approaches the end of his first and maybe only term, Trump has changed very little about America’s foreign policy. He’s shifted some troops and materiel from NATO and domestic attitudes toward China have grown more hawkish on his watch. But the latter development was mostly a result of Chinese malfeasance and may have happened without him.
The racists no longer care about Trump. They wanted his campaign to be the beginning of larger and larger escalations of white hostility. But the demographic trajectory of the country is unchanged from before. Trump lost interest in a big beautiful wall, and his erstwhile white-nationalist fans now despise Trump. The religious dreamers have to contend with a Trumpified Supreme Court whose idea of textual interpretation holds out the Lyndon Baines Johnson administration as the champion of transgender rights in employment. They hoped Trump would be a tool of God who made the whole nation Christian; instead, he may very well make the Republican Party more secular.
In retrospect, it seems ridiculous that anyone put their faith in a president as weak as Trump, who can’t even turn infrastructure week into infrastructure projects, to alter the course of history.
MBD says that the crazy QAnon cult is what Trumpism has degenerated into. There’s something way beyond Trump driving QAnon (see here), but the key thing to believe is this: the willingness of people to believe things like QAnon is a flashing red light signaling radical political and cultural instability. Any regular reader of this blog knows that I write a lot about the threats from leftist ideological radicalism, which I believe to be much more dangerous because it has so powerfully captured the US elites and elite institutions. But we do not live in a binary, zero-sum world, in which the extremism of the left drains away extremism from the right, and vice versa. This is a very dangerous time.
Late Monday night, President Trump and his son Donald Jr. retweeted video testimonials about the alleged effectiveness of hydroxychloroquine. The next day, the Daily Beast reported that one of the doctors in the video, Stella Immanuel, has several other rather unusual medical beliefs: that alien DNA is used in medical treatments, that scientists are trying to create a vaccine to make people secular, and that demons are responsible for a wide array of sexual and psychological ailments.
Of course none of those facts would be necessary to see that Immanuel is a quack. The claim that Trump circulated — that Immanuel has successfully treated hundreds of patients with hydroxychloroquine, despite overwhelming evidence that it is ineffective — is farcical on its face. Asked at a press conference yesterday about Immanuel’s bizarre demon-related claims, Trump insisted that he was only endorsing her allegedly successful treatments with hydroxychloroquine.
“I thought she was very impressive,” Trump said. “She said that she’s had tremendous success with hundreds of different patients.” That perhaps her beliefs about aliens and demons discredit her claims about hydroxychloroquine did not seem to occur to him.
I’m old enough to remember being in Washington as a young journalist, and reporting on the crackpottery of Clinton’s US Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders. Man, she seems like Marie Curie compared to Dr. Stella Immanuel. If Trump loses in November, one silver lining as we prepare to endure the woke-ification of the executive branch is that at least conservatives will no longer feel obliged to defend, or at least to refrain from attacking, idiocy like the Stella Immanuel alien-demon-sex theories, and a president who, when faced with bad economic and political news, speculates publicly about suspending the election.
It’s so depressing. I have never been as concerned as I am now about Democratic Party rule, because they’ve never been so radical. But I also haven’t lost so much confidence in a Republican presidency since the end of the George W. Bush administration. Please spare me the shopworn “at least he fights” excuse. If he fights, then he fights like a barroom drunk swinging wildly and ineffectively. As MBD points out, he hasn’t accomplished much. Trump performs the role of a fighting president. His presidency is like professional wrestling: it only looks like combat.
UPDATE: This just out from the prominent conservative radio talker and co-founder of Red State:
The President is single-handedly undermining his re-election with both nutty conspiracies about voting by mail and insane ramblings about delaying the election. A growing portion of his base is frustrated and thinks he's just trying to lose.
— Erick Erickson (@EWErickson) July 30, 2020