Home/Rod Dreher

The Finder-Friendly Pilgrim Church

A pilgrim just arrived at Santiago de Compostela, having walked the ancient pilgrim path across northern Spain (Photo by Romy Arroyo Fernandez/NurPhoto)

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.

leave a comment

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:


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.

Thank you-
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.

leave a comment

BO$$ Racial Shakedown In Louisville

Louisville police arresting a protester in NuLu (WDRB News)

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.

Some local business people are upset by this pink-terror shakedown. Excerpts:

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…]

leave a comment

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.
This is really happening. Conservative readers, do not be gaslighted by liberals and progressives who say we’re exaggerating, or that it’s can’t really be happening because that’s not how people on the left operate. No, not all of the left operates this way. But it’s happening in more and more places. I think it’s important to print these accounts because people who are in the disfavored demographic groups, as well as conservatives, need to be aware of the emerging environment.
I am thinking about the time at a journalism conference over a decade ago that I spoke to the publisher of a major newspaper about something provocative his newspaper had published — something that struck me as gratuitously insulting to social and religious conservatives. He told me that if his newspaper lost readers over it, that would be fine with him, because “we don’t need bigots for readers.” Even though this approach stood to cost his publication readers (this in a time when all newspapers were hemorrhaging readers), he didn’t care. He believed it was morally correct.
Many people have a completely erroneous view of why corporations do what they do. They assume, naively and simplistically, that the balance sheet dictates all their decisions, and that anything a company does must have been done because it was profitable, or believed to have been profitable. This is flat-out wrong. Companies are run by human beings, not algorithms. Never, ever underestimate how important it is to people in charge of companies to be respected among their peers. In the part of the country that publisher’s newspaper served, there are a lot of conservatives. My guess, though, is that among the business elites in his city, taking progressive stands publicly was highly esteemed. I would wager that when that man’s paper published the insulting story, he received congratulations from the people at his country club and in his social circles for having taken a bold stand. This is not just a liberal phenomenon; it’s human nature. We all want to be liked and respected by the people we like and respect.
It is easy for me to believe what the reader above says, because as a  journalist, I have spent most of my career in professional milieux that are overwhelmingly liberal. The epistemic closure in those workplaces has been just about as severe as the reader reports in his workplace. The people who work there can’t imagine that any decent people would disagree with them, and because they like those with whom they work, they assume that everybody shares their views. Once at the New York Post, a colleague told me, “For a right-wing religious nut, you’re pretty cool.” She was paying me a compliment, and I took it as such, but it was true that I was the only openly religious person in the entire newsroom (or at least the only one identified as a religious conservative), and she was confessing, in a veiled way, that she was surprised to discover that religious conservatives could be pleasant, even fun, people.
I get that in past eras, other minorities — racial minorities, religious minorities, atheists, gays, and others — felt excluded and closeted, or semi-closeted, in the workplace. I think that was generally wrong, and I’m grateful that those practices have fallen into disfavor. But it’s not progress when one set of bigotries have been replaced with another set. (And by the way, if you are one of those commenters who is planning to say, “You right-wingers have it coming,” save your effort, because I’m not going to post it.) If I were the manager of this reader’s company, and I knew that the workplace environment was such that some employees felt coerced and afraid because of their minority status, I would be ashamed, and would work to reform the company.
But we know that is never going to happen, because Human Resources departments always move the ethos of companies in one direction: to the left.
Here’s another letter I received from a reader, this one in response to my “Quiet Fury” post, in which I noted results of the new Cato Institute survey finding that a shocking number of people on both the left believe people should be fired for donating to Donald Trump, and a lesser (but still shocking) number on the right believe people should be fired for donating money to Joe Biden. The reader wrote to say that he knows it’s wrong, but based on how he has been treated in academia, he understands the desire to see leftists ground down. The reader’s first letter was very detailed and specific. When I asked him if I could publish it, the reader, whose name I know, said that no, it would get him and others who helped him in trouble. I edited the letter to obscure these identifying details. The reader has approved this version for publication:
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.
The reader gives another anecdote, which I can’t summarize without giving away too many particularities. He goes on:
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.
This is the world progressives in academia have created.

leave a comment

The Global Basilisk

In March, demonstrators clashed with Chilean riot police during a protest against President Sebastian Pinera (Photo by Cristobal Venegas/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

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.

Read it all.

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.

Read it all. 

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/1732265143
For 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-gurri
This 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=112s
He’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!).

leave a comment

Trump’s Unfitness For Office

(Photo by JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images)

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:

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.

One more thing about the embarrassing incompetence of the Trump government:

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:

leave a comment

Cancelling Flannery O’Connor

Flannery O'Connor (still from the film "Flannery")

Did you see this news?:

Thirteen years after naming a new residence hall at Loyola University Maryland in honor of the Catholic author Flannery O’Connor, Jesuit Father Brian Linnane, the university’s president, removed the writer’s name from the building.

The structure will now be known as “Thea Bowman Hall,” in honor of the first African American member of the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration.

Bowman, a Mississippi native, was a tireless advocate for greater leadership roles for Blacks in the Catholic Church and for incorporating African American culture and spiritual traditions in Catholic worship in the latter half of the 20th century. Her sainthood cause is under consideration in Rome.

Jesuits, man.

You might find this hard to believe, but once upon a time, the Jesuits had a reputation for being the most intellectual of the Catholic Church’s orders.

A reader sent me this letter going around academic circles:

Dear Friends,
I hope this finds you well. Please forgive this group email, but I wanted to communicate as quickly as possible about this time-sensitive issue.
As you may have heard, the president of Loyola University Maryland has decided to remove Flannery O’Connor’s name from one of its buildings on campus.  The impetus behind the initiative was Paul Elie’s article on O’Connor and race that appeared in the June 22nd NEW YORKER.  (I have a lot to say about that article, but not in this space.)   A Loyola  student read the piece, contacted me, since my name and a “review” of my new book (RADICAL AMBIVALENCE: RACE IN FLANNERY O’CONNOR) appears in the article, and asked if I would help her with the process.  I was, as you might imagine, horrified, and advised her not to go ahead with her petition, but she felt very strongly about the issue and, obviously, won over the president.
I, along with a group of O’Connor scholars, professors, and writers, have drafted and are circulating a letter of protest to the president. Among our 70 plus signatories thus far are Alice Walker, Richard Rodriguez, Mary Gordon, and an impressive gathering of distinguished O’Connor scholars and critics.  The letter appears below.  If you would like to add your name to the list of signatories, we would greatly appreciate your support. Also, if there are other people you might like to pass this along to, please feel free–or, if you prefer, please send their names to me.
Thanks for your consideration & prompt attention to this time-sensitive matter. Not to be too dramatic, I feel as if we are poised at a crisis point.  Cancelling confederate generals and taking down civil war monuments is a very different matter from cancelling writers, thinkers, and artists, none of whom were ever presumed to be saints or paragons of conventional virtue.  This is antithetical to university culture and life. Few, if any, of the great writers of the past can survive the purity test (which is a Puritanical rather than a Catholic impulse). If a Catholic Jesuit university effectively “cancels” Flannery O’Connor, why keep Sophocles, Dante, Shakespeare, Dostoyevski and other racist/anti-semitic/misogynist writers?  No one will be left standing.
Cheers & Onward,
P.S.  I realize this letter may not reflect the perspective of each person I have included in this email. Please feel free to send a letter of your own devising to President Linnane, if you prefer. In fact, the more letters he receives, the better. Richard Rodriguez, for instance, is signing on and, in addition, is sending his own–others have indicated they intend to do the same.
Here are the president’s email addresses:  [email protected]edu  & [email protected].
Angela Alaimo O’Donnell, Ph.D.
Associate Director
The Francis and Ann Curran Center for American Catholic Studies
Fordham University
That’s a good letter, and deserves wide support.

Here’s a link to the Paul Elie piece that provoked this cancellation. Elie writes that O’Connor — a rural Georgia white woman born in 1925 — had a “habit of racial bigotry.” Excerpts:

Those letters and postcards she sent home from the North in 1943 were made available to scholars only in 2014, and they show O’Connor as a bigoted young woman. In Massachusetts, she was disturbed by the presence of an African-American student in her cousin’s class; in Manhattan, she sat between her two cousins on the subway lest she have to sit next to people of color. The sight of white students and black students at Columbia sitting side by side and using the same rest rooms repulsed her.

It’s not fair to judge a writer by her juvenilia. But, as she developed into a keenly self-aware writer, the habit of bigotry persisted in her letters—in jokes, asides, and a steady use of the word “nigger.” For half a century, the particulars have been held close by executors, smoothed over by editors, and justified by exegetes, as if to save O’Connor from herself. Unlike, say, the struggle over Philip Larkin, whose coarse, chauvinistic letters are at odds with his lapidary poetry, it’s not about protecting the work from the author; it’s about protecting an author who is now as beloved as her stories.


After revising “Revelation” in early 1964, O’Connor wrote several letters to Maryat Lee. Many scholars maintain that their letters (often signed with nicknames) are a comic performance, with Lee playing the over-the-top liberal and O’Connor the dug-in gradualist, but O’Connor’s most significant remarks on race in her letters to Lee are plainly sincere. On May 3, 1964—as Richard Russell, Democrat of Georgia, led a filibuster in the Senate to block the Civil Rights Act—O’Connor set out her position in a passage now published for the first time: “You know, I’m an integrationist by principle & a segregationist by taste anyway. I don’t like negroes. They all give me a pain and the more of them I see, the less and less I like them. Particularly the new kind.” Two weeks after that, she told Lee of her aversion to the “philosophizing prophesying pontificating kind.” Ravaged by lupus, she wrote Lee a note to say that she was checking in to the hospital, signing it “Mrs. Turpin.” She died at home ten weeks later.

Those remarks show a view clearly maintained and growing more intense as time went on. They were objectionable when O’Connor made them. And yet—the argument goes—they’re just remarks, made in chatty letters by an author in extremis. They’re expressive but not representative. Her “public work” (as the scholar Ralph C. Wood calls it) is more complex, and its significance for us lies in its artfully mixed messages, for on race none of us is without sin and in a position to cast a stone.

That argument, however, runs counter to history and to O’Connor’s place in it. It sets up a false equivalence between the “segregationist by taste” and those brutally oppressed by segregation. And it draws a neat line between O’Connor’s fiction and her other writing where race is involved, even though the long effort to move her from the margins to the center has proceeded as if that line weren’t there. Those remarks don’t belong to the past, or to the South, or to literary ephemera. They belong to the author’s body of work; they help show us who she was.

Read it all.

I think Elie makes a fair criticism. I love O’Connor, and hate that there was any flaw in her character, but she was a woman of her time and place. It is breathtakingly anti-intellectual, and anti-art, to believe that this character flaw negates her monumental literary achievements. There is no American Catholic fiction writer greater than Flannery O’Connor, and there the Loyola University of Maryland, a nominally Catholic institution, is going to shit on her because she held ugly opinions that were overwhelmingly common in mid-century rural Georgia. As others have pointed out, O’Connor’s work — especially the story “Revelation” — shows an artistic conscience struggling with her sinful nature. Ruby Turpin is the villain of that story. That O’Connor saw some of herself in that villain only makes her human, and adds to the moral and spiritual drama of her life. Of all O’Connor’s characters, the two I struggle against most in myself is Asbury (“The Enduring Chill”) and Mrs. Turpin — not because of her racism, but because of her pride. “Revelation” is a stunning rebuke of pride, and the pride that undergirded the racism of people like Ruby Turpin. One can learn more about what it means to be a Christian — and a Christian under judgment — by reading one story of Flannery O’Connor’s than by reading a bookshelf full of tepid politically corrupt work by writers who never give evidence of having had a sinful thought, or an actual heartbeat.

To live in the South — or at least to have grown up in the South in my generation — is to live with the awareness that most of the older people you know have a great blindness on the subject of race. This is a moral failing that cannot be separated entirely from the goodness in their hearts. Nor, though, can what is good and even great in them be separated from what is sinful and unworthy. This is true of every man and woman who walks this earth, but you can see it so vividly in the South. What a terrible thing this is, what these Philistines are doing to O’Connor. As Angela Alaimo O’Donnell rightly says, if Flannery O’Connor, despite her artistic greatness, gets canceled, who can possibly stand?

One big reason these Jacobins, especially the young ones so full of savage righteousness, keep winning is that older people who ought to know better — like the president of Loyola of Maryland — keep surrendering to the mob.

A university — even a Catholic university — is not a seminary. Flannery O’Connor was chosen for this honor not because she is a saint, but because she was a peerless American Catholic writer of fiction. Great art comes from suffering and struggle, including struggle against one’s own sinful nature. O’Connor herself, in her own lifetime, had to contend with people who thought it was wrong for a nice Catholic woman like her to write stories that had such violence in them. Those were ordinary pew-sitters; you can’t really be surprised by that. What is surprising, indeed shocking, is that now educated Catholic opinion, at least at Loyola of Maryland, now shares the same philistinism as the 1950s laity.

This is a sign to high school students  about whether or not Loyola of Maryland is a hospitable community to free thought and scholarship.

UPDATE: A reader writes:

 I am a long-time reader of your blog and books. I have long believed you to be a Jeremiah-type who warns  those with ears to hear. My eyes have been opened to many things because of your blog. Having said that, I must take exception to your constant willingness to excuse the ugliness of white Southerner’s behavior towards blacks. Let me narrow the focus to Christian or Bible-believing whites. Since the Bible and Holy Spirit were available to them then, as now, how can blindness be honestly claimed as you did in the Flannery O’Connor article? Scripture, specifically, 1 John 4 speaks of the expectation of Christian behavior toward others; Verses: 19-21 lay things out with ZERO POSSIBILITY of any other way:

               19 We love because he first loved us.20 Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar.For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.21 And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.

In other words, if we say we love God, then we cannot act in hatred toward our fellow man or we are liars and Revelation states that liars end up in the Lake of Fire. My point is that you are too quick to excuse the behavior of Southerners by calling it blindness. Please at least consider that it was not, in fact, blindness, but rather, complete and willful rebellion to God, to whom we will give account.  Furthermore, God has always given people courage to go against the prevailing attitudes of the day in obedience to His Word.


I responded to the reader:

[Name], I’m not excusing O’Connor’s views. I believe they were sinful. Furthermore, I believe that she knew they were sinful, and that her story “Revelation” is her acknowledgement of that. She struggled within herself, it seems to me.

I grew up in the Deep South, as you know — O’Connor’s world was the first time I had ever encountered in fiction people who were recognizable to me. You could not separate the good from the evil in most white folks in my town. When I was a young adult, and came to understand the evil of racism, I judged all the whites older than me harshly for their sin.

Then, around 2012, after I had moved back to my hometown, I learned of what was almost a white riot on the courthouse lawn, right in my own town, over a black man trying to register to vote. This was in 1963, four years before I was born. I had never heard of it. People in my town just never, ever talked about this stuff — and I can imagine why; they must have been ashamed of it.

I had to face the fact that a lot of the men I grew up there admiring were no doubt in that mob that day, screaming at the black pastor. But here’s the thing: I had to recognize that had I been born a generation earlier in that town, I would either have been with them, or at the very least would not have found the courage to condemn them. My mother and my late father were born in 1943 and 1934, respectively. They grew up in that town. Neither was very religious, but had they gone to church, they never would have heard a word from the local white churches condemning the evil of racism. Television wasn’t invented then, of course, and most people that far out in the country didn’t take the Baton Rouge newspaper — which, in any case, wouldn’t have challenged the racist order. There was radio, but neither would it have challenged the racist order.
Where would my mom and dad’s generation, and my grandparents’ generation, have received an alternative narrative to white supremacy? Exactly nowhere. They were totally acculturated to it and by it, and not even the white churches took a stand. White supremacy was completely normal. All the institutions and social structures of that world told white people living within them that evil — the evil of racism — was good. Just part of the natural order of things. Had I been of that generation, I would have probably been standing there on the courthouse lawn with the mob, yelling for the head of that black pastor. Had I been a Jew in Jerusalem, A.D. 33, I would have been in the crowd shouting, “Crucify him!”
I’m old enough to have received some of that myself. My generation was the first in our town to go through totally integrated public schools. I remember the strangeness of being around black people, as a child. My town was half black, and you saw black folks everywhere, but there was something different about going to school with them. They seemed like aliens to me. There was a head lice outbreak in my elementary school, and I recall on the playground, us frightened white kids assuming that the bugs must have come to us through the black kids. It had to be true — they were dirty, because they were black. Then some kid said (falsely) that their mama told them black people can’t get head lice, on account of the texture of their hair, and I recall the rest of us — third graders — being crestfallen at the injustice of this.
Crazy, right? I think so. Here’s the thing: I cannot ever recall either of my parents instructing me in this malignant point of view. I would be surprised if anybody’s parents did. Yet there we were, believing it. We had absorbed it from the ambient culture. Mind you, we were only six years into integrated schools by then, and none of us kids, white or black, had any real clue about the history of our town, our part of the world, our country. Get this: the only vector for teaching that racism was wrong was television. That’s it! I can remember having real cognitive dissonance as a child (I watched a lot of TV), getting the message that racial discrimination was evil, but seeing so much racial bias built into the way we white people approached the world. I’m trying to think if I ever asked my folks about it, but I probably didn’t. It was just one of those mysteries of life. It did not occur to me to question any of it until I became a teenager, and started learning history on my own.
Reading Flannery O’Connor in high school (eleventh grade) was part of my moral education. “Revelation” was exactly that for me. I well remember first encountering Mrs. Turpin in the doctor’s waiting room, sorting out the world among good people and bad people, with black people on the bottom. I could have met someone like her in Dr. Gould’s waiting room in my hometown as a child. And the black farm workers who spoke to her with false flattery — I had heard black people talking to white people many times in the same language. Were they not sincere after all? No, they probably weren’t. But now I understood better why they had to be insincere: as a means of protecting themselves from white violence. I also recognized in myself, and a lot of people I knew, Mrs. Turpin’s prideful judgment towards white people who weren’t as respectable as she believed herself to be.
If I ever get around to writing fiction, and write from the heart of my own experience, I will have to confront that pride within my own heart. It doesn’t manifest itself in the same way it did in Ruby Turpin, or the men and women among whom I grew up. But it’s there. I am much more likely to be the kind of person who thinks, in a self-satisfied way, “I am glad I am not like those trashy white people who hate blacks.” What I should be thinking is, “If I do not hate black people, it is only because of the work of redemption and sanctification that Christ has done within me. Lord, have mercy.”

But really, there is no end to our repentance. Nobody can be formed in the culture I was without having been deformed by it, in a way that requires constant vigilance and repentance. On the other hand, I was given so many gifts by that same culture, a raising that taught me to be more loving and humane. That this gentling way of life came with a terrible way of life regarding our black brothers and sisters is our tragedy, and even a paradox. If I wanted to cut the good from the evil out of my inheritance, I might as well slice off parts of my own body. Remember the immortal insight of Solzhenitsyn’s:“The line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either — but right through every human heart — and through all human hearts. This line shifts. Inside us, it oscillates with the years. And even within hearts overwhelmed by evil, one small bridgehead of good is retained.”

One reason why I hate so much of this “antiracism” movement and activism is that it’s built on a false image of humanity’s capacity for sin. It denies that black people, as human beings, are just as capable of sin as the rest of us. Give them the kind of power that whites held for so long, and they will use it sinfully, precisely because they are human. The black man may not struggle with the sin of racism per se, but he might struggle with the sin of hating his white neighbor over the cruelty whites committed against blacks for so long, or possibly the privileges whites today have accrued because of that unjust social order. He might even be tempted to avoid looking into his own heart, and assessing his own life, and taking responsibility for his own failures, finding it easier to blame the white man for all his suffering. I assure you that plenty of poor and working-class white people over the generations have found in black people convenient scapegoats in this way. You can meet white people like that in the stories of Flannery O’Connor.

I mentioned earlier that I see myself in the character of Asbury, from O’Connor’s story “The Enduring Chill.” Asbury is an educated young intellectual who has to live back on the farm with his mother (note well that O’Connor lived on a farm with her mother). He looks down on his mother for her ignorance, especially her racism. What we see in Asbury, though, is a man who is full of pride and contempt — and that same pride and contempt leads him to a bad place. None of this is to vindicate his mother’s racism, heaven knows, but rather it is to show that Asbury thought himself so much better than his simple country mother because he did not have the racism that she did. Or didn’t he? He valorized the black farm workers, and saw them not as men in their own right, but rather as screens onto which he could project his spite for his mother. And this gets him into trouble.

Asbury is me at my worst. Asbury is liberal antiracists at their worst. It is impossible to read this story, knowing that O’Connor was an educated young woman living at home with her mother Regina, who drove her crazy sometimes, without seeing it as O’Connor’s judgment on her own arrogance.

Is it so difficult for you to understand the complexity of the human heart, [Reader]? My ancient Aunt Hilda — she was the aunt of my grandmother — was still alive when I was a boy. She was born in 1893, in our settlement in the countryside. Her father, Columbus, had been a Civil War soldier. An amazing woman! She and her sister Lois were two of the most cosmopolitan people I ever knew. They served as Red Cross nurses during the last year of World War I, in France. Hilda was on the Champs-Elysees when the armistice was announced. They filled me with these stories in their little cabin in an orchard when I was a boy.

Hilda had been a social worker in her career. When I was a kid, there was a poor black family living in a shack across the country road from us (Hilda and Lois lived nearby). Hilda was ardent and indomitable, what you would call today a social justice warrior. She was an Episcopalian who also was into palm reading. She decided that that family needed welfare, so she helped them commit welfare fraud. My father discovered this because as the chief public health officer in the parish, he shared offices with the welfare bureaucracy. It drove my dad crazy, because the man in that shack, the shiftless son of one of the old sisters who lived there, would not hold a job (my father tried to get him one), and stole from us at night. I can remember working out in the yard as a little kid, and seeing Wilbur, this guy, laying on his front porch across the road with his head hanging off, whiling the days away doing nothing, living off of the charity Aunt Hilda helped him get by defrauding the government.

Hilda died before I was old enough to understand any of this. I can well imagine that she thought that what had been done to black people by the unjust social order justified this relatively minor crime. But you could not tell Hilda what to do. She always knew better, and was completely blind to her own faults, which were many. She respected intelligence and cosmopolitanism, not character — and this proved to be her undoing. It’s a long story, one worthy of Flannery O’Connor. I bring her up to say that even though Hilda was willing to break the law to help a black family, she was not free of racism either. She and her sister — again, women born in the last decade of the 19th century, to a Civil War veteran and his wife — referred to black people as “darkies,” and sometimes “colored people.” Darkies — that was the polite word when they were young! To say “nigger” was a mark of unsophistication, of trashiness. My God, Aunt Hilda walked straight out of an O’Connor story.

Anyway, look: by our measure today, I’m sure Aunt Hilda was a racist. But how fair is it to judge her by our standards? I’d suppose that she was the only white woman in all of West Feliciana Parish to be willing to break welfare law to help a poor black family. Does that count for nothing? And yet, she was an arrogant woman whose arrogance, like Asbury’s, proved to be her Achilles heel later in life. What’s more, it would have been impossible for a white woman of her generation to have entirely escaped racial prejudice. Don’t you see how complex the human heart is? I watched that drama play out with my own eyes, as a boy. I had no idea what a gift it was.

Look, I’m going on too long about all this. I would say to you, [Reader], that reading O’Connor might help you to understand how you yourself act in hatred of your fellow man in ways that are hidden to you now. Original sin infects everything we touch.  Flannery O’Connor knew she was under God’s judgment, as all of us are. She judged herself. But she also knew that she was under God’s mercy, as all of us who claim it are.

One Flannery O’Connor — a true artist who knew the human heart, and who knew the refining fire of God’s mercy — is worth ten thousand moralists for whom Goodness and Evil are simple, easy, and abstract. We are all blind, [Reader], every one of us — blinded by our families, blinded by our cultures, blinded by time and place, blinded by the human condition. None of us can escape it. It takes a lot of repentance to know how little you really know about yourself. It takes a mighty surrender to grace to gain the ability to see ourselves in the mirror just a little less darkly than we otherwise would. The journey through life is a journey into regaining our sight. Artists like Flannery O’Connor bring the light, though it may come cloaked in superficial darkness.

Does your conscience bother you? If not, why not? What are you not seeing that God sees? What are you not seeing that others around you see, but will not tell you?

leave a comment

From The Pink Terror Mailbag


Yesterday I received and blogged on an e-mail from a reader who works in a US Attorney’s Office in a red (conservative) state. The reader’s boss is a Republican appointee. The Department of Justice is headed by a conservative Attorney General, and appointee of a Republican president (Trump). And yet, the ideology of left-wing racial wokeness saturates the ethos of the office. I blogged the reader’s story here, and asked readers to consider what it means that government lawyers whose job it is to make criminal cases are having their ideas about justice, regarding race, formed by critical race theory? That is, they are being taught that “justice” is not what happens to individuals, as classical liberal justice theory holds, but rather the outcomes for social groups. This is the basis for what is called “critical legal studies.”  If these ideas gain a foothold in our justice system — especially among Department of Justice Lawyers — then they will work a revolution in the pursuit of justice in this society.

Many of you know that I believe that a “soft totalitarianism” is coming quickly to us, and that the basis of my forthcoming book Live Not By Lies is both an argument for this claim, and advice on resisting it from those who were dissidents under Soviet power. Here is a quote from the book:

[I]n 1918, Lenin unleashed the Red Terror, a campaign of annihilation against those who resisted Bolshevik power. Martin Latsis, head of the secret police in Ukraine, instructed his agents as follows:

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

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

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

The “red” in “Red Terror” refers to the Bolsheviks, also known as “reds”. But it can also refer to the bloodshed unleashed by the Red Terror, under “hard” Soviet totalitarianism.

I call what’s being done here, and will expand, the “Pink Terror” — “pink” because it refers to the softness of the totalitarianism today’s left is imposing. There will not be executions. No one will be sent to the gulag. But it will be totalitarianism, in that there will be only one permitted way to think and speak about things, and it will be based largely on a Marxist concept of justice. All you need to know is to which race (or class, gender, or religion) to which a person belongs to know what is justice in their case. Dissent will not be tolerated, as dissent is an expression of privilege, which must be eliminated for society to be just.

Moreover, this is totalitarian because every aspect of life will be subject to monitoring and judgment by the pink commissars. Again, blood will not be shed — but jobs and livelihoods will be lost, free speech and thought will be curtailed, even eliminated, and dissidents will be turned into pariahs.

One distinctive aspect of our present and coming soft totalitarianism is that it is not being imposed (at this point) by the State — a significant difference from the old, hard totalitarianism. Rather, it is coming through private institutions and corporations. The State does not need to impose these orthodoxies; institutions of civil society and private business are doing it on their own.

Since publishing that letter from a DOJ employee yesterday, people have been writing to me about the Pink Terror in their workplaces. I am guarding their privacy, but you need to know what’s there, and what is almost certainly coming to your workplace — and the workplace into which your children will be entering.

A reader writes:

It is not just the Department of Justice that has a progressive diversity and tolerance campaign. I work for the U.S. Department of [deleted]. In 2015, back when Barack Obama was president, I attended a multi-day diversity workshop. As a Christian, I have the perspective that all people are created in the image of God, and therefore have inherent value and worth. This view of humanity provides a strong foundation for tearing down the evils of racism and discrimination, as well as for promoting human dignity and rights. There was actually a lot of good material presented at the conference, and overall I benefited from it, at least until the final day.

The final session was about LGBTQ+, and even in this there were things I could agree with. I work for a government office, not for a church. I would do my best to not discriminate against LGBTQs in my office, and would speak up if they are mistreated. To most LGBTQ+ activists and their progressive allies, however, the mere fact that I disagree with them about sexual ethics would make me guilty of making LGBTQs feel uncomfortable or even fearful, and because of this, my Christian view of sexuality makes for a hostile work environment. This was made rather clear.

The session was led by the head of the Diversity and Inclusion program for the entire Department of [deleted]. Despite all the talk about diversity in the previous sessions, it was very clear that sexual ethics was an area where there is no room for tolerance of different viewpoints. In a Q&A time, I asked this official what he thought about Brenden Eich being forced out as CEO of Mozilla (Mozilla was inundated with progressive threats because Eich had donated to pro-family causes, leading quickly to Eich’s forced resignation), and if there would be any protection in the federal workplace for people who held to traditional sexual ethics. The official answered that he thought the ousting of Eich was entirely appropriate, and that he personally believed that any supervisor or manager in the Department of [deleted] who believed that homosexual behavior is sinful should either keep it a complete secret or lose their position. We had a little more dialog, but it was clear that I was now viewed by the official as a bigot, and that the official’s view of freedom of religion was not a whole lot different than “You have the right to remain silent.”

There were about thirty attendees at this training event, most of them mid-level employees such as section and division chiefs. One of them looked at me during the discussion and said, “Why are some people so filled with hate?” After this session, one person gave me a private thumbs up, and another came up to me and thanked me for having the courage to speak up. Sometimes I don’t know if I was courageous to speak up, or careless. I hadn’t really followed the politics of the sexual revolution up to this point, but this unpleasant dialog opened up my eyes to what is going on in the Diversity and Inclusion movement. It became clearer to me that in progressive Newspeak, tolerance requires intolerance, inclusion requires exclusion, non-discrimination requires discrimination, love means hate, and hate means love.

Donald Trump is now president of the United States, and his appointee heads the Department I work for, but nothing much has changed. For the most part, the same people run the Civil Rights, Diversity, and EEO offices as back when Obama was president, including the official I had a bit of a run in with. What will happen to religious freedom in the federal workplace, including the freedom to dissent from the ethics of the sexual revolution, when the increasingly radical progressives are in control again? The Trump administration has done little or nothing to safeguard diversity of beliefs about sexual ethics, but I suppose that is better than the progressive alternative.

A second reader writes:

I work for a large tech consulting firm. You wouldn’t have heard of us, but you definitely would have heard of our clients. Some of the biggest in their respective industries. When I first started, it was essentially a pure meritocracy. We all work remotely, and were placed based on our skills. That feels like decades ago.

Following an incident where a coworker was fired after an anonymous tip was sent in that he had made light of the George Floyd incident (not racist in any sense, but dark humor), the company has sent out new policies that they will be implementing, including an anonymous form that you can use to bring “bias incidents” to the attention of HR (again, including outside of work). Also the plan is to refocus the company not just on making a profit, or serving our clients, but on increasing diversity, even at the expense of quality.

Stop right there. Hannah Arendt said that one sign that a society is ripe for totalitarianism is when people within it value loyalty over competence and expertise. We have certainly seen that principle at work in the Trump administration, but there is a remedy for that: the people can vote him out. What is the remedy for a business that places loyalty to diversity ideology over competence and expertise? I suppose the marketplace will decide, as customers will cease to purchase goods and services from a company that provides second-rate product. But that could take a long time, and besides, what if mediocrity for diversity’s sake becomes the social and commercial norm?

Back to the reader’s email:

I know this is just more evidence for the pile, but if you choose to print any of this my name can’t be attached. Any dissent or even skepticism is treated as racism, and is dealt with accordingly.

Here is the memo they sent out (apologies for the formatting, it’s copied from our General Announcements Slack channel, where things like this go) :

Dear Colleagues,

We wanted to provide a follow-up to the Safe Space Solutions call we conducted on July 10th. Below you will find a summarized list of resources that were shared during the call (including some resources that were identified separately), as well as an overview of the suggestions that were made and topics to explore. If you made a suggestion or shared a resource that isn’t captured below, please reach out to me directly (and apologies!).
Please note that while we are committed to exploring all of the ideas/solutions below, we may not be able to implement every single suggestion. Additionally, we want to share that we already have efforts underway for many of the ideas below.

Resources: [Note from Rod: All of these are hyperlinked, but the link did not reproduce here on the blog]

5 Examples of Microaggressions in the Workplace
Let’s Talk About Racial Microaggressions In The Workplace
When and How to Respond to Microaggressions
What is a microaggression? 14 things people think are fine to say at work — but are actually racist, sexist, or offensive
Microaggressions Workshop
1619, a Podcast from the NYtimes
CBS Article on Redlining
Letter From A Birmingham Jail, by Martin Luther King, Jr.
How to be an Antirascist [sic] by Ibram X. Kendi
National Center for Woman & Informational Technology (NCWIT) CWIT Resources Tab
NCWIT: Videos that Spark Discussion (Race, Gender, Identity)
NCWIT: Colorism Bias in the Tech Industry

Note: the resources above have been added to the Diversity and Inclusion section of the Knowledge Repository.
Potential Solutions/Areas to Explore (bolded bullet points are areas where efforts are already underway)

  • Formal training programs on microaggressions, emotional resilience, anti-bias, and the historical origins of racism.
  • Guidance on de-escalation and when and how to intervene on Slack.
  • Conducting lunch-and-learn presentations focusing on black history.
  • Create a company policy that outlines when and how to engage police.
  • Anonymous reporting system/tools.
  • Monthly luncheons with the executives and employees to share stories and get to know one another.
  • More outreach into our local communities / increasing the amount of women and people of color in our training cycles.
  • Targeting minority churches, groups, programs, neighborhoods, etc. about [company name]’s program.
  • Explore alternative ways to market/advertise [company name], specifically targeting underrepresented groups/communities.
  • Explore [program], which goes into schools to provide presentations on college to minority schools.
  • Lowering some of the barriers to take the assessment test and complete the training program
  • Providing onsite computers in a neighborhood for individuals to take the test
  • Partnering with groups to provide drop off childcare.
  • “Mobile screening centers”
  • Additional support to individuals in the training cycle.
  • Metrics on areas such as demographics of individuals that take the screening, days without a racist incident, and other accountability reports.
  • Consider pivoting corporate strategy focus to be first and foremost directly aimed at solving the diversity gap in tech.

We want to send a big thank you to those that attended the call and shared their thoughts and suggestions. We will be following up periodically with updates on decisions made and actions we have taken regarding the ideas above.

In the meantime, if you have any additional ideas or suggestions, you can reach out directly to me, or share them on our #social-diversity-and-inclusion Slack channel.

Keep in mind that in this reader’s company, employees are permitted to report “bias incidents” that occur outside of work. You will never, ever be able to escape the Eye of Sauron, unless you refuse to socialize with your colleagues, and refuse to use social media (because who can ever be sure what will strike someone as a “bias incident”?). This program, in fact, incentivizes the most poisonous kind of people in a workplace to bully and manipulate others.

I have a letter from a third reader, a scientist — and this is the most shocking of all. I am negotiating with him about a version of his e-mail that I can publish without compromising him. Keep checking back. If you have a story about Pink Terror in your workplace, e-mail me at rod — at — amconmag — dot — com. I will protect your identity, but you should assume that I will publish your e-mail (without identifying you) unless you instruct otherwise. Please make clear which parts should not be made public.

I encourage you to pre-order Live Not By Lies. There is lots of good information in the book about practical things that we can do to build a resistance. The most important thing right now is to start forming resistance cells, like Father Tomislav Kolakovic did in pre-communist Slovakia. Lots of people, including bishops, thought he was alarmist, but he understood communism better than they did, and he knew what was coming. He was right.

UPDATE: A scientist writes:

Your recent article “The Pink Terror” on wokeism and the DOJ inspired me to write to you to discuss how the woke are also infiltrating top research organizations outside academia and my perspective on it as a scientist. I have been a very long-time reader of yours. I like that you and I do not always agree on issues, a healthy thing.

Through hard work, and dare I say “merit,” I have built myself a respectable career doing research at the highest levels. I fully support diversity in the workplace, especially in STEM. Different perspectives on teams lead to better results – something I believe with all my heart. Still, I want to share with you an experience I had with wokeism.

I attended a meeting on diversity, part of a series of such meetings. These are not required, but management notices who attends. The presenter, the manager of the lab’s office of inclusion and diversity, discussed hiring. She began with resumes and traditional applicants having “too much privilege.” (Referring to education, accomplishments, et al.). Many resumes needed to be discarded on the basis of this privilege to better seek out “diverse” applicants. These are candidates for scientist positions to work on very high level projects. Later in the meeting, she presented a slide titled “racial makeup of [the lab]”. It was a pie chart showing the current racial breakdown of the lab’s work force. However, only one portion of the chart was labeled: “white”.  She went on to discuss how this was the greatest problem the lab was facing. Not our research, but the amount of white people at the lab.

I made the mistake of asking the following two questions: “How do you want that pie chart to look?” and “How can you achieve that goal without systematically hiring according to skin color?” Within 2 weeks of the meeting I was informed two of my projects (of three) no longer could support me financially. Both were perpetually funded. Down to 1/3 funding and unable to find coworkers or departments willing to add me to new projects, I was unemployed within 4 months.

An ethics training video we were encouraged to watch:


A link to books we were encouraged to read:


Thank you for your hard work. Please continue your efforts.

I was able to have a conversation with this scientist, about things he didn’t feel comfortable saying. This situation is much more significant to the common good than it may seem.

UPDATE.4: A reader who works for a government public works agency writes (I’ve edited this slightly at the reader’s request to make it hard to identify the reader):

I work for [specific agency], which you’d think would be among the last places to be woke. But that’s not the case — at least not anymore.
When I first came on it was a place where the emphasis was on [practical issues, e.g., engineering, materials, planning]. But I started seeing a turn not long ago that upper management wanted the department to be more “woke.” They brought in my division, which is made up of [technicians, scientists, engineers, etc.], to talk about inclusion and sensitivity. It was very awkward since we are mostly white. Many of us were disturbed by what was being pushed at the training, and discussed amongst ourselves what this could mean, but didn’t think much about it.
Fast forward to this spring when our department rolled out its first-ever monthlong diversity celebration, without seeming to care that over half the workforce is working from home, with no return to the office in sight. The department now has its own diversity division that keeps pushing out stuff like “How to be an ally” which would have been unthinkable just a year or two ago.
The mindlessness of this stuff is telling. The reader works for an agency that is under immense stress because of the pandemic, yet it finds the time and the resources to subject its employees to this propaganda. As if these employees weren’t stressed enough. You would think it would be enough for a public works agency to focus on keeping infrastructure working, especially when people can’t be together in the office for an extended period of time, and tax revenues are going to be much lower because of the economic crisis, forcing technicians, scientists, and engineers to do more with much less. Now their managers want them to focus on wokeness. How much tax money is going to pay for these programs, and the diversity trainers and bureaucrats?
Is this “pink terror,” or just an annoyance? Well, what if tens of millions of Americans had lost their job, and you could foresee that your own government agency was likely to sustain cuts if the economic crisis continued? How eager would you be not to be identified as someone who is Not A Good Ally?

leave a comment

The Pink Terror

Pernilla Parfitt/EyeEm/GettyImages

A reader who asks for anonymity, but who works in a US Attorney’s office in a Red state, serving under a GOP-appointed US Attorney, e-mails:

It is not just Baylor and “conservative” academics who are bowing to the false gods of wokeness.  Take a look at what I deal with in my day job at the US Attorney’s Office in [state].  Donald Trump is the president, William Barr the AG, the US Attorney for [the reader’s district] is a Republican appointee.  Yet, we have a diversity committee and suggested readings from the most radical of Jacobins such as Robin DiAngelo.  If this is the garbage line federal prosecutors are pummeled with when Trump and the GOP are in power, can you imagine what it will be like when Biden assumes the reins?

Your point is well made that this “anti-racist” agenda has penetrated deeply into what one would normally think are conservative institutions.

My job is pretty insulated from politics.  In the past it has not mattered much whether Bush, Obama, or Trump was president.  I have been able to function and prosecute cases despite the silliness of Washington, D.C.  I feel that the insulation is wearing away.  Wokeness is not going away,  If DiAngelo is recommended reading now, I can’t imagine what will be required later.

The reader then forwarded an email sent out to the reader’s entire office. I reproduce it below, without the DOJ addresses:

On behalf of the Diversity Committee, we would like to thank everyone who was in attendance for today’s virtual roundtable. If you were unable to attend, then you missed a great conversation from our panel members and some great input from our coworkers. We hope you can attend next month’s virtual roundtable.  For those of you who would like to reach out to [name] or [name], they are CC’d above.

We took feedback from the survey that was sent out last week and shared it with the group to get the conversation started. If you missed the survey, please visit this link [deleted] where you can still take the survey anonymously. You can also read the responses of some of your coworkers to get a better understanding of how your coworkers feel right now.

This initial meeting was designed to help get the conversation started in our district about race and current events. We agreed that we would continue today’s conversation in small groups across the district. Feel free to create your own group. The intention is to then have a representative of the small group bring up issues/concerns to the virtual roundtable. We are hoping this will allow for speaking truth without fear. I would strongly encourage you to seek out diversity in your group when possible, yet identify things you all have in common as well.

Our next, virtual roundtable is scheduled for [date]. Please meet with your small groups before then and have discussions related to today’s meetings. Please see below for additional topics to consider.

–          What does diversity and inclusion mean to you?

–          What does racism really mean, and what does it look like today?

–          What benefits could come out of a more diverse work force?


Are you a reader? Here are a few books to consider reading.

–          White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo

–          So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo

–          Racism Without Racists by Eduardo Bonilla-Silva


Below are some useful links:

–          Employee Assistance Program Page

–          Employee Assistance Program Blog

–          Recruitment and Outreach Tips

–          Anti-Racist Resources from Greater Good

–          21-Day Racial Equity Habit-Building Challenge

Rod here. I clicked on the 21-Day Racial Equity Habit-Building Challenge, which is from the American Bar Association. It’s pure, unadulterated, utterly unbalanced left-wing ideology. The idea that lawyers from the US Department of Justice are urged to immerse themselves in this poisonous stuff is profoundly unsettling.

We’ve all heard a lot about Robin DiAngelo’s book, but I have not heard a lot about Ijeoma Oluo’s book. I spent some time reading through what’s available on Amazon’s Look Inside feature. You can get a pretty good idea of what it’s about, in fact. Look at this passage from the introductory chapter:



If you read what’s available of Oluo’s book online, you can see that she will tolerate no dissent from her viewpoint. You either agree with her view of “systemic racism,” or you are part of the problem, and she does not feel “safe” around you (she writes). It is nakedly manipulative and unreasonable. Now, imagine Justice Department prosecutors being told to read this work, which has a very clear view of what justice is when it comes to racial matters — and it is not justice in the familiar sense of the term. It is justice as determined by group outcome. I have no idea what Olou’s personal politics are, but this is how the Soviets thought of justice. Its most malicious and murderous form was articulated by the head of Lenin’s secret police in Ukraine. I cite him in this passage from my forthcoming book Live Not By Lies:

[I]n 1918, Lenin unleashed the Red Terror, a campaign of annihilation against those who resisted Bolshevik power. Martin Latsis, head of the secret police in Ukraine, instructed his agents as follows:

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

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

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

I’m not kidding when I tell you that we are moving towards soft totalitarianism. Wokeness and racial consciousness is taking over key institutions of American life. As my correspondent points out, if this is where the DOJ is going under Donald Trump and Bill Barr, just imagine where it’s going to go under a Democratic president and Democratic Attorney General. I’m not at all saying that DOJ lawyers and staff shouldn’t read any of that. It’s important for them to keep up with current thinking about these matters. But where is the balance? Where is the critical perspective? And, why would anyone who disagrees with the left-wing political line be foolish enough to answer those three questions aloud?

No, I don’t believe we will have a Red Terror in America. But when lawyers for the US Department of Justice are being encouraged by the department to immerse themselves in a theory of justice that judges people on the basis of group social outcome, how can those who are members of disfavored classes be confident in what the future holds on the legal front? If you are white, you are guilty — that is the meaning and essence of the Pink Terror.

leave a comment