Home/Rod Dreher

Woke Capitalism = Progressive Oligarchy

Yale's Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, delivering 2012 lecture titled 'Are CEOs Heroes?" (Source)

This is outrageous. It really is, even if you think the cause is righteous. I will explain. But first, look at what happened over the weekend:

More than 120 CEOs, business leaders, lawyers and experts came together Saturday afternoon to discuss further action against voting legislation nationwide, attendees on the call said.

The group discussed numerous options to push back against the Republican-led efforts to restrict access to the ballot box, including pulling their donations, refusing to move business or jobs to states that pass restrictive measures, and relocating events, said one of the call’s organizers, Jeffrey Sonnenfeld.

“It was incredibly concrete,” said Sonnenfeld, a professor at the Yale School of Management.

The meeting was first reported Sunday by The Wall Street Journal.

Public statements, support for federal election legislation and involvement in voting rights-related legal action are all under consideration, said Mike Ward, co-founder of the Civic Alliance, a nonpartisan group that encourages civic participation by businesses.

“This priority on democracy is being driven by consumers and by employees,” Ward said.

A wide variety of industries were represented: financial, pharmaceutical, travel, technology, retail and transportation. Notable attendees were Brad Karp of the law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison; LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman; Mellody Hobson of Ariel Investments; Chip Bergh of Levi Strauss; and Arthur Blank, co-founder of Home Depot and owner of the Atlanta Falcons.

Representatives of AMC Theaters and three major airlines also attended.

More:

“The overriding spirit is they don’t want politicians using wedge issues to try and solidify their hold on office, because that leads to angry communities and finger-pointing workforces and divided shareholders. It makes their job as CEOs harder to manage these constituents. They want social harmony,” Sonnenfeld said.

Now Big Law is getting involved:

As corporate America continues to push back against a wave of restrictive voting laws under discussion across the United States, Big Law is joining the fight.

A coalition of 60 major law firms has come together “to challenge voter suppression legislation and to support national legislation to protect voting rights and increase voter participation,” said Brad Karp, the chairman of the law firm Paul Weiss and the organizer of the group, which has not been formally announced.

Mr. Karp said the coalition would “emphatically denounce legislative efforts to make voting harder, not easier, for all eligible voters, by imposing unnecessary obstacles and barriers on the right to vote.”

Many of Wall Street’s most powerful firms are also part of the effort, including Simpson Thacher; Skadden Arps; Akin Gump; Cravath, Swaine & Moore; Ropes & Gray; Sullivan & Cromwell; Weil, Gotshal & Manges and Wachtell Lipton.

“We plan to challenge any election law that would impose unnecessary barriers on the right to vote and that would disenfranchise underrepresented groups in our country,” Mr. Karp said.

Do they know precisely what is being proposed by these voting laws? If they are mostly concerned about voters having to present identification to vote, they can suck eggs. People have to present IDs for all kinds of things. Doing so to vote legally is perfectly reasonable.

There is more to these proposals than voter ID, I know, and maybe some of the proposed reforms are unnecessary or otherwise wrongheaded. I don’t know what is being proposed in all these states, and I would bet my next paycheck that only a handful of these CEOs know. We do know that despite all the wailing and gnashing of teeth, the Georgia law makes Georgia’s voting rules still less restrictive than the ones in other states, like New York.

The point of my post is not about whether or not this or that state’s proposed voting reforms are good or bad public policy. The point is to talk about how outrageous it is that Big Business is involving itself in state legislation that has nothing at all to do with its activities in those states. Sonnenfeld’s line about how business leaders want “social harmony” is utter bullsh*t. They want social liberalism, and are willing to swing their economic weight around to get it. They did this in Indiana in 2015 to kill the state’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act. They’re going to do it here.

For years I have been told by lobbyists for churches and religious liberty organizations that major corporations have put heavy pressure on state legislators to kill religious liberty legislation. Why? First person who says “because corporations want social harmony” gets a cream pie in the face. If Big Business was promoting religious liberty legislation, the pleasure I would take in seeing laws I like supported by corporations would not be great enough to overcome the concern over Big Business involving itself like this in our democratic politics.

You know what would be impressive? If these titans of industry stood up to the Chinese government on behalf of the Uighur Muslims who are being genocided right now. None of them will, though, because they are greedy cowards.

This is progressive oligarchy. Woke Capitalism is a threat to democracy. As I write about in Live Not By Lies, these same people are eventually going to eagerly collaborate with government to create the Social Credit System necessary to make this country controllable.

When is it going to occur to people on the Left that Big Business is doing all this because it knows that if it makes the right moves on cultural issues that matter to the Woke, it will be able to do whatever it wants to workers? It has never had to worry about Republicans. That may be changing soon, if we elect a crop of populists who know how to do more than tweet and make belligerent but empty speeches. I’d like to see Republicans like this get elected, and get active to remind Big Business of its proper place:

UPDATE: I see that some folks just don’t get the alarm. Let me try a different way. Big Business is already quite powerful in our society. Do we really want a society in which Big Business reserves to itself the right to tell polities what their laws and policies are going to be, at the risk of punishing that polity economically if it resists? Does this sound like the kind of country you want to live in? If you are pro-choice, imagine that Big Business decided to threaten your state’s legislature with economic consequences if it doesn’t pass pro-life legislation. One expects the business lobby to engage itself on legislative questions pertaining to its own sphere, but beyond it? Big Business already has a lot of power over our lives — and now it wants more. The only force powerful enough to reign it in is the State. Whatever else you might say about the State, at least it is democratically accountable — unlike Big Business.

UPDATE.2:

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The CRT Commissars In Public Education

Wildpixel/GettyImages

This blog really does have some great readers. Over the weekend, I heard from this one, whose identity I’m protecting:

I’ve been reading your blog for a couple years now. I sometimes disagree with your takes, but I steadfastly agree about the damage Critical Race Theory (CRT) is doing to our nation. I’m a high school teacher in [state] and currently taking the last class required for my master’s degree in education through [university]. The class  covers some of the science behind how people (and specifically children) learn.
The latest modules, however, deal with CRT and its tenets, such as the permanence of racism, the failure of liberalism, the myth of colorblindness, and others.  It has been difficult to complete the assignments because I disagree with nearly all of them. I find myself staring at the screen in gridlock because the work presupposes all of these beliefs. How can I answer from a perspective I feel is inherently wrong? As an example, some of my assignments are attached below.
To make the situation more interesting, the class is taught by a white female professor and the students are nearly all white women. One student may be Indian, but it’s hard to tell since we’ve only met virtually. As a person of color, I have more experience living as a minority in this society than all of them, yet I’m supposed to pretend I believe these insane ideas.
My [spouse] knows and understands my frustration. I just have to “suck it up” and finish this class so I can get my degree. I will never accept CRT because its tenets are antithetical to the Gospel. However, I wanted to write to you so you and others can see what happens in teacher education right now in our country. If conservatives ever want to right this ship, they need to start getting involved in public education, and, preferably, become teachers themselves.
I’m going to share the documents below. But first, I wrote back to this reader to ask why conservatives and traditional Christians should get involved in a profession in which everything is stacked against them? The reader responded:
Like you often write, I see events in the not too distant future which will make employment in education (at least in public schools) impossible for Christians, conservatives, or anyone who rejects the “new faith” being promoted in our society. Although I love teaching, I am certain that I will have to find a new career within five to ten years.
However, *if* we are ever to bring a semblance of sanity to our country, if we ever manage to pull out of our national nosedive, conservatives will have to take a keen and abiding interest in public education beyond budget meetings and clashes with the teacher’s union. For better or worse, public education is how the vast majority of new Americans (by this I mean children) are formed. The education they receive, I firmly believe, influences what kind of American they will grow up to be. If their teachers are informed by CRT, we should not be surprised when these children grow up and express support for BLM, racial identity politics, or the like. In other words, we’re reaping what we’ve sown by abandoning public education to the left.
Here are photos of documents the reader provided. As you can see, it’s straight-up ideological indoctrination, presenting a controversial theory as fact. If you are a member of the Board of Trustees of a university, or a state legislator, do you know if this racist garbage is being taught at universities under your authority? Do you know as a parent if this is mandated in your kids’ school? You had better find out. You may need to act like the Benda parents in Live Not By Lies, and counter the propaganda your kids are getting in the state schools (and many private schools, I would wager) with home deprogramming. They had no choice but to send their kids to communist schools — but they could not abandon the children’s minds to the indoctrinators.
Note how there can be no answer for the underperformance of minority students in class other than white racism. These ideologues insist that reality must conform to the tenets of the ideology.
I ask again, as I did late last week: What are they preparing us for?

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Military Awokening & The Feeble GOP

Aryo Hadi/Getty Images

A reader who requests anonymity because he is very much in a position to know what he is talking about, and would be punished for saying so, writes:

I hope this finds you well and just wanted to offer some thoughts on the pending purge of DOD on explicitly ideological lines:

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/04/09/us/politics/military-race-capitol-riots-extremism.html

https://www.stripes.com/news/us/austin-launching-panel-to-address-extremism-in-the-ranks-as-military-completes-stand-downs-1.669182

Here is a passage from the NYT story the reader highlights above:

In fact, as Pentagon leaders are quick to say, the military cannot be a reflection of the United States without hosting the same kinds of people and allegiances that are embedded in the population as a whole. But while the military is one of the country’s most diverse institutions — some 43 percent of those on active duty are people of color — Defense Department officials acknowledge that the views of its white service members skew conservative.

On American bases around the world, televisions are often tuned to Fox News. This was particularly so during the Trump administration; since President Biden was inaugurated, CNN and MSNBC have started showing up more.

Officials with the Biden administration have expressed concerns about certain broadcasts targeting troops. On March 2, Mr. Kirby ordered a review of programming on the American Forces Network, which caters to service members and families abroad.

While the military can limit what kinds of programs are broadcast in public areas on bases, the Pentagon could run into First Amendment issues as it tries to vet recruits and even active-duty troops.

Fox News?! Lord have mercy, must be a nest of Nazoid Kluckers! /sarc

It is telling that the Pentagon “acknowledges” that its white service members “skew conservative,” but that they see this as a problem. If the military’s non-white service members skew liberal, is that a problem? I don’t think so, as long as they do their jobs well.

The Stars & Stripes article also seems to indicate that the military is looking only to the right for “extremist” views. It says that commanders down the line asked the Defense Secretary for guidance on what constitutes “extremism”. His answer, when it comes, bears watching.

My correspondent, who is no outsider to all this, believes he’s reading the handwriting on the wall:

As you can see, they aren’t even bothering with the pro forma even handedness that this was intended to address extremism from the far right and the far left. Far right extremism, which seems to be defined in the article as being a regular consumer of Fox News, is to be completely stamped out at all costs no matter how difficult the process. Given that Tucker Carlson is reliably described as being a white nationalist by many of his opponents in the Beltway and the prestige press, I would assume that one who regularly views and assents to his comments would absolutely be considered a domestic extremist. I certainly suspect that this would be the opinion of Bishop Garrison, who was tapped by Austin to lead this effort according to the article, as would those critical of BLM and its associated activities over the summer of 2020. No doubt that TAC could easily be placed in that same category given that no shortage of national security authorities are happy to line you up as an enemy of democracy. God only knows what they would think of my own reading list, which includes you, Douthat, Deneen, Legutko, Moldbug, et al.

As is always the case with gatekeeping, ostracism, and stigmatization, there will never be any acknowledgment that a purge is underway, but everyone who is intelligent and ambitious understands what is happening and aligns their efforts accordingly. Whether or not they believe these views is irrelevant, but it is now absolutely understood that views and perspectives held by a significant percentage of the population are now to be considered absolutely forbidden and anyone who steps out of line will be marginalized, professionally stigmatized, and held in check with the spectre of being labeled a domestic extremist. If anyone is curious as far as how colonizing an institution works we are about to see it happen in real-time.

The general officer class and their civilian equivalents was already corrupted because they decided years ago to walk the path of political expediency in return for reliable advancement, and when woke capital emerged as a force in the mid-2010s, the overwhelming majority of them soon found the path of least resistance was also the clearest path to corporate profit in their post-retirement consulting and contractor jobs. What this means if successful is that DOD will now operate under new rules using 6 January as an excuse and special scrutiny will be paid to anyone who is regarded as critical of the status quo irrespective of rank or position. I don’t think a purge is coming any more than one has hit big business, instead a system will be created under which anyone who is deemed “problematic” can be singled out at any time for any reason.

I want to be very clear that what happened on 6 January was an absolute abomination, the culmination of QAnon taking on visible action when their cult figure provided them with a call to arms. Everyone involved should be identified and prosecuted to the full extent of the law, which already has ample consequences for riot, civil disturbance, trespassing, attempted murder, attempted kidnapping, vandalism, or anything other crime. Thus far however there has been zero evidence of a wide-ranging organized conspiracy outside of a handful of far-right militia types (at least one of which, the Proud Boys, already seems to have been thoroughly infiltrated by the FBI) that would justify the kind of invasive thought police that is being de facto proposed here. When McCarthy attempted this in response to actual communist infiltration it was roundly denounced as un-American, yet now that the shoe is on the other foot there is zero self-awareness at what is actually being opposed.

My own thought on this is that I see no reason to assume that this effort will not be successful at the senior ranks of O-6 and GG-15 (colonel equivalent) and above, with the gradual trickling down into the lower ranks as ideological conformity is tied to personal and professional advancement.

You will also note the relative passivity to this on the part of the GOP that overwhelmingly voted to confirm Austin (93-2, with only Lee and Hawley voting against) and will no doubt do the same with his deputies. Those with presidential ambitions will use it as outrage fodder, but there is no actual refusal to exercise their votes against confirming officials, no willingness to hold the general officers and their civilian equivalents responsible, etc. So if the political right wants to ask how it came to this within DOD they really do need to look in the mirror, since there is now an active politicization of our national security apparatus underway that would be denounced from the heights if there were a similar effort to identify and eliminate #Resistance types within civil service following Trump’s election on the grounds that they had violated their oaths and were spreading disinformation.

This is a big part of why the “He fights!” mantra regarding Trump is so pyrrhic because his performative and toxic antics look less like tossing the gauntlet and more like Hitler’s fictional breakdown in Downfall when he learns that Steiner isn’t coming. He may indeed have fought, but he does so at the expense of the movement that he purportedly represents as a result of his buffoonery, stupidity, abrasiveness, ignorance, and conspiracism. Had he not embraced every single COVID denialism and conspiracy theory under the sun he almost certainly would have been enjoying reelection right now according to his own campaign autopsy:

https://www.politico.com/news/2021/02/01/trump-campaign-autopsy-paints-damning-picture-of-defeat-464636

Much the same can be said for his decision to invest all of his political capital into “Stop the Steal” conspiracy theories that he and his cronies grifted half a billion off. His followers see him as a savior, but Trump clearly regards them as suckers to be fleeced and is no more psychologically prepared to accept defeat than is Al Gore, something that is immediately recognizable to anyone who isn’t invested in Trump or Republican politics. The end result of this is that while Trump is still railing about the stolen election and how he was wronged, the left is able to continue a steady advancement through key institutions with little to no opposition.

Again, there are actual solutions to this, one them being for the right to demand its representatives stop empowering DOD and Pavlovishly confirming its budgets and officials until its leadership is not staffed by would-be thought police, but I think these ideas are so anathema to the modern GOP with its reflexive worship of the military for the same reason there is no real action against big business. And when you declare unilateral disarmament, sooner or later all of your enemies figure it out and behave accordingly. And is long as the only fight that the right accepts is the exceedingly cheap date of Trump’s performative antics (as well as the repeated false dilemma of either supporting Trump or reverting back to Bush / Romney) then they will frankly continue to lose and deserve to do so.

This sounds entirely plausible to me. What do the rest of you think? I said back in January that the attack on the Capital was going to be the Left’s Reichstag fire: an event it exploits to justify ideological takeover. If this reader is correct, then it is happening in the military. I particularly appreciate how this reader, a conservative, chides the Trump diehards for being the Left’s useful idiots in this process.

If this reader is correct about what is now happening in the US military, do I really need to tell you what a huge deal this is? The awokening of the US Armed Forces is beyond ominous.

 

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Penzey: Is Pope A Jerk Or A Dill Weed?

Former Penzeys customer prepares to dump jar of its spices

Back in 2016, I wrote about what a monster raving left-wing loony Bill Penzey — the CEO of Penzeys Spices — is. He has a habit of sending out e-mails that vividly insult anyone to the right of Alan Alda. I switched my spice custom to The Spice House, a high-quality spice trader from the same family, but without the politics and spite.

Well, a reader of this blog who has been a longtime customer of Penzeys, and who is a Democrat, sent me the correspondence exchange she had with Bill Penzey in response to this ad campaign he sent to his customer e-mail list:

 

 

Ends Tonight

 

I have to say, challenging the direction of the Catholic Church leads to far better email back-and-forths than challenging what happened to the Republican Party. At this point the Republican Party is, for all intents and purposes, a cult. The proof that the Church really isn’t one is in just how many people are now leaving it out of conscience over its leaders’ treatment of the LGBTQ community. Cult followers eat up power and cruelty. That so many have the inner moral courage to object to those with the power shows the Church is still doing something right.

People email asking what we hope to achieve in calling out the Pope’s cruelty. This was my latest attempt from this afternoon at a response:

The Catholic Church is the largest and most powerful religious organization on the planet. Where they lead others will follow. It’s time for them to admit the two thousand year old bigotry towards gay people the Bible holds is not in keeping with the teachings of Christ and has no place in the Church. If history is any guide, and it always is, the only way to change the Church is to make its current stance unsustainable and keep at it no matter what tools they deploy to distract and deflect.

People are fleeing the Church in droves over this. Their current position is already unsustainable. Now it is just a matter of how quickly we can get them to admit this.

When we first set out to promote marriage equality in earnest it only had an approval rating in the low twenties percentile. I remember having a conversation with David Carter, my longest lifetime friend and Penzeys COO, who more than makes up for my weaknesses as Penzeys CEO. Our sense at the time was marriage equality was a thirty-year project, but we agreed if our efforts could shave one day off that thirty years we will have done well. It ultimately only took fifteen years. We weren’t that entire difference by any means, but what we learned is once you show people something better, their desire for that better thing can overcome obstacles that at first sure seem to be mountains.

To me this Church project has that same thirty-year feel to it. But who knows? Change is inevitable. At this point the Catholic Church is not child safe. No one knows which four-year-old sitting quietly in a pew will go on to be that ten-year-old already fully understanding what part of the LGBTQ spectrum God has placed them on. For that child to sit unsupported through all the tales of hell and accusations of their love being sin, there can seem to be no way out. For any church to do this to a child that is exactly how God made them is nothing short of child abuse.

A church that is not safe for children has no future. Ultimately the choice will have to be a loving God and the compassion of Christ or keeping alive the bigotry of two thousand years ago. Both here is not an option. That better Catholic Church is inevitable. The only question is, how many more LGBTQ+ young people will be pushed over the edge before that happens. The Church leaders know what this is doing to attendance and membership. It’s time for them to find that same inner moral courage of those with the strength to leave and make the changes God is clearly forcing their hand to make.

But until that time it has to be regular pressure because that’s what history has shown to work. So, the Pope saying God believes gay love a sin while knowing full well God is actually the creator of gay love, is that a Jerk thing to do or merely a Dill Weed (oblivious, out-of-touch, naive) thing to do? This time both is an option. Vote with your dollars. Through today Jerk Pork and Jerk Chicken & Fish and Dill Weed are half-price with all dollars going to The Trevor Project, whose kind people save the very lives the Pope has now put so cruelly at risk. Click that link to give to them directly. They will put your money to good use.

And while our Jerk and Dill inventory is kind of depleted at this point, we are still well-stocked with our regularly $2.49-$5.95 Rainbow Spices for just $2 each and once again all dollars here go to the Trevor Project. Midnight is also your last chance for a free $3.95 Choose Love Magnet and $9.95 Embrace Hope Pin with any purchase. We added this free $13.90 combined value to nudge you into buying something that starts you supporting the Trevor Project and have you taking another step in supporting LGBTQ+ equality. You might not think you need a magnet and a pin, but these ones you do.

No coupons or codes are needed for any of these offers. Just visit us at penzeys.com. If you are planning a touchless pickup at one of our stores, you don’t need to pick up tonight, just place your order tonight and anytime in the next few days is fine.

I had hoped to share my recipe for Penzeys Curry roasted cauliflower here, but I’m already a good half hour past my deadline for these words. I promise to share my recipe this weekend when we bring the focus back to healthy for this, National Public Health Week. But on that very topic, please be sure every young person being raised in any religion that does not respect all the ways God makes people knows The Trevor Project’s 1-866-488-7386 Lifeline. A lifetime of regret sucks. Please do all you can to avoid it.

And a shorter, Pope Francis if you’re listening: Your Church needs to come with a toll-free number to stop your young people from killing themselves. Do you really envision this is what Jesus wanted the impact of his love for this world to be? Act Now. Your Time is Running Out!

Thanks for being kind enough to cook. Thanks for making us possible,

Bill

 

Well.

The reader called him out for gratuitously insulting Catholics based on false information. She began by citing facts, and tried to engage him in dialogue. But he just ranted at her. There’s no point in reproducing the exchange here; it’s about what you would expect. In one of her letters to him, she wrote:

Please educate yourself about Catholicism. You are repeating history and parroting lines straight out of the anti-Catholic, anti-immigrant Know-Nothing movement of the 19th century.

And:

I’ve spent hundreds of dollars at your store over the years, on myself and on others. No more. You don’t seem to realize that you are at least as ignorant, and perhaps more attached to hatred, self-righteousness, and intolerance, as those against whom you rail in your sales campaigns. A sales strategy that cynically exploits the divisions between people is repellent to me, but, judging from the way things are going in our country, it should work very well for you.

If you are a Catholic who shops at Penzeys, I urge you to start ordering from The Spice House. The spices are just as good and maybe better, and they don’t shower the Pope with contempt, blaming him for LGBT suicides.

A guy on Facebook has a “Goodbye, Penzeys” page, featuring a video of him dumping a jar of Penzeys Northwoods spice blend. That’s where I got the screenshot above.

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Paul Kingsnorth And … The CIA?!

Gurzart/GettyImages

Yesterday I wrote about Paul Kingsnorth’s great new Substack, to which I devoutly hope you will subscribe. Reader N.S. Lyons responds:

In your post on Paul Kingsnorth yesterday you quoted this great paragraph from his essay:
“The churning of the surface waters of our societies – the fights, the divisions, the polarising ‘issues’ dangled before us like carrots to squabble over – these are all symptoms of deep shifts beneath. Add it all together – the coming-apart of (supposedly) liberal nations, the ongoing global eradication of rooted cultures and so much of the wild and non-human world, the rise of a techno-feudal new order, the replacement of older values with those of the globalised consumer machine – and what you get, I think, is a revolution.”
Well, it seems he has some unusual company in his pessimism, because the day after he published his essay, the National Intelligence Council (NIC) released Global Trends 2040, the latest in a series of special documents published every four years by the NIC’s Strategic Futures Group to assess “the key trends and uncertainties that will shape the strategic environment for the United States during the next two decades.”
It is a remarkable document. No one seems to have paid much attention to it yet, but I think that should change.
While the analysts who wrote it are unable to describe what is happening inside the United States itself (in practice these reports are mostly produced by the CIA, given that outward facing strategic intelligence is their specialty, and the Agency is essentially forbidden from engaging on domestic matters), their prediction of where the world is headed as a whole is both shockingly dire and fascinating in its candid acknowledgement of the havoc that a combination of technological revolution and the ideological revolution of “identity politics” is unleashing on us all.
Describing a storm of structural forces now driving global change, the report quickly specifies that “many people are emphasizing and organizing around different aspects of their identities, including race, gender, and sexual orientation.” Noting that “identity-based beliefs tend to eclipse truth-seeking,” including because of the need to “feel morally justified,” it predicts that “the combination of newly prominent and diverse identity allegiances and a more siloed information environment is exposing and aggravating fault lines within states, undermining civic nationalism, and increasing volatility.”
“Identities and affiliations are simultaneously proliferating and becoming more pronounced. In turn, this is leading to more influential roles for identity groups in societal and political dynamics but also generating divisions and contention.” The result is that, “the expansion and increasing prominence of identity groups demanding recognition and rights are forcing an increase in debate about the social and economic foundations of societies. Intensifying and competing identity dynamics are likely to provoke increasing political debate and polarization, societal divisions, and in some cases, unrest and violence.
This is exacerbated by the fact that “technological developments are likely to increase ever faster, transforming a range of human experiences and capabilities while also creating new tensions and disruptions within and between societies.”  In particular, increased “connectivity will help produce new efficiencies, conveniences, and advances in living standards. However, it will also create and exacerbate tensions at all levels, from societies divided over core values and goals to regimes that employ digital repression to control populations.”
“All together,” the report says “these [technological] forces portend a world that is both inextricably bound by connectivity and fragmenting in different directions.”
We should be prepared for “more political volatility, including growing polarization and populism within political systems, waves of activism and protest movements, and, in the most extreme cases, violence, internal conflict, or even state collapse.” Such “outbreaks of political violence or internal conflict are not limited to… fragile states, however, and are likely to appear even in historically more stable countries.”
“Looking forward,” it warns, “many democracies are likely to be vulnerable to further erosion and even collapse.”
In what I consider its most interesting lines, the report concludes that “historically, ideological shifts across regions have taken place at moments of catastrophic crisis,” but sufficient stresses “that expose governance shortcomings might create conditions ripe for new or alternative models to gain traction if widespread dysfunction is sustained.” Currently, “as a result of these disequilibriums, old orders—from institutions to norms to types of governance—are strained and in some cases, eroding. And actors at every level are struggling to agree on new models for how to structure civilization.” These “shifts or transformations [will] spur inevitable contestation between the constituencies holding onto the old orders and those embracing the new ones.”
I don’t think this could match better if Kingsnorth wrote it himself!
I marvel that this report was even produced in today’s day and age. It doesn’t ever mention the New Faith that plagues us (oddly, you won’t find the word “Woke” used even once), of course, and it never takes a position at all on what is happening inside the country it aims to protect, but in my view it manages that say an awful lot in between the lines nonetheless by portraying everything as common “global challenges.” I guess there are enough experienced senior analysts remaining within the intelligence community who know their stuff (that is: how states collapse) and are justifiably alarmed by what they see happening to push this out into the light of day. We should probably pay attention.
I’ve written a post of my own with much more detail on the report here, including selected passages of particular note, if you are interested.

Lyons links to his (her?) new Substack, The Upheaval. From Lyons’ introductory essay:

The world is being forcibly reconfigured by at least three concurrent revolutions: a geopolitical revolution driven by the rise of China; an ideological revolution consuming the Western world; and a technological revolution exacerbating both of the former.

Geopolitically, a decent understanding of what is happening, if not of its full extent, has emerged over the past several years. The relentless rise of China, and its Leninist state-capitalist governance model, within the globalized system presents an immense structural challenge to the “liberal international order” that has prevailed for nearly a century, as led by the United States. The economic and military dominance of the Western liberal-capitalist democracies, and the set of political values they have championed, is now under siege from without. This is one mega-trend at least that has managed to thoroughly break through into American and European consciousness. Indeed, in Washington the reaction almost borders on panic.

In contrast, few seem to have actually come to terms with what is now happening within the West. Many now realize, with either terror or glee, that something big is underway in the Anglo-Saxon world, something revolutionary, with America at its epicenter. A new belief system, characterizing all of existence as divisible into a Manichean struggle for power between the oppressed and their oppressors, has emerged and turned itself into a mass movement that is scrambling every aspect of traditional American political, cultural, religious, and even corporate life.

But this ideology seemed to emerge so suddenly, and is in its stark irrationality so alien to the modern liberal mind, that surprised observers and hapless opponents so far struggle even to settle on a name for it. “Cancel Culture,” “Identity Politics,” “Social Justice,” “Wokeness,” “Postmodernism,” “Reified Postmodernism,” “Neo-Marxism,” “Cultural Marxism,” just plain old Marxism in a new guise, the “Successor Ideology,” the cult of “The Elect,” or simply the “New Faith” – whatever its name, what’s clear by this point is that this all-consuming new belief system is exceptionally zealous, insatiably revolutionary, self-righteously brutal, and going ideologically viral with breathtaking speed and essentially no opposition.

The result is that the New Faith, which rejects nearly every fundamental principle of liberal modernity – the existence of an objective and immutable reality that can be discovered by reason; the scientific method; an enduring human nature; the primacy of the sovereign individual over the collective; impartial equality before the law; secular pluralism and the value of freedom of speech; the separation of the private and political spheres – is enthusiastically taking an axe to the decaying pillars holding up liberal democratic civilization just as it enters a potentially existential struggle with a rising authoritarian challenger.

Read it all — and subscribe. I have done both. Substacks like The Upheaval, and Kingsnorth’s Abbey of Misrule, are where the action is — and not with places like newspapers and mainstream media where writers and thinkers are trying to shore up the shaky imperium. My book contributions to the debates are The Benedict Option and Live Not By Lies. If you are the kind of Christian who is still under the impression that these are normal times, and/or that it’s going to be possible to live as a small-o orthodox believer in the face of the persecutorial New Faith (which will subsume moderate and progressive forms of Christianity), I beg you to reconsider, while there is still time to prepare.

 

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What Are They Preparing Us For?

Philip Adams massacred a white family then killed himself. Race probably wasn't an issue -- but media would obsess if races were flipped (ABC News screenshot)

Two young teenage girls in DC, both black, both minors, attempted to carjack a sedan belonging to an older man, a South Asian immigrant. In the ensuing crash, the old man was killed. The DC girls are going to be offered a plea deal. We did not see a raft of big thinkpieces in our media focusing on the Meaning Of It All — that is, what it meant for two black girls to assault an Asian man, resulting in his death.

I would say that is appropriate. As far as we know, race didn’t play a motivating role in this attack. Why racialize a killing without solid evidence that it had a racial angle?

Remember Noah Green, who killed a white Capitol police officer, and was himself killed, in a deranged attack on the US Capitol? He was a Black Muslim who, according to his family, was mentally ill. We did not see a raft of big thinkpieces in our media focusing on the Meaning Of It All — that is, what it meant for a black man to kill a white police officer in an attack on the US Capitol.

I would say this is appropriate. As far as we know, race didn’t play a motivating role in this attack. True, there might well have been anti-white animus in his joining up with the Nation of Islam, but it does seem that mental illness plausibly explains this. Why racialize a murder without solid evidence that it had a racial angle?

The other day, Philip Adams, a black former NFL cornerback, shot and killed five white people, including two children, and seriously injured another one, before committing suicide. We don’t know why, but it is possible that Adams might have suffered brain damage from his football career. One of the white victims, a doctor, might have been treating Adams, a report says. We have not seen a raft of big thinkpieces in our media focusing on the Meaning Of It All — that is, what it meant for a black man to massacre a white family.

I would say that this is appropriate. There is no reason at this point to think that racial animus played a role in this mass murder. Why racialize a mass murder without solid evidence that it had a racial angle?

Ahmad Al Aliwi Alissa allegedly killed ten white people in a Boulder, Colorado, supermarket. Though he ranted in the past about perceived anti-Muslim prejudice, he appears to have been motivated by mental illness. We have not seen a raft of big thinkpieces in our media focusing on the Meaning Of It All — that is, what it meant for a Syrian Muslim man to massacre a supermarket full of white people.

I would say that this is appropriate. There is no reason at this point to think that racial animus played a role in this mass murder. Why racialize a mass murder without solid evidence that it had a racial angle?

That is the standard the media have for killings in which the suspected perpetrator is a racial minority, and (especially) when the victims are white. This is definitely not the standard the media have for killings in which the (suspected) murderers are white people killing minorities. They are still yammering about how Robert Long, arrested in Atlanta for mass killing at Asian spas, is guilty of an anti-Asian hate crime — this, though there is no reason at all to believe that Long was motivated by anti-Asian hate. We know that he was tormented by his sexual obsession. Perhaps we will learn that there was an anti-Asian component of this, but we don’t know it now. That has not stopped the media from racializing this terrible crime.

Just today, the Washington Post published yet another story dwelling on the race hate angle of the Atlanta story. Excerpt:

When the Rev. Sharon Risher heard about the mass shooting at Atlanta-area spas, her thoughts turned to the Asian American community and what she knew it must be going through. She went through it herself six years ago when her mother, Ethel Lee Lance, was killed by a gunman at a historic African American church in Charleston, S.C.

“There is this automatic melancholy,” Risher said. “Because now you know there is another group of people out there that’s getting ready to go through hell.”

March 16 marked a turning point for many Asian Americans: It was the day their community was stricken by a mass shooting, becoming the latest minority group to suffer an attack that killed several of its own.

There’s a specific kind of grief that arises from being targeted, one that more and more marginalized people in the United States know too well. The shooting survivors and victims’ family members span geographies, races and religions, but they are bonded by the shared trauma they have experienced.

These tragedies often leave many in those communities who weren’t directly affected feeling unsafe and traumatized. After a shooting, many members of these communities say they felt hyper-aware of their race and an escalated sense of fear that the same could happen to them or those they love.A mass shooting seems less senseless or inexplicable when it’s directed at one of your own.

But again, we don’t have any reason to believe that the Atlanta killings targeted Asians as Asians. From the evidence available now, Long went to spas where he had been before seeking sexual activity. Those spas are known on an Internet site catering to men who seek sex at spas as being places where they can find it (not all of these massage parlors are, of course). The media have encouraged the public to embrace this racialized narrative, even though the Atlanta police have said there is no evidence to support it.

This keeps happening with the media. Why? I mean, I know why: because newsrooms are filled with progressives who are drunk on left-wing race grievance ideology. To hell with professional standards or moral responsibility — they have a Narrative to propagate. I spoke this week to a foreign journalist working in the US, and he told me that he’s having to work harder than before to find out what’s happening in the US, because he can no longer trust what he reads in the American newspapers.

I can’t stop asking myself the question: Why are they teaching non-white people to fear and loathe whites? What are they preparing America for?

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Paul Kingsnorth Is Writing Again!

Paul Kingsnorth, from Unherd

Here’s the best news I’ve heard in ages: Paul Kingsnorth has started a Substack: the Abbey of Misrule! Here’s an excerpt from his first essay:

Two years ago, I was hoping I could retire.

It wasn’t a realistic hope, and I knew it: my writing and teaching is the only income source my family has, so unless some anonymous donor had looked kindly on me, I was going to have to keep going. But I thought seriously that I might be able to find some other way of earning: gardening, maybe, or working in a shop. Anything but writing. I had come, literally, to a full stop.

I had just published a non-fiction book called Savage Gods – still my favourite piece of non-fiction, as it happens. It’s a raw, short book that I began in 2017, in the midst of a personal night-sea journey. I was lost: spiritually lost, not at home in my (fairly) new country, and most of all, lost as a writer. I had stopped believing in words. They had come to seem less like a liberation, and more like a trap; less like a glass I could see through, if darkly, and more like a wall which prevented me from touching the real world on the other side.

So I wrote it all down – inevitably – and then I stopped. I made a vow to write nothing new for a year and a day. I kept the vow, the date passed, and I still had no words. I thought, well, that was that. I had written ten books in my life, which was a nice round number. But what to do instead? What else can a 45 year old writer do? How to feed my children? I said to God: show me what to do. I’ll burn all my pens if you want. But show me the way. I didn’t even think I believed in God, which just goes to show how confused I was.

Still, it turns out that God doesn’t care whether you believe in Him or not, and it seems also that He has a sense of humour. Savage Gods turned out to be – and I had an inkling about this when I wrote it but I couldn’t face the implications – a prelude to a spiritual drowning. Under the water I went, down to the bottom, and when I emerged earlier this year I had become, much to my surprise, an Orthodox Christian. Meanwhile, the strange plague raged all around, and everything and everyone was changing, including me. That same year I completed the trilogy of novels I had been working on for a decade. Things rearranged themselves inside me and all around me – around all of us. I had no further commitments. I had no plans. I was not the same person I had been. I could do anything I wanted. I was free.

But the world was not, and it is less free daily – the Machine is closing in on us all, and this is what I am doing here, back with words again. I tried not to. But it became clear that what was going on all around me was enormous, and that I could not avoid its implications and the changes it was bringing. My unexpected conversion to the Christian faith felt like the result of some spirit moving in the world, racing through the waters and the woods and through our minds, shaken from its slumber by apocalyptic times. I was, I discovered, not the only one feeling this way. Something is happening, and we are all part of it.

For a while I have been watching the poisonous so-called ‘culture war’ flooding from America into my homeland, and I have been mourning my country when I haven’t been confused or angry. But above all I have been wondering: what does this signify? Why is this culture so broken, so weakened, so lost? What is going on beneath the surface? I have watched, as we all have, these growing divisions as I have watched much bigger problems enveloping the world – forest fires, droughts, climatic shifts, ongoing extinctions, the dark litany that I have written about for so many years now. And I have watched, especially this last year, with the covid pandemic as an accelerant, the rapidly growing power and reach of the digital matrix of surveillance, control and manipulation, further eroding freedom, community and reality itself.

The churning of the surface waters of our societies – the fights, the divisions, the polarising ‘issues’ dangled before us like carrots to squabble over – these are all symptoms of deep shifts beneath. Add it all together – the coming-apart of (supposedly) liberal nations, the ongoing global eradication of rooted cultures and so much of the wild and non-human world, the rise of a techno-feudal new order, the replacement of older values with those of the globalised consumer machine – and what you get, I think, is a revolution.

Or, perhaps, a revelation.

There’s so much more — read it all. Paul goes on to say that he can’t sit this global calamity out, that he has to write through it. Man, I can’t express how encouraging this is to me as a writer and as a Christian.

I strongly encourage you to subscribe to The Abbey of Misrule. If you know anything about Paul Kingsnorth’s writing — see more of his past essays here — then you know that this Substack of his is going to become one of the most important sources of cultural criticism, cultural inquiry, and spiritual insight we have. Read about Paul here. Let me put it to you like this: if Wendell Berry were a Gen X Englishman expatriated to rural western Ireland, he would be Paul Kingsnorth. It’s not an accident that Paul was chosen to write the introduction to a recent collection of Berry essays.

One more passage from his introductory essay:

I will attempt to write here without becoming evil. I will try to fight for what I love and not against what I don’t, avoiding too many abstractions, trying to keep my feet on the ground. I will hope for a good conversation with those who subscribe, and welcome disagreement and alternative views. But I will deny commenting rights to anyone who attempts to bring those fragmentary oppositions into this space. We’re going to try and practice kindness and mercy here. It’s an Abbey after all.

In the end, I think it can be good to daily remind ourselves that we are all lost in this maelstrom. It has probably always been that way. If I have a reason to return to words, it is because I still believe that at their best they can help us find some useful path to follow.

Here’s a recent video podcast interview with him on Unherd. Paul does not fit into left wing or right wing molds. He’s a real original:

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Ross & Kale On Christian Intellectuals

We finally got Ross Douthat to come onto our podcast, and whaddaya know, the Riverside.fm software would not let me get patched in (at least my sound). So, Kale had to interview Ross by himself. He and Ross did a great job, talking about the role of Christian intellectuals in the current post-Christian situation. Take a look:

I was able to join Kale later via Zoom, which is stitched to the podcast after the Ross bit.

I will be moving to Budapest for the summer in about a week. It’s going to be interesting to see how the podcast changes with me living abroad. One thing I hope to do (I bought the equipment for it) is to add interviews with the smart and interesting people that float through the Danube Institute, where I will be on fellowship.

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The High Cost Of Academic Homogeneity

Oxford University political theorist Teresa Bejan (TED Talks)

If you don’t have Twitter, you won’t see this thread by Teresa M. Bajan, an American political theorist who teaches in Oriol College, Oxford. It’s fantastic. Read on:

Great thread. In the humanities, one price of this ideological homogeneity and leftist fanaticism is the death of entire fields as they are transformed into ideological zombies.

Roger Scruton and other leading Western academics — including prominent leftists like Jacques Derrida — banded together to help the Czechs continue the life of authentic scholarship despite their communist overlords. They formed an underground university that granted accredited degrees.

We need the same here, in the West, today, do we not? How else is the tradition going to survive? We have to stop simply pointing out the bigotries of our educational institutions, in vain hope that those who run them will be shamed into repentance, and instead start our own. But look, any initiative in that direction won’t go anywhere as long as parents remain devoted to the idea that it is more important for their children to succeed on this corrupt world’s terms than to commit themselves to the study of the Good, the True, and the Beautiful.

You can be as conservative as you like, but if it is more important for you that your child gets into an Ivy League university than that they train for Truth, then you are part of the problem.

UPDATE: A reader who is well-placed within the US governmental bureaucracy writes:

As far as education is concerned in the US, I would argue that the actual value of education and advanced degrees in terms of pure education are extremely limited. I myself attended [small college in flyover country] and I have regularly and reliably engaged with those who attended Harvard, Yale, and Georgetown. Apart from the contacts, connections, and the prestige associated with the degree that serves as the primary means of credentialed access to elite status in our society there is absolutely no reason to waste money on a prestige university degree in terms of pure education.

Certainly I think my own knowledge of [subject area] was not diminished in any way from failing to listen to Christine Fair’s unhinged rants about conservatives and Christians that I believe you have covered on your blog in the past. No doubt some useful knowledge may slip in from time to time, but it is minimal compared to the amount of time that is dedicated to gatekeeping and indoctrination. Some students may believe it, others not, but the majority will go along with the prevailing ideology unless they are genuinely principled or simply contrarian, which is how the left has a reliable flow of human capital to elite positions in the US and has for decades. Conservatives should be seeking to advance Walter Russell Mead’s proposals on either broadening university accreditation or massively constraining it. To date I have seen no evidence whatsoever to indicate that the right is genuinely interested in interfering with the key credentialing organ for access to elite status in our society, instead it is used as outrage fodder to fundraise, rage against, and grift off but I have never seen any American equivalent to French, Polish, and Hungarian efforts to actually take back the universities. These actions of course were part of what has gotten Orban and Duda declared fascists in national security circles, though Macron seems to have avoided that characterization to date due to his status as the ur-centrist technocrat.

I think a lot of this has to do with the fact that the American right is dominated by dumb money and activists who are largely grifters and carnival barkers and see things in pure financial terms. This isn’t to say that they don’t care about the issues — many do — but at the end of the day they are looking at things in terms of how much money they are bringing in rather than whether or not they are actually making a difference in the broader cultural sphere. As a result, the right will blow more than half a billion to support Stop the Steal that largely ended up in the pockets of Trump and his cronies but no one has seriously thought about dropping a couple million to get the emerging cadre of Substack intellectuals a broader platform. Someone could finance a dedicated researcher who isn’t a white nationalist and a website to actually track anti-Asian and anti-Semitic attacks from open source … but no one does.

This reader’s comments underscore one of my greatest pet peeves: the absurd insistence of Trump supporters that “he fights,” therefore is worth our esteem and support. Nobody seems to ask if his fighting actually won anything substantial, advanced our goals in a defensible way (e.g., more than executive orders that were overturned as soon as we had a Democratic chief executive), and so forth. Matt Gaetz is the perfect symbol of Trumpist conservatism: no legislative accomplishments, but he was on Fox a lot, owning the libs.

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