Home/Rod Dreher/Postcards From The Decline And Fall

Postcards From The Decline And Fall

The bust of President Zachary Taylor is covered with plastic after blood was smeared on it when a pro-Trump mob broke into the U.S. Capitol building on January 7, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Samuel Corum/Getty Images)

From today’s mailbag:

Your blog posts are the only thing keeping me sane right now. Even after everything that’s happened, I don’t think people truly grasp the danger zone the country’s entered. There’s no “going back to normal.” We may not see another raid on the Capitol, but we’re definitely going to see an intensification of political violence in this country.

I’ve been doing a lot of research on the Spanish Civil War, as you have, and I came across this passage in the Wikipedia article for the topic:

Laia Balcells observes that polarisation in Spain just before the coup was so intense that physical confrontations between leftists and rightists were a routine occurrence in most localities; six days before the coup occurred, there was a riot between the two in the province of Teruel. Balcells notes that Spanish society was so divided along Left-Right lines that the monk Hilari Raguer stated that in his parish, instead of playing “cops and robbers”, children would sometimes play “leftists and rightists.” Within the first month of the Popular Front’s government, nearly a quarter of the provincial governors had been removed due to their failure to prevent or control strikes, illegal land occupation, political violence and arson. The Popular Front government was more likely to persecute rightists for violence than leftists who committed similar acts. Azaña was hesitant to use the army to shoot or stop rioters or protestors as many of them supported his coalition.
Obviously, Wikipedia doesn’t constitute an academic source, but what’s been written here has been sourced and is consistent with what I’ve seen elsewhere, including that excellent 1980s British documentary you keep referencing. The parallels between what’s happened in Spain in the ’30s and what’s happening today is alarming. The idea that children would play “leftists and rightists” is especially disturbing, in light of the anti-racism and Critical Race Theory (CRT) curriculum that’s seemingly becoming mandatory at all levels of U.S. public education. This is indoctrination and assuring that incoming leftist totalitarianism will have plenty of foot-soldiers to sustain it indefinitely.
The way our institutions and the media endorsed the George Floyd protests, or at least distinguished between peaceful protestors and rioters, but didn’t extend that courtesy to the MAGA protesters yesterday, is another sign that the authorities, including the Biden administration, will persecute rightists more than leftists the same as they did in Spain. This will only reinforce the impression that MAGA already has that they’re under siege cause them to continuously lash out and escalate violence.
I want to caution you against saying a civil war can’t happen here. It probably won’t. But, as I’ve said a time or two, the economy’s the only thing holding this country together right now. Our communities, our institutions, they’ve all been compromised. Nothing but fear and force is keeping them together right now. But if the economy collapses, then there’s no way to keep any of it together.
A lot’s been made of how other countries look at what happened yesterday. Normally, I wouldn’t care, but there’s this one thing – the dollar. The entire world trades in the dollar because it’s a powerful and stable currency. However, if what happened yesterday becomes more normal, other countries might start thinking the currency isn’t stable because America’s overall unstable. If they decide to start investing in other currencies, we’ve got a problem and that’s going to be a bleed that becomes difficult to start.
The potency of our currency is everything. We’re a long way off from an economic collapse, but if yesterday proved anything, it’s that we covered a lot of territory in a very short period of time. And the fact neither side’s backing down, both sides are pointing fingers at one another, and everyone else will just go along with what the Biden administration does and says, ensures this one-way express elevator to hell will only fall faster.
A different reader writes:

Your piece on the Judean Hills was spot on.  What I see this is a result of is the Darwinian Capitalism that has taken over the country the last 40 years.  I believe it started with Jack Welch of GE.  Companies had always had layoffs during recessionary times.  (My dad was EVP of a bank in LA that almost went under in a 70’s recession.  The only time I saw him cry was the night he came home after ordering 15% of the employees be laid off).  Jack Welch changed that.  He made it socially acceptable to lay off people to boost profits, even in the good times.  His nickname was “Neutron Jack” because he left the buildings standing even though all the employees were gone.  The reason I am not a Mitt Romney fan is that he made millions while his company (Bain) utilized this slash a burn management style.

I have family in the Rust Belt.  In the 1970’s I left California and moved to Detroit to work at Ford.  I remember my wonder as I drove around Southeast Michigan and saw the huge factories, River Rouge, Ypsilanti Ford, Hamtramck.  Factories that had been around for decades and were the “Arsenal of Democracy”.  These factories gave the opportunity for a working class blue collar guy the chance to buy a home (maybe even a boat), put his kids through college and have a nice pension when he was through.  Then the deindustrialization of the Heartland started.  Cheap foreign labor and automation turned these once proud factories into skeletons.  People left, homes were foreclosed and worst of all a drug epidemic fueled by hopelessness ravaged the area.  I saw it first hand as my son-in-law went from being a highly paid machinist to an itinerate house painter sometimes driving five hours to get to a job that barely paid of minimum wage.  It took a toll.  Alcohol, and drugs followed.  At 41 he died of a brain tumor and left behind my daughter (also an addict) and 2 young sons.

That plague still affects Caucasians in the heartland.  On top of it we have the occurrences of the past 7-8 years.  Many tried to raise their voices and were told to sit, down shut up and to check your “white privilege”.  Do you know the rage that must have been felt by these folks as they heard people like Barack Obama, Lebron James and the society tell them how privileged they were?  They pulled back into their tribes, followed sports. During all this and despite the fact their country betrayed them they became more and more patriotic (nationalistic)(Raider Nation).  Then Colin Kaepernick came along.  That movement attacked the sanctuary many had.  The reasons for Mr. Kaepernick’s protests, while legitimate, were of little concern to a group of people who had been kicked around as this group had.  The “take a knee” movement was looked at as a group of rich athletes and team owners extending their middle finger to this group of Americans.

Then came protests of the summer where the very foundation of America is questioned . Washington, Jefferson even Lincoln are denounced as racists.  Their monuments are desecrated, and barely a peep from the liberal elite of politicians, media and celebrities

Then Trump comes along.  I will not discuss Mr. Trump’s insanity, but for many he was the voice for a great many people who had been told to sit down and shut up by the elites and mostly only given lip service by the political class.  Trump became their guy.  He appeared to be standing on their side on immigration, abortion, the LGBTQ  insanity and other radical liberal priorities.  They turned out to vote in record numbers, but Trump lost.  So Trump gets into the whole election conspiracy thing.  It is very seductive and then he calls them to the Capitol so that they can be heard.  Look at the perps yesterday.  Most were white, working class in their 30s, 40s.  They tried the ballot box but they lost.  Sadly, many tried the other way.

Did you notice the difference in this time in how the media portrayed them?  During the summer while we sat and watched the rioting and looting we were told you have to understand its because they have been oppressed (Nothing like walking off with five pairs of Nikes to cure being oppressed).  Now will there be any questioning about the causes behind what happened yesterday?  No they are just terrorists and anyone who questioned the election are guilty of sedition.

Unfortunately, they hear nothing from Biden.  When he talks about his vision they see more of the same that they have had shoved down their throats before Trump.  The elites are starting the drum beat to get rid of Republican politicians who questioned the election.  Just throw them out and of course replace with “enlightened” Democrats.  There needs to be a voice of national reconciliation to bring this country back together addressing the problems of all Americans, not just minorities.  Otherwise I am afraid this was just a prelude.

Michael Lind has a thoughtful essay about the roots of yesterday’s assault. He says it’s really about five crises. Here’s how it starts:

In the past eight months, two Capitol Hills have fallen. Two shocking events symbolize the abdication of authority by America’s ruling class, an abdication that has led to what can be described, not without exaggeration, as the slow-motion disintegration of the United States of America in its present form.

The first occurred on June 8, 2020, when the Seattle police evacuated their East Precinct building in the city’s Capitol Hill neighborhood. Left-wing rioters stormed the police headquarters and looted it. For 24 days, Seattle’s government allowed would-be revolutionaries to create an anarchist commune, acting out the fantasy of “abolishing the police” embraced by much of the American left as well as liberals who should have known better. This anarchist commune, created in the midst of nationwide protests against the death on May 25 of a Black Minnesotan, George Floyd, in police custody, was the scene of the fatal shootings of two Black men before the police finally shut it down on July 1.

On Jan. 6, 2021, America’s elite abandoned another Capitol Hill to rioters. After President Donald Trump stirred them up in an incendiary address in which he claimed that Joe Biden had stolen the presidency from him, a mob of right-wing radicals broke into the United States Capitol, where the certification of the results of last November’s election results was taking place. Like the leaders of Seattle in June, America’s congressional leaders abandoned their posts and fled. In the ensuing chaos, the Trumpist rioters, mostly men wearing MAGA hats or more exotic outfits, posed for selfies in the well of the House chamber or in the legislative offices they broke into. A police officer killed a female rioter. Three others died as a result of “medical emergencies.” As in Seattle’s Capitol Hill, so in America’s: The forces of legitimate authority and coercive order for a period were nowhere to be seen.

What is the meaning of these dystopian scenes? Many Democrats claim that Republicans are destroying the republic. Many Republicans claim the reverse. They are both correct.

More:

People who are rooted in real communities—extended families, neighborhoods, occupational associations, religious congregations—do not make good foot soldiers in partisan armies deployed by remote elites who are battling for control of government offices. They have jobs they can’t miss and children they have to pick up from school and errands to run.

Isolated individuals are the natural sources for political armies. Though their ideologies vary, and different political warlords recruit them, the young people who vandalize stores and offices in the name of Black Lives Matter often share a common lack of social rootedness with their militant MAGA counterparts, a common Durkheimian anomie. Twenty-somethings who are married with children and have stable jobs and mortgage payments are unlikely to storm either Seattle’s or Washington’s Capitol Hill.

Combine the rise of social anomie with social (actually antisocial) media, and our warring political factions can summon mobs of alienated, mostly young militants anywhere in the country on short notice, overtly like Trump or discreetly from behind the scenes, like Democratic donors and politicians through the local NGOs they fund. The flash mob, originally used for fun, has now been weaponized for street warfare by Democratic and Republican party leaders from the luxury of their mansions or apartment suites or offices. The Democratic street armies, with their national networks of bail funds that enable the coastal rich to spring left-wing rioters and looters from jail in staged protests across the country, is far more sophisticated and enjoys far more corporate and financial sector support than the less-developed, but increasingly militant, right-wing alternatives.

And:

The strategy of American business, encouraged by neoliberal Democrats and libertarian conservative Republicans alike since the 1970s, has been to lower labor costs in the United States, not by substituting labor-saving technology for workers, but by schemes of labor arbitrage: offshoring jobs when possible to poorly paid workers in other countries and substituting unskilled immigrants willing to work for low wages in some sectors, like meatpacking and construction and farm labor. American business has also driven down wages by smashing unions in the private sector, which now have fewer members—a little more than 6% of the private sector workforce—than they did under Herbert Hoover. Another wage-suppressing tactic of American business is replacing full-time employees with benefits with part-time contractors or gig workers with lower wages and no benefits. The MAGA assault on Capitol Hill came shortly after it was announced that Albertsons, the grocery company that owns Vons, Pavilion, and other chains in California, is firing full-time delivery drivers and replacing them with gig workers.

Read it all. There’s a lot in there, critical of both Left and Right. Can we pull back from the brink? Where are the counter-distintegrating forces? I don’t see them.

One more excerpt, this one from a long piece by Glenn Greenwald, from his Substack newsletter:

It is stunning to watch now as every War on Terror rhetorical tactic to justify civil liberties erosions is now being invoked in the name of combatting Trumpism, including the aggressive exploitation of the emotions triggered by yesterday’s events at the Capitol to accelerate their implementation and demonize dissent over the quickly formed consensus. The same framework used to assault civil liberties in the name of foreign terrorism is now being seamlessly applied — often by those who spent the last two decades objecting to it — to the threat posed by “domestic white supremacist terrorists,” the term preferred by liberal elites, especially after yesterday, for Trump supporters generally. In so many ways, yesterday was the liberals’ 9/11, as even the most sensible commentators among them are resorting to the most unhinged rhetoric available.

Within hours of the Capitol being cleared, we heard truly radical proposals from numerous members of Congress. Senators and House members who objected to Electoral College certification, or questioned its legitimacy, should be formally accused of sedition and removed from expelled from the House if not prosecuted, argued Rep. Cori Bush (D-MO), with other House members expressing support. Even those unarmed protesters who peacefully entered the Capitol should, many argued, be hunted by the FBI as domestic terrorists.

Calls proliferated for the banning of the social media accounts of instigators and protest participants. Journalists and politicians cheered the decision by Facebook and Twitter to temporarily bar the President from using their service, and then cheered again when Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced on Tuesday that the ban on Trump extended through Biden’s inauguration. Some journalists, such as CNN’s Oliver Darcy, complained that Facebook had not gone far enough, that more mass censorship was needed of right-wing voices. The once-radical 2006 Gingrich argument — that some opinions are too dangerous to allow to be expressed because they are pro-terrorist and insurrectionary — is now thriving, close to a consensus.

These calls for censorship, online and official, are grounded in the long-discredited, oft-rejected and dangerous view that a person should be held legally accountable not only for their own illegal actions but also for the consequences of their protected speech: meaning the actions others take when they hear inflammatory rhetoric. That was the distorted mentality used by the State of Mississippi in the 1970s to try to hold NAACP leaders liable for the violent acts of their followers against boycott violators after hearing rousing pro-boycott speeches from NAACP leaders, only for the Supreme Court in 1982 to unanimously reject such efforts on the ground that “while the State legitimately may impose damages for the consequences of violent conduct, it may not award compensation for the consequences of nonviolent, protected activity,” adding that even “advocacy of the use of force or violence does not remove speech from the protection of the first amendment.”

The complete reversal in mentality from just a few months ago is dizzying. Those who spent the summer demanding the police be defunded are furious that the police response at the Capitol was insufficiently robust, violent and aggressive. Those who urged the abolition of prisons are demanding Trump supporters be imprisoned for years. Those who, under the banner of “anti-fascism,” demanded the firing of a top New York Times editor for publishing an op-ed by Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AK) advocating the deployment of the U.S. military to quell riots — a view deemed not just wrong but unspeakable in decent society — are today furious that the National Guard was not deployed at the Capitol to quash pro-Trump supporters. Antifa advocates are working to expose the names of Capitol protesters to empower the FBI to arrest them on terrorism charges. And while Rep. Cori Bush’s proposal to unseat members of Congress for their subversive views went mega-viral, many forget that in 1966, the Georgia State Legislature refused to seat Julian Bond after he refused to repudiate his anti-war work with the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, then considered a domestic terrorist group.

Read it all. 

 

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. A veteran of three decades of magazine and newspaper journalism, he has also written three New York Times bestsellers—Live Not By Lies, The Benedict Option, and The Little Way of Ruthie Lemingas well as Crunchy Cons and How Dante Can Save Your Life. Dreher lives in Baton Rouge, La.

leave a comment

Latest Articles