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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.

More:

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!).

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. He has written and edited for the New York Post, The Dallas Morning News, National Review, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the Washington Times, and the Baton Rouge Advocate. Rod’s commentary has been published in The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, the Weekly Standard, Beliefnet, and Real Simple, among other publications, and he has appeared on NPR, ABC News, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and the BBC. He lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with his wife Julie and their three children. He has also written four books, The Little Way of Ruthie Leming, Crunchy Cons, How Dante Can Save Your Life, and The Benedict Option.

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