Ed West is a prominent British conservative journalist. In this piece, written more in a tone of sorrow than anger, he reflects on how he has soured on America. Excerpts:
To my generation, growing up in the Cold War, that sense of America The Protector still lingered. I remember as a child seeing US troops at Checkpoint Charlie and being aware that it was thanks to them that we didn’t have to keep our eyes down like the poor prisoners of East Berlin. As a British child, when you watched American films or American TV, you identified with the Americans against our common enemies around the world.
Like many people here, I considered 9/11 as an attack on us too, and not just because of the dozens of Britons killed; I was furious when the BBC aired a panel show a couple of days later in which various (mostly Muslim) guests and audience members shouted about how the Americans had it coming, in front of a distraught-looking American diplomat.
And yet a lot has happened since. There is now a feeling, and I suspect it is growing on the British Right, that America is no longer a force for good in the world — quite the opposite. “Civilisations die from suicide,” as Arnold Toynbee famously said, and the United States, or at least its Ivy League-educated elite, is the Rev Jim Jones of the West.
So while far more British people on the Right see themselves as pro-American, this barely makes any sense anymore. Certainly on issues of social democracy, relating to welfare and redistribution, most Europeans are more Left-wing than Americans, with the British somewhat closer to the US median. Yet on social justice issues — related to race, immigration, gender and sexuality — America is far more radical than the European norm. And in 21st century politics, those latter issues are more salient to people’s voting habits.
It was once a rather fond cliché to say that when America sneezes Britain catches a cold, but that idea seems less benign now that America’s politics has mutated into something genuinely toxic and destructive. Its elites are aren’t just misguided, they are deranged and malignant. With the country losing its Christian faith, they are driven by a new religious moral fervour towards the utopian goal of “equity”, equality of outcome transferred from the individual to the racial group, a project destined to stoke hatred and conflict.
Read it all.
West sees how the American woke cultural virus is rolling through Britain, which, as he explains, lacks immunities that non-English-speaking European countries have, and he faults us for transmitting the poison that is tearing up his own country. I find it hard to object, sadly.
Just yesterday at coffee hour after church, I was telling some friends about being in the Czech Republic in 2018, on a Benedict Option book tour, and taking questions at every stop from Czechs who were both mystified by and frightened of “gender ideology” — that is, the destruction of the gender binary in favor of transgenderism and the rest of the anarchy that comes with it. They saw this as a form of cultural insanity coming to them from America. I told them that they were absolutely right to be concerned, and that they should be defensive. Ten years ago, I explained to the Czechs, this insane ideology was more or less confined to campuses. Now it is taking over all the elite institutions in America.
What a weird and depressing position to be in, standing in a foreign country warning foreigners to be on the defensive about an ideological sickness propagated by my own country. It felt shameful, but what was I supposed to do? America was advancing a deeply destructive lie.
In Tablet, the conservative geopolitical strategist Angelo Codevilla advocates exodus. Excerpts:
Today, the oligarchy that controls American society’s commanding heights leaves those who are neither its members nor its clients little choice but to marshal their forces for their own exodus. The federal government, the governments of states and localities run by the Democratic Party, along with the major corporations, the educational establishment, and the news media set strict but movable boundaries about what they may or may not say—on pain of being cast out, isolated from society’s mainstream. Using an ever-shifting variety of urgent excuses, which range from the coronavirus, to the threat of domestic terrorism, to catastrophic climate change, to the evils of racism, they issue edicts that they enforce through anti-democratic means—from social pressure and threats, to corporate censorship of digital platforms, to bureaucratic fiat. Nobody voted for this.
I don’t agree with all of Codevilla’s grievances listed in the essay. But I generally side with him about the malignancy of the “oligarchs” who run this country, and I support the thrust of his argument to muster political power to separate ourselves from these woke oligarchs. Codevilla concludes:
The oligarchy’s cancellation of most ordinary people out of its desired America leaves the latter with the choice between helotry and exodus. But since submission to inconstant, inept masters is impossible, common sense suggests counter-canceling: limiting involvement with the oligarchy to minimizing its interference on individuals who don’t share its aims and preferences.
The oligarchy’s cancellation of ordinary working people—of those who actively participate in forms of organized religion, and are otherwise attached to the common norms and values that prevailed in America and shaped the civilization in and by which most of us live—signals an alienation deeper than that between citizens of different but friendly nations. Asking how this cultural chasm has come to be detracts from the hard task of understanding its depth and making the best of it. Like married couples who have lost or given up what had united them, trying to work through irreconcilable differences only drives Americans’ domestic quarrels toward more violence.
That is why going one’s own way, while paying no more attention to the woke than is absolutely necessary, should be the agenda of the country party, which in this case includes all of those who still feel an attachment to the ideals of republican citizenship that we once shared in common as Americans.
Read it all.
The problem is that I don’t know how to “separate.” The idea of a geographical separation is impossible; this is not 1861. We are stuck with each other in one country. But how can we keep living this way, with powerful people who really hate us, and who are eager to use their power to compel us to behave as they want us to? I’m thinking out loud here; I really don’t know what the answer is. But I’m open to conversations that I would not have been before.
Something about what’s happening in Georgia triggered me. This weekend, thinking about what Woke Capitalists (and Major League Baseball) are trying to do to Georgia over its voting law — which (see this Georgia Public Broadcasting analysis) is not remotely as bad as what the “Jim Crow on steroids” Democrats are saying — that Randy Newman line the songwriter puts into the mouth of Louisana Gov. Huey P. Long kept running around my head:
Ain’t no Standard Oil men gonna run this state.
Gonna be run by little folks like me and you.
Look at this from the well-known law professor:
It’s total hypocrisy by the Woke party and the Woke Capitalists, who are bitching about having to do business in Georgia, but who have no problem doing business in the People’s Republic of China, which is enacting an actual genocide, complete with concentration camps, against the Uighur Muslim people.
On Friday, I listened to this Fresh Air interview with Alec MacGillis, author of Fulfilled, a new book about Amazon. It made this stalwart right winger hopeful that the Amazon workers in Bessemer, Alabama, get their union. No corporation should have the power Amazon does. Excerpt:
DAVIES: So as you were writing about these great disparities in the United States among regions and tech companies’ role in it, you thought Amazon would be a good lens for examining all this. Let’s just start with, how big was Amazon before the pandemic? How big is it now?
MACGILLIS: I think it’s really kind of hard for us to even comprehend just how big it’s gotten. It was huge already before the pandemic, with several hundred thousand workers around the country, more than a hundred fulfillment centers as they call their primary warehouses, about, you know, 40% of the e-commerce market in the country was controlled by Amazon, just a huge share of it. The company, of course, has also been growing incredibly rapidly in a whole other realm, namely the so-called cloud, the world of online tech infrastructure that other companies rent – essentially rent from Amazon in all these data centers that have also sprung up around the country. That’s a whole other part of Amazon that’s been incredibly lucrative for them. So they were already very large before the pandemic.
But what has happened in this past year is really kind of hard to grasp. In the span of just a single year, they hired more than 400,000 additional employees. And that does not include all the delivery drivers that we see all around our cities that are actually not technically employed by Amazon, even though they wear Amazon jerseys and drive Amazon vans. The company has added roughly 50% more warehouse space in just the past year. Its sales have gone up about 40% year over year. Its stock price went up more than 80%. Jeff Bezos’ personal wealth went up about $58 billion over the past year.
Perhaps because we’re right in the middle of it, we can’t really grasp just how much how it’s gotten. We may be averting our eyes from the scale of the growth, partly because we all feel somewhat complicit in it. The fact is that the company grew so much over the past year because Americans, in much greater numbers than before, really embraced the sort of one-click approach to our daily life. And now we just see it. We see it everywhere around us. I mean, you see the vans just coming up and down your streets constantly. If you’re out on the highway, the number of, you know – on tractor trailers is just stunning and almost kind of eerie when you start to count them over just a short stretch of highway. It’s just an incredible growth in reach and in size and penetration in our economy and in our daily life.
Amazon, as you will recall, recently decided that Ryan T. Anderson’s book critical of transgenderism will not be sold by it. Because of that, it is going to be very difficult for publishers to take a chance on publishing any books critical of gender ideology. If Amazon won’t sell them, then it’s too risky to publish them, given how much of a hold Amazon has over the book retail market in America. Like I said, too much damn power. More from the interview:
DAVIES: Yeah. And I guess we should just note that Amazon and the other tech giants have some serious ammunition to battle, you know, in Congress and regulatory agencies.
MACGILLIS: Absolutely. They’ve vastly increased their spending on lobbying in recent years. They’re now some of the very biggest spenders on the influence industry in Washington. Many people who used to be in government have now sort of cycled through the revolving door into these companies. The Obama administration, which was strikingly lax in its approach to the growth of the giants, sent a lot of people, you know, into these companies. So there are very strong ties between government and the companies. And then in the case of Amazon, there’s even more kind of direct ammunition, namely the company’s really remarkable growth in Washington itself.
The company has – clearly has set out to grow its presence and raise his profile in Washington, which will only help it in these fights to come. The company – of course, Jeff Bezos bought The Washington Post. He bought the largest mansion in town, which he spent about $35 million on to sort of turn it into a great kind of salon for having, you know, local gatherings of the power elite. They’re spending a lot more on lobbying. They’re getting all sorts of large contracts from the government for their cloud services.
And then finally, they decided to put their second national headquarters just outside Washington – 25,000 high-paid jobs, billions in investment. So the company has greatly increased its profile in Washington, which makes sense if you think that for a company like Amazon, the main threat right now comes not from other corporate rivals, but really from the possibility of government intervention.
Here’s a slogan for the next presidential candidate I will vote for:
Ain’t no Woke Capitalists gonna run this State
Gonna be run by little folks like me and you
Roger Kimball writes:
We are living at a moment that is both increasingly fissiparous and increasingly dominated by a totalizing ideology, the ideology of racialist wokeness and radical sexual exoticism.
More and more, the disciples of that species of “politics-is-everything” determine the lineaments of our social life. Give obeisance or leave your job. Mouth the platitudes or forgo admission to college. Carry the placards or risk ostracism. To those who are lucky enough to have found a niche on the sidelines apart from the machine-like demands for loyalty (“silence is violence”), the whole process can still seem faintly comical or at least absurd.
But there is a distinctly malevolent aspect to what is unfolding, as Arendt saw with brutal lucidity. It’s easy to understand and reject the horrors of totalitarianism. It is much less easy to grasp its inexorable logic or its seemingly implacable attractions. It was part of Arendt’s genius to grasp and explain that side of the phenomenon as well, the “irresistible appeal of the totalitarian movements’ spurious claim to have abolished the separation between private and public life and to have restored a mysterious irrational wholeness in man.” It’s what makes the effort to transform politics into God so appealing to susceptible souls, and so dangerous for society as a whole.
I believe that soft totalitarianism is coming, because it is the inexorable logic of the post-liberal Left, which has gained control of nearly all the institutions in American life. I strongly believe in preparing for long-term resistance, which is what my book Live Not By Lies is about. But I also believe in fighting these SOBs as hard as we can, while we can. It is not traditionally in the Republican Party’s DNA to be anti-Big Business and anti-institutional, but if the conservative party cannot muster the wherewithal to stick it to Woke Capital, and woke institutions, hard, in the ribs, for the sake of democracy, then by God, let’s start a party that will. These people are ruining America. Until and unless America recovers herself, I’m with my Tory pal Ed West: Yankee go home.