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Twitter’s Woke Left Sans-Culotte LARPers

Progressives have decided to defend the French Revolution. Another 2020 day in the books.

Twitter on a good day is a raging and inextinguishable house fire of ignorance and hatred. So when yesterday “French Revolution” started trending on the platform, you knew it was going to be not just appallingly dumb but a little meta.

It all began when Senator Lindsey Graham—I don’t think I’ve ever defended him in public before—sent this tweet…

…and went from there as the woke left’s resident historians readied an epic fact check! There was this (since deleted):

And this:

And of course this:

All of which seemed to overlook this:

guillotine | Facts, Inventor, & History | Britannica

Yes, the French Revolution was inspired in part by the American Revolution, with Thomas Paine and Thomas Jefferson acting as kind of intellectual emissaries between the two. But it wasn’t a sequel so much as a demonic mirror image. The Terror sent thousands to the guillotine, not just smug Monseigneurs but people of all classes, including those who themselves had been revolutionaries, as the uprising turned to cannibalism. In the September Massacres, Parisians, fearful of an advancing Prussian army, rioted and slaughtered more than a thousand prisoners in only four days. In the Vendée, tens of thousands of civilians were massacred by “infernal columns” because they’d been deemed counterrevolutionary.

The revolution manifested itself in a febrile Rousseauian nationalism that sank France into a decade of wars with other European powers and culminated in Napoleon. But that nationalism was loyal only to the new republic, and in order for that country to exist, all that came before it had to be wiped out. Hence the slaughter, the revolutionary calendar, the replacement of Christian feast days with cultish “rationalist” ones. It was, in fact, a time of unreason, impassioned by fear, innuendo, and a nihilistic determination to destroy. The notion that this was the same as the American Revolution, whose patriots (at least at first) were fighting to preserve their rights as Englishmen, is nonsense. The argument that it was at all analogous to our own founding ignores the Framers’ fear of direct democracy and the mob. The idea that it had to happen in order for France to become a republic ignores all the other nations that made that transition without first immolating themselves.

As Burke addressed the French Jacobins, “You began ill, because you began by despising everything that belonged to you.” That should sound uncomfortably familiar. Today America has its own revolutionaries—not oppressed sans-culottes, though they like to think they are—who shriek for statues to come down, landmarks to be renamed, the national anthem to be junked. Lindsey Graham goes too far in saying the Democratic Party has internalized the French Revolution. Woke Twitter and the rioting vandals, however—that’s another story.

about the author

Matt Purple is a senior editor at The American Conservative.

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