Going to CPAC in Dallas last week gave me a lot to think about, little of it encouraging. I'm still trying to sort all the conversations I had. You expect CPAC to be full of people who are on the colorful extremes of American conservative politics, and that's what I found. But honestly, I wasn't troubled by much of it, and was actually encouraged by some of it (the Latino speakers I heard). Most people I saw there seemed real earnest and friendly, even though my kind of conservatism doesn't fully intersect with theirs.
No, what left me so unsettled are the conversations I had with journalist colleagues and other old conservative friends I ran into while at the event (that is to say, not registered CPAC attendees, unless they registered as media).
It was fun to bump into people I had not seen in many years -- friends and acquaintances from cities I'd lived over the last decades, but with whom I had lost touch. We would talk about people we have in common, and I was able to get caught up on what had been going on with them since we last saw. There was a lot of the usual thing that people have dealt with by middle age -- especially lots of divorces, with every single one of them initiated by the wife, I learned. There were surprising stories about having to deal with transgender children and grandchildren -- surprising, because it hadn't occurred to me that people from my conservative and Christian circles in the cities I'd once lived in would have to deal with this stuff, but hey, that's where we are today as a country. If you think you can hide from it, you're wrong.
But what hit me hard was hearing over and over how radical people so many had become. I heard stories about woke adult children, and how politics had poisoned the relationship between them and their parents, no matter how hard the parents tried to make it work. I did, however, hear one story about a right-wing father disinheriting his son because his son said he was planning to vote for Bernie Sanders. (The person who told me the story knew the people involved personally.) I told my interlocutor, "My older son is 22, and is a Bernie Bro. We argue about politics a bit, but I cannot imagine turning my back on him, much less writing him out of my will, because of his politics. What is wrong with people?"
Well, there's a lot wrong with people these days. The folks I talked to were all conservatives, and not Never Trump types either. But I saw and heard deep unease over where the country is going, based on what the people we had in common once have gone through.
There was the Christian acquaintance whose wife left him for another woman, and who is now jabbing their child with cross-sex hormones. Nobody has seen or heard from him since all that started. He just dropped out of church life.
There are so many normie conservatives -- normie from when I used to hang with them ages ago -- who have been totally radicalized to the far right. Crucially, none of these people are involved in politics. I didn't have time in these impromptu conversations to find out more details about what happened to them; I'm just reporting to you that it has happened. When I say "radicalized to the far right," I don't mean that they are CPAC types (to be perfectly clear: none of these people I'm talking about were CPAC attendees!). From what I heard, none of these people would waste time at CPAC. They are open to really revolutionary stuff. I head jaw-dropping stories that if they were told about teenagers or college students, they would have worried me, but not too much. But these are stories told about middle-aged white collar radicals who are now driven by conspiracy theories. I swear, if you had sat on my shoulder over the past few days, you would have thought the people I talked to had been briefed on Hannah Arendt's The Origins of Totalitarianism.
In Live Not By Lies, I drew from Arendt to identify how the Left in America is showing the hallmarks of a pre-totalitarian society. After what I heard in Dallas conversations about good people I used to know, I see the same things are happening to the Right. The disdain for truth-seeking, and the concomitant eagerness to believe anything that seems internally consistent and ratifies what ideological points the person already believes. The radical atomization. The total distrust in institutional authority. And so on.
I have focused professionally on the Left running amok with wokeness, because the woke Left controls all the institutions of power in this country. Ibram X. Kendi is as lunatic as a certain far-right racist academic I heard talked about in one conversation as having influenced an old friend, but that far-right academic is obscure and powerless. Kendi is on national TV all the time, writes for The Atlantic, and runs a Boston academic center funded in part by generous corporate donations. Kendi's malignant anti-white racism is thoroughly mainstream and celebrated by elites. The far-right guy's racism against non-whites and Jews is, for now, totally marginalized. But the fact that a middle-class normie corporate executive who has moved to the suburbs since we knew each other is now reading and absorbing the work of a radical racist writer shocks me more than I can say.
In another conversation with someone from my past life, I heard about "Bob," as I'll call him. We used to all go out drinking beer with Bob. When I was part of Bob's life, he had a solid career track doing an intellectually demanding job in a good company. He wasn't a journalist, but was part of our group. Really smart guy, very sensible, usually the one to call out whatever b.s. theory one of us floated. Well, Bob is now radicalized, and burning with anger. According to my source, Bob thinks the Left is totally evil, and he wants nothing at all to do with anyone on the political or cultural Left. What happened to Bob?
In short, he lost all his economic security in a series of corporate restructurings that left him jobless for long stretches. One of the companies he worked for had gone all in on wokeness. When it came time to downsize, out the door went Bob, a white guy, though the company retained younger employees with fewer skills, because they wanted to embrace diversity. Bob has had to try to keep his family from going hungry in part because he was let go (or rather, not retained) because he's a white male. I heard that Bob and his wife and kids have been struggling for years. I remember back in the day thinking that we journalists were probably facing rocky times (this was back when the Internet first began making life hard for the print industry), but that Bob -- smart, steady, dependable, honest to a fault -- would be solid and safe. Nope.
Again, this was just part of a casual "whatever happened to?" conversation, so I don't know the extent of Bob's radicalization -- meaning that I'm not sure if he's a conspiracy theorist now, or anything. I would doubt it; Bob struck me as the soul of common sense skepticism. But he definitely sees the Left as the enemy of him and his family, according to our mutual friend.
I thought about Bob tonight when I saw this on Twitter:
You've got to read the fine print. How is this not a political loyalty test?
As John Sailer points out in the thread, this kind of thing has been adopted by other colleges. This is exactly the kind of mindset that cost Bob his job, and his family its financial security! It had nothing to do with Bob's competence to do his work. It was 100 percent about ideology, and racial identity. Here is a major university saying openly that it discriminates against potential employees who don't share an ideology only tangential to their work -- and this is considered by the American ruling class to be a sign of virtue.
Hell yeah, I would be radicalized too if this kind of thing cost me my job. I keep telling my Bernie Bro son that the day you are denied a job or advancement because of the color of your skin or your sex, you will put aside that leftist ardor. A commenter left this under Heather Mac Donald's stunning recent piece about how racial wokeness is destroying medicine:
Public Health has been gone for at least the last 10 years. After I retired from clinical practice I spent the last 25 years of my career in public health. About a dozen years ago we started having seminars in “Woke Public Health” - that is the exact terminology, long before “woke” came into the common parlance. At my Big State R01 Flagship uni, the leadership at my school of public health starting purging white males from the administration about 10 years ago and the faculty soon followed. There is now not a single white male in the administration or research staff, and the only white males left on the faculty are old and getting pressured to retire. It’s an open secret that “white males need not apply” for faculty positions. Literally every department is chaired by a woman, most of them white women, but a significant number are minority. Our dean is, of course, black.
The notion of “replacement theory” gets poo-pooed by the left, however, those of us living in the academic world see it with our own eyes, every single day.
It's happening in many different fields. The Left is blind to it, of course. You longtime readers know that I have for years said in this space that Leftist identity politics inevitably call up and justify white identity politics. I have never been able to figure out why they can't see this. Maybe they think that all white people will be as compliant and as self-hating as the kind of white people they associate with in the academic and journalism worlds. I've thought about the white radicals as being like the fringey Charlottesville types. After these conversations from the weekend, I'm seeing that it's going much broader. I'd wager that none of the new radicals I heard about would ever take to the street to do anything. But they will vote. And they won't care if there is any kind of authoritarian moves to fight the Left.
I didn't know this was going on to this extent because in all my moving around, I had lost touch with these folks and my old social circles in New York, Philadelphia, Washington DC, Dallas, and Florida. But you, reader, wouldn't hear about this stuff either unless you were close to people like this, because all the people I'm talking about here are middle-class professionals, and that means they know better than to talk to anybody outside their trusted circles about it.
I was talking to a fellow conservative this weekend about how shocked I was to discover how far the radicalism had gone among middle-class, middle-aged people I used to know. He told me that he has seen the same thing emerge in his broad circles. Both the Summer of Floyd and Covid did a number on a lot of people. They saw just what the ruling class's priorities were, and how privilege works in this country now. They felt threatened, and lost all faith in authorities, and in Authority. And so forth. Now many of them will believe anything.
Away from CPAC, I met up with a teacher friend, who told me that the anxiety disorders among kids today are off the charts. I've heard this same thing a lot. "They were bad before Covid, but now?" he said, throwing up his hands.
Well, these same radicalized conservatives are now watching the spread of a horrible disease called monkeypox, which for now is almost 100 percent spread among gay and bisexual men. But the public health authorities -- the same ones who shut down schools, churches, and public life for Covid -- cannot bring themselves to say that gay men should knock off the orgies, and that gay sex festivals should be cancelled right now for public health reasons. They are, according to the Washington Post, "wary of further stigmatizing same-sex intimacy."
Further stigmatizing?! It's not stigmatized at all! We have an entire month set aside to celebrate same-sex intimacy, and people fear being fired if they don't! This is not at all about "stigma"; it's about gay men and their allies believing that gay men should be able to have as much sex as they want, whenever they want, and suffer no consequences. To hell with the common good. Ordinary people see this, and they remember how medical authorities suspended the rules of public health to permit George Floyd protests, because reasons. Same thing is happening here. Now it's passing to children, somehow, but heaven forbid we tell gay men to stop rutting like animals.
Last week came the report that Justin Trudeau's government instituted a travel ban on Canadians due to Covid, even though there was no scientific base for it. We know this because of documents gathered as part of a lawsuit against the government. Excerpt:
The whole point of the case was to lift that shroud and cast a spotlight on the unscientific basis of the mandate.
Among other things, the court documents indicate:
+ No one in the COVID Recovery unit, including Jennifer Little, the director-general, had any formal education in epidemiology, medicine or public health.
+ Little, who has an undergraduate degree in literature from the University of Toronto, testified that there were 20 people in the unit. When Presvelos asked her whether anyone in the unit had any professional experience in public health, she said there was one person, Monique St.-Laurent. According to St.-Laurent’s LinkedIn profile, she appears to be a civil servant who briefly worked for the Public Health Agency of Canada. St.-Laurent is not a doctor, Little said.(Reached on the phone, St.-Laurent confirmed that she was a member of COVID Recovery. She referred all other questions to a government spokesperson.)
+Little suggested that a senior official in the prime minister’s Cabinet or possibly the prime minister himself had ordered COVID Recovery to impose the travel mandate. (During cross-examination, Little told Presvelos repeatedly that “discussions” about the mandate had taken place at “senior” and “very senior” levels.) But she refused to say who had given her team the order to impose the travel mandate. “I’m not at liberty to disclose anything that is subject to cabinet confidence,” she said.
+ The term “cabinet confidence” is noteworthy because it refers to the prime minister’s Cabinet. Meaning that Little could not talk about who had directed the COVID Recovery unit to impose the travel mandate because someone at the very highest levels of government was apparently behind it.
In the days leading up to the implementation of the travel mandate, transportation officials were frantically looking for a rationale for it. They came up short.
That was made clear by an email exchange in the latter half of October 2021 between Aaron McCrorie and Dawn Lumley-Myllari. McCrorie is the associate assistant deputy minister for safety and security in Transport Canada, the department that houses COVID Recovery. Lumley-Myllari is an official in the Public Health Agency of Canada. In the email exchange, McCrorie seemed to be casting about for a credible rationale for the travel mandate. This was less than two weeks before the mandate was set to kick in.
“To the extent that updated data exist or that there is clearer evidence of the safety benefit of vaccination on the users or other stakeholders of the transportation system, it would be helpful to assist Transport Canada supporting its measures,” McCrorie wrote.
Four days later, on October 22, McCrorie emailed Lumley-Myllari again: “Our requirements come in on October 30”—in just over a week—”so need something fairly soon.”
On October 28, Lumley-Myllari replied to McCrorie with a series of bullet points outlining the benefits, generally speaking, of the Covid vaccine. She did not address McCrorie’s question about the transportation system, noting that the Public Health Agency of Canada was updating its “Public health considerations” with regard to vaccine mandates.
Two days later, on October 30, the travel mandate took effect.
People's lives and businesses were ruined by this! This is the kind of thing, on top of all the others, that makes normies radical. Look, it scares me to hear stories about good people I knew in years past, who have embraced ugly conspiracy theories as a way to make sense of the collapse of the world, and in particular of their worlds. I don't know that the doctor I mentioned above is one of these people (he just dropped out from that circle), but what if he was? What would you do if your wife left you for another woman, and began to oversee the medical transition of your child into someone of the opposite sex -- and this was not only legal, but was celebrated by this culture? I know what I would do. I would be mad with grief, and would want the system smashed, and I probably wouldn't care what it took to do it.
I'm not saying this is right! I'm saying that a lot of people -- a lot more than we know, or care to think about -- are probably feeling that way right now. Again, read your Arendt. We are very much on the verge of a pre-totalitarian society (I believe that the State is going to cooperate with Corporations to institute a social credit system to keep the proles in line), or perhaps a pre-civil war one. There won't be a General Franco type to emerge -- that's not really possible in 21st century America -- but if there were widespread guerrilla campaigns of sabotage, there aren't enough police and soldiers to stop them. This is not the world that any of us should want! But what could plausibly stop it from coming about at this point? When you have columnists in the Washington Post calling Viktor Orban -- the four-times-elected Prime Minister of Hungary, a man whose country feels like 1990s America -- the harbinger of the "New Fascism" because of his views on mass migration and national sovereignty ... well, the ruling class is gearing itself up for further repression in the name of Wokeness. At some point, they're going to push too far. I would have thought it was recruiting kids for the trans cult, and now moves to impose the state between children and their parents, for the sake of seizing the children for the cult. But I guess not. Not yet.
Get weekly emails in your inbox
I challenge you to watch this first episode of a six-part 1980s documentary from British television, about the Spanish Civil War. This episode is about the prelude to the war. When I first watched it in early 2019, it sent chills up my spine, recognizing what's going on in America. Now, after Floyd, Covid, and the advance of the Great Awokening? I believe I will live to see very bad things happening in the US. And by the way, if you have a substantive comment you'd like me to consider for publication, and you don't subscribe to TAC (and therefore can't use our stupid new and worse-than-Disqus system), email it to me at rod -- at -- amconmag -- dot -- com, with the word "COMMENT" in the subject line.