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Totalitarianism In Our Time

Portland rag identifies Enemy Of The People, calls out Internet mob to punish her
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I’ve mentioned from time to time in this space comments I hear from readers and others who lived under communism, and who now see some core aspects of life under communism beginning to manifest in the West. This morning at a Notre Dame conference, I met a professor who emigrated from an Eastern bloc country as a younger man. I told him about this phenomenon, and asked him if it fit his own experience.

Absolutely yes, he said. He explained that the militant ideologization of daily life here is all too familiar to him, from his past under communism. We weren’t talking on the record, so I won’t mention in detail the things he said. They basically had to do with the determination to destroy people, professionally and personally, for standing in the way of the ideologues.

Shortly after speaking to him, I checked my Twitter account, and discovered this:


Here’s a link to the original Portland Mercury story about this Enemy Of The People. It begins like this:

Rashsaan Muhammad and Mattie Khan were waiting for their order inside Little Big Burger on North Mississippi Avenue when they noticed a woman standing across the street, looking at their parked car.

“She looked odd, but it didn’t alarm us,” Muhammad told the Mercury in a phone interview. Only when the African American couple had their to-go bags and were walking back toward the car did they sense something was up. According to Muhammad, the woman was on the phone when they reached the car. Khan said she could hear the woman describing their vehicle and reading off the license plate number.

“I tried to start a conversation, I asked her who she was calling and what was going on,” Muhammad said. “It was clear she was talking to the police.” (It was not clear, however, if she knew the couple was Black before making the call.)

In fact, as the Mercury said in an update, the woman, who is white, was not on the phone with the police, but with the city parking authority. What’s more, it is impossible that the woman they’ve dubbed “Crosswalk Cathy” could have known the race of the owners of a car parked illegally in a crosswalk, with no one sitting in it.

Muhammad and Khan filmed the woman on the phone with the authorities, and posted it to the Internet. The Portland Mercury amplified it by identifying the white woman — with whom they did not speak to get her side of the story — as a racist Enemy Of The People.

This is an example of a totalitarian mindset. Thanks in part to the Portland Mercury, the face of this poor woman is now all over Portland, and all over the Internet, identified as a racist harasser of black people, when in fact she is no such thing.

Why do people hate the media? This is part of it. Let’s be mindful that this kind of thing is by no means bog-standard “liberal media bias” stuff. This crosses the line into the totalitarian mentality. The facts do not matter to the Portland Mercury. All that matters is that this Enemy Of The People is identified as an ideological criminal, and that her life be destroyed.

As Jesse Singal — himself a journalist — points out, this is not a one-off for that newspaper. 

I would like to point out too that I have had several conversations with university professors at this conference — all of whom teach at at least nominally Christian colleges — who have said bluntly that they and their Christian colleagues are profoundly concerned about their jobs in the Social Justice Warrior culture being institutionalized at their schools. One professor told me that he and his colleagues are afraid that even addressing homosexuality, transgenderism, or gender ideology in a theoretical way, as part of classroom discussion, is impossible to do unless they are emphatically supportive of it. Simply to apply ordinary critical thinking to the LGBT phenomenon, in the same way they would critically examine religion or any other topic, risks offending a student, and in turn, in this climate, could cost the professor his or her job.

This is not just a “what if” for them. Some of these profs had specific examples to point to. Two humanities professors who teach at different colleges — Christian ones, mind you –told me last night that they tell their best students not to plan on academic careers, because the university is far too toxic. One said, “I tell them to get their PhDs and plan on teaching in classical Christian schools.”

Think about that, conservative (and) Christian philanthropists: if you want the faith and the Western canon to survive, start giving, and giving generously, to classical Christian schools. You may think that your college alma mater is holding the line on this front — but you are probably wrong. Based on what I’m being told, ideological totalitarianism is in many places doing to the humanities what it did to them under communism.

The refugee-from-communism professor told me this morning, “Nazism made an idol of race. Communism made an idol of the people, as defined by Marx. I came to this country because it was liberal, and welcomed people like me. But things are changing. I can’t put my finger on what liberalism is making an idol of, but something big is happening.”

My guess is that liberalism is making an idol of The Victim — as defined by progressives. Every time I read someone defending a vile attack on someone like Brett Kavanaugh or “Crosswalk Cathy” (who is white) as “punching up,” I think: this is how you get totalitarianism. Truth and justice does not depend on facts and logic, but on power relationships, however distorted their definition. It’s “who, whom” all the way down.



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