Wednesday, June 21, 2017

The roots of our present rot

In the comment thread of a recent post, a reader asked me which side declared our present civil / cultural war.

I traced it back to the New Left academicians of the 1950s, particularly William Appleman Williams, the University of Wisconsin history professor who introduced the concept of moral equivalence. He posited that the US and the USSR were each just hegemony-bent superpowers with no discernible distinction between the righteousness of their aims. I then went into the radicalization that the New Left wrought, the militancy that filled the race-relations vacuum after Martin Luther King's death, the rise of feminism and the politicization of homosexuality, and, of course, the coarsening of our culture.

But I really think I could cede the floor to David French at NRO for presenting the most visceral account of the declaration of the war:

I grew up in rural Kentucky and went to college at a conservative Evangelical college in Tennessee. So it’s a bit of an understatement to say that I had limited exposure to the Left before my days at Harvard Law School. I was immersed in a new culture, and what I encountered was both reassuring and ominous. And it’s the ominous side, unfortunately, that is coloring much of American debate. 

I met liberals who are even today among the people I respect the most. They have keen intellects, gracious spirits, and virtuous goals. We disagree about means and sometimes disagree about ends, but I don’t doubt their ethics, intentions, or good faith. Liberal professors mentored me, I forged friendships that will last a lifetime, and I still learn from and appreciate the best expressions of liberal points of view.

But I also encountered cruelty and sheer malice. As I’ve written before, this was the era of the shout-down. This was an era not just of protests but also of malicious retaliation. Classmates told me to “go die” because of my pro-life speech. Some of my friends had their faces pasted on images of gay porn and posted around campus. Other friends were subject to campaigns to call future employers demanding that offers be revoked. The atmosphere was so toxic that GQ magazine wrote a piece describing the law school as “Beirut on the Charles.”

Yet in many ways Harvard embraced these hateful radicals. It gave them a home. It gave them a hearing. It gave them tenure. The most prestigious educational institution in the world was wrapping both its arms around some of the most vicious people I’d ever met. It was at Harvard that I came to understand the dynamic so powerfully described by Tom Wolfe in his legendary essay “Radical Chic.” All too many liberals admire radicals. They envy their commitment to the cause. They’re fascinated by their arguments, by their style, and by their very presence:

. . . and now, in the season of Radical Chic, the Black Panthers. That huge Panther there, the one Felicia is smiling her tango smile at, is Robert Bay, who just 41 hours ago was arrested in an altercation with the police, supposedly over a .38-caliber revolver that someone had, in a parked car in Queens at Northern Boulevard and 104th Street or some such unbelievable place, and taken to jail on a most unusual charge called “criminal facilitation.” And now he is out on bail and walking into Leonard and Felicia Bernstein’s 13-room penthouse duplex on Park Avenue. Harassment & Hassles, Guns & Pigs, Jail & Bail — they’re real, these Black Panthers. The very idea of them, these real revolutionaries, who actually put their lives on the line, runs through Lenny’s duplex like a rogue hormone.

The radicals mix with the liberals, and the liberals empower the radicals. What’s happening on college campuses today? A small fringe defies the rule of law, it shuts down free speech, and it sometimes even physically attacks speakers or their allies. It acts out of cruelty and sometimes even race-hate, spitting out the word “white” as if it’s inherently evil. And yet the liberal establishment caves into their demands (all while lauding their commitment to social justice), even issuing “stand down” orders to campus police that put innocent people in physical peril. The goal? To protect the safety of the rioters. At best, mainstream liberals deliver mild slaps on the wrist, like the joke punishments given to protesters at Middlebury College.

At best, a few brave souls will issue statements and write stern op-eds condemning censorship and academic intolerance. These voices are vital and appreciated, but it often feels as if they represent mere fingers in the dike — doing their best to hold back a torrent of radical rage.

The liberal response to Black Lives Matter is one of the best examples of this sad phenomenon. Millions of well-meaning Americans — justifiably eager for racial reconciliation and often deceived by misleading statistics and sometimes outright lies — have elevated an organization that has dedicated itself to the disruption of the “western-prescribed” nuclear family, celebrates cop-killers, and keeps mounting protests that turn violent (and sometimes even deadly). 
And there you have it.


  1. The liberals I hung with drew the line at cruelty, violence and outrageous behavior. In my opinion today's protesters do the never Trumpers a huge disfavor providing fine fodder for the right to denigrate many of their causes. Hell, I think prosecutorial types like Gowdy & Cruz are nasty about some stuff, often not very ingratiating or courteous to their victims they are interrogating but they are basically gentlemen generally respected on both sides of the aisle. I know you'd hate it if they somehow turned reasonable. Surely you don't think that I, despite what you contend is my confusion and inconsistency anything but Thea left wing creeps out there being some of the nastiest citizens of our Great Country. I have received some
    Kudos for the calm perceived rationality of my comments in social media.

  2. Calm is laudable, especially as the national conversation gets more shrill by the minute, but the most admirable position of all is not backing off an inch in defense of the Great Immutable Truths.

    That's because it requires real courage.

  3. My what are great immutable truths? And why does one's perspective of these truths outweigh another's perspective? That is difficult to understand why a person in one place has "the right truths" and another does not. Consistency to me means available and "doing something" in a society to enhance the society and nothing more. One's personal opinion has little value, but of course we might mesh that out forever, without any substantial value to their society. If there is not a paycheck in todays standards then the effort has hardly any value at all. After all there are those three pillars of democracy and I do not see where the "avocation" of an idea has any real bearing within those pillars. It might be as you said just innovation and consistency
    sets the course in this increasingly dysfunctional world. That's not much to brag about.

  4. Here ae a few of the Great Immutable Truths currently under assault in post-America:

    1.)There are only two sexes, male and female, and no matter how much one carves up one's crotch or stuffs oneself full of hormones, he or she is still the same gender he or she was born as.

    2.) Two people of the same gender may have intimate relations, and even experience bonds between them that allow them to be in committed relationships from which they derive great fulfillment, but it is not marital love.

    3.) Human activity is not causing damage to the global climate.

    4.) A good or service is worth what buyer and seller agree that it is worth. Period.

    5.) Sin being the constant that it is in human history, nation-states will always need military and police functions.

  5. This comment has been removed by the author.

  6. Ad hominem attack on the blogmeister has been graciously removed by the author

  7. Why is the esteemed blogmeister all hung up on the sex things? You'd think that judgment and vengeance are his. And so certain that mankind has absolutely nothing to do with rising sea levels, melting ice in the Antarctic, unrivaled extinction rates, etc. That smells like hubris to me. And, re: #5, humility and grace being what they are, there can indeed be an end to war. Sure we need police and even a military, but we sure don't need no military-industrial complex.

  8. There can't be an end to war. It would have happened by now.

    Sexuality is one of the most important aspects of human existence. Families are formed thereby, for one thing.

    And, yes, I'm certain that human activity is not making sea levels rise or species going extinct or the amount of ice in the Antarctic fluctuating.

  9. Re: sex things: it's the most glaring manifestation of the broader problem of postmodern people trying to deny the parameters of nature and invent their own identities.

  10. So you are indeed your brother's keeper. I won't judge you, lest I be judged, whether you adhere to that or not, in your selective reading of Holy Scripture.

  11. After Hiroshima & Nagasaki there has to be an end to all out world war. Since then we've just played around dropping millions of bombs and "defensively" offing millions of human beings some call gooks or sand niggers.

  12. Are we calling sex a sin here, I hope not, a lot of cute babies might object if they could.

  13. Michael, go back over all the posts in this thread. Read each one very carefully. Very carefully. You will see that sex is not being called a sin.

  14. No babies from same sex, quite obviously. But, sure, Michael, Christianity has always viewed all heterosexual activity too (outside of marriage) a sin, despite the baby making thing. What did u miss in Sunday school?

  15. Christianity, that is to say, the way God has designed things.

  16. This comment has been removed by the author.

  17. Bloggie is certain! Certain that human activity has nothing to do with whatever makes Stephen Hawking conclude that we will have to leave the earth in a hundred years. Well, what is going on then? And do we just shrug and keep on keepin' on? Call everyone who wants to work together to solve the problem mere freedom haters?

    "For years, Hawking has warned that humankind faces extinction from a slew of threats ranging from climate change to destruction from nuclear war and genetically engineered viruses. Hawking recently estimated that humans have 100 years left on Earth — if we’re lucky....Hawking noted that leaving Earth can not be the mission of one country, but a collective effort.

    "To leave Earth demands a concerted global approach, everyone should join in,” he said. “We need to rekindle the excitement of the early days of space travel in the sixties."

    He suggested the world’s nations should work together to send astronauts to the Moon by 2020 and Mars by 2025. Furthermore, there should be plans in place to build a lunar base within 30 years."

    So let's get these pesky wars out of the way, be exceptional and lead this world onto other worlds. Or would you prefer mere Armageddon?