Tag Archive for: Wokism

Shadows on the Wall [A Start to Defeat Woke Tyranny]

Estimated Reading Time: 3 minutes

With each new batch of the “Twitter Files,” it’s becoming increasingly apparent that Twitter censors were not only duplicitous scoundrels aiming to advance an agenda but also incompetents who failed to see the consequences of their actions. Whether it was suppressing the Hunter Biden story, shadow banning and de-amplifying popular conservative figures and certain medical professionals, and removing a sitting president of the United States from the platform, they convinced themselves that they were making the world a better place.

At no point did they seriously question themselves beyond violating their own rules. It never dawned on them that their constant gaslighting jeopardizes the freedom, health, and safety of all Americans. It seemed to matter little that they oversaw a platform that promised open public discourse but degenerated into a leftist propaganda outlet infested with bots and child pornography.

Not only did these censors do real damage at the bidding of a corrupt FBI but they ruined a potentially successful business. Before Elon Musk bought Twitter, there were few real conversations happening on the platform, and Twitter was relatively small compared to other social media platforms. For the great majority of users, scrolling through one’s Twitter feed was never an enlightening, connective, or even fun experience but more a mindless habit to pass the time.

Seeing that this is the case, it’s fair to ask what really drove the moderators to do what they did. They could have easily let the First Amendment be their standard for content moderation and sipped their lattes while attending useless meetings. Why did they feel the need to risk their cushy careers by setting into motion a hostile takeover by Elon Musk and an incoming onslaught of lawsuits from users?

From any angle, this seems utterly foolish—that is, except from the woke angle. While rational actors would have understood the sheer destructiveness of censoring users without cause, facilitating the rigging of elections, and endangering the public by denying them important information on a pandemic, woke actors lack this capacity. They operate on feelings and self-regard, not evidence and logic.

Elon Musk famously called wokeness a “mind virus.” It infects people’s mental faculties and drives them to act and express themselves irrationally. Gad Saad expounds upon this in his book The Parasitic Mind. He bemoans the decline of academic scholarship and intellectual debate at today’s universities all in the name of establishing social justice. Of course, rather than create a more equitable and just world, the woke swarm only achieves the opposite—a world of unforgiving hierarchy and hypocrisy. But instead of learning from their failure, they double down and become ever more unreasonable.

For Saad, this is less an ideology and more an “idea pathogen.” In his scientific opinion, victims of wokeness specifically suffer from “Ostrich Parasitic Syndrome (OPS),” substituting for reality a fiction in which “science, reason, rules of causality, evidentiary thresholds, a near-infinite amount of data, data analytic procedures, inferential statistics, the epistemological rules inherent to the scientific method, rules of logic, historical patterns, daily patterns, and common sense are all rejected.”

Unfortunately it’s still an open question of how to “defeat wokeness,” as Elon Musk recently declared. Anyone who has experienced an encounter with the woke infected knows that exposing their falsehoods and contradictions (“sunlight is the best disinfectant,” or, in the new favored expression, “democracy dies in darkness”) only makes them sicker and more dangerous. This is why the “Twitter Files” have mostly elicited silence from the corporate media. Maybe a few of them are pleading the Fifth and hoping the story goes away, but it’s more likely that most don’t understand what these revelations mean, nor do they really care.

So does that mean that releasing and discussing the “Twitter Files” is worthless? Not at all. Even if it doesn’t cure the woke censors or their woke supporters, it fortifies the intellectual immune system of everyone else. Americans now know that they are not crazy; in truth, they are living through a new kind of totalitarianism where Big Tech platforms control speech, impose a social credit system, and fabricate overarching narratives out of thin air.

While this is not exactly a consoling thought, it’s at least the beginning of a solution. The problem has now been identified, and there are now enough informed members of society to have a constructive conversation about the issue. This in turn could lead to finding a cure to the woke pandemic. If these problems continue going ignored and unchecked, the civilized world will surely crumble into ruin, adopting the same chaos, stupidity, and hypocrisy inherent in today’s woke culture.

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This article was published by FEE, Foundation for Economic Education and is reproduced with permission.

DeSantis Goes to War

Estimated Reading Time: 9 minutes

On election night, I was half-watching Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’s victory remarks when something quite extraordinary and encouraging caught my attention. DeSantis evoked Churchill’s “fighting on the beaches” speech, in which Churchill stirred the resolve and patriotism of the British people in anticipation of the invasion of their homeland by the Nazis. DeSantis, of course, was not warning against Nazism: he was warning against wokeism, which he was implicitly equating with Nazism. I had never heard a national political figure treat wokeism with such (deserved) gravity.

Before rephrasing Churchill, DeSantis said:

States and cities governed by leftist politicians have seen crime skyrocket. They’ve seen their taxpayers abused, they’ve seen medical authoritarianism imposed, and they’ve seen American principles discarded. The woke agenda has caused millions of Americans to leave these jurisdictions for greener pastures.

People do not uproot themselves and leave the rhythms of home “for light and transient causes.” These people are not coming to Florida just for the weather. They are fleeing the woke regime of blue America—an abusive, lawless, totalitarian regime which is waging war against American principles and the American way of life.

DeSantis continued:

Now, this great exodus of Americans, for those folks, Florida, for so many of them, has served as the promised land. We have embraced freedom. We have maintained law and order. We have protected the rights of parents. We have respected our taxpayers, and we reject woke ideology. We fight the woke in the legislature. We fight the woke in the schools. We fight the woke in the corporations. We will never, ever surrender to the woke mob. Florida is where woke goes to die.

In evoking Churchill’s speech, DeSantis lets us know that the woke regime is bearing down on America. In the urgent cadences of war, DeSantis tells us that America will not survive unless she defeats the woke regime. He believes this regime is so evil and powerful that he can, without bathos, compare it to the Nazi regime.

Some Unsolicited Advice

DeSantis has made a good start. He has told us that we are at war with a deadly regime, the woke regime. You cannot win a war unless you know you are in one.

But at some point soon, he must go further. He must show a voting majority of Americans that wokeism is the challenge of our generation, as Nazism was the challenge of the WWII generation and Communism for two generations thereafter.

And he must back up his claim. He has given us at least one piece of substantial evidence: in large numbers, people are fleeing their homes. Still, we need more. We shall not address the problem with the right strategies and people or the necessary resolve until we believe the country’s life truly is at stake. DeSantis needs to put America on a war footing.

In today’s environment, where there is a keen and deepening generalized awareness of danger, I think there is a hunger for a reasoned account of that danger. DeSantis’s most important role—the role of any statesman who is to rise to the historic challenge of this crisis—is to give such an account, one that calls a morally indifferent nation back to the principles of the founding.

So far as I can tell, there is no national Republican elected official who fully understands the threat except for Trump and DeSantis. The national figure not in politics who best gets it probably is Tucker Carlson. Night after night, in artful, insightful monologues, Carlson flays some aspect of the woke regime. He is the best we have, but he is not going to lead a major political movement. For that we need a statesman. That could well be DeSantis. And so I presume to offer him advice he hasn’t asked for:

He should make defeating wokeism his central purpose, with the goal of making it the central purpose of the Republican Party (which currently has no central purpose). Presumably DeSantis will run for the presidency. But even if he doesn’t, his first goal should be the mobilization of America. He should make anti-wokeism (and its opposite, pro-Americanism) the theme of the next Republican administration, whether it is his administration or not.

To develop an anti-woke (pro-American) agenda, DeSantis must first help us understand the woke regime, the woke way of life. He must explain that this way of life cannot possibly coexist with the American way of life. The two regimes have utterly irreconcilable understandings of a just society.

For the American regime, a just society is one in which free men and women pursue happiness according to their abilities and according to nature. Such a society is one where merit rules. For the woke regime, on the other hand, a just society is one where the regime imposes identity group quotas based on victimhood rankings. Such a regime makes war on merit.

It’s one regime or the other. You can’t offer admission to college (or anything else) according to group quotas and, at the same time, offer admission according to merit. I suggest DeSantis frame the debate accordingly: the merit regime vs. the group quota regime (or simply, merit vs. group quotas).

DeSantis should be very clear: woke revolutionaries attempt not to improve our culture, or remake aspects of it, but to destroy it or lead us to destroy it ourselves—not partially but completely. Like (crazed) revolutionaries everywhere, they believe the world must be purified, no matter the cost.

But DeSantis should not overestimate the threat either. The woke regime is a totalitarian regime in the making. Our side is outgunned almost everywhere, but there is still room to maneuver. America is not yet a one-party state; we still have some open communication channels; our intelligence agencies can (conceivably) be reformed; wokeness in the military can probably be reversed by a strong president, and businesses (one must hope!) will come around if they see America gaining the upper hand on woke tyranny. Even in education, where the woke revolutionaries have us tied to a chair, our hands are still free.

In addition to a framing, we need a simple theory or model of the woke regime: its composition, its goals, and the means for achieving those goals. Without a model we cannot anticipate where the woke revolutionaries are going next, and so we are always playing whack-a-mole, each new woke initiative catching us by surprise.

DeSantis might use the 2020 riots as an example of the woke regime in action. Radicals, intellectuals, media, businesses, Democratic politicians, and the criminal justice system conspired to create mayhem. They ignited, justified, hid, funded, fanned the flames of, and freed the rioters. There is no overarching organization. There is some informal coordination among players, but mostly the regime is a revolutionary cabal of the anti-American elite, who want us to believe they are liberating innocent victims.

The objective of the woke regime—group quotas—requires the woke revolutionaries to make Americans deeply ashamed of their past, thereby making them inclined to trade in the merit regime for the group quota regime. This requires a big lie. Every totalitarian regime has one. The woke regime’s big lie is that America is systemically racist and about to be overrun by racists, a.k.a. Trump voters. (That Trump voters are racist is, regrettably, a view also held by many neoconservatives.)

DeSantis should call this the “Big Lie” and, like Trump, dismiss it without apology or qualification. DeSantis should explain that the phony white guilt of the elite is killing the rest of us, black and white, that racism is low on the list of problems confronting black citizens, and, as Frederick Douglass counseled, the way to help blacks is to encourage them to help themselves.

DeSantis must tell Republicans they should forget about defending themselves against charges of “racism” (it cannot be done). Instead Republicans need to explain that the central problem facing the nation is not racism, but the trumped-up charges of racism that hound us from morning to night. The goal of conservatives should be, as David Azerrad has pointed out, “not to solve the race problem but to prevent the race problem from crushing the country.”

DeSantis needs to explain that the doctrinaire egalitarianism of wokesism denies the natural differences in abilities among people and so is evil. DeSantis should say just that: “evil.” Although the elite will cringe, as it did when Ronald Reagan called the Soviet Union “evil,” most Americans will find it both bracing and reassuring.

In addition to telling lies, the woke revolutionaries must, as most everyone knows by now, censor anyone who challenges the lies. In a totalitarian regime there can be no space for dissent. This requires, among many other things, erasing from memory totalitarian regimes and their evil. DeSantis gets it. To his great credit, he signed a bill last year that requires the teaching of “communism and totalitarianism.”

Republicans recognize the Big Lie, censorship, and the corruption of education, but like many pieces of the woke regime, these are not usually seen as part of the larger woke strategy. We see the pieces but not always the picture. That’s DeSantis’s role: to put the pieces together.

DeSantis should make us understand all the woke regime’s actions through this totalitarian lens. Take, for example, Biden’s decision to stop the Keystone XL pipeline. The woke revolutionaries tell us this has to do with climate change, but it is difficult to see how destroying American energy independence can be other than part of an attempt to destroy America. Whether done with conscious intent or simply allowed to happen, the result is the same.

Or take open borders. We usher in millions of illegal immigrants, distribute them around the country, encourage them not to assimilate, and sometimes even allow them to vote. This too is an attempt to destroy our country with the additional benefit for the woke revolutionaries of swelling Democratic voting rolls. Another example is the breaking of the country into identity groups (tribes), each competing for the highest ranking in the victimhood sweepstakes. This will almost certainly lead to tribal warfare. When has it not?

Yes, Republican politicians usually object to such policies. But they don’t generally identify and denounce them as parts of the woke strategy for destroying our country. Unless they do, we will lose our country without even a fight.

A Time for Statesmanship

DeSantis should help us follow the logic of wokeism. For example, if we know group quotas for innocent victims is the goal of the woke regime, then we know that the woke revolutionaries need to bring the black prison population (currently about 33 percent of the total prison population) more in line with blacks’ percentage of the overall population (13 percent). That is the purpose of defunding the police and failing to prosecute certain crimes and other criminal justice “reforms.” For the most part, people with common sense—in particular black Americans who must endure the consequences in their own neighborhoods—see these things simply as very stupid ideas. But DeSantis should keep reminding us that wokeism is not a jumble of stupid ideas but a coherent set of stupid ideas in the service of the group quota regime, one that is completely at odds with the merit regime.

And DeSantis should help us anticipate the woke revolutionaries’ next steps. In the case of prison population, the next step might be disparate sentencing, where blacks get lighter sentences than whites for the same offense, or perhaps the elimination of prison altogether. As loopy as these ideas sound, they are logical extensions of woke theory. Moreover, each has been talked about by leading woke revolutionary intellectuals like Ibram X. Kendi. Sometimes all we have to do is listen.

Very importantly, DeSantis must keep reminding us that war requires different strategies than peace time. War is not a time for trying to persuade the independents, reach across the aisle, or even reach out to the Republican accommodationists. DeSantis knows the best way to get these groups on board is not to woo them but to win the war. He knows as well that any concessions made to the woke revolutionaries will be pocketed, not reciprocated—something even Trump may have failed to fully appreciate.

War also requires different personnel. Trump, an almost unthinkable option at any other time in American history, was the right man for these times, and may still be the right man. Trump was a great war time president. DeSantis must help us understand that Trump’s flaws were not—perhaps are still not—disqualifying.

The easy way out for Republicans, and the temptation for DeSantis, will be to say Trump’s policies were good, but not the rest of him. I think this assessment of Trump is wrong. As I have written elsewhere, Trump advanced many important policies, but the “rest of him” is where one finds the virtues that have inspired a movement. His willingness to fight, his abundant courage, strength, independence, optimism, confidence in America, and absence of white guilt are examples of virtues that made him both effective and dear to patriotic Americans. DeSantis should resist his advisors who tell him he should not speak well of Trump. Now is the time for statesmanship.

And when the Republican establishment dismisses the Trump movement as “populist,” DeSantis should demur and explain to that establishment that when the elite undermines the American way of life, and the voices of ordinary people cannot be heard, populism is not only healthy but vital. Trump’s populist base has just what the Republican Party lacks: purpose, the passion that can match the ideological zeal of the woke revolutionaries, optimism, and confidence in itself and the country. And the base doesn’t have what the party has altogether too much of: white guilt. Trump’s base is a fighting force we cannot afford to lose.

In his election night victory speech DeSantis imagined that he, like Churchill, was a great leader fighting the forces of evil. If DeSantis is to actually follow Churchill (and Lincoln), he must be magnanimous, as they were. Voters will rally to magnanimity coupled with courage and resolution.

DeSantis’s immediate goal is to make America vs. the woke regime (merit vs. group quotas) the central theme of American political discourse. Perhaps that begins with a speech. Like Churchill and Lincoln, DeSantis should appeal to our patriotism in order to stir our resolve. We are still a patriotic people. Where patriotism has waned, I suspect its embers would burst into flames. DeSantis must remind us we are part of a noble and honorable tradition. He must call attention to the great successes of our past. In doing so he reminds us that we are still capable of greatness. As in times before, the future of freedom everywhere rests on our shoulders, a fateful burden we carry as the “almost” chosen people. DeSantis must give us hope but not let us forget the possibility of darkness. As a peroration, he cannot improve on Lincoln who faced a crisis not so dissimilar to the one we face today:

LET US HAVE FAITH THAT RIGHT MAKES MIGHT, AND IN THAT FAITH, LET US, TO THE END, DARE TO DO OUR DUTY AS WE UNDERSTAND IT.

*****
This article was published by The American Mind and is reproduced with permission.

Why Only 16% of Gen Z Are Proud to Be an American, and What We Should Do About It

Estimated Reading Time: 4 minutes

Only 16% of Gen Zers are “proud” to live in the United States.

That finding comes from a recent Morning Consult poll, which assessed generational attitudes about the United States. The poll shows that there has been roughly a 20-percentage-point drop of pride in country every generation since the Baby Boomers, 73% of whom express pride in the country.

Many on social media noted with exasperation that those who say they have no pride in country are in no hurry to move somewhere else.

It’s true, our success as a nation has apparently led to a great deal of ingratitude and navel-gazing. However, the poll points to a deeper problem.

Even if the poll is off or exaggerated, it’s hard to ignore the reality and the trend. With each passing generation, there’s less connection to country and less patriotism. With this comes enormous—and likely terrible—implications.

First, for those insistent on upholding the “liberal international order,” as some call it, that’s going to be hard to do when so few people are willing to support or defend even their own nation. It also should come as no surprise that the military is having a recruitment crisis. Could you imagine what would happen if we had to reinstate the draft?

Second, with less attachment to country, there will be fewer things to bind people together in a society that is now ruthlessly sorting out ideologically.

In earlier times, we could argue about issues and policies, but accept that our neighbor was still fundamentally American. But as the philosophical gaps among us widen, and political victories and defeats become a zero-sum game, there is less incentive to maintain and defend the rights of the other “tribe.”

President Donald Trump said in his inaugural address that “when you open your heart to patriotism, there is no room for prejudice.” In a society devoid of patriotism, there will be a whole lot of room to hate.

So, the question is, why is this happening? To me, the answer seems clear.

We’ve failed to reinstitutionalize “informed patriotism” in this country. That’s what President Ronald Reagan called for in his farewell address in January 1989, and what was clearly most important to him. In the 1980s, the U.S. was riding high, the economy was booming, patriotism was returning, the Soviet Union—an evil empire, if there ever was one—was just a few years away from collapse. It was morning again in America.

However, Reagan warned that while the policy victories he achieved during his presidency were good, it wasn’t nearly enough.

Reagan said that “younger parents aren’t sure that an unambivalent appreciation of America is the right thing to teach modern children.” But it wasn’t just parents. For those who created popular culture, “well-grounded patriotism is no longer the style.”

He warned that while our “spirit” was back, we hadn’t “reinstitutionalized it.”

Reagan was right. Worse—as it’s now become quite clear—we have institutionalized something quite different from “informed patriotism” and love of country. We have institutionalized the ethos of the new left, of the woke, of the purveyors of “diversity, equity, and inclusion.”

Concepts such as critical race theory and radical gender theory are quite real, but they aren’t new. They’ve been floating around academia for more than half a century. What’s new is that these ideas have reached a critical mass, and they have pushed traditional American ideas out of every institution they’ve taken hold of.

Many Americans have no idea what the details of these concepts are, but they absorb and internalize them because they are continuously reinforced. The modern elite university is the temple of this new, dominant ideology, but its tentacles reach into everything, from colleges to K-12 schools (both public and private) to media and entertainment, to the corporate world, and certainly to government.

At one time, the managerial class merely promoted its interests; now, it promotes this quasi-religion, too.

To remain a member of the elite in good standing, you must acknowledge your faith in the new creed or risk losing your career, being canceled, and personally attacked.

Most comply. Those who don’t believe do so quietly, secretly for fear of risking their status and livelihood.

Is that freedom?

Reagan also said that every generation had to reaffirm our American principles, or we would someday have to tell our children what it was like when men were free. Have we not reached that point?

And if you tell your children about a time when Americans were freer in the past, can you do so without being called a racist?

Victory in the Cold War, a moment of triumph for the United States and the West worthy of celebration, nevertheless concealed the rot within.

In 2020, when mobs hit the streets and statues fell, the institutions of our country showed their true colors. They joined the mob and pulled down what the rabble missed. Jacobins in the street joined Jacobins in government agencies and air-conditioned boardrooms. The pride flag and the BLM flag replaced the American flag as the symbols of the new regime.

As Jeremy Carl wrote at The American Conservative, “the transgressive has become not just mainstream, but the establishment itself.”

So, for those who didn’t join the revolution, who may be dazed by, and disbelieving of, the transformation that’s taken place, we must acknowledge that our cause is currently one of dissenters. It’s the people versus the institutions, and many people now side with the institutions.

But if the Left can transform America from the inside out through a long march, so can the rest of us. It begins with informing ourselves and our children. It gets serious when we organize and use real political power to shape and change the institutions that have become corrupted.

When we look to Florida, we see a model of how to fight back and how to hit the radical left where it hurts the most. From going after woke indoctrination in K-12 schools to reintroducing instruction in American principles in those schools to changing school boards to getting DEI out of colleges and changing their boards of trustees, these are the kinds of institutional changes other Republican governors and other political leaders need to emulate.

The woke think they have the right to be the gatekeepers of all debate, speech, and pedagogy in this country. Let’s show them otherwise.

Mobs and unelected bureaucrats don’t have a right to rule; you do. If we go on the offensive, we will likely find that there is a whole lot more common sense in this country, even at this late hour, than one would think, given the slide of the past several decades.

To win this battle, to restore pride in country, and prevent the United States from slipping into a dark age of decline and possible dissolution, we must make a sustained effort to retake institutions now.

We must do this while there are still Americans left who know what it was like to live in freedom and who wish to hand that down to posterity.

*****
This article was published by The Daily Signal and is reproduced with permission.

Weekend Read: From Witchcraft to Wokecraft

Estimated Reading Time: 7 minutes

Andrew Doyle’s The New Puritans: How the Religion of Social Justice Captured the Western World—which he’s described as his “final word” on contemporary culture wars—draws in part on an argument I’ve made, both in the Spectator and for this magazine. To wit, “those who are too famous, wealthy, or powerful to be cancelled” instead end up in media outlets read or watched by readers or viewers with whom they already agree.

I call the phenomenon “the Silo Effect”, perhaps betraying a country childhood. Doyle, following me, does the same. Only true superstars—think J. K. Rowling—avoid this fate. Cancel mobs cannot hold back the tidal wave of people who want to read everything Rowling puts into print.

Imagine, then, two polished metal grain silos facing each other across an expanse of fields, or on opposite sides of a rural highway. Unless their respective owners make a deliberate decision, there’s no way the contents of either will commingle with the other. When I tell people the first piece I wrote on cancel culture ran in the Guardian—in April 2015—their stunned responses reveal how much the door has closed to “the other side” since 2016, with Leave’s win in the Brexit referendum and Donald Trump’s election victory.

Yes, the Guardian once evinced an admirable editorial desire to expose left-leaning readers to a wide range of perspectives, including those of political opponents. And no, it doesn’t do that anymore. In the Year of our Lord 2022, I’m confident when I say I’ll never write for the Guardian again.

Doyle, like me, was on the receiving end of a failed cancellation attempt. In both cases, bad behaviour from those who hated us parlayed our books into bestsellers. We were, however, siloed. Doyle now works for GB News, a centre-right television station where the owners, Doyle, and viewers all agree on the importance of free speech.

Yet Doyle is a lifelong Labour voter who supported Jeremy Corbyn both as Labour leader in 2015 and then in the 2017 general election. It’s just that (in writer Louise Perry’s lapidary words), he’s now “right-coded.” This depressing phenomenon—a by-product of escalating polarisation and partisanship—means The New Puritans will be ignored by the people who most need to read it.

So, if I can persuade people reading this review to buy it and share it around, maybe I’ll do some good.

Doyle starts with the now-familiar claim that Wokery is a Christian heresy, with its concern for victims and exaggerated stories of oppression. However, he soon deviates from the standard theological template and draws on his expertise in Renaissance and Early Modern literature (he has an Oxford doctorate in the field, and once tutored it at the university’s famously gay college, Wadham). He moves deftly onto an argument running thus: what is variously called “the successor ideology,” “critical social justice,” and “identity politics”—“woke” for short—blends Protestant religious fundamentalism with mass hysteria, as in the Salem Witch Trials.

This means he eschews other people’s appellations (including mine, usually “Wokery” or, when I’m especially annoyed with Michel Foucault, Wokismé), opting instead for “the new Puritans.” Of particular importance is his account of how various New England courts were persuaded to accept “spectral evidence” from girls claiming that people in their communities were witches who’d signed the Devil’s book and so joined the Devil’s Party. “Spectral Evidence”—ghostly apparitions of certain named townsfolk, sometimes with familiars (a yellow bird; two grotesqueries; a man in black)—along with assertions the girls had been “bitten and pinched by invisible agents” was accepted as evidence of guilt. 19 innocent people were hanged on the strength of it, while one man, Giles Corey, was pressed to death for refusing to enter a plea.

Of course, to state this is to state the commonplaces of American history. In historian George Lincoln Burr’s memorable phrase, “the Salem witchcraft was the rock on which the [Puritan] theocracy shattered.” However, Doyle’s point is that “spectral evidence,” “lived experience,” and “invisible systems of power and oppression” are siblings under the skin. All are based on perception alone and are phenomena only visible to those who claim (or claimed, in the case of the long-dead Salem girls) to be able to see. All allow people who should be called “plaintiffs” or “complainants” to style themselves “victims,” thereby abrogating the presumption of innocence.

This insight lights up the universe—or at least, the university (of which more later). The non-American reader soon learns that when courts stopped accepting “spectral evidence,” the witch trials came to a natural end, while those awaiting trial were pardoned. The whole business lasted little over a year, and Doyle is at pains to show how American witch trials were self-limiting in a way European ones (where tens of thousands of people were executed) often weren’t. He observes that, “by the standards of seventeenth-century Europeans, they showed remarkably little tendency to hunt witches, yet one lapse, repented of by those who had a part in it, has stigmatised them as uniquely inclined to this practice.”

In other words, religiosity and Christian roots aren’t enough to explain Wokery. Something more is needed. That something more turns out to be a combination of mass hysteria and evidentiary gullibility.

The book’s saddest chapter concerns Doyle’s departure from academia, in large part because he blames universities for the credulity and cruelty now pervasive among woke staff and graduates. He points out that freedom of speech is so mistrusted thanks to the belief—and it is mere belief, there is no evidence for it—that “reality is constructed and conceptualised via systems of language.” The universities doubling up as nonsense factories also explains “the monomania over power structures, which followed on directly from the Foucauldian notion of the interconnectivity of power and knowledge.”

Perhaps because of his leftism, Doyle was drawn into doctoral study on “discourses of gender and sexuality,” something he now deeply regrets. He credits a traditional literary scholar and specialist in John Donne’s poetry, Robin Robbins, for helping him see the extent to which it was utter wibble. “Don’t become an academic,” Robbins warned. “You’ll end up deranged, running around the quad screaming why did I waste my life?”

Doyle recounts how he produced “the vapid wordplay of Foucault’s brood” to academic order:

If you wanted a decent grade, it was prudent to pepper your essays with buzzwords such as ‘phallogocentric’, ‘discursive’ or ‘hegemony’. We were taught a code, an abstruse way of writing seemingly engineered to alienate ordinary readers and enable academic careerists to sound authoritative while saying very little.

All this is depressingly familiar to me; I was once invited down the same path. I avoided it because my character combines disagreeableness with artistic conservatism. I mean, when it came to Foucault, Jacques Derrida, and Judith Butler, I adopted what I came to call “the marijuana measure of intellectual quality” or “The Bong Scale” for short. This referred to the amount of cannabis I smoked first to make their witterings intelligible and later to write about them under exam conditions. Unlike Doyle, I am also properly artistically conservative. I don’t think literary representativeness matters, and I would rather have a canon made up wholly of (excellent) books written by dead white men than one made up out of a team of diversity hires selected purely because they tick one or another box.

The New Puritans—thanks to Doyle’s academic background—is scholarly and rigorous. He knows a great deal more about the theory he’s criticising than most of his opponents. He also wears his considerable erudition lightly, writing in a style at once witty and accessible. However, as is always the case with works of this type, I don’t agree with everything. I consider what I say below to be minor defects in an otherwise excellent book, although I think the second criticism is more serious than the first.

First, Doyle defends the 80s/90s “political correctness” movement. He thinks it did help women, gays, and blacks. He argues that the use of casual slurs was pervasive and that women were routinely dismissed. Doyle himself was also horribly bullied for being gay at school: he was small and slight, so constantly thrown into patches of nettles by other boys. His situation was probably made worse by his location: Northern Ireland during the Troubles.

I, too, remember the 80s. I’m a bit older than Doyle, and to his childhood in Northern Ireland, I raise my childhood in Joh Bjelke-Petersen’s Queensland. We both know what it’s like to be gay in a religious and authoritarian milieu.

I don’t, however, think the 80s/90s political correctness movements were benign or polite. Not only did I experience a PC-inspired 90s attempted cancellation, but it was already difficult to question the theoretical nonsense in humanities and social science disciplines when I started university in 1990. People were lying to get good marks as a matter of routine, something I admit I did. That period was also when feminism went feral, destroying male freedom of association.

At bottom, I think political correctness promotes a milder version of the same verbal unreality that characterizes Wokery. It suggests that if you call the “Chairman” a “Chairperson” more women will want to be Chairpersons. That little Helen never wanted to be a chairperson because she saw the word “man” and thought “I can’t be that.” This isn’t mere politeness. It’s a belief that words can change reality.

I concede I’m open to persuasion on this point, but for now, my suspicion is that what some call “politeness” to women and minorities may have been purchased at too high a price.

Secondly, Doyle tries to argue that Wokery isn’t left-wing. His main justification is that it pays scant attention to class and poverty, focussing instead on identity politics rooted in physical traits. It’s an argument with strong parallels to conservative attempts to argue fascism is a form of socialism.

We’ve all seen various right-wingers do this. They’ll bang on about how the Nazis called themselves “national socialists” and suggest, because Mussolini governed a corporate state, fascism is a form of socialism. It’s an argument that refuses to reckon with the reality that fascism was imposed in the name of at least some conservative ideas: it’s what happens when conservatism metastasises into something awful. Nazism may have been judged at Nuremberg, but it was conservatism that left the courtroom with its reputation in tatters.

A fortiori, Wokery is what happens when leftism and social democracy metastasise into something similarly awful. The woke have nicked Karl Marx’s class-conflict model and then applied it to race, sex, and sexuality instead of rich and poor. Also stolen from other leftist intellectuals is an obsession with hierarchies of oppression coupled with vague plans for a wonderful, utopian future. Yes, there is contempt for the working-class involved, but often because working-class people won’t curb their tongues when speaking about minorities and women. Marx himself despised the lumpenproletariat, while Marxism in practice has been more murderous than fascism.

In other words, Doyle’s got a bad dose of “I wish my political tradition weren’t crap.” Well, I wish my political tradition weren’t crap, too, but both (at least sometimes) are crap, and here we are. I get why people want to wash the stink of metastasised ideologies off themselves, but it’s dishonest. Like the Waffen-SS troops in the famous Peep Show clip, a willingness to ask if those on one’s own side are “the baddies” can be wonderfully clarifying.

The New Puritans comes closest of any book I’ve read to defining a movement that, epistemically, is a bit like nailing jelly to the wall. Slippery attempts to argue that cancel culture doesn’t exist—or that “woke” is a right-wing boo-word made up as a slur—are deftly corralled and exposed to the sunlight. Doyle says he has no desire to revisit the culture wars in book form again. Well, his work here is done; the rest of us reap the benefits.

*****
This article was published by Law and Liberty and is reproduced with permission.

The New, New Antisemitism

Estimated Reading Time: 3 minutes

The old antisemitism was more a right-wing than a left-wing phenomenon—perhaps best personified by the now-withered Ku Klux Klan.

A new antisemitism followed from the campus leftism of the 1960s. It arose from and was masked by a general hatred of Israel, following the Jewish state’s incredible victory in the 1967 Six-Day War.

That lopsided triumph globally transformed Israel in the leftist mind from a David fighting the Arab Goliath into a veritable Western imperialist, neocolonialist overdog.

On campuses, Middle East activism, course instruction, and faculty profiles are now virulently anti-Israel—and indistinguishable from anti-Jewishness.

When columnist Ben Shapiro spoke at Stanford University in 2019, left-wing posters were plastered around campus depicting Shapiro as an insect menace. A “BenBGon” bug-spray bottle in Nazi fashion unsubtly suggested that a chemical agent is the best remedy to make sure Jews “be gone” from the premises.

The avowed socialist Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., retweeted the old propaganda boast, “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.”

Tlaib knew well that “to the sea” only could mean the extinction of Israel itself and its 9 million Jews. She deleted her tweet, but only after an outcry of protest.

Anti-Zionists and leftist Palestinian activists Linda Sarsour and Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn.—“it’s all about the Benjamins”—often made no effort to hide their antisemitism.

Yet now a dangerous new, new antisemitism is trending, predominantly among African Americans—especially prominent politicians, celebrities, and billionaires.

The old trope that blacks inordinately were prejudiced against Jews due to past inner-city stereotypes of exploiting Jewish landlords has been recalibrated. It is now repackaged by black elites claiming that their careers are overly profitable to, and orchestrated by, “the Jews.”

It has been difficult to find any major black leader who has not trafficked in antisemitism, whether Jesse Jackson (“Hymietown”), Al Sharpton (“tell them to pin their yarmulkes back”), Louis Farrakhan (“gutter religion”), or Barack Obama’s former pastor, Jeremiah Wright (“Them Jews”).

Yet what is different about the new, new antisemitism is the open defiance, often even or especially when exposed.

Kayne West was met with pushback after warning on Twitter, “I’m going death con 3 On JEWISH PEOPLE.” Yet he trumped that soon by praising Adolf Hitler.

The Black Hebrew movement absurdly claims blacks are the real biblical Jews, and Jews the imposters. Black Lives Matter clumsily disguised its antisemitism when claiming Israelis were committing mass genocide in the Middle East.

When novelist Alice Walker was chastised for praising virulent antisemite David Icke (he claimed that Jews formed a cabal of “lizard people”), she too was unremorseful. Walker retorted that Icke was “brave” for publishing his nutty rants.

Rappers from Public Enemy and Ice Cube to Jay-Z and Kanye West all spouted anti-Jewish venom. And billionaires from the late Michael Jackson to LeBron James have dabbled in antisemitic talk—the first in lines from lyrics, the second in retweets.

In the hate-crime statistics, blacks as perpetrators are overrepresented, and, as victims, Jews and Asians are overrepresented. “Knock out the Jew” occasionally resurfaces as a common sport among New York City’s black youth.

In our “woke” age, race is seen as an indemnity policy for any self-described victim. Thus even elite blacks, as the still oppressed, cannot be seen as oppressors against “white” Jews.

Wokeism’s competitive victimization often embraces Holocaust denial. That way the systematic slaughter of 6 million Jews in industrial fashion does not overshadow the need for a reparatory legacy to atone for slavery and Jim Crow.

When Whoopi Goldberg claimed the Holocaust was not about race and was, for a while, suspended from her morning chat show, she apologized only temporarily. Goldberg this week returned to claiming that the Holocaust was only a crime by white people against white people.

In her ignorance, she was oblivious that Hitler and the Nazis did not believe Jews to be fully human at all.

Among black elites in professional sports and entertainment, the belief that Jews inordinately are represented as agents, executives, or commissioners is considered proof of exploitation—and often ridiculously reduced to master-slave psychodramas.

Marquee professional athletes like Kyrie Irving, DeShawn Jackson, and the retired Stephen Jackson only reluctantly backed off their blatant anti-Jewish messaging.

Apparently, if the athletes of the NFL and NBA are approximately 60% or more African American, then they are merely diverse. But if Jews in the entertainment and sport hierarchies appear more frequently than their 2.4% demographic, then as a “cabal” they supposedly pose a threat to black livelihoods.

Black antisemitism is spreading in strange, dangerous ways.

Why? Woke orthodoxy offers cover by insisting that supposed victims never van be victimizers. A leftist-dominated media hides or contextualizes the hatreds promulgated by its own constituents.

Jewish-American groups remain predominantly liberal. And too often, they conveniently overlook black antisemitism, given the demands of left-wing intersectional solidarity.

So, expect the new, new antisemitism to grow more common—and more toxic.

*****
This article was published by The Daily Signal and is reproduced with permission.

Stupid Wealthy People

Estimated Reading Time: 5 minutes

Bellevue, Washington, is predominately wealthy, educated (in years of schooling), white, and Asian.  As with similar wealthy and educated enclaves in America, it embraces ludicrous woke dogma and allows it to be taught to children in the local school district.

That makes the residents stupid.

One resident is an exception.  She wrote the following letter to the Wall Street Journal, in response to a recent op-ed titled, “How Teachers Are Secretly Taught Critical Race Theory.”

The Bellevue School District, east of Seattle, is considered one of the best in Washington. Yet, in recent years, divisive ideology has taken root.

My daughter’s sophomore English class replaced its unit on Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” with a two-month-long unit on cultural identity in which students read articles about “whiteness,” “queerness” and “cultural assimilation.” The same year, she experienced cultural- or racial-identity units in three other subjects: world history, health, and even band.

Since middle school, her core subjects have routinely been interrupted for discussions of microaggressions, and she has been asked to create her ethnic and racial family tree five times. My younger daughter’s middle-school history teacher scrapped the required curriculum (the events leading to World War II) in favor of reading newspaper articles pushing for open borders and illegal immigration.

In my daughters’ history classes, essay prompts are no longer thought-provoking questions but slogans such as “No Human is Illegal” and “Decolonize Your Curriculum.” The slogan “Black Lives Matter” currently appears on the facades of our school buildings and on clothing worn by teachers.

Yet when parents express concern about CRT in the classroom, educators in our district deny its use or inundate us with psychobabble.

Bellevue’s politicization of the classroom can be explained by its key demographics, which are displayed in the table below.  To show the sharp contrast between Bellevue and other cities, demographics are also listed for my adopted home of Tucson.

 

Bellevue Tucson
Non-Hispanic Whites 52.0% 43.3%
Asians 37.5% 3.2%
Total Whites & Asians 89.5% 46.9%
Hispanics 7.4% 44.2%
Blacks 2.6% 4.9%
Residents with a Bachelor’s or Higher 69.1% 28.2%
Median Household Income $129,497 $55,023
Poverty Rate 6.8% 20.8%

 

The above reflects the fact that cities with a high percentage of Asians, especially Han Chinese, East Indians, and Filipinos, tend to be wealthier, because, collectively, these groups are at the top in income and education in the US.  By contrast, cities with a high percentage of Hispanics, especially recent immigrants from Mexico and other parts of Latin America, tend to be poorer.  

Generally, the wealthier a locale, the more that the residents have an obsession with race, a need to virtue signal, and an infliction of cognitive dissonance and hypocrisy.

For example, the Bellevue school district advocates for open borders, and it doesn’t mean the Canadian border.  Yet it has few Mexican students and is far from the Mexican border, unlike Tucson and the Tucson school district.

Talk is cheap.

Don’t take this as a slam against Mexicans, other emigrants from Latin America, or immigration in general; but, again, the fact is that migrants who cross the southern border are typically poor, poorly educated, and unskilled.  If large numbers of them were to migrate to Bellevue, the city’s household income and test scores would fall.

As I’ve detailed elsewhere, there are other cities like Bellevue in terms of being predominately wealthy, educated, white, Asian, and woke.  One of them is Arlington, Virginia, where companies that espouse diversity and inclusion have established their headquarters, or are in the process of doing so, including Amazon, Boeing, and Raytheon.

Judging by where they chose to locate their headquarters, their definition of diversity is different from mine.  To them, it means a locale dominated by the wealthy and college-educated.  It doesn’t mean Tucson.  Nor does it mean my wife’s hometown of Bradford, Pa., which is in the northwestern part of the state, in the Allegheny Mountains about 70 miles southeast of Erie.

Bradford was settled by impoverished Swedes, Scots-Irish, and Italians, and it was bypassed by the great migration of blacks from the South, because they settled in the large industrial cities of Buffalo, Erie, and Pittsburgh.  Consequently, non-Hispanic whites comprise 93.2% of the population; Asians, .3%, Hispanics, 2.9%; and blacks, .4%.

Nearby is the community of Kane, which is named after Civil War General Thomas L. Kane, who led Pennsylvania’s Bucktail Regiment and was wounded and taken prisoner in the war.  That leads me to ask, What was Bellevue’s contribution to the Civil War and the freeing of slaves?

With its high percentage of whites, Bradford must be wealthy and privileged.  Far from it.  Suffering from offshoring and deindustrialization, Bradford’s median household income is only 29% of Bellevue’s income, its poverty rate is 4.6 times higher than Bellevue’s rate, and its percentage of college graduates is only one-fourth of Bellevue’s percent.

If there were ever a town that needed social justice, Bradford is it.  Yet the town isn’t fixated on social justice, unlike Bellevue.  Nor is it fixated on race, although it probably was 100 years ago, when Swedes, Scots-Irish, and Italians were seen as different races.

Speaking of Italians, as this grandson of poor Italian immigrants knows, for much of the twentieth century Italians were not seen as white by the Anglo-Saxon-Protestant establishment.  Instead, they were seen as wops, dagos, greasers, and mobsters.  In the South, they were seen as being on a par with African Americans or maybe one small step above.  Many were consigned to black schools, and eleven of them were lynched in New Orleans.

The source of much-woke stupidity is the government’s mumbo-jumbo classification system of race, ethnicity, skin color, and geography, as exemplified by the labels of White, Black, Hispanic, Asian, Pacific Islander, and Native American.   The rich diversity of America and the world was reduced to these six categories primarily for political purposes.  In the process, hundreds of unique ethnocultural groups lost their identity, including the hundred or so in the White category, the hundred or so in the Asian category, and the hundred or so in the Hispanic category.

Being a contrarian, I still see myself as Italian, not white.  It helps that according to the Sherwin-Williams color chart, my skin shade is Accessible Beige, or SW 7036.

Similarly, my Mexican friends in college referred to themselves as Mexican, not Hispanic or Latino or Latinx.  The same for my former Mexican neighbors in the barrio of San Antonio, including the stripper and good friend who lived in the adjoining duplex.  She had the stage name Candy Kisses but referred to herself as Mexican.  And today, working-class Mexicans in Tucson still tend to see themselves as Mexican, not Hispanic.

The residents of Bellevue and other wealthy cloisters apparently believe that each of the six official government categories is homogenous and discrete.  They don’t acknowledge any ethnic diversity within each, any socioeconomic diversity within each, any differences in political power within each, or any overlap or intermarriage between the six categories.  Nor do they acknowledge that throughout world history, the six categories have included victors and the vanquished, victimizers and victims, and oppressors and the oppressed.

This leads the stupid people to see everyone in the White category as benefiting from privilege, racism, colonialism, oppression, and injustice; and at the same time, to see everyone in the other five categories as victims of whites—as if Japan didn’t colonize Manchuria and Korea, as if the Mongols didn’t colonize China, as if Pol Pot didn’t murder millions of his fellow Cambodians, as if Mao didn’t starve millions, as if the Han Chinese value diversity as if India doesn’t have a caste system and a hatred of Muslims, as if Hispanics didn’t enslave more Africans than the English and Dutch did as if the Comanche didn’t brutalize other tribes, as if Shia and Sunni Muslims haven’t been killing each other for centuries, and as if all of the inter-tribal butcheries in sub-Saharan Africa would never have happened if it were not for European colonization and the creation of artificial borders.

I could continue the “as ifs” for pages, but you get the point.

The people of Bellevue are probably incapable of getting the point, because they’ve been taught not to get the point, and because they live in a socioeconomic bubble.  Judging by what is taught in the Bellevue school district, they don’t want their children to get the point, either.

Stupid, indeed.

If Conservatives are the New Punks, are Progressives the New Puritans?

Estimated Reading Time: 6 minutes

Conservatives, particularly those linked with the Moral Majority, have typically been viewed as the fun police. Every week, right-wing radio hosts and TV talking heads objected to the abundance of sex, violence, drugs, and decadence in the lives of Americans. Dungeons & Dragons weren’t just a kid’s game but rather a gateway to Satanism. Rock music wasn’t just fun to dance to but promoted free love and endorsed drug use. Violent movies weren’t just entertaining stories but were responsible for violent crimes. Whether it was on TV, at the movies, being played on the radio, or being sold in the stores, there always seemed to be something prudish conservative critics could point out that millions of normal Americans enjoyed, highlighting the moral decline of the United States. But for some, the days of Glenn Beck condemning the lyrics of My Chemical Romance and Cooper Lawrence decrying the sex scenes in the videogame Mass Effect on Fox News seem like a distant memory.

Today, it is rightwing personalities like The Daily Wire’s Michael J. Knowles, comedian and Fox News host Kat Timpf, Mary Katharine Ham and Vic Matus on the Getting Hammered Podcast, and Twitter sensation “Comfortably Smug,” who seem to be having all the fun. Shows featuring online shock jocks like Louder with Crowder and PragerU revel in entertaining their audiences by trolling liberals and mocking the bizarre beliefs held by extreme progressives. Between the copious amounts of Bang Energy drinks, the irreverent speeches, and the presence of adult film stars, companies like Turning Point USA have conferences that can almost resemble a rock concert. Further, compared to the straight-laced image of former Republican presidents, Donald Trump’s opulent lifestyle, crude demeanor, and ridiculous memeablity seem to have been attractions, not drawbacks, for many voters. All of this has led some commentators to declare conservatism the new “punk rock,” a sentiment that has been echoed and embraced across much of the MAGA right.

In turn, the left—once the bastion of people eager to “stick it to the man” and preachers of anti-conformity—has become the home of “the new Puritans,” according to Commentary’s Noah Rothman in his new book. While moral panics have been constant fixtures of the post-New Left university campus, as Rothman highlights, they have now begun to manifest in parts of the food industry, the entertainment business, and the publishing world, just to name a few. As Rothman’s subtitle denotes, a “war on fun” is being raged by energized activists and nothing the average American enjoys can escape it. From the entertainment we watch, to the comedy we laugh at, to the clothing we wear, to even the food we consume, a new kind of fun policing has emerged over recent years to take issue with all of it. So many of the things Americans take for granted as sources of enjoyment, entertainment, and escapism are now deemed “problematic,” precisely because they remain avenues for fun. As evident from so many online outrages, those willing to dissent and criticize these everchanging progressive orthodoxies might soon find themselves at the wrong end of the Twitter mob and quickly jobless. But for Rothman, this isn’t just a kind of puritanical progressivism, but rather, a new manifestation of Puritanism itself.

Though The Atlantic’s Anne Applebaum and plenty of others have likewise compared this anxiety wrought by social media’s call-out and cancel culture to a new kind of puritanism, Rothman’s assessment is distinctive in that he argues that “woke progressivism” isn’t just analogous with Puritanism, but rather has direct historical ties to it. Indebted to George McKenna’s The Puritan Origins of American Patriotism (2008), Rothman argues that far beyond the colonial period, the United States owes much of its cultural norms and traditions, on the left and the right, to the legacy of the Puritans, and the country has been continually shaped by their spiritual descendants. From evangelicals eager to Christianize 19th-century America to crusading efforts of the temperance movement to prohibit alcohol in the early 20th century, the United States has repeatedly seen the rise and fall of various Puritanisms.

Rothman’s analysis in many ways complements John McWhorter’s assessment that “wokeism” (loosely defined) has become a new religion for those on the left eager to force conversions, crush infidels, and punish heretics. But while McWhorter and Rothman agree that this intense zealotry has a religious component, Rothman does not go so far as to say “wokeism” is a new religion per se, due to the lack of a deity/deities (or “superhuman powers” as the University of Notre Dame’s Christian Smith would describe them). Even so, for Rothman, its ideological adherents manifest an enthusiasm that can only be compared to religious zealotry. While the new Puritans may not share the intense Protestant ethos of their 17th-century counterparts, what they do share according to Rothman is a commitment to “waging war on decadence, frivolity, and pleasure for its own sake” as well as a “seriousness” that “looks more to the uncommitted observer like fanaticism.”

Examples of this new Puritanism offered by Rothman are as frightening as they are funny, and troublingly frequent. The New Puritans recounts sagas of outrage and spectacles of progressives, from the fate that befell former host of The Bachelor Chris Harrison, the N.F.L. playing two national anthems (“the Star-Spangled Banner” and “Lift Every Voice and Sing”) to display its commitment to anti-racism, the championing of anti-comic Hannah Gadsby, as well as the rise and fall of the restaurant Holy Land. Though many of Rothman’s case studies are extreme, one does not have to go far to find similar instances of people being branded with a scarlet letter for bucking any given trend in activism.

Throughout the book, Rothman offers readers comparative case studies between the 17th-century Puritanism and today’s so-called new Puritans. Both dislike how sports distracted audiences from the more important subjects, namely the Gospel for the old and the work of antiracism for the new. Both held strong moralistic approaches to the consumption of food and alcohol, critical of those who would enjoy food for its own sake rather than devote their diets to higher ends. Also, both hold apocalyptic world views about the imminence of the end of days, with the new Puritans constantly warning about the fast-approaching dangers of climate danger rather than the Second Coming of Christ. In Rothman’s view, one would be hard pressed to see much of a difference between the dour op-eds stemming from BuzzFeed, The Guardian, and The New Yorker and the theological indictments of Cotton Mather, Benjamin Coleman, and Jeremiah Burroughs.

Many of Rothman’s comparative attempts between 17th-century Puritans and modern progressives, while interesting and at times humorous, do not go beyond surface level similarities.

But in attempting to directly link today’s progressives with historic Puritanism, Rothman’s arguments suffer from many of the same problems McKenna’s do. Rothman repeatedly labels almost every reformist movement from the 19th century onwards as “puritan” inspired or “puritanical” in effect, despite their dramatically different theologies and contexts. Many of Rothman’s comparative attempts between 17th-century Puritans and modern progressives, while interesting and at times humorous, do not go beyond surface-level similarities due to a rich and complex historical context that one cannot grasp in a book like this.

In doing so, the term “Puritan” is continually stretched well beyond its historical meaning and context which makes it difficult to keep the throughlines of Rothman’s argument straight. What is apparent throughout The New Puritans is Rothman’s familiarity with the excellent scholarship of Michael Winship, and Rothman does an exemplary job at dispelling many of the myths surrounding Puritans. But despite these attempts, one cannot help but see H. L. Mencken’s uncharitable view that Puritanism, at its core, is “the haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy” underlying much of Rothman’s presentation.

Early on, Rothman confesses that he is preaching to the choir, acknowledging that his book will be most readily consumed by those already mindful of these intense cultural war actors. Because of this, it is doubtful that his warnings will reach those who probably should heed them the most. Though this complaint could be leveled at any number of conservative thinkers and commentators, Rothman’s goal is to apply an intellectual framework to an observable phenomenon, offering conservatives a means for analysis. Likewise, as with so many books designed for a culturally engaged conservative audience, terms like “the left,” “progressives,” and “liberals” quickly become unwieldy.

Because almost all these controversies (or non-controversies) begin on social media, particularly Facebook or Twitter, one quickly gets the impression that this phenomenon is reserved, for the most part, for the “very online.” We all might “live on campus now” as Andrew Sullivan puts it, but certainly not to the same degree or intensity as those hyper-engaged on certain corners of the internet. While The New Puritans is rich with anecdotes, it is short of hard data to comprehend how widespread and how encouraged this kind of “anti-fun progressivism” is. Even so, if Rothman is correct, most ordinary citizens will not be touched by the intensity of the so-called new puritans, but rather the subtle but creeping efforts of like-minded reformists. Furthermore, given the steady diet of online outrage being dished from the right, for example the decrying of LGBT representation in animated Disney movies like Lightyear or the lyrics such as Cardi B’s W.A.P., there is still plenty of conservative puritanism to go around.

Regardless of the gaps in Rothman’s thesis, his antidote, like other critics of online shaming is well taken: Log off (or even delete your accounts) and have fun in the real world with real friends and family. But for those braver, Rothman charges readers to mock the new Puritans into irrelevancy, the tried and true (though equally perilous) tactic used against the Puritans of yesteryears. Much like the scope, influence, and power of this new kind of puritanism, how many people will be willing to risk scarlet letters is an open question.

*****

This article was published by Law & Liberty and is reproduced with permission.

The Tragic Kingdom

Estimated Reading Time: 4 minutes

One of my fondest memories of childhood in the 1950s was being allowed by our parents to eat dinner in the living room while watching Walt Disney on Sunday night. Among the most memorable was the Davy Crockett series starring Fess Parker.

I had a Davy Crockett rifle, pistol, jacket, and of course, the coonskin hat.

My sister was in the Fess Parker fan club and she wore a locket with his picture.

Davy Crockett, both in film and in actuality, was a hero. A frontiersman and advocate for liberty when he was in Congress.

He was also a fierce opponent of Andrew Jackson and was opposed to the forced resettlement of Indians, even though he had personally fought against them. He went to Texas later and died at the Alamo.

Little boys had heroes then and were taught good life lessons.

As a company, you had the sense that Walt Disney knew the precious cargo that he carried, and both appreciated and respected the difficult task parents face in raising good children during a formative period when impressions are a powerful influence on development. Wholesome entertainment was the company’s currency.

You felt that if you turned your child over to Disney for an hour or so, they were in decent and caring hands. You trusted them with your most precious thing, your children.

My daughters viewed constantly The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and The Lion King. It was another generation to be entertained by the Disney company. Sitting next to them at home or in the theatre, even I enjoyed the show.

Later as adults, they enjoyed The Lion King on stage while visiting London.

We took the kids to Disneyland and had a grand time. Despite the heavy expense, and the long lines so cleverly hidden, it was a wonderful family experience. My daughters ran around collecting the signatures of every Disney character they could locate. The young people hidden inside their character costumes were unfailingly polite and kind to my children.

It now appears that the Magic Kingdom has now become a tragic kingdom. Whatever Disney products my grandchildren will see will have to be vintage productions or not at all.

The corporation has betrayed our trust by its open advocacy for gender-bending extremism. How dare they use our children as their personal sexual grooming pool!

It is sort of like catching a beloved relative or friend being sexually inappropriate with your children. Whether heterosexual or homosexual, it does not matter. Whatever their problem might be, and even compassion you might have for their issues, you would never leave them alone with your children again. It is simply inappropriate to get sexual with young children.

It is tragic that our grandchildren will never know the joy of Disney that we did as kids and as we did as parents.

It is tragic that this great exporter of American culture now will export sexual confusion as the supposed American way of life. Yes, it is silly, but many foreigners get their impression of American culture from our movies. What people in foreign countries must think of us?  They will think those of us in America have gone mad.

Innocence is gone. Like so many in the public schools, Disney takes it upon itself to teach our little children about sexual matters from their point of view.

It is tragic for this corporation and its employees. The last few days have done more reputational damage to this company than just about anything witnessed in the past century. Just from a commercial point of view, don’t they understand that the vast majority of their viewers are heterosexual? Moreover, we just don’t want Disney teaching our kids about sex via secret messages.  Secret or overt, teaching about sex is not their job, that is our job, as parents.

If you have had a chance to see the videos of high-ranking Disney officials and employees chatting up their plans to spread the LGPTQ gospel, it is unmistakable that they have an agenda and view your children as their special audience. You however have been cleverly left out of the loop.

It was also clear from listening to their discussions, they actually are quite insecure with themselves, and seek comfort in recruiting greater numbers to their ranks. They will not feel quite so isolated if they can recruit your kids to their cause.

Our kids are not recruits in their new army.

How can Disney ever restore our confidence that they will not be using our children as cannon fodder in their take on the great cultural and values war? We know what side they are on now, as it is out in the open.

As tragic as it is, it is helpful to know now, what their intentions are. The pretense has been dropped. Disney now sees its function to brainwash your kids and grandchildren from one very narrow, and disturbed, point of view.

It is unlikely that in the current state of Hollywood morality, they could possibly root out the sexually confused in their ranks. Their employees and the entertainment industry would rebel against them and lawsuits would bankrupt them. Disney is caught between its most vocal sexual advocates, its other employees who must be embarrassed by these videos, and parents who feel betrayed. Any attempts they might make will not convince us. They have lost our trust.

It is still a free country so they can hire whom they wish and espouse whatever they believe are their corporate “values.” We don’t want to banish them. We won’t join the cancel culture. They can become the entertainment arm of the LGBTQ movement and sell their wares to their advocates. It will prove to be a small market niche, but hey, they made their choices didn’t they? And we can make our choices as well.

It is just that we do not want this corporation and its “values” anywhere close to our children ever again. We will vote with our pocketbooks. And unlike a relative who might have abused your trust, we are not related to Disney. We are not dealing with a disturbed loved one, rather we are dealing with a disturbing movement that has taken over a giant impersonal corporation that loves doing business with Communist China.  Incidentally, we doubt the Chinese leadership is actually happy with these corporate messages either.

We will move on and seek entertainment from a company that does not step outside of its function of entertainment and seeks instead to secretly brainwash your kids.

Our affection for the past cannot blind us to the reality of the present.

The Magic Kingdom is now the Tragic Kingdom, and it is never coming back.

 

Inflation Might Spell Doom For Wokeness

Estimated Reading Time: 6 minutes

Voters have been conned into paying an inflated price for inefficient and ineffective policies.

 

As more people, both in the U.S. and around the world, wake up to the reality of spiraling inflation, it becomes clear just how much of the overspending and deficits driving inflation are attributable to self-serving government inefficiencies. As the great economist Friedrich von Hayek once said, outbreaks of inflation are almost always “engineered by governments for the gain of governments.”

Consider healthcare, one of the largest public expenditures in developed countries. A 2017 OECD report found that government-subsidized medical services are commonly plagued by overdiagnosis and needless procedures. The report also found that a high percentage of government-subsidized treatments go to correcting provider mistakes and that a third of patients rank their own nation’s public health system as either “corrupt” or “very corrupt.” The U.K. alone spends almost 13 percent of its economic output on its National Health Service (NHS), yet has terrible cancer-survival rates.

Public schooling is another major government service that, even in developed countries, turns out to be extremely inefficient. A 2017 study in the Journal of the Operational Research Society found that even some of the world’s best-funded school systems, including many in the U.S., produce only mediocre academic outcomes. And for all the hoopla that predictably attends every bureaucratic announcement of some new or improved curriculum, few have any measurable impact on student performance.

It shouldn’t be surprising that waste and inefficiency account for a significant portion of government overspending. Because the cost of every public service is annually folded into a much bigger federal, state, or city budget, creeping inefficiencies, and even outright fraud are almost always guaranteed to escape timely correction. It is only when, as now, average citizens begin to feel the delayed inflationary consequences that public spending finally becomes a pressing political issue.

Unfortunately, the current challenge of making government more cost-effective has gone way beyond giving Medicare doctors the authority to conduct cheaper online consults or urging school boards to buy chalk and other classroom supplies in bulk. In the years it has taken for lax spending discipline to trigger an inflationary wake-up call, those with a vested interest in the status quo have successfully demonized the most promising reforms.

Take, for example, what has come to be called “school choice”—subsidizing parents to pay for the education of their children in a placement of the parents’ choosing, including private academies and home schools. Numerous pilot studies have shown that voucher programs, education-savings accounts, and other ways of expanding school options would dramatically reduce K-12th grade spending while, as an added bonus, improving student learning. Yet teacher unions in the US and many other countries have succeeded in portraying parental choice as something between a parochial school conspiracy to religiously indoctrinate children and a Wall Street scheme to profit from running non-public schools.

Similar government savings could come from allowing citizens to set aside money, tax-free, for their medical expenses—expanding on what is called a Healthcare Savings Account (HSA) in the U.S. Funded by a combination of tax-deductible individual contributions, employer contributions, and subsidies to lower income individuals, these next-generation HSAs could create an entire medical market that lets everyone choose the service providers they want, all the while driving down healthcare costs.

According to the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), this reform could reduce overall medical spending in the U.S. by 15 percent. But to government-run medical systems around the world, any kind of market-based innovation is reflexively dismissed as “a tax break for the wealthy,” or, to the extent it would replace programs like Medicaid, “an attack on the poor.”

And then there are the enormous savings that could come from the widespread use of nuclear power, by far the lowest cost and most reliable alternative to fossil fuels. Not only does an atomic plant require 1/2,000th as much land as a wind farm and 1/400th as much as a solar array, but the amount of carbon pollution generated by the construction of an atomic plant is a fraction of that generated by building a wind or solar facility.

When utilities first began using atomic reactors in the 1950s, government officials responsible for energy policy in the U.S., Britain, and elsewhere would never have allowed anything like today’s green hysteria about possible accidents or sabotage to overshadow the promise of such a cheap and clean power source. But that was before the alternative task of shifting the entire grid to renewables became a justification for nearly every federal and state agency to have a role in stopping climate change.

Today’s public sector is more than happy to ignore the development of neutron reactors, which, because they consume their own radioactive waste, present no disposal problem. Equally disregarded is the invention of small modular reactors, specially designed to withstand both natural and human-caused disasters. From the bureaucracy’s perspective, the real problem with nuclear power is not that it is a dangerous solution to carbon pollution, but that it could solve the problem with relatively little bureaucratic oversight.

Regrettably, the public sector’s efforts to resist efficient restructuring have not been limited to demonizing the most promising reforms. Many of those who work in and for government have discovered how easily an arcane theory purporting to show how the social structure unfairly benefits white males—”critical race theory”—can camouflage inefficiency and waste.

In other words, the public sector avoid can institutional accountability by masking its mediocre-at-best performance with the high-minded rhetoric of social justice. Williams College professor Darel E. Paul calls this contriving the appearance of “noble tasks” to justify the opposite.

The most obvious example is the U.S. is the effort by public educators to substitute bilingual instruction, gender-neutral language, classroom activism, gradeless coursework, and other therapeutic endeavors for traditional, rigorous academic programs. This switch allows American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten to brag that all public school “children [have] a fair chance to achieve their dreams and reach their potential,” even as statistics show low-performing U.S. students making absolutely no gains over the last 30 years.

Social-service bureaucracies in New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, San Francisco, and other cities similarly attempt to substitute sociological enlightenment for actual performance. Instead of holding themselves accountable for local instances of carjacking, public urination, molestation, property destruction, and other offenses, urban institutions seek to be evaluated by the sophistication of their racial and gender outlooks.

Even the nations’ hospitals and medical schools, long guilty of performing outdated procedures and deploying opaque treatment pricing, have discovered the marketing advantages of going woke. So much so that Mount Sinai’s Icahn School of Medicine has developed an “Anti-Racist Transformation in Medical Education” manual, which integrates concepts like “white fragility,” “microaggressions,” and “white supremacy culture” into the training and skill certification of doctors and nurses.

While America’s public institutions clearly lead in use of social-justice camouflage, social-democratic Europe is not far behind. Efforts at so-called “decolonization”—compensating for past discrimination against Muslims immigrants and women—serve much the same purpose in England, France, Austria, and other countries as “wokeness” does in the U.S.

This practice got a big boost in early 2021 when agencies throughout the 27-member European Union became eligible for $100 billion in European Commission grants to advance technology by “eliminating the inequalities between the sexes and the socio-economic intersectionality of inequality.” Even in Scotland, with a 96% white population, adoption of identity-politics, victim-culture assumptions, and a general contempt for Western culture is fast becoming the primary metric by which public agencies want to be judged.

If there is any good news about the developed world’s growing inflation problem, it is that neither the demonization of promising government efficiencies nor the “woke” rationalization of poor government performance—collectively known as progressivism—will remain credible for much longer. For, as President Reagan famously observed, currency devaluation is such a universally painful experience—“as violent as a mugger, as frightening as an armed robber and as deadly as a hit man”—that it inevitably calls into question all its sustaining misconceptions.

The clearer it becomes just how much reforms like school choice and nuclear power can trim wasteful public expenditures, the harder it will be for politicians to ignore them. Already, in Europe, where government-mandated use of solar and wind power has led to skyrocketing utility rates, French President Macron and other leaders are finally pressuring the European Commission in Brussels to accept nuclear power as an “environmentally friendly” source of energy.

Voters have been conned into paying an inflated price for inefficient and ineffective policies dressed in the language of social justice. The more voters realize this, the more voters will reject things like critical race theory. One need only note how quickly polling support collapsed for the social-justice provisions of President Biden’s multi-trillion dollar Build Back Better bill once it became clear that inflation was no longer “transitory.”

Not that those with a vested interest in the status quo will give up easily. Progressive rhetoric will almost certainly become shriller, ominously predicting a return of slavery, the end of oxygen, and a general collapse of civilization if progressives’ favored programs are in any way cut or altered.

But if the past is any indication, voters will prove smart enough to know that the need for fiscal discipline is always resisted the loudest by those who profit from wasteful spending. They will also know that taming inflation does a lot more for society’s most vulnerable citizens than anything some foot-dragging government agency can accomplish. Just as during the last great inflation of the late 1970s, the noisier and more threatening the dissenting factions begin to sound, the less political sympathy they will be able to muster.

In the end, as veteran economics columnist Robert Samuelson once put it, “inflation is a political and social phenomenon, not just an economic one.” In other words, the overspending and inefficiency that produce inflation do not happen willy-nilly but are the byproduct of a self-serving institutional ideology. Once the larger public begins to suffer the painful economic consequences of that ideology, nothing can prevent its ultimate rejection.

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This article was published in The American Conservative and is reproduced with permission.

Salvation Army Silent on Impact of Race-Based Training on Fundraising

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Salvation Army chapters across the country saw a significant drop in donations in the weeks before Christmas because of fallout over a racially charged training curriculum, according to a nonprofit group that advocates “colorblind” policies.

Chapters in California, Massachusetts, and Michigan are among Salvation Army locations cited by Color Us United as affected by its campaign against training materials, called “Let’s Talk About Racism,” that include tenets of critical race theory and anti-racism teachings.

The church’s national headquarters has yet to announce fundraising figures for 2021, but it is evident that financial contributions to The Salvation Army have been “tanking,” Color Us United spokesman Christian Watson told reporters.

“It’s very clear their numbers have been hit hard,” Watson said of The Salvation Army during a virtual press conference Jan. 19. “You can either chalk it up to COVID or economic turmoil, or you can do what we claim is the probable cause—and that is Color Us United’s particular efforts against The Salvation Army’s woke curriculum.”

As previously reported by The Daily Signal, one session includes definitions of individual, structural, and institutional racism that claim whites are the beneficiaries of discriminatory policies. Another session makes the case that the larger Christian church, as well as The Salvation Army itself, has been infected with racism.

“What has not changed is that racial groups are placed into a hierarchy, with White or lighter-skinned people at the top,” a sentence on Page 2 says.

Watson cited news reports that point to a steep decline for The Salvation Army’s annual fundraising drive, called the Red Kettle Campaign. Boston.com, for example, found that donations to the Massachusetts division were down 20% from 2020.

The chapter in Sacramento, California, also missed the mark: Its end goal for 2021 was $320,000, but it had raised only about $93,000 by Dec. 6, according to KTXL-TV (Fox 40).

Kenny Xu, president of Color Us United, read to reporters a text that he said he received Dec. 21 from a Salvation Army officer in central Michigan who refers to an infusion of sarcastic “apologies” from white residents for being white:

Locally we are down in our fundraising by about $100,000 to date. My kettles get flooded by these white apology papers daily. I will need to face the budget realities of all this come January. But I don’t blame you guys. The army put itself in this situation regardless of where the push came from to correct it.

The Daily Signal last week sought comment on the church and charitable organization’s fundraising from David Jolley, communications director for The Salvation Army’s national headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia.

Jolley did not respond until late Thursday afternoon, when he emailed to say that “because of reporting timelines around the country, we won’t have overall fundraising totals until mid-to-late-February.”

“We’re happy to share those totals once [they are] finalized in a few weeks,” he added, and said that Salvation Army officials had not responded earlier because they “were at our National Advisory Board meeting last week.”

The fundraising figures could become available when The Salvation Army releases its next annual report in March. The charity raised $2.3 million in 2020, up from $1.9 million in 2019.

Founded in London in 1865 as a Christian church, The Salvation Army is widely known for its charitable work for the poor. The church is organized in a military-style structure that includes officers, soldiers, and other volunteers. Collectively, church members are known as Salvationists.

Gen. Brian Peddle, a Canadian who is CEO and international leader of The Salvation Army, first announced the church’s “Let’s Talk About Racism” curriculum for members in a May 2021 Facebook message.

In November, weeks after Xu and Color Us United began to publicly condemn the material, the church said that its New York-based International Social Justice Commission had withdrawn the documents for “appropriate review.” They are not currently available online.

In a separate interview, Xu told The Daily Signal that The Salvation Army has a vested interest in revealing its fundraising numbers.

“If their donations aren’t down, they should be excited to tell you that, because they could turn around and say we didn’t have any effect,” Xu said of Color Us United’s campaign against the training curriculum. “But if their donations are down, it’s in their best interest to report that too, because that means they should make some major policy changes.”

Watson also told reporters that Color Us United wrote Jan. 12 to The Salvation Army’s Board of Advisors, National Commander Kenneth Hodder, and the charity’s four U.S. territorial commanders.

The letter identifies “four instances” of other woke activities outside the “Let’s Talk About Racism” curriculum, he said without giving details, and calls on the church to “lead the charge in saying America is not a racist nation.”

“We are asking The Salvation Army to reconsider their ideology and to embrace what their true calling is, and that is to serve Christ and to serve the world by serving Christ,” Watson said.

An op-ed by Xu that appeared in December in The Wall Street Journal followed his similar piece Oct. 3 in The Daily Signal and criticized The Salvation Army for what he called “an internal coalition of woke ideologues.”

The church responded with a letter to the Journal and a YouTube video from Hodder, the national commander. The Salvation Army repeatedly has denied the allegations from Color Us United in press statements and media appearances.

Color Us United’s nationwide petition has attracted more than 18,000 signatures calling on the church to revoke the “Let’s Talk About Racism” curriculum.

The nonprofit advocacy group had set a Christmas deadline, which came and went, for The Salvation Army to apologize and state plainly that America is not a racist country.

“The deadline for their apology was for their sake, not for our sake,” Xu told The Daily Signal, adding:

Because that was when the media attention was at its highest. If they released something that said we fully do not believe America is a racist country, we fully renounce CRT [critical race theory] and we are going to get rid of our DEI [diversity, equity, and inclusion] programs because they don’t help any people in the inner-city communities or white coal miners—if they did something during that media cycle before Christmas, they would have a much likelier chance of recovering the support that they lost.

Xu said he estimates that Color Us United has spent about $90,000 in its efforts to change The Salvation Army’s mind. His group made use of Twitter, Facebook, and other online platforms in November and December to create public awareness about what it called the church’s adoption of tenets of critical race theory and support for other “woke policies.”

About 300 of those who signed the petition are Salvation Army officers, according to Color Us United.

The church’s annual report says it has 3,317 officers in the U.S. and more than 27,000 worldwide.

“Our goal in 2022 is not to beat up on The Salvation Army,” Watson said. “Our goal is simply to help them to make the right decision and to stand on their history of charity and biblical foundations and endorse the fact that America is not a racist nation, endorse the fact that their employees are not racist or privileged, and endorse the fact that we all do better when we embrace a colorblind mentality.”

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This article was published by The Daily Signal and is reproduced with permission.