Good Friday Morning, including Joe Biden, who told an audience, “Even Dr. King’s assassination did not have the worldwide impact that George Floyd’s death did.” You can put that statement up with Pelosi, Schumer, and Democrats wearing kente cloth, and Donald Trump announcing his first rally back for Tulsa, Oklahoma on Juneteenth, aka Emancipation Day, also the site of the Tulsa Race Riots, where Black Wall Street got burned to the ground in the early Twentieth century.
American politicians are having a moment, y’all. And I’m only highlighting the big names.
This week, I’m touching on the historical ideas and forces than animate the current leftist protests. And I also talk about why there will be a reaction against these protests. Links to follow.
- If you haven’t followed what is happening in Seattle right now, you should. Protestors have set up a wholly “autonomous zone,” free of police and any other public force. They’ve kicked everyone out and claim the several city blocks of Seattle as their own. Trump is now threatening to take the space back by force. The media has predictably covered these events in glowing terms. Compare coverage of this to any right-wing group claiming the same thing. Imagine if a right-wing group came in and declared several city blocks all their own, and kicked everyone out. How would city leaders react then?
- A few weeks ago I shared a study that looked at the effects of peaceful and non-peaceful protests on elections. It was a study written by Princeton professor Omar Wasow, an African-America. It found generally that peaceful protests benefitted Democrats, and violent ones benefitted Republicans. David Shor, a white guy, data scientist, and former member of Obama’s reelection team shared the study, talking about it in reference to 2020. He was fired for tweeting about it. Johnathan Chait wrote about it here. Add this to the doxxing story of a guy who was simply out riding his bike.
- Watching everything get “canceled” this week, I’m reminded of a passage from A Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. “The Savage nodded, frowning. “You got rid of them. Yes, that’s just like you. Getting rid of everything unpleasant instead of learning to put up with it. Whether ’tis better in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows or outrageous fortune, or to take arms against a sea of troubles and by opposing end them … But you don’t do either. Neither suffer nor oppose. You just abolish the slings and arrows. It’s too easy.” …”What you need,” the Savage went on, “is something with tears for a change. Nothing costs enough here.“
Where you can find me this week
Please subscribe, rate, and review my podcast on iTunes, Spotify, or Google Play — the reviews help listeners, and readers like you find me in the algorithms. Make sure to sign up for the Conservative Institute’s daily newsletter and become a subscriber at The Dispatch, where I’m a contributor.
The Data Cold War – The Conservative Institute.
Cancel Culture Drives out Hate with Hate – The Conservative Institute.
The Reactionary Response that is coming…
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way…
A Tale of Two Cities (1859), Charles Dickens.
Dickens set that novel, his most exceptional work, just before the French Revolution. I go back to this for a reason. Modern American conservatism builds itself off of arguments made by Edmund Burke, a British MP who was in Parliament during the American and French revolutions.
Just as the Bible says, there were two trees in the garden. Burke and the thinkers he inspired maintained there were two revolutions in the enlightenment age, each with profound meaning. Although, if we’re being honest, there were really three revolutions. Those moments just happened at different times: the American, French, and Russian revolutions. Each had intense impacts on thinkers across the spectrum. We’re still dealing with the consequences of each one.
But what 20th-century American conservatives said was that Burke was right: the American revolution was good, the French revolution was terrible. The two strains of American thought in the middle of the 20th century, conservatism and the newly ascendant progressivism were built on different revolutions. Modern conservatism claimed the American founding, while progressives built off the French.
As one of my favorite mid-century writers, Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn, put it, “For the average person, all problems date to World War II; for the more informed, to World War I; for the genuine historian, to the French Revolution.” The reason for this differentiation is quite simple. The American Revolution was built on timeless concepts of liberty and human rights. The French Revolution was built on the primacy of democracy and the supremacy of the progressive state. Whereas the American revolution celebrated individualism, the French revolution hated it.
During all these protests, note that overwhelming conformity is expected. People cannot be individuals. Everyone must hold the same beliefs, keep the same line, and act in the same manner. It’s not about listening to black voices, it’s about enforcing the proposed morality and mindset. This point is especially real for the white far-left. Thomas Chatterton Williams highlighted a passage from a Washington Post story on the new radicalism of the white left. The story follows Meredith Webb, an upper-class white woman living a community of mostly wealthy white people.
The next day, [Webb] stood with about 300 people outside the Minneapolis Public School system’s headquarters to push the school board, which was meeting later that evening, to sever ties with the city’s police force. Webb had discussed the proposal with a few of her neighbors, who were uneasy about removing the school resource officers.
“Who is going to keep our kids safe?” she said one neighbor asked her.
“I don’t know,” she recalled saying. “But I know the current system isn’t working.”
About a dozen black high school students shifted uneasily and waited for their time to talk. When it was their turn, they spoke about Charles Adams Jr., the African American police officer who kept their school safe and coached their high school football team. Now they worried he was going to be forced from their school.
“To me, I have my dad first and second to that is Officer Adams,” said one student.
“Officer Adams is like the father I didn’t have,” added another. “He makes me feel like myself.”
Last up was a history teacher from the school: “I beg you. I beg you. Look at these young men. They came on their own because they are worried about their safety and losing someone they consider a family member.”
Webb listened carefully. “It’s complicated,” she whispered to a friend.
“Maybe he should be a teacher?” the friend suggested.
“Maybe he could be brought back to the school in some other role?” Webb replied.
And with that, the rally was over. Webb drove home past businesses boarded up to ward off looters. “Occupied, alive inside!” one owner had painted on the plywood covering his storefront. “It’s like a plea,” Webb thought.
Back at her house, her phone chirped with a message from Garvey, who had been listening to the school board’s deliberations online. The vote to expel the police from the schools had been unanimous. For Webb, it was thrilling to see how fast things seemed to be moving.
As the internet would put it, these white Karens ignored the pleas from the black students regarding the black police officer they all looked up to as a father figure. Teachers at the school pleaded too. But the monolithic thinking of the left took over, and these voices were discarded. This isn’t a new thing with regard to education, as I wrote last week, white leftists stand strongly against allowing black communities to have a say in urban public schools. This story is another manifestation of that point.
Returning to Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn for a moment. The reason for all the conformity demanded comes from the leftist desire for a utopia. This place is where all the ills of human nature get eliminated by progressive education. EKL was prescient on this point:
“The leftist is always a statist. He has all sorts of grievances and animosities against personal initiative and private enterprise. The notion of the state doing everything (until, finally, it replaces all private existence) is the Great Leftist Dream. Thus it is a leftist tendency to have city or state schools—or to have a ministry of education controlling all aspects of education. For example, there is the famous story of the French Minister of Education who pulls out his watch and, glancing at its face, says to his visitor, “At this moment in 5,431 public elementary schools they are writing an essay on the joys of winter.”
Church schools, parochial schools, private schools, or personal tutors are not at all in keeping with leftist sentiments. The reasons for this attitude are manifold. Here not only is the delight in statism involved, but the idea of uniformity and equality is also decisive; i.e., the notion that social differences in education should be eliminated and all pupils should be given a chance to acquire the same knowledge, the same type of information in the same fashion and to the same degree. This should help them to think in identical or at least in similar ways. It is only natural that this should be especially true of countries where “democratism” as an ism is being pushed. There efforts will be made to ignore the differences in IQs and in personal efforts. Sometimes marks and report cards will be eliminated and promotion from one grade to the next be made automatic. It is obvious that from a scholastic viewpoint this has disastrous results, but to a true ideologist this hardly matters. When informed that the facts did not tally with his ideas, Hegel once severely replied, “Um so schlimmer für die Tatsachen”—all the worse for the facts.
Leftism does not like religion for a variety of causes. Its ideologies, its omnipotent, all-permeating state wants undivided allegiance. With religion at least one other allegiance (to God), if not also allegiance to a Church, is interposed. In dealing with organized religion, leftism knows of two widely divergent procedures. One is a form of separation of Church and State which eliminates religion from the marketplace and tries to atrophy it by not permitting it to exist anywhere outside the sacred precincts. The other is the transformation of the Church into a fully state-controlled establishment. Under these circumstances the Church is asphyxiated, not starved to death. The Nazis and the Soviets used the former method; Czechoslovakia still employs the latter.”
The French Revolution was ultimately about power and who wielded that power. While it talked of high ideals, if those intentions got in the way of progress, anyone upholding them got cut down. The modern left takes all its cues from this form of enlightenment. Progress is the goal. Anything between them and the idealized progress they imagine is evil, stands in the way of progress, and must get moved outside, by force if necessary.
That’s why it’s so easy to justify rioting and looting for the left. They view these as legitimate grievances, and if you argue against them in any way, you’re the problem.
All of that was a long-winded way of making the point I wanted to make in this week’s newsletter. Every political action has both consequences and a reaction. A point I’ve made countless times is that we live in a reactionary age. Our political news and social media culture are designed to not only accommodate rage towards the opposition, but everything incentivizes resentment and reaction. The reactionary waves of anger we’re riding get amplified by the pandemic and other forces, as I wrote in a recent column on the “Elements of our political discontent.”
The French revolution didn’t happen in a vacuum, nor did it fade away like a music track. It ended in violence. The mob tendencies of the French Revolution gave way to the reign of Napoleon Bonaparte as Emporer of France. Those reactionary forces remade the entire European map.
The moment we’re in will create a reactionary moment too. In a way, you can connect this moment to previous ones. The racial aspects go back to the Ferguson protests of 2013. But the political ones go back to the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street (’09 and ’11, respectively). The Tea Party had an immediate political impact across the Republican Party. It culminated in Trump, as the GOP’s perceived failures led to the disillusionment on the right. Occupy Wall Street never had a political moment. Could this be it? TBD.
Many of the political discontent from those movements went unresolved. Sentiments and resentment continued growing. The election of Donald Trump released some of the steam on the right. The Democratic primaries revealed there is a lot of unresolved angst over the Obama years. The left feels unfulfilled. The Ferguson riots happened under Obama’s watch. While Obama is still personally popular, his presidential legacy leaves a lot to be desired for the left.
So we’ve arrived at this moment with widespread protests, riots, looting, the toppling of statues, and everyone stepping on egg-shells. There’s good and bad, its an age of wisdom and an age of foolishness. As with all prior mass movements like this one, there will be a reaction against it. Everything in our culture is incentivized towards that kind of response. What that reaction ends up looking like, I do not know. But history suggests one will occur.
One of the themes throughout A Tale of Two Cities is that two groups of people have radically different experiences in their respective countries. One of Dickens’ contemporaries, the British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli, picked up on similar themes in the UK with his novel, “Sybil, or The Two Nations” (1845). Dickens and Disraeli, at the time, wrote of the differences between rich and poor. Our differences are political and racial. And the reactionary moment after this one will reflect those differences. With that, I’ll leave you with this quote from Disraeli out of Sybil:
“Two nations; between whom there is no intercourse and no sympathy; who are as ignorant of each other’s habits, thoughts, and feelings, as if they were dwellers in different zones, or inhabitants of different planets; who are formed by a different breeding, are fed by a different food, are ordered by different manners, and are not governed by the same laws . . .”
Links of the week
As Russia Lifts Lockdowns, Expanded Surveillance Network May Remain – Matthew Luxmoore, Radio Free Europe
Whoopi Goldberg Opposes Censorship Of ‘Gone With The Wind,’ ‘Cops’ – Paul Bois, Daily Wire
Why Data Is Never Raw: On the seductive myth of information free of human judgment – Nick Barrowman, The New Atlantis
Camden Didn’t ‘Defund the Police’: The New Jersey town executed a legal maneuver to depower its police union and bring back safe policing. – Stephen J. K. Walters, National Review
The Left’s Strange New Respect for Mitt Romney: He’s the same person he was in 2012, when they called him a racist and sexist. – Jonah Goldberg, The Dispatch
China convicts Uighurs in sham trials at Xinjiang camps: More than 1 million Uighurs have disappeared into China’s internment camps in Xinjiang province. A DW investigation reveals how many of them were tried for their alleged “crimes” in sham trials. – Naomi Conrad, Julia Bayer, Cherie Chan, The DW
‘My Ward Is A S*** Show’: Here Are The 17 Most Explosive Quotes From Chicago Leaders’ Leaked Meltdown About Violence, Looting – Peter Hasson, The Daily Caller
Chinese Propaganda Outlet Has Paid US Newspapers $19 Million For Advertising, Printing – Chuck Ross, The Daily Caller
Is This the Last Stand of the ‘Law and Order’ Republicans? A punitive brand of conservatism embraced by Trump and some GOP hardliners is rapidly falling out of step with public opinion. – Tim Alberta, Politico Magazine
Twitter Thread(s) of the week
Satire of the week
Antifa Member Lectures D-Day Veteran On How To Fight Fascism – The Babylon Bee
SEATTLE, WA—Seattle protesters have successfully abolished the police in their “autonomous zone.” In their place, the leaders of the group have installed squads of armed officers who are tasked with enforcing a set of agreed-upon rules.
“We have achieved a police-free utopia,” said one of the group’s leaders, Taz “No Rulez” McGuffin. “Now, we are going to need someone to do the job of enforcing the rules we all decide upon and making sure everybody’s safe. Instead of oppressive police, let’s select a few individuals — we’ll call them ‘officers’ maybe — and give them guns. They can patrol the area and stop anyone who goes against our set of laws — err, guidelines.”
“Having thrown off the shackles of the oppressive police, we now welcome these new guideline enforcement officers.”
Thanks for reading!