The imbeciles on Twitter are unserious people, but unserious people can produce serious problems. There is a word for the situation in which there is no room for disagreement. The word is not “justice.” It is “totalitarianism.” That is what cancel culture is, and we have seen it in highly developed form in such places as East Germany under Honecker and China under Mao and the Cultural Revolution.
A couple days later, Williamson linked to an interview with the high priestess of the state religion of anti-racism, Robin DiAngelo, in which she informed us:
Racism is the foundation of the society we are in. And to simply carry on with absolutely no active interruption of that system is to be complicit with it. And in that way, we can say that nice, white people who really aren’t doing anything other than being nice people are racist. We are complicit with that system. There is no neutral place.
Ah, yes, “Everything within the cause, nothing outside the cause, nothing against the cause,” as Mussolini might have said, had he been willing to interrogate his own whiteness. I’ll bet you that DiAngelo has one of those motivational office posters hanging up in her workspace emblazoned with O’Brien’s promise from 1984: “We shall squeeze you empty, and then we shall fill you with ourselves.” However, things aren’t as harsh as they seem. They’re at least willing to pay for our therapy and retraining:
Look at it this way: this might be the only way we’re allowed to go to summer camp anytime soon. If any of you get assigned to my cabin, let’s start a clandestine reading group.
I had managed to make it this far in life without ever hearing of this carpet-chewing lunatic, which I take to be a healthy sign for both me and society in general. I think it’s noteworthy, however, that he has 331,000 followers. It gives slight pause to consider that the population of a fair-sized city could encounter a Streicher-like screed like this and say, “Now, there’s a fellow making good sense. I’d like to be kept abreast of all his further thoughts, please.” Signal? Noise? Who can tell anymore? Is this feverish sentiment a meaningless outlier, or an ominous harbinger?
It is a truth universally acknowledged that there is no such thing as a happy political junkie. I have never once encountered a person intimately familiar with everything from palace intrigue to policy minutiae who could be described as well-rounded, genial, or content. Political obsession invariably deforms its victims. They can’t change their minds and they won’t change the subject. A healthy person would be indulging in a hobby, or enjoying time spent with loved ones, not fantasizing about throwing political opponents in re-education camps, or preaching the good word of anti-racism to people who are inching the door closed in your face. The fanatic is convinced that his monomaniacal political awareness is the gravitational force keeping the world from falling apart. In reality, it’s more like a magnifying glass being used to burn a hole through the delicate bonds of “sympathy” as described by thinkers like Adam Smith, the fellow-feeling which makes life tolerable despite its countless imperfections.
Like Bartleby, I look at most of the activities that society offers me and offer a polite demurral. I would be happy to leave it at that, but apparently my attitude is increasingly unacceptable. I’m tired of being pursued by zealots who want to paw me with their dirty institutions and constrain me to belong to their desperate odd-fellow society. I will vote for whoever promises to build a wall between me and fanatics like DiAngelo and Palmer, a wall topped with razor wire and machine-gun turrets. We used to be able to depend on the much-more aesthetically-pleasing bulwark of manners, mores, civil society, or whatever else you want to call it, but the religious vacuum in society has been filled by politics-as-religion, so here we are.
June 17, 2020 @ 9:46 am
I suspect there are a hell of a lot of people keeping quiet for the moment but silently bemused/terrified at the woke intifada going on at the moment. From the perspective of someone in the UK this whole thing feels a bit like the reaction to the death of Princess Diana. At the time having even a mildly sceptical opinion of her sainthood made you feel a bit like an alien. Years later the whole thing is regarded as a bit of a national embarrassment. Anxiety about Covid and the lock-down must be playing some small part in all this at least. Expect a possible reaction the other way when things start getting back to “normal”. Until then if people want to proudly display their admiration for the Khmer Rouge’s methods let them. At least that creep’s tweets have only been liked by just over a hundred people, i.e. less than 1% of the people following him.
June 17, 2020 @ 10:40 am
Yeah, I do think that the pandemic has played the primary role in distorting our sense of what’s normal. I just hope that we don’t keep violently lurching from one crisis to another as a result of that destabilization (can’t wait to see the restrained and temperate reactions to the election in a few short months, whichever way it goes). And I’m sure people like this have always existed and always will; the only concern is that they feel emboldened to be so open about their desire to expand the fight to include neutral bystanders (I always appreciate the honesty, of course; it’s good to know what your enemy is thinking). I find myself thinking a lot lately about these shifts in mass mood, for lack of a better term, which are so difficult to delineate. What barely-perceptible changes lead to someone throwing a brick through a neighborhood store window and assaulting the owner instead of exchanging greetings and cash like they normally would? Where is the tipping point at which people start taking seriously the idea that a certain ethnic group or political persuasion needs to be put in camps? It always seems easy to identify in hindsight, but not so much in real time. Frogs in slowly-heating water, etc.
I don’t actually worry about my own circumstances. I’m about as well-insulated geographically, economically and socially as anyone could hope to be. But I do know people that I could undoubtedly see becoming informants or camp guards for the woke Stasi, so I find it useful to meditate a bit on the fragility of peaceful social arrangements and keep a wary eye on those who are so eager to destroy them and replace them with something “better.”
June 17, 2020 @ 2:08 pm
That’s true. It is a little scary and surprising that some people think openly threatening to bully those who’d rather just get on with real life would be popular or effective. Hopefully cooler heads eventually prevail and we stop before something very unfortunate happens. Either way not a recipe for long-term stability or calm, sensible debate. If there’s another split between the Electoral College and the popular vote again in November I think I’ll just go camping in the Scottish Highlands for a few months…
June 17, 2020 @ 5:13 pm
It makes me smile to imagine explaining to a time-traveling Adam Smith and David Hume, “No, you see, nowadays the Scottish Highlands are where you go to escape tribal violence and chaos…”