Woke up

Rod Dreher:

If you look at the front pages of The New York Times and the Washington Post these days, they are absolutely obsessed by race. And not just by race, but by a specific progressive take on race. It seems like just yesterday that we were told by liberals that it was slander to say that they were going to be going after statues of the Founders next. In today’s New York Timesthere is an appeal by a white descendant of Thomas Jefferson to take down the Jefferson Memorial, because racism. Last week, a Times black columnist demanded that “Yes, Even George Washington” has to be cancelled. On July 4, the Washington Post published a column by a law professor at Washington and Lee University demanding that not only the Confederate general’s name be struck from the school, but also the first president’s … because racism.

From the digital front page of the NYT now:

Look, Trump is often exactly what they say he is. But the lack of self-knowledge at the Times is infuriating. That newspaper focuses incessantly, and obsessively, on “cultural flash points” having to do with race.

And so it goes. This came out [Monday]:

Not just Washington journalists, but New York journalists too, and all elite journalists. Remember political scientist Zach Goldberg’s amazing finds last year on the Lexis/Nexis database, of how American journalists have gone berserk writing articles using woke, identity-politics jargon? The whole Twitter thread is here. This is one of many examples:

They’re all like that. Now, let me ask you: if you saw the number of mentions of “Jewish privilege” in the US media go from around 200 in 2012 to 2,600 in only four years, wouldn’t you wonder what the hell was going on with our media? If you were Jewish, would that not make you look for the exits?

I bring the Jewish example up for a specific reason. I have mentioned in this space from time to time over the years the profound impression made on me by an exhibit I saw back in 2000 at Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust memorial. It was about how the German people had been prepared for the Holocaust by a couple decades of propaganda that taught them to dehumanize Jews. I cannot find online a representation of that exhibit; if someone else can, please email a link or post it in the comments. It might have been “Deadly Medicine: Creating The Master Race,” but I’m not sure. I have never forgotten what I learned there. The gist of it was to demonstrate that the Holocaust didn’t come from nowhere — and in fact its basis preceded the Nazi Party.

Nazi propaganda presented Jews as “parasites” — but in that, they were only exploiting a concept that had been around since the Enlightenment. For example, the influential German Enlightenment philosopher J.G. von Herder wrote that the Jews were a “parasite” on Gentile nations. By the late 19th century, with the rise of Darwinism and the eugenics movement among mainstream medical authorities, people began speaking of nations as “bodies.” Jews, therefore, were characterized in mainstream media (at least in Germany) as “parasites” burrowing into the body. Around the turn of the 20th century, there was a mass “hygiene” movement in Germany — a push for healthiness and cleanliness. At the same time, eugenics dominated medical discussion, as it also did in Britain and the United States. The most progressive, science-minded people embraced eugenics, though no one did it with the fervor of the Germans.

Take a look at this:

International Hygiene Exhibition, 1911 promotional poster: The eugenics movement pre-dated Nazi Germany. A 1911 exhibition at the German Hygiene Museum in Dresden included a display on human heredity and ideas to improve it. (Deutsches Historisches Museum, Berlin, via US Holocaust Memorial Museum)

Remember: progressive, well-meaning, scientifically disposed people embraced the hygiene movement and its eugenic aims. As Christine Rosen wrote in her stunning 2004 history Preaching Eugenics, about how religion and science intersected in the early 20th century,  eugenics was a progressive cause at the time. In this 2005 interview, Rosen explained what she found in her research:

Across denominations and faiths, the Protestants, Catholics, and Jews who supported eugenics were overwhelmingly from the liberal end of the theological spectrum. This did not mean that they were politically liberal, of course, but they did tend to share a commitment to a non-literal reading of scripture and were optimistic about the benefits that modern science might bring to bear on the many pressing social problems they felt the country faced. Most of the religious supporters of eugenics had long ago reconciled their faiths with evolutionary theory, for example, and many of them had considerable experience in charities and corrections work, which colored their views about things such as degeneracy and poverty. Broadly speaking, why did they support it? These were religious leaders who embraced modern ideas first and adjusted their theologies later. Most of them did this because they sincerely believed, with most progressives at the time, that eugenics would alleviate human suffering.

Who opposed eugenics? Rosen:

Some of the most vigorous opponents of eugenics were Catholics and conservative Protestants. In books and periodicals, they registered their complaints about eugenics and its outgrowths—including immigration restriction and compulsory sterilization of the “unfit.” Catholic detractors usually cited natural law teaching in their opposition to eugenics, while conservative Protestants (many of whom still resisted evolutionary theory), drew on scripture. They did have some impact; indeed, Catholic lobbying efforts at the state level were successful many times in preventing the passage of state eugenic sterilization laws.

And:

What are your biggest concerns? If Preaching Eugenics is written in another 100 years, what will be the story of today’s religious communities and leaders?

The first concern I have is that so few Americans know the history of eugenics in our own country; they believe eugenics was something only Nazis practiced. But it happened here first. Related to this is the idea that just because the state is not imposing eugenics (as it did in the U.S. in the early twentieth century through compulsory state sterilization laws) that we no longer practice eugenics. But choosing the sex of your child or using amniocentesis to test for Down syndrome and then aborting the child are both forms of eugenics, and I share with many observers a concern about the expansion of this individual, consumer-driven form of eugenics. This, combined with our many reproductive technologies, threatens to upend our conceptions of the family, of the responsibilities of one generation to the next, and possibly even of what it means to be human.

How might we look back on today’s religious leaders in 100 years? I think we would find that they had almost entirely ceded authority to bioethicists – a profession that now tackles these questions from the ivory tower rather than the pulpit. And unfortunately it does not always bring to bear the same ethical and moral insights that religious leaders do. I hope to see much greater participation by religious leaders of all faiths in the future – in the public discussions about these new technologies and in the individual guidance they offer to their congregants.

The important things to remember here:

  1. Eugenics were totally mainstream and progressive in the early 20th century
  2. Progressive churches, and progressive institutions, embraced the movement
  3. In Germany, the mainstream press and medical establishment began to medicalize sociology and politics, speaking of the German people as a body, and Jews as parasites on that body

As I recall making my way through that exhibit at Yad Vashem, I was deeply shocked by how the exhibit traced the slow boil of propaganda — pre-Nazi rule! — training the German people to think of Jews as a biological threat. It’s terrifying because we know where all this was heading, and what the Nazis did with something that had already been put in place unwittingly by German medical institutions, the media, and leading progressives.

By the time Hitler took power, all those years of media talk about hygiene, parasites, and the German body politic had conditioned Germans to accept Nazi racial “science,” for the common good.

One more thing. The journalist Christopher Rufo writes here about the kind of thing that is getting to be common around the country:

The things he quotes are jaw-dropping. This is the City of Seattle — the local government and their employer — instructing them to hate themselves as white people, and to work to make themselves subservient to others, not in a humble sense, but rather in a racialized domination and submission sense. A couple of clips from the material:

And:

We are way past “diversity training” as a means to inculcate sensitivity to and respect for others in the workplace. This is sick, sick stuff. It is racist. They are training white people to be pushed around, allow themselves to be in emotional and physical danger, and not to resist or fight back, because they are bad by nature of their whiteness.

Presumably they consider Jewish people “white” for purposes of indoctrination, but again, it’s worth substituting the word “Jewishness” for “whiteness.” What if Jews were instructed by their employer to engage in “the work of undoing your own Jewishness” to become a more morally responsible person? What if Jews were told that in order to conform to the new order, they should give up expectations of physical and emotional safety, and that they should be wary of Jewish people who try to tell them that they are not guilty of sin for being Jewish?

I think we would know exactly what was going on.

Why do I bring this up here? Because I am increasingly alarmed by the kind of dehumanizing racial rhetoric and tropes that are becoming common in our mainstream progressive media, within progressive institutions (including government ones), and even within corporations.

“Racism is a white problem. It was constructed and created by white people and the ultimate responsibility lies with white people. For too long we’ve looked at it as if it were someone else’s problem, as if it was created in a vacuum. I want to push against that narrative.” That’s Robin DiAngelo, to The Guardian

DiAngelo also claims that non-white people cannot be racist:

In his negative review of White Fragility, DiAngelo’s book, Washington Post critic Carlos Lozada writes:

In DiAngelo’s telling, however, race relations in America are actually not “profoundly complex,” as she initially puts it, but simple and binary. White people should be regarded not as individuals but as an undifferentiated racist collective, socialized to “fundamentally hate blackness” and to institutionalize that prejudice in politics and culture. People of color, by contrast, are almost entirely powerless, and the few with influence do not wield it in the service of racial justice. People of color rarely emerge as fully formed characters in these pages, except to provide opportunities for white Americans to engage in an “authentic exploration of racial realities” — that is, to help them know when they are doing better.

In DiAngelo’s framework, if you are a white person, and you question or deny her claims, that proves you are guilty. You can either accept your guilt, or deny your guilt, thereby proving that you are guilty. But if you are white, you are bad. White skin bad! non-white skin good!

White Fragility is no fringe work. It has been on the New York Times bestseller list for the past 14 weeks. Corporations are requiring employees to read it. Here’s a snapshot of the top of the current NYT bestseller list:

Ibram X. Kendi’s How To Be An Antiracist defines “racism” and “antiracism” in ways that shock people who were brought up to believe that a just society is one that does not discriminate on the basis of race. In this excerpt from the book — a national bestseller for nine weeks now — Kendi argues that if the outcome within a social group is not racially balanced, then that group is racist. (Presumably he would not apply this crude metric to the National Basketball Association or the National Football League, which gives the whole game away.) Kendi writes:

The only remedy to racist discrimination is antiracist discrimination. The only remedy to past discrimination is present discrimination. The only remedy to present discrimination is future discrimination.

Kendi also demands a Constitutional amendment to establish a politically unaccountable government agency (Department of Anti-racism) that would work tirelessly to eliminate sin racism:

The DOA would be responsible for preclearing all local, state and federal public policies to ensure they won’t yield racial inequity, monitor those policies, investigate private racist policies when racial inequity surfaces, and monitor public officials for expressions of racist ideas. The DOA would be empowered with disciplinary tools to wield over and against policymakers and public officials who do not voluntarily change their racist policy and ideas.

This crackpot totalitarian idea is put forth by a bestselling author and highly esteemed academic. You readers who think that I’m an alarmist for raising the idea of soft totalitarianism coming fast to this country (the basis for Live Not By Lies) need to think hard about what’s right in front of us — and being advocated by celebrated progressives like DiAngelo and Kendi.

DiAngelo says black people can’t be racist, but Kendi says no, they actually can be. But notice the twist in his argument:

So generally white people say, I’m not racist, and black people say, I can’t be racist. There’s a similar form of denial that is essential to the life of racism itself. You have black people who believe that they can’t be racist because they believe that black people don’t have power and that’s blatantly not true. Every single person on earth has the power to resist racist policies and power.
We need to recognize that there are black people who resist it, and there are some who do not because of their own anti-black racism. And then you have black people, a limited number, who are in policy-making positions and use those policy-making decisions to institute or defend policies that harm black people. If those people were white we would be calling them what they are — racists. If they’re black, they’re no different. They’re racists.
In other words, if you’re a black person who believes in old liberal ideas, and who rejects the simplistic binary model of the world advocated by Kendi, then you are a racist.
Ideas have consequences! DiAngelo and Kendi are establishing an ideology that holds people guilty on the basis of their skin color. In Kendi’s variation, a person of color who does not agree with his views on discrimination and justice is guilty of racism. From Live Not By Lies:

Here is the same logic laid down hard: in 1918, Lenin unleashed the Red Terror, a campaign of annihilation against those who resisted Bolshevik power. Martin Latsis, head of the secret police in Ukraine, instructed his agents as follows:

Do not look in the file of incriminating evidence to see whether or not the accused rose up against the Soviets with arms or words. Ask him instead to which class he belongs, what is his background, his education, his profession. These are the questions that will determine the fate of the accused. That is the meaning and essence of the Red Terror.

Note well that an individual’s words and deeds had nothing to do with determining one’s guilt or innocence. One was presumed guilty based entirely on one’s class and social status. A revolution that began as an attempt to right historical injustices quickly became an exterminationist exercise of raw power. Communists justified the imprisonment, ruin, and even the execution of people who stood in the way of Progress as necessary to achieve historical justice over alleged exploiters of privilege.

The groundwork is being laid, I believe.

In his Fourth of July address via Twitter, Joe Biden said that we can tear “systemic racism” out by the roots. According to the new progressive dogma, “systemic racism” is what you have when a system, even if it appears to be race-neutral, results in outcomes that disadvantage non-white people. That is, even if you cannot identify a specific cause of racism, a system should be understood as racist if black people do not thrive in it. So, if black educational achievement is disproportionately low, that’s evidence of systemic racism. Black men are disproportionately represented in violent crime statistics? Systemic racism. Society made them do it. Fix the structures of society, and you will eliminate racism.

This is Marxism 101, you know. This eliminates individual responsibility, and reduces complex human beings down to the color of their skin. Taken to the extreme, you get the Red Terror: adjudicating people’s guilt or innocence based on their class (race, or other demographic distinction).

Ta-Nehisi Coates, wildly celebrated by the establishment media, is the most influential writer in this genre. In this article in Pacific Standard, black writer Brandon Tensley credits Coates with giving him a new language with which to discuss racism. He writes:

At its core, what does racism do? In a word: plunder. It’s a word Coates employs—several dozen times, with a rhythmic repetition—throughout the book: plunder, plunder, plunder. “America begins in black plunder and white democracy, two features that are not contradictory but complementary,” Coates writes in “The Case for Reparations,” the 2014 essay that solidified his status as an intellectual celebrity. He uses the word again in “The Black Family in the Age of Mass Incarceration,” a 2015 essay: “To war seriously against the disparity in unfreedom requires a war against a disparity in resources,” he writes. “And to war against a disparity in resources is to confront a history in which both the plunder and the mass incarceration of blacks are accepted commonplaces.” Coates’ simple, repetitive exposition captures the layered valence of racism: “Plunder” speaks to theft of black culture as much as it does to exploitation of black labor.

To be white is to plunder black people — or, in Coates’s favorite phrase, “black bodies.”

Coates also famously describes “white America” as “a syndicate arrayed to protect its exclusive power to dominate and control [black] bodies.”

Consider: to Ta-Nehisi Coates, white people are a racial conspiracy whose purpose is to rob black people.

This is how anti-Semites describe Jews! In Mein Kampf, Hitler divides humanity into three categories: Founders of Culture, Bearers of Culture, and Destroyers of Culture. He regards Jews as Destroyers, writing that Jews only stick together for the purpose of robbing non-Jews:

So it absolutely wrong to infer any ideal sense of sacrifice in the Jews from the fact that they stand together in struggle, or, better expressed, in the plundering of their fellow men.

The Jew, wrote Hitler, is “only and always a parasite in the body of other peoples.” As we have seen, this idea that Jews violate Aryan bodies was well-established in German mass society by the time Hitler took it up. So now we have National Book Award-winning Ta-Nehisi Coates arguing that white people exist as a syndicate to plunder black people, and to violate their bodies. And these racist tropes are accepted without pushback by the progressive mainstream.

Where is this all going? Here’s one possibility:

The New York TimesThe Washington Post, and NPR all ran big stories when armed white men in Michigan took their weapons to the legislature. Here we have armed black men coming to a Confederate monument seeking a racial clash with white “rednecks.” It was ignored by all except the Times, which ran a Reuters dispatch.

Our media elites are not reporting the news; they’re managing the news. What is the end game here? Some people on the alt-right like to say “white genocide,” but that is absurd. There are too many white people — including white people with guns — to kill.

What is more likely is that the people with privilege in this society — the controllers of its institutions — are going to ramp up their slander and demonization of whites, and implementing policies and practices that lead to their dispossession (including firing from jobs, colonizing the minds of their children in school, etc.), to the point where at least some whites are going to fight back — and not with words alone. I believe that the American media, whether it believes it is doing this or not, is seeding violent racial conflict — and that we are going to see it sooner rather than later.

Hear me clearly: racism exists, it’s a sin, and it should be resisted. But these SJWs, deeply embedded in institutions, and in command of the propaganda apparatus, are taking a genuine social problem — racism — that always needs attention, but construing it in a highly ideological way that has very little to do with addressing with this complex problem, and everything to do with advancing a narrative of command and control that demonizes an entire race of people as plunderers and parasites by nature, and incites others to despise them. We know from history where things like this go.

UPDATE: Reader Jonah R., who lives in the suburbs of a major East Coast city:

In recent weeks, I’ve watched as people I’ve called friends since I was a teenager suddenly turned into rabid Jacobins. Six weeks ago they were middle-aged white suburbanites who didn’t care about much but superhero movies, video games, and sports. Most of them haven’t read a book in 20 years. But now, as if a lightning strike gave them superpowers, they’re all authorities on Civil War history, black culture, and race relations, and they see it as their job to preach to the rest of us.

I finally realized the other day why they all seem….possessed. They’re using language that isn’t their own. They’re using poetic turns of phrase and vocabulary they’re just not capable of coming up with themselves. They have instant rebuttals to even the most gentle criticism, as if there’s a central site where they can cut a pre-fabricated response and then paste it to Facebook under their own names. They’re quoting Frederick Douglass when I know that two weeks ago they couldn’t have picked him out of a lineup with W.E.B. DuBois on one side and Booker T. Washington on the other, despite his distinctive hair. Every time someone points out an excess, like the tearing down of statues of Walt Whitman or Ulysses S. Grant, they bring it back to the Confederacy, as on-message and as mendacious as any White House press secretary, and suggest that any dissent or pushback against their righteousness is the equivalent of Klan membership. Their talking point right now is to stay focused on getting rid of symbols of the Confederacy….but next week, of course, the message will change, and we will always have been at war with Eurasia.

Nearly all of them live in suburbs that are 80% to 90% white, so they’re taking up the perceived cause of people they don’t know in real life. When a dreadful social, political, and economic backlash comes, they can retreat to Netflix and cute cat memes and leave poor black neighborhoods to cope with the aftermath.

I can handle different opinions, strong opinions, and even crazy opinions. Back when we were young, our group of friends spanned the ideological spectrum. We used to debate all sorts of issues in our idiotic, ill-informed way, sometimes with ad hominem attacks, but then we’d all go out to Denny’s and bond until 3 in the morning.

But something has changed forever. After 35 years of friendship, I no longer trust these people. When I say things like, “hey, guys, maybe we shouldn’t ban ‘Golden Girls’ episodes or tear down statues of abolitionists,” I’m usually met with stony silence, which tells me that behind the scenes on social media, they’re speculating about the other forbidden opinions I surely must hold, even though I support all of the police reforms that were supposed to have been the point of all this crap in the first place. If I don’t say anything, they post memes informing everyone that “silence equals complicity.” For the first time, I believe these people I thought were my friends would sell me out for a nanosecond of woke social media glory.

Fortunately, I have a great wife and plenty of other friends, and my social media activity has always been extremely limited anyway. I’ll be fine. But there’s a growing hole in my heart where most of my oldest friends used to be. I literally don’t recognize them anymore. They’ve joined a new religion, and I’m a heretic. When things settle down and return to some semblance of normal, having seen what I’ve seen, would I want to be friends with them again in the first place?

Jonah, I can’t remember if you are a Christian or not, but even if not, you will find a lot of helpful information in Live Not By Lies, for how to live in the kind of world your friends have created.

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