Whatever final assessment is made of Donald Trump’s culpability in provoking the Capitol melee – though it was at most, it seems to me, incidental - the speeches by some Democrat congressional representatives, in the lead up to impeachment number two, took hyperbole to a new level -- e.g., “a white supremacist president who incited a white supremacist insurrection.” Little reverence was paid to the truth. In keeping with the times, none to giving the accused right of reply.
Part of the overwrought response to Covid is suppression. Suppression, that is, of questioning views. Big tech plays its part. It has become adept at closing down rather than opening up debate
Muzzling the climate debate is a practiced art. Australia’s taxpayer-funded academic blog site The Conversation sums it up: “That’s why the editorial team in Australia is implementing a zero-tolerance approach to moderating climate change deniers, and sceptics. Not only will we be removing their comments, we’ll be locking their accounts.” So much for two sides of a story.
Wherever you look, large sections of today’s society are losing their interest in the truth and, as part of that, in being challenged. Integrity is falling away. Though prosaically, when set against today’s times, Sheriff Ed Tom Bell spotted things going wrong in 1980:
Had this questionnaire [in the nineteen thirties] about what was the problem with teachin in the schools...the biggest problem they could name was things like talkin in class and runnin in the hallways. Chewin gum....sent em back out to the same schools. Forty years later. Well here come the answers back. Rape, arson, murder. Drugs. Suicide...when I say anything about how the world is going to hell in a handbasket people will just sort of smile and tell me I’m getting old...my feeling about that is that anyone that cant tell the difference between rapin and murderin people and chewin gum has a whole lot bigger of a problem than what I’ve got.
Cormac McCarthy’s No Country for Old Men is blessed with Sheriff Bell’s homespun commentaries on life and the state of his modern world. To me Bell (Tommy Lee Jones in the movie) was the highlight of the book. It’s a pity only a sprinkling of his wisdom made it to the screen.
The storyline in the book is set in Texas in 1980. I don’t know about you, but without dismissing Bell’s concerns, I look back fondly on the 1980s, when Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher and Pope John Paul II were simultaneously strutting their stuff. How much saner was the world then, I think.
Of course, to take a potted excursion back to the start of that decade, there were no flat-screen TVs, mobile phones, the internet and email. I would miss them if they were suddenly taken away. Many people, I understand, would also miss social media and electric cars. Me, not so much. What would Sheriff Bell have thought? Technological developments are part and parcel of human history and his response to them would depend on whether he was parachuted into 2021 from 1980 or had lived throughout the period.
It gets more interesting when social developments are considered. Take trigger warnings, micro-aggressions and safe spaces, cancel culture, transgender dysphoria, non-binary pronouns, unconscious racism, intersectional wokeness, and the like. To reach the point quickly. I don’t think Bell would have rightly understood them. I say that because I am younger than Bell, he was close to retirement in 1980, and I can’t get a good handle on them.
From chewing gum to drug-taking is a leap, but it’s not one of confounding inexplicability. In contrast, how do you put a 1980’s perspective, or any reasoned perspective at all, on things like trigger warnings and cancel culture? How do you explain their rise?
The short answer is that I don’t exactly know. Some people associate it all with Marxism. I am not sure about that. Of course, the popularity of Marxism, socialism more generally, is on another one of its periodic cyclical upswings among academic and political classes. Socialists are indefatigable in the face of the historical record of socialism’s disastrous failures, whenever and wherever it has been tried. They forever lurk in the shadows, awaiting propitious circumstances to again hawk their bill of goods.
I sometimes look to that old-time socialist George Orwell for answers. I reckon he’d have the same view of these modern social trends as would Sheriff Bell. Here he is in The Road to Wigan Pier: “One sometimes gets the impression that the mere words ‘Socialism’ and ‘Communism’ draw towards them with magnetic force every fruit-juice drinker, nudist, sandal-wearer, sex-maniac, Quaker, ‘Nature Cure’ quack, pacifist, and feminist in England.” Different times, different fruit loops.
Socialists having an irreducibly delusional mindset. This no doubt gives loopy ideas a happy home. But they don’t arise there. They are a broader cultural phenomenon. This time around they have arisen, I suggest, out of post-modernism and its rejection of the oneness of truth.
You might define a man and a woman by their chromosomes. That’s just your truth. Another truth is how they feel about themselves, gender-wise. You might define free speech as, simply, ‘free speech’. Sorry, but not if it offends someone in a minority group. Then it is hate speech. You might think it is discriminatory to favour someone on the basis of their appearance. No, not true, if it produces more ‘equity’ across society. Equality bad, equity good – to borrow a pattern of words again from Orwell.
Old generations always complain about the next one. At least -- so it is said -- since Socrates was supposed to have done so. This is a cautionary warning for any older generation. Nevertheless, Sheriff Bell ventured forth. To him there had been a sea change. Something untoward was happening. Untoward has morphed into strange indeed.
It’s best to remember, civilisations eventually fall apart. Seems likely this has something to do with the way in which succeeding generations live their lives and mould their culture. Robust pursuit of truth is surely the quiddity of a healthy culture. Once that goes who knows where things will end up.
Sheriff Bell thought the world was going to hell in a handbasket. He had no idea what lay in store.
It is hard to resist pointing the finger at ostensibly centre-right politicians who betray their calling by failing to defend free speech, by supporting climate and Covid alarmism and the destructive policies which thereby ensue; by allowing young minds to be warped by fantasies of gender fluidity; by spending vast amounts of public money to cure economic ills; and so on. But aren't they exactly what we deserve?
After all, their basic instinct is to gather votes. They are essentially vote harvesters. They don’t like to stray too far from the prevailing zeitgeist.
Of course, sometimes a political leader of rare independence of mind springs up who is able to set the pace rather than follow the herd. Thatcher, Reagan and Trump in modern times. Maybe Hawke in Australia even though he was of the left (as it used to be). However, politicians are predominantly creatures of their time and place.
The Australian prime minister Scott Morrison is a creature of his time and place. For example, to him, free speech is an optional extra at best. He’s on the record as dismissing attempts to amend or ditch section 18c of the Racial Discrimination Act which outlaws acts “reasonably likely, in all the circumstances, to offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate another person or group of people.” Bothering one’s head about this matter doesn’t create one job or open one business, he has said. Or gain one vote, he could have added.
Thus, the perpetually aggrieved have an open door to claim to have been insulted or offended. Obviously, they and their lawyers can make merry, and so they have. Poor sods are hauled before the various federal and state human rights commissions, populated by leftist do-gooders, to suffer humiliation and intimidation; which, ironically enough, is outlawed by the very Act, and companion state acts, wielded against them.
Free speech is just one of a number of casualties of the new order. It no longer exists in Australia and nothing will change that. There are no votes in it. And that is because the political environment, within which we live has been insidiously subverted, manipulated and changed over many years. And that, in turn, has changed us. We, the people, have been moulded anew and are not what we were. What, even you and me? Perhaps not, but we are an endangered species.
There is a particular to and fro in 1984 between Winston Smith and his inquisitor O’Brien. Winston has the quaint idea that the proles might rise up. “They are helpless like animals,” O’Brien retorts.
Let’s not go so far as O’Brien; nonetheless, we have seen how easily most people can be scared into believing that climate change threatens the planet and their children’s or grandchildren’s future. And into believing that the least-deadly plague ever to afflict mankind must be tackled by the most onerous measures ever to be inflicted on populations by their governments. Consider further.
Public service departments and corporates run training sessions on unconscious racial bias designed, I can only think in my antediluvian way, in order to instill and perpetuate racial animus. Biological men are now allowed to compete in women’s sports and share their bathrooms.
As reported by political maverick Mark Latham, former leader of the federal Labor Party, the New South Wales Teachers Federation runs courses instructing teachers in how to mess with the minds of schoolchildren by suggesting that their “gender” is a “social construct.” Hard to believe, but teachers are told not to tell the parents if a child expresses doubts about the rightness of his or her biological sex, in case they are unsympathetic. You have to weep.
Unfortunately, I am sure that this particular Australian teachers’ union isn’t alone in the world. And don’t think for a minute that the relatively recent replacement of the noun ‘sex’ with the amorphous noun ‘gender’ is a neutral, value-free, change in language. One’s sex is clearly either XX or XY. One’s gender is apparently limited in its variation only by the imagination of an LGBTQI activist.
It is true that some of the more bizarre woke theories of race and gender are not yet mainstream. Most parents, for example, I would think and hope, would not want their young son or daughter indoctrinated into the occult world of gender fluidity. But give it time. Those calling the tune have gained ubiquitous power and influence. The have completed their long march through institutions.
When and how did it start? There are theories. Who knows exactly? But it has the appearance of being an outgrowth of the dead carcass of Stalin-style communism. Something akin to speciation has occurred – “the formation of a new and distinct species in the course of evolution.” Incubated in universities, it has spread throughout the media, schools, trade unions, public services, governments and corporates. No effective counter force now exists. Some of those heading major mining companies in Australia would seem more woke than Greenpeace activists. Think you can reason with its standard bearers, forge compromises? Think again.
This not about those with the same laudable objective debating different ways to bring it about. The objective of this new left-woke species is the destruction of our way of life and its replacement. Let’s be clear. How do you reason with those who want to teach young tomboy girls that they might really be boys. And who, to that end, support life-changing medical procedures. How do you reason with those who support men, who fancy themselves as women, competing against women on the sporting field.
How do you reason with those who wants to replace our power sources with renewable energy when they know that this is unachievable and unworkable and will entrench poverty and despair among the world’s poor. A friend of mine makes much of wind droughts in explaining why wind energy won’t work. Another friend perceptibly says, do you think they don’t know that? Of course, they know it. Their aim is to tear down capitalist economies. Reducing CO2 emissions is simply a way to that end; if it were not, they would advocate for nuclear energy.
Conservative minds -- forget that limitation -- anyone of common sense on either end of the old-fashioned political spectrum can’t possibly comprehend the raison d'être of those who support marginalising Christianity or undermining the traditional family or opening national borders to allcomers or sowing racial divisions.
Be afraid, those who can’t comprehend what’s going on are the endangered species. Tomorrow seemingly belongs to the other. I am reminded of the old chap in the village-square café, in the movie Cabaret, looking bemused as the crowd joins with the Nazi-uniformed lad in singing “Tomorrow Belongs to Me.” He also couldn’t comprehend what was happening around him.
Neither can Tucker Carlson at Fox News. You can see him straining to comprehend the latest bizarro development. It’s not possible. We will go mad trying. We are in the land of delusional green new deals where two and two really do make five.
I recently read The Benedict Option by Rod Dreher. Dreher argues, on behalf of Christians, that the world is becoming so antagonistic towards Christian values that the way to survive will be, Benedict-like, to live in close-knit Christian communities. And also, to refocus on working outside of professional occupations to avoid being cancelled; or, otherwise, to be discreet in airing one's views. Dreher is convinced that the game is lost. It certainly looks that way.
Personally, I am keeping my fingers crossed for November 3. But whatever happens then, the omens ain’t good.
The other day my wife texted me a New York Times article entitled "How Facebook Handles Climate Disinformation," which included a subheader claiming that the social media giant's policy of exempting opinion articles from fact-checking and warning labels "amounts to a huge loophole for climate change deniers."
She commented "Woo-hoo! You've got a loophole!" I thanked her, but pointed out that I don't think of myself as a climate change denier. As Chris Horner put it in a feature here back in February, "[T]he climate changes – it always has, it always will. Of course, saying 'climate changes makes one a 'climate change denier.' Go figure." I am, in fact, a climate change affirmer!
Read the NYT article if you like, though it'd likely be a waste of your time. The author complains that this supposed loophole allows "industry statements" to be given the same weight as "peer-reviewed science," though her article reads like an industry statement itself, specifically the green energy industry, perpetually annoyed, as they always are, that their economically productive competitors should ever be given a hearing.
But the Left's mounting pressure on our tech monopolies to censor opinions they disagree with really is worrisome. One article I do recommend you read is Jacob Siegel's latest, Google Censorship Is a Danger to Public Health, in which he examines the strange story surrounding the proposed COVID-19 treatment hydroxychloroquine. Siegel purposely doesn't take a side in the debate about whether that medication is effective for this purpose. What he does do, however, is look at Google's policy of suppressing data, and interpretations of data, which run counter to what he refers to as the "expert opinion of the moment."
He quotes the CEO of YouTube (which Google owns) explaining their new policy of removing "problematic" content, including “anything that would go against World Health Organization recommendations." As Siegel points out, this is "a category which at various times during the pandemic would include wearing masks, travel bans, and asserting that the virus is highly contagious."
The fact that is especially chilling is that, on this shaky foundation, Google has gone as far as deleting a white paper which attempted to demonstrate the effectiveness of hydroxychloroquine directly from a doctor's Google Drive. Siegel asks, "Did you know that a Google doc you created can be deleted with no warning or explanation by Google?" I certainly didn't, but it is of a piece with the trend of woke capital demonetizing and de-platforming contrary voices (not to mention pressuring businesses to divest from disfavored industries, oil and gas most of all).
This is an unfortunate tendency, because critical and contrary voices have always been important for challenging consensuses for the purpose of uncovering truth. But for the nihilistic, fascist Left, the dominant variety in our day, the battle cries are "The science is settled!" and "The time for talk is over!"
Somewhere behind all that denial of freedom of speech they must know that their positions don't hold up to scrutiny.
It seems that Planet of the Humans, a new film produced by Michael Moore that calls out the "environmentalist" movement for having sold its soul to capitalism, has set the cat among the chirping songbirds of Leftist groupthink. And what better place from which to hear it than Britain's The Guardian, the Izvestia to the New York Times' Pravda, and the chief European enforcer of neo-Marxist misanthropic orthodoxy.
A new Michael Moore-produced documentary that takes aim at the supposed hypocrisy of the green movement is “dangerous, misleading and destructive” and should be removed from public viewing, according to an assortment of climate scientists and environmental campaigners. The film, Planet of the Humans, was released on the eve of Earth Day last week by its producer, Michael Moore, the baseball cap-wearing documentarian known for Fahrenheit 9/11 and Bowling for Columbine. Describing itself as a “full-frontal assault on our sacred cows”, the film argues that electric cars and solar energy are unreliable and rely upon fossil fuels to function. It also attacks figures including Al Gore for bolstering corporations that push flawed technologies over real solutions to the climate crisis.
Planet of the Humans has provoked a furious reaction from scientists and campaigners, however, who have called for it be taken down. Films for Action, an online library of videos, temporarily took down the film after describing it as “full of misinformation”, though they later reinstated it, saying they did not want accusations of censorship to give the film “more power and mystique than it deserves”. A free version on YouTube has been viewed more than 3m times.
We always knew that the Left's commitment to dissent and free speech was merely a flag of convenience, under which to continue their real project of shutting down dissent and free speech completely. Going all the way back to Mario Savio at Berkeley in 1964, "free speech" to them was simply the means to the end of destroying the existing postwar societies of the U.S. and Europe and setting their own rough beast slouching toward Bethlehem to be born.
What, exactly, has their knickers in such a bunch?
A letter written by Josh Fox, who made the documentary Gasland, and signed by various scientists and activists, has urged the removal of “shockingly misleading and absurd” film for making false claims about renewable energy. Planet of the Humans “trades in debunked fossil fuel industry talking points” that question the affordability and reliability of solar and wind energy, the letter states, pointing out that these alternatives are now cheaper to run than fossil fuels such as coal.
Michael Mann, a climate scientist and signatory to Fox’s letter, said the film includes “various distortions, half-truths and lies” and that the filmmakers “have done a grave disservice to us and the planet by promoting climate change inactivist tropes and talking points.” The film’s makers did not respond to questions over whether it will be pulled down.
Pulled down? I thought progressives were against censorship in all its forms. Ah, but by now conservatives and cultural defenders have learned that banning, outlawing, and destroying artifacts that offend the Left's delicate, ever-changing sensibilities is their solution to everything.
As Yeats writes in "The Second Coming":
Turning and turning in the widening gyreThe falcon cannot hear the falconer;Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhereThe ceremony of innocence is drowned;The best lack all conviction, while the worstAre full of passionate intensity.Surely some revelation is at hand;Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
See the movie while you still can.