Resuming today, and for the next five weeks, The Pipeline is presenting excerpts from each of the essays contained in Against the Great Reset: 18 Theses Contra the New World Order, which was published on October 18 by Bombardier Books and distributed by Simon and Schuster, and available now at the links.
Part IV: THE PERSONAL
Excerpt from "You Will be Made to Laugh: Humor under the Great Reset" by Harry Stein
There’s a joke that used to make the rounds in the Soviet Union. It was about a judge seen chuckling as he walks out of his courtroom.
“What’s so funny?” asks a friend.
“I heard a great joke.”
“Can’t, I just gave someone ten years for repeating it.”
If we can still laugh at that, it is surely not with the smug self-certainty we once could—not given the regularity of the assaults on free thought in today’s America and the brutality with which they are everywhere enforced, from the newsroom to the boardroom and, yes, on late night television and comedy club stages. Indeed, at this point Hiram Johnson’s famous adage might well use some updating: in the culture wars at hand, truth may be the first casualty, but its sidekick, humor, blindfolded and smoking its last cigarette, is just a split second behind.
Things have been trending this way for quite a while, of course. For a good fifty years, conservatives have watched in horrified stultification, seemingly helpless, as the cultural barbarians rampaged through the institutions, overturning fundamental understandings of decency, equality, and human biology itself. While we’ve argued policy, and occasionally even won, temporarily, progressives have traded in feelings, usually hurt, and have twisted reality to their ugly purposes. While we’ve embraced our history as affirming timelessly noble principles and ideals, they’ve ever more brazenly redefined the past as irredeemably squalid and shameful.
How have they gotten away with it?
It is only recently, and even then only dimly, that many of us have gotten the message that a large part of the answer has been the Left’s near-absolute domination of mass popular culture—music, film, TV—all of it thoroughly infused with values and assumptions that reflect their warped worldview and are inimical to ours. Directly, or more often subtly, they have been able to define, unimpeded, to a vast audience interested in nothing more than entertainment, what is fair, moral, and just—and what is unjust and must be changed.
Little wonder that to most in the generations with the annoying names—X, millennials (aka Y), and Z—the Left is reflexively seen as compassionate, forward-thinking, socially just, while the Right is backward and hateful. Everything they’ve heard in the classroom is echoed, ad infinitum, by academia’s glamorous twisted sister, mass entertainment.
And now comes the Great Reset, which would be the final nail in the free-thought coffin. Nothing less than a frontal attack on capitalism and its underlying values, taking the pandemic as “a unique opportunity” to “build a new social contract that honours the dignity of every human being,” it is a scheme of such grandiose evil it might have been designed by a DC Comics archvillain.
One need not ever have set foot on a college campus or even watched Fox News to hear the tocsin in the blizzard of buzzwords in the declaration that emerged from Davos in 2020. Inequality. Climate change. Social justice. Diversity. The language of permanent victimhood—only now nuclear-armed by the elite of the elites.
While entertainment media is not explicitly cited in the chilling manifesto, Klaus Schwab, the German executive chairman of the WEF who even looks like Lex Luther, blithely notes that “every industry, from oil and gas to tech, must be transformed.” Indeed, nothing is so sobering as to scroll down the seemingly endless list of the institutions and corporate entities signing on as partner/enforcers and note (though with something other than surprise), that it numbers not just the likes of Amazon, Google, and Facebook but also NBCUniversal and Sony.
Needless to say, in this potent new crackdown on dissident thought, American media companies have a healthy head start. By now, we’ve long since taken it for granted that, for instance, there’ll never be a feature film celebrating the young Clarence Thomas like 2018’s hagiography about the young Ruth Bader Ginsburg; let alone a tale of injustice with a happy ending about the Duke lacrosse case. And it is equally a given that in what passes for comedy in traditional mainstream venues, conservative attitudes and beliefs are fair game while progressive ones are an ever-expanding herd of sacred cows.
For far too long, our failure to counter the Left’s stranglehold on popular culture, or even fully appreciate it, has been among the other side’s most conspicuous assets. Rarely has a maxim been so often repeated, yet so seldom acted upon, as the late Andrew Breitbart’s truism that politics lies downstream from culture.
Still, in this realm as in others, the Great Reset—this massive, coordinated effort to label who we are and what we believe illicit by definition—should serve as a belated wake-up call. Indeed, potent as contemporary progressivism is, as remorselessly vicious and punitive, its very self-certainty is also an opportunity. Never has it been more wholeheartedly detached from reality, which is to say, more readily exposed for the colossal sham it has always been. It is no accident that the Davos manifesto so faithfully reflects the remorseless humorlessness of professional victimhood: among its implicit objectives is to ensure, whether via social censure or by punitive statute, that human beings not be permitted to mock that which is deemed unmockable, belittle what merits belittling, puncture pomposity, or otherwise call idiocy by its rightful name.
The question is, can we make of this gift what we should? Can we at long last begin to establish in the general public’s mind that our foes are not merely dangerous, but even more fatal to their hopes (conveniently enumerated in the Great Reset) batshit crazy?
With that in mind, this essay will focus on how comedy, so key in defining cultural norms, became an almost exclusive preserve of the Left. The short answer, to paraphrase Hemingway on bankruptcy, was gradually, then all at once. Only the bankruptcy in this case was moral.
But let’s begin with this. That we have been so slow to recognize the extent to which popular culture has been weaponized against us, and the stakes, in one sense does not speak badly for us; though, as far as that goes, the same might also have been said for Neville Chamberlain. I recall a speech twenty or so years ago by the lapsed radical David Horowitz, the son of literally card-carrying Communists, at one of his annual Restoration Weekend conferences, in which Horowitz gently chided the audience of prosperous conservatives, a fair number of whom would now be termed “influencers,” for failing to grasp the nature of the enemy.
Having grown up on the furthest reaches of the Left, and then been an editor at the slick radical magazine Ramparts, Horowitz observed that on moving rightward he’d been taken aback by how terribly “nice” everyone was; “nice” being a polite—conservative—way of saying woefully naïve. What they were up against, he warned, were “gutter fighters,” those so deeply committed they would stop at nothing to achieve their nefarious ends; and who, in fact, were already well on their way to complete dominance over the culture.
Next week: an excerpt from "Green Energy and the Future of Transportation," by Salvatore Babones.