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“Unable to endure the aspect of the being I had created, I rushed out of the room, and continued a long time traversing my bed-chamber, unable to compose my mind to sleep.” – Frankenstein (1818) by Mary Shelley
Forgive me if I’m a little less celebratory than many that 153 left-leaning intellectuals recently signed a letter registering their alarm at the “Cancel Culture,” which is busy trying to wreck the lives of anyone who might conceivably disagree with them on any point, at any time. After all, many of these signatories labored mightily to raise these little monsters into the ravenous ignoramuses who now roam the land mindlessly assaulting black and white, young and old, flesh and plaster, sentient and dormant.
Included in the letter to be published in Harper’s is the observation that we are seeing a “needed reckoning,” but that it has also, “intensified a new set of moral attitudes and political commitments that tend to weaken our norms of open debate and toleration of differences in favor of ideological conformity.” Fine time to deduce all that, Sherlock. The dirty little secret — and one which the signatories dare not confess — is that the norms of debate and tolerance were long ago jettisoned in the interest of ideological conformity disguised as iconoclastic independence. And these signatories know it.
What we are facing is the onset of nihilism in the United States…. The three most important points are that nihilists are almost entirely drawn from the educated, even upper classes. They are extremely idealistic, seeing themselves as agents of the purest charity. They are violent in the most extreme ways. . . Nihilist movements typically have led to political regimes of the most oppressive and reactionary qualities. . .
Those are not the words of Donald Trump, though he would surely be denounced as “dark and divisive” by the New York Times were his lips to frame them. No, those were the words of prominent liberal Democrat Daniel Patrick Moynihan, written in the late 1960s. As author Yoram Hazony observed, “…too many of the signatories (not all!) have themselves spent years systematically trying to stifle reasonable public debate — by delegitimizing conservative voices and creating a context in which it’s too costly to engage them.”
In his book, The Closing Of The American Mind, the late Prof. Allan Bloom described the scene at Cornell University in 1969, when the faculty capitulated to the demands of thousands of students — including a group of black students — when those students threatened the use of firearms and threatened the lives of individual professors. The chairman of the Economics Department, and his secretary, were held hostage for a period of hours. The building in which the Sociology Department resided was taken by force, it’s occupants and contents tossed out and the president of that department was physically assaulted by students.
In a sane world, those students would have been arrested and order would have been restored. But sanity was beating a hasty retreat, even in 1969, so that what instead happened was that Cornell capitulated to the mob. Some faculty were fired, including a black assistant dean who had the audacity to be an integrationist. A memorandum was sent to the faculty of the College of Arts and Sciences informing one and all that they were all guilty of institutional racism, even though no acts of racism had ever been alleged. Classes for black students only were established. The building that had been forcibly seized was handed over to the students who had overrun it, and a lavishly funded black studies center was created. Black students were provided a voice in the appointments of faculty members as well.
The results of these and other “needed reckonings” with the mob of over 50 years ago? We now have generations of entitled miscreants who possess neither an understanding of the culture to which they are heirs, nor the intellectual curiosity to explore how its ideas and ideals apply to their lives. Today’s marauders are intellectually bankrupt and morally adrift, rudderless in a sea of relativism.
Just this morning, I saw an attempt at defending Nick Cannon’s racist comments, in which he said, “The Jews are wicked. And we can prove this.” He went on to say that people who lack melanin and have a lighter pigmentation to their skin, have a “deficiency” that has historically caused them to act out of fear. If David Duke had said anything so irredeemably idiotic, he would rightly be condemned as a racist. But to Cannon’s racist screed, a young commenter on social media wrote, “I feel like this statement had some validity to it but people don’t wanna check their history.” This is the level discourse to which we’ve now sunk, where we “feel” what history would say, if people would just check it.
Meanwhile, the police step back, their funding having been reduced, and shootings in New York City alone have risen 277 percent over this time last year, and the hypersensitive types, who “feel” what history would say, have become eerily quiet about the carnage they’ve enabled. Were you to suggest to them that the amount of bedlam and destruction unfolding across the nation today is commensurate with just how far we’ve fallen from the principles of America’s founding ideals and documents, they would look slack-jawed at you with vacuous gaze, and declare you a racist.
What surprises, then, is the idea that so many decades of capitulation to radicals should have produced anything other than still more radicalism. How it could be any other way? In 1959, William F. Buckley Jr., observed:
In the hands of a skillful indoctrinator, the average student not only thinks what the indoctrinator wants him to think (assuming no prepossessions in the way), but is altogether positive that he has arrived at his position by independent intellectual exertion. That man is outraged by the suggestion that he is flesh-and-blood tribute to the success of his indoctrinators, and gets really sore when you cite his yelps of protest as still additional evidence of how good a job was done on him. Yet anyone who turns his attention to it can gather a reliable impression as to the political and intellectual atmosphere in representative American colleges and universities. These institutions are heavily staff with liberal indoctrinators, and expert ones at that.
Commenting on the typical graduate of Vassar College, in 1951, novelist Mary McCarthy wrote:
A wistful respect for the unorthodox is ingrained in the Vassar mentality. …The effect of this training is to make the Vassar student, by the time she has reached her junior year, look back on her freshman self with pity and amazement. When you talk to he about her life in college, you will find a series of before and after snapshots: “When I came to Vassar, I thought like Mother and Daddy. I was conservative in my politics.” With few exceptions the trend is from conservative to liberal, from the orthodox to the heterodox.
The indoctrinator’s work has continued unabated ever since, as, to quote Prof. Bloom, “..the universities gave way under the pressure of mass movements, and did so in large measure because they thought those movements possessed a moral truth superior to any the university could provide.” Reason yielded to passion, science yielded to commitment, history yielded to emotionalism, and a national heritage yielded to self-victimization and erroneous accusations of “privilege.”
The irony is that, by invoking concepts of justice, tolerance, equality, and natural rights, today’s radicals are, to borrow Prof. Bloom’s phraseology, wasting the “capital” that was patiently and scrupulously stored up for them since America’s founding. “Racial justice is an imperative in our theory and historical practice,” observed Bloom, “without which there would have been no problem and no solution.”
These incurious brats have labeled as “corrupt” and “racist” the very apparatus that condemned racism and defeated slavery. They stand on the shoulders of intellectual and philosophical giants and think they’re flying. With the inculcation of over 60 years of leftist indoctrination, they’ve abandoned the philosophical traditions upon which everything depended. Again, from Bloom:
The American university provided the intellectual aspirations for decent political deeds. It is very doubtful whether there is a teaching about justice within it now that could again generate anything like the movement toward racial equality. The very thing the sixties students prided themselves on was one of their premier victims.
So that, unaware of whence they came, the rightful successors of those 1960s radicals have no idea where they’re going. But the signatories to the Harper’s letter know where their creation is headed, and they are belatedly trying to stop the monster that threatens to destroy them.Published in