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It was a challenge for many of my co-workers to get to the office today. The DC Metropolitan Police have cordoned off more streets and created a much wider security zone than they did for the Antifa/BLM rioting. And this will be in effect until at least Inauguration Day on the 21st. Apparently, the MAGA hordes are deemed to be a far greater threat than invariably violent leftist “demonstrators.” This operant risk assessment seems way out of proportion (the Capitol Hill fiasco notwithstanding) but our rulers see things differently.
The silly caricature of Trump-as-Hitler — and his 70 million voters as dangerous radical haters, barely worthy of citizenship, and certainly not worthy of participating in public discourse — is now not just a Twitter meme but has mutated into an article of faith among well-placed persons.
I used to laugh at the growing intellectual flaccidity of the left. I assumed that stupidity was a weakness. Turns out It’s a potent weapon. The silly and sophomoric NYT 1619 Project flourishes within a population with an unprecedented ignorance of history. A polar bear photoshopped onto a tiny ice floe outweighs 40 years of satellite climate data. For the past year, we have surrendered rights and economic well-being to “non-pharmaceutical interventions” that we know with certainty do not work and were not even recommended by extant science at the time of their imposition. But a narrative of fear and protective power was accepted and defended even when it was obvious that that power was placed in the hands of disingenuous, incompetent buffoons.
Even among people with enough education and professional experience to know better, the habit of only arguing with caricatures and straw men is now the norm on the left. I have read law professors who claim that the judicial doctrine of “original intent” is just psychologizing about the mind of a document drafter and not rigorous scholarship about the meaning of terms as they were used at the time. There are (alleged) economists who argue that market-driven efficiency is just a Panglossian fantasy about economic perfection that does not exist (or a device to conceal injustice) instead of the enduring truth that production and distribution by choice rather than by fiat invariably produce better outcomes.
Most educated leftists do not know that schools of thought and analysis such as Law and Economics or Public Choice even exist. Nevertheless, if they happen to encounter such ideas, they are fully prepared to dismiss them with a cartoon rendition of such concepts. History, economics, religion, law, even science are reduced to the level of distorted bullet points on some list within the narrative.
But the most dangerous instance of the prevailing stupidities is the caricature of everyone off-campus or otherwise not part of enlightened communities as ignorant, anti-science, hateful, racist, and violent. It is a myth that justifies repression and much else that is un-American and evil.
Over four decades ago, Ben Stein’s witty and insightful The View from Sunset Boulevard was published. Stein detailed the mindset of Hollywood liberals. Most of that is still entirely applicable. We still know, for example, that the Black or Puerto Rican kid arrested in the first ten minutes of the cop show episode did not murder the call girl and that our dogged detective hero (who doesn’t go by the book) will uncover the truth that the rich white stockbroker was the real killer. Chapter by chapter, he gently, humorously but accurately described a worldview that still produces almost everything that makes it to a TV or movie screen. Add in some paeans to novel sexual identities and practices and it is otherwise the same mental universe today.
But the point most relevant here is Stein’s observation that in the 1970s, so many former eastern city dwellers in Hollywood romanticized and idealized their urban origins and mostly tended to disparage flyover country. A recurring theme in movies and TV is that any innocent, enlightened urbanite driving between urban oases was in the land of inbreds and the KKK. Car trouble or stopping anywhere invited mortal danger. Middle America was a seething, primitive beast, just awaiting the order from its Führer to arise. That beast never existed but the myth of its existence has never been more prevalent than now.
Not so very long ago, the stunningly asinine statements by the now-fired PBS lawyer about Nazis and re-education camps for the children of MAGA hordes would be regarded as vile and shockingly stupid even if uttered by a college sophomore but if it had not been captured by Project Veritas, would anybody at PBS actually have been shocked or offended if they overheard him? That he felt comfortable spewing that bilge while at PBS is perhaps more frightening than the content itself.
I routinely dismissed the social media nonsense about Trump-as-Hitler because (a) Bush 41 and Bush 43 as well as Reagan were also Hitler in that rhetorical universe and (b) only a moron with no grasp of government structure, the realities of media and financial power and the actual benign record of Trump’s use of executive power (certainly as compared to Obama) would make such allusions. (Man, did I miscalculate the magnitudes of stupid out there.)
Big lies burn out, especially if acted upon. The only issue is how soon and how much damage will be wrought in the meantime.Published in