The new tribal progressivism is the career ideology for most of the wealthy and elite. Self-righteous progressives believe they put up with and suffer on behalf of us—and thus their irrational fury and hate for the “irredeemables” and conservative minorities spring from being utterly unappreciated by clueless serfs who should properly worship their betters. Progressivism patronizes the poor and champions them at a distance, but despises the middle class—the traditionally hated bourgeoise—who are without the romance of the distant impoverished or the taste and culture of the rich.
BY VICTOR DAVIS HANSON FOR AMERICAN GREATNESS
One common theme in the abject madness and tragedies of the past 12 months is that progressive ideology now permeates almost all of our major institutions—even as the majority of Americans resist the leftist agenda. Its reach resembles the manner in which the pre-Renaissance church had absorbed the economic, cultural, social, artistic, and political life of Europe, or perhaps how Islamic doctrine was the foundation for all public and private life under the Ottoman Sultanate—or even how all Russian institutions of the 1930s exuded tenets of Soviet Marxism.
To be a Silicon Valley executive, a prominent Wall Street player, the head of a prestigious publishing house, a university president, a network or PBS anchor, a major Hollywood actress, a retired general or admiral on a corporate board, or a NBA superstar requires either progressive fides or careful suppression of all political affinities.
Google calibrates the order of its search results with a progressive, not a conservative, bent. Grandees from the Clinton or Obama Administration find sinecures in Silicon Valley, not Republicans or conservatives.
The $4-5 trillion market-capitalized Big Tech cartels, run by self-described progressives, aimed to extinguish conservative brands like Parler. Ironically, they now apply ideological force multipliers to the very strategies and tactics of 19th-century robber-baron trusts and monopolies. Poor Jack Dorsey has never been able to explain why Twitter deplatforms and cancels conservatives for the same supposed uncouthness that leftists routinely employ.
Silicon Valley apparently does not believe in either the letter or the spirit of the First Amendment. It exercises a monopoly over the public airwaves, and resists regulations and antitrust legislation of the sort that liberals once championed to break up trusts in the late 19th and early 20th century. As payback, it assumes that Democrats don’t see Big Tech in the same manner that they claim to see Big Pharma in their rants against it.
Wall Street donated markedly in favor of Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and Joe Biden in their respective presidential races. Whereas conservative administrations and congressional majorities are seen as natural supporters of free-market capitalism, their Democratic opponents, not long ago, were not—and thus drew special investor attention and support from Wall Street realists.
The insurrectionist GameStop stock debacle revealed how “liberals” on Wall Street reacted when a less connected group of investors sought to do what Wall Street grandees routinely do to others: ambush and swarm a vulnerable company’s stock in unison either to buy or sell it en masse and thus to profit from predictable, artificially huge fluctuations in the price.
When small investors at Reddit drove the pedestrian GameStop price up to well over a hundred times its worth, forcing big Wall Street investment companies to lose billions of dollars, progressives on Wall Street and the business media cried foul. They compared the Reddit buyers to the mob that stormed the Capitol on January 6.
One subtext was: Why would nobodies dare question the mega-profit making monopolies of the Wall Street establishments? The point that neither the Reddit day-traders nor the hedge-fund connivers were necessarily healthy for investment was completely lost.
Surveys of “diverse” university faculty show overwhelming left-wing support, reified by asymmetrical contributions of 95-1 to Democratic candidates. The dream of Martin Luther King, Jr. to make race incidental to our characters no longer exists on campuses. Appearance is now essential. More ironic, class considerations are mostly ignored in favor of identity politics. “Equity” applies to race not class. The general education curricula is one-sided and mostly focused on deductive -studies courses, and in particular race/class/gender zealotry that is anti-Enlightenment in the sense that predetermined conclusions are established and selected evidence is assembled to prove them.
We are also currently witnessing the greatest assault on free speech and expression, and due process, in the last 70 years. And the challenges to the First and Fifth Amendments are centered on college campuses, where non-progressive speakers are disinvited, shouted down, and occasionally roughed up for their supposedly reactionary views—and by those who have little fear of punishment.
Students charged with “sexual harassment” or “assault” are routinely denied the right to face their accusers, cross examine witnesses, or bring in counterevidence. They usually find redress for their suspensions or expulsions only in the courts. What was thematic in the Duke Lacrosse fiasco and the University of Virginia sorority rape hoax was the absence of any real individual punishment for those who promulgated the myths.
Indeed in these cases many argued that false allegations in effect were not so important in comparison to bringing attention to supposedly systemic racism and sexism. In Jussie Smollett fashion, what did not happen at least drew attention to what could have happened and thus was valuable. It was as if those who did not commit any actual crime had still committed a thought crime.
Almost all media surveys of the last four years reflect a clear journalistic bias against conservatives in general. Harvard’s liberal Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy famously reported slanted coverage against Trump and his supporters among major television and news outlets at near astronomical rates, in some cases exhibiting over 90 percent negative bias during Trump’s first few months in office. Liberal editors can now be routinely fired or forced to retire from major progressives newspapers if they are not seen as sufficiently woke.
No major journalist or reporter has been reprimanded for promoting the fictional “Russian collusion” hoax—and certainly not in the manner the media has called for punishment, backlisting, and deplatforming for any who championed “stop the steal” protests over the November 2020 elections. The CNN Newsroom put their hands up and chanted “hands up, don’t shoot”—a myth surrounding the Michael Brown Ferguson shooting that was thoroughly refuted. Infamous now is the CNN reporter’s characterization of arsonist flames shooting up in the background of a BLM/Antifa riot as a “largely peaceful” demonstration. BLM, of course, has been nominated for a Nobel “Peace” Prize. After the summer rioting, one could better cite Tacitus’s Calgacus, “Where they make a desert, they call it peace”.
A George W. Bush or Donald Trump press conference was often a free-for-all, blood-in-the-water feeding frenzy. A Barack Obama or Joe Biden version devolves into banalities about pets, fashion, and food. The fusion media credo is why embarrass a progressive government and thus put millions and the planet itself at risk?
Andrew Cuomo’s policies of sending COVID-19 patients into rest homes led to thousands of unnecessary deaths. Still, the media gave him an Emmy award for his self-inflated and bombastic press conferences, many of which were little more than unhinged rants against the Trump Administration. Anthony Fauci’s initial pronouncements about the origins of the COVID-19 virus, its risks and severity, travel bans, masks, herd immunity, vaccination rollout dates—and almost everything about the pandemic—were wildly off. Yet he was canonized by the media due to his wink-and-nod assurances that he was the medical adult in the Trump Administration room.
Ars gratis doctrinae is the new Hollywood and it will continue until it bottoms out in financial nihilism. When such ideological spasms contort a society, the second-rate emerge most prominently as the loudest accusers of the Salem Witches—as if correct zeal can reboot careers stalled in mediocrity. Hollywood’s mediocre celebrities from Alec Baldwin to Noah Cyrus have sought attention for their careers by voicing sensational racist, homophobic, and misogynist slurs—on the correct assumption their attention-grabbing left-wing fides prevents career cancellation.
Hollywood, we learn, has been selecting some actors on the basis of lighter skin color to accommodate racist Beijing’s demands to distribute widely their films in the enormous Chinese market. Yet note well that Hollywood has recently created racial quotas for particular Oscar categories, even as it reverses its racial obsessions to punish rather than empower people of color on the prompt of Chinese paymasters.
Ditto the political warping in professional sports. Endorsements, media face time, and cultural resonance often hinge on athletes either being woke—or entirely politically somnolent. A few stars may exist as known conservatives, but again they are the rare exceptions. For most athletes, it is wisest to keep mum and either support, condone, or ignore the Black Lives Matter rituals of taking a knee, not standing for the flag, or ritually denouncing conservative politicians. Those who are offended and turn the channel can be replaced by far more new viewers in China, who appreciate such criticism directed at the proper target.
Again, what is common to all the tentacles of this progressive octopus is illiberalism. Of course, progressivism, dating back to late 19th-century advocacy for “updating” the Constitution, always smiled upon authoritarianism. It promoted the “science” of eugenics and forced race-based sterilization, and the messianic idea that enlightened elites can use the increased powers of government to manage better the personal lives of its subjects (enslaved to religious dogma or mired in ignorance), according to supposed pure reason and humanistic intent.
Many progressives professed early admiration for the supposed efficiency of Benito Mussolini’s public works programs spurred on by his Depression-era fascism, and his enlistment of a self-described expert class to implement by fiat what was necessary for “progress.”
Even contemporary progressives have voiced admiration for the communist Chinese ability to override “obstructionists” to create mass transit, high-density urban living, and solar power. Early on in the pandemic Bill Gates defended China’s conduct surrounding the COVID-19 disaster. Suggesting the virus did not originate in a “wet” market was “conspiratorial”; travel bans were “racist” and “xenophobic.” In contrast, had SARS-CoV-2 possibly escaped by accident from a Russian lab, in our hysterias we might have been on the brink of war.
So it is understandable that progressivism can end up as an enemy of the First Amendment and intellectual diversity to bulldoze impediments to needed progress. To save us, sometimes leftists must become advocates of monopolies and cartels, of censorship, or of the militarization of our capital.
The new Left sorts, rewards, and punishes people by their race. And some progressives are the most likely appeasers of a racist and authoritarian Chinese government and advocates of Trotskyizing our past through iconoclasm, erasing, renaming, and cancelling out. San Francisco’s school board recently voted to rename over 40 schools, largely due to the pressure of a few poorly educated teachers who claimed on the basis of half-baked Wikipedia research that icons such as Lincoln, Roosevelt, and Washington were unfit for such recognition.
Absolute Power for Absolute Good
There are various explanations for unprogressive progressivism. None are necessarily mutually exclusive. Much of the latest totalitarianism is simple hula-hoop groupthink, a fad, or even a wise career move. Loud progressivism has become for some professionals, an insurance policy—or perhaps a deterrent high wall to ensure the mob bypasses one for easier prey elsewhere. Were Hunter Biden and his family grifting cartel not loud liberals and connected to Joe Biden, they all might have ended up like Jack Abramoff.
More commonly, progressivism offers the elite, the rich, and the well-connected Medieval penance, a vicarious way to alleviate their transitory guilt over privilege such as a $20,000 ice cream freezer or a carbon-spewing Gulfstream by abstract self-indictment of the very system that they have mastered so well.
Progressives also believe in natural hierarchies. They see themselves as an elite certified by their degrees, their resumes, and their correct ideologies, our version of Platonic Guardians, practitioners of the “noble lie” to do us good. In its condescending modern form, the creed is devoted to expanding the administrative state, and the expert class that runs it, and revolves in and out from its government hierarchies to privileged counterparts in the corporate and academic world.
Progressivism patronizes the poor and champions them at a distance, but despises the middle class, the traditionally hated bourgeoise without the romance of the distant impoverished or the taste and culture of the rich. The venom explains the wide array of epithets that Obama, Clinton, and Biden have so casually employed—clingers, deplorables, irredeemables, dregs, ugly folk, chumps, and so on. “Occupy Wall Street” was prepped by the media as a romance. The Tea Party was derided as Klan-like. The rioters who stormed the Capitol were rightly dubbed lawbreakers; those who besieged and torched a Minneapolis federal courthouse were romanticized or contextualized.
Abstract humanitarian progressives assume that their superior intelligence and training properly should exempt them from the bothersome ramifications of their own ideologies. They promote high taxes and mock material indulgences. But some have made a science out of tax evasion and embrace the tasteful good life and its material attractions. They prefer private schooling and Ivy League education for their offspring, while opposing charter schools for others.
There is no dichotomy in insisting on more race-based admissions and yet calling a dean or provost to help leverage a now tougher admission for one’s gifted daughter. Sometimes the liberal Hollywood celebrity effort to get offspring stamped with the proper university credentials becomes felonious. Walls are retrograde but can be tastefully integrated into a gated estate. They like static class differences and likely resent the middle class for its supposedly grasping effort to become rich—like themselves.
The working classes can always make solar panels, the billionaire John Kerry tells those thousands whom his boss had just thrown out of work by the cancellation of the Keystone XL Pipeline. It is as if the Yale man was back to the old days when the multimillionaire and promoter of higher taxes moved his yacht to avoid sales and excise taxes and lectured JC students, “You study hard, you do your homework and you make an effort to be smart, you can do well. If you don’t, you get stuck in Iraq.”
There is no such thing as “dark” money or the pernicious role of cash in warping politics when Michael Bloomberg, George Soros, and Mark Zuckerberg, both through direct donations and through various PACs and foundations—channeled nearly $1 billion to left-wing candidates, activists, and political groups throughout the 2020 campaign year.
In sum, the new tribal progressivism is the career ideology foremost of the wealthy and elite—a truth that many skeptical poor and middle-class minorities are now so often pilloried for pointing out. Progressives have adopted identity politics and rejected class considerations, largely because solidarity with elite minorities of similar tastes and politics excuses them from any concrete concern for, or experience with, the middle classes of all races. The Left finally proved right in its boilerplate warning that the “plutocracy” and the “special interests” run America: “If you can’t beat them, outdo them.”
Self-righteous progressives believe they put up with and suffer on behalf of us—and thus their irrational fury and hate for the irredeemables and conservative minorities spring from being utterly unappreciated by clueless serfs who should properly worship their betters.
Thus, we are beginning a great reprogramming of America. The construction of Trump and all of his supporters as abettors, terrorists, seditionists, and traitors is certainly proving useful. We are seeing a coordinated and synchronized effort by Amazon, Twitter, and Google to destroy Parler, a small conservative-friendly rival to their social media and internet monopolies. More of such humanitarian taking care of business will follow.
Silicon Valley’s continued use of social activism to mask 19th-century robber-baron monopolization of its markets remains diabolically brilliant. After all, those who have rings in their noses, and wear tie-dye and flip-flops cannot have anything in common with either John D. Rockefeller, Jay Fisk, or Big Brother, right?
Don’t we remember how hipster Apple idealists once fought stodgy Microsoft? Or how liberal techies at Microsoft earlier took on dour, big blue, coat-and-tie IBM and “print” media? Surely, good Harvard drop-out tech revolutionaries cannot possibly have become bad, trillion-dollar corporate cartels?
Serious Big Brother was never coming to America kicking and screaming in a suit and in a mile-long tie, but rather eagerly welcomed in with jeans and sneakers without socks. The First Amendment could always survive a crude, inebriated Joe McCarthy, but not so easily a social justice ex-barista, doing vanity selfies about diversity, egged on by the “progressive” media, while saving the planet, and “reining” in a hurtful, racist media.
Constitutional nihilists do not put up leaders with garish comb-overs and orange tans. Better to unconstitutionally use the FBI to surveil your enemies, catalog the communications of the press, and weaponize the IRS, when led by a “constitutional law professor” and an icon of the marginalized.
Trump, as Public Enemy No. 1, was banned from Twitter for life and barred from most other social media indefinitely. So were many conservatives, some high-profile, some you’ve never heard of. Implicitly, we are asked to forget that “correct” rioters and looters this summer often coordinated their attacks on Facebook and bragged of them in real-time on Twitter.
There are now social media categories of “good” bad and “bad” bad, depending on the age, flags, insignia, look, and fashion of the thugs. Good mobs hate Trump agendas, bad ones do not. Good “white” people who are programmed correctly vote for Biden; bad “white” people who voted for Trump need deprogramming. Again, how that would proceed presumably is under discussion.
The high-brow New York Times runs good fashion hype on the cool violent Antifa look; the low-brow New York Post of course does not run bad glamor encomia to the crazed violators of the Capitol.
Meanwhile, foreign terrorist leaders like Ayatollah Ali Khamenei tweeted freely their death threats to Israel. In Internet wokespeak, to call for the death of millions is a mere statistic.
Lest We Forget
We are expected to forget that for over 90 summer days, there was utter havoc in dozens of American cities. Downtowns were ravaged. Stores were looted. Arson was customary. More than 700 police were injured and spat upon. In all, those “mostly peaceful” protests did billions of dollars in damage, leaving thousands of business owners bankrupt, and at least three-dozen people dead.
In other words, the visuals were the same old, same old we had seen during the violent 2017 Inauguration Day protests in Washington, the rioting in Ferguson and Baltimore, in New York during the final stages of the Occupy Wall Street take over, and the WTO violence over two decades ago in Seattle—with one major exception. This time the authorities saw far more election-year political advantage in defending the violence than in suppressing it, and so made the necessary adjustments, at least until Election Day.
The mayors of the targeted cities like Portland, Seattle, Chicago, and Minneapolis contextualized and supported the mayhem (“block party” and “summer of love”). They cared little for the thousands of lives that were wrecked by the destruction.
Joe Biden excused Antifa as a mere “idea” (a presidential ante facto impeachable offense?)—largely because millions of his supporters condoned or explained away the violence, and they said so publicly. The New York Times architect of the “1619 Project,” Nikole Hannah-Jones boasted at the height of the unrest, “Destroying property, which can be replaced, is not violence.” She’s lucky none of the oppressed took her literally or seriously enough to storm the New York Times. One wonders what is the further utility of BLM and Antifa after the Biden election, and whether erstwhile dead-ender “protestors” may now be recategorized as “rioters” given the suddenly bad optics.
Kamala Harris recklessly warned America that the protests, which were increasingly turning more violent, would and should continue. And that sentiment is precisely why Harris helped to bail out arrested street activists instead of raising funds for injured police.
We are to forget all that because destroying the downtowns of major cities (mere “brick and mortar”) was then accepted tit-for-tat social justice. It was certainly not sedition, insurrection, and treason to try to torch a federal courthouse or incinerate police precincts with all their occupants inside. Slinging around an illegal “assault weapon,” if you were Seattle rapper Raz Simone, was almost cool and neat, even if four people were shot, and two killed in his “autonomous zone.”
When the violence spread to the nation’s capital, a church near the White House was torched. Mobs threatened to enter the White House grounds. When the president raised the issue of employing federal troops in extremis, he was declared a near insurrectionary himself.
Dozens of retired generals and admirals virtue signaled that Trump’s mention of federal troops was tantamount to plotting a coup. But we are to forget all that now because there were recently 30,000 troops in Washington—as if Jubal Early had risen from the dead with a Confederate Army.
No retired or active general has warned us of a dangerous militarization of the nation’s capital that has no parallel since the Civil War. Were there so many troops in Washington because we learned our lessons from exempting the violence and rioting that we saw during the 2017 Inauguration when over 200 people were indicted for, and then excused from, felony rioting charges after hundreds of businesses were looted, vandalized, and destroyed?
Are deprogrammed Americans asked to forget that all leaders should not suggest that violent resistance to the law is acceptable?
When Senator Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) railed at the doors of the Supreme Court amid a throng of furious pro-abortion protestors, called out the judges in session by name, and threatened and warned them that they were to reap a whirlwind and that they would have no idea of what might soon “hit” them, he later shrugged that he was speaking Brooklynese, the sort of rough patois he grew up with—as opposed, we must suppose, to Donald Trump’s Queens rough talk? Is Schumer to lead the Senate trial of Trump because he has the most congressional experience in threatening public officials while revving up a mob?
What are we to do when everyone from Senator Jon Tester (D-Mt.) to Senator Cory Booker (D-N.J) to then-Vice President Joe Biden warned us that the only way to deal with Trump was either to get in his face or punch him or physically assault him? After deprogramming, are we to shout that Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) ignited violence, but Representative Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) wisely turned down the temperature?
For over a year, mobs and rioters have destroyed or defaced thousands of American monuments, and not just those of Confederate generals. We have witnessed attacks on everything from the Lincoln Memorial to statues of Frederick Douglass and Miguel de Cervantes.
In fear, officials have removed iconic statues such as those of Theodore Roosevelt and Christopher Columbus. And in a manner worthy of Soviet Trotskyization, names and references have been wiped out from the collective American memory with no consistency or logic, with no vote of a city council, much less by public referenda.
The Wilson Center at Princeton is now history; the Wilson Center at the Smithsonian is not—at least so far in this round of collective madness. Father Junipero Serra is no longer worthy of a small Stanford University named mall, even as Stanford itself is named after a 19th-century railroad tycoon who wrote racist diatribes, but without the compensating vows of penury of the now-banned priest. The logic of the Left? Canceling a long-dead Franciscan priest is not quite the same as changing the prestigious brand name on a ticket-to-success diploma.
The only consistent logic in this massive hysterical iconoclasm is that names or statues that can easily be virtue-signaled away are canceled; and those in a strictly cost-to-benefit analysis that cannot, are not. So we offer sacrificial lambs to the mob to save more profitable or important pigs.
The Waters of Lethe
We are asked to be washed in the waters of obliviousness to forget that for four years the American public was subject to the greatest political hoax and scandal in American history.
Candidate Hillary Clinton hired a foreign national, disguised by the firewalls of the DNC, Perkins-Coie, and Fusion GPS, to compile dirt on rival candidate Donald Trump. Then her minions used her lifelong government contacts to seed the made-up file by Christopher Steele among the highest echelons of the Obama Administration, the Justice Department, FBI, and CIA—with absolute impunity.
We are asked to forget that the FBI deliberately doctored court evidence to greenlight unlawful surveillance, and lost or destroyed evidence and even the phone records of rogue FBI agents.
We are asked to forget that it is illegal for a foreign national like Christopher Steele to work for an American presidential candidate, much less to use his work to seek the destruction of a president-elect’s transition and presidency.
We are asked to forget that good old Joe Biden has a long history of racial insensitivity, to such a degree his current vice president once denounced him for befriending segregationists in the Senate and opposing bussing. In the spirit of unity, we are asked to forget that Biden’s “Corn Pop” stories were racist to the core, that his “put y’all back in chains” trope was rank racial condescension, that his remarks about “clean” blacks and donut shop owners were racist, and that his more recent slurs directed at black interviewers such as “Are you a junkie?” and “you ain’t black” were racist.
We are now treated to Hollywood calls for unity. And that is all fine and good. But we are to forget that these ecumenicists for four years have boasted, in word and video, of beating the president up, of burning him alive, of decapitating him, of blowing him up, of shooting him, of torturing his children, of stabbing him. So that was then, this is now, the new age of unity and love?
We are to forget that even daring to voice worry about the sanctity of the 2020 election is in itself seditionary. We are to be deprogrammed to wipe away all memory that for years members of Congress and democratic grandees—including former president Jimmy Carter—described Trump as an illegitimately elected president. We are to forget that Hillary Clinton said repeatedly that she was robbed of her actual “victory,” and advised Joe Biden “never” to concede if he lost.
We are to forget that the Left sued to nullify the 2016 election on grounds that voting machines were fraudulent. Hollywood stars ran commercials urging the electors to become insurrectionaries and to undermine their constitutional mandates.
We are to forget how for years Stacey Abrams was feted by elected officials as the “real” governor of Georgia, as she insisted that she had been “cheated” out of her real victory. We are to forget that Democrats once warned that massive mail-in and early-voting might be subject to fraud. And let us be reprogrammed to forget too how Democrats sued and harangued to undermine the existing voting protocols passed by state legislatures, so that 100 million votes might be cast before Election Day.
We are to forget because calling for symmetry and standards is now “Whataboutism,” the new charge of relativism from the relativist Left that for decades has said that prior injustice justifies present injustice. In sum, the deprogramming Left seeks to wash all memory away. In the cosmic quest for equity, justice, and diversity, there can be no fake absolute standards. For the Left, the moral ends are simply too exalted to worry about the means of obtaining them. Violence for equity is nonviolence. Rioting, arson, and looting in the service of justice is justice for the marginalized.
Before we are all reprogrammed, remember for a bit longer that the reset of memory and truth is not just a political agenda, but a holistic effort to redefine our past, present, and future, to change not just what we think but how we think—or do not think.
This desire to wash all memory away was the secret, after all, to Joe Biden’s virtual candidacy. The implicit promise was always just to vote for nothingness and then all the acrimony, all the rioting, all the fires and looting, all the media craziness, all the cancel culture, all the Twitter wars, all the hysteria would simply vanish with the disappearance of our Emmanuel Goldstein—and a new, undefined but far better world would take its place. And then at last you too could forget the past, and thereby come to love what you’ve become in the present.