Adventures in Self-Abasement and Ideological Conformity

June 7, 2020 Updated: June 9, 2020

Commentary

Where’s Mao Zedong when you need him? The Great Helmsman had a highly developed taste for humilating his ideological opponents. He was particularly adept at forcing his victims to abase themselves by publicly confessing to assorted failures and “crimes” against the state.

It’s a pity that Mao isn’t around to savor the new birth of his signature technique of political enforcement on the shores of America. I can imagine Mao smiling in approval as police officers across the country kneel in homage to Black Lives Matter hooligans.

Mao would have liked it that the gesture is being copied by crowds elsewhere in rancid purlieus across the woke, formerly “the developed,” world, as epitomized by this headline: “Crowds in Rome Kneel for Eight Minutes to Honor George Floyd,” the black career criminal who died in police custody two weeks ago while being forcibly restrained by a white policeman.

Mao would have been pleased that the CEO of the Second City theatrical company voluntarily stepped down and apologized because a former performer had accused the storied comedy company of racism.

He would have chuckled to himself when told that 300 doctors and nurses at the Yale School of Medicine knelt in homage to Black Lives Matter.

And he would have been over the moon at the spectacle of Michael Shaw, the wretched police chief of Webster, Massachusetts, who lay down with his hands behind his back next to a sign emblazoned with the words “I can’t breathe” while two black men stood guard over him.

We haven’t quite gotten to the Struggle Sessions that formed such a piquant part of Mao’s cultural revolution. But sporadic signs of resistance—epitomized by the police officer who declared that he knelt only before God as the mob screamed at him—suggest that additional coercive measures can’t be far behind.

Purity of Thought

Purity of behavior is important. But, as George Orwell, no less than Mao and Pol Pot, knew, purity of thought is even more important, for behavior is shaped by thought.

As Lenin himself observed, “Communism means keeping track of everything.” And what is more powerful as an instrument of shaping thought than the books we read?

So it was only to be expected that the race-obsessed left should get around to scrutinizing our reading lists and libraries. We’ve all heard stories about how public and even school and college libraries have jettisoned books such as “Huckleberry Finn,” because they contained scenes or even just words of which they disapproved.

But the rather crude expedient of removing books from public collections doesn’t go nearly far enough. What is wanted is the “decolonization” of one’s personal library and private reading. As a woke writer for NPR enthusiastically advises, “If you are white, take a moment to examine your bookshelf.

“What do you see? What books and authors have you allowed to influence your worldview, and how you process the issues of racism and prejudice toward the disenfranchised? Have you considered that, if you identify as white and read only the work of white authors, you are in some ways listening to an extension of your own voice on repeat?

“While the details and depth of experience may differ, white voices have dominated what has been considered canon for eons. That means non-white readers have had to process stories and historical events through a white author’s lens. The problem goes deeper than that, anyway, considering that even now 76 percent of publishing professionals—the people you might call the gatekeepers—are white.”

Once upon a time, colorblindness was a prime liberal ideal. People were meant to be judged as individuals, not representatives of a tribe. Racialist thinking was what Hitler and the Nazis indulged in; liberals promulgated an ideal given classic expression by Martin Luther King Jr. when he said that what matters is the content of our character, not the color of our skin.

That ideal has been inverted by our new race warriors, for whom “Black Lives Matter” passes muster but “All Lives Matter” is a racist statement.

It’s a topsy-turvy world we have entered, one in which partisans of revolution explain “Why Damaging Property Isn’t The Same As ‘Violence’,” a sentiment that got a huge boost when Nikole Hannah-Jones, the “genius” behind the racialist fantasy known as “The 1619 Project,” said that destroying property “is not violence.”

Only Pablum Allowed

A few days ago, The New York Times entered the self-abasement sweepstakes in spectacular fashion, first publishing and then disowning an op-ed by Republican Sen. Tom Cotton.

Cotton’s op-ed argued that President Donald Trump ought to consider invoking the 1807 Insurrection Act and deploy the U.S. military if the mob continued to riot and destroy property in America’s cities. You might agree, you might disagree, but it’s a mainstream opinion that the readers of the NY Times should be allowed to consider for themselves.

Or so one would have thought. The younger woke staffers at the paper rebelled and soon brought James Bennet, the editorial page editor, to his knees. (After just a few days, the NY Times cashiered Bennet, who “resigned” June 7.) Craven apologies and rationalizations followed, as our former paper of record made it clear that henceforth, only pabulum passed by their ideological praegustatores would be allowed to appear.

The New York Post’s Michael Goodwin lavished upon the paper some portion of the contempt it deserved, noting that the NY Times in recent years had had space for such opponents of the United States as Vladimir Putin, the Taliban, and Turkey’s ­Recep Tayyip Erdogan, “the world leader in locking up journalists.” But just show them a Trump-supporting U.S. senator and the budding totalitarians wet their pants and bay for his head.

Goodwin makes the important point that the NY Times’s ostracism of Cotton, and by extension of Trump, is all of a piece with The 1619 Project. The NY Times floated that anti-American fantasy to great fanfare last summer (and rode it to a Pulitzer Prize in April).

“Both reveal,” Goodwin writes, “that the paper’s virulent anti-Trumpism isn’t just about him. More broadly, his America First agenda offends their elitist and globalist sensibilities. Of course, it’s true that nearly everybody at the Times actually hates Trump. But it’s also clear that nearly everybody at the Times has contempt for most Americans, too.”

A Great Contest

It may well be, as some have suggested, that the destructive, race-based histrionics we are seeing unfold before us on the nightly news are secretly orchestrated as one more assault on the Trump administration.

The deep state mobilized the laughable though expensive “Russian collusion” narrative to destroy, at first, candidate and, then, president, Trump. That didn’t work.

The same forces fabricated bogus charges of “abuse of power” and “contempt of Congress,” because the president had a telephone conversation with the president of Ukraine. House Democrats actually impeached and tried to remove Trump from office over those farcical charges.

That didn’t work, either.

Nor did the effort to blame the president for the economic and medical devastation wrought by our latest Chinese import, the CCP virus.

The effort to weaponize racial unrest and enlist various retired military personnel to betray the commander-in-chief is torn from the same playbook. It, too, is boomeranging back upon its instigators.

Maybe the major issue is the 2020 election and the deep state’s desperate attempt to regurgitate the man they had first declared impossible and then, when he became actual, rejected as unacceptable. Perhaps that’s it.

But perhaps the animus goes deeper and is directed not just at Trump, but at us deplorables. A great contest seems to have opened up. On one side are the partisans of Lincoln who think that the United States was “conceived in liberty and [is] dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”

On the other side are those rancorous creatures who repudiate Lincoln and believe, with Nikole Hannah-Jones, that the country was founded as a “slavocracy” and that the bad behavior of a handful of white policemen renders the whole American experiment a failure.

It’s a choice between those who believe that the United States, whatever its imperfections, is a land of economic opportunity and political liberty and those who think it’s a transnational socialist regime in the making.

It’s a stark choice. I know what side I am on.

Roger Kimball is the editor and publisher of The New Criterion and publisher of Encounter Books. His most recent book is “The Fortunes of Permanence: Culture and Anarchy in an Age of Amnesia.”

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.