Sanity Clause

From The New Criterion

Is it just me, or are lots of people in the new normal of post-Trump America asking themselves if it is just them? Does anyone else scan the headlines and think, either these guys are crazy or I am? Every week, it seems, another multi-trillion dollar proposal for new spending emerges from the White House think tank, lovingly watched over by the media, and nobody bats an eye. Has this ever happened before? Can anyone believe that the left’s most extravagant utopian dreams only awaited the accession to the presidency of a cognitively impaired political hack to wave his magic wand and create these once far out-of-reach trillions ex nihilo? And yet the world does believe it, apparently, or enough of the world to prevent those of us who don’t from being heard outside our right-wing media ghetto.

Here’s another example, from the misnamed “Intelligencer” of New York magazine, heading up an article by Jonathan Chait: “How the American Right Lost Its Chance to Get Sane on Climate Change.” See what I mean? If this lunatic, who to me seems bent on the destruction of industrial society and the impoverishment of the whole world for the sake of a slight delay, at best, in the putatively inexorable rise of atmospheric and oceanic temperatures, thinks that he’s the sane one, just as I do, how do I know that I’m not the lunatic? I suppose one can only rely on one’s sense of the absurd, the occasional reassurances that that sense receives from being shared with others and the apparent inability of the insane to recognize their own absurdity. One definition of insanity, surely, is the stubborn insistence that one’s own opinions are the only possible opinions for a sane person to hold, which seems to be Mr Chait’s view.

Opinion, in his case, has hardened into ideology, and ideology is almost by definition that from which there can never be any retreat. When, for example, a policeman in Columbus, Ohio, shot and killed a 16-year old black girl named Ma’Khia Bryant on the day after the verdict in the Derek Chauvin trial was announced, it was natural for the race ideologues to take to the streets in protest at an event that was automatically assumed to slot into the media narrative of an epidemic of shooting by racist cops of innocent blacks. It soon became apparent from video evidence, however, that Ms Bryant had been in the act of lunging at another girl with a knife at the moment when she was shot — and that shooting her was the only feasible way of saving the life of the second girl, who was unarmed.

Never mind, said the race ideologues, the officer must still take his place among the ever-lengthening list of guilty cops (“You’re next” tweeted Lebron James, presumably alluding to the conviction of Mr Chauvin) for not standing aside and instead intervening, as Valerie Jarratt put it, “in order to break up a knife fight.” Who could doubt what John Kass called “The Insanity of the Left’s ‘Let the Kids Have Their Knife Fights’ Argument”? And yet a week later the Washington Post was still doing its best to keep the narrative of the racist system alive with a story headed: “Foster parents want answers after death of 16-year-old in Columbus.”  But now, says the Post, the scandal also includes Ohio’s foster care system:

Foster parents some of whom gathered with their children at a protest to honor Bryant on Sunday, say they need more training on how to de-escalate conflicts, more funding for social workers and more resources devoted to helping children remain with their birth-parents. They are also demanding that armed police officers no longer be the first responders for most incidents involving foster children, nearly all of whom are traumatized in some way by being relocated away from birth-parents.

The ideological construct of “systemic racism” is made to order for situations like this, since if not the police, or not the police alone, there will always be some other “system” to carry the racist can. The subject of race has lately produced more insanity in more hitherto respectable places than any other. Readers may remember my mention in this space last month (see “Volte-face” in The New Criterion of June, 2021) of the Guardian’s insane claim that “Republicans want to go back to Jim Crow.” In the wake of the Chauvin trial, another British newspaper apparently wished to vie with The Guardian for the crown of absurdity, as someone at The Times of London thought up the following headline to an opinion piece by David Aaronovitch: “Americans are in denial about enduring racism.”

Yes, we’re “in denial” all right, about something we — or at least our media — are constantly talking about and deploring almost to the exclusion of anything else. It’s worth remembering, though Mr Aaronovitch may not remember it, that this racial obsession began two years ago with The New York Times’s mendacious “1619 project” which was avowedly conceived, as mentioned in this space at the time (see “Revolution Redux, Part II” in The New Criterion of October, 2019), as part of the paper’s four year campaign to rid the country, by any means necessary, of a turbulent president who was a threat to the ruling classes for which both the American and the British Times are mouthpieces. Now that the success of the New York Times’s effort to defeat Mr Trump has added to its megaphone the bully pulpit of the presidency, “racism” — actual or imputed, real or imagined — is being exploited to the full, like the “Jim Crow” trope, in order to push the country ever further in the direction of other revolutionary goals.

You might well suppose that such a blatant propaganda effort would be visible to the naked eye even from 3000 miles away, but apparently it is not so. The media have prepared the ground for their own extremism by pushing to the limit every opportunity to portray the counter-revolutionary opposition as the real extremists who are thus the ones making their own moderate, sensible and humane reforms necessary. This was the point of President Biden’s characterization, in his “100 days” speech to Congress on April 28th, of the Capitol riot of January 6th as the “worst attack on our democracy since the Civil War.” The claim is laughable on its face, impossible to be taken seriously by any sane person, but in the context of the left’s extravagant rhetoric (and the President’s own well-known penchant for uttering absurd falsehoods) — not to mention in that of his extraordinary giveaway of another $1.8 trillion which it was the main purpose of the speech to celebrate — it passed almost unnoticed.

As it nearly always does, the media’s racial narrative lay in the background here, too, with the mention of the Civil War — an up-to-date version of which the most extreme of the revolutionary left, along with their Antifa allies in the streets, seem to be trying to foment. No doubt with this in mind, the Republican “response” to Mr Biden’s speech by Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina stressed that “America is not a racist country.” Perhaps he had in mind the words of Mr Biden’s United Nations ambassador, Linda Thomas-Greenfield when she said: “I have seen for myself how the original sin of slavery weaved white supremacy into our founding documents and principles.” If the woman who has been chosen to represent our country before the gathering of the world’s nations in an American city believes this, it seems fair to conclude that the man who appointed her to such a post believes it too — insofar as he can be said to believe anything.

Yet in addition to abuse by the left as “Uncle Tim,” or worse, Senator Scott had to endure being lectured by the moralizing media that the “racist country” idea was a “straw man.” As Philip Bump of The Washington Post wrote:

Most Americans are in agreement about the existence of racism and racial discrimination at the individual level. We all know that there are people out there who view people of other races as inferior, and most of us disdain the people who hold those views. Instead, the debate centers on the extent to which systems within the country — business, government, law enforcement — reflect biases that disadvantage non-Whites. That’s not the same as the country itself being racist, a position that it seems safe to assume most Americans wouldn’t agree with — which is why it’s how Scott frames the Democratic position.

Excuse me, but the attribution of “biases” to “systems within the country” is exactly the same as saying that the country itself is racist. The country is as much its systems — which were once, within living memory, almost universally regarded as a model for the world — as its people. As with the numerous left-wing attempts to moderate and rationalize what might otherwise have seemed the literally insane cry of the Antifas and other rioters last summer to “Defund the Police,” the pundits and philosophers of the media today are still busily at work thinking up new sophistries in order to demonstrate that it is the Tim Scotts of the world who are the extremists, and not they.

To do this, however, it is necessary to keep up the fiction of the counter-revolutionary “denial” of plain and obvious truths which, nevertheless, only the left are properly alert to. What was so striking to me about the Times’s headline, I think, and the reason why, when I read it, I thought that the whole world had gone mad, is that Mr Aaronovitch has also written a pretty good book about conspiracy theories — though it’s a bit weak on some of its American examples. If the author of Voodoo Histories: The Role of the Conspiracy Theory in Shaping Modern History (2010) can be so credulous about something that, being an ocean away from America at the time his article appeared, he must have read in the New York Times or The Washington Post, which of us can hope to escape from participation in the mass delusion that our media environment has become?

Perhaps a kind of professional courtesy is preventing him from seeing that it is actually being “in denial” that we are in denial about. For this little borrowing from pop psychology is a staple conversation-stopper among the conspiracy theorists about whom Mr Aaronovitch is so scathing. Like “systemic racism” — in which the word “systemic” can mean nothing if not “not open to question or refutation” — the concept has arisen as part of the corruption of language on which the media’s superstructure of ideology is based. More often applied to “climate change,” the charge of being “in denial” is a means of pathologizing political differences and stigmatizing any disagreement with the reigning orthodoxies as a species of mental illness. We now even have something called “denialism,” as in the NBC News headline: “President Biden’s Earth Day climate summit is a rebuke to Trump’s denialism” — in which his supposed “denialism” means nothing more than the former President’s disagreement with his successor’s rubber-stamping of the left’s long-standing prescription of specifics against climate change.

Racism, too, is now regarded in some quarters as a mental illness — perhaps as a prelude to sending its putative sufferers to mental hospitals, as they did with dissidents in the old Soviet Union. James Billot of the British website UnHerd writes that

In Joe Biden’s first speech following his election victory, the future President assumed the role of the nation’s doctor. Pledging to “heal America”, he promised to “marshal the forces of science and the forces of hope” to combat two viruses. The first, of course, was Covid, which has killed more than 560,000 Americans and left many more unemployed and impoverished. The second, which arose almost in tandem, is equally pernicious, if not quite so deadly: the “racism virus”. The outbreak of this second virus was confirmed earlier this month by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention, which issued a statement declaring racism an “epidemic” that posed a “serious public health threat”. Citing a “growing body of research”, the CDC director called on her agency — and America at large — to “confront the impact of racism.” This is, on the face of it, a peculiar focus for America’s leading public health agency; one might think it would be preoccupied with the other pandemic ravaging the country. And yet the CDC’s statement was all too typical of today’s medical establishment. The American Psychological Association recently announced that America was “living in a racism pandemic”; the American Medical Association has called racism an “urgent public health threat”; and The Lancet has declared it a “public health crisis we can no longer ignore”.

Philip Bump may be unaware of President Biden’s diagnosis of the nation’s ailments, but what Mr Billot calls the recent evolution of racism “from a social problem into a medical one” is, he thinks, a dangerous and perhaps fatal transformation. This is because, he writes, some doctors, crazed with the anti-racist fever, are now advocating triage by the prioritization of people of color over the most urgent cases — something that would seem to be even more conclusive evidence than Linda Thomas-Greenfield that, if racism is a disease, so is anti-racism. At any rate it appears to cause a mental illness that is the sickness unto intellectual death, since it enlists “science” (actually, of course, pseudo-science) in the cause of ideological purity, as once did Trofim Lysenko, also of the old Soviet Union.

Dear, dear, we do seem to be hearing rather a lot of echoes of that unlamented totalitarian “system” lately. It could hardly be otherwise when the media, as part of the newly empowered Cancel Culture continue to scourge the straw men of “denialism” and “white supremacism” and any other ism, even to the point of of trying to outlaw any disagreement with the Left’s supposedly scientific certainties, now to be written into law wherever possible under the revolutionary régime fronted by the avuncular figure of Sleepy Joe Biden. The creation of still more ideological minds, incapable of self-examination or self-correction, is the ultimate aim of the Biden administration’s efforts, in conjunction with the Educating for American Democracy bill making its way through the Democratic Congress, which will likely require of those receiving federal money the teaching of Critical Race Theory in K-12 education throughout the country — wherever it is not already being taught.

This ideology can be summed up in the words of Linda Thomas-Greenfield quoted above and is aptly described by Peter Wood of The Spectator as “a death ray aimed at children’s minds.” If you doubt it, just look at what the death ray has already done to the minds of Mr Biden and the fawning media whose hard-faced ideologues are, as I believe, the ones who are really running the country now. Not, Mr Aaronovitch, that I imagine there to have been some obscure conspiracy, but because Mr Biden has still enough mind left to have taken on board the hard lesson taught to his predecessor in office: that it is the media consensus which has arrogated to itself the power to decide what can and cannot claim to be truth, decency and even sanity.

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