The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Saturday, July 27, 2019

The Terror

In an insightful commentary that draws loose parallels between the current state of politics in 21st century America and 18th century France, Peggy Noonan writes:
The [French] revolution had everything—a ruling class that was clumsy, decadent, inert; a pathetic king, a queen beyond her depth, costly wars, monstrous debt, an impervious and unreformable administrative state, a hungry populace. The task of the monarchy was to protect the poor, but the king had “abdicated this protective role.” Instead of ensuring grain supplies at a reasonable price, [Simon] Schama [author of a definitive history of the period] notes, the government committed itself to the new modern principle of free trade: “British textiles had been let into France, robbing Norman and Flemish spinners and weavers of work.” They experienced it as “some sort of conspiracy against the People.”

One does see parallels. But they’re not what I mean.

It was a revolution largely run by sociopaths. One, Robespierre, the “messianic schoolmaster,” saw it as an opportunity for the moral instruction of the nation. Everything would be politicized, no part of the citizen’s life left untouched. As man was governed by an “empire of images,” in the words of a Jacobin intellectual, the new régime would provide new images to shape new thoughts ...

So here is our parallel, our hiccup. I thought of all this this week because I’ve been thinking about the language and behavioral directives that have been coming at us from the social and sexual justice warriors who are renaming things and attempting to control the language in America.

There is the latest speech guide from the academy, the Inclusive Communications Task Force at Colorado State University. Don’t call people “American,” it directs: “This erases other cultures.” Don’t say a person is mad or a lunatic, call him “surprising/wild” or “sad.” “Eskimo,” “freshman” and “illegal alien” are out. “You guys” should be replaced by “all/folks.” Don’t say “male” or “female”; say “man,” “woman” or “gender non-binary.”

In one way it’s the nonsense we’ve all grown used to, but it should be said that there’s an aspect of self-infatuation, of arrogance, in telling people they must reorder the common language to suit your ideological preferences. There is something mad in thinking you should control the names of things. Or perhaps I mean surprising/wild.

I see in it a spirit similar to that of The Terror. There is a tone of, “I am your moral teacher. Because you are incapable of sensitivity, I will help you, dumb farmer. I will start with the language you speak.”
To me and millions of other Americans, it is that tone, now evinced by the social justice warriors of the Left, that is most offensive. How have the mini-Robespierres of the Left cornered the market in wisdom and morality? Why should any of us accept their moral mandates without critique and push back? How can any of us take them seriously when they are outraged by anything that they and they alone deem offensive or anyone who questions their words? Where do ad hominem accusations of "racism" or "misogyny" or "islamophobia" end?

After recounting many, many instances of the Left's thought control and historical revisionism, Noonan concludes with this:
It’s all insane. All of it.

But we’re moving forward, renaming the months and the sexes, reordering the language.

You wonder how the people who push all this got so much power. But then, how did Robespierre?
The answer to Noonan's last question is easy and unsettling. When you control vast swathes of the mainstream media, the arts, the entertainment industry, academia, and social media, you have power because you influence thinking. You see it as an opportunity for "moral instruction of the nation." The unsettling thing is that we can only hope that the current crop of social justice warriors who are grasping so desperately for power don't become like the "sociopaths" that led France into The Terror 230 years ago.