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Decadence, Left And Right
Progressive bacha bazi and MAGA valorization of 1/6: Mirror images of decline
These are mirror images of American decadence. I take it that the readership of this newsletter does not need me to explain why 13 year old American bacha bazi is a sign of deep decadence. Why do I find the Trump rally decadent?
Because he played video of the January 6 attacks at the same time that he played audio of a choir singing the National Anthem, interspersed with his own voice reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. He is obviously trying to cement the January 6 narrative as a patriotic uprising. This is shocking. Despite that fact that the media, Democrats, and liberal activists have unjustly exploited January 6 to their own advantage, the fact remains that the January 6 attack was a very bad thing. Remember the reason for the mob assault: to compel Congress to prevent Joe Biden’s election as president from being certified. That is to say, the mob assault was carried out on behalf of Donald Trump.
So with this video and audio presentation at the Texas rally, Trump is rewriting history to sanctify an extraordinarily shameful event in American history, to serve his own interests. Worse, he is weaving standard, widely shared expressions of American patriotism — the National Anthem and the Pledge — into a political mob attack, with the obvious goal of turning the January 6 assault into a contemporary version of the Boston Tea Party. And he’s doing it in a shamefully demagogic manner.
I am disturbed by my recent statement in this space that after the Stanford Law School attack on Judge Kyle Duncan by the woke law student mob, that I would crawl over glass to vote for Trump if he’s the GOP nominee in 2024 (which I devoutly hope he will not be; I’m a DeSantis guy). I see the Stanford debacle as a law school version of January 6: as a mob attack on one of the pillars of American democracy and constitutional order. I am actually far more worried about this kind of thing than the January 6 attack because there was zero chance that the yobs on the Capitol lawn that day were going to overthrow the government. There is a very great chance that the highly educated, privileged yobs in the classroom at Stanford that day will radically subvert the constitutional order as they march through the elite institutions of our society.
Of course the ruling class in American society is not much bothered by what happened at Stanford (though the criticism of students by the law school dean is much appreciated). I’m writing this on a break at a conference today at the Danube Institute in Budapest, on the topic of Critical Race Theory. I heard earlier a talk by Prof. Frank Furedi, a UK academic sociologist, talking about the way critical theory has savaged universities, and is even more dangerous to the West than communism was (and he would know; he spent his childhood in Stalinist Hungary). Diderik Boomsma, a member of Amsterdam’s city council, spoke at length about how CRT and the DEI mentality in the Netherlands is destroying democratic government and cultural institutions. It has brought about, said Boomsma, “a permanent cycle of revolution.”
This is decadence. This is what it means to be decadent. What is decaying is the liberal political order, and the Western civilizational order. Liberals no longer believe in liberalism, but in this totalitarian ideology. What do conservatives believe in? Donald Trump was president for four years. He failed at effectively opposing the Great Awokening. He failed because he doesn’t have any deep convictions about it, serving himself being the only real thing he cares about; and he failed because he doesn’t have the political skills to fight these woke barbarians. It is decadent that a very large number of right-wing Americans are satisfied by the cheap emotions Trump calls forth within them, and don’t ask why Trump failed to stop the Great Awokening, or demand to know why they should support returning him to office given that failure.
The shared decadence is this: both sides care more about feelings, about emotion, about Narrative, than they do about facts and logic. I have been very clear that I find the Left’s decadence to be far more threatening, given its institutional power, but it also depresses the hell out of me that the Right’s decadence — the weakness of the Congressional and presidential GOP, and the failure of the Right’s imagination — has meant that these totalitarians have triumphed without much effective opposition.
(This is why I’m so excited about Ron DeSantis. He’s the first national conservative figure I’ve seen who seems to understand the problem, and the solution, and who is brave enough to take the fight to the Left.)
The unpredictable right-wing writer Richard Hanania has a good Substack essay saying that it’s wrong to say that conservatives lose all the time; in fact, they often win. They’ve won on guns, on school choice, on abortion, on taxes, and, says Hanania, other issues. So why the feeling that the Right are losers? He writes:
Mostly, the anger is about cultural and identity issues. And here, indeed, there has been a sea change. Affirmative action has been with us for decades, but only recently have major institutions become openly anti-white and anti-male. Gay propaganda in schools has exploded, as has the percentage of young people identifying as LGBT. School libraries basically now carry porn, and since it’s LGBT porn instead of heterosexual, the media considers any attempts to keep it away from minors to be fascism. There are now fat women in underwear ads. And so on.
How can conservatives “win” on these issues? Does doing so require a new kind of politics, a rethinking of traditional assumptions, or even a revolution in our governing system? I see no reason why. Take the gun and abortion issues. What conservatives have done goes beyond simply appointing their own judges and passing new laws at the state level. Rather, the entire movement, from top to bottom, prioritizes preventing the government from engaging in left-wing activism in these areas.
He goes on to talk about legislative things that Congressional Republicans have done to protect gun rights and fight abortion. Then:
Contrast this to race and gender issues. Wokeness can clearly be traced to left-wing government policy that the right has provided virtually no pushback against. Much of it could have been undone through the executive branch alone had the last few Republican presidents not been asleep at the wheel. Every part of our government discriminates against whites and men, and the private sector is forced to do the same. Even the LGBT explosion is likely more related to policy than one would think. Leo Sapir has written about how the obsession with minority sexual preferences and identities in public schools to a large extent has its roots in “anti-bullying” and Title IX initiatives. Republicans in Congress don’t like this stuff, but they’re not putting a lot of political capital towards fighting it either.
A federal agency that started advocating against the conservative position on abortion or guns would quickly see its funding threatened. But diversity trainings, affirmative action, anti-harassment policies, and other hallmarks of wokeness only inspire collective shrugs from lawmakers, and even Republican presidents.
Predictably, this has led to everything becoming woke. But that doesn’t mean that this was a natural consequence of liberals inherently knowing how to use power, the system being rigged in favor of the left, or any such nonsense. It’s just what happens when only one side prioritizes a policy area, and the other rolls over.
It’s just not true, says Hanania, that GOP lawmakers are afraid of The New York Times. That’s out of date. More:
Conservative elites are today much more responsive to the concerns of right-wing media and their own activists and voters. The problem is there simply isn’t an anti-woke equivalent to Grover Norquist or the NRA. Right-wing resistance to the left on identity issues tends to be dominated by talk show hosts and online “influencers” rather than people who think seriously about policy and how to change it.
Well, Chris Rufo is not like this.
He’s over here in Budapest this month, and I heard him open today’s conference with a clear, powerful explanation of what CRT is. As many Americans know, Gov. DeSantis called on Rufo to help turn his research findings and opinions into policy. This is really good news! DeSantis has been savaged by the Left, by the media, by activists, and by normie Republicans. Nevertheless, he persists. My great fear is that Republican voters will prefer the vivid gasbaggery of Donald Trump to the meat-and-potatoes effectiveness of Ron DeSantis.
Following Hanania’s analysis, it is clear that there has not been a sufficient effort on the Right to force our own elected representatives to defend our own values. It is bizarre that so many conservatives have been unwilling to defend basic things like children from the attacks of left-wing radicals who want to poison their minds with gender ideology, and stock school libraries with pro-gay porn. In his talk today, Rufo pointed out how CRT educators deny that they’re teaching CRT, and that they ought to be left alone to teach it. This is a paradox related to my Law of Merited Impossibility, which says, “It will never happen, and when it does, you bigots will deserve it.” Woke educators say, “We aren’t teaching CRT, and the children of you bigots are benefiting from our efforts to free their minds.”
Back to decadence: the unwillingness of the Right to defend our own beliefs is why we keep losing. The Left has dominance in the media, no question, and that’s why they used January 6 to build a strong anti-Right narrative around that event. We don’t have anything like that kind of power over the means of narrative production, but we should at least be using what networks we have to keep the Stanford Law School atrocity front to mind, at least among conservatives. Because it really does matter!
Similarly, did you see what the lunatic trans activist did at the Texas state legislature, which was debating a bill to criminalize drag shows for children? These radicals have no respect for any forms, any hierarchies, any rules or customs that they dislike. Did you see what they did in New Zealand to the women’s rights anti-trans activist Posie Parker (Kellie-Jay Keen)? She was violently assaulted by a woke mob, and prevented from speaking.
In Kentucky, the Democratic governor just vetoed a GOP-sponsored bill (which passed by veto-proof majorities) reining in the triumph of transgenderism in schools with commonsense measures, such as forbidding hormones and sex change surgeries for minors. What did he say?
Gov. Andy Beshear said in a written veto message that the bill allows “too much government interference in personal healthcare issues and rips away the freedom of parents to make medical decisions for their children.”
In his one-page message, he warned that the bill’s repercussions would include an increase in youth suicides. The governor said, “My faith teaches me that all children are children of God and Senate Bill 150 will endanger the children of Kentucky.”
Beshear told reporters later Friday that transgender children and their parents were among the Kentuckians who contacted his office as he reviewed the legislation.
“I heard from children that believe this bill is picking on them, and asking — in many ways — why?” the governor said. “I told them that I was going to show them that there is at least one person in Frankfort that cares for all of our children in the commonwealth, no matter what.”
Danger. Bullying. Care. Increase in youth suicides. If you love God, you must permit children to consent to have their breasts surgically removed. You see how this works. These are accusations intended to prevent debate. If you disagree with what the Left demands, then you don’t care if trans kids kill themselves. To be fair, Beshear uses standard right-wing tropes about “individual freedom” and “parental rights” — as if having a democratically elected legislature assert its power to protect children from irreversible surgical or chemical changes are illiberal tyrants.
All credit to Republicans in the Kentucky legislature for not being intimidated by these stuff — and to Republicans in other state legislatures. Things really are changing for the better at the state level. But the fight is going to be long, and much uglier. The Left’s decadence is militant; the Right’s decadence manifests either as weakness, or in relishing the cheap thrills of MAGA while disdaining the hard political work required to turn back the Cultural Revolution.
Pierre Valentin, the French Catholic writer who studies le wokisme in his own country, gave a terrific presentation of how the phenomenon manifests in France. I thought France was doing pretty well resisting this phenomenon, but Valentin says it’s not so. He made an incisive observation about the advance of wokeness in his own country. He said the soixante-huitards (“sixty-eighters,” or Boomer leaders of the 1968 student movements), came to power riding the claim that Youth Are Always Right. They find themselves now unable to resist the anti-liberal claims of the young woke. Surely this is the case in the US, where youth culture became the culture.
“Yes, wokism will probably kill the Left,” said Valentin. “But will it also kill the country?” He went on to say that if we who oppose wokism don’t offer those drawn to wokeness a better narrative, a narrative that gives diverse peoples something positive to rally around, then they will rally around the destruction of countries and their political orders. The narrative Donald Trump offers in that video is anti-woke — good! — but also contains clearly within it the destruction of the American order and its rebuilding to serve a demagogue and his pseudo-patriotism. Again, I reject the Left’s construal of January 6, but the idea that Trump is resurrecting and redefining that shameful mob action as something worth commemorating and praising as patriotic is no better. It’s the valorization of mob action, the same that the Left does at Stanford Law, at trans attacks on women trying to make speeches, and so forth.
It is a sign of decadence.