Discover more from Rod Dreher's Diary
The Mortal Danger Of 'Yes-Buttery'
Manson Family Values and why we don't dare minimize the evil of Hamas's butchery
I know you’re bound to be tired of talking about the Hamas atrocities. I need to dwell on them once again to make an important point.
Let’s do a thought experiment. Say that in a European country of a hundred years from now — France, for example — the Islamic population became large enough such that the country’s affairs were dominated by Islam. Let’s say that the white French — the ones who were there before Muslims began migrating, legally and illegally, in such large numbers — felt angry and dispossessed, and wanted the Muslims off “their” land. Let’s say a français de souche — that is, indigenous French — violent resistance group began, dedicated to the liberation of French territory from the outsiders.
And let’s say that you sympathized with their cause. I know I would! Now, could that cause ever, under any circumstance, lead you to support the resistance if it did what Hamas did to Israeli Jews on October 7? Me, no. No, no, never. That is Satanic evil, and nothing can justify it.
This is why I don’t want to bring the existence of Israel into this discussion. Even if you believe Israel has no right to exist — I believe Israel has a right to exist, but let’s say that you do not — there is still no remote justification for those atrocities. None. For those who are “yes, but” on the question, read on:
I am, I realise, watching a montage of atrocity. And it gets worse. A terrified Israeli man in his underpants, and his two young children, also in underclothes, run screaming. Thugs clamber down from a lorry and throw a grenade into the cubby hole where they have taken refuge. The father’s body falls onto the ground covered in blood. Terrorists take the two children — covered in their father’s blood — into a room. “Daddy’s dead,” one screams to his brother. “It’s not a prank. He’s really dead. I wish I was dead! I wish I was dead!” he screams. Even within the litany of horror I’ve witnessed in my career this is horrifically unsettling.
A new scene depicts a man in a football shirt lying on the ground covered in blood. He moans in pain. A terrorist picks up a hoe and starts smashing him over the head — over and over and over again. “Allahu Akbar!” he screams, over and over and over again.
A dancing woman appears on screen. She is dressed in a crop top and tiny shorts, laughing and smiling. In the next scene, revellers are crouching on the ground as terrorists steam across the field. Partygoers run screaming. People are dragged from their cars. Bloodied corpses are thrown into the dirt while Hamas cheer and whoop.
I am watching a celebration of life alongside the fetishisation of death.
Some audio plays and a translation of the Arabic pops up on the screen as a Hamas terrorist calls his father: “Father, I killed 10 Jews! Check your WhatsApp! I sent you the photos! Father, I killed 10 Jews! I killed 10 Jews with my bare hands. check your WhatsApp. Father, be proud of me!”
I’m starting to lose all sense of time. A terrified, handcuffed female hostage is dragged out of a truck amid cheering crowds. We are shown images of the burned babies, so small you could cradle them in the crook of your arm. One journalist tells me the blanket it was swaddled in is one of those given to newborns.
In the immediate aftermath of World War II, victorious Allied troops in some places near concentration camps forcibly marched German civilians who lived nearby into the camps to force them to look at what their government had done in their name. And even still, to this day, Holocaust denial is a thing! This is similar. The Jews of Israel suffered a Nazi-like atrocity, and are now suffering from yes-buttery (“Yes, it’s bad, but you have to understand …”), which is a cousin of Holocaust denial.
An old friend of mine who sympathizes with the Palestinian cause had been practicing yes-buttery in messages to me. I didn’t say anything, because I didn’t want to fight with him. Finally, after a slew of pro-Palestinian messages and zero recognition that Hamas had done something extremely evil, I texted him a tweet from the briefing in which the Israeli pathologist analyzed the burned corpses of babies. He blew up at me: “Why would you think I would want to see that?!” and so forth. Well, I didn’t think he wanted to see it. No sane person would. I thought he needed to see it, to bring his abstracting the issue down to earth. He supports the Palestinian cause, and because Hamas’s butchery stands to damage or discredit that cause in the minds of many, he instinctively tried to speak of the atrocities (which he did not deny) in language that buffered the horror.
I think this is wrong. It’s not only wrong, it’s foolish. Let me explain.
In the Deep South of the 1970s, I grew up hearing some older white people talk about how happy black slaves were, because in most cases, their masters really cared for them, and looked after their welfare. Similarly, I heard that the Klan was actually defending the interest of “good blacks.” White people back then honestly believed these things. Seriously, they did — and you white Southerners of a certain age will know exactly what I’m talking about. They had to believe them, if their ideals were going to remain intact in the face of the atrocities committed under white supremacy. Remember, the South is a shame-honor culture. Whites could not bear the shame of what their ancestors did, so they had to somehow minimize it by the telling of lies.
Last night my son Matt and I saw Scorsese’s new film, about the Osage Indian murders of the 1920s. True story. It was a good film, but far too long. On the walk back, we were talking about how bizarre it was that the Leonardo DiCaprio character, Ernest Burkhart, even betrayed his own wife, the mother of his children. She was an Indian, so that made her somehow less than human in the minds of some whites back then. I told Matt that that was how a lot of Southern whites saw blacks. In 2012, a relative of a white man who, at the time, was the biggest landowner in Louisiana, told a story about how his kinsman — this must have been in the 1930s or 1940s — shot dead a black man in cold blood and in broad daylight, on the main street of a nearby town, because the black man did not step off the sidewalk and let the white man pass. Of course the white man did not answer for his murder in court. Black people were worthless, you see.
This is not a white thing alone. It is part of human nature. The power of white denial about atrocities our people committed against non-white peoples has waned — but the same malignant stance (the denial of responsibility) is now eagerly embraced by many blacks and LGBTs to deny or soften violence or other words and deeds done by people on their side that stand to complicate or hurt their image, and thus their standing in the public square. I’ve mentioned before how my first real-life example as a young journalist of how the media lie to serve a narrative came in 1993, when I went to the Mall in Washington to cover the big LGBT march that drew 800,000 or more to DC. There were a lot of middle-class normie gays and lesbians there. But there were also a lot of shocking freaks, like the Radical Faerie who pranced around with a tree limb stuck up his butt. I saw this with my own eyes, and remember that guy in particular because I ran into a quiet young man who was with the group, but not dressed like that — a young man I remembered from the Progressive Student Network at LSU. In the papers and on television the next day, none of the freakshow was present. It was all Will & Grace, and Ellen type stuff. And you know, that absolutely should have been there, because it was true. But it wasn’t the whole truth. The media edited out the parts that stood to hurt the cause of LGBT rights.
This still happens. Google “Folsom Street Fair” if you want to see what kind of evil passes under the banner of “Pride”. And the media routinely erases or minimizes the racial element in violent crime. I recall sitting at my desk at the Dallas Morning News back in the Oughties, marveling that my newspaper, along with some of the TV stations in Dallas, were reporting on an armed robber loose in Uptown Dallas, without providing a description of the man’s race. This was absolutely relevant information to people trying to protect themselves from a bad man with a gun, but local media were more interested in protecting the public from having unapproved thoughts about race and crime. Madness.
Here’s why this kind of thing matters:
The younger Millennials (25-34) are not much better. Why does this matter? Because people who believe that anything at all justifies these kinds of atrocities are people who can be convinced that it is good and necessary to do it to you, for the sake of a cause. When I was writing back in 2017 about the black radical philosophy professor Tommy Curry saying that some white people need to die for the cause of black liberation, a whole lot of people thought I was too hard on the man. Well, now we have a culture in which most college-age (and just beyond) young people think it is acceptable to cut the unborn babies out of the bellies of their mothers for the sake of a political cause. This is Charles Manson stuff — Manson Family Values — and it has captured the minds of our young.
Do you see now why the people who lived under Soviet communism see wokeness as essentially totalitarian? Do you? Do you see why Live Not By Lies matters so much? From the book:
It is difficult for people raised in the free world to grasp the breadth and the depth of lying required simply to exist under communism. All the lies, and lies about lies, that formed the communist order were built on the basis of this foundational lie: the communist state is the sole source of truth. Orwell expressed this truth in Nineteen Eighty-Four: “The Party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears. It was their final, most essential command.”
The cause — in this case, Palestinian nationalism — tells you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears, or if not outright reject it, then denature it to make it tolerable.
More from Live Not By Lies, from a passage describing how the Russian people accepted the brutality of the Bolshevik revolution:
In retrospect, this seems almost unbelievable. How could the Russians have been so blind? It was, in a sense, a problem of the imagination. Reflecting on the speed with which utopian dreams turned into a grisly nightmare, Solzhenitsyn observed:
If the intellectuals in the plays of Chekhov who spent all their time guessing what would happen in twenty, thirty, or forty years had been told that in forty years interrogation by torture would be practiced in Russia; that prisoners would have their skulls squeezed within iron rings, that a human being would be lowered into an acid bath; that they would be trussed up naked to be bitten by ants and bedbugs; that a ramrod heated over a primus stove would be thrust up their anal canal (the “secret brand”); that a man’s genitals would be slowly crushed beneath the toe of a jackboot; and that, in the luckiest possible circumstances, prisoners would be tortured by being kept from sleeping for a week, by thirst, and by being beaten to a bloody pulp, not one of Chekhov’s plays would have gotten to its end because all the heroes would have gone off to insane asylums.
It wasn’t just the tsarists who didn’t see it coming but also the country’s leading liberal minds. It was simply beyond their ability to conceive.
Western minds that can find excuses for what Hamas did to the Jews have already shown that they are prepared to do the same to the rest of us, if they identify us as oppressors, or an obstacle to their political goals. You see that, don’t you? You had better. This is deep within human nature. I still find it hard to accept that the generation of my gentle grandparents accepted cruelty to their black neighbors as simply the way things were, and as an element of a just world. To prevent ourselves from becoming that kind of monster requires constant vigilance. It could happen to me — I know that. There was a time in 2002 when I read a news story about a priest who had been plausibly accused of sexually abusing a kid, who had been shot in the leg by one of his victims. I thought: Good, he had it coming. I had to repent of that, not because the evil priest didn’t have it coming (I still think he did, in a sense), but because if I yielded to that line of thinking, it would be easy to justify all kinds of evil.
By placing their arms caches in or near civilian buildings, Hamas has deliberately made it impossible for Israel to respond militarily without killing innocent Gaza civilians. Hamas is happy to sacrifice the lives of those men, women, and children for the sake of its religious fanaticism. Israel will rightly work to minimize the deaths of innocents, but it cannot allow Hamas to get away with what it did, period. If the Israeli public said, “After October 7, I don’t care if the IDF wipes out every Palestinian in Gaza,” it would be emotionally understandable, but it would also be evil. You all know my testimony about how I talked myself into supporting the unjust and foolish US war on Iraq, using high-minded rhetoric, when the ugly truth, which I didn’t see till later, was that I just wanted some Arab Muslims to suffer what we in New York did on 9/11. I was wrong. We are all cavemen, deep down, and we are always vulnerable to rationalizations for satisfying our primitive impulses. Not me, you say? Yes, you. Me too. During the Holocaust, Gentile neighbors of Jews turned them in. During the Rwandan massacre, some Hutus killed their Tutsi spouses. Religion (including political religions like Nazism and Communism) and tribalism are powerful intoxicants.
Me neither, but here we are. The depths of Hamas’s depravity, and the widespread approval of same, not just among Muslims throughout the West who have taken to the streets but also among the vast numbers of young Westerners who say this depravity is justifiable, ought to send shock waves throughout our civilization. As I write in my most recent European Conservative column:
If the West somehow gets through the coming weeks without our cities burning at the hands of rioting Muslims, we will still have to face an even more fundamental crisis: that the lost territories of the West are not Paris suburbs or Trafalgar Square, but the hearts and minds of an entire generation. The mainstream left-of-center parties and cultural leaders have advanced this revolution, and their right-wing counterparts, terrified of being called bigots, have been cowed into feeble resistance. It turns out that the ‘Great Replacement’ is not only about mass migration, but also about the conquering of the soul of the West by an ideology that is leading to the only place it ever could: to civilizational suicide.
This might be our last chance. What will we do? If what remains of the West is to survive, then we must accept that we have neither the luxury of time, nor the luxury of despair. The French generals and soldiers dismissed so arrogantly by the government viewed things more clearly than those watching from the Élysée. Now, nobody with eyes to see can deny the reality.
And we must not be so foolish as to forget that the Nazi-like barbarism we have all seen manifest on the streets of our capitals these past couple of weeks is not merely an Islamic thing, or a migrant thing, but the blossoming of evil flowers that could only have grown in cultural soil made rich with leftist manure.
October 7 was a game-changer along the lines of September 11. We can’t afford to see the world in the same way. For the last few years, especially since Live Not By Lies came out, I have been writing about the rise of this new totalitarian mentality in the West. In the book, using Hannah Arendt’s diagnosis, I show how we in the contemporary West fit all Arendt’s social and cultural criteria for the emergence of totalitarianism. Here, from Live Not By Lies, is a quote from Arendt, about the kind of people who fall to totalitarian ideology:
They do not believe in anything visible, in the reality of their own experience; they do not trust their eyes and ears but only their imaginations, which may be caught by anything that is at once universal and consistent with itself. What convinces masses are not facts, and not even invented facts, but only the consistency of the system of which they are presumably part.
A system of thinking that says the Palestinians are entirely the victims, and the Israelis are entirely the victimizers, can make itself immune to the images of burned babies, mutilated corpses, and the like. They did it to the dead bodies of Christian children murdered by a trans person in Nashville (by the way, we still don’t have the manifesto; wonder why that is). The Left — not just the crackpot campus left (e.g, the 1,700 sociologists who signed this open letter of solidarity with the Palestinians, but offered not one word of criticism of Hamas, or a single syllable of solidarity with the Israelis), but the Left at its highest institutional level — is so robotic in its approach to these things. It’s “who, whom?” all the way down:
Muslims can never fail; they can only be failed. LGBT people can never fail; they can only be failed. The Oppressed are always and everywhere right, and the Oppressors are always and everywhere wrong. You see how this works. It was annoying as hell before, but after October 7, and what it revealed about the decadence in the soul of the body politic, we are living in a new world.
We have raised in the United States an entire generation that is capable of justifying Nazi-like butchery for the sake of advancing a cause. You wonder how it happened in Germany? We are living it. The Nazis didn’t come from nowhere. If we somehow fail to confront this evil ideology in our own culture effectively, future historians will regard the time we’re living in now as akin to the 1920s in Germany, when the groundwork was laid for National Socialism and the Holocaust. You don’t have to have educated the young in pro-Hamas propaganda. You only have to have given them an internal “operating system” that judges right and wrong solely as a matter of power relationships. That has happened. We are going to reap the whirlwind.
This is here, and this is now, and this is coming for us all if we don’t stop it. What is it going to take to wake us up and make us do something about it? How many more chances do you think we will be given?