Back in April, during one of their GLoP podcasts on Ricochet.com, Jonah Goldberg, Rob Long and John Podhoretz explored the fables of the Rolling Stone rape article, Columbia’s Mattress Girl, and the general tendency of college campuses to be hotbeds of false accusations of rape, racism, and other fever swamp delusions:
PODHORETZ: But it doesn’t have to be everybody; that’s partially, I think Jonah’s point. It can be two people, it can be three people, on a campus of 4,000 or 25,000, or 50,000, who can turn the place upside-down. Somebody paints a swastika on his own door, and the entire place revolved around this fact for an entire week. It is very empowering of dangerously deluded or fallacious behavior.
GOLDBERG: We’re in a weird Nietzschian transition moment where victimhood is the way you assert your will to power.
I found that to be an intriguing concept, given that Nietzsche lit the fuse for so much of the bloodshed of the 20th century in Europe. On this side of the pond, he also empowered much of the “Progressive” and anti-American movement of the first half of the 20th century. On the left, this included Max Horkheimer and Theodor W. Adorno of the infamous Frankfurt School, transplanted to America after a rival form of Nietzsche-worshipping socialism won the day in post-Weimar Germany. And (more or less) on the right, famed journalist H.L. Mencken, who was the first to translate Nietzsche in English in 1907 and whose later polemics are chockablock full of Nietzsche-inspired attacks on traditional American culture, democracy and religion. (Including, in a much more benign form Ayn Rand — whatever her later protestations, Objectivism shares a lot in common with Nietzsche’s Will to Power. And eventually Stanley Kubrick; it’s no coincidence that 2001: A Space Odyssey’s central leitmotif is Richard Strauss’s Also Sprach Zarathustra.)
Partially as a result of Nietzsche’s influence, think of the polar opposites that the American student is taught throughout his young life: with all of the self-esteem and “you can change the world!” rhetoric pumped into his psyche since kindergarten, by the time he gets into college, today’s student is caught between believing on the one hand, he’s the second coming of the Nietzschian Superman (no relation to famed journalist Clark Kent). And on the other, with all of the left’s obsessions with the notion that everyone is a victim, he’s concurrently Nietzsche’s Last Man, “who makes everything small” — micro, you might say, as in an obsession with “micro-aggressions.”
In his latest syndicated column, Jonah attempts to square the circle:
In 2015, our society is shot through with Nietzschean ressentiment. Today it is a great sin on college campuses — and elsewhere! — to make anyone other than the “privileged” feel uncomfortable, challenged, or otherwise psychologically threatened by the use of the wrong words or concepts.
The University of California recently issued a set of guidelines about the terrible danger of “microaggressions” — small, usually unintended slights that allegedly hurt the feelings of the newly anointed classes of victims. One must no longer say that America is a “melting pot,” for to do so is to suggest that minorities should “assimilate to the dominant culture,” according to the new moralists at the University of California.
And one mustn’t say anything that advances “the Myth of Meritocracy.” Saying “America is the land of opportunity” or “everyone can succeed in this society if they work hard enough” is now a form of bigotry.
Of course, the surest way to guarantee that America is not a meritocracy is to teach young people not only that it isn’t one, but that it’s evil to say it is, or should be, one.
Read the whole thing, which connects Nietzschean ressentiment to not just today’s campus insanities but to Rachel Dolezal (the spray-on tanned posterchild for the Will to Power through victimhood) and Hillary Clinton as well.