July 16, 2020

MATT TAIBBI: Year Zero.

It is impossible to disentangle this profoundly negativistic portrait of the American experiment from the admitted context of the 1619 Project: an effort by the nation’s leading elite media organ to explain the Democratic Party’s loss to Trump. Would this have been published if Hillary Clinton had won the White House?

As journalism, 1619 read almost exactly like the paper’s post-mortems on the 2016 election – probably not an accident, since Baquet told us it was conceived identically as an effort to “understand the forces that led to the election of Donald Trump.” In both cases history was reduced to a simplistic showdown between evil racists and oppressed peoples.

The best explanation for these sudden reversals in rhetoric is that Trump broke the brains of America’s educated classes. Like Russian aristocrats who spent the last days of the Tsarist empire flocking to fortune-tellers and mystics, upscale blue-staters have lost themselves lately in quasi-religious tracts like White Fragility, and are lining up to flog themselves for personal and historical sins.

In desperation to help the country atone for their idea of why Trump happened, they’ve engaged in a sort of moon landing of anti-intellectual endeavors, committing a generation of minds to finding a solution to the one thing no thinking person ever considered a problem, i.e. the Enlightenment ideas that led to the American Revolution.

Read the whole thing.

Oh, and speaking of Russian aristocrats just before Year Zero arrived: Woke America Is a Russian Novel.

The metaphysical gap between mid-19th-century Russia and early-21st-century America is narrowing. The parallels between them then and us now, political and social but mostly characterological, are becoming sharper, more unavoidable.

We can reassure ourselves by repeating obvious truths: The United States is not czarist Russia. The present is not the past. History does not repeat itself. But those facts are not immutable laws so much as observations, and even though they are built on solid foundations, those foundations are not impervious to shifting sands. We can go backward. We can descend into a primal state we thought we had escaped forever. That is the lesson of the 20th century.

The similarities between past and present are legion: The coarsening of the culture, our economic woes, our political logjams, the opportunism and fecklessness of our so-called elites, the corruption of our institutions, the ease with which we talk about “revolution” (as in Bernie Sanders’ romanticization of “political revolution”), the anger, the polarization, the anti-Semitism.

But the most important thing is the new characters, who are not that dissimilar to the old ones.

Also well worth a read.

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