The Twilight of the Liberal Gods
We are living in amazing times, astonishing times, times I wouldn’t have believed possible as little as a year ago.
There is this Jorge Luis Borges story, where the old gods are returning to Earth, but upon their arrival, it is found that they have lost the ability to speak. Instead, when they open their mouths, they caw or roar, or make other bestial sounds. The populace, disgusted, turns away from them and refuses to worship them. I don’t remember precisely (it’s been years since I read them), but I think in the end the “gods” get utterly destroyed.
That’s what’s been happening to the left this last year.
Look, I’m a writer, which, for a long time, my husband said was an excuse to spend more than I made on history books. This is not precisely true, more sort of what I do for fun. Because I write in many times and places, I like to have an idea of what I call “the great movements of history,” i.e. what things led to other things.
Part of what led to the dominance of the left in all the “gatekeeping” places, including publishing, the arts, education, and to a large extent government, was two things: their ability to project intelligence and calm; and the ruthlessness to not only not hire anyone who wasn’t a fellow-traveler, but also to kick out everyone who disagreed with them as soon as they could.
The second led to, by a ruthless and slow process, getting rid of everyone who wasn’t first at least social-democrat, then socialist, and finally outright communist from most of the fields the left captured. (And if one is to believe Robert A. Heinlein, the process was completed with the Democratic Party back in the forties.)
The first led to their holding that power, because not only did they have control of the mass media, and really, all forms of cultural communication, but they could project the calm and gentle impression of being the sane ones.
And this started with the publishing industry, for instance, back in the twenties. It might have started with news and art before that.
When I came to the States my mother-in-law recommended I read Ann Landers to get a feel for what middle America thought and how middle America acted. I did. And I must confess that I don’t remember any specific instances, but I often found myself thinking her answers were somewhere north of preposterous. I have a vague idea that answers on how to run a marriage were particularly insane, amounting to “a woman should never cede power over anything.”
But she sounded so reasonable, so clean cut. My mother in law was right about that. Her answers on etiquette and how to handle everyday conundrums were exactly how middle America thought such things should be handled. And into this, she slid the completely preposterous, and readers would go: “Well, she researched. She must be right.”
They had science, too. It was dubious science – nothing Paul Ehrlich ever predicted has come to pass – but the pseudo-scientific prophecies of leftist prophets of doom had Americans being very careful of their fuel usage, virtue-signaling various green choices, and putting bricks in their toilet tanks to save water.
All of these things – except maybe fuel saving in the late seventies because Jimmy Carter’s asinine policies made it both expensive and scarce – were objectively insane. Take the rush to recycle paper (which many patsies still engage in). We are in no risk of running out of paper since most of the paper comes from trees grown for the purpose. The process of bleaching and reconditioning paper is worse for the environment than simply making new paper. It’s also more expensive. When the government (under Clinton) passed some boondoggle requiring every book to be printed on 50% recycled paper, paperbacks went, overnight, from $5 to $8.
But all of these policies, a lot of them restricting people’s ability to live as they wanted, were defended by nicely dressed people on television, people who looked and acted just like you wish your relatives and friends would: well dressed, calm, using what appeared to be sound reasoning, and with just a slight smirk of superiority for those who didn’t believe them.
If necessary, college professors and “studies” were trotted out in defense of the left’s latest hobby horse.
It was stunningly effective. This fifth column within America convinced many if not most Americans of my generation (not to mention the boomers before us) that both sides of the civil war were equally culpable. They convinced people that “art” that consists of trash randomly twisted together deserves high payment from museums. They convinced people that thoroughly unpleasant and unentertaining books should be, if not read, at least revered, their authors rewarded with various academic posts and children mercilessly subjected to their ridiculousness.
Which is how we've come to where we’re now, with the left in control of all the cultural high ground and being able to declare, at will, that so and so is excommunicated or unworthy.
Sure, we have the new media, and I and other colleagues of mine who are willing to be openly anti-leftists now have the means to exist and to claw a place in the field, and even to make a living. But don’t delude yourselves. Our place is precarious, marginalized. If someone calls “an author” to give an opinion on anything in the evening news, it is never us. If there is some sort of academic post, it never goes to us. And the left media, in general, don't notice us except to revile us when we grow too troublesome. (Like the campaign to brand us racist-sexist-homophobic for daring intimate that the storied Hugo Awards were now a log-rolling festival and the winners somewhere between boring and vomitous.)
And then this amazing thing happened (try this one easy trick!) -- something we’d predicted much earlier, and which frankly we’d despaired would come to pass: for whatever reason, the left’s dominance of the heights of culture failed them in a national election.
Perhaps it was that Donald Trump is such a dark horse; perhaps it is that Hillary Clinton is such an unappetizing, corrupt candidate; perhaps it was the new media dominance revealing the crazy face of the left; perhaps it was the fact that the left had decided to fight the strangest battles, such as who got to pee where; perhaps it was a combination of all of these.
All I know is that the minute Donald Trump was elected, the left lost whatever shred of sanity that had let them hold on to “normal appearing” speech and attitudes.
Suddenly, out of nowhere, we got bizarre reports of Trump peeing on beds where the Obamas had slept, something so obviously crazy that no sane person could believe it. (And by the way, Trump’s “are you crazy, I’m a germophobe” was amazing.) Then came Russia, Russia, Russia, and the crazy calls to … reverse the elections? Un-elect Trump? Impeach his son (from what? Citizenship?) for talking to a Russian scammer…. Just crazy after crazy.
And at the same time, the public behavior of the left grew worse and worse. Celebrities of sorts took pictures with a mockup of Trump’s severed head. Hillary not only wrote a book blaming everyone but herself for her loss but has now descended to the pit of crazy, intimating on NPR that Trump, like Putin, might already have had people and journalists killed.
Then there was the “resistance.” Normally I’d expect the left to walk back their predictions that Trump was about to put women, Democrats, people who can tan and gays in concentration camps. They made the same predictions with Reagan and W, after all, then pretended it had never happened. But no. This time they went full-bore crazy, from putting up signs in the most expensive neighborhoods of my city, claiming their inclusiveness and loving of “diversity,” to embracing the thuggish "Antifa” and seeing “neo-Nazis” under every bed.
Then came kneel-gate, also called “Are you out of your ever loving minds?”
When Colin Kaepernic, an otherwise not very good player, started taking a knee instead of standing for the hymn before games, because he was, you know, standing up for black people murdered in cold blood by the police, it was already faintly ridiculous. Most sports fans knew that “hands up don’t shoot” was a damned lie and that blacks are in far more danger from their neighbors than any policeman.
But now? Now they’re all “taking a knee” to stand with Kaepernic, or against Trump, or something or other, and in the process disrespecting the land that gave them the opportunities to grow rich beyond the dreams of mortals.
And then Star Trek Discovery (now more STD) took a knee too, to stand with the NFL for… something. As though their rather stinking script wasn’t already bad enough, their having announced the racially obsessed Klingons were “Trump voters.” And Hollywood, show after show and group after group, is …. taking a knee for stupid.
Then there’s sexes… oh, pardon me, “genders” and made-up pronouns, and people who want us to recognize such things as “pico aggressions.” Some of this had started before Trump, but since Trump, it seems to have accelerated to madness and beyond.
Who would have thought the election of a rather conventional, traditional NYC Democrat could achieve this?
In one year they’ve destroyed much of what took them close to a hundred years to achieve.
They still look – with a few exceptions – like American upper-class, polished, well-mannered individuals. But the things that come out of their mouths cannot in any way be mistaken for “normal.”
The “old gods” have returned. But they’ve forgotten human speech. And the humans are noticing. Their speech still sounds normal to themselves. They have no clue what comes next.