I wrote a little last time about the attempts to hack into the site of The Center for Literate Values. For the moment, they have ceased—but why did they ever begin? Fifteen years ago, I would have assumed that some precocious adolescent nerd was simply trying to climb the mountain because it was there, testing his anomist, sociopathic talents for turning things upside-down before tackling the Department of Defense… or whatever. I don’t know why that scenario no longer convinces me. Perhaps because on the one occasion (about ten years ago) when my site was successfully invaded, the intruder corrupted everything with vengeful savagery. There was no mere flag spiked on top of the summit. What I saw was a raging contempt for all the values we sought to project.
And what were those values? Individualism, creativity, introspection… not much of the provocative there. Dedication to the conscientious life orbiting a stable goodness transmitted by a supreme moral being? Our cybernetic Charles Manson was probably set frothing at the mouth by some such language as that. For perhaps ten years, you haven’t been able to mention the god of goodness without drawing the flies that breed on manure piles. The helter-skelter nihilists at their keyboards really hated what we did—or really began to make their hatred public and to give it free rein with a crusading zeal. Crusading, yes: they were religious zealots, cultic fanatics. And they remain so, and grow more so every day.
So much of what I write about in this space addresses “offensive” speech whose origin is no more than a bland joke or an unpopular opinion… so much of what stands me upright today like a slap in the face has to do with this self-righteous crusade to shut us up unless we parrot the prevailing cackle. Often I despair of having anything new to say on the subject. About all I can do, it sometimes seems, is cry out, “Did you see that? Can you believe they just did that?”
In my brief time on Twitter, for instance, I emerge thus bewildered every time I read some of the comments directed at Dana Loesch, a commentator who dares to write on behalf of the Second Amendment. Because Ms. Loesch is attractive and has young children, certain people are inspired to share their visions of raping and murdering her or kidnapping and brutalizing her family. The posts are usually incoherent splashes of “c—t” and “b—h” and “f—k” turned at full speed in a cerebral cement-mixer—or perhaps the diarrhea of an intestine mislocated between the ears. Now, I don’t own an AK-47 or an AR-15 and have no plans of buying one. If I can’t defend myself and my wife in six shots, another sixty probably won’t help. I haven’t fired a gun of any kind for perhaps two or three years. It’s expensive. A box of .38 Specials is already almost a month’s worth of milk.
But, really… to assault someone verbally with what would translate, at the very least, into spittle and a blunt projectile if the person were present—and to threaten bodily harm in terms that often satisfy the legal definition of assault… what kind of psychopaths have we raised, and why are they so invincibly convinced of their cause’s virtue?
If belief in a supreme moral being does nothing else for you, it should infuse your consciousness with an awareness of the creeping subjectivity that is forever bidding to erode good judgment. It should promote a sense of humility, of proportion. Perhaps the preeminent difference between true faith and fanaticism is precisely the loss of this humility. The fanatic, though claiming to serve a higher power—the very highest of powers—indulges his selfish impulses more generously than a spoiled five-year-old brat. If he doesn’t like you, it’s God who hates you. If your words rub him the wrong way, it’s God who has been blasphemed. If he wants to smack you, it’s God who has spiritually possessed his right hand on an expedition of mighty vengeance.
You know the type.
But why, I will now ask, is the type now so prominently represented in Leftist politics? I know, I know… it is supposed to characterize all those KKK and NRA members who flock by tens of thousands to rallies at football stadiums the way Nazis came to hear Hitler in the Berlin Sportpalast—or so Hollywood tells us. But all the shooting that took place in Las Vegas (remember the Las Vegas slaughter with all its loose ends? No? Neither do the news media) poured from the hot barrels of a far-left lunatic, not from the Redneck Army assembled beneath him to hear country music. Get on Twitter, if you can endure it: tell me honestly what side of the aisle you see logging sexual obscenities and coprologisms at the higher rate.
Of course, the utter absence on the Left of a restraining god whose immutable principles will not accept passion and petulance as excuses for misbehavior is Reason One for the disparity. The second reason might be the sudden and complete irrelevance that tradition acquires in a progressivist outlook. We may agree that the logical derivation of moral absolutes is too laborious a Jacob’s Ladder for most minds to scale. (For instance, the ongoing exercise of disciplining self with other until a Universal Self—a Golden Rule, a Categorical Imperative—is approached demands too much concentration in The Age of the Smartphone; it never was an easy path.) Inherited lessons used to provide a shortcut. Tradition carried a certain weight with most rational observers. After all, a lot of people have painfully evolved this or that way of doing things over a very long period of trial and error. Maybe, if custom says not to eat that fruit, we should send it to the lab or give the dog a bite rather than slice it up for the party.
But the progressive zealot says, “No, there’s no justification for the custom whatever, other than training you to jump through hoops. It’s all conditioning. It’s the patriarchy teaching you where to go and when to go there. Always disobey!”
The very concatenation of sensible arguments is enough to ignite this zealot. Sure, you sound convincing—that’s the source of your manipulative powers, your propagandistic prowess. That’s the exact moment when the crusader spits in your face and punches you. Stop trying to cloud the “mission” with your blather! In the preferred shorthand of Twitter, STFU!
Reasons! Logic! Tradition! Of course they’re straining against The Vision! They are its natural and eternal enemy! The Vision has human beings doing what they have never done before. We can reach that pinnacle if only we believe, if only we begin to climb. And some of us, to be sure, will perish in the ascent; but even they, in the collective achievement of The Vision—in a mission that lifts up the entire species—will partake of the one possible immortality: collaboration in Progress. Stop listening to naysayers! Plug your ears! If we had listened to them in the past, open-heart surgery wouldn’t exist. The first plane would never have left the ground. Great cities would not shine on hilltops. Shout over their obfuscation—trample them down!
And so the jihad against progress-impeding reason is launched; and in its contagious fervor, verbal abuse that shreds every rule of decorum, physical assaults that verge ever closer upon homicide, and deliberately nonsensical theories that enjoy privileged positions in graduate curricula spread like wildfire. They become the new normal among the “faithful”—the young cultists seduced by the adventure’s romance. Lost in the intoxicating dance is the fatal irony that new norms have fully occupied the space once filled by old norms—but that the old ones evolved rationally, whereas the new ones are merely successive tests of tribal participation. Patriarchal, indeed! The zealous footsoldier has never been more mindlessly programmed in his enlistment to The Cause. If anything, his acts of insolence and abuse descend (as opposed to climb) a sooty ladder whose lower rungs truly reach cold-blooded murder (as in the joyous Sacrifice of the Fetus). These anti-social outbursts are an ever more precise analogue of the gang initiate who performs a drive-by shooting of a child on a tricycle.
And we dare say nothing in protest. Though we witness crimes—sometimes literal felonies—the greater offense is to offer up our outraged testimony. The process of our silencing, to be sure, is usually gradual. Today we find ourselves being confronted daily by various “shakedowns” to “soften us up” (or to harden our indecency-receptors), we who still resist the holy campaign of world conquest. One of these is surely the gay marriage “test”, a failing of which—as in merely uttering, “No, I don’t think it’s right”—can result in loss of livelihood. Increasingly, another is the “gendered pronoun test”. I’m told that social workers in New York who refuse the gender pronoun selected by their subject are terminated on the spot; and, of course, I can speak personally to the insane proliferation of muddle-speak like “ze” (to replace the gendered “he” and “she”) in academe. Most such concessions seem small at the time, especially in comparison to unemployment. Where, however, do they end? One might murmur, “The thin end of the wedge…”; but, alas, younger generations will neither recognize the proverb nor the tool.
I’ve never written a line about the National Football League’s “kneel for the flag-raising” protests, mostly because I haven’t the faintest interest in football. (This stems from my having actually played in high school, when I was left permanently puzzled about how the all-out, multiple attack of the biggest players wearing the thickest pads on the smallest man wearing the thinnest pads—and scarcely allowed to notice his assailants—is supposed to promote “manliness”). I now incline to believe that the “kneeling” issue may be yet another shakedown. They’re everywhere, these litmus tests that groom the mind… and this has surely become one, though it may not have been so from the start. Let me continue next time.