The Invasion of the Puppets: BLM and the Last Days of Civil Society

Somebody should perhaps write an addendum to The Screwtape Letters.  My suspicion is that somebody already has, either in the “People’s Republic” of China or in the upper echelons of American academe.

The way that mass consciousness—if one can use those two words together—has been manipulated by the BLM movement (shakedown? insurrection?) is pure Satanic genius.  When I read about the conduct of both Kansas City and Houston players as the anthem opened the NFL’s initial game, I realized what a tight little box had been sealed upon our national psyche.  One team’s fifty stalwarts linked arms and bent knees; the other’s simply refused to take the field.  Now, I couldn’t possibly care less about football at any level.  I despise the game.  As a boy, I knew several kids who were crippled for life while playing high school football, and one who actually died after a year on a respirator.  Suits me fine if we just hand the whole sport off to the feminists. It’s about blindsiding or mobbing your adversary, not going mano a mano face-to-face.

But there are much more important issues involved here that we ignore at our peril.  And, of course, the buffoonery is spreading.  We all know about basketball‘s “woke” transformation, even those of us who couldn’t readily name six NBA teams.  (Yeah, I’ve raised my hand.) Now baseball is crowding in for a piece of the idiot action—idiot on the surface, that is; for the genius is in the Puppeteer’s mind and not in the wooden heads of his Pinocchios.  Several Major League clubs refused to perform in their empty stadiums (all stadiums in COVID America being empty nowadays—that’s part of the behind-the-scenes brilliance) after the shooting of Jacob Blake.  None of these blockheads knew the details of the shooting: “cop shoots black dude…” okay, let’s roll.  The ratiocinative chain went no further than that.

But consider the “meta” of these moron-level associative responses.  Their very fuzziness is part of the mire wherein we have all waded and been trapped.  Exactly what are you protesting, Mighty Casey?  How about you, Slag Bronkowsky—and you, D’Shondrick Hayes?  “Well, it’s the cops.  They’re killing young black kids.”  So… your best way of addressing the social disease underlying these fatalities is to squat on the flag or simply refuse to fulfill your player’s contract?  “Gotta draw attention to the abuse, man.”  Attention you have certainly drawn… but to what?  To the police?  To which police?  “All of ’em, man!”  So let’s suppose that all police are racist executioners disguised in blue.  Doesn’t disrespecting the flag send the signal, rather, that you find the whole nation guilty?  Doesn’t walking out on your job send the signal that you think everything’s a contemptible scam?  “It is!  Everything, just like you said.  And yeah, everyone’s guilty.”  Okay, we’re getting real clarity now.  Gimlet precision.  So it’s not about the cops: it’s about mainstream America and her political system.  “Yeah, that’s right.”  Because all of it—because everyone—is racist.  “Yeah, that’s right.”  So why didn’t you take a knee a long time ago to protest the quarter-of-a-million-plus black babies who are aborted every year?  “Come on, man!  You’re just trying to make this political!”

Wow.  There’s a coherent, resonant message for you.  Every passive spectator out there who doesn’t applaud me because I’m calling his eight-to-five world a load of crap is part of said load.  It’s a world, by the way, that supplied him and other spectators with the means to blow a couple of Franklins on a ticket and watch me play.  Yeah, I’ll play—but first you’ll open up for a scoop of this, cracker, and you’ll swallow!

Result: average Americans—hard-working, practical, common-sensical—are repulsed by all the self-righteous arrogance and logic-hostile bullying.  The ordinary adult, being sane and responsible, grows angry.  He turns his back on sports, which actually darkens his mood (because we do genuinely need some sort of frivolous escape-valve in our routine); and before very long, he may even begin to mutter thoughts only to himself, or at most to a very tight circle of familiars, that people of color are a tremendous annoyance.

Brilliant, I say.  This is a huge accomplishment in the Puppeteer’s bid to subvert society.  For we now have significant rifts opening up in our social fabric; and even better, the strain producing the splits isn’t merely economic or cultural—it’s the beginning stage of true racism.  Not the phony kind, but the real thing.  Well done, Master Screwtape!

Furthermore, the rifts are numerous and running in several directions, as opposed to reflecting a simple black/white antagonism.  Whites who cannot bed down at night without mentally checking some box that confirms their moral superiority rush to endorse anything with “BLM” scrawled along its edge.  It seems to me, honestly, as though their voice is much louder than any football team’s—their need of this bizarre bedtime prayer-of-the-Pharisee more urgent than any black athlete’s of publicizing abuses in racial profiling.  The neo-fascist Antifa draws its most committed footsoldiers from the ranks of the “woke white”.  If BLM didn’t exist, Antifa’s white buccaneers would have to invent it (which, you know, some of them—or their bloody-handed captains—actually did: few of the puppeteers are genetically African).

The presence of anti-white racist whites in the melee ensures that no sane discussion of specific cases or of appropriate generalities can occur.  Any sentence that begins, “But did you realize that Jacob Blake… did you know that George Floyd…” draws immediate artillery fire.  Yours not to question.  Do not dare initiate the observation, “But if so many black kids were not raised without fathers…”.  Oh, don’t you dare!  Shut up!  SHUT UP!  SHUT THE F— UP!”

So now we have at least three phalanxes launching missiles at each other, with the Woke White appearing to be one with the black protest but, increasingly, distanced from it by their own zealous excesses.  I really can’t say how numerous a fourth battle line (or, more properly, defensive line) may be, consisting of people with African DNA who claim the right to open, peaceful discussion; for few human beings have the courage of Candace Owens, Kimberly Klacik, or Allen West.  Most of this happy few (or secret many, let us hope) do their claiming in a whisper, since they see how gaudily the outspoken are crucified.  And the grumbling white mainstream, of course, hasn’t much interest in coming to their rescue, and probably would do so very ineptly if it tried. (I took a lot of flak from the White Right when I tried to publicize Kim Klacik’s campaign with my little trumpet last spring.)

Because of unique (and accidental?) circumstances, our ongoing social fragmentation is turbocharged in 2020.  Most of us are already on the verge of suicide or homicide thanks to COVID lockdown.  When you cook up a potful of people who have long since been denied their constitutional right to associate freely with fellow citizens, season it with paranoia about a “pandemic” whose fatalities approximate the curve of a bad flu year, and finally stir in racial hatred and armed bullying (with faces all duly masked)… well, old Screwtape outdid himself this time.  Hell is boiling over into Middle Earth.

For the record, I fully grasp that young black males are profiled by police with excessive readiness.  While it’s true that this demographic is disproportionately involved in certain crimes (such as possession of prohibited substances or of unlicensed firearms), the law requires probable cause to pry into a person’s private space… and “driving while black” is not probable cause.  How many white parents would get the call that their college student has been incarcerated on drug charges if a single stop-and-search protocol were applied with equal rigor across the board?  Yes, I understand.

But—as the words run in some Rap song that I recall from my son’s high school days—“dat ain’t dis, and dis ain’t dat.”  The BLM frenzy is in fact drawing effective attention away from issues which might be ameliorated.  A simple “stop profiling” would have done the trick; and I don’t know if kneeling for the anthem would remain the best delivery system, but at least it would not involve the open disrespect of—say—turning the back.  So kneel, if you like.  People of all creeds, classes, and colors could chime in, as well, without all the virtue-miming.  Attorneys like Kathleen Zellner have made us aware that repeat petty offenders or “poor white trash” can get railroaded all the way to Death Row by detectives who cut corners.  Buddy Woodall is serving life here in Georgia for a double murder because cops exploited his insomnia and despair to wring a confession from him in the absence of solid material evidence.  Buddy is white… but he’s also a “nobody”.  He grew up on a country lane lined with trailer homes.  (And the locals, by the way, still will not discuss the case two decades later: too many figures that once wore badges are implicated in it.)

Patsy Ramsay, in contrast, was definitely somebody.  She was beautiful (Miss Virginia at age 20), married to a wealthy Atlanta businessman, and—yes—Caucasian all the way.  She passed the final twenty years of her life fighting, in court and before the public eye, the perception—shamelessly encouraged by Boulder, Colorado, detectives—that she had a hand in murdering her young daughter, JonBenét.  One can scarcely imagine a more miserable existence: to know that your child died a violent death, to know that the crime occurred in your house as you slept, and to know that the killer is living free as the police push and squeeze to make the evidence point to you… all because your profile fits their boilerplate culprit for a domestic homicide.  Who’s taking a knee for Patsy?

What misery!  In a humane society, we would recognize that injustice is a thread binding us all together; but as subversive puppeteers try to rip our society apart, we are asked—no, required—to believe that only one race suffers.  It’s insulting to the intelligence—and, by the way, demeaning to the race at issue, as if its members were condemned deterministically to slings and arrows and needed special protection.  A black friend of mine once protested, during our discussion of my book Key to a Cold City, “But Dr. Harris… black ballplayers in Jackie Robinson’s day never ceased being black.  Out of uniform, walking into a restaurant or hotel, they were still black.  A white player might get dumped on by the fans or the press—but put him in street clothes, and he can go anywhere he wants.”  That’s true… and so is this.  It’s a remark that Larry Doby made about Yogi Berra, and I wish I’d found it in time for inclusion in the book.  “… I repeated a few of those jokes myself [about Yogi’s being a dope, a caveman, etc.].  And it never once occurred to me in those early years that I was hurting Yogi’s feelings.  The black guys around the league, there weren’t many of us, but when we would get together and talk, we knew we were all going through something together.  That made the abuse a little easier to take.  Now that I’m older, I wonder who helped Yogi take all that abuse” (Allen Barra, Yogi Berra, Eternal Yankee, pp. 62-63 [2009]).

We all have our struggles.  Everyone’s travail is unique in some way, yet all of us are alike in having to bear heavy burdens.  If we forget that, then we will become incapable of true compassion or true justice.  We will be animals that belch words, lots of words, without any regard for or suspicion of their meaning. I believe we’re already there.

P.S. In keeping with my bid to offer certain of my ebooks free at regular intervals, I’ve created a promotion for two of my fictional works about academe in the late twentieth century. Worse By Seven is a psychological novel about a professor who surrenders to despair amid the nihilism and debauchery that swamp him on an elite campus… but who at last finds a truth greater than this world’s. Ivory Gutter Shining Bright is a large collection of short stories, most of them wry or burlesque, some a little fantastical, about the pompous insanity that prevails in our towers of learning. Both ebooks may be downloaded free through this Tuesday (September 22).

The U.S. Justice System: A Banana Republic Slouching Toward Chaos

On the recommendation of Michelle Malkin (who has taken a great interest in publicizing the cases of the wrongfully convicted), I lately watched the Netflix series, Making a Murderer, Part II.  I’m no great fan of Netflix as an operation, and more generally I regard every arm of the entertainment industry as a driving force behind our vast cultural decline.  But you pick and choose, don’t you?  What else can one do in this world if a Hebridean monastery isn’t available?

As a series, the production is about twice too long for my taste.  I’m not really eager to know the details of Steven Avery’s family as they await the hour of his phone call from prison or plug along junking old jalopies while the state of Wisconsin crumples up his petitions and appeals.  Human interest?  Well, we all have our problems.  A family with mental illness or dementia or substance abuse gnawing away at its members might as well be considered part of the great wide sea of wretches with loved ones in prison.

No, the functioning of the legal process—I should say the mal- or dysfunction—is what makes the series riveting… and gut-wrenching.  Sometimes infuriating.  Kathleen Zellner has built up a formidable reputation as an advocate for the wrongly convicted; and, of course, one can easily tell that she’s nowadays greeted by the prosecutorial establishment with murmurs of, “Well, she’s not putting another notch on her gun at our expense!  Bring on the cameras.  We’ll show her who’s boss in this town!”

Seriously, I would speculate that the attitude I’ve just described is very vibrant among the judges who tossed Avery’s petitions aside cavalierly time after time.  In many states, one apparently need have no professional credentials whatever to be appointed a judge.  Sometimes judgeships are elective—the practical consequence of which is that the judge in question will rule as opinion polls tell him his constituents would like him to rule.  Job One is to be re-elected.  If you were voted in by a self-styled law-and-order crowd, whose knowledge of the Avery case is confined to two-minute segments on the evening news (God help us!) but whose certainty that bad guys walk on technicalities all the time is ironclad, then you pay no attention to the merits of the appeal.  Panem et circenses: give the hungry masses what they crave.

I found the preeminent example of this judicial travesty to be, not so much the instant dismissal of Avery’s request for an evidentiary hearing by some robed female idiot whose name escapes me, but the handling of Brendan Dassey’s extorted confession.  Without Dassey’s “confessing” that he and Avery had raped and murdered Teresa Halbach, Manitowoc County’s case could have advanced no motive for the crime and—in the relative absence of material evidence—would have become incoherent.  Brendan was a boy of sixteen when taken in for interrogation.  He had extremely poor social skills and an IQ measured in the low 80’s.  He was Mirandized… but one can only imagine what those abstract protections must have meant to him as a couple of avuncular detectives, on the other hand, promised him a quick trip home if he would just answer their questions honestly.  Three hours of tooth-pulling followed, with the two amigos constantly badgering the slumped-over boy with, “We know the truth, Brendan—we know that’s not what happened,” and, in final frustration, feeding him details to which he could answer “yes” or “no”.

Even brief excerpts of the interrogation were difficult to watch.  Yet Judge Hamilton, who seemed like a decent enough sort of soft-spoken, white, middle-aged champion of stable communities, could see nothing amiss in the inquisition, buying the prosecutor’s argument that Brendon needed to be nudged into attacks of conscience.  This spiritual awakening appears to have deserted the boy at Avery’s trial, where he repudiated the confession, refused to turn state’s evidence, and received a life sentence for his scruples.  Apparently he was conscientious enough (in the state’s eyes) to cop to a rape/murder scenario spoon-fed to him, but not enough to repeat the mea culpa—and also bright enough to grasp his Miranda rights, but not enough to understand that a murder conviction would put him in a cage for life.

Hamilton’s position failed to win over two other judges in the original appeal, but carried the day at the next level—the state of Wisconsin having refused with belligerent determination to admit its error.  I found myself drawing dangerously close to hair-tearing moments when the D.A.’s dragoon persisted in stressing that Brendan knew details only accessible to the perp—this when said details were a) fed to him, and b) corroborated by no material evidence but simply concocted by detectives.  Yet the little manikin was just doing his sordid job: it was the judges who should have blown away his house of cards.

For the record—and this may be more important than I would care to admit—two of the three judges who voted to throw out the confession were female, one of them black; three who found the confession ho-hum, business-as-usual, nothing-to-see-here were white males (the fourth being a fire-breathing harpy from hell who constantly talked over the presentation of Dassey’s attorney).  For years, I have bristled at the suggestion that we need to consult race, gender, and… I don’t know: taste in music?… when appointing judges to high benches.  Now I have to wonder.  If these sleepy, incurious hacks have nothing but their inbred prejudices to guide their decisions, then, yes, maybe we need to pay more attention to how they were bred.  I suppose, under the present system, we should pay exclusive attention to that.

The Supreme Court, by the way, declined to review this case.  No doubt, there is some unwritten “hot potato” rule that precludes that august body from burning its fingertips in such matters.

I will add, too, in wrapping up, that far too much mention was made—by both the D.A.’s office and certain judges—of the “need for closure” on the part of the victim’s family.  None of these officers should permit that need to tip the scales of justice.  Relatives of victims have a fully understandable tendency to believe that the guy in the docks is the right guy: you don’t sweet-talk your insomnia into remission by imagining that a heinous killer is still at large.  The court’s officers, however, are charged with punishing the guilty and safeguarding the public, not supplying survivors of crime with a soothing narrative.  The incompetence of this lot is simply underscored by its unreflective—and potentially lethal—sentimentality; for, remember, if the wrong guy is in jail, then a killer is still on the loose.

I’m not going to devote space to discussing the obvious and repeated instances of evidence-tampering, violation of protocol, sloppy or fallacious “expert” testimony, and prosecutorial misconduct (e.g., suppression of exculpatory evidence) in Avery’s own case.  You’d have to watch the series (and, yes, wade through the saga of Ma’s knee surgery) to appreciate the full magnitude of the injustice done here.  If you’re at all like me, your confidence in our system of justice will be irresistibly—and permanently—shaken.  We’re living in a banana republic; or if that is too harsh as a generality, then it appears, at least, that certain states and counties of our nation might as well be Lagos, Juarez, or Phnom Penh.

Footnote: could indifference to issues like this explain why 90+ percent of black Americans never vote for a Republican?  Could this kind of outrage lie at the bottom of much of the inexpressive, ill-marketed, politically exploited knee-taking at NFL contests?  Maybe middle-aged white guys with law degrees or a bit of public service should stop pitching the electorate with talk about safety in the streets and start focusing more on justice in the courts.  I hear the streets in Indonesia, where you can have a hand lopped off for picking a stray bill up off the sidewalk, are very safe.