Years ago, I wrote a long post which aimed to describe the plight of the white working class by talking about some incidents in the life of my old friend Psycho Dish. Looking back on it, the piece turned out to be a bit too long for this format, and never quite got the readership I was hoping for. That’s a shame, because there were some anecdotes I quite liked in it. Today I’ve decided to share one of them again, in which Psycho Dish found out firsthand why communism just doesn’t work. Here it is.
* * *
In 1979, when he was 18 years old, Psycho Dish left home and hitchhiked to California with nothing but the clothes on his back, a hundred bucks saved up from a summer job in his pocket, and the address of one of his grandmothers – a woman he had barely ever met and who lived somewhere just outside of Berkeley. Once he got there, he set himself up on her couch and started looking for work. He found it with Taxi Unlimited.
Taxi Unlimited was one of the communally-run businesses that had been founded in Berkeley during the hippie era. There were no bosses or employees at Taxi Unlimited, it was all just members of the collective – everyone had an equal say in how it was run, with decisions being made by consensus at all-hands meetings. The original members were people who had been part of the Berkeley Food Co-op and the Free Speech Movement, but despite their hippie leanings they were still mostly bourgeois middle-class white kids who had some understanding of things like good financial practices, the need to follow local laws, and basic business ethics. By the time Psycho Dish joined a dozen or so years later, things were very different. People had naturally drifted in an out of the place, and the change had not been for the better. The fact that it was a collective and there were no bosses meant that nobody could hire or fire anybody – people just sort of showed up if they wanted to and started working (It should be noted that Berkeley was and is what’s called a “free city” for taxis – it does not require cab drivers to get a hack license, a fact which which further lowered barriers to entry for employment at Taxi Unlimited). The quality of the people involved started going down until, by the beginning of Psycho Dish’s time there, it was essentially a collection of burnouts, addicts, and petty criminals (many of which used their cabs as delivery vehicles for their main business of selling drugs).
For the first little while he was there, Taxi Unlimited was (barely) functional. The real breaking point came when it became obvious that the business had become big enough that it needed someone sitting behind a desk full-time doing the kind of paperwork that businesses need to have done. In the early days, each driver had taken a little time away from driving (which earned them money) to do some share of the paperwork (which didn’t). The free labor they donated was a form of what’s called a “tax paid into the commons” – a sacrifice that each individual makes for the good of everybody. The original bourgeois hippies who’d founded the place understood why this was necessary. The burnouts, addicts, and petty criminals had a harder time wrapping their heads around it. They tended not to do the paperwork at all; or if they did, it would be a mess precisely because they were burnouts, addicts, and petty criminals – the kind of people not known for their good business management skills. Without any bosses in the company, there was nobody who could make them do it, or make them do it right.
This situation festered until finally, after overcoming some objections, the saner cohort of the workers managed to win the vote necessary to hire Ginnie, a lesbian ex-hippie with a brand-new degree from San Francisco State in Management and Accounting. The first thing she found was that nobody had paid Taxi Unlimited’s insurance bill in long enough that if it wasn’t paid right away, the insurance would expire, effectively putting the company out of business. She paid it, and the money had to come from somewhere, so everybody’s next check was light. Not a good way to start, popularity-wise. The same members who couldn’t wrap their heads around why they should do any paperwork started to speak up at meetings questioning why a person who did do the paperwork ought to be in the company at all. Somebody who sat in an office all day while they were out driving and whose work wasn’t directly bringing any revenue into the business seemed a little too much like a boss to them. Some even accused her of secretly being an agent provocateur sent from the government to sabotage the collective. It was a stupid thing to say, but again, there weren’t any bosses, so nobody had the authority tell them to shut the hell up, which was really the only reasonable thing to do.
Things got worse, especially for Ginnie. She’d do something responsible, checks would be lighter than expected, and the usual suspects would complain louder. And that wasn’t all. A few of the drivers made crude passes at her that were inappropriate even by early 80s standards. Ginnie broke down in tears at a meeting and asked the more responsible members of the collective to back her up, and some wanted to, but there was really nothing they could do about it. Nobody was the boss, so nobody could discipline or fire anybody else, no matter how badly they behaved. Factions developed – roughly, pro-Ginnie (i.e. people who wanted the business to be stable so that they’d still have a job in the future) and anti-Ginnie (i.e. people who wanted to take every cent they could get, right now, and to hell with the future). People denounced each other at meetings instead of making decisions. Getting anything done became impossible.
“I understand why communism always ends up with a tyrant in charge”, Psycho Dish once told me, “I was just about ready for a Stalin to come in to Taxi Unlimited, kick some ass, and put things back in shape.”
But no tyrant ever came to save Taxi Unlimited. Ginnie soldiered on for about a year and a half, but when the economy started picking up and she could get something better, she left. Over the next few months, more people followed her out the door until one day Psycho Dish realized there was nobody sober or sane left in the collective. He knew a sinking ship when he saw one, and made for the exits himself. Taxi Unlimited foundered on for a couple of years after that before finally closing down for good. Today all that’s left of it is a Facebook group open to all the ex-employees who didn’t end up eventually overdosing on something or other. Psycho Dish is on it. So is Ginnie, so I guess that not all of her memories of the place were bad ones.
The lesson that Psycho Dish took away from the whole experience was that communism works fine at the scale of about ten people who all know and trust each other. Get past a dozen people, and problems start to appear; beyond about 25, it gets totally unmanageable, and either collapses or ends up in tyranny. Trying to run a big enterprise or even a whole country like that – well, that’s just a non-starter.
P.S. If any of you would like to hear more of Psycho Dish’s most colorful (and frightening) taxi driving experiences, I had a long conversation with him about them which I recorded and posted to YouTube a while ago. You can find it here.
When I wrote my eulogy for Rush Limbaugh back in February, I didn’t intend it to become the first of a three-part series about having to let go of the past. But then came the news that Fry’s had closed down forever. As with Rush’s passing, it felt as though an old friend had been taken from me, and it made me reflect on an era that, I suppose, has faded forever into the past.
For those who never lived near one, Fry’s Electronics was a chain of big-box technology stores centered on Silicon Valley, with locations all over the west coast. Far bigger and with a more complex stock than the likes of Best Buy, it catered as much to tech professionals as to average consumers. In its seemingly-endless aisles were not just the usual laptops, digital cameras, and flash drives, but shelves teeming with motherboards, IDE, ATAPI, NuBus, and PCI cards, obscure interface adapters, plain breadboards for prototyping, cellophane packets of diodes and resistors, spools of crimp-your-own bulk Ethernet cable sold by the yard, CD-ROM blanks stacked to the ceiling, programming manuals for any language you could think of along with some you couldn’t, and components large and small of digital technology of every variety. And the professionals were indeed there. “Gone on a Fry’s run” was a common sign to see posted on a cubicle in tech companies as the occupant set out to find some or another piece he needed for a project. You’d find them in the aisles, sometimes calling back to the office – on a StarTAC in the early days, or an iPhone later on – asking someone there to remind them of some detail of a spec before they made a final decision on what to buy. It was a running joke – but it wasn’t really a joke – that the employees at Fry’s (the “whiteshirts” – more often than not underpaid immigrants from some sunnier clime) knew nothing, but that if you were perplexed, you could just ask a question of any random fellow customer, who was probably an engineer at a tech company and knew a thousand times more than some minimum-wagie who worked there.
And if you couldn’t find what you were looking for at Fry’s, you could try Weird Stuff or HSC – both now gone as well – where the really oddball, obsolete, and off-the-wall items could be had. At Weird Stuff, among working Apple IIIs and ancient Sun 4/60s for sale, was the laptop junkyard, where shelf upon shelf of half-wrecked machines – some without keyboards, others with smashed screens or cracked cases – waited to be salvaged for parts. In the back, sitting on wire racks, were boxes of miscellaneous parts, mostly unlabeled, on the theory that if you knew what you were looking for, you’d recognize it when you saw it, and that if you didn’t know what you were looking for, you were in the wrong store. In the back of HSC, beyond the aisles of miscellaneous electronic equipment that sometimes dated back to the 1920s, there was an entire wall of boxes filled with vacuum tubes – both vintage and new-build from the last handful of factories in Russia and China that still make them – and a cramped workbench where customers could test them to make sure they worked. It was unmanned by the staff; the assumption, again, was that the customer would know how to test a tube by themselves – and if they didn’t, then what were they doing there to begin with?
Those places represented – and survived long enough to become some of the last vestiges of – the old Silicon Valley. This was the Valley of the libertarian-ish techno-hippies who founded it, eccentrics imbued with the do-it-yourself spirit, who fused together both halves of the 1960s that had birthed them – the individualist counterculture of Woodstock, and the hard-charging engineering genius that put men on the moon in the same year. These were the men (yes, invariably, men) who created what will likely be the last great creative outburst of American industry. It was a fleeting, late-blooming manifestation of what Greil Marcus called “the old, weird America”, and, like so much of that America, it is now gone – infiltrated, and then crushed from the inside by the all-consuming forces of woke globalist capital.
But I know what it once was. I saw it myself. I was there at the Great Digital Revolution. On the fringes of it, yes, but there nonetheless. I remember it, and I remember the dream that drove it forward; the vision of a better world that we thought we were creating, before it all turned to ashes in our mouths. And now, as its last few embers die out in an age in which “Big Tech” has become a byword for privatized corporate tyranny, it is perhaps worth a moment to reflect on what that dream was and how it came to such a bitter end.
The idea, at first, was simply to build something insanely great; to create new things that were powerful and elegant and advanced just because we could, and then to see what was possible with them. This spirit of wonder in the air was the same as that which had created the steam engine, built the intercontinental railroad, electrified the countryside, constructed the skyscrapers, paved the highways, and powered the jet age. With seemingly every passing day, something that it had never before been possible to make, suddenly appeared before us. And for a brief time, the media-manufactured parade of actors, pop singers, and sports players who we are presented to venerate was interrupted by someone who was famous for doing something actually useful, as Steve became a rock star in the truest sense of the term (it was an excitement, like Beatlemania, that many have tried to recapture, but never can). Gone, but not forgotten (at least by me) are the days when people around the world would stop what they were doing in the middle of a workday to watch the head of a technology company announce some astounding new product, as they must have stopped to watch rocket launches during the height of the space race. It was a once-in-a-lifetime spectacle, to which I was privileged to have a front-row seat.
Beyond this, once the technology itself started to take shape, it began to become clear what its full potential could be. We looked around us and saw that a rich, powerful minority was in charge of every medium of mass communication (it may be hard for those under a certain age to believe, but in their day, CBS, NBC, ABC, and the New York Times formed a cartel of gatekeepers on information and public discourse that were more restrictive than Facebook, Google, and Twitter could ever dream of being), and that we could come up with a way to bypass them, bringing that power to the people by letting them communicate with each other directly, free of any unnecessary restraint. The implications were staggering; a new flowering of free speech on a level not seen since the invention of the printing press. And for a while – the beautiful, dangerous, heady “Wild West” years of the early internet – it seemed that was exactly what we were getting.
And then it all changed; not overnight, but fast enough. It started becoming really noticeable after Steve passed and the Old Guard began to retire. The New Guard – the Mark Zuckerbergs and Jack Dorseys – were clever but not brilliant, completely bereft of the Old Guard’s counterculture streak and eager to suck up to power, unprincipled to the point of functional sociopathy, and guided by no real vision other than their own fortune, fame, and power. These were the wokewashing neo-robber barons; imbued with the social conscience of Ivan Boesky, yet always ready to wave a rainbow flag while their workers (and I don’t just mean the ones in dismal Chinese factories – swing by the Googleplex at 11PM on any given evening and see how many employees are still there hunched over a screen) endure 16-hour days week after week, and whose commitment to diversity began with realizing that foreigners on H-1B visas could be used as scabs that would keep their employees from ever effectively organizing and getting a bigger share of the astronomical profits that the emergent, and ever more-monopolized, Big Tech sector was accumulating.
Even these profits themselves became part of the downfall of the Old Valley. What happened when the Valley started to get rich – really rich – was a microcosm of what has happened to the country as a whole: it has learned that having too much money attracts endless swarms of parasites, grifters, bandwagon-jumpers, glad-handers, and hangers-on, who don’t understand what went into creating the whole endeavor and treat it as one big get-rich-quick scheme, hoping to come away with a slice of the money, power, and prestige that it generates. At first, there were just the usual johnny-come-latelies that show up at any gold rush once the pioneers have cleared the path; for example, the educational faddists (education is a field that is always in the sway of some new fad or another) who suddenly decided that every child should learn to code, so that they could all grow up to become high-level programmers and make $150,000 a year (ignoring that any skill is only valuable because it’s both useful and rare – if everyone can do it, then its value will drop to zero). But then, inevitably, the same leftists who wormed their way into every other important institution in our society showed up, and in typical fashion, once they’d found a way in (mostly through their usual combination of public whining and the threat of legal action), they slammed the door shut on everyone who wasn’t like them.
The breaking point was the Great Meme War leading up to the 2016 election, after which the newly-empowered SJWs who had barged into Silicon Valley like they ran the place and in short order actually did, decided that they were never going to allow a popular uprising of that sort to happen again. Here the crackdown began and the last remaining sparks of the spirit of the Old Valley died. What once promised to radically decentralize instead ended up granting crushing amounts of power to globalist monopolies. What once promised to make government censorship impossible instead ended up making government censorship unnecessary. What once promised to empower the individual led to a supercharged level of groupthink never before seen in human history. What once promised to liberate and enlighten the people left them as slaves staring slack-jawed into their screens. We all had the best of intentions when we started out. None of us thought it would end this way. Please forgive us – we knew not what we did. If we could do it over again, we’d do it all differently.
But we can’t, and here we are, in a dystopia worthy of the cyberpunk stories we all used to watch in the old days for inspiration, without even the consolation of its aesthetics. I finally left Silicon Valley in the last days of 2017, for many reasons, but prominent among them was that the revolution was well and truly over, there was nothing more to see of it, and I wasn’t even particularly proud of what it had accomplished anymore. The news that Fry’s is gone drove home the fact that those optimistic days can never be returned to; that the past is a lost country, just as the future is an undiscovered one.
Yet in the privacy of memory, I can see myself back there, in the days of my youth, enamored with a beautiful vision of what could have been, shared by everyone else in the neon-lit aisles, stacked high with new wonders we were sure would bring us a better world.
I’ve heard it said that you truly begin to feel old when one day you realize that the world you were raised to live in doesn’t really exist anymore. Or maybe it’s more accurate to say that you start feeling it the first time you tell a younger person about a world that you remember clearly, but that they have never seen for themselves. I felt that recently when I found this, hidden in an obscure corner of YouTube.
It perhaps doesn’t seem like anything very special at first glance; just someone driving through the night and listening to the radio in an era that the programming – some of Art Bell’s old Coast to Coast AM show – pegs as having been sometime in the mid-to-late 90s. But for those who were there, it is often in the small things that one finds a link back to a time that simultaneously feels as though it were only yesterday, and that it’s hard to believe ever existed. Some of its aspects have been gone many years; some not so very long at all. One way or another, they are a slice of an old America that we have left behind us, but the memories of which should be shared with those who have either forgotten it, or are too young ever to have seen it themselves.
The first, which still more or less existed right up to the anno horribilis of 2020, was the astonishing freedom of travel that was found out on the endless open road. Back in the before times, I did many long drives through the night like the one in that video. St. Louis to Washington DC nonstop along I-64 once, on another occasion Norfolk to Tampa down I-95, New Orleans to Roswell across the vast breadth of Texas, Denver to Reno past mountain and desert, and more than a few runs between San Francisco and Las Vegas over the Sierras and through the Mojave, among others. No masks. No lockdowns. No “vaccination passports”. No mandatory quarantines upon arrival in this or that state. No digital license plate readers or facial recognition software. No reason to fear the police unless you were obviously drunk or conspicuously speeding. Before a decade or so ago, there were no surveillance cameras or smartphones tracking your every move. That ability to disappear down the highway and into the night was a uniquely American* freedom, one just as meaningful as, and far more tangible than, any written down on some 18th century piece of paper, and one that is eroding away before our eyes. Few of our old liberties will be taken away outright by government fiat – most will, either by design or merely as a consequence of our late-imperial decline, simply become more expensive and burdensome to exercise until few bother with them. Whether intentionally or not, in the increasingly paranoid and economically run-down post-COVID, post-Trump security state, travel will be ever-more difficult, while Zoom (which is easily monitored, and from which you can be “canceled” at any time) will remain easy.
But back in those long-gone days, you could throw a bag in the trunk, turn the key, and it was only you and the road, the hum of the engine, the smell of coffee, and all the wonders of the universe on overnight radio.
There’s a theory that stories of the paranormal (as opposed to traditional religion, which is another matter) surge during placid, prosperous eras, and certainly that would explain why the 90s were truly the age of hidden mysteries lurking in the darkness. They were unquestionably good times. The early days of the internet boom buoyed the entire economy. Optimism was high after our victory over Soviet Communism. Our reserves of social capital were still strong; we were less diverse and less politically polarized and less split across every fault line. People trusted authority and each other more. We did not consider ourselves naive; in fact, many of the myths that pulsed through the night air in those days centered on the idea that the government and other powerful people were keeping secrets from us. But even these deceptions were of a far different nature than those we speak of today.
In those days, we believed that a hypercompetent government was keeping wondrous secrets from us for what they genuinely thought to be our own sake; today we see that an increasingly bungling and corrupt government is doing a clownishly bad job at keeping banal secrets from us for the sake of nothing more than holding onto their own power and privilege. Now it seems obvious that what we believed back then was the product of its age; that unique historical moment right after the end of the Cold War and between the two Iraq Wars – the one that we thought we’d won and the one that we can’t deny having lost. And while it was frustrating in those days to think of what was being hidden from us, it was also comforting to think that people capable of doing it were essentially still on our side, and would be there to help keep us safe if we ever needed it. One can barely even be sure what’s been more disillusioning: finding out that people and institutions that we thought were operating from good intentions are really venal and crooked, or that ones we thought were clever and capable are actually careless, inept, and oafish. On The X-Files, Mulder and Scully fought from within the FBI to find truths kept hidden in the shadows by smart, powerful, dangerous men. In our age, we are treated to a real-life FBI manned by smirking fools like Peter Sztrok, who got caught because he was stupid enough to text the secret plan to his girlfriend on a work phone. This much is certain: it’s a long way down from advanced extraterrestrial technology being hidden in a hangar at Area 51 in the name of national security to an obviously-fake dossier full of ridiculous, lurid stories about Russian prostitutes peeing on a hotel bed, fabricated as part of a ham-fisted attempt at a political coup. What a letdown.
Modernity promised us that it would banish superstition, light all of the dark corners of the world, make people rational, and via rationality, make them peaceful. As always, nothing of their plan bore its promised fruit. Beyond making the world a more dreary place for all, the banishment of wonders has just led us to the age of the “rational” bad-faith partisan political conspiracy theory, to be used as a weapon against one’s enemies. But for a short historical moment, we had the happy luxury of ignorance; the ability to believe that what was hidden just out of view was fantastic, otherworldly, and supernatural. That monsters and demigods and the stuff that legends are made of were lurking in the corners of the night. That the aliens we had to worry about invading us were crossing the galaxy in faster-than-light starships, rather than crossing the southern border in the back of a beat-up old box truck.
The topics that Bell’s show touched on were sometimes ridiculous, but were often honestly smart and fascinating. There was real worth in listening to Michio Kaku talk about the possibilities in physics, Malachi Martin relate his personal experiences fighting demonic possession, or Richard Hoagland speculate on what it would take to successfully colonize Mars. At worst, like Ed Dames’s nonsense claims about psychic remote viewing, it was harmless fun. But like so much else in public discourse, even the realm of conspiracy and the esoteric has gotten simultaneously stupider and more high stakes. There’s nothing harmless or fun about watching millions of gullible fools follow a 4chan troll off a political cliff. That isn’t merely a speculative step into a world of hidden wonders. It’s a tragedy; one with real consequences.
And of course, now we know for sure that none of the hidden wonders that Bell introduced us to were ever real, otherwise he would have been deplatformed from everything just like Alex Jones, Julian Assange, and James O’Keefe have been. The fact that Coast to Coast AM has stayed on the air all these years and has survived the modern crackdown on “disinformation” shows that the topics it discusses aren’t taken the least bit seriously by anyone in power. If they let you talk about it in the open, then it isn’t a threat to them.
But on the open roads of the endless night in that not-so-distant past, the ancient and the modern merged, as the overnight radio revived the tribal storyteller’s tales of what lay in the darkness beyond the edge of the village. It was a better time – one that I miss terribly – and we shall not see one like it return soon.
(*After being forcibly deported from the USSR and ending up in the USA, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn borrowed a car and drove across the country from his new home in Vermont. In the Nevada desert, he pulled to the side of the road and marveled at the fact that nobody knew or cared where he was, nor could they find out unless he wanted them to. It was a freedom that had been unknown to him, that he didn’t take for granted as we have, and that somehow crept away from us.)
I was sitting in the parking lot of my church on Ash Wednesday, just about to go inside to get my ashes, when the radio told me that Rush Limbaugh had died. With him passes both an era in politics, and an era in my own life.
If you’re a showman – and Rush was that above all else – they say that it’s best to go out on top. And he did, just at the moment when it became apparent that the approach to politics that he championed his whole life won’t be enough to save us; that superior arguments won’t win the day and that we’re not going to vote our way out of this. That he left the stage at precisely the right point so it could honestly be said that he never became irrelevant is perhaps the one small consolation that can be found within this. The future will always be able to look back on him and say: “He was a man of his time”. Yes, his time has passed, as it does for all men. But if we are to look back now and evaluate what he meant, it can only fairly be in the context of those times.
Those who think that the current censorship against the right is anything new don’t remember the days when a cartel of three television networks (CBS, NBC, ABC) and two newspapers (the New York Times and the Washington Post) had a monopoly on both news and entertainment, and controlled everything that anyone heard about about any issue at all. What we’re seeing now is merely a return to that status quo, with a new cartel (Twitter, Facebook, Google) in place of the old one. The censorship in those days was in many ways worse; it was just less obvious and more deniable because of higher barriers to entry. It doesn’t seem terribly oppressive to tell someone that their television script is rejected or that you’re not going to give them a weekly column in your newspaper – the opportunities there are few just by the nature of things, and if everyone who does get one of them turns out to be of (or at least acceptable to) the left, that can be easily enough written off as coincidence. To ban someone from Twitter when they had more followers than the old newspaper had subscribers looks different, but it really isn’t. The effect is the same: one message gets out, and the other doesn’t.
This was the situation in the 80s and early 90s, when Rush appeared on the scene. AM radio was a dying format, desperate enough to give literally anything a try if it had any chance of saving them from extinction. And putting him on the air was a very great risk; too many modern Dissident Rightists have no idea just how genuinely edgy and radical Rush and his ideas seemed back in those days, and how much the “respectable” Establishment recoiled against them. They are either too young or too lost in the current-day situation to remember that even the Boomercon civnattery that seems so dated now was once considered far, far beyond the pale, and that if Rush hadn’t been out there fighting for that, we wouldn’t be in any position to go beyond it. Pioneers still deserve respect, even if the trails they blazed are well-worn now.
A common sentiment heard from callers in the early days of Rush’s show was that before they found him, they had no idea that anyone out there thought the same way they did. This shows how powerful the left’s stranglehold on public discourse was back then, and the importance of his having singlehandedly broken it. Causing one’s enemy to feel isolated, alone, and out-of-step with the society around them is a powerful weapon of demoralization, and breaking through that to offer a sense of community, even if only through the airwaves, is massively empowering. Beyond this, Rush brought a sense of fun to being on the right, perhaps for the first time ever. He mocked liberals at a time when it was assumed by all that this was a tool to which liberals alone had exclusive rights. He laughed at them, and his audience laughed along with him. This is a deeply underestimated strategy – people like to laugh; they like to have fun. It is something that the left has forgotten in the age of the dour, hectoring SJW. It is something that, other than at the height of the Meme Era that surrounded Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign, the modern right forgets all too often as well. But it should never be overlooked, and very much of Rush’s success and his political and cultural impact relied on the fact that he didn’t. Perhaps most importantly, he never backed down from his beliefs; he never seemed ashamed of them or felt the need to qualify them with endless disclaimers explaining how he was really a good person despite them. Simply being confident and proud in those beliefs inspired millions of others to do the same.
Of course, he couldn’t ever have gone with us as far as it now seems that we’ll need to go. But this was not a symptom of any lack of courage; it was only a reflection of the hold that the America in which he was born had on him, and of how far we have fallen from it in just one lifetime. To the end, Rush was a genuine “Shining City on a Hill” believer; the kind that not only thought that America was unreservedly good at its core, but that its empire was the only thing keeping the world from falling into tyranny and chaos. That’s a belief that most of us on this end of the right, if we ever held it at all, gave up on around 2006, but that seemed manifestly true for someone who grew up in a stable, prosperous America in the years directly following World War II, and whose only frame of reference was the comparison to Nazism or Communism. Even his support for the disastrous wars of the Bush era, which continued long after it was obvious that they had been a terrible mistake (this was the only point at which I found his show unlistenable, and had to take some time away from it) were based in an unshakable faith that the American way of life was the best in the world, and that everyone would want to live that way if they were only given a chance to. There is a temptation for a man of today’s Dissident Right to sneer at this, and in a 21st century context, it might be justified, but it also must be remembered that the America that Rush had in mind was eternally a vision of the 1954 of his youth; a better place that you and I have never had the privilege to see. Had we seen it for ourselves, we might find it just as hard to let go of as he did.
Rush could understand that his country wasn’t what it used to be, but couldn’t allow himself to believe that it would never again be what it had once been. That’s a dream that can only die hard; one that anyone would hold onto for as long as they could. It only really became undeniable that it was gone for good in the very closing moments of his life, and it is perhaps for the best that he essentially died with it. In a way, I wish he hadn’t been here to see the past few months, and in a way, I’m happy he won’t be here to see what comes next. It would break his heart. It breaks mine. I would love to have personally seen the Shining City that he saw, and would love to believe that it can be restored someday. But just as he was a man of a time that I never could live in, I must be a man of a time that he cannot live in, and I must face its realities.
Before I do face forward into it, however, I’d like to take a brief moment to indulge in a personal reflection back into the time that he and I shared.
The first time I ever heard Rush was sometime in 1992, when at the beginning of my adult life I was briefly living in Orlando. John the shuttle van driver, who I saw every morning and afternoon, had dodged missiles to drop bombs on North Vietnam back in the day, but driving the van was his quiet retirement job, and he didn’t want to talk about the war while he was doing it, so he kept Rush on the radio instead. Soon, all of us who rode with him were spending our time in the van listening to the show and talking over what Rush had said amongst ourselves. Some wanted Ross Perot to win the election, some were sticking with Poppy Bush, and everyone was certain that Slick Willie could only be a disaster. All of us wondered what the future would bring, in our own lives and for the country.
For all the years thereafter, from then until now, Rush was there with me wherever I went and whatever I did. Through the long, sweet days of the 90s in Silicon Valley, when the only place out of San Francisco that would carry him was the local sports talk outfit. Through my time in Japan, carrying my little Sony pocket radio and listening over Eagle 810, the Armed Forces Network’s 50,000 watt station out of Yokota Air Force Base, which carried the first hour of the show during the evening commute time. Through my professional traveling days, over countless stations in countless cities and small towns, on clock-radios in countless hotel rooms. Through many long road trips around the country, scanning on the car radio for a new station each time the last one faded into static. Through my last years in California, carrying the now-old Sony on walks around San Francisco and Berkeley and a vastly-changed Silicon Valley. Through all of my tribulations after I left, and into my new life in Southern Appalachia. Through my late teens and my twenties and my thirties and my forties and almost to fifty. I’ve lived a good and adventuresome life, but never a particularly stable one. People and places have come and gone. I’ve opened many doors, and closed many others. I’ve had many identities and played many roles. There have been few constants in my journey, but Rush was always one of them.
And now this constant companion will be with me no further. Whatever he may have meant to his country, and whatever he may mean to history, a measure of comfort and happiness that has meant something to me my whole adult life is gone.
I will miss you, old friend. Thank you. Farewell. Megadittoes.
I wouldn’t say that Joy and I are very close friends, but for a long while – from my later college years until I left California – we ran in the same social circles and saw each other fairly often. A friend of a friend, you could say; we’ve been happy enough to see each other whenever we have, but it has always been in some group activity or another rather than one-on-one. Still, we’re well enough acquainted that I was on the list to be notified when she sent out word that she’s in trouble. The circumstances are worth relating, as it occurred to me that it sheds some light on a lot that’s wrong with our Modern world.
Joy is a second-generation Chinese-American, a native of the S.F. Bay Area who grew up on the edge of Oakland’s Chinatown, and although I have enough sense to never ask a woman her age, by the length of time we’ve known each other, she must be squarely on the north side of 40. She is not married and never has been, and has no children. She is neither rich nor poor, with a job as the shipping manager of a furniture wholesaler’s warehouse, where long service has given her seniority and a salary that is respectable if not spectacular. She is careful with her money – not so much of a miser that she’ll never go for a dinner out with friends, but not luxurious in anything. She is sensible and level-headed, and at an age where that should begin to pay off in a certain degree of comfortable stability in one’s life.
But not so for Joy, it seems. That’s what I found out last week when I read her message. Joy is being kicked out of the house where she has rented a room for the past couple of years. The reason is personality conflict, or perhaps more accurately, cultural conflict. There are five or six roommates in a large house that long ago was designed for the kind of big families people used to have. Being the modern Bay Area, the roommates are all quite diverse – white, black, Latino, and Asian – in the way that we are assured is “our strength”. But Joy has found otherwise. She didn’t share the details of the particular disagreement that started things, but the situation progressively got worse and worse. And the most important reason for that was, according to Joy, that her non-Asian roommates just couldn’t understand the Asian style of conflict resolution. To her, all of them, but especially the Latina roommate who she was most directly clashing with, were extremely aggressive toward her – shockingly so, compared to the people she had grown up with. Joy said that she felt “bullied, teased, picked on, and tormented” to the point where it caused her to sink into a depression. It didn’t take long before it was obvious that the situation was unsustainable and somebody would have to leave. The homeowner made her choice, and gave Joy until the end of this month to get out of the house.
The first thing that Joy thought of was to move back in with her mother. But that was impossible; the high cost of housing, and even property taxes, in the Bay Area meant that as soon as her children had moved out, her mother had to take in boarders of her own in order to make ends meet, and they now filled every available room in the house, including the one that had once been Joy’s. It just wouldn’t be fair to evict one of them over a problem Joy was having that was no fault of their own, so that idea was rejected. Finally, with the deadline looming, Joy was considering the option of sleeping in her minivan until something better came available. There would be room enough to set up a semi-comfortable bed, the mild California weather meant there wouldn’t be any danger from freezing temperatures, and she could still shower, eat, and do laundry at her mother’s house. It would be a genteel form of homelessness, and (with any luck) only a temporary one. But it’s homelessness all the same – not a happy prospect for a woman in her 40s; a senseless humiliation for someone who has worked steadily and been frugal all her adult years. When I received the story, it was in the form of a last-minute plea for anyone in her orbit who might know of a more permanent place for her to stay to get in touch with her ASAP. And that is where the situation stands.
Of course, having left California for Southern Appalachia three years ago now, I don’t have any way to help in her search. The only thing I can do is to reflect a bit on all the ways that Modernity has failed Joy – and they are many indeed.
For one thing, while there has always been a small percentage of spinsters in our society, the phenomenon of women who are unmarried, well past prime marriage age, and in many cases are outright unmarriageable, has reached crisis levels in our society. I would by no means call Joy “unmarriageable” (that would involve factors like an extremely disagreeable and entitled personality, an excessive attachment to career over everything else, showy expressions of trendy leftist politics, a very high “notch count” springing from an extended Sex and the City phase, and perhaps single motherhood as a souvenir of it as well), but the fact that she remains unmarried at her age is proving to be a problem for herself and for those around her. Both the traditional Asian culture of her ancestors and traditional Christian Western culture understand this issue, and either of them, working through the circle of friends and family around her, would have intervened in her life 20 years ago in order to find a suitable husband for her and to pressure her into marrying him. This sounds abhorrent to the post-feminist Modern, and yet we must ask: feminism has loosed women, but from what, and into what? In her 40s, Joy deserves to have a husband and children of her own, which would give her a stable home and a large support structure around her. Instead, with the sole exception of an aging mother whose ability to help singlehandedly is limited, Joy is alone and without resources that the Modernist promise of the “independent woman who doesn’t need a man” apparently cannot actually provide her. She is left having to send out appeals to every minor acquaintance for help in avoiding homelessness.
But beyond this, even if Joy remained single her whole life, she deserves some greater measure of stability than this. She should at least be able to afford a small apartment of her own instead of having to perpetually live like a college kid, renting out a small bedroom in what amounts to a boarding house, never having real privacy or control over her fate in a place to truly call her own, well into what should be anyone’s most prosperous and secure years. There’s a lot behind why even this small measure of dignity has been denied to her, basically none of which is her own fault – she has never been a stoner or a slacker or a wastrel. One important factor is the economic squeeze on the middle class that’s been happening everywhere in the country, and most especially in California, over the past 20 years. California’s taxes, housing prices, and cost of living are legendary for all the wrong reasons, and are driving its middle class out of the state by the millions. (It is an exodus that I myself joined, in deep sadness, three years back. I could perhaps have tried holding on a bit longer – even in the face of increasingly intolerable laws and decreasing quality of life – if I’d been willing to keep living the way that Joy has been. It worked in my 20s and 30s well enough. But in my 40s, I found it harder and harder to live like that. Now, in Southern Appalachia, I have a small cottage of my own, with a workbench, a kitchen where I can cook anything I like at any hour of day, and a closet that I can stuff with a prep stash. I couldn’t go back to not having them.)
On paper, California is a fantastically rich state, but this hides the fact that it is increasingly a place with a Third World economic profile – one populated by the very rich and the very poor, with very little in between. Communists and socialists seem unable to understand that a certain amount of wealth inequality is actually the sign of a healthy economy; mainstream conservatives and libertarians seem unable to understand that too much of it is the sign of a deeply unhealthy one. In the real world, Silicon Valley money, which we are told is the envy of the globe, has been the second-worst thing (after mass immigration) to ever happen to the Bay Area. For those making six figures or more in a high-level tech job, the astronomical cost of living is an annoyance; for the established middle class that was there long before the tech boom, it has been ruinous. Beyond that, Big Tech long ago closed on its purchase of the state government, so no reforms of which they might disapprove, coming from either the left or the right, have any chance to pass. Things won’t get better for the middle class, because the ruling class – both inside and outside of the formal government – has little interest in that. No one in power wants to stand up for Joy, nor for anyone like her.
Then there is the issue of immigration and its attendant diversity. First, the former: it is of no small consequence that since Joy was born, the population of the United States has risen by 50%, and the population of California has doubled. The sheer presence of that many new people needing housing and using resources would make the cost of living skyrocket and turn the prospect of having an adequate place of one’s own on a middle class salary into a pipe dream, making life miserable, even if the curse of tech money wasn’t a factor, and even if diversity caused no problems. The fact that diversity does cause deep problems that are simultaneously ever more impossible to solve or to even talk about honestly in the open only makes things worse.
Unlike many others on the Dissident Right, I am not an absolute purist when it comes to diversity. I see nothing wrong with, say, San Francisco having a Chinatown or Miami having a Little Havana. But as with income inequality, a little diversity under the right circumstances may be healthy, but too much can only be disastrous. Even in the days before the post-1965 immigration flood, when we had diversity in more reasonable proportions, the social arrangement that made it work was based on the old ethnic neighborhood system, a form of voluntary soft segregation which created the kind of intangible-but-very-real good fences that make good neighbors (and that Chesterton warned us against dismantling). But then that system broke down; it was simultaneously overwhelmed with sheer numbers and deliberately dismantled by utopian busybodies who made it their mission to ensure that any remaining vestige of non-diversity be destroyed. What had existed before was a humane, respectful, and sustainable unspoken agreement by which ethnic neighborhoods were largely left to self-govern, so long as they caused no trouble to outsiders and passersby. Everything from anti-discrimination laws to overreach by the official organs of government put a forcible end to it. It is nothing to the busybodies and utopians that the old system created a sense of community; that it fostered informal support structures and an environment where like people could live by long-established rules that suited their unique characteristics. And it is nothing to them that its passing has led to the reality that Joy faced in a micro sense, and that we all are doomed to face in the macro sense: that diversity + proximity = conflict.
Here I should note that, despite the complaints that Joy has about her soon-to-be-former roommates, I doubt that any of them, even her Latina tormentor, is an evil person at heart. It’s more likely simply that there’s a Latin way to handle things and an East Asian way to handle things. It’s not that one is better than the other in any objective sense; that they’re different and incompatible is enough on its own to exacerbate any conflict to the point that it’s intolerable to all involved. This is an important reason why, whether it is through the mechanism of hard borders or soft fences, it is nearly always in the best interests of everyone for like to be with like. Though utopian egalitarians would be horrified by the idea, it would have been better for Joy if her search for a place to live had taken place within the soft limits of an Asian ethnic neighborhood, or even just a housing development or apartment building that was legally and socially permitted to restrict itself to accepting only like people in order to reduce conflicts such as the one that has Joy on the edge of homelessness. Perhaps that would have put some choices off-limits to her, but she would not now be facing living in a van.
Keep Joy in your prayers, as she will be in mine as well. She deserves better, and let’s hope she finds it soon. On multiple levels, she has been brought low not because she failed, but because she has been failed by Modernity and all of its unworkable promises. As have we all.
Since the mid-18th century, we have been in what we are told is the “Age of Reason”, which was supposed to make the world better by banishing superstition and delusion from public life. As with basically all of the Enlightenment’s promises dealing with human nature and the proper way to order civil life, it has not delivered on that promise, and in many cases has actually made the problem it set out to solve worse. The persistence of dangerous delusions is what prompted me to write my last column, which focused on the need for dissidents to avoid them entirely. That said, dabbling in the dark arts of forbidden social science has been a specialty in this space since I founded it nearly a decade ago, and in that spirit, I’d like to go into further detail on a certain variety of delusion that the Enlightenment has empowered; one that is especially visible in the end-stage form of Enlightenment thinking that we see in the crumbling remains of Western Civilization. I call it the “Midwit Fooler”. That’s a term that needs a little explanation.
First, the concept of a “fooler” comes from the term “Grandma Fooler”, which refers to a counterfeit item designed to look like something genuine and desirable. The idea is that an unwary consumer might buy it, not really understanding the difference between it and the real thing. A good example is found in the innumerable cheap iPod knockoffs that could be found everywhere from convenience stores to magic claw machines in the ’00s and early ’10s. These were universally complete junk, and caused many a bad Christmas morning for a young member of Generation Z when he found that grandma had put one of them under the tree for him instead of a real iPod.
As for the “midwit”, they are the consistently troublesome class of people who exist just to the right of the peak of the IQ bell curve – around 110 to 120 – those who are above average, but not truly brilliant. These are the bourgeois, the upper middle class, the successful businessman, manager, or white collar worker. There are two big problems with them. The first is that they are the group that has held all the real power since the Enlightenment – for all of the pretensions to helping the poor or working class of the many revolutions it birthed since 1776, all of them can best be understood as a rebellion by the bourgeois against the pre-1776 ruling class. The second is that the midwit IQ range is a notorious Dunning-Kruger trap. One effect of this is that people in this class are all too often drawn to ideas that range from harmlessly silly to insane and dangerous. And since they make up the group from which our ruling Managerial Class is drawn, when they believe nonsense, it hurts all of us.
However, it isn’t just any patently ridiculous idea that will attract them. Ones that become widespread tend to share certain elements that make them truly effective Midwit Foolers. A recent reading of Leon Festinger’s When Prophecy Fails set me onto the task of looking at few of the more prominent MFs in the world, including Classical Marxism, current-year postmodern Social Justice, New Age spirituality, and the Qanon movement, to see how many I could identify. I present these as being generally rather than universally true, however, most of these elements are shared by all of the MFs I could think to examine.
Many of these are interconnected, so please excuse a bit of repetitiveness:
•Perhaps the most important element – the one that makes it specifically a Midwit Fooler – is that it must have some kind of barrier to entry presented by being moderately intellectually challenging. However, it must strike the right balance; being just difficult enough to impart an air of intellectual exclusivity to it, while not being so difficult that it drives midwits away. I call this the “mystery novel effect”, because an optimal balance is about the same as a good murder mystery (this is why such things – from Agatha Christie to this week’s episode of NCIS – have always been popular among midwits). If the mystery is too simple, the midwit will be annoyed that there’s no challenge presented; no bragging rights to having their guess confirmed at the end (even though the story was subtly designed to gradually lead any midwit to the right conclusion). But if the mystery is too complex, then the midwit will be just as annoyed, this time because it was hard to follow and they didn’t even come close to the correct answer. Thus, an effective MF should require some real study, and be difficult enough that the midwit feels as though they’ve accomplished something by getting through it and coming to understand its conclusions (of course, as with the mystery novel, what they’ve really come to is the answer that the creator of the MF has been guiding them toward). The aspect of containing some manner of a code cracked and a riddle solved in ways not understandable to just anybody gives the midwit a warm feeling of belonging to an intellectual inner circle, quietly confirming their superiority to those outside of it.
At its core an MF always exists as a way to sell bourgeois midwits an easy, comforting answer to a complex, troubling question. But since midwits are just smart enough to know that easy, comforting answers to complex, troubling questions are invariably wrong, they must be made to seem more challenging than they really are. The midwit desperately wants to think of themselves (and be seen by others) as enlightened, but can’t understand why the Buddhist master Lin Chi once warned that “If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him”!
•Speaking of this, to work, MFs rely on the concept that “a little knowledge is a dangerous thing”. The midwit is not a complete moron, and won’t fall for just any old bullshit – it takes a deeper, more complex kind of bullshit to fool him. John Derbyshire once described pseudosciences as “elaborate, plausible, and intellectually very challenging systems that do not, in fact, have any truth content”, a thought that applies just as much to pseudophilosophy, pseudoeconomics, or pseudospirituality. And it is invariably one or more of these on which an effective MF is based. The MF relies on the midwit to be someone with knowledge that is broad, but deep only in their professional field. For anything else, they are knowledgable only to the point of having perhaps read a book or a few online articles about it, which due to Dunning-Kruger, leaves them perennially stuck at the peak of “Mt. Stupid”.
And that is the exact location where cranks, con artists, and snake-oil salesmen with an MF to tout will be waiting for them. Of course, nobody who knows the subject on which any particular MF is based in any depth would ever believe it. Genuine Buddhist masters laugh at the “Buddhism lite” sold by New Age charlatans to credulous Boomers; real-deal intel agency spooks will apply their palms to their foreheads at the mention of Qanon; anyone who has ever run a business can tell you all the ways in which Karl Marx didn’t know what the hell he was talking about when it comes to economics. But the midwit who knows a subject only casually, but not well enough to tell the “pseudo” version from the real thing, is a prime candidate to fall for an MF.
•As part of the challenge of it, a really engrossing MF should have its own unique set of lingo or jargon. This may involve unique word coinages, or proprietary definitions of existing words. Being an insider means being privy to the secret signals of the inner circle, and being an intellectual means being one of the select that know the “true” definition of a word instead of merely the common one. If use of the jargon confuses an outsider, then all the better – if they declare it mumbo-jumbo, that proves their inferiority and inability to get on the adherent’s level, and if they seem genuinely interested in understanding it, then it becomes the first mystery for the potential new initiate to tackle. Why did Qanon acolytes take joy in hours spent deciphering his cryptic quatrains? Why did Herbert Marcuse write impenetrable walls of proprietary Marxist lingo? That’s why.
•An effective MF must provide its adherents with validation; it must help them to feel as though they truly are who they see themselves as being in their idealized internal self-image. Of course, an effective MF tells people what they want to hear, and not everyone wants to hear the same thing (nor has the same idealized self-image), so a targeted message is important. But they all share the same mechanisms of validation, which are attuned to the midwit mindset, and are then customized for the political, philosophical, and spiritual specifics of the target audience. For example, just about all midwits want to see themselves as intellectuals, thus, for as much outright naivete as it often takes to believe in an MF, they are always presented with a carefully-crafted image of sophistication, and often even of rationalist skepticism. Similarly, because midwits desperately want to believe in their own virtue, there is usually some element of world-saving involved with an MF. And there are always the twin boogeymen of scoffers who the adherents can feel intellectually superior to, and enemies who they can feel morally superior to. In short, the effective MF is based on the idea that selling people the chance to believe that they really are what they wish they were will always be a very compelling product.
•The long tail of the Boomer generation in our culture means that many (though not all) MFs involve some spoken or unspoken element of (completely riskless) resistance or rebellion. Even something as seemingly innocuous as New Age has a hint of this – the motivation of many a Boomer who got into kabbalah, crystals, or Buddhism lite has deeply involved rebellion against their Jewish mothers or the nuns at the Catholic school they were forced to attend. And of course, there is the modern Social Justice Warrior, who rebels against a power structure that surrendered to their Boomer grandparents 50 years ago, a set of social arrangements that stopped being current 60 years ago, and a boogeyman who died in a bunker 75 years ago. But the post-1965 bourgeois especially has a strong tendency toward the self-image of a temporarily embarrassed revolutionary (either of the “Lexington in 1776” variety or the “Woodstock in 1969” variety, depending on political outlook), always waiting on, and agitating for, the revolution to start (And what happens when it finally does? We may find out soon, and the midwits may find that it wasn’t as much fun as they expected). They hate the idea of being a “normie” and long for the Romanticism of the Byronic rebel-hero. And of course that self-image wouldn’t be complete without the key element of the Romantic sublime: fear. This is why so many MFs contain a strong infusion of that, too – normally in the form of either an implacable enemy or an impending disaster lurking just around the corner. Fear brings people together and infuses a sense of urgency into what they’re doing, and of course, they also have the added bonus of tending to shut off critical thinking. Again, these elements of rebellion and fear are not completely universal in MFs, but are enough so that one or both are usually present in some form or another.
•An effective MF should never be afraid to ask for some sacrifice from its adherents. There are two important reasons for this. One is that having sacrificed for an idea or movement will make people feel much more invested in it. It keeps people from drifting away, because most humans can’t rationally process the concept of sunk costs – investing some makes them want to invest more, because they can’t stand the idea that what they have already invested may have been a waste. But secondly, and even more importantly, there is nothing that world-savers love more than an opportunity to virtue-signal through sacrifice and self-denial. Often this includes self-abasement to the point of what seems to be masochism, but an effective MF ensures that this is never more than a show. Just as the academic material of the MF must be somewhat challenging, but not excessively so, the opportunities for self-abasement must generally present as being painful, but not actually be so to any real degree. For example, the white Social Justice Warrior may condemn their own “whiteness” on Twitter and spand an afternoon kissing the boots of some puzzled random black person in the midst of getting a selfie to post on Instagram, but few offer to move out of their comfortable suburban houses or trendy city neighborhoods and into the black ghetto (thus the saying about them that they “Talk like MLK, but live like the KKK”). Still, comfortable moderns take any sort of sacrifice, no matter how much of a “humblebrag” it may be, as a form of martyrdom, and nobody wants to feel as if they’ve been martyred for nothing. What a sunk cost that would be!
•Finally, an effective MF must have a strong aspect of the social to it. Some MFs may actively proselyte in order to gain more members, and some may not in order to seem more exclusive, but all will strive to build some kind of community around their beliefs. This serves a couple of important functions. Of course, the utility of fellowship in building any movement – whether an MF or not – has long been recognized. Establishing an active, even fun community, drawn together by a calling to a higher purpose, makes an adherent feel not just important and validated, but valued as an individual within a group of friends. And it also increases their investment in what they’re doing; to leave the community means the loss of those friends, and perhaps even ostracization by them. This is why proper skepticism (as opposed to the proprietary definition of that term used by the left, which is simply a synonym for Reddit-style snarky atheism) requires a slight antisocial streak – that is is always necessary in order to be able to say “Plato is a friend, but the truth is a better friend”. Most people don’t have that in them, and will allow their brain to self-delude in order to stay within a social circle in which they have been accepted and found a place, even when unmistakable disconfirmation of its beliefs has presented itself. This will keep them anchored right where they are.
Of course, I would expect that my readers, who are only the most genuinely intellectual sort of people, would never fall for an MF themselves. But, the false promises of the Enlightenment aside, we are headed into a future with more superstition and delusion, more passionately believed in, than ever in our history. You’ll need a keen eye for recognizing these in all of their forms, as they will infect many of those around you. So keep an eye out for these Bad MFs as, like weeds sprouting through cracks in abandoned sidewalks, they start to grow through the fissures in our rapidly-crumbling civilization.
Thirty years ago, I sat inside a classroom in a hangar at a small airport, taking the ground school course required for my Private Pilot license. The air smelled of strong black coffee and jet exhaust; from beyond the walls of the classroom were the high whining sounds of the mechanics’ pneumatic wrenches and the rumble of the engines of Learjets and Gulfstreams. Our instructor was an old-timer, retired from flying the line, but with a thousand old hangar stories to tell, and much to the relief of all, he frequently interrupted the dry, FAA-approved curriculum with them. One of them in particular has stuck with me these many years, and seems worth retelling just now. In this age of the internet, I could look up the exact details of the story, but I’d prefer not to, and to repeat it to you exactly as I remember him telling it to us all those many years ago.
* * *
On a bitter cold night in a winter of the late 1950s, a DC-6 – one of the last generation of big four-engined, piston-powered airliners produced before the jet age began – lifted off from LaGuardia airport in New York City, bound for Miami. Seconds after takeoff, and at only a couple of hundred feet in the air, the plane began to fall back to earth, headed down toward the darkness of Flushing Bay. If it had crashed into the cold waters, all on board would almost certainly have drowned or died of hypothermia, but the quick instincts of the pilots guided it to a crash landing on Rikers Island, a small spot of land in the middle of the bay that for many years has been the location of the city’s main prison. As the plane impacted, the nose broke off and the wings ruptured, splashing aviation gasoline across the frozen ground. And yet, miraculously, few of the passengers had been killed in the crash. As soon as the stewardesses (whose primary job is to get passengers out of a wreck alive, not to serve drinks) came to their senses and realized what had happened, they began an emergency evacuation. Within a few short moments, the situation became even more urgent – flames appeared at the rear of the passenger cabin, and quickly spread forward. Yet the brave young women stood fast, guiding all of the surviving passengers out of the emergency exits and to safety.
Finally, only two living souls remained in the shattered hull of the airplane. One was the last of the stewardesses, and the other was a middle-aged gentleman, in a neat suit and tie, holding the newspaper he’d been reading when the plane took off, sitting quietly and not moving from where he was. Though she was right next to an emergency exit herself, and the flames were only seconds away, her courage and compassion got the best of her, and she went back to try to get him out in the precious little time remaining. She ran up to his seat, stood over him, and with all the firmness she could muster, said: “Sir, we’ve got to go! You have to get up and come with me through the exit.”
The man seemed eerily calm, yet his face wore a disquieting, blank expression. He looked at her and replied: “No, it’s fine. Everything is fine.”
By this point, the stewardess was practically screaming: “No, sir, it isn’t! The plane has crashed! You have to follow me out of here! Right now!”
“No”, he answered, “everything is fine. We’ll be in Miami soon. You’ll see. Everything will be fine.”, and then went back to reading his newspaper.
There was no more time left. She had done everything she could for him, and now she could only save herself. Climbing through the emergency exit, she took one last look back, just in time to see a ball of flame rushing toward her. She leapt out into the snow, running as fast as she could. Almost immediately, the whole wreck was engulfed. As she huddled with the other passengers and waited for the guards of the nearby prison to reach them with aid, all she could do was look back at it in horror.
* * *
Whoever the man in the suit was, he burned alive – needlessly, tragically – because his brain paralyzed itself with denial, and wouldn’t allow him to process the truth of what had happened to him. Denial is a natural part of our brain’s coping mechanisms, but of all the forms of self-deception, it is the most dangerous one, because it keeps us from clearly seeing dangers, rendering us unable to deal with them. And intelligence is a meager defense against it – in the 1950s, travel was an expensive luxury that few people could afford; the man in the suit was likely some sort of important executive off to a high-level business meeting. He was almost certainly a smart person, and spent a lifetime being nobody’s fool. Even the most rational of us most sometimes struggle to overcome the irrational impulses hardwired deep into the programming of our imperfect brains. Perhaps with a few more minutes, he could have done it – snapped the spell cast over his rational mind, processed the danger clearly, and done what needed to be done to save himself. But he didn’t have a few more minutes, and the reality of our world is that often life doesn’t give us that kind of time. Most dangers require some sort of immediate action. Time is of the essence, and self-deception means doom.
There is a reason why I am telling you this now. Something very bad has occurred, and many people are responding to it with denial and self-deception. These people are mostly neither stupid nor cowardly, and getting angry with them will accomplish nothing. But likewise it is doing them no favors to stand by silently and to not do everything one can to snap them back into reality so that they can rationally process the dangers we’re facing and develop an appropriate response to them. Like the brave stewardess trying to save her passenger from a horrible fate, there are some harsh truths that I must now tell, with all the compassionate firmness that I can muster.
* * *
This is all real. As hard as it is to believe that what we’ve seen in the past couple of months is actually happening to us, it is. The left has just stolen both the presidential election, and the election that decided control of the Senate. Having done so, they have flooded the nation’s capital with tens of thousands of occupying soldiers, who they have screened for political loyalty. On the 20th, Biden will assume power, and nobody is going to stop it. Trump is finished; he has effectively been out of power since January 6th, and on the 20th, he will be flown back to Mar-a-lago for a quiet retirement. Qanon was fake; there is not and never has been any plan to trust, and “The Storm” isn’t coming. The military isn’t going to overthrow Biden and reinstall Trump; their leadership are completely on-board with everything that has happened. The American Republic is dead; having gotten away with fixing two national elections, the Deep State will assume the permanent role of kingmaker. There will be no more free, fair elections at the federal level. For appearances’ sake, a nonthreatening Republican of the RINO variety – a Nikki Haley or Marco Rubio – may be allowed to hold the presidency again at some point, but they will never permit another real reformer like Trump anywhere near power. All the holes in the system that allowed his rise have been patched. He’s not getting elected again in 2024, and nobody like him is getting elected then, or ever again.
Speaking of January 6th, conservative pundits who say it was a disaster for the right are fooling themselves (and trying to fool you). It can’t do any harm to our political cause because there is no more harm to do. It’s obvious now that we’re not going to vote our way out of this. We’re not going to fundraise our way out of this. We’re not going to get out of this by dropping “truth bombs” on talk radio or going on National Review cruises with Victor Davis Hanson. “Vote harder” (at least in federal elections – there may yet be some value in at at a state and local level) is now a strategy that’s just as rational as sitting in a burning airplane waiting for it to reach Miami. Who cares if what happened on the 6th destroys the national Republican party, drives away big-money donors, gets all of Sean Hannity’s sponsors drop him, and makes the corporate media that already hated us hate us more? Any hope of victory that was ever invested in any of that has crashed and is on fire. It’s not going to get you to your destination. The only thing you can do is to get yourself to a safe place and plan your next move while you watch it burn.
As for what to do now, I have already covered first steps in previous columns, which I invite you to read. But to all of you who have spoken proudly of 1776 and what our ancestors did, and assured yourself that in their place, you would do the same, let me ask you: If not now, when? If not because of this, then because of what? I do not advocate acting rashly or even necessarily quickly – the hour must be right, and the proper occasion must present itself. Certainly, I do not advise any ill-advised or premature moves. We must act wisely and deliberately. What I am telling you is that the time is near and you must make yourselves ready for it.
But to do that, the first thing you must do is to engage with reality. There can be no more hopeful-but-implausible dreams, no more comforting self-deception, and no more denial about the truth of what is happening. Survival is at stake, time is running short, and we cannot afford it.
Now that I’ve laid out some of my political and philosophical thoughts regarding the recent fracas at Disneyland*, it’s time to add a short addendum covering the practical. Let me emphasize here that I believe any further action at Disneyland itself to be pointless and foolish, first because Disneyland is beyond saving, and also because it’s never a good idea to “try to make lightning strike twice”, as the saying goes. But I don’t mean to imply that assembling to petition for a redress of grievances is useless in its entirety. At the state and local level, I believe that it can remain very helpful in encouraging the management of local Disney Stores to nullify, become sanctuaries from, and/or outright ignore the asinine and oppressive dictates that are sure to flow from the Magic Kingdom in the coming years. Thus, whether you’re planning some local action, or even ignoring my advice and going back to Disneyland (seriously though, don’t do that), some advice on how to keep yourself safely out of the hands of Disney security seems well worth sharing.
•First, be very very careful when it comes to who you tell about going to an event. It should be on a “need to know” basis only – everyone else can be told that you’re going fishing, or to a business meeting, or some other plausible explanation for a short absence. After you get home, don’t say anything to anyone about having gone. Most especially, DO NOT post anything on the public internet about it, and certainly not on social media, even if only close friends and family follow you there. We no longer live in the age of civil disagreement on political matters; the left has turned into a creepy fanatical cult that takes joy in convincing its followers to betray those closest to them. And this is no distant tale from Stalin’s time – it’s right here in the present.
Don’t do Disney security’s job for them by posting potentially incriminating evidence where they – or anyone who may decide to talk with them – can easily find it. Don’t tell anyone what you’re up to, no matter how close to them you may be, unless there’s some practical reason why they need to know. As I’ve pointed out before, this isn’t the 60s, and you’re not a 19-year-old who just has to tell all his friends about having seen Hendrix at Woodstock. Keep your eyes and ears open, and your mouth closed.
•Leave your phone at home. There’s no reason at all to bring it with you, and every reason not to. That your phone tracks you everywhere you go, can be used to record your conversations even when you think it’s turned off, and was created by Big Tech oligarchs who will gladly turn you over to the authorities at the drop of a hat, is all well-established. Beyond this, you shouldn’t be taking pictures or recording video at an event anyway. When our friends in Antifa first started their big summer full of events this past year, they encouraged livestreams of what they were doing. By the time fall rolled around, however, enforcers in their ranks were threatening to beat the asses of anyone caught filming or taking pictures. They had figured out that security forces were watching the streams and using them both as field intelligence, and to identify people in Antifa’s ranks for later arrest. There’s a reason why activists of the past warned against the revolution being televised. The Happening is no time to be taking selfies. And it’s certainly not the right occasion to be risking the safety of people around you by putting their faces out there in public, either. If you think you’ll be bored on the way to an event, bring a book to read, or take your old iPod out of the drawer where it’s been sitting in for years, put a new battery in it, and rediscover your musical tastes from 2005. But it’s long past time for the Dissident Right as a whole to start cultivating Tony Soprano’s attitude towards cell phones.
•Speaking of keeping your face out of public view, mask up when you’re at an event. Yes, yes, I know – you hate face diapers. They’re a symbol of the COVID panic and the Karen fascism that’s come with it. I get it. But the one thing that we can genuinely be thankful for in the whole thing is the normalization of identity-obscuring masks. Take advantage of that. Find a nondescript, common, comfortable design (no flashy logos), and wear it without fail when you’re at, or even near, the event. While you’re at it, consider picking up a pair of reliable safety goggles, not only for additional concealment, but in case the air should start getting a bit spicy when you’re there.
•While we’re on the subject of staying unidentifiable, you should wear plain, nondescript clothing to events. Again, it should have no logos, no artwork (no matter how patriotic it might be), no flashy colors – nothing personally identifying about it at all. Notice how Antifa all dresses alike, and all very plainly? There’s a reason for that – it makes it hard to tell who’s who in a crowd. Of course, you don’t have to copy their style and wear all black. The point is to wear something common that could have come from anywhere and could be worn by anybody. In fact, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to wear old clothes from the bottom of your closet, or that you picked up at a thrift store, and that wouldn’t mind getting ruined in a fracas, or having to throw away later if having them in your possession is no longer wise. And make sure they cover any tattoos you might have, as well. Your skin art may express your individualism, but standing out as an individual is the last thing you want when security is looking at photographs of an event, trying to figure out who was there.
•Gloves, either of the simple medical kind found at your local pharmacy, or more stout ones if it’s wintertime, wouldn’t be a bad idea, either. One wouldn’t want to make a mess at Disneyland by leaving one’s fingerprints all over it, after all.
•Bring only common flags that anyone could have – the US flag, your state flag, the Gadsden flag, or, if you live in the south, the Confederate stars and bars. Ditch any homemade banners or signs immediately after the event ends. You can make a new one next time.
•Don’t drive to an event – security cameras are ubiquitous in urban centers, and excel at tasks like reading license plates. If you must drive just to get to the city where the event is happening, park far away on a quiet side street where cameras are sparse, and then walk or take public transit to and from the event itself. Consider stopping somewhere to at least partially change clothes along the way. It may take longer, but it’s better to take time than do time.
•Always be in groups. Do not let anyone wander off alone, either during the event or in the immediate vicinity of it after it’s over. Those left alone are easy targets, ripe to be picked off by security or Antifa (which has already murdered more than one of ours that they’ve caught alone after an event has broken up). Leave no man behind, and leave no man alone until it’s all done and everyone is safe.
•Bring cash. Don’t pay for anything near an event with your credit/debit card. If you’ll need a hotel room, get one far away from the event itself.
•Know the name and phone number of a competent criminal defense lawyer in the jurisdiction where the event will be taking place. If you are arrested by security, the only thing that you should say to them is that you have nothing to say to them until you’ve spoken with legal counsel.
•Don’t bring any weapons unless we the people have decided that it’s time to use them. Yes, I know that events like the Richmond pro-2A rally, where thousands of peaceful protesters brought AR-15s with them and nothing bad came of it, have happened in the past. But even though that wasn’t so long ago, we live in a very different world now. The past year, up to and including the events of January 6th, have represented an enormous paradigm shift. The mindset of everyone, including of security forces, is nothing like it was only a year ago. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t keep and bear arms, nor do I believe there won’t come a right time to use them in the face of tyranny (quite the opposite – I think that time will come sooner than anyone expected a year ago), but until and unless things have gotten bad to the point where the time to use them finally has come, they should stay home. Don’t bring them to what everyone expects to be a peaceable assembly for the redress of grievances just for show. That will cause more trouble than it’s worth. That said, it wouldn’t be unwise to wear body armor, a helmet or hard hat, and other purely defense gear. It’s hard to tell when or how things could get out of hand.
Stay safe and ready, dear reader. There are hard times ahead, and there is no way out but through them.
(*The names of some locations may have been changed in this article in order to avoid attracting unwanted attention during this season of internet purges.)
Recently, some acquaintances of mine spent a day at Disneyland*. Sadly, they ended up not having too good a time of it there, as a rather infamous fracas took place during their visit – I’m sure you’ve heard about it on the news. Now that the dust has settled just a bit, I think it would be worth engaging in a bit of reflection about what happened, what it means, and how we should proceed in its aftermath.
•First, what we saw take place at Disneyland was absolutely glorious; anyone who disavows the events of that day in all but the weakest, most wink-and-a-nod manner (which some may have to in order to hold onto certain positions of power) should themselves be disavowed. This event has separated the pretenders from the serious. Anyone who thunders on about 1776 and claims they would have been standing tall among the patriots when the shot heard around the world was fired, but who disavows what happened at Disneyland this year, is (in the words of the great Bob Grant), a fake phony fraud. It’s easy to retroactively put yourself on the winning team centuries hence; there is no risk to it at all. But at the moment when the struggle for liberty is joined, only the brave – only those willing to risk everything, and in many cases, to lose it – will show up to fight, and will be able to claim their share of glory. As one of the great men of 1776 said:
“These are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives everything its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as freedom should not be highly rated.”
It may be true that none of us wanted the situation to come to this. I certainly didn’t. But here we are, and it is we who are called to rise to the challenge of our time. Do not be a coward, and do not countenance cowards when you find them. Mock them, shame them, let them know that they are phonies, and at the time of testing, despite their empty words, they were found wanting. Never let them forget it.
•That said, the trip to Disneyland should not be repeated under any circumstances. In a struggle like ours, doing the same thing, the same way, at the same place, twice is a very bad idea. Never show up where your enemy is expecting you. Disneyland has increased security greatly since the incident, and that high level of security will not be reduced anytime soon. The shock of the fracas has made the people who run Disneyland paranoid, and they’ll be ready, willing, and able to quickly shut down any attempt at another such event. That’s just as well, though – the message was sent, and there’s no need to put on a repeat performance. Going forward, most effort should be directed at state and local Disney Stores, to encourage them to nullify or declare themselves sanctuaries from the dictates emanating from Disneyland. Besides, at this point, it’s obvious that Disneyland itself is a lost cause. I recommend avoiding it completely – and I don’t just mean not going there to register your displeasure with the place. Don’t go there on business if you can avoid it. Don’t go there sightseeing. Don’t drive through it if an alternate route is available. Stay away from it entirely. It’s enemy territory.
•In fact, you should also stay away from any big cities to the greatest extent you can. This weekend, I was driving along a major highway in the rural south, and pulled into one of those big chain rest stops for a break on my journey. On a bathroom stall, instead of the usual profanities, I found this written.
Surprisingly, it’s a very good point, on two accounts. First, hopefully you have already taken my standing advice to leave the big cities and decamp to the countryside. The cities aren’t safe to live in anymore, and increasingly aren’t even safe to visit. As tempting as it may be to take the wife and kids to dinner and a show in the city (if those things ever return to being commonly available there), you shouldn’t. Again, don’t take the risk of any unnecessary excursions into enemy-held territory. Second, our struggle is likely to be one fought on multiple fronts, not all of which involve use of force. The political and economic dimensions of it shouldn’t be minimized, and something like a #NotOneRedCent campaign would be a definite step in the right direction on the economic side of things.
•Much attention has been focused on the hypocrisy of those who run Disneyland, and for good reason, especially after the Antifa riots that caused so much destruction for most of the past year.
This, however, is now a tired old point. Everyone who’s been paying attention to politics at all during the last 50 years knows that these people are shameless hypocrites. Little more is to be gained by pointing it out yet again. A far more important revelation that has come out of the recent fracas is the degree to which their reaction to it has shown them all to be a bunch of panicky, hysterical cowards who seem to have just realized that that their hold on power, and on the minds of the people, is far more tenuous than they previously believed. In response to the fracas, 20,000 soldiers have been ordered into Disneyland – a number only slightly higher than the total of US military personnel currently deployed to protect South Korea from a nuclear-armed communist invasion. If that seems a bit excessive to protect what we are told will be a “virtual inauguration”, carried out almost entirely behind closed doors on January 20th, then you have a good glimpse into the current mindset at Disneyland (of course, their equally panicky, hysterical response to an illness that has a 99.95% survival rate revealed that long before January 6th). These are literally people who are terrified of middle-aged women who run flower shops. It is they who live in constant fear, and you who should not.
As for these guardians of the Magic Kingdom, after years of letting everyone who’s fit and competent know that they’re not welcome in the new, diverse US military, our elites seem to be left with nobody but this lineup of doughy goofballs to protect them and enforce their dictates.
Let me reiterate what I have said many times before: use of force on the part of citizens must always and only be both local and defensive in nature. Defend your homes, your towns, your neighbors, your families, and your liberties against whoever may threaten them. Don’t go off to Disneyland or any other faraway place with the idea of liberating it from itself. But here I say again: do not live in fear of the cowards of Disneyland or their enforcers. If we are forced to fight them, there will be losses on both sides; I won’t pretend otherwise. And some might choose to accept oppression out of intimidation by, or misplaced respect for, some fat broad holding a Starbucks cup just because she has a government-issued uniform on. But I will not.
•Another thing that the reaction to the recent fracas proves is that the people inside Disneyland are deeply delusional and out of touch with everyone outside it. Trapped inside their government-media-Big Tech echo chamber, they came to believe that everybody in the country hated Donald Trump as much as they did, and that everybody would be as happy as they were to see him go. Fancying themselves to be loved by the masses, they had no understanding of the anger that the people already felt over their incompetence, corruption, arrogance, foolishness, cowardice, and embrace of destructive, divisive, unworkable Marxist ideas, and the degree to which a stolen election would be a match thrown toward the proverbial powder keg**. What is worse, they still don’t understand it, and think that they have enough remaining credibility that they can turn the situation to their advantage by having their media associates breathlessly exaggerate what anyone can see was a mildly rowdy protest (the only real act of violence coming at the hands of one of their own security enforcers who panicked and vastly overreacted to a complete non-threat), recasting it as a new Pearl Harbor.
You can’t reason with delusional people, as they do not have a sufficient connection to observable reality to be able to make sense out of it. So stop trying. Recent events are only accelerating the transformation of Disneyland into a paranoid armed camp; a gilded prison and insane asylum for people who have lost touch with the situation outside its gates every bit as much as the residents of Versailles or the Winter Palace ever did. Let it become that. Again I say: stay away from it. If the Magic Kingdom is determined to stay isolated from us and ignore what we have to say, then we should respond in kind by isolating them and ignoring what they have to say. Pressure (and support, where brave people do the right thing) should be applied at the state and local levels to encourage leaders there to do just that. This is the path forward for the immediate future (and sets the stage for longer-range goals, like permanent separation).
•As a final note, I’d like to let all of my readers know that I doubt that I will be writing much of anything further about Donald Trump, either in my longform pieces or anywhere else. I have nothing against the man personally. But he was never the answer to what ails our society; not long-term. He had good intentions, but he took the job not realizing what he was getting into; not understanding the forces he was dealing with. He thought this was still the country he grew up in, and that with gumption, hard work, and perseverance, he could turn it around. He had a dream, and now that dream is gone. I feel bad for him, and I wish him a peaceful retirement. But his moment upon history’s stage has now passed, and it’s time for us to move on from it and to concentrate on the future.
And quite an interesting future it will be.
(*The names of some locations may have been changed in this article in order to avoid attracting unwanted attention during this season of internet purges.)
(**One of the manifestations of this loss of touch with outside reality is the genuine shock with which Disneyland’s elites have reacted to things proceeding as they have over the past few months – including to all the recent talk of secession and/or civil war. But common folk have felt in their bones that something bad along those lines has been coming for a long time now. Call them “Modern Sporting Rifles” all you like, but Americans haven’t bought tens of millions of AR-15s over the past decade and a half because they thought they might someday need to hunt deer more efficiently. I am as great an advocate for the right of citizens to keep and bear arms as you will find anywhere, but even I will admit that people hoarding military-style assault rifles is not exactly the sign of a healthy society which believes it has a peaceful and prosperous future ahead of it. It’s a [perfectly reasonable] response to a national premonition – one that has been gnawing at us for years – that there are deeply troubled times ahead.)
Imagine if you will a certain business. It is founded by prudent men, and because of this, it grows and prospers. One of the effects of this prudence is that, as soon as the business is profitable enough to allow them to do so, the founders make sure that a certain amount of capital is available in reserve should they ever need it. Having been around the block a few times, they understand that any business hits setbacks, recessions come and go, investments sometimes fail for unforeseen reasons, unexpected crises often come up at the worst times, and that having a reserve to dip into when hard times come will allow the business to limp by until things get better.
Years pass, and the business eventually ends up hiring many impressively-educated but less-prudent young men. As they slowly rise through the ranks, some of them begin to question whether capital reserves are necessary at all, or if that’s just old-fashioned thinking that innovators such as themselves have rendered obsolete. They don’t understand why they should leave a pool of perfectly good capital sitting around doing nothing when they could pump up the business’s quarterly earnings numbers by putting it somewhere else that generates short-term profits (and increases their quarterly bonuses along the way).
Just then, a massive crisis hits the business, as a major investment starts to very visibly and publicly go bad. A shareholder revolt begins; they accuse the CEO (not unjustifiably) of having made this investment without having done due diligence, and then having dithered for far too long about what to do when it started to fail. The CEO resigns; a new one seems to bring things under control, but then gets caught in a scandal and ends up having to resign as well. Two more CEOs come and go in quick succession before someone is finally found who brings stability to the business. He begins to rebuild, including doing his best to refill the capital reserves, which were dipped into very deeply during the crisis. Many were sure that the business wouldn’t survive the crisis and, in truth, it was only the fact that the capital reserves were as deep as they were that ended up keeping it out of bankruptcy. Still, the damage done has meant that despite the best efforts of this new CEO, the reserves never quite get refilled to the point they were before the crisis.
A few years later, one of the impressively-educated young men ends up rising to the position of CEO, at an unprecedentedly young age. Like all of his peers, he seems to have learned nothing from the crisis other than the fact that smart, impressively-educated young men like himself should be running things instead of the dumb old fuddy-duddies who were in charge before. He believes himself smart enough that keeping capital reserves around anymore is unnecessary. Slowly, almost unnoticed, he begins to drain it away for use on other, more immediately profitable projects. For a while, this seems like a workable plan. Nothing comes up that would require the business to dip very deeply into the gradually shrinking pool of remaining reserves, and everyone counts on the idea that there will always be plenty left for the rare occasions when they need it. Some more years pass, a few CEOs of the younger generation come and go, and everything seems fine.
And then, over the course of a single horrible year, a succession of disasters hit the business, one right after the next. The last of these involves some underhanded boardroom maneuvering to oust the then-current CEO on a pretext of having put up a weak response to the year’s events (ignoring the obvious fact that none of the Board members could really have done any better). The irony of this is that he rose as a reformer, calling back to the greatness of the prudent founders and even trying to refill the business’s capital reserves. To what extent he ever did, it ends up being too little, too late. The Board installs a figurehead from within their own ranks. This is when they get a very unsettling message, delivered by an angry group of shareholders: according to their reckoning, the business’s capital reserves have just hit zero. If they had been as deep as they were during the first crisis, then perhaps, as happened back then, the business could have ended up barely scraping by to see better times. But this time, those reserves, which were never fully refilled after the first crisis, are gone, and with no credible plan to come back from the current crisis on offer, the shareholders are getting ready for a fight. Some of them go public, and the business’s stock price tanks – no amount of shilling from friendly news outlets is enough to stop it. Creditors start to send curt letters demanding to be paid. A bankruptcy court beckons.
* * *
As I would expect of you, dear reader, you have of course figured out that this is a metaphor for the current situation in which the nation finds itself. The first crisis is, of course, the 1960s, and the bad investment is the Vietnam War. The CEO who tried to rebuild is Reagan, and the younger CEO who failed to refill the reserves is Clinton. And the single horrible year is without doubt 2020. So far, so good – but here we reach the key to the entire metaphor: the fact that in our world, the “capital reserves” to which I’m referring aren’t of monetary capital, but of social capital, and the profits taken are measured not primarily in money, but in political power.
Well, political power is plain enough to understand, but what is social capital? Put simply, it is the bond that exists between people within a certain society; it is their sense of mutual trust, loyalty, obligation, and responsibility; it is what makes us say “We are one; we are all in this together”. These are the ties that bind a nation; that bind a people together. Once these bonds are severed – once the reserve of social capital reaches zero – then there is nothing that can hold things together but brute force. And this is where conflict begins.
Here it is worth noting that revolutions, uprisings, and civil wars basically never happen because of a single event or provocation from the government. It’s always decades worth of a slow build-up of resentments and grievances, some well-meaning attempts at reconciliation, compromises that worked for a while and then fell apart, disastrous misjudgments that seemed like a good idea at the time, false starts, heat-ups, cool-offs, points at which it looked like it would all blow over and everything would be okay, and many, many voices who were convinced that it was all unthinkable and could never happen. At each point of failure along the way, reserves of social capital were depleted a little more.
Again, this is a gradual process, and it is easy to believe that because a nation has made it through one crisis – or two, or five – by the skin of its teeth, that means it can make it through an infinite number of crises. In fact, many take exactly the wrong lesson away from making it through a brush with bankruptcy – either of monetary capital or of social capital. My dad once told me, “It’s not people’s failures that kill them; it’s their successes”. For example: someone might drive drunk once, wreck their car but survive, and decide then and there that drunk driving is a terrible idea and never do it again. But another person may drive drunk once, make it home safely, and convince themselves that means they can handle it just fine. So they’ll do it over and over again, each time a little drunker, and each time increasing the odds that they’ll end up dead a little more. Eventually, inevitably, the odds will catch up with them.
This is an essential part of the spirit of permanent revolution that drives the left. They understand that they made it through the first crisis with essentially no pushback at all – in fact, the crisis of the 60s only ended with appeasement. From abortion to Affirmative Action to mass Third World immigration to the abandonment of our allies in Vietnam, the Boomers and their parents bought 50 years of peace by giving the left essentially everything they wanted. If we had been wise and farsighted, we would have drawn the line early. But as typical, especially of those two generations, the nation went for short-term benefit and thought nothing of leaving their grandchildren stuck with the consequences.
But fanatics can never be appeased, and this only served to convince the left that their inclination toward permanent revolution – ever-more outrageous and insane demands – was an infinitely winning strategy. And so they pushed harder and harder, eventually demanding such once-unthinkable things as the extinction of the White race, the abolishment of all borders*, the de facto criminalization of traditional Christian teaching, and the persecution of anyone who speaks out against them. They have done so convinced that the reserves of social capital which prevented the rise of any effective resistance to them and the civic institutions that they had captured would never run dry. For a long time, it looked like they were right.
And then came the Great Crisis of 2020 – the lockdowns, the riots, and the stolen presidential election. To say that it has drained our reserves of social capital dangerously low would be an understatement. Finally now it is the right that is saying once-unthinkable things, as words like “nullification”, “revolution”, and “secession” ring through the air for the first time in living memory. And of course, in the face of this, the left has only intensified its drive for permanent revolution. At this point, nothing foreseeable could replenish a supply of social capital this low, and the only thing remaining in our elites’ bag of tricks – a foreign war – would only make things worse. We are very, very close to hitting zero.
Which brings us to perhaps the most important question in terms of your own individual readiness for what’s to come: Just how close are we? How long do we have until we reach the point of social capital bankruptcy, and the next step – be that war, balkanization, tyranny, or the rise of a Caesar – begins? The truth is that I don’t know exactly. Depending on your point of view, it may take more time than you’re expecting, or less. A year ago, I would have said it would take 20 or 30 years; now I fear it come much more immediately – anytime from literally tomorrow to perhaps, at most, ten years hence. But it will happen; what I can say for sure is that the events of this year have made what is coming inevitable, and sooner rather than later. We aren’t the country we were in 1968, and the 2020s just don’t have the social capital reserves necessary to leverage the kind of Great Cooling-Off that we had in the 1970s**. There won’t be any buying of two generations’ worth of peace this time – that trick worked once, but it won’t work again.
Prepare yourselves accordingly.
(*I do, of course, understand that mass immigration of immiscible people from alien cultures has had a terrible effect on our social capital as well. But is that a cause, or an effect of the depletion of social capital brought on by permanent revolution? Perhaps it is both. Either way, it is not the cause of our current situation, and only accelerates a process that has been underway for a long time now.)
(**Here I want to emphasize that I don’t expect a perfectly even, linear progression toward the inevitable. We will see flareups and cooldowns along the way, including some points at which things may even seem for a while be headed back to “normal” [whatever that might mean to you]. But these will be relatively brief – we’re not getting another half-century of calm, as our parents and grandparents managed to. The can will not be kicked very much farther down the road.)