by Victor Davis Hanson
Once upon a time long ago, we agreed there were certain immutable laws of human nature. These laws were based on facts, reality, and data.
In other words, we accepted common sense about the way the world worked according to logical and even “scientific” principles. That assumption defined us as “enlightened” rather than Dark Age reductionists and ideological- or myth-driven zealots.
Not now. “Progressives,” especially the media, are most often regressive, anti-Enlightenment, and intolerant people, who start with a deductive premise and then make the evidence conform to it—or else.
For example, we used to believe that if the government printed more money without commensurate sudden rises in population or economic output, inflation followed. And money cheapened in value all the more so if the government simultaneously both incentivized labor non-participation through over generous entitlements, and promised or enacted higher taxes and more regulations. The latter inevitably would discourage production as demand from a stimulated economy rose.
In 100 days, we’ve either done all of those things or, at least sent messages to producers that we shall do so shortly. Why then are we surprised that monthly consumer prices are spiking after nearly 20 years of very low inflation? Why are our essentials such as lumber, gasoline, housing, appliances, and food skyrocketing? Is the current idea that there is no science of economics? Or is inflation good by “spreading the wealth” through decreasing the value of money for those who have too much of it?
Deterrence is also an ancient law. Humans make instant cost-benefit analyses and act accordingly—from nation states that weigh the advisability of war to potential criminals who gauge the chances of their arrest and punishment.
In deterrent terms along the border, what happens if the United States signals Latin America and Mexico that it will cease construction on an effective border wall, promise in advance blanket amnesties, reinstate “catch and release” rules, stop prior efforts to recalibrate easy “refugee status,” and pull back from detaining unlawful border crossers? Logically, would not potential illegal immigrants believe that the rewards of U.S. healthcare, safety, housing subsidies, entitlement support, education, and even affirmative action outweigh the increasing unlikelihood of meeting resistance at the border—or any later consequences for residing illegally in the United States?
The result is now true “chaos” at the border. Tens of thousands of unvetted immigrants illegally stream into the United States, in a fashion that is not diverse, not legal, not meritocratic, and not measured—the old foundations of rapid melting-pot assimilation.
Did the Biden Administration simply by fiat declare that such obvious human laws did not apply to their superior moral impulses? Or did it deliberately violate them to change the demography of the American southwest in ways that eventually will benefit the hard Left? Likewise, could it be that rising crime is due to efforts to defund or cut back police forces, or allowing criminals to be freed without bail, or district attorneys not prosecuting crimes deemed matters of social justice.
Nation-states, like people, acknowledge the laws of deterrence. Signal to the Middle East that crippling sanctions against Iran are ending. Assure the world that the United States will be cutting back on domestic fossil fuel development and thus inevitably will become more dependent on others who produce “dirty” oil and gas. Assume that America now trusts Iranian negotiators and thus will reenter the Iran nuclear deal. Attest that the Palestinians are again front and center in all Middle East diplomacy. Act as if Israel no longer enjoys the full support of the United States, as money pours into Palestinian coffers without audit. Deride the Abraham Accords. And, finally, treat Iran, Hezbollah, and Hamas as if they are the Middle East intersectional counterparts to marginalized people of color in the United States (Israel playing Derek Chauvin to Hamas’s George Floyd). Is not all that logic assurance that there would be a war within 100 days?
Surely, even the woke Biden Administration knows something about deterrence. So was it naïve—or simply “leveling the playfield” to ensure Shiites and Persians were affirmed to receive their “fair share” of Middle East respect and influence, while Israel and the Gulf States surrendered their unearned privilege?
The War Against Science and Logic
To violate natural laws requires mocking empiricism, science, and data, or at least reducing them to irrelevance—for political, careerist, or ideological agendas.
Take the now infamous and pseudo-scientific “Steele dossier” and the “Russian collusion” mythography. From 2016 to 2018 Christopher Steele’s high school-like, jargon-filled, mish-mash folder was cited as near scientific “proof” of Trump’s perversions, treason, and various corruptions.
Steele, we were told, was a Russian “expert.” He was a “seasoned” British intelligence officer, albeit “retired,” with access to impeccable (though anonymous) sources.
CNN and MSNBC wheeled out all sorts of former FBI and CIA “professionals”—headed by ex-CIA chief John Brennan, and former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, both previously known for admitting to lying to Congress under oath.
All our experts periodically “confirmed” Steele’s impeccable “credentials.” And then suddenly, 22 months after Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation was jump started in part by a leaked “dossier,” it folded. There was no evidence of actionable “collusion.” Abruptly, “expert” spy Christopher Steele offered no sources to substantiate his “data” or “revelations.” The cable news heartthrob quietly was reduced to the status of Ponzi-schemer Bernie Madoff. There were no more media “bombshells” and “walls are closing in” Steele dossier revelations.
Mueller, the architect of the dream team special investigation and himself a former FBI director, suddenly claimed under oath he had no idea who Christopher Steele even was, much less what his dossier said. James Comey, yet another revered ex-FBI director, whose leaks jump started the Mueller special counsel probe, claimed more than 250 times under congressional oath he could not remember, or did not know much of anything—often in reference to the information in or used as a result of the dossier. In the end, the sum total of the science, the dossier, the data, and the experts proved only to be what a group of corrupt bureaucrats, media ideologues, and Clinton partisans found useful for their own agendas.
Do we remember last year’s “science” behind the origins of the Wuhan virus? Our alphabetized bicoastal “medical professionals” followed the “science” in assuring us that the virus originated with bats—or were they pangolins?—in a “wet” meat market. The scientific chorus echoed the “impossibility” that the “viral sequencing” could ever have been altered by humans. To suggest so, was racist, xenophobic, Trumpian, and backward.
A lab origin theory was left only to Neanderthals and the-earth-is-6,000-years-old deplorables, of an “anti-science,” know-nothing sort. Yet just a short distance away from the supposed ground-zero wet market, there was coincidentally a Level-4 virology lab with ties to Chinese military. And it was known to engage in “gain of function” viral research of the most dangerous sort. The lab’s sloppiness had gained the attention of visiting U.S. medical professionals.
No matter. The unlettered who do not read the New York Times or the Washington Post, or follow the fact-checkers, or listen to NPR were further roundly disregarded when they wondered why, if the virus sprung naturally from innocent meat peddlers, did the Chinese Communist government go to such great lengths to lie about the dates of the virus’s likely birth, and the nature of its transmission? Why were they ostracizing, censoring, or “disappearing” any of their own scientists capable of giving an accurate account of what, if any, might be the connections between the lab and the virus?
For good measure, our own “scientists” and “professionals,” from the mendacious Dr. Anthony Fauci to multibillionaire tech wizard Bill Gates, assured us that China was transparent. They had no reason to hide anything, they added. And, indeed, China was doing its best as a good global citizen to join in the global effort to stop this naturally occurring virus—albeit from time to time lying that the lab “hoax” was mostly either a racist Trump Administration talking point or a cover-up of the U.S. military’s creation of the virus.
Then suddenly . . . poof!
The faith-based “science” melted. Reason returned. The lab was suddenly seen as much more logically the birthplace of the SARS-CoV- 2 virus. Despite his protestations and denials from authority, Fauci, our epidemiological and virology “expert,” really did approve U.S. funds to be routed through Dr. Peter Daszak’s EcoHealth Alliance to help conduct gain-of-function research at Wuhan, despite Congress banning such funding.
We also learned, mirabile dictu, that Daszak had assembled an “international team of experts” to reassure the world that the Chinese research at the Wuhan lab—that he supported and had financially enhanced—had nothing to do with the COVID-19 pandemic. That “scientific,” explanation, a euphemism for an ideological and careerist-based cover story, is now inert. And Daszak has joined the likes of Fauci and WHO’s director Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus as those “experts” whose scientific judgment cannot be fully trusted because they proved all too human in their worries over careers, reputations, and politics.
The Dark Age Mind
What can learn from the rise of this new Dark Age mindset?
1) Ignoring reason is easier than abiding by it. Printing money, for example, is easier than paying it back later—but easiest of all when we swear that there is no longer a need to pay it back at all.
2) Falsifying knowledge is always justified by higher moral purposes—in our case progressivism substituting for religious doctrine. Laws of human nature and logic are merely constructs when it is a matter of welcoming in the oppressed from Latin America or substituting race-based quotas for meritocratic criteria, or comparing Israelis to racist 1980s apartheid South Africans or Nazis.
3) Modernism is a poor cloak of age-old ignorance. Living in the 21st century is no guarantee that humans will not act as if they are in the 16th. Our modern-day inquisitors share the same anti-science fury as those who put Galileo under house arrest for the crime of Copernicanism. Claiming that “white supremacists” are responsible for current epidemics of violence against Jews and Asian-Americans—when most data and evidence point, in the former case, to Hamas supporters, and, in the latter, most frequently to African-American males, is our version of institutionalized geocentrism.
4) “Authority” is often a construct, if it is not based on, and continually audited by, meritorious achievement. Letter combinations like B.S., M,S,, Ph.D., M.D., a string of alphabetically abbreviated agency affiliations, and name-dropped university ties are no substitute for humility, common sense, and a disinterested mind. Anthony Fauci is no more immune from Juvenal’s age-old warning “Who will police the police?” than is Derek Chauvin, or, for that matter, the Marxist real estate investor and her fellow grifters at Black Lives Matter.
5) Balzac’s famous platitude “Behind every great fortune lies a great crime” can be applied to false knowledge: “Behind all pseudoscience is an agenda.” Christopher Steele really did despise Donald Trump. Steele felt his lies were noble as long as they empowered Hillary Clinton and his firewall employers. Ditto the legions of his aiders and abettors. The decision of our international pharmaceutical companies, and their government enablers, to insist that those with acquired antibodies from a prior COVID infection still needed to be vaccinated promptly—when available vaccinations were scarce in January and February and Americans were still dying in droves—was not predicated by the “science,” but either by groupthink or financial considerations.
6) The scientific/unscientific establishment stymies outsiders and claims they pay no attention to “proven science.” In classics, some of the greatest breakthroughs in knowledge about the ancient world came from Heinrich Schliemann, George Grote, Milman Parry, and Michael Ventris. All were eccentrics, and often non-classicists. Take away the supposed “nuts” like Generals William Tecumseh Sherman, Curtis LeMay, George S. Patton, and Matthew Ridgway and the United States would have lost tens of thousands of more lives in its wars as we listened to their supposedly more sober and judicious betters.
7) The enemy of science is always dogma. In the medieval period, dogmas were often ossified Aristotelian concepts that were institutionalized by the Church on the theory they enhanced Christian exegesis and ritual, or, if lost, would eventually lead to an erosion of authority. In our era, the new religion is progressivism that prohibits free discussion of most of the major issues of modern life: When is life established in the womb? What is the degree of man-made climate change versus natural, cyclical climate change? Which groups are most likely to commit hate crimes? Is sex biologically determined or culturally constructed? What is the role of cultural attitudes in crime and social dependency?
It may seem a stretch to suggest that the Left is leading us back to the pre-Enlightenment, given its corporate wealth, academic monopolies, Silicon Valley technological wizardry, and progressive sanctimoniousness. But arrogance, wealth, and received authority are always the super-spreaders and force-multipliers of false knowledge, and none more so than in the present age.
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Victor Davis Hanson is a distinguished fellow of the Center for American Greatness and the Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution. He is an American military historian, columnist, a former classics professor, and scholar of ancient warfare. He has been a visiting professor at Hillsdale College since 2004. Hanson was awarded the National Humanities Medal in 2007 by President George W. Bush. Hanson is also a farmer (growing raisin grapes on a family farm in Selma, California) and a critic of social trends related to farming and agrarianism. He is the author most recently of The Second World Wars: How the First Global Conflict Was Fought and Won and The Case for Trump.