by Victor Davis Hanson
The 1960s revolution was both anarchic and nihilist. But it was waged against – not from – the establishment. Hippies and the Left either attacked institutions or, in Timothy Leary fashion, chose to “turn on, tune in, drop out” from them.
The current revolution is much different – and far more dangerous – for at least three reasons.
The Establishment Is the Revolution
The current Left has no intention of “dropping out.” Why would it?
It now controls the very institutions of America that it once mocked and attacked – corporate boardrooms, Wall Street, state and local prosecuting attorneys, most big-city governments, the media, the Pentagon, network and most of cable news, professional sports, Hollywood, music, television, K-12 education, and academia.
In other words, the greatest levers of influence and power – money, education, entertainment, government, the news, and popular culture – are in the hands of the Left. They have transformed legitimate debate over gay marriage into a hate crime. Transgenderism went from a modern manifestation of ancient transvestism or gender dysphoria to a veritable litmus test of whether one was good or evil.
Students have no need to jam administrators’ offices because the latter, themselves, are as radical as the protestors and often lead them on in a top-down fashion. Had they not long ago demonstrated they were perfectly willing to subvert meritocracy, free expression, and equality under the law, they would not be occupying their present positions.
Apple, Google, Facebook, and other tech companies are not 1980s and 1990s “alternative” media geeks and hipsters creating neat gadgets for the people. They are not Steve Jobs and his pugnacious Apple battling the evil Microsoft or IBM, or the Macintosh commercial of 1984 depicting a maverick throwing a hammer into Big Brother’s screen. They are the Orwellian screen.
The current generation of techies is effectively Stalinist. Big Tech now colludes with the FBI, the Democratic Party, and the bureaucratic state to suppress free expression, warp balloting, and serve as contractors of government surveillance. Currently, the most totalitarian people in America are likely to wear flip flops, have a nose ring or pink hair, and disguise their fascism with ’60s-retread costumes.
There are no “armies of the night” marching on the Pentagon. Would-be demonstrators see no need, since radical identity politics, and gay, woke, and transgendered agendas are fast-tracked by the Department of Defense.
There are no protests against the Immigration and Customs Enforcement bureau or the “La Migra” anymore by advocates of illegal immigration, because the Left owns the border. And it has utterly destroyed it. There is no border, no border enforcement, and no meaningful immigration law. As many as 6 million illegal entries during the first two years of the Biden Administration are proof enough of that.
There are no cutting-edge Lenny Bruces or Mort Sahls fighting state censorship because entertainers accept that 1) there are no impediments to vulgarity or pornographic expression, but 2) no comic or commentator dares to take on the diversity, equity, and inclusion woke industry because he assumes he would be crushed, and his career ruined.
Question the woke status quo, and one is not canonized in Vanity Fair or Rolling Stone as a fighter against the “uptight establishment” or “the man” as in the past, but now demonized as a racist purveyor of “hate speech” and enemy of the people.
The Left does not despise the FBI. It lauds it. And the bureau is no longer consumed with tracking down violent criminals and terrorists. Instead, it has become an enemy of parents worried about school indoctrination, or a retrieval service for lost first-family classified papers, laptops and diaries, or a Washington, D.C., cadre knee-deep in big money politics.
FBI agents are praised on left–wing media – given they have been activist conspirators who sought to destroy conservative candidates, deleted subpoenaed data, lied to federal investigators or committees while under oath, colluded with Russian oligarchs, doctored court evidence, and paid foreign nationals to compile campaign dirt on American citizens.
There are no longer calls for a “three strikes” solution to violent crime as in the past, or talk of adopting the successful, time-tried “broken windows” theories of law enforcement, because there is no enforcement to modulate. The debate is no longer over enforcing the law, because de facto there is no law.
The new legal establishment has replaced the old by simply nuking centuries of jurisprudence. Violent repeat criminal offenders injure and maim innocents in the morning and are released by noon to prey again – themselves baffled that the state is even crazier than they are.
Note in the 2020-2021 riots, almost no one temporarily arrested was tried, despite $2 billion in damages, upwards of 40 violent deaths, the 1,500 injured law enforcement officers, and the torching of a courthouse, police precinct, and historic Washington, D.C., church. Instead, they were lauded by a mayor as participants in a “summer of love.” Seattle and Washington simply ceded city property to the violent protestors as if they occupied it by right of their superior morality.
The summation of the entire sordid summer was the CNN chyron assuring America that the protests on their screens were “mostly peaceful” as flames shot up to the sky in the background. In the 1960s, rioters forced social welfare concessions – or else! – on the establishment. Today the establishment welcomes urban unrest as an excuse to implement agendas that in normal times would be unpalatable.
In sum, we are living in anarchy, as institutions themselves have become nihilistic and weapons of the revolution. The Left, in viral fashion, took over the DNA of America’s institutions, and used them to help destroy their creators.
If we are bewildered why Harvard law-graduate prosecutors let out violent criminals just hours after their arrests; or why hyper-rich, pampered athletes who live in near-apartheid enclaves insult the flag, ignore the National Anthem, and sloganeer woke platitudes, it is because they were taught to undermine the status quo by fundamentally becoming it.
In our present anarchy, $7 a dozen eggs are affordable. Unaffordable gas prices become merely necessary “transitions” to fossil fuels. A “secure” border means there is none. Natural gas must be banned because it supposedly causes asthma. Tens of thousands of homeless defecate, urinate, inject, and fornicate in the increasingly vacant downtowns of Los Angeles and San Francisco, as the Golden Bear state, California, discusses reintroducing Grizzly bears.
Cars and yards are evil, elevators, high-rises, and buses sacred. There are 81 genders (and counting), with even more names for them. “Racist” is our exclamation point, fillip, a mere add-on emphatic. Everything from SAT tests to obesity to working out is racist. When little is racist, then everything must become racist.
Batter someone to a pulp and you are out of jail in six hours; claim an election was suspicious and you can be in there for six months or more. Proven merit is a pejorative. Grades are deemed useless by those who could never earn As. Boilerplate equity oaths are the best guide to hiring, retention, and admission. The ACLU or the Anti-Defamation League exist only to spot the incorrect kind of censorship and the wrong kind of antisemitism.
Macintosh Becomes MacBeth
The second contribution to the present anarchy is big tech, which speeds up the revolution and spreads it broadly. Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four was predicated not just on the Sovietization of the state, but the electronically ubiquitous and near instantaneous means by which the apparat ensures its dominance. One of the strangest things about the Left is that it no longer warns of 1984 but emulates it.
How the Left became synonymous with the Internet, social media, mobile phones, pads, and laptops is a long story. But let it be said the Left, and not conservatives, have mastered them all. It has manipulated high tech to change the way we vote, access information, communicate, consume the news, buy, and sell, and express ourselves. In sum, they run Oceania and we work for their various bureaus.
Our tech complex has combined the ethos of the 19th-century monopoly with the Chinese Communist system of mass ideological manipulation. The result is that the old Twitter or Facebook mob can ruin a career in a nanosecond. Google can manipulate the order of search results to render you a clueless Winston Smith bewildered by the alternate “reality” that pops up on your computer screen.
Wikipedia is pseudo-official falsification. Trotskization relied on scissors and paste; cancel culture can end you by a split-second use of the delete button – and erase you to 7 billion on the planet.
Big Money, Big Woke
Globalization hollowed out the red-state interior and enriched the blue bicoastal elite. Wealth in mining, farming, construction, manufacturing, and assembly became dwarfed by riches of investment, high tech, social media, law, insurance, and real estate. The former were the up-by-the boot straps conservatives, the latter one day rich and the next moment through hype, investment, and venture capital, richer than anyone in the history of civilization.
The wealthiest ZIP codes and congressional districts are blue, not red. Most of the Fortune 400 billionaires are left-wing. So, there is no ’60s-style talk about the evils of corporations and the supposedly idle rich, none of the old conspiracy theories about Anaconda Copper, ITT, or the Rockefellers.
The corporations are the Left and in service to it. Disney, American Airlines, and Nike are revolutionary icons, always ready to divest, cancel, fire, hire, and propagandize in service to woke commissars. That they are terrified by tiny bullies who have no constituencies is true, but then a Robespierre, Lenin, and Mao had initially no broad support either – at least before each mastered the use of terror and fright.
In our anarchy, “dark money” like Mark Zuckerberg’s $419 million cash infusion into the 2020 balloting processes is now suddenly good, given it is almost all leftwing. Democrats outraise Republicans in campaign contributions by anywhere from three- to five-to-one. Bundling is noble.
Netflix can buy the brand name of the Obamas for $100 million; George Soros can spend his pocket change of $40 million to elect district attorneys to destroy the law and empower criminals. Jimmy Carter used to be the poor-man idol of the old Democratic Party. Today, there is hardly a Democratic president, ex-president, or presidential candidate who is not a multi-multimillionaire – most by leveraging their heightened political profile.
What anarchy we live in when the richest among us are the most radical and wish to destroy for all others what they enjoy.
John Kerry lectures us on climate change from his private jet. Your leaf blower, not his Gulfstream GIV-SP, is the global threat. Al Gore screams about the evils of carbon emissions – after pocketing $100 million by selling his failed and worthless cable station to smoky and sooty Qatar, fronting for the antisemitic Al Jazeera.
The Clintons feel the pain of the poor all the way to their $100 million fortune from shakedown lectures, Wall Street, “consulting,” and “foundation” contributions. Van Jones, CNN expert, the object of Valerie Jarrett’s oohing and awing, famous for his “whitelash” exegeses, and recipient of a $100 million Bezos award, now lectures us that the five rogue black policemen in Memphis, who beat to death a black suspect, are still proof of white racism that accounts for blacks belittling the lives of blacks.
In our present anarchy, we take seriously the lectures on microaggressions from the Duchess of Montecito. The Obamas weigh in on the dangers of climate change and rising seas from their seaside, multimillion-dollar Martha’s Vineyard estate, or Hawaii beachfront mansion that apparently has an invisible climate-change barrier on its beach. Kamala Harris is our border czar who assures us it is “secure,” defined by 5 million illegal entries since she took office.
Nancy Pelosi works for the “children” and, after a life in politics, that selflessness ends up worth $100 million from her husband’s insider real estate deals and stock tips. It is almost as if socialist Bernie Sanders owned three homes, or anti-capitalist Elizabeth Warren was once a house flipper.
So, the current revolution is anarchy, utter confusion, pure chaos.
Every time one turns on a computer, there will be someone or something somewhere ideologically warping its use. Your vote means nothing when California cannot account for 10 million automatically, computer-guided mailed-out ballots. That state is still in a drought, defined by releasing most of the water to the ocean that the wettest winter in memory produced.
Stanford students talk revolution, Antifa, and Black Lives Matter, and want to forbid the use of “American.” But from the look of their parking lots, they cannot decide whether Lexus, BMW, or Mercedes should be the most preferred campus car. Oprah and Whoopi suffer terribly from white supremacy. Jussie the foot soldier heroically took on one MAGA thug for each of his foot kicks.
“Don’t take off your mask” at a California McDonald’s means the man who ordered that edict is maskless at the French Laundry. “Don’t get your hair done during the lockdown” means the architect of that fiat sneaks around her salon, which she has all to herself.
The common denominator to the anarchy? The hardcore Left is your FBI, CIA, and Justice Department all in one. It is Nineteen Eighty-Four. It is our era’s J. P. Morgan.
No wonder we are confused by the establishment anarchists and the anarchy they produce.
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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.
Photo “Joe Biden, Nancy Pelosi and Kamala Harris” by The White House.