Nothing New Under the Sun

Nothing New Under the Sun

It’s not often we find ourselves in stark disagreement with Rod Dreher, but today is one such occasion.  Dreher, from his new-ish home in Hungary, has seen what is happening on American campuses and the political responses to it, and he is worried.  He believes that we are witnessing “the birth pangs of a new order”:

Note well that these same students at top universities are the next generation of the ruling class. Just as the soixante-huitards in Europe, and their co-generationalists in North America, later became the politicians and institutional leaders, these radicalized students will be administering the systems tomorrow….

[W]e are all watching the disintegration of the most important institutions within Western democracies….

“We are facing a moment that is as big as 1914, or worse,” an economist said to me recently, about the general decadence. Yes. What is happening now on America’s elite campuses may be the birth pangs of something very ugly—either of the Left or the Right, it’s hard to say—slouching towards Bethlehem to be born. If so, then remember this: the ideological and institutional fertility of the Left, and the feeble sterility of the parties of the Right, will have collaborated to produce a monster.

Now, to be fair, we don’t have much problem with the substance of what Dreher is saying here.  What is happening on American elite university campuses, in Washington, and in the streets of the other great cities of the West is shocking, depressing, and disconcerting.  He is spot on about that.  Instead, our disagreement is with his contention that these are the “birth pangs” of a “new” order.  This order is not new, and this is not its birth.  This order is nearly three centuries old, and this is, in many ways, its logical conclusion, rather than its beginning.

We’ve been writing about this “new order” for at least 26 years, since the days when Bill Clinton was diddling an intern not much older than his daughter, while both he and his political allies nevertheless claimed the moral high ground because of “who they fought for” and the sentiments they embraced.  Moreover, we noted the American and Western origins of this new order in The Dictatorship of Woke Capital, when we wrote, in its introduction, that “our story begins as all stories of misguided and malicious politics in the West begin, with the Enlightenment. But for the sake of practicality, we can reasonably skip the first one hundred–plus years after this watershed and start our story in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1876.”

What we are witnessing, in other words, and what Dreher is noticing is the latest and, perhaps, most distressing manifestation of our “clash of moral codes” theme.  It started with the Enlightenment, and it took hold in the United States at least, with the advent of the Progressive movement – which consolidated its thoughts and thinkers at Johns Hopkins in the 1870s.

To further illustrate our point, consider the following from Chris Rufo, also published yesterday, by The Daily Wire:

Recent headlines about UCLA School of Medicine suggest that the institution has lost its focus. Instead of brushing up on organic chemistry, its students were subjected to lessons on “Indigenous womxn” and “two-spirits.” Future doctors had to take a class on “structural racism” and were led in a “Free Palestine” chant by a Hamas-praising guest speaker. The school made plans to segregate students by race for courses on left-wing ideology, and two of its psychiatry residents championed “revolutionary suicide.”

Why has the school charted this course? One reason is its commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion ideology. UCLA has a DEI program called “Cultural North Star,” and at the medical school, it is led by Natalie J. Perry. Her official biography says her job is to “embed our aspirational Cultural North Stars [sic] value [sic] in our organizational DNA.” UCLA honored Perry last month for teaching students to “do what’s right,” saying her “empathy and radical listening” are to thank for her “success as an educator and a leader.”

According to a Daily Wire and City Journal investigation, however, Perry’s academic career is based on fraud. Perry has published a single paper, a 2014 Ph.D. dissertation at the University of Virginia about how colleges should create larger DEI programs. An analysis of the paper found it ridden with the worst sort of plagiarism, reproducing large swaths of text directly from several other authors, without citations. The scale of the plagiarism suggests that Perry lacks both ethics and competence and raises questions about academic programs that push DEI.

So…what we have here is a woman who is a thief.  She is an intellectual burglar, who stole the thoughts and words of others without citing them or even, for that matter, acknowledging them in any way.  She, like her contemporaries, enables the ritual demonization of Jews while praising their murderers.  She encourages, if indirectly, self-immolation as noble political speech.  And her employer believes that her job is teaching kids to “do what’s right.”  Because of course it does.  It doesn’t matter to UCLA – or anyone else on its side of the clash of moral codes – what she did or what she does.  She could have reprinted “The Communist Manifesto” verbatim as her dissertation for all they care.  All that matters to them is that she supports the right people and causes.  She holds the proper beliefs about power and oppression.  In short, she shares their values.  Never mind if she lacks anything even resembling a virtue.  She’s one of them.  And that makes her good, and righteous, and oh so important.

What we are seeing on campus today – the rebirth of antisemitism, the intellectual encouragement of Jew hatred, the blind and uncritical support for radicals and murderers, the demands for new and wholly perverse power relationships – is the distillation of many of the themes about which we’ve written endlessly over the years.  It’s the clash of moral codes.  It’s the triumph of values over virtues.  It’s the politicization of everything and the consequent waging of Total War in the Total State.  It is the rise of anti-realist epistemologies and the desertion of objectivity.  It’s the triumph of quasi-religious weltanschauungs and the onset quasi-religious eschatological fervor.  It’s all of this and more.

It is, as Rod Dreher says, important and ugly and proto-totalitarian.

But it isn’t new.  It’s been with us all along, part of civilization for nearly three hundred years.  And will be around long after this particular fit of rage has burned itself out.

Stephen Soukup
Stephen Soukup
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Steve Soukup is the Vice President and Publisher of The Political Forum, an “independent research provider” that delivers research and consulting services to the institutional investment community, with an emphasis on economic, social, political, and geopolitical events that are likely to have an impact on the financial markets in the United States and abroad.