Alright, let’s just call the present iconoclasm what it is: a moral panic. Doing so obviously puts one at risk of being placed on the wrong side of history — or worse, being labeled a racist — but a moral panic it is nonetheless.
Those who have been predicting doom and gloom for our Western civilization (such as yours truly) can hardly be surprised by what is going on. As I’ve been saying for a while, our youth have been steeped in a pernicious moral relativism for a dangerously long period of time now. Nothing good could come of it. As Andrew Sullivan noted the other day, “we all live on campus now.”
Nevertheless, the speed with which it is all materializing is baffling even to the most pessimistic of us. It begs the question: Why now? We went from riots at Trump’s inauguration and in Charlottesville to #metoo, Kavanaugh and the present bout of rioting, looting and defacing of history. Even as the root causes of the event, to be found deep in the bowels of academia, are plain as day to anybody who is willing to learn about them, it was neither inevitable nor foreseeable that this amount of anger and stupidity would surface this fast and right this moment. Something else must be contributing as well.
Bill Whittle made the interesting observation recently that young people don’t read any longer but instead consume videos and photos. Whereas reading tickles the part of the brain which deals in logic and reason, he argued, imagery and audio are processed by the part which handles our emotions and feelings. This made me think about Jon Haidt’s and Greg Lukianoff’s excellent book The Coddling of the American Mind, in which they relate novel curiosities such as cry-ins, safe spaces and cancel culture to the fact that depression and other mental health issues have risen dramatically among modern-day teenagers. They cite research which indicates “that the rapid spread of smartphones and social media into the lives of teenagers, beginning around 2007, is the main cause of the mental health crisis that began around 2011.”
Let me rephrase the above for you: Instead of learning to reason through the art of reading, where multiple arguments in favor and against a certain position are presented and processed and the reader has to weigh these in order to come to a balanced conclusion of his own, our young get depressed scrolling through Facebook and Twitter all day, where they consume too many videos about political and cultural issues. The stuff they see is not just biased, but devoid of any wider context, like the videos showing cops killing a black person. The question isn’t asked, much less answered, what the circumstances were which led to the act transpiring in 15 seconds on their screen. Nor will they find any videos in which white people are killed by cops or blacks by other blacks, both of which actually occur at higher frequencies, because footage of such events is rarely shared. But the video these Twitter warriors do get their hands on sure pulls at their heartstrings.
Anybody paying attention to this all-around stupidity spawned by social media as well as the thorough indoctrination taking place inside the university lecture halls, where Cultural Marxism and postmodernism are all the rage these days, can hardly be shocked by the mayhem going on in many of our cities’ streets at the moment.
Mind you, the first smartphone generation graduated from college in 2011, and these people are 31 years old today. The problem only metastasized after that. This means there’s an entire cohort of college-educated elites — if “educated” we can call them — who came of age with an iPhone in their hand and are now between 18 and 30 years old. It’s members of this group who are currently embarking on this little Cultural Revolution.
This is truly scary stuff. On the one hand, one would hope there are enough good-natured Americans left who disagree with what they’re seeing. After all, even a near-majority of Democratic voters support sending in the military to quell the riots, a poll from just a few weeks ago found. There’s good reason to believe that, in the midst of all the chaos and noise in the media as well as on the streets, there indeed exists a silent majority on these matters. This majority may share the indignation on the part of the protesters over the killing of George Floyd, but at the same time back off when the radical wing of the Democratic Party starts railing about defunding the police. There could be serious consequences for this lunacy come November.
On the other hand, history has shown more than once that, to put it in Burke’s famous words, the only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good folks to do nothing. The people of St. Petersburg woke up on the morning of November 7, 1917 to find that the Bolsheviks had seized control of the Russian government while they were asleep, and lacked both the power and the organization to do much about it. A tiny minority can change the course of history — for better or worse.
The Democratic Party, from the bigwigs in D.C. all the way down to the local level, is tacitly endorsing the rioters by not speaking out, if not actively encouraging them. There’s a reason why all of this is happening in Democrat-controlled cities. “Silence is violence” indeed. The irony here is that the party’s pandering leadership will find out soon enough that figures such as Nancy Pelosi and Joe Biden are too old, too white, and especially too moderate for the mob as well. The sans-culottes will be coming for them soon enough, and at that point the revolution will start to eat its own.
Regardless of what will happen in the next five months or so, it is clear that our culture of Facebook outrage and Twitter mobs is in large part fueled by the very nature of these social media, which have done their part to turn our young into brainless and depressed idiots prone to get violent in the name of a sketchy Utopian cause. As they inject their daily dose of self-righteousness, the nation suffers.