The way I see it, there are basically three things going on in America right now that matter. Everything else (yes, even the Harry and Meghan interview) is either a distraction, or else it’s one of the same three things masquerading as a separate news cycle unto itself.
But these three Big Deal items don’t boil down to any individual event, or even to any particular partisan axe that conservatives or liberals might like to grind. They are deeper than that — they are tectonic. Taken together, they suggest some important things about the present state of our American crisis, and about what is to be done.
Critical Race Theory and Cancel Culture: The Final Boss
The first Big Deal is that cancel culture and Critical Race Theory, which are really the same thing, have joined forces and are rapidly evolving into their final boss form. This final form will likely not be the Stalinist Gulags we joke nervously about online. It will be something more like “Capitalism with American Characteristics,” a CCP-inspired hybrid of fake free-market economics with immutable and oppressive cultural dogmas.
Want a book on Amazon? You can have absolutely any book in the entire world you want — if you can afford it, and if it says the right things. You probably can’t afford it, because “the pandemic” (read: the gang of chuckleheads who used the pandemic as an excuse to piledrive the American economy) robbed you of your livelihood. Or maybe you used to have a job in the service industry, which is now being swallowed whole by — you guessed it — Amazon itself. Next stop: robots.
And as for what you can and can’t read, well, that depends on the day: as of this writing, for example, you can’t get Ryan T. Anderson’s measured and thoughtful book about transgenderism on Amazon because reading it is a hateful thoughtcrime and you are slime for wanting to do so. Then there are the six Dr. Seuss books (some of the less inspired ones, it has to be said, but still) that you can’t get anywhere, unless you happen to live near a library that is bucking the trend and keeping On Beyond Zebra! on its shelves. We all know where this is going.
Some of these are familiar boilerplate issues for right-wing nutjobs like me. But for liberals, things are, if anything, worse. Bari Weiss has an absolutely jaw-dropping essay in City Journal this week in which she interviews parents at affluent lefty private schools like Harvard-Westlake in Los Angeles. I grew up knowing lots of Harvard-Westlake kids — in the main they are charming, poised, and obnoxiously gifted. But now neither they nor their parents can publicly acknowledge their reservations about “anti-racism” (read: racism), for fear of reprisal.
“If you publish my name, it would ruin my life,” said one New York student. “People would attack me for even questioning this ideology. I don’t even want people knowing I’m a capitalist.” There are entire underground cabals of nice moms like the ones that used to greet me and my friends at the door with Capri-Suns after school, who now have to gather in secret so their doubts won’t be made known. “They are making my son feel like a racist because of the pigmentation of his skin,” said one. Moderates and true liberals are among those who suffer most under our new regime.
The Invisible Presidency of Joe Biden
Then there’s Biden: the magical disappearing president. It was always a foregone conclusion that a Biden presidency would see the legacy media go from weeping and wailing about the rise of a new Third Reich, to giggling in a paradise of sunshine and softballs. We knew it would be Obama part 2: with a wave of Glinda’s magic wand, “kids in cages” became “kids in soft-sided, semi-permanent structures.” We knew the press and the press secretary together would fawn over some inanity like a White House cat while America casually…bombs Syria? What’s up with that, by the way?
But what I, at least, did not foresee is the totality of Biden’s disappearance from the scene. Obama wasn’t kidding when he promised that we might not see Kamala or Joe on TV that much: we hardly see Joe, ever. When we do, he seemingly forgets what he believes, the name of his defense secretary, and even how to speak English. The man is clearly decomposing before our eyes — who’s in charge? Kamala? Klaus Schwab? The newly wokeified military? Mark Zuckerberg? It’s anybody’s guess, because no one is covering it.
At least during the Obama years, there was a steady drumbeat of outrage from the conservative outlets — regular coverage of this or that absurd executive order, this or that disdainful gaffe. Now, Biden is treating executive orders — and terrible ones — like a fat kid treats cake. But it seems to me even conservatives are more focused on GameStop stocks than on military airstrikes. No one, left or right, is talking about Joe all that much because he just doesn’t seem to matter. This is a remarkable phenomenon.
Finally there’s the third Big Deal, which in some ways underwrites the first two: the internet.
It’s been around for a while, I realize. But we still haven’t even begun to grapple with the way it continues to rewire our brains and change our basic mores. The reason we even know that so many journalists are dishonest hacks is because we have technology that lets renegade reporters like Andy Ngô and James O’Keefe do end-runs around them. The reason we care so much about what gamer bros are doing in the stock market is because Reddit gave them the tools to take basically the entire financial system into their own hands for a week, and inspired the ethos that led them to do so.
There will be more of this, for good and ill. In Hong Kong, social media empowered rebels to put up a serious and globally significant fight against the Chinese client government, until COVID gave the bad guys the excuse they needed to squash the uprising. Meanwhile in America, our Marxian revolutionaries have been successful at evading the police and wreaking havoc on our city streets in part because groups like Antifa are extremely adept at coordinating riots online. As the cancel culture/CRT mega-monster wraps its tentacles ever-tighter around big sites like Twitter, there are other platforms — Locals, Clubhouse, Telegram — where the “unfettered conversations” so feared by the New York Times are taking place beyond the reach of the ruling class.
Here is one reason, then, why nobody is paying attention to our federal government. Even without the legacy media smokescreen, there is a deeply felt sense in the air right now that the most important fights are being fought in a wholly new arena, with wholly new rules. Get shut down by Amazon? Build new servers. Biden and the teachers unions are destroying the public schools? They were already hemorrhaging students anyway, in part because online learning is radically democratizing access to the good stuff — to real, classical, patriotic education.
Everywhere, all over America, in every area of life, we are locked in the same race between the censorious gatekeepers of our failed elite class, and the chaotic new energy unleashed by digital technology. It’s anybody’s guess in each case whether liberty will win out, or whether the woke minority will find ways of subjugating Americans to their nasty, bigoted little dogma.
But I don’t think it’s just conservatives who want to stop that from happening — it’s the moderates too, and the people who don’t really care about politics but just want to play video games without being preached at about polysexual nonbinary BIPOC or whatever. Bari Weiss, James Lindsay, the reddit bros of GameStopgate — these aren’t right-wing ideologues. They’re reasonable people who became part of the conservative movement by default, because that’s where the fight for freedom is happening.
Nobody is in Charge
If there’s one thing that all these Big Deals have in common, it’s this: nobody is in charge. Biden is a slack-jawed imbecile, not an effective statesman. Kamala might be pulling some strings behind the scenes, but it’s giving her way too much credit to imagine she has some 4D-chess master plan. Jack Dorsey and Jeff Bezos certainly wish they could shut us up, but they can’t — not yet, anyway.
In the end, the outcome of our turbulent times will turn out to be numberless tiny outcomes: it will come down not to one drastic and sweeping national event, but to personal interactions and local movements at the level of the school board, the city council, the state legislature. We are writing the rules as we go along here, and nothing — not the ultimate victory of the deep state, not the triumph of renegade gamers over censorship, nothing — is assured.
We have a hard time accepting this, I think. There’s a reason why extravagant conspiracy theories like QAnon are in vogue right now, and why even more garden-variety political takes tend to posit an enormous network of Right or Left-wing conspirators who pull strings behind the scenes. It’s because we were all raised to believe in an America where things are run by professionals, and we’d rather believe someone is in charge — even someone evil — than admit that absolutely everybody is making the rules up as he or she goes along right now.
We have fantasies and nightmares about someone — Trump, Kamala, Schwab, Q — pulling off an enormous coordinated coup and moving us dramatically into the next stage of this crisis. But the fact of the matter is, nobody is competent enough to do such a thing right now. We are, for that matter, already in the next stage of the crisis: the stage in which all the cards on the table, all the masks are off, and lovers of liberty everywhere just have to fight for what they believe — every day, in every place, alongside anyone who will join us.
There’s an exhilarating and terrifying freedom in this realization. It’s clarifying to realize what’s really going on: nobody’s coming to save you. Nobody’s powerful enough to destroy you, either. Your job is to assess the facts on the ground, where you are, and move forward from there. It’s chaos. It’s a fight. But I’d rather be in a fight than reading from a pre-written script. In a fight, at least you have a shot at winning. And we do have a shot. I would even go further: I believe that if we keep our wits about us, then God willing, we will win.
Spencer Klavan is host of the Young Heretics podcast and associate editor of the Claremont Review of Books and The American Mind. He can be reached on Twitter at @SpencerKlavan.
The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.