By Charlie Johnston
I have noticed something peculiar about my bedtime books, of late. A LOT of writers have been tapping that mythical great white whale, right-wing extremists, as their villains lately. At first this annoyed me. We are getting mass attacks two or three times a week by ethnic minorities, Muslims, left-wing nuts and the obviously mentally ill – which the government ignores and the media buries while solemnly proclaiming what a dire threat right white extremists are. Shoot, you can see the constant, desperate hope followed by deep disappointment on news anchors’ faces when the perpetrator of the latest atrocity turns out to be, once again, one of their own pets instead of the dread right-wing monster they keep warning about. Back in slave days, plantation owners often worried about the deadly danger of slave uprisings which, in their minds, were always imminent. As the Ku Klux Klan rose dramatically in influence under the presidency of Woodrow Wilson, probably the single most overtly racist president we have ever had, bigots constantly spoke of the grave danger black folks posed to social stability. And of course, in Nazi Germany, leaders constantly raved about the deadly danger the Jews posed to the noble German people. Notice a pattern here? It is almost always the people doing the actual persecuting and oppressing who whip up social panic against the people they are oppressing and persecuting. I suppose they do it to justify their own vicious malice and to distract the public from their own incompetence and lack of any sense of human decency.
But I suspect there are two connected subthemes going on here, too: guilt and fear. At some level, even the most sociopathic of oppressors know that they are the evil brutes – and they fear that at some point the people they torment and torture are going to strike back at them. They are right. In the several hundred years since the yoke of feudalism was cast off in the west, tyrannical authoritarians have been able to delude themselves all they want (as they always do) that their brutal means serve a noble purpose, but the reckoning comes anyway. Generally, the longer the oppression, the more brutal the backlash is when it comes. Thus, even when the “noble” tyrants begin to realize that they have been the savages, they grip power all the tighter in desperately growing terror of the backlash they know is eventually coming. They all hope, with King Louis XV, the last French king before the revolution, that they can hold off the deluge until their successor’s time.
So what does this have to do with my late-night forays into popular culture? What is coming is always foreshadowed, even if obliquely or unconsciously, in popular culture. Contestants in a great social confrontation ignore popular culture for constant focus on “weightier” things at their peril, sometimes their mortal peril. When I was doing serious political and media work full-time one of the best tools I developed for determining what the average person was thinking was to go into a busy coffee shop, pretend to read a paper at my booth, and listen to what groups of people were saying to each other. People will eagerly lie to pollsters, but they generally talk candidly with their buddies. Shoot, I still do that sometimes. The trick in getting the information you need is not just to get information, but to devise ways to get candid information. Current popular novels are a great source for divining the foreshocks of coming crises – if you know how to read the clues.
Novelists are, indeed, more frequently using “right-wing” extremists as their villains. Certainly, in the end, the forces of government rout the “extremists.” Here is what is different, though. In more stable times, the villains in popular novels are unambiguously villainous. Of late, the “right-wing” villains spend most of the narrative as rather sympathetic figures, right up until they are routed in the end. That tells me that a lot of establishment authors are carefully protecting their establishment bona fides while simultaneously doing some serious re-thinking of what is going on and what a just society is. This should terrify our incompetent ruling class, but that class is far too feckless and self-absorbed to notice such things. After all, popular novels are mainly popular in…flyover country.
It often seems that the ruling class is spoiling for an open fight. In their opinings, free speech is a threat to “our democracy.” Self-defense and self-reliance are threats to “our democracy.” Disagreeing with leftist government officials is a threat to “our democracy.” Democracy is a threat to “our democracy.” The anti-God left is too busy patting themselves on the back at their Orwellian perversion of our language to notice that the folksies are increasingly getting wise to them.
God forbid the left succeeds in fomenting a hot civil war. But if it does, it won’t have near as many troops in its corner as it thinks it does. Shoot, a lot of those it counts as reliable allies will be counted among its most impassioned opponents. (See Bill Maher, Elon Musk, J.K. Rowling, Tulsi Gabbard and a host of other, until recently, reliable liberals).
With the barely concealed shifting sympathies in popular novels, it is more certain than ever that the deluge the left wants to besiege us with will end by consuming them.
In a peculiar dichotomy, almost all western “news” sources say that Ukraine is winning its war with Russia and Russians are committing all manner of atrocities while almost all eastern “news” sources say the exact opposite – that Russia is winning the war and that the Ukrainian neo-Nazi Azov regiment is committing all manner of atrocities. It is peculiar that what is called news throughout the world has divided itself into competing propaganda camps. One side or the other is going to get a huge surprise before too long – and its “news” sources will take a massive hit to their credibility.
I remain frustrated because I am convinced that this whole business could be resolved diplomatically in about a week, but the powers that be in the west seem determined to prolong it for their own purposes. Former American National Security Advisor Michael Flynn disagrees with me in part: he thinks it could be diplomatically resolved in a day if there were anyone serious left in the state department. It is hard not to sympathize with Ukraine, given how brutally Russia dealt with it for nearly a century, but if we had an honest and competent media, it would also be hard not to notice that, for the last 30 years, Ukraine has returned that abuse to ethnic Russians in Ukraine in spades while Russia has been patient in seeking redress of those grievances – until it invaded. One can side with Ukraine or with Russia, but it is absurd to pretend that this invasion was unprovoked. The problem is that it was provoked by both Ukraine and the entire western diplomatic community over several decades. The bigger problem, of course, is it could be honorably resolved in quick order – but no one in position to do so wants to do anything other than inflame the situation.
The most prominent figure in the west to counsel against degenerating into mindless faction is Abp. Carlo Maria Vigano. Less noticed because he is largely silent on the war are the views of Cdl. Robert Sarah, who takes a dramatically different take than the simple “Russia is evil” mantra so beloved in the west. Looking closely at the arguments of these two men reveals my greatest discomfort with this whole business. It seems to me that views on this conflict are not being formed by objective criteria of justice or truth, but that both Ukraine and Russia are being treated as expendable proxies by ideologues trying to exploit them for personal gain.
I have more dear ethnic Ukrainian friends than I do Russian friends. But it will do Ukraine no long-term good to advocate for the unstable status quo that has brought us to this point. It will only prolong and deepen the underlying irritants, ultimately aggravating the crisis. And I cannot unsee that, with just a little bit of competent diplomatic effort, a just and peaceful resolution could be brought to bear that would enhance and, even, cement stability in the region. In the end, I think Ukraine and Russia will resolve this and peace will return to the region, despite the best efforts of ignorant or malicious western efforts to inflame it. The anti-God leftist globalists will probably have to wait for China to invade Taiwan to set off the world war they are so eager for.