As the 50th anniversary of the Cultural Revolution approaches some of the former students who participated in its Red Guard terror have been trying to make amends to their victims. If China’s former leftist fanatics feel some remorse for the atrocities they participated in, the same can’t be said of their American counterparts.
Even as the Cultural Revolution was dying down in China, it flared up in the United States. The Weather Underground drew inspiration from China’s Red Terror. Their founding manifesto cited the Red Guard as a model for a “mass revolutionary movement.”
Bill Ayers, among others, had signed a letter, “Long live People’s China. Love live Comrade Mao.”
The American counterparts of China’s Red Guard remain largely unrepentant because here the Cultural Revolution never ended. Instead it went mainstream. Its members were never disavowed and their acts of terror continue to be celebrated and whitewashed by a left that finds them alternately embarrassing and thrilling.
The terrorists became celebrities and the radicals became part of the system and set the rules. There was less violence, but more authoritarianism. Instead of carrying on a futile campaign of bombings and bank robberies, the radicals used the vast wealth and power of the system to train the next generation of the Red Guard. And that next generation did the same thing.
Each wave of the Cultural Revolution in the United States has eroded civil rights and illiberally undermined a liberal society. Though the Red Guards chose to work within the system, they are animated by an unmistakable contempt and hatred for the country and its institutions.
Their endgame has not changed. Only their tactics have.
Barack Obama, a child of the Cultural Revolution, is the very model of a modern Red Guard. The Weathermen engaged in extreme rhetoric and actions. Obama dispenses with the extreme rhetoric and gets right down to the extreme actions. He is calculating enough to avoid the verbal vindictiveness of an Ayers or a Wright, but he still chose them as his mentors.
The Red Guard, whether it’s the Occupiers or Barack Obama, abide by no rules except those of their own ideology. The United States Constitution and the rule of law mean nothing to them. The rules of their ideology are expressed formally in private, but publicly as outrage or empathy.
America under the Red Guards is run by liberals without liberalism. Locke’s “No one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty, or possessions” is as alien a sentiment to them as if it were expressed in binary code. Its grounding in a Natural Law whose equality eliminates power relationship is utterly incompatible with the Red Guard’s obsession with power relationships.
Under the rule of the Red Guard, rights do not transcend the ruling ideology. The Constitution is not an absolute. There are no absolutes except social justice. Freedom of speech and thought are only provided to those who say and think the right things. A right either serves the cause of social justice or obstructs it.
The right to speak your mind or donate to a political cause is valid only if it serves that mandate.
Justice is not blind. She’s a community organizer coming out against the greedy and ignorant majority. The entire system, political, cultural and legal, is a means of enforcing the mandate.
Political outrage is the supreme virtue of both the American and Chinese Red Guard. Their outraged denunciations show off their revolutionary commitment. Its members mistake the thrill of abusing others for the rightness of a moral crusade. They celebrate the elimination of all restrictions that prevent them from punishing their victims as a revolutionary act.
This form of crowdsourced political terror by elites and their pet mobs isn’t new. It’s only new to the United States.
The lines of scapegoats paraded through the media for some petty crime against political correctness are a modern digital version of the Red Guard’s denunciations and humiliations. The politics and the poisonous motives are the same. The only difference is that the Red Guard lacks the license to commit real violence, as of now, and must instead settle for economic and social violence.
The virtue of outrage leads to a state of authoritarian lawlessness. Legislatures and laws are replaced with an alliance between the executive authority of Barack Obama and the Red Guard activists. The activists demand, the media manufactures outrage and Obama uses executive orders to deliver. These totalitarian antics of a new Cultural Revolution are celebrated as populist, when they are really the Machiavellian show that the leftist elite puts on for the people.
When outrage displaces the process of the law, what remains is authoritarianism or anarchy. And despite the occasional Circle-A embroidered on a pricey jacket, the progressive Red Guard are not anarchists. What they are after is not less authority, but more of it. Their rhetoric about banks and corporations disguises what they intend for the rest of us.
They are not fighting against power. They are fighting for power.
The Red Guard is a perverse parody of mob rule. Our Red Guard, like many in China’s Red Guard, are the sons and daughters of the elites. They manufacture an elitist populism in order to call for despotism.
In New York City, the sons and daughters of the elite stopped shaving, set up camping tents opposite Wall Street and clamored for the radical change that their parents were already busy implementing. Their 99% sloganeering, a group that few of their parents belonged to, was a massive distraction from an alliance between political and commercial elites to ration health care and displace an authentic populist movement, which like all authentic populist movements rejected the authoritarian rule of a chief executive, rather than defending and endorsing it.
Occupy Wall Street, like every modern manifestation of the Red Guard in the United States, and like the original Red Guard, was a cynical power move by a ruling elite. The fake populism of 1 percenter brats shrieking about income inequality while campaigning to destroy the middle class and what’s left of the working class was true despotism.
The 50th anniversary of China’s Cultural Revolution will coincide with a national election in the United States that will serve in part as a final referendum on the Red Guard reign of the previous eight years. Like the Chinese, Americans will be forced to confront the ruin of their institutions, the polarization of their society and the victims of the Red Guard’s political inquisitions.
50 years from now, will the students eagerly tearing down a liberal society and replacing it with outraged denunciations and media purges also regret their role in the new Cultural Revolution?
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