Distracting Ourselves to Death

Political spectacles take center stage while the country's real problems fester.

Bruce Thornton is a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center.

While we are fighting the battle of the monuments and picking over the political corpse of Steve Bannon, a terrorist killed 14 people in Barcelona, the Mueller fishing-inquisition continues to grind on, the DOJ is slow-rolling the release of documents about the Lynch-Clinton tarmac powwow, Hillary Clinton is not being held accountable for the manifest betrayals of her oath to the Constitution, Obamacare repeal and replace is dead and tax reform seems moribund, and the left continues its assaults on the First Amendment. The circus tent is on fire and we just keep watching the acrobats and jugglers.

We can debate whether or not all this misdirection is being cleverly manipulated by Donald Trump so he can work on his policy reforms under the radar. Leftists have so many outrage-buttons to punch, it’s often impossible to resist pushing them and then watch their heads explode in shrieking dudgeon. But we won’t know the cumulative effects of this 24/7 demonization of the president until next year’s midterms. One thing is for sure, there had better be a big legislative win, say on tax reform, if the Republicans want to keep control of Congress. The president needs a substantial victory in order to overcome the fallout from the various conflicts over symbols and bad manners that the Trump-haters are perpetually fomenting.

The current squabbling over Confederate monuments is a perfect example. Emboldened by the alacrity with which so many Republicans piled on the president for his reticence in condemning white supremacists, the race hacks and their various street enforcers have moved from attacking statues of Confederate soldiers and generals to widening the bronze and marble rogue’s gallery to include slave-owning founders like Thomas Jefferson and George Washington. And of course, many Republicans and conservatives are meekly going along. They can’t miss an opportunity to preen morally, flaunt their sympathy for the long-dead oppressed, and distance themselves from an uncouth president many of them argue won only because he appealed to déclassé Republican xenophobes and racists.

As usual, there is more heat than light in this preposterous conflict over public statues. For the shrewd activists behind the push to scrub public spaces of reprehensible historical figures, it’s all about demonstrating their political power. The anti-monument sentiment is not widespread among the people, black or white, nor is there a grassroots movement to destroy politically incorrect statues. More materially significant is the fact that eliminating every monument memorializing a Confederate general or a slave-owner will do absolutely nothing for the black underclass. Those black men will not stop slaughtering each other; they won’t be finding jobs; they won’t be raising the children they father; they won’t stop destroying themselves with drugs; they won’t be graduating from college at a rate higher than the current dismal 40%; and they won’t be escaping the dependency reservations onto which they’ve been herded by the Democrats and so-called black “leadership.” 

Like black studies departments, black history month, school curricula filled with victim melodramas, MLK Day, or endless movies about noble black victims from our benighted past, clear-cutting monuments will not change one bit the social and cultural dysfunctions created and funded by a patronizing and virtue-killing welfare industry, one abetted by a duplicitous race narrative that benefits the black politicians, activists, professionals, public employees, school teachers, and professors – most of whom have no intention of figuring out how to save their so-called “brothers” and “sisters” languishing in ghetto hell-holes. It’s much easier and cheaper to chant yet again the “whitey did us wrong” mantra, flagellate guilty whites, and then watch stupid white people hand over more political leverage and power, so that the race tribunes can continue the policies that are destroying the lives of millions of less well-connected black people.

Then there was the Google employee who circulated an internal memo challenging the “diversity” orthodoxy that corporations like Google––and now it appears the State Department––repeat over and over despite the lack of any empirical evidence that a superficial diversity of sex, sexual preferences, ethnicity, or skin color among an ideologically and socially homogenous group is useful for anything other than Silicon Valley robber-baron virtue-signaling. But as Harvard president Larry Summers learned more than ten years ago, supposedly oppressed upper class feminists are a formidable enemy you don’t want to provoke. Feminist identity politics is predicated on victimhood and grievances, so to suggest that a disparity in any profession or pursuit might result from differences between the nature of the sexes or personal preferences, is to blaspheme against an article of faith, and bring down the inquisitorial wrath of these presumed powerless victims. No, misogynist patriarchal men are to blame for a lack of female programmers, or the mythical inequities in compensation. These are the wages of an inveterate sexism that oppresses the freest, richest, healthiest, best-educated, longest-living women in the history of the planet.

Meanwhile, a true feminist hero, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, testified before Congress about the Islamic doctrines that are enslaving and brutalizing millions of women across the globe. And she was promptly ignored. Truly patriarchal barbarities like genital mutilation, honor killings, forced marriages, polygamy, and sexist codes of dress and behavior are crippling the lives and prospects of millions of Muslim “sisters.” But as Hirsi Ali said in an interview, the committee members she testified before were seemingly uninterested in listening to her and confronting the traditional Islamic doctrines justifying such primitive behavior. Too many in both parties are invested in the politically correct “nothing to do with Islam” narrative. Or they are reluctant to confront Western feminists with evidence of genuine victimization that reduces their complaints of sexism and oppression to the juvenile whining of rich, well-fed, well-educated privileged elites. Like all identity politics, the feminist industry also depends on victims and grievances for leveraging more power from the body politic––even if it means showing more sympathy to Muslims “unfairly caricatured” as terrorists and subjected to “Islamophobia,” than to millions of Muslim women who are systematically brutalized. 

Finally, the seeming indifference continues to the crimes and outrages against the Constitution perpetuated by Hillary Clinton, Loretta Lynch, Lois Lerner, Susan Rice, James Comey, and any number of Obama administration minions, many of them still in government. Trump’s lack of deference to the establishment’s Miss Manners protocols and phony “decorum” continues to suck all the oxygen from the media universe of pundits from both parties addicted to preening morally and brandishing their righteousness. Many politicians, including Republicans, think Trump’s distasteful persona is more consequential than a collapsing Obamacare, a still sluggish economy, a record number of working-age men not working, an accelerating debt, deficit, and entitlement fiscal catastrophe, an oil-rich nation run by fanatics relentlessly approaching nuclear breakout, and a metastasizing jihadist terror network repeatedly attacking public spaces in the West, even as important national security officials in our government continue to peddle the “nothing to do with Islam” canard.

But, the political Punch-and-Judy show must go on, distracting us from these problems even as it confirms Tocqueville’s observation that “a clear perception of the future founded upon judgment and experience . . . is frequently wanting in democracies. The people are more apt to feel than to reason.” So, here we are, a 182 years later, wallowing in feelings and passions over political symbols, even as serious problems of substance are ignored and allowed to fester.