The secret of Dreherbait revealed

Rod Dreher has a propensity so notorious that he sometimes mocks himself for it. The propensity is commenting indignantly on certain types of stories that he calls “Dreherbait.”

Certain Dreherbait events at Dan Quayle’s alma mater caught his scornful attention a few days ago (here and here), and another, this from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, caught his attention in the wee hours of Sunday. Those all fell in the Dreherbait category “campus Social Justice Warriors.”

But in the Cal Poly San Luis Obispo indignation, he dove deeper, and explained why those stories are like flame to his moth, but without actually saying it that way.

Here’s why I fear and absolutely loathe the mob, especially racialized mobs. This really happened in my town. I know the identities of every white person involved (they’re all long dead), because one of them confessed on his deathbed to a friend of mine, who was shaken by the news. I do not know the name of the victim, and my attempts to discover his name went nowhere. None of this was publicly recorded.

Back in the 1940s, in my tiny Southern hometown, word reached the sheriff that a black man had been caught raping a white woman. The sheriff put out a call to some trusted white men to come help him track the rapist down and bring him to justice. The sheriff deputized two white men who showed up. They chased the black man through the woods, and upon catching him, bound him and took him back to the parish jail. There they lynched him. This was what they told themselves they had to do to protect the good order of the community.

A couple of days later, the truth came out: the black man and the white woman had been secret lovers. When they were discovered, she accused him of rape to protect herself. After his murder by the sheriff and his men, her conscience wouldn’t let her rest. She confessed all.

In their shame, the white family moved away. Of course no one — not the sheriff, nor his deputies — faced any kind of justice for their murder of an innocent man. That’s not how things worked under white supremacy.

The reason anybody alive today knows about it is because one of the murderers, as he lay dying decades ago, unburdened his conscience.

In a piece I wrote three years ago, “When ISIS Ran The American South,” I talked about what it was like to be a black person living under white supremacy, specifically in the sense of being powerless in the face of unaccountable power, a power that was eager and willing to inflict severe violence, even death, upon you. What prompted the comparison was the news that ISIS had burned a captured Jordanian Air Force pilot alive in a cage. I wrote:

No, the American South (and other parts of America where racial terrorists ran rampant) was never run by fanatical theocrats who used grotesque public murders as a tool of terror. But if you were a black in the years 1877-1950, this was a distinction without much meaningful difference.

I had the case in my hometown in mind when I wrote that. In that post, I quoted a recent report on lynchings in the American South, 1877-1950. One category of lynchings investigators identified:

Lynchings Based on Fear of Interracial Sex. Nearly 25 percent of the lynchings of African Americans in the South were based on charges of sexual assault. The mere accusation of rape, even without an identification by the alleged victim, could arouse a lynch mob. The definition of black-on-white “rape” in the South required no allegation of force because white institutions, laws, and most white people rejected the idea that a white woman would willingly consent to sex with an African American man.

In the case I’m talking about, the mob — in this case, the sheriff and his deputies, as well as the (false) accuser — did not require a dispassionate examination of the evidence in the case. The accuser’s word was enough. It was assumed by white Southern culture of the day that every black man sexually desired every white woman, and that no white woman was capable of sexually desiring a black man. Even black male desire itself was enough to merit execution; if a black man and a white woman had actually been caught in sexual congress, as in this particular case, that was even stronger evidence of rape. Or so that culture thought.

But again: white culture of that time and place was so racially paranoid that all it took was for white people to feel that a black man sexually desired a white woman for that man to be at risk of extrajudicial execution.

This surely is why he refers to analogous “the Social Justice mob” so often, and the analogy fits. But he’s not a dispassionate observer:

It’s important to me to say one more thing here. Back in the summer of 2002, I was reeling from rage over 9/11, and over the Catholic sex abuse scandal. I was so overcome by it that I had to see a dentist to get a mouthguard made for wearing at night, because I was grinding my teeth so fiercely that my wife couldn’t sleep. She was so worried about what was happening to me on the inside. I couldn’t rest. The injustices of these two catastrophic events was eating me alive. She compelled me to swallow my pride and go see a therapist.

The therapist was a Catholic, and, as it turned out, a quack. Long story. But he told me something in that first session that was offensive and painful to hear, and that I furiously rejected. But years later, I came to see that he was right.

What he told me was this: “You need to accept that under the right circumstances, you could have been flying one of those planes. You could have been Mohammed Atta.”

No effing way! I said. No way! I refused to admit that I have anything in common with that monster. What is wrong with this guy? I thought. What kind of relativist is he?

He was right about that. I do, in fact, have that capacity for evil within me. So do you. So do we all. Not too many of us are the kind of sociopaths who choose evil for evil’s sake. We first dress it up as good — as justice, perhaps. Read the final words left behind by Atta.  This is a man convinced that he was acting for the sake of God, of justice, and his tribe (Muslims), against infidels, which at one point he described as “animals” to be slaughtered. It is one long rationale for mass murder as an act of high and selfless virtue.

If you don’t think you have it within you to write the same sort of testament, you don’t know yourself as well as you think you do. Nor do you know history, or the human heart. The men of my town who lynched that innocent black man slept peacefully every night for the rest of their lives — except for the man who, in his final days on this earth, confessed to his wicked deed, in preparation for meeting the great Judge. But they all escaped justice on this earth, because they were all living under a system that held the maintenance of  white supremacy as justice itself.

What progressives advocated in 1964 was progress. What they advocate today is not progress, but returning to the older corruption, this time with different supremacists in power. It is still unjust. It is still evil. It always will be. The Social Justice Warriors and their fellow travelers in power at universities, in corporations, and even in government (see Mayor Harmon above), are summoning up demons that they cannot control.

(Emphasis added) The panics brought about by things like drunken frat boys and sorority girls in black face (or anything that can be so misrepresented) is akin to lynchings (later, mere felony convictions) based on fear of interracial sex. As Rod says,

I do, in fact, have that capacity for evil within me. So do you. So do we all. …

If you don’t think you have it within you to write the same sort of testament, you don’t know yourself as well as you think you do.

And that elite college students, the pool from which disproportionately comes our top leaders, know themselves so little is special cause for alarm, which Rod sounds often.

* * * * *

Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.

(Philip K. Dick)

The waters are out and no human force can turn them back, but I do not see why as we go with the stream we need sing Hallelujah to the river god.

(Sir James Fitzjames Stephen)

Place. Limits. Liberty.

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.

Where I glean stuff.

Children don’t do tragedy

I have spent the past few days watching old videos of the civil-rights era, the King era, and there is something unexpectedly poignant in them. When you see those involved in that momentous time, you notice: They dressed as adults, with dignity. They presented themselves with self-respect. Those who moved against segregation and racial indignity went forward in adult attire—suits, dresses, coats, ties, hats—as if adulthood were something to which to aspire. As if a claiming of just rights required a showing of gravity. Look at the pictures of Martin Luther King Jr. speaking, the pictures of those marching across the Edmund Pettus bridge, of those in attendance that day when George Wallace stood in the schoolhouse door and then stepped aside to the force of the federal government, and suddenly the University of Alabama was integrated. Even the first students who went in, all young, acted and presented themselves as adults. Of course they won. Who could stop such people?

I miss their style and seriousness. What we’re stuck with now is Mark Zuckerberg’s .

The signal fact of Mr. Zuckerberg is that he is supremely gifted in one area—monetizing technical expertise by marrying it to a canny sense of human weakness. Beyond that, what a shallow and banal figure. He too appears to have difficulties coming to terms with who he is. Perhaps he hopes to keep you, too, from coming to terms with it, by literally dressing as a child, in T-shirts, hoodies and jeans—soft clothes, the kind 5-year-olds favor. In interviews he presents an oddly blank look, as if perhaps his audiences will take blankness for innocence. As has been said here, he is like one of those hollow-eyed busts of forgotten Caesars you see in museums.

But he is no child; he is a giant bestride the age, a titan, one of the richest men not only in the world but in the history of the world. His power is awesome.

His public reputation is now damaged, and about this he is very concerned. Next week he will appear before Congress. The Onion recently headlined that he was preparing for his questioning by studying up on the private data of congressmen. The comic Albert Brooks tweeted: “I sent Mark Zuckerberg my entire medical history just to save him some time.”

His current problems may have yielded a moment of promise, however. Tim Cook of Apple, in an impressive and sober interview with Recode’s Kara Swisher and MSNBC’s Chris Hayes, said last week something startling, almost revolutionary: “Privacy to us is a human right.” This was stunning because it was the exact opposite of what Silicon Valley has been telling us since social media’s inception, which is: Privacy is dead. Get over it. Some variation on that statement has been made over and over by Silicon Valley’s pioneers, and they say it blithely, cavalierly, with no apparent sense of tragedy.

Because they don’t do tragedy. They do children’s clothes.

(Peggy Noonan, If Adults Won’t Grow Up, Nobody Will)

* * * * *

Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.

(Philip K. Dick)

The waters are out and no human force can turn them back, but I do not see why as we go with the stream we need sing Hallelujah to the river god.

(Sir James Fitzjames Stephen)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.

Where I glean stuff.

Another sign of major realignment

More interesting … was Mrs. Clinton’s commentary on the role of economic concerns in the 2016 contest. “There’s all that red in the middle, where Trump won,” she said. “But what the map doesn’t show you is that I won the places that represent two-thirds of America’s gross domestic product.” To scattered applause, she continued: “So I won the places that are optimistic, diverse, dynamic, moving forward.”

… She sees her electoral disappointment in economically downscale regions not as a political failure but a source of validation—and, apparently, an indication of those voters’ failings. Similarly, last September she told Vox that the Electoral College is “an anachronism” in part because “I won in counties that produce two-thirds of the economic output in the United States.” Should those voters have more of a say?

Since Andrew Jackson, the Democratic Party has usually been identified as the party of the “common man,” and its adversaries as defenders of wealth and economic privilege. Jackson earned that reputation for his party by reducing property qualifications for the franchise for white men. But the Democrats’ most recent standard-bearer sounds an awful lot like the 19th-century conservatives who thought political representation should be tied to wealth. This is a significant moment in America’s partisan realignment.

(Jason Willick, What Happened to the Common Man?, Wall Street Journal — emphasis added, paywall)

* * * * *

It is not bigotry to be certain we are right; but it is bigotry to be unable to imagine how we might possibly have gone wrong.

Bigotry is an incapacity to conceive seriously the alternative to a proposition.

A man … is only a bigot if he cannot understand that his dogma is a dogma, even if it is true.

(G.K. Chesterton) Be of good courage, you who are called “bigots” by those who are unable to conceive seriously the alternatives to their dogmas.

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.

Where I glean stuff.

American Churches’ Persecution

While conservative Christians have long complained about worsening societal hostility and persecution for their beliefs, there’s been little empirical evidence to gauge such claims—until now.

Sociologist George Yancey analyzed 30-plus years of data to track approval ratings for evangelical and fundamentalist Christians. His big takeaway: What has changed is not the numberof Americans who dislike conservative Christians, but which Americans.

According to American National Election Studies (ANES) questionnaires, the people who rated evangelical and fundamentalist Christians most negatively over the decades have consistently—and unsurprisingly—been politically liberal, highly educated, and less religious. But in recent years, particularly 2012 and 2016, they’ve shifted to become richer.

This trend means the people pushing back against conservative Christians now have bigger budgets to bankroll their viewpoint, argues Yancey.

American evangelicals “are clearly incorrect in the notion that hostility towards conservative Christians has increased over the last few decades,” the University of North Texas professor wrote in the latest issue of the Review of Religion Research. “But if those with anti-Christian hostility have gained economic power, then Christian activists may be correct in that they now pay a stiffer price for that animosity.”

(Kate Shellnutt, Christianity Today) The teaser for the article says this “nuances the American Church’s ‘persecution complex’,” which seems fair.

Nobody who thinks Russia bought the White House for Donald Trump with some advertising on social media should dismiss out of hand the increased risk when one’s enemies now can buy their ink by the barrel. The Battle of Indiana was the test case; “Chamber of Commerce” hostility to Christianity is now in full production.

* * * * *

“Liberal education is concerned with the souls of men, and therefore has little or no use for machines … [it] consists in learning to listen to still and small voices and therefore in becoming deaf to loudspeakers.” (Leo Strauss)

There is no epistemological Switzerland. (Via Mars Hill Audio Journal Volume 134)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.

 

When Capitalism lost First Things …

There have been murmurs — if I could recall from where, I’d link them — that the current editors at First Things have been sounding awfully friendly to socialism — “socialism” being the knee-jerk response of people too suave and educated to call others “commies,” but too trapped in an Overton Bubble to conceive of anything other than communism, socialism and capitalism as economic categories (which pretty well makes capitalism a no-brainer, conveniently enough).

Now, in the October 2017 issue, R.R. “Rusty” Reno, the greybeard among the editors, has burst out of the closet, throwing down gauntlets as he marches:

The recent passing of Michael Novak prompted me to take up his masterpiece once again. I first read The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism in the 1980s. At the time, I had no illusions about socialism. It was obviously a failure, economically, politically, and morally. But like so many of my peers, I assumed capitalism to be morally suspect as well. Michael’s book helped me, as it helped so many others, to see that a free market economy has distinctive moral and spiritual contributions to make to a healthy society. Rereading The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism today, however, my reaction is different. Capitalism is not a choice, as it seemed to me and many others when Michael wrote his book. It is our fate—and our problem.

… A healthy society … stands on three sturdy legs: a free economy; liberal, democratic political institutions; and a Judeo-Christian moral ecology that prizes human dignity and encourages self-discipline, social trust, and individual initiative.

This analysis is elegant. It influenced John Paul II’s important statement of Catholic social doctrine, Centesimus Annus (1991), and played an important role in the outlook of First Things. We sought to keep the three legs in balance, which meant defending economic freedom and democratic institutions, while at the same time insisting on the importance of religious and moral substance in the public square. But we overestimated the stability of the three-legged system. We could not see how much it depended upon a historical moment that is now passing away.

In all likelihood, Michael was right, as the rise of an authoritarian liberalism keen to squelch dissent indicates. But therein rests the problem we face. The “new birth of freedom” that Michael championed largely came to pass. And it has tended to weaken the two other legs holding up society: democratic institutions and a vital religious and moral culture. … Capitalism, now global in scope, is swallowing up more and more of civic life, so much so that in some contexts economists and policymakers present free market principles as ironclad laws about which we have no choice. Dwindling manufacturing jobs, technological displacement, global flows of labor and capital—we are told we have no alternative. This is a cruel reversal of what Michael commended as the source of freedom and openness.

Since 1989 and the fall of the Soviet Union, the governing consensus has held that America’s interests lie in ever-greater economic globalization. We will flourish to the extent that we position ourselves at the center of the global economic system. This turns out to be true—for some, but not for all. Today, we’re seeing a growing divide in America between those who participate in the global economy and those who don’t. … [W]e underestimated the flesh-eating character of our free market economy, which now markets “community” and uses “social justice” as a way to sell products. Buy TOMS® shoes, and help someone in need! Today, large-scale global companies scramble to position themselves as agents of social change. The result is a political placebo, one that substitutes social-therapeutic gestures for genuine solidarity and civic engagement. The market is becoming the dominant mode of our social engagement, with social media leading the way. This diminishes democratic culture.

And what about the third leg, the Judeo-Christian religious and moral tradition? Here First Things has a long record of vigorous and unstinting advocacy. I can’t think of another significant journal that has been as relentless during the past generation in its warnings about the dangers of a naked public square. Yet we’ve seen setback after setback, and the corporate tsunami that recently swept through Indiana after it passed a Religious Freedom Restoration Act made clear the link between global capitalism and progressive clear-cutting of traditional religious culture and morality. There are many business leaders, entrepreneurs, investors, and others who sympathize with our mission, of course. But they know they will be punished “by the market” if they speak up. “Bigotry is bad for business,” we’re told by management consultants and corporate gurus, and “diversity” brings greater innovation and success. As we know, “diversity” does not mean a richly textured and open society. It means agreeing with progressive cultural commitments to “openness,” which in turn means accepting the authority of a rigid, punitive ideological system.

Needless to say, Michael Novak did not foresee these outcomes when he wrote The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism any more than I did when I thrilled to his insights more than three decades ago. …

In his last article for First Things (“The Future of Democratic Capitalism,” June/July 2015), Michael summed up his spiritual endorsement of capitalism: … But Michael did not give due emphasis to an equally important aspect of our humanity, which is our desire to give ourselves in loyalty to permanent things. As a man of faith, he certainly knew and affirmed this dimension: You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind, and you shall love your neighbor as yourself. But in his enthusiasm for open, upward transcendence—a constant theme in his work—he lost sight of our need for anchors. As a consequence, he described the anthropology of capitalism in a one-sided way. Its fearsome dynamism speaks to part of our soul, but it neglects and even works against the part that cherishes permanence.

… We are told that we are not required to think or live in any particular way—except that we can’t think or live in ways that constrain, compromise, or even throw doubt on anyone else’s free decision to think or live differently. Taken to its logical extreme—everything is permitted as long as it permits everything—this becomes a paradoxical totalitarian toleration that is all the more dangerous because it deludes those who promote it into thinking that when they drive all dissent from the public square, they are “including.”

All of this dovetails frighteningly well with the dynamism and openness of capitalism, which is also presented as obligatory. And its partial anthropological resonance means that a part of our soul—the dimension that, taken in isolation, thrills to today’s gnosticism and its promise of freedom from all constraints, even those imposed by nature and our bodies—is given great encouragement. This antinomianism—which, again, is presented as “history’s” obligatory verdict—casts a dark shadow on the West in the twenty-first century, not the Soviet Union or older forms of centralized, totalitarian control.

Retro figures such as Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn gain traction, not because voters believe in socialism, but because they intuit that they cannot live in a world of pure dynamism and openness. We are drowning in freedom. …

Retro-socialism is a dead end. But in the absence of alternatives that promise stability and relief from the existential exhaustion of perpetual dynamism, Sanders, Corbyn, and others on the left are likely to garner support. The same can be said for populist sentiments that endorse nationalist economic policies of protectionism and subsidies that fly in the face of free market principles.

It is time, therefore, to set aside the notion that the problems we face in the West can be solved by stiffer doses of economic freedom. In parts of Asia, Africa, and other areas of the world, this prescription has merit. But here it’s pure homeopathy. What we need is quite different.

… What Michael Novak failed to recognize—what we must acknowledge—is that the dynamism of free market capitalism invades, overturns, refashions, and sometimes destroys these places of rest.

It is inhumane to forsake the dynamism of capitalism. But it is also inhumane to think that quality sufficient. In 2017, we need to think about how to direct economic freedom toward service of the common good.

(All emphases added)

I may have more to say about Reno’s essay later — I’ll be surprised if I don’t. I just encountered it this afternoon (I’d heard rumors that he’d done something big in this issue). For now, just a few things:

  • Capitalism is an enemy of traditional life and religious freedom. The Battle of Indianapolis just made that obvious, but I have studied the history, and this antipathy goes back at least 120 years.
  • True conservatism therefor must be at best uneasy with capitalism.
  • When Capitalism has lost the full-throated support of First Things, it just might be in trouble.
  • Communism, Socialism and Capitalism are not the only polities. Smash the Overton Window! Resist!

* * * * *

“Liberal education is concerned with the souls of men, and therefore has little or no use for machines … [it] consists in learning to listen to still and small voices and therefore in becoming deaf to loudspeakers.” (Leo Strauss)

There is no epistemological Switzerland. (Via Mars Hill Audio Journal Volume 134)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.