by Victor Davis Hanson
“Counter-revolutionary” is an apt term for these days: President Obama has promised to make a fundamental transformation, a veritable revolution in American society and culture. Those who oppose such an ongoing agenda are suspected of all sorts of racism, nativism, misogyny, homophobia, and general counter-revolutionary activity.
So — here are some thought-crimes:
The latest news on “climate change” was not good for global-warming, cap-and-trade zealots. The planet did not heat up in the last decade and a half, despite substantial increases in carbon emissions. The much ballyhooed “Marcott paper” (supposedly millennia of conclusive climate data!) has been largely discredited, and shares the company of the East Anglia email trove (e.g., “The fact is that we can’t account for the lack of warming at the moment and it is a travesty that we can’t. … Our observing system is inadequate”).
Why the counter-revolutionary suspicion of global warming? I know that the forces of market capitalism are potent, but they certainly lack the powers of the sun and solar system to alter the earth. I have also spent too much time in academia and met too many professors not to know that politicization has infected campus teaching and research — especially the doctrine that the noble ends always justify the occasionally suspect means.
Global warming is a cult belief of the elite: the latter conveniently opposed fracking and horizontal drilling, while subsidizing costly wind and solar that hurt the poor (the lines of cars of poor Latinos at the rural filling station near my house — which offers gas at 10 cents a gallon cheaper than in town — forms about 6:00 a.m.). Such facts — like the cost of air conditioning in Fresno on an August 105 Fahrenheit afternoon — are of no interest tothe Palo Alto or Berkeley utopian.
It is the penance that instead counts — an Al Gore lecturing upscale students on polar bear populations so he can use his carbon-offsetted private jet to save them. There is the matter of “cool” too: Worrying about global warming is like drinking Starbucks as you enter Whole Foods; in contrast, worrying about cheap natural gas to help the poor have warm homes is like drinking a McDonald’s latte as you are greeted at the door of Walmart.
Cool — for upscale, would-be revolutionaries – is everything.
I have met very few academics, politicians, or journalists who knew much about guns. Few of them hunt. Most do not live in bad neighborhoods or drive long distances, sometimes through or into rough areas. I suspect few work alone at night. Few are plagued by woodpeckers destroying an eve on the barn, varmints digging under the shed pavement, or a rabid coyote too close to the doghouse.
So when I hear a liberal expert propose yet another round of Second Amendment infringement, I expect confusion about magazines, clips, calibers, rifles, shotguns, pistols, “automatic” and “semi-automatic,” and “assault weapons.” (Four hours, black spray paint, a sheet of aluminum, cardboard, tin snips, solder, and super glue, and you perhaps could make my ancient semi-automatic .22 resemble a scary “assault rifle.”)
So far I have heard of no proposed legislation that would have stopped Sandy Hook or Columbine, tragically so. To have prevented another unhinged loser from shooting children and teens would have required a police state to have confiscated millions of previously sold legal weapons and ammunition, or to have had armed guards in the schools. There is no legal support for the former or political support for the latter.
The Sandy Hook shooter’s sick fascination with violent video games and his aberrant psychological state (or was it an autistic-like impairment?) were the stronger catalysts of his mayhem. Yet I know that the Obama administration has no desire to go after Hollywood moguls regarding gratuitous gun violence on the big screen, much less take on the ACLU and the psychiatry industry about either psychotropic drugs or the ability of the clearly unhinged to avoid incarceration.
There is a predictability in the liberal mindset: it prefers the iconic to the substantial in matters of controversy. Address the misdemeanor, ignore the felony.
To stop most gun-related deaths in general in the US, we would have to focus on inner-city youths (cf. both the success and controversy of stop-and-frisk in New York). We would have to target young minority males in advertising to make the illicit use of the gun comparable to the social unattractiveness of … well, smoking.
I cannot see any of that happening. So we go after the demonic gun that causes less than 1% of annual gun-related deaths, feel good about doing something “for the children,” and derive an added psychic uplift that such a superfluous something also enrages the lower-middle class — especially the slightly rural, mostly white male Sarah Palin constituent. The First Amendment is sacrosanct and must be expanded; the Second is suspect and must be deflated.
Sometime about a year ago, the long-held position of Barack Obama and the Clintons on gay marriage — No! — became, in Emmanuel Goldstein fashion, abhorrent. Indeed, they’ve become harsh critics of those who still believe as they recently did.
Most Americans are fine with civil unions and, in live-and-let-live fashion, don’t worry all that much about gay marriage. Nonetheless, why the sudden dramatic change, if not for brilliant messaging and well-funded liberal gay donors whose pledges were made contingent on fluidity on the issue?
Key to the transformation in popular culture was the radical change in the perception of male homosexuality. In the 1980s and 1990s — read the work of the late gay investigative journalist Randy Shilts, or the old videos of San Francisco parades or arguments over bath houses — there was the general impression that male homosexuality was both more promiscuous than either heterosexual or lesbian practice, and that passive sexual intercourse was a catalyst for the spread of the AIDS virus and hepatitis (suddenly a venereal disease in a way it had not been in the past) in a manner that “normative” heterosexual intercourse was not.
Mention of male homosexuality in the news was usually linked with sexual practice, and the result was not favorable to the majority of the public. The age-old word “sodomy” was not then the taboo term that it is now. That perception — reality, whatever one calls it — has now vanished. “Gay” is a non-sexual sobriquet that involves vaguely defined expressions of affection. To suggest that anal intercourse is statistically more likely to be unhygienic or, if practiced with frequency, to run the risk of either hepatitis or AIDS is now proof of homophobia. Indeed, so is the use of “homosexual” for “gay.”
Most of us do not think too much about it, other than to ensure that we treat people — in my case whether in evaluating students, grant applicants, or scholars — equally, with no interest at all in their sexual lives.
That said, the transformation in gay-advocacy strategy has been nothing short of remarkable, its signature achievement being that there is absolutely nothing much different between gay male and straight male sexual congress — and that those who believe there is are themselves bigots.
If so, we should soon expect the liberal popular culture — from the movies of Quentin Tarantino to the recent Spartacus series — to stop presenting anal penetration as an especially unwelcome sort of act, or a particular nasty sort of sexual coercion.
In the logic of gay marriage, liberal culture — art, cinema, movies, journalism, politics — will soon represent gay male sexual practice as an act as natural as any other, without value judgments of any sort attached to it. Also, I would expect in the years ahead that the law, as it does now, will not add enhanced charges like “anal penetration” or “sodomy” to sexual criminal complaints. I am confused in this progressive era why I still read that a particular sex offender suspect is to be considered especially odious, by adding details to his charges like “sodomy” or “anal penetration.” Why qualify, much less legally enhance, the particular details of rape?
Incidentally, in matters of sexual consistency, there should be no longer suspicions of adult males being Brownie or Girl Scout Masters, given that the gay rights movement has made the Boy Scouts themselves suspect for unfairly discouraging gay Scout Masters. Is a forty-year old heterosexual male any more likely to look upon young girls in untoward fashion than a forty-year old gay male would young boys? Gay marriage is not the end of a long struggle, but the very beginning of a brave new world whose contours we can only imagine.
In good 1984-style, the Associated Press just outlawed “illegal immigrant.” Apparently “illegal alien” was so odious that its banishment was automatic and not worthy of citation. Yet what does “undocumented” mean, given one usually never applied for documents to be un-anything?
As Orwell saw, imprecision, or rather deliberate distortion, in language is always the first characteristic of the totalitarian.
Here are the public’s problems with illegal immigration, from 1-5:
1. The law: Once one group feels that it is exempt from federal law, others might as well, too. If I choose to break a federal statute of my own choosing with impunity, why would I fear doing the same with others? Who needs to file a 1040 or worry about car registration, a building permit, a fishing license, or rabies pet vaccination?
We forget that the illegal immigrant serially violates the law in obtaining all sorts of fraudulent documents (how can one with a false Social Security number be “undocumented”?), any one violation of which would harm the job or education prospects of a US citizen.
2. The tribe: Illegal immigration, largely from Latin America, is too often implicitly predicated on ethnic chauvinism. Were it a matter of Southeast Asians or Poles coming illegally and en masse, La Raza activism would be nonexistent — or championing law enforcement.
The Democratic Party in general supports massive influxes, followed by periodic amnesties, followed by expanded entitlements, followed by political loyalty for 3-4 generations. La Raza activists see numbers as key to incomplete assimilation that in turn leads to salad-bowl like political constituencies. Without massive immigration, the Democratic Party’s base — greens, gays, single women, metrosexual young yuppie couples, African-Americans, third-generation Asians and Latinos — does not guarantee the much-promised new demography. As a rough observation, red-state, church-going nuclear families seem to be having more kids than blue-state sorts.
Once the impoverished Oaxacan immigrant crosses the border, he becomes statistical proof that Latinos have not achieved parity with the majority culture, due to all sorts of –isms and –ologies that can only be addressed by more government programs staffed by activists. The fact of why and how he was impoverished and whom was to blame before he crossed the border is too illiberal to be addressed.
The most frightening statistic I know in regards to illegal immigration is the disappointing performance of second-generation California Latinos in standardized tests and graduating from high school.
Compare this quote from an April 2012 Wall Street Journal article written by George P. Shultz and Eric A. Hanushek:
But the averages mask the truly sad story in the Latino population, soon to become California’s dominant demographic group. Hispanics attending school in California perform no better than the average student in Mexico, a level comparable to the typical student in Kazakhstan. An alarming 43% of Hispanic students in California did not complete high school between 2005 and 2009, and only 10% attained a college degree.
Where did all that massive money spent in remedial help and education go, if Mexico does as good a job as the US?
A word like raza really does mean race, as in the superior race. Because it compounds the assumptions of an exceptional language and ethnic heritage and racial identity, it is pernicious in the way unquestioned use of volk in 19th-century Germany logically grew into something quite scary 100 years later.
3. Helot labor is helot labor: Something is quite sick when a country of chronic 7.6% unemployment (in fact, much higher when we count those who gave up looking for work) wants to import a million menial laborers.
Either entitlements are too generous, or no longer tied to work participation, or we have lost the respect for a shared experience of entry-level physical drudgery, the traditional perquisite to character. I grew up with the bracero program, and remember the old Harvest of Shame-like documentaries, the Woody Guthrie “Deportee” activist songs, and the seasonal liberal op-eds deploring the exploitation. The premise that America can institutionalize the idea that you are good enough to work for us but not good enough to be one of us just won’t work.
Mark my words: the guest-worker program is an invitation to exploitation, endless social activism, serial amnesties, and more ethnic tensions.
4. Numbers impair assimilation: Bring in 100,000 immigrants and we are a melting pot of assimilation as Latinos follow the paradigm of the Italians; but bring in nearly 1,000,000 a year, and illegally so, and we are a salad-bowl, Balkanized society of competing factions.
Legality, English, and a diploma guarantee successful assimilation, which used to be desirable; the antithesis to all that ensures difficult assimilation, which to too many elites is now more desirable. How did assimilation, integration, and intermarriage become counter-revolutionary?
5. Legal immigration is mostly ignored, other than in platitudes about meritocratic criteria (e.g., education, skill sets, capital, etc.). Democrats sing of legal immigration as if they were the party working to get the brilliant Nigerian electrical engineer his green card at Google. Maybe, maybe not. But does Joe Biden or Chuck Schumer ever say the following?
We need to predicate immigration on legality and on precisely those skills needed by American society — and therefore we must close the borders to those who would come illegally, without a high-school diploma, and knowledge of English, given they are far more likely to draw on rather than contribute to the finances of the US.
The classically liberal position on immigration (e.g., treat everyone on a racially blind and ethnically blind basis; ensure that those who took the trouble to follow the law are privileged over those who did not and cut in line; apply meritocratic criteria not subject to racial or ethnic bias; and for applicants of roughly similar qualifications, ensure a rough “diversity” that results in Asians, Latin Americans, Africans, and Europeans entering in about equal numbers) is now counter-revolutionary.
Here is what you do if you are a revolutionary who wishes to transform the American economy:
a) Have the government absorb healthcare, one-sixth of the economy.
b) Ensure that a correct Federal Reserve establishes near-zero interest rates.
c) Vastly expand the numbers on food stamps, unemployment, and disability insurance.
d) Raise taxes on the upper incomes, so that in many states the suspect pay 55% of their incomes in federal income, payroll, Medicare, Obamacare, and state income taxes.
e) Exempt half the US households from federal income tax, so that for many April 15 is a day of credit reimbursement.
f) In matters of bankruptcy, seek to elevate pension holders over creditors and contractors.
g) Promote programs that seek to offer redress payouts to supposedly discriminated constituents and seek to excuse mortgage and credit card debt.
h) Vastly grow the number of federal employees.
i) Run chronic budget deficits to ensure redistributive growth.
j) Plan to double the national debt in eight years.
l) Cut the defense budget.
m) Keep entitlement payouts sacrosanct.
n) Conduct psychological warfare against the job-hiring classes (pay your fair share, you didn’t build that, no time to profit, fat cat, etc.).
o) Establish crony capitalism so that particular capitalists (e.g., Solyndra, GE, Chrysler, etc.) understand that anti-capitalist mandates do not apply to politically correct policies.
p) Discourage new gas and oil production that might undercut green energy and prevent gas from going “to European levels” or electricity to “skyrocket.”
Here is what you might do should you wish a natural recovery, decentralization, and more people working:
a) Simply do the opposite from all of the above.
How do you know if you are a counter-revolutionary? You sense that you – not just your opposition to “fundamental transformation” — must be destroyed.
It’s that simple.
URLs in this post:
 was not good for global-warming: http://www.powerlineblog.com/archives/2013/04/how-the-hockey-stick-crumbled-a-post-mortem.php
 is a cult belief of the elite: http://pjmedia.com/eddriscoll/2013/04/01/reactionary-religious-fanatics/
 opposed fracking and horizontal drilling: http://www.ocregister.com/opinion/state-502890-brown-california.html%20the%20next%20register%20piece…will
 the Palo Alto or Berkeley utopian: http://pjmedia.com/zombie/2013/04/07/protesters-greet-obama-on-s-f-s-billionaires-row/
 is everything: http://pjmedia.com/rogerlsimon/2011/09/18/death-of-the-cool/
 academics: http://twitchy.com/2013/01/17/joyce-carol-oates-gun-issue-is-a-race-issue-nra-members-are-totally-racist/
 politicians: http://pjmedia.com/instapundit/166426/
 journalists: http://www.powerlineblog.com/archives/2013/04/a-reporter-explains-why-gun-coverage-is-so-biased.php?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+powerlineblog%2Flivefeed+%28Power+Line%29&utm_content=My+Yahoo
 gratuitous gun violence on the big screen,: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LslLO9rAfjU&feature=player_embedded
 the success and controversy: http://www.manhattan-institute.org/html/miarticle.htm?id=9034#.UWHWmVeQ384
 abhorrent: http://pjmedia.com/eddriscoll/2012/05/13/our-first-gay-president/
 As Orwell saw: https://www.mtholyoke.edu/acad/intrel/orwell46.htm
©2013 Victor Davis Hanson