Building the New Dark-Age Mind

America’s descent into the Dark Ages will not end well. It never has in the past.

by Victor Davis Hanson // PJ Media

america_anarchy_flag_11-30-14-1History is not static and it does not progress linearly.  There was more free speech and unimpeded expression in 5th-century Athens than in Western Europe between 1934-45, or in Eastern Europe during 1946-1989. An American could speak his mind more freely in 1970 than now. Many in the United States had naively believed that the Enlightenment, the U.S. Constitution, and over two centuries of American customs and traditions had guaranteed that Americans could always take for granted free speech and unfettered inquiry.

That is an ahistorical assumption. The wish to silence, censor, and impede thought is just as strong a human emotion as the desire for free expression — especially when censorship is cloaked in rhetoric about fairness, equality, justice, and all the other euphemisms for not allowing the free promulgation of ideas.

George Orwell devoted his later years to warning us that while the fascist method of destroying free expression was easily identified (albeit only with difficulty combatted), the leftwing totalitarian impulse to squelch unpopular speech was far harder to resist — couched as it was in sloganeering about the “people” and “social justice.” It is easy to object to the speech codes of a self-interested, corrupt dictator in sunglasses and epaulettes, but difficult to fight censorship that allegedly helps the poor, minorities, and the helpless.

We can all but write off today’s university [1] as a place of free expression. In the age of Obama, zealots in the university have clamped down on any thought deemed reactionary. “Trigger warning” is a euphemism for trying either to censure literature or to denigrate it. “Safe space” is another term for the segregation of campus areas by race, class, or ideology. “Hate speech” has become a pejorative for uncomfortable truth.

So try a thought experiment. If Professor A in various fora — before the academic senate, at the “free speech” area of the quad, during student advising, in a faculty meeting, or during class — announced that on-campus, Christian student groups practiced hate speech and thus should be monitored or silenced, or he declared that due to white privilege he was holding private tutoring sessions only for people of color, or he urged that global warming deniers should not be allowed to spread their heresies in class, or he insisted that the nature and propriety of sexual intercourse should be post facto defined only by the female participant, he would be hailed, and many of those proposals would be taken seriously if they were not already part of campus protocol.

But if a bookend Professor B in the same venues announced that he found Muslim groups equally suspect, or that, due to constant deprecation of white males, he was holding tutoring sessions only for his European-American students, or that he was hosting a campus conference on the unscientific nature of the global warming movement, or if he urged the university to insist that any allegations of rape follow strictly the rules of evidence and procedures as outlined in the U.S. Constitution and state laws of criminal jurisprudence, he would find himself in a great deal of trouble, if not fired.

A pre-Enlightenment Age is not just the absence of uncomfortable free expression. It is also a sort of groupthink acceptance of a lie in place of the truth on grounds of social utility. Forensic evidence, testimony, and logic have shown that “hands up, don’t shoot” is a complete myth. Michael Brown, fresh from committing a robbery, walking down the middle of the street, apparently under the influence, lunged at a policeman, grabbed for his weapon, fled, turned around and charged, before being shot and killed. He was not shot in the back. Nor did he halt and put his hands up, begging the policeman not to shoot him. Yet the president of the United States often invokes generically “Ferguson,” as if it were proof of police brutality. “Hands up, don’t shoot” is analogous to “the earth is flat” or “the sun revolves around the earth.”

“Mattress Girl” is a Columbia University co-ed who had post facto regrets about once sexually hooking up with a young male student. She then recalibrated their pairing as a forcible rape, and yet was not able to demonstrate to either the university or the police that her allegations were valid. Yet she became a cult-hero. The progressive world embraced her as a feminist icon, as she lugged around a mattress and made an explicit sex tape [2], to further a narrative that could not be proven true. If one assumed that 2,500 years ago Socrates destroyed for good the notion of moral relativism in his take down of the Sophists, think again. The subtext of Mattress Girl’s whine is that even if she is lying, her cause still furthers progressive agendas and thus is not really a lie after all.

Current popular culture is not empirically grounded, but operates on the premise that truth is socially constructed by race, class, and gender concerns. Imagine if Mattress Girl’s male sexual partner had alleged that, in fact, he was coerced into sex, and then he carried his own 50-pound mattress around campus to draw public attention to her coercion. Certainly, he would be ignored or laughed at. Science, logic, probability, evidence — all these cornerstones of the Enlightenment — now mean little in comparison to the race, class, and gender of those who offer narratives deemed socially useful.

Eric Holder called the nation  “cowards” for not holding a national conversation on race. But Holder did not wish a freewheeling discussion about the break-up of the black family, the epidemic of violence and drug use, the cult of the macho male, the baleful role of anti-police rhetoric and rap music — in addition to current racism, a sluggish economy, and the wages of past apartheid.  Instead, the ground rules of racial discussion were again to be anti-Enlightenment to the core. One must not cite the extraordinary disproportionate crime rate of inner-city black males, or the lack of inspired black leadership at the national level. One most certainly does not suggest that other minority groups either do not promote leaders like Al Sharpton or Jesse Jackson or do not seem to have a need for national collective spokespeople at all.

In our current Dark Age, logic is ignored in lieu of ideology. Hillary Clinton is declared a populist and — Presto! — she is a populist, railing about everything from hedge-fund operators to Wall Street hyper-profit making. No one seems to care that her egalitarian rhetoric simply cannot be true for a variety of reasons: Mrs. Clinton’s daughter, without any financial experience, worked for Wall Street investment groups and reportedly is now worth $15 million. Chelsea’s husband is a hedge-fund operator. Bill and Hillary Clinton have made over $100 million parlaying their public service into quid-pro-quo speaking engagements.  The Clinton Foundation is little more than a clearing house that allows hundreds of millions of tax-deductible dollars from foreign grandees to be funneled into the Clinton machine in hopes of future crony capitalist advantages — as the foundation pays for everything from Clinton jet travel to sinecures for temporary, out-of-work political operatives.  By any empirical standard, Hillary Clinton is an elitist manipulative multimillionaire, who with her husband mastered the revolving door of pay-for-play lobbying.

The California drought is the locus classicus of 21st-century know-nothingism. In a nutshell, periodic three- to four-year droughts are not abnormal in California. They can be predicated on little-understood changing oceanic temperatures, mostly known as “El Nino,” that involve the heating and cooling of central Pacific Ocean currents, which in turn adjudicate the number and nature of productive storms heading down the western coast of North America. Such droughts and the role of El Nino predated man-made concerns over global warming.

No matter. The president of the United States not long ago flew into Fresno, declared the dry spell the wage of global warming [3], and flew out to the environs of Palm Springs to golf.

The drought problem is not just that the state cancelled the later phases of the massive California Water Project, but that it also diverted precious stored water from reservoirs out to sea, in service to unproven theories about fish restoration. The Enlightenment idea would have been to make prior arrangements for the periodic absence of El Nino currents, by building more reservoirs, curbing releases of stored water for green experimentation, and matching population growth with new infrastructure. The un-Enlightenment preference is to freeze reservoir construction, to damn farmers as water-wasters, to claim that immigrants are being scapegoated for the drought, and to ignore El Nino facts in preference to global warming theories.

A final symptom of an un-Enlightened age is the assumption that lies are truth because untruth offers collective benefits, while veracity disrupts social justice. Take Obamacare. Almost every promoted tenet of the Affordable Care Act proved false: premiums went up; so did deductibles and co-payments. Millions lost not just their doctors but their existing health care plans [4] as well. The much ballyhooed health care website proved dysfunctional. Newly passed mandates were unlawfully suspended to enhance the Obama reelection effort.

Nationalized health care did not per se reduce the deficit, nor will its protocols contain escalating costs without radical curtailments in service. Mandatory electronic record keeping did not free physicians up to spend quality time with their patients, but often resulted in the very opposite with doctors typing into computer screens while distracted from patients’ inquiries. Again, no matter. Obamacare is now hailed as the president’s “signature achievement” and is becoming institutionalized in the manner of Social Security.

The country is terrified about having a rational and logical discussion about almost every great issue of our times: unsustainable national debts and deficits, the new nexus between leftwing plutocracy and populism, the viability of Social Security and Medicare, deteriorating race relations, the Soviet-style American campus, global warming, and the deterioration of medical care. Instead, to preclude honest talk, we offer perfunctory charges of sexism and racism, and seek cover in “fairness” and “equality.”

The redistributionist, equality-of-result state — fueled by a national progressive ideology — is the new deity that determines what is free expression. Blasphemy is now defined as daring to use logic and evidence to expose the state’s failed, deductive tenets.

This descent into the Dark Ages will not end well. It never has in the past.

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25 thoughts on “Building the New Dark-Age Mind”

  1. I applaud Dr. Hanson for a remarkably insightful article. The deniers of our present times, will have to someday soon be faced with the undeniable truth. That the U.S.A. cannot support a welfare system for 25 % of the population of Mexico, that it is wrong to bring in plane loads of unvetted Muslims, whose ideology tells them to kill all infidels, while the U.S.A. is providing 100% of the costs of maintaining them for their entire lifetime. Mr Obama’s presidency has indeed been transformative. He may be personally satisfied with the results of his Marxist manipulations but 90% of the American public is not enthralled by his destructive edicts. Mr Obama is hastening us into a dark age.

  2. Public funds are used to pay for “Progressive-Serfdomite Worldview” education. It is PC brainwashing and the cause of K-12 bullying, since the souls subject to this PC rot… feel bullied by the Progtard Ed system.

    Glorious organizations like Hillsdale College buck the trend. But no amount of masterful op eds, no amount of conservative talk radio, no amount of conservative blogging, no amount of rear guard Tea Party work, no amount of think-tank brilliance is sufficient to stop the tide of public-funded K-12 and university “Progserfdomite Worldview PC” education.

    The answer is to simply defund the Progserfdomite Worldview from public education, and replace the public-funded education with “Tragic-Liberty Worldview” education, a restoration to 1776-1900 educational ways.

    This is the fix, is it not?

    I dare say, could this also be an amendment to the Constitution? “No public funds shall go to any Progressive-Retardation-Serfdomite education pedagogy, as it causes ruinous brainwashing and decline. Neither shall public education funds go to Sharia Law or Isamic pedagogy. The public shall fund only “Tragic-Liberty Worldview-Western-Enlightenment” pedagogy, as this lines up with the Dec. of Indie, the Bill of Rights and the US Constitution’s more perfect (i.e. never slave-debt-whathaveyou-utopian in scheme or theme) union.”

  3. Pingback: Marking the decent

  4. Wow, when Dr. Hanson comes to the conclusion the United States is toast then it is really time to batten down the hatches and prepare for a hurricane!
    I’ve been saying for quite a few years the US is headed for the trash heap and, of course, it got there by what he has described above.
    We Conservatives have let it happen by our lack of action to stop it or, at least, slow it down! If I a may borrow from Winston Churchill by saying, “The wickedness of evil was only exceeded by the lack of will of the, so called, virtuous!

  5. The mortal danger to politicians are unfunded liabilities, current deficits, and the impossibility of raising interest rates. Political power has flowed to modern politicians because of gigantic revenue streams stemming from enormous, taxable, economic productivity and the income tax. A corrupt Supreme Court has enabled the growth of the federal leviathan funded by venal and power hungry politicians. Debt service costs will soar if interest rates rise and are added to existing deficits so recklessly incurred.

    The iron laws of arithmetic cannot be ignored any longer. There is simply no more room to maneuver and no newspaper, cable news channel, bent academic, or dependent constituency can manipulate, interpret, or alter the juggernaut of consequences ™ heading our way. Free speech and all gestures in the direction of rationality are an annoyance but a sterner reckoning ™ is still in the cards.

    In truth, R.L. Stevenson said it better when he said, ”Everybody, soon or late, sits down to a banquet of consequences.”

  6. Dr. Hanson – enjoy your posts.

    While everything you said is true, if you forced everyone that voted for Obama in 2012 to read this post, eighty percent (difficult to quantify, certainly well north of fifty percent) have neither the vocabulary nor the cognitive skills to understand the thesis. Things will have to crash and burn significantly before the message is even partially understood.

  7. Russell A Johnson

    Superb job of using history to drive home the points that:

    Human progress is not guaranteed to be linear or always forward

    Free and Open Speech is under unprecedented assault both in the educational establishment and the press.

  8. Building the old as time, dark-age mind is the cause, and now, how to deal with the effects from the fallout —–2020 to 2030 time frame. Igniting the ungodly strengths of dictator rule, coinciding with the weaknesses of democratic rule, led by the golfing Barry-types and their mindless entourage of lemmings.

  9. “” bond crash across the world as deflation trade goes horribly wrong.”” From the Telegraph. Falling domino’s to the final death throes. The Western World has painted itself into a corner.

  10. It’s not new. Kant had to deny knowledge to make room for faith. We are now seeing the logical dead-end, because we have turned from reason a long time ago.

  11. I would like to throw this into the mix on building the New Dark Age Mind:

    We are at war with China with North Korea with Russia with Muslim nations…each with vast armies of internet soldiers…imposing their reality of the world thru social media as Boris from Moscow becomes Jimmy from Salt Lake City or Jin Lee from Beijing becomes Mary from Ann Arbor “salt of the earth, people you can trust” who work to create real life consequences for American citizens which are not in our best interests…

    if this sounds reasonable?

    how do you know I am an American?

  12. Our society is paying a price for understanding history and lessons to be learned from it to consist of little more than the Twitter tweets the collective consciousness can ponder in an ever shrinking national attention span. Social sanctions mount and are accelerating against those whose perceived heresies challenge the eternal wisdom of the last fifteen minutes of social media’s pontifications. Current books from those both on the right and left, Guy Benson and Mary Katherine Ham as well as Kirsten Powers for example, catalog and lament shrinking deliberative tolerance often now stifled in the name of tolerance. George Orwell used expressions like “thought crime” which once were intended to describe cancers on the personal and public mental life. Today there are many who think enlisting in the ranks of thought police is actually a noble calling. Victor Davis Hanson skillfully maps out the landscape.

  13. In a foreword to the Harper Torchbook paperback edition of The Pursuit of the Millennium (New York, 1961), author Norman Cohn says results of his investigation into the occult sources of the Bolshevik and Nazi ‘ideologies’ show that “between the medieval and the modern preachers of the revolutionary apocalypse, there is more than resemblance, there is a hidden continuity.”

  14. Well delineated. REALLY well delineated.
    Power is always being taken and abused by people who have no legal right to it.
    Or it’s abused if they have a legal right to it.
    If we want to stay free then we have to remember that this is a constant and that we have to constantly stand against it.
    Our Republic will never be finished or perfected.
    All VDH’s observations are accurate but side by side with these tragic developments is the American
    peoples rebellion against the actions and ideologies that are taking hold.
    Rand Paul, Mike Lee, Ted Cruz, Paul Ryan etc.etc…..on and on and on.
    Person after person after person is standing up for what is right.
    30 years ago there was no Mark Levin on the radio or Fox news on Television.
    It’s always been a fight and will probably always be a fight.
    Stupid people are born every day and they have to be dealt with.
    What did the founders have to deal with?
    You get the idea.

  15. What to say when so many demand livelihoods and respect they have neither earned nor deserved while the honest and industrious carry increasingly heavy burdens to make that possible? What to say when so many feel entitled because of a past they never lived while pushing a false guilt about that past on those who were never there? What to say when the voters in a first world society vote in a mere orator when candidates of superior intellect, experience, and wisdom are given short shrift, not once but twice? What to say when political correctness becomes the accepted alternative to plain common sense? At least Victor Hanson and certain others know what to say.

  16. Re: “The Western World has painted itself into a corner”

    Yes but I would like to suggest that state of affairs is a combination of Western timidity and opportunistic ideologues messing around within the globes political, cultural and social spectrums. I think they believe the ‘zeitgeist’ is in their favor now as they shut out the democratic lights. Force, mendacity and aggression are the calling cards now for them.

    Lamentable that we are apparently regressing in our attempt to hold positions in a modern day Thermopylae which is under assault. At least then the enemy was met with will, force and belief in a great cause. Yes it was a defeat but indeed it represented a stand against oppression and those who would want to impose their anti-democratic ideas on a culture and society and change it.

    It would appear the the West needs to get back the will to fight and show much more clear thinking as we traverse this dismal ‘Dark Age’. If it doesn’t well I’m afraid the consequences are dreadful. If the West fails without a willful fight , it would be a betrayal of Athenian and Spartan dead who became dust in the earth because of their defense of liberty.

  17. Glad you finally wrote about the bizarre state of campus sexuality. Young men are getting slaughtered and our senators (Gillibrand) are doing everything they can to advance these fascist paradigms on the country as a whole. So sad, as I cherished the progressive open-ness in the ’80’s when there seemed to be a balance between the conservative and progressive agendas.
    Unfortunately I have seen my favored ideology quickly turn sinister. Stepping away from more conservative traditional thinking apparently created a power/idea vacuum that more radical and terrifying elements have moved into and grabbed for the advancement of their own nihilistic insanity.

  18. In the epigraph to Huxley’s Brave New World, Nicolas Berdiaeff writes, “Perhaps a new century will begin, a century in which the intellectuals and cultivated classes will dream again of ways to avoid utopias and return to a non-utopian society, one less ‘perfect’ and more free.”

    Utopias, whether they be thousand years Reichs, Worker’s Paradises or Hope and Change, all follow the same pattern: (1) they start as bitter reactions to either a genuine injustice -eg: crushing war reparations that lead to sky rocket inflation and people starving in the streets – or a manufactured one – eg: “The War on Women”; (2) an emerging singular leader comes along claiming to be the Pied Piper that will lead the masses out of their misery, and create a perfect society; (3) a coercive police state is established (often with a smiley face and under the guise of compassion and fairness) in order to stamp out dissent and enforce the party line; and, finally, (4) a “Darkness at Noon” descends upon society which suppresses the human spirit and inprisons the mind.

    Despite the allure of a perfect society that utopic visions have, they can never deliver both perfection and individual freedom. This is because individual freedom is inversely proportional to human equality. The reason, for example, a poor kid from Brooklyn can become the World Chess Champion, a child born in a French cat house and raised in grinding poverty can become an internationally renowned singer or a black child kicking around tied up rags in the slums of Tres Coracoes can become the greatest soccer player in history is not because they grew up in a utopia; their success was due to their own talent and determination to be the best they could be.

  19. Pingback: Building the New Dark-Age Mind « THE BLACK KETTLE

  20. Disagree Tom, we are now seeing what has been foretold, not simply the “logical dead-end”. Per the apostle Peter –
    “That ye may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us the apostles of the Lord and Saviour: Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation. For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water: Whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished: But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.” 2 Peter 3:2-14.

    8 But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.

    9 The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.

    10 But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.

    11 Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness,

    12 Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat?

    13 Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.

    14 Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless.

  21. Teachers, students, and administrators in Western institutions of higher education have been busy as bees concocting the new Dark-Age mentality. One of their most highly potent distillations is none other than the current president of the United States.

  22. I agree 100% except that this website appears to have censored my comment on a Bruce Singleton article for using the word “white”, so what gives? Do we not have the courage of our convictions?

  23. Scariest of all the irrationalists are those who inhabit the Federal Reserve. Artificially hold down interest rates until “the data tells you” it’s okay to let the free market decide what the cost of money ought to be again? Clearly we learned nothing from the collapse of central planning, and along with it, the end of the Soviet East.

    I’ll tell you what, as someone who makes his living looking at the stupid things, the chart of the S&P 500 futures looks positively scary. The bulls had better break out of their May 19 high of 2134, and do so this summer. Otherwise, come fall, these financial markets are in serious trouble. (When the cliches start to apply — “Sell in May and go away” — “Third time [as in third bubble blown by the Fed] is the charm” — “Buy the rumor, sell the news [of the Fed ending QE in September]” — you know it’s getting real.)

    What will this society’s reaction to a retest of the 666.74 lows of March 2009 look like? And what if that level fails to hold? As the Professor wrote, “This descent … will not end well. It never has in the past.” Especially, relative to the financial system, with the Fed out of both bullets and ideas.

    It will be interesting to see whether, *en extrimis*, they attempt to defend the country’s First World status by protecting the currency, or bow to where all the political pressure will be coming from, to really-and-truly print money and inflate until Midnight.

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