Joe Biden and the Uses of Nihilism

Victor Davis Hanson
American Greatness

Chaos is the new, the intentional, normal. A pandemic of nihilism has been unleashed upon the land. As in Lord of the Flies, when laws, rules, protocols, traditions, and customs are mocked and dismantled, primitive human nature in the raw is unleashed. 

Madness now reigns in every quarter, from the iconic to the irrelevant to the fundamental. Statues of Lincoln, Douglass, and Jefferson are toppled or defaced. The rules of capitalization have been altered. We are told that 1619, not 1776, was our founding date—and this by a “civil rights” activist-journalist who had no idea of the date that the Civil War began.

Quite quickly after the revolutionary boilerplate, America began reverting to its natural Hobbesian or Thucydidean essence. If you dispute that, look at looted packages along the Union Pacific tracks in Los Angeles. Try walking the nocturnal streets of Chicago or Baltimore. Visit the sidewalk homeless of San Francisco. Fly over our constipated ports. Drive into our empty new car dealerships. Pull up to our European-priced gas pumps. Shop in the emptying shelves of our Sovietizing food and discount stores. The common theme of the upcoming Super Bowl halftime show, apparently, is that the entertainers must have written lyrics threatening the police, denigrating women, using the N-word . . . and be worth $100 million.

Of course, that is what the elites celebrate, as people struggle to buy food, gas, and cars. The police are under attack and being killed on the street. The public is bewildered about criminals not being punished, workers paid to stay home, and biological men commandeering women’s sports

Abnormal is normal; normal is despised and discarded.

Friends and associates of all races and ethnicities are increasingly suspicious of each other. They are fleeing to the ancient refuge of tribal solidarity. Red states are hated, although they function, and are sought out; blue states are praised, even as they fail and residents flee. Our “leaders” are doing their best to confirm the age-old invective of our enemies that e pluribus unum simply cannot work.

Americans keep being pounded with “Vaccination! Vaccination! Vaccination!”—but never with commensurate advice on therapies, affordable drugs, and pragmatic protocols to survive COVID-19, as it often breaks through to the already thrice vaccinated.

Americans could tolerate the misinformation and the contradictions emanating from the CDC, the NIH, and NIAID. But only if the deceptions were issued with some humility and qualifiers, reminding us of our shared ignorance about the mysterious virus. Instead, pompous and insufferably sanctimonious bureaucrats sent out flurries of false knowledge, as if they were religious edicts, with implied medieval punishments for the apostates. Apologies never follow.

The public cannot fathom the border. Prior presidents hunting for cheap political gain (Republicans for more labor, Democrats for new constituents) were lax on immigration enforcement. Yet no president has ever deliberately invited in more than 2 million foreign nationals—entering illegally, impoverished, unvaccinated, untested, and without background checks. No prior president has not only violated his oath of office to enforce the laws of the United States, but simply and intentionally destroyed the law as it was written. Apply the Left’s 2019-2020 impeachment standard to Joe Biden’s first year, and he would be impeached the minute a Republican majority captured the House.

Americans sense the United States is losing all influence abroad, as allies gravitate to or appease China and Russia. The public does not lament the loss of global clout and prestige alone. Rather, the people also fear the end of the ancient American strategy of keeping foreign enemies far distant from the homeland.

As they figure out the themes of the present madness, Americans become troubled as they attempt to fathom the characteristics of the ongoing nihilism. 

One, they see much of the sudden anarchy as self-induced, deliberate, agenda-driven, and as correctible as it was avoidable. In other words, the catastrophe of 2021 was no accident, but a tactic in service of a strategy.

Two, they conclude that the nihilism intentionally targets the despised middle class—those who tend to obey the rules, who pay their taxes, who don’t get arrested, who largely keep quiet—and who are standing in the way of a revolution. These Americans are underrepresented in crime, in upward mobility, and on most college campuses, but overrepresented in suicide rates and the death tolls in optional wars abroad.

For their part, the hoi polloi conclude that the more that they are libeled as “victimizers,” the more they are becoming the actual victims. Indeed, the heroic “victimized” are the ones most often flouting the law, committing violent crimes, and tearing down the institutions that in bygone days provided security and prosperity for everyone. 

Three, ordinary citizens feel the law has utterly vanished. Sometimes it simply is ignored, as we see with revolving-door criminals who kill, maim, and loot with near impunity. Sometimes the law simply is asymmetrically applied. The administration correctly jails those convicted of illegally entering the Capitol and trashing the chambers of government, but it then grants de facto amnesties to the thousands who deliberately injured, torched, and looted for 120 days of riots, death, and mayhem in 2020. 

Joe Biden meanders through his photo-ops indifferent to American civilization collapsing around him. His first year was the most disastrous of any presidency in history. Should that calamity continue, Biden will be known by posterity as the most inept president to have held office.

So why does he not take to the bully pulpit to deplore the current smash-and-grab, carjacking, and murder epidemic now reaching either all-time highs or levels not seen since the 1970s? Does Biden have a shred of empathy for the widow of a murdered policeman, the spouses and parents of those mowed down in Waukesha, the children shot dead in Chicago?

Joe Biden defended his policies by saying that automobile price spikes account for one-third of the spiraling consumer price index. So what? Does that mean inflation is somehow tolerable—as if citizens don’t drive cars most days of their lives? 

Is Biden aware that his administration’s core inflation definition and the consumer price index itself exclude energy as well as food price increases? What the real inflation rate is no one knows—but all understand that what we see and feel every day is far worse than what we are told. 

Biden has never explained to us the humiliation in Afghanistan—other than to whine that the generals failed to warn him of his own folly. Does he know why now Vladimir Putin again ponders attacking his neighbors—but did not between 2017 and 2020? 

Did Biden ever consider the fast-tracking of pipelines, more fracking, a restoration of 2020 levels of oil and gas production, and more leases granted to avoid America’s continued dependence on the Russians and the Middle East? Instead, Biden begged Russia and the Saudis—both of whom he has derided—to pump more of the oil he despises, and which we have in abundance but will not use.

Did Biden once say stop the new racial tensions, or argue that Americans should worry first about the content of our character not the color of our skins? Has he ever worried about the racial cauldron he has lit and fueled? Not at all. 

Instead, Biden has done his best to inflame race through his own vile racist slurs. The recent “you ain’t black,” “junkie,” “boy, “negro,” are added to his prior inflammatory repertoire of “clean African-American,” “put y’all back in chains,” and the racist Corn Pop saga. 

Second, Biden demagogues race to win the support of his base of racialists. Has any president ever announced ahead of time that only those of a particular race and gender would be eligible for selection as his running mate and first Supreme Court nomination? At least Harvard keeps quiet about its racialism and does not flaunt the idea that it systematically discriminates against Asians.

So, in a vast multiracial democracy of tribal competition and tensions, Biden has done his best to turn Americans against each other—and has succeeded in a fashion that would have made his old Dixiecrat Senate mentors Robert Byrd and James O. Eastland proud. 

The mystery is perhaps not that nihilism has swept through America as effectively as Omicron, but why the president and the Left unleashed it. So, what explains the madness? 

First, Biden is cognitively challenged to the point of not being physically or mentally able to meet the challenges of the presidency. His handlers know it. The media knows it. And the public knows it, too. 

Irony has become the Left’s enemy. After screaming that Donald Trump should be removed under the 25th Amendment, that he should take a mental competency test, and that everyone from the acting director of the FBI to Ivy League psychiatrists must scheme to prove he was nuts, they all have grown silent. The Left’s quiet reflects that they are terrified that anyone else might successfully do to a genuinely enfeebled and failed president what they themselves attempted to do to a cognizant and successful president.

Biden’s assigned task in 2020 was to put a familiar “centrist” veneer on a radical agenda. Thereby, the hard Left, with the help of COVID-19 and Silicon Valley, could push that agenda past an unsuspecting public. Upon election, Biden would not revert to old Joe from Scranton deploring the leftist tool that he had become.

The movers of the agenda are the hard Left of the Democratic Party, those who circle around Bernie Sanders, the Obamas, Elizabeth Warren, and “the squad.” The shock troops are Black Lives Matter, Antifa, the millions on the campus, and the internet mob. The more confusion, chaos, and anarchy that follows, the more of their agenda they hope to push through, if not by legislative vote, then by executive edict, court decision, or simply ignoring the law. 

The third catalyst of the woke chaos are the hyper-rich—the franchise owners of the Left. These are the huge donors who nourish the think tanks, the media, the PACs, and the legal teams—the Zuckerbergs, the Soroses, the Bezoses and the rest of the Silicon Valley plutocracy. 

Equally important are the hypocritical professional classes—the tech upper-echelon, the media cohorts, the corporate lawyers and CEOs, the various university professoriate and administrations, the celebrities, the professional athletes, and the bicoastal movers and shakers. On the one hand, they are assuming that Americans won’t actually vote for their neosocialist utopias, which can be enacted only by changing the rules or demography or both. And on the other hand, they are hedging that their money, influence, and power will insulate them and their own from the stampede at the border, the growing criminality in the cities, price hikes that batter the middle classes, and the tribalism and racialism they helped to greenlight. 

In normal times, such hard-left agendas have no resonance. But during a plague, lockdown, riots and arson, during murder and mayhem, chaos and anarchy?

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27 thoughts on “Joe Biden and the Uses of Nihilism”

  1. Sir, with the utmost respect. the answer is a new party. A new party, done right, blows the doors off of the, virtual, “snow globe” world we built. The party must allow for multi lateral partnerships, for example, addressing the pitfalls caused by identity politics by diffusing the tensions with new unifying strategies. This new party must the people’s party, so some ideology from the fringe right and left will have to be altered. Look at what Blackrock is doing to the housing market, look at this pickle we’re stumbling into with Russia, look at the education and behavior of our children. How do we leave the world better than we found it? Not by screaming at each other, the good people of this nation finally need good people to represent them. We can start immediately and get people in by the midterms. That’s how fractious things are right now. We have Meg Kelly, Tucker, Laura, Greenwald from the right and Rogan, and many others from the left. There is also capital out there looking for this. Thank you

  2. Another in a very long history of excellent takes from VDH. Short term, there may be a chance for the remaining critical thinkers to unite under the Republican banner, although I do have genuine concerns as to the integrity of our voting process.

    Long term, though, what’s driving all of this is philosophical and psychological in nature. Today’s left are simply acting out the logical consequence of philosophical materialism/physicalism which assures them that meaning and purpose are illusory byproducts of a deluded consciousness. Consciousness itself is seen as an accidental byproduct that “emerges” from otherwise inert matter. Opposing them are largely dualists, who posit the existence of a transcendent God who engineered creation, but can never be demonstrated to exist objectively.

    I am certain that nether of these philosophical foundations can survive, that if there is to be a solution, it will be via a third way. I discuss this in detail elsewhere, but of all the voices on the intellectual landscape today, there are two that are articulating a potential path forward. First is Bernardo Kastrup, and his philosophy of analytic idealism, second is Iain McGilchrist, who recently published his tome, The Matter with Things. Both are pointing to an understanding of nature and reality that is much deeper and richer than either of the prominent options. Peter Kingsley’s Reality is worth a read to as well.

    Minds must change, and time will tell.

  3. Rather grim picture, one I don’t see changing in the face of zero effective resistance.
    Shall we clutch our rosaries and pray for deliverance in the midterms?
    How can we assume that will work? The Covid and terror tactics worked in 2020, why wouldn’t they work in 2022 or 2024?
    The enemy has a rear, and it’s defended by people whom the left mistrusts and despises.

  4. Irony may have become the Left’s enemy, but cynicism remains their ally in their ongoing fight against average Americans.

  5. So your answer to “why [have] the president and the Left unleashed [that nihilism]” is, “The more confusion, chaos, and anarchy that [follow], the more of their agenda they hope to push through, if not by legislative vote, then by executive edict, court decision, or simply ignoring the law.”

    If that’s what you’re saying (and I think it is), then you’ve described the classic Marxist revolutionary strategy: destroy the institutions of the existing society in order to easily replace them with systems in line with Marxist ideology.

  6. Hello, I think it would be very helpful if VDH would write questions for the reporters who attend the White House news conferences. They are not able to present honest questions that will force the truth to be apparent even when the answer given is deceptive or dishonest. I think that VDH could provide fool proof questions.

    Also, thank you for your honest and intelligent writing. It is good to know that I am not alone in my worry for our great nation. So many Americans can’t understand what is happening even though it is right there in front of them.

    Regards,

    Kate

  7. Excellent article. Waiting to hear your take on what’s happening to Joe Rogan with Spotify coming under pressure. Does it mean that anything that is controversial will have an alert? Slippery slope.

  8. Another tiresome litany of current grievances from VDH, followed by a series of question marks which all amount to the same whine from our repetitious Professor Hanson:

    “Why isn’t Joe Biden a sensible liberal on race and other issues like MLK-loving me?”

    And of course for VDH the one thing Middle Americans, also known as whites, absolutely, positively can’t do just happens to be exactly what they did do to keep this country safe, secure and prosperous since 1620 — which is to proclaim white solidarity against all rivals, black, yellow and red. (When we didn’t 750,000 good Americans perished.)

    Oh, no! We mustn’t do that. Far better we take advice from this ex-Democrat whose ideas proved abjectly useless in the battle against the progressives, the Woke and the insane, on his campus and off.

    Let’s DOUBLE-DOWN on color-blindness, friends. Like socialism, free trade and permissiveness, it’s gotta work sooner or later!

    1. Let me get this straight… Progressives leftists continue to shove anti-American socio-economic policies down the throats of those who oppose socialism, open borders, permissiveness, blah, blah, blah… And when VDH consistently holds to the data regarding outcomes, you (Starboard) are condescending because policy, with which you ostensibly agree, produces outcomes that are an abysmal failure and offensive to productive, self-controlled, & respectable persons? Am I reading your patronization correctly? I surely hope not! Because if I am, you are an idiot who’s part of the problem, and that can’t possibly be accurate for one as all-knowing & superior to we plebeians as yourself.

  9. Brilliant summary of the garbage times we are living in as a result of 2020 election fraud and Wuhan Institute Lab Leak.

  10. Dr. Hanson,
    Thank you so much for this wonderful analysis of our current situation. I look forward to each new piece you offer us.
    Steve Stroup

  11. There is too much just talk going on with the conservative news right now, as if the left will come to their senses one day. They are not! They are not going to stop and are doubling down, trying to change our whole way of living! As you mentioned, now they are breaking the law openly.
    We have to organize and take our country back!
    #1 The voting booths, machines, have to be guarded by equal numbers of unbiased officials from both sides, especially the Democratic electoral vote states.
    Only real people with proper ids this time!

    This, or we are wasting our time!
    What can we the People do?
    Any ideas? It’s time for Action!

    I admire your Truth and how you capture it in the whole picture.
    J

  12. The Sinistral Bassist

    The outrage over the treatment of the Jan 6 political prisoners is precisely because they have not been tried, let alone convicted, and are languishing in jail while the federal government continues to hide exculpatory evidence and lie about what happened.

    1. You are right on the point !!! The whole so called “riot “ was a setup. On any other occasion the fence would take 3 days to assemble and erect. This fence went up within 3 hours.

  13. Thank you, Professor Hanson, for your current coverage and analysis
    of the American cultural/political landscape. You have connected all the
    dots and made clear the insane and destructive path the Left is pushing
    under our very noses. It defies common sense and principles our country has valued and defended from its inception. Every day brings
    more evidence of moral decay as a result of the departure
    from the founders’ wisdom and the protections of the Constitution.
    You nailed it!

  14. In September of 2020 I complained to my conservative, independent friends that the Dems were going to win the White House because it will be rigged and their response to me was, “Oh well, we will still have the Senate”. And when December of 2020 rolled around I told my same friends how much damage Biden will do to this nation with both both chambers of congress and they said, “Oh, you are exaggerating, he is a moderate”. Well, one year later and they are telling me the same old Pollyanna: “Oh the Republicans will win both chambers in the mid-terms”. So I say to you my conservative independent friends, “No, we will win only a two seat majority in the Senate”. Why? Because the economy will right itself by March 2022 despite the incompetence of the administration and Dem socialist sentiments – naturally through a self-righting increase in GDP of a nation of 350 million well-educated and skilled workers. Oh this nation of spoiled lemmings; If bread and circus is restored no one will care what party is in power as long as they can buy more junk, gorge on delicacies like Roman Patricians and waste time staring at their portable shadows on the cave. Gone are the days of fear of God, civility, citizenship, respect for law and a belief in equity through meritocracy. Maybe Democracy is itself is contingent on expansive opportunities and cannot survive in an atmosphere of over population and diminishing resources. 8 billion humans this year, 9 in 4, 10 in 6.

  15. Professor Hanson after reading this outstanding dissertation and having witnessed the plethora of your trenchant monologues and podcasts, over the years, you have indeed affected me as well as affecting yourself. You too have been transmogrified into the malice, hatred and callousness traditionally attributed to the overwhelming abundance of diabolical political whores in the Washington swamp.
    Professori, Questa e’ la via che dobbiamo suffrire.

  16. David Tambornino

    In these times where we are literally at a Ronciveaux Pass of modern times, Victor Davis Hanson is our hero, Roland, who possesses the sharpest verbal sword in existence, blowing hard on the oliphant horn.

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