Taking to the streets, angry activists - dressed in the garb of "community organizers" - throw their hands in the air and loudly chant: "Hands Up, Don't Shoot." Why? Because, for those activists, Michael Brown's death on that hot summer night in Ferguson Missouri perfectly symbolizes the bigotry and brutality inner-city minorities in this country suffer daily. Except, as a preponderance of eye-witness, courtroom testimony and forensic evidence compiled in four separate autopsies conclusively proved, Michael Brown did and said no such thing the day he was shot. Officer Wilson acted in self-defense. The "Black Rights Matter" movement elects to perform in a "Theater of the "Absurd." And as the Enlightenment philosopher, Voltaire, wisely warned: "Those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities"
Is this what it has come to? Is this where we are headed?
There was a time when Liberalism vigorously championed the free exchange of ideas and of opinions. Free thought and expression were deemed essential to an enlightened, democratic social order. No one did more to advance that free climate than the 19th-century writer most revered by "Old School" Liberals, John Stuart Mill. He saw things in simple but profound terms. A person or a country has a belief. It can either be true or false. In either case, the best policy is to encourage, not prevent, as much open debate as possible - if the point is to arrive at objective truth. If one's view is in error, critical discussion of the issue is more likely to be the most effective corrective. If the original view is, in fact, correct, the holder of that view still benefits from an open and frank dialogue. In rationally disposing of contrary claims and counter-arguments, that person or nation gains an even firmer confidence in his/its position and can thereafter carry the case forward with even greater clarity and conviction. Truth can only be advanced, not threatened by skeptical inquiry. Mill and several generations who followed regarded the "Tyranny of Opinion" as the arch-enemy of truth and utterly inimical to its advancement. A seeker of truth isn't afraid of having every view tested by the lamp of experience. He gladly shares his observations and will rigorously and logically defend his positions, since they can be transmitted to anyone who will look carefully at the world of experience we all inhabit.
That is not how today's "Liberals" and "Progressives" see things. On college campuses across America, in activist circles, and even among casual acquaintances, uniformity of thought is demanded. Young Americans are under enormous (peer) pressure to conform to prevailing political and cultural attitudes and opinions. And, in the opinion of the opinion makers, this nation's long record of sadistic pain inflicted on innocent populations (not to mention a "helpless" environment), demonstrates that America is neither "exceptional" nor Great. For them, national pride is a national delusion.
Their detractors may call them "snowflakes" and "daffodils" and muse at their mutterings, but at today's colleges and universities, from where tomorrow's public opinion will come, a culture of close-mindedness has descended over the land. Independent thought and critical cross-examination are forbidden exercises. The truth is the PC Police have no time for truth or any genuine interest in finding it. There is a war to win, a nation to radically transform. Victory is still a long way off, and nothing, especially not the "truth," will be allowed to get in its way.
The daffodils require "trigger warnings" from their professors, lest they are offended by subsequent course material and suffer serious "micro-aggressions." If any chance, out of context remark a professor may make is deemed "racist," "sexist," "homophobic, "xenophobic," "Islamophobic" or whatever¸ that lecturer had better recant and tow the "party" line, pronto. Offending lecturers will undergo "sensitivity training," be denied promotion or just canned. And, aggrieved students will be provided "safe spaces" allowing their feigned, psychic wounds ample time to heal. Here, students can be sheltered from cruel "hate speech" (i.e., "forbidden" thoughts and opinions). From all reports, the Liberal Left is, itself, of the opinion that the three gravest threats now facing this country come from "man-made global climate change," "income inequality" and "white privilege." And you better believe it.
This last charge, "white privilege" is particularly galling and grievous. There is nearly nothing in reality to which it corresponds, not these days. In every profession under the sun and on every career level, we find hard-working men and women of every racial stripe and ethnic origin. Surgeons, nurse practitioners, physician's assistants, law clerks, appeals court judges, accountants, attorneys, university professors, mechanics, engineers, scientists and forensic investigators, there is nothing to hinder a thoughtful, responsible and morally ambitious American from achieving at least a fair share of his or her hope-filled dreams. There are no special advantages to being white and that cross-section, too, can be found on every lowly rung of the economic ladder.
To the radicals of the Left, it isn't the truth that needs to be spread, but authoritative orthodoxy, every bit as fixed and dogmatic as the sacred tenets of any fundamentalist faith. Why else would anyone who dares to challenge their hardened positions need to be silenced, shunned, or barred from coming onto a college campus? Conservative speakers are smeared as agents of "Hate" and, it is said, there's no room for "hate" in our institutions of higher learning. Just invite an Ann Coulter, Ben Shapiro or Breitbart editor, Milo Yiannopoulos to address a student body and see how quickly once-safe spaces" can turn violent.
In early March 2017, a talk offered by the well-respected and highly acclaimed social scientist, Charles Murray, already underway at Vermont's Middlebury College was stopped cold "by a yowling mob with all the manners and intellectual openness of a gang of British soccer hooligans." Dr. Murray, and Allison Stranger, the professor who sponsored his appearance and who was to respond to his remarks, had to be rushed from the auditorium to the campus gates. Dr. Murray was accorded no "safe space." "Chanting students commandeered the lecture hall . . . Murray and Allison Stanger exited . . . and headed for their getaway car [as] protesters assailed them. They shoved and grabbed Stanger, who was shaken up and later went to the hospital, and pounded on the car and tried to obstruct it. Stanger wrote afterward that she 'feared for my life.' And for what offense? Talking to someone [Murray] who thinks differently than the average Middlebury faculty member or student." One of the most deadly social forces history has been known to produce is the unreasoning mob - a Mob gone Mad. For one moment in time and because PC seized power, Middlebury became that Mob.
Williams College revoked the invitation it issued to Suzanne Venker, to participate in the school's "Uncomfortable Learning" series, "which was created precisely for the purpose of exposing Williams students to perspectives that contrast with those they regularly hear on campus. Her prepared text was to begin with these words: "My goal for you all, my purpose in being here today, is to inspire you to think for yourselves. Do not be swayed by groupthink no matter what your friends, your family or the culture believe. Do not be afraid to ask yourself questions that may make you uncomfortable. And do not be afraid of the answers." The presentation was canceled "due to her criticism of feminism. Venker, a self-described "anti-feminist," wrote an op-ed for Fox News explaining why women are supposedly having such a hard time finding husbands, called "Why men won't marry you." "There was a time when wives respected their husbands," one portion read. This is "hate" unmasked.
Of course, such coarse and unbecoming conduct is not confined to our institutions of higher learning. Taking to the streets in large numbers. the "Black Rights Matter" and "Occupy Wall Street" movements howl at an odious culture sadistically built on, you know it, "White Privilege," "Income Inequality," and "implicit" racism. Only, there is nothing going on in modern America that even remotely answers to that description, not today. Life will never be perfect, but thankfully the historic battles for Civil Rights are behind us.
And, if truth has become a stranger among college students and community "organizers," it also eludes some of our most distinguished national leaders - sometimes to our amusement. After mercilessly impugning Donald Trump's character and fitness for high office at every campaign event and in a succession of nationally televised presidential debates, Hillary invokes the sage counsel of her "good friend," Michelle Obama, to wit: "When they go LOW, we go HIGH. Apparently, the former First Lady doesn't know up from down. Having spent her adult life getting rich by using her positions of public office to help the very wealthy get even wealthier, Mrs. Clinton wags her morally wrinkled finger and accuses Donald Trump of just being out for the rich. Perhaps she was permanently rattled by the harrowing experience she recounted of descending in a helicopter at a Pakistani air base under heavy gunfire and having to duck and run for cover upon landing. Oh, it couldn't be that, since that never happened. Hillary had no such experience, as she confessed shortly afterward, chalking the fake memory up to some kind of "short circuit."
The former First Lady and the President she served look the American people in the eyes and lie through their teeth. Campaigning for Martha Coakley in Massachusetts on October 24, 2014, Hillary Clinton stormed: "And don't let anybody, don’t let anybody tell you, that, you know, it's corporations and businesses that create jobs. You know, that old theory, trickle-down economics. That has been tried. That has failed. It has failed rather spectacularly." The remark either displayed gross inattention to the whole record of human experience or was a deliberate lie. "Trickle-Down" economics works every time it is tried. Think not just about the millions of jobs, but the entirely new industries and professions that "trickled down" from the ardent labors of just two mega-billionaires, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs. Like the great (and greatly under-appreciated) industrial enterprises pioneered by Henry Ford, Andrew Carnegie or Thomas Edison, Microsoft and Apple have been among the greatest of mankind's contemporary benefactors. That's what "Trickle Down" does when it is not burdened with the ever-rising tax rates and regulatory compliance costs ill-conceived public policies impose. Of course, the harried, hardscrabble titans of American industry and successful farmers, shopkeepers and general contractors all across middle America ought not to complain. For as President Obama confidently assured them: "You didn't build that,"
That same President looked straight into the TV camera, time and again, and solemnly assured his countrymen: "If you like your doctor you can keep your doctor. If you like your insurance policy, you can keep your insurance policy." He sounded certain, except he knew full well that those were promises ObamaCare would not and could not keep - not with all the new mandated health services it was about to force every American to purchase. After conceding over twenty times that a president cannot alter our immigration policies because "we're a nation of laws" and the president's "job is to execute the laws that are passed," not "bypass congress and change the law [himself] . . . that's not how democracy works," that same president went ahead and fundamentally altered the nation's immigration laws by Executive fiat. How can the president lack Constitution authority one day and suddenly acquire it the next? Days after a U. S. Ambassador and three brave members of his security detail are slaughtered in Benghazi, Libya, our leaders (from the President, the Sec. of State and the UN Ambassador on down) pledge to bring to justice the amateur American filmmaker responsible for the overseas slaughter.
A lie is one thing. Absurdities such as these are something else and deserve much deeper scrutiny. Now, it is no accident that Hillary Clinton and Barak Obama, can be caught indulging in patent falsehoods, again and again. They are cut from the same ideological cloth, part of the Chicago circle headed up by the radical and author, Saul Alinsky. His remarkably influential Rules For Radicals was the Handbook that transformed Vietnam Era radical activists into socially-minded, Progressive "community organizers." Bill and Hillary were devoted followers and doting acolytes of this organizational wizard. What was Alinsky's take on "truth?" Let's approach the question like this:
There is a certain "prejudice" that attaches to the accusation that this or that leader is lying. It presumes there is an absolute truth to which the "lie" can be compared, a "certainty" that things are not as they are being portrayed. In all its guises and manifestations a lie seeks to evade reality. But what if there is no absolute reality to evade? What if there is only this opinion or that, i.e., a variety of "plausible" narrative accounts? If there is no truth, there can be no lie. Hardly foreign to our culture, it is prescribed practice in every American courtroom. Adversaries who serve as counsel for the opposing sides seek to persuade judge and jury of that account most conducive to the interest of the party each represents. Is it an accident that the most successful courtroom attorneys go into politics? They perform as their law schools taught them to; only now they become their own clients, willing and able to cast any hapless outcome their public policies may produce in the best possible light. They plead for our votes, pledge to do their honest best and "spin" their way to ever-higher political heights. For the average politician, politics is a game one he either wins at or loses. And no one wants to end up a loser. Do not talk about the objective truth to a politician. Now, the game of duplicity was not invented by our courts of law or by Saul Alinsky, for that matter. In the Communist Manifesto of 1848, Karl Marx demanded:
What else does the history of ideas prove than that intellectual production changes its character in proportion as material production [i.e., the existing forms of exploitation] is changed? The ruling ideas of any age have ever been the ideas of its ruling class.
What is Marx saying? The "masters," those who rule societies, have ever invoked hallowed ideals to mask their ugly, purposes and perfidious practices. If the founders truly believed in every person's right to "Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness," they would not have bought and sold African slaves, plundered the property of native American tribes and kept women in legal and marital bondage. Cherished ideals are but empty sounds designed not to convey a grand truth, but to achieve a wicked purpose, to exploit and oppress.
The Declaration of Independence stood for one thing. The life and times revealed something else, again. "Truths" (such as Founding Principles) are but tricks and traps useful to justify injustice and pacify a gullible populace. In Rules for Radicals, Saul Alinsky explained:
If you actively opposed the Nazi occupation and joined the underground Resistance, then you adopted the means of assassination, terror, property destruction, the bombing of tunnels and trains, kidnapping and the willingness to sacrifice innocent hostages to the end of defeating the Nazis. Those who opposed the Nazi conquerors regarded the Resistance as a secret army of self-less, patriotic idealist, courageous beyond expectation and willing to sacrifice their lives to their moral convictions. To the occupation authorities, however, these people were lawless terrorists, murderers, saboteurs, assassins, who believed that the end justified the means, and were utterly unethical . . . . in such conflict, neither protagonist is concerned with any value except victory. It is life or death (p. 27)
Like the Ferguson marchers, Wall Street Occupiers and $15 Minimum-Wagers, Alinsky's "Nazi occupiers" started out a faint voice in an ideologically diverse political wilderness. But tough times and promises of restored glory brought a mighty orator to the fore. Powerful rhetoric and a chest-pounding push for power eventually gave rise to the twin sorrows of terror and tyranny. Propaganda, indoctrination and the silencing of all dissent led a nation and world to ruin. It's a tale poignantly depicted in the 1940 movie, The Mortal Storm (starring James Stewart and Margaret Sullivan).
The story is set in a quaint Austrian village nestled in the high Alps not far from the Swiss border. As the curtain rises village life is idyllic. Viewers are introduced to a wise and warm-hearted professor. Preaching liberal tolerance toward all, it is his great fortune to be surrounded by a loving family and admiring students and colleagues. Then comes the Nazi occupation and the world is turned upside down. As students report to class in Nazi uniform, spouting the party line, intolerance toward dissent and everything Jewish reaches into every corner of the popular psyche. Bearing a smidgen of Jewish blood, himself, the mild-mannered professor is stripped of his academic post, shunned by his students, taken from his family and sent to prison where he falls ill and dies. For James Stewart and Maureen O'Sullivan, trapped in a world gone stark raving mad with intolerance and a full-throttled suppression of thought and expression, there was only escape across an inhospitable Alpine pass to neutral Switzerland. The trek does not end happily
One who lived through the Nazi's rise to power explained what the early days were like. "Very few people were true Nazis, but many enjoyed the return of German pride, and many more were too busy to care. I was one of those who just thought the Nazis were a bunch of fools. So, the majority just sat back and let it all happen. Then, before we knew it, they owned us, and we had lost control, and the end of the world had come."
Saul Alinsky intended his Rules to be "A Pragmatic Primer for Realistic Radicals." These are the folks who have signed up for a war on America's cultural values and institutions, in a word, "capitalism.” And, for them, the war won't be over until a more congenial, Socialism has taken firm hold in American soil. They begin by telling us what we can and cannot say. They'll go on to tell us what we can and cannot do (e.g., ObamaCare mandates, draconian environmental regulations, etc.).
The tools in their ideological tool shed are on full display in the invocation of white privilege, "income inequality," "implicit" discrimination, "inherent" racism, "rape culture," institutionalized "transphobia," and the like. All are designed to spread guilt, never pride, and to goad America to apologize for her shameless moral trespasses, past and present, here and abroad. The intense application of peer pressure, the terror of being purged from one's profession or cast out of one's social circle and left abandoned and alone, these are the penalties imposed on any who refuse to tow the party line and go along with the game plan.
Since there is no final truth or objective reality, just a matter of who wins and gets to write the "history" of the times, these progressives are free at any minute to affirm whatever narrative spin suits their immediate purposes. The aim of the exercise: to enable government to reach ever deeper into our pockets and place an ever-heavier burden on our backs. Though there is no absolute truth, these sly crusaders are somehow certain that social justice trumps mere "old-fashioned" justice (where people are allowed to gain, KEEP, and dispose of the fruits of honest industry). They'll also tell you that man-made climate change is "settled science" and that the global warming "deniers" need to be silenced and shut out of their professions. Since there is no reality (wink, wink) there are no lessons of history to heed. It's a political economy of "anything goes." And to the victor will surely go the spoils.
But not if Thomas Jefferson has the last word. If one visits his Memorial in Washington and looks high up inside the rotunda's high walls, one sees his ageless response to today's PC culture.
"I have sworn upon the altar of God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of Man"
What did he know that today's thought police don't know? As long as minds are free to think, to express their thoughts and vigorously dissent from prevailing opinion, the chance of finding necessary truths and putting them to practical use are possible. It is that pursuit that makes real progress and steady improvement of the conditions of daily life possible. Truth is nothing but the apprehension of a firm, unbending reality. What is, is. The only question is who and how many come across it at any time or place. By the 17th century, Western civilization decided, in the immortal words of Sir Francis Bacon, that "nature to be commanded must be obeyed," which meant rigorously, systematically studied and understood. Lord Bacon thus inspired the eventual rise of the modern natural (and social) sciences and all the rich, ripe fruits they bore - the industrial technologies and life-saving, labor-saving gadgets, all the things that make a steady improvement in the quality of daily life possible. The truth not only sets us free but sets fire to the quest for an ever-rising standard of living. Look around the world at the cultures that have utterly failed to cultivate a climate of deep, rational inquiry, a climate where Reason prevails. Then look at the ways in which free thought and expression have come under blistering assault in our own time. Or, look at it like this. A leader or culture that won't see reality for what it is, but pretends that what is isn't and that what isn't is, can hardly be expected to deal effectively with the firm, unyielding reality he or it refuses to recognize, at least not in the end.