Streetwise Professor

August 16, 2017

First They Came For Lee . . .

Filed under: Civil War,History,Politics — The Professor @ 6:26 pm

The battle over the monuments is not really about the monuments. It’s not even really about the legacy of the Civil War. It is about the left’s vision of what America was, is, and will be. Here’s the most important thing to remember. The hard-core left that is the driving force behind extirpating the icons of the Confederacy does not see it, or the Old South, as an exception, a deviation from an otherwise laudable and righteous history: they see it as just one manifestation of the fundamental evil of America, evil that is writ on every page of history from 1607 on down. In this worldview, the United States has been, from even before its formal beginning, characterized by racism, sexism, and oppressive capitalism. It is not something that is basically good, but which has fallen short of achieving its lofty ideals: it is something that is fundamentally rotten, and which must be transformed by any means necessary.

It should not be surprising how the left conducts its march through institutions. It is really rather brilliant in conception and execution, although malign in effect and intent. There is a long term objective–in this case, the transformation of the US. But there is a coherent operational plan that concentrates force on a specific objective, and once that objective is taken, moves on to the next one.

Right now the ostensible target is the legacy of the Confederacy, but once the battle of the Confederate monuments is won, they will move on to the next target, which will inevitably include sooner or later every person in the American political pantheon, and every political, social, and economic institution that reflects the American past and tradition.

The left also masterfully personalizes the conflict, and ruthlessly presents the false choice between being on the side of the angels, or the side of the devils. In the current case, Nazis and white supremacists have been made the face of the anti-left. And now the left–with the assistance of many useful idiots, to whom I will turn in a moment–presents the false choice: if you are anti-left, well, that means that you are a Nazi or a fellow traveler thereof.

This is what’s happening here, and it’s as plain as day. Today it’s Robert E. Lee. Tomorrow it will be Lincoln and Washington and the Constitution and the Founding. The ultimate objective is the delegitimization of the American creed.

What is particularly sickening about this is that the most militant–and violent–of the leftists are being sanitized, and indeed lionized, because of their alleged anti-racist cred: anti-racism has become a license for vandalism and violence.

This is unbelievably stupid, and unbelievably dangerous. Antifa and the like are just the mirror image of the most retrograde white supremacists. Black bandanas=White hoods. Hammer and Sickle (which is displayed prominently at many Antifa and leftist actions)=Swastika. Both are anti-American. Both are anti-liberty. Both are committed to use violence in order to achieve their maximalist objectives. Nazis on the one side, Bolsheviks on the other. And it’s not as if either is hiding it: their regalia and flags advertise it.

And crucially, both are the twisted spawn of identity politics, the bane of modern society. Both define everything in crude terms of race and ethnicity and religion. Both are collectivists–a point too often overlooked, even though it is of decisive importance. Both reject the Western individualist revolution that began with Christianity and then humanism, and advanced through the Reformation and the enlightenment. To them, you are defined by your race, religion, ethnicity and class. The only difference between them is the perfect negative correlation between which race, religion, ethnicity, and class they demonize, and which they deify.

And, of course, this creates a sick symbiosis: neither can really exist without the other, and the rise of one contributes to the rise of the other.

Further, both are totalitarian and absolutist, and this is what leads to such virulent attacks on a past which does not conform with their absolutist vision. The iconoclasm we see now almost daily is redolent of other absolutist movements in the past, be it the Year One insanity of the French Revolution or the shrieking violence of the Cultural Revolution in China.

Both must be condemned. More than that, both must be opposed forcefully by duly constituted civil authority whenever they act out their violent ideologies.

But saying this is apparently beyond the pale in current American discourse, which just shows how degraded that discourse has become. Antifa–again, an avowedly communist, anti-liberty, anti-American movement–is not just not criticized, it is defended, because its self-proclaimed anti-racism (which in fact includes a healthy dose of anti-white racism) absolves it from any taint. Trump’s calling out of Antifa as well as Nazis has led supposedly conservative establishment figures like Mitt Romney, Lindsey Graham, Marco Rubio, and Charles Krauthammer to differentiate the indistinguishable, and to defend Antifa because of their opposition to Nazis and racists.

What Romney et al don’t get is who the hard-core left identifies as racists: it’s pretty much everybody who doesn’t agree with them in totality. It includes most whites (which is ironic, given the pastiness of most of the cheekbones and foreheads visible between black hats and masks). I guarantee it includes Mitt Romney, Lindsey Graham, Marco Rubio, and Charles Krauthammer. By vouching for them now, and validating their claim of authority in establishing who is and who is not a racist, Romney et al are putting a target on a lot of people who are by no stretch of the imagination white supremacists or Nazis.

But of course the left has always benefitted from useful idiots. Romney et al are playing that role to perfection.

History will not be the only casualty. Free speech will be as well. Free speech has already largely died on college campuses, which are merely the laboratory and hot house of leftism. Coming soon to, well, pretty much everyplace you might consider speaking your mind.

This too illustrates the devolution of American civil society. White supremacism and even Nazism are not new to American life, of course. In a way, what is amazing now is how marginalized these things are today. In the 1920s, the KKK was a major political force throughout the US–not just the South. (Indiana was a Klan hotbed.) In February, 1939–almost 6 years after Roosevelt’s inauguration and 6 months before German tanks rolled into Poland–the American Bund (basically the American Nazi Party) held a rally in Madison Square Garden attended by an estimated 22,000. Yet Eleanor Roosevelt, an extremely liberal political figure whose husband was savaged by the Bund, defended its right to exist, organize, and speak: she also defended America Firsters, Father Coughlin, and others with whom she disagreed violently on basically every political and social issue.

But if she did that today, she would be savaged. Because the left has gone from being believers in and defenders of civil liberties and individual freedom to their avowed enemies. The American liberal tradition, rooted in the enlightenment and classical liberal values, is being eclipsed, and replaced on the left by an alien political mindset. A mindset, ironically, that also spawned the fascist and Nazi movements in Europe as well as the leftist movements they battled in the streets: to understand the symbiosis between left and right in Europe in the 1920s and 1930s, read Paul Johnson’s Modern Times. It is that intellectual tradition (rooted in Germany) that gave rise to the tragedy of Weimar, and it is that intellectual tradition that has the United States slouching towards its own Weimarization today.

Both far left and far right are collectivist and anti-rational, and hence at odds with the American political tradition which was individualist and rooted in the rationalism of the enlightenment. That is why Robert E. Lee might be the first historical casualty, but he will not be the last. All of American history is in the dock, and staring at the gallows.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email


  1. Elmer,
    It’s not a delusion to think of the President as the head of the executive branch. That’s exactly what he is. He is the closest thing we have to head of government and head of state. I think it’s natural to assume he should stand for the country’s ideals, and if he falls short, criticism is justified (assassination is not; please don’t equate the lunatic ravings of a few with any sizable part of the population).
    During the Obama administration, many criticized Obama for things that had nothing to do with executing laws. I probably disagreed with most of those people, but I would never say Obama is above such criticism because he’s merely an administrator of laws.

    Comment by AnonPls — August 18, 2017 @ 9:51 am

  2. @phaebon

    Petropavlovsk never looks good unless you’re a bear hunter or salmon fisherman. Happiness there is the V1 call signifying departure is moments away.

    Comment by The Pilot — August 18, 2017 @ 10:12 am

  3. @AnonPls

    “standing for the country’s ideals” is not what the prez is elected to do, to state the obvious.

    any prez is subject to fair criticism.

    What is happening, and has been happening since even before Pres Trump was inaugurated, is the attribution of false information and false statements to Trump.

    Trump never said white nationalists are fine people. He said not everyone there was a white nationalist.

    So now the fat guy from New York, Nadler, and a couple others introduce try to introduce a censure resolution against Trump.

    Nancy Peelousy came out with another one of her stupid statements, stating among other things that Pres Trump needs to “purge” his administration of all its Nazis, in addition to Steve Bannon.

    Trump said the left was also being violent – which is true. Apparently that is worse than original sin, and even McLame and Linda Graham have joined the chorus, as everyone rushes to proclaim their virtue.

    In 2015, the mayor of Memphis wanted not only the statue but also the body of Nathan Forrest removed:

    The point is that instead of addressing and laying blame where it belongs – antifa and the “unite the right” – the screaming has been all about Trump, and, again, it’s as if Trump was a slave owner and a Nazi all rolled into one, joined in by false statements and characterizations by Dems.

    I think Dinesh D’Souza is right – this is all one big scam by Dems to whitewash the Dem history of fomenting slavery and the KKK.

    It is a desperate bid to bring back Dem voters on the backs of Confederate graves and statues, so to speak.

    It is cynical and dishonest and disgusting.

    The president is not the local cop in chief, like Obama tried to be in select circumstances, when he shot off his big mouth about local police matters that he thought suited him politically, even before all facts were in, so he could build up his street creds (drop mike here).

    Neither is the president the arbiter of history.

    Turns out the lunatic ravings of a few include not only antifa but also members of Congress – Nadler, Pelosi, Waters, McClame, Graham, and other breast-beaters.

    Disgusting. Absolutely disgusting.

    Comment by elmer — August 18, 2017 @ 1:03 pm

  4. “What is particularly sickening about this is that the most militant–and violent–of the leftists are being sanitized, and indeed lionized, because of their alleged anti-racist cred: anti-racism has become a license for vandalism and violence.”

    Leftist “Antifa” protesters stormed a county government building in Minnesota, seized and burned the county flag – then replaced it with an Antifa flag – on Monday.

    After left-wing protesters marched through downtown Minneapolis, Minnesota in response to last weekend’s demonstrations in Charlottesville, Virginia, they hoisted the flag of the violent left-wing group “Antifa,” raising it in front of the county’s government center.

    d Feedback

    The Hennepin County flag was swapped with Antifa’s, a spokeswoman for the county confirmed to, and the event was caught on camera by a woman in the crowd, who posted the footage on Twitter.

    “Protesters gathered outside the Hennepin County Public Safety Facility. I do not know any specifics. I do know at some point the Hennepin County flag was taken down, damaged and the other flag went up,” said the county’s spokeswoman. “This lasted for under 30 minutes at which time we replaced the flag with a new one.”

    Comment by elmer — August 18, 2017 @ 2:57 pm

  5. For 150 years children were told-

    Sticks and stones may break my bones
    But names will never harm me.

    My mother added “and faces” to the list of things that wouldn’t harm me

    but now-

    God knows what the reaction of the typical Ivy League millenial would be if asked about the Supreme Court’s Skokie decision.

    Comment by pahoben — August 19, 2017 @ 5:08 am

  6. @pahoben–the words “fetal position” and “catatonic” come to mind.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — August 19, 2017 @ 10:58 am

  7. @pahoben-Here’s my hypothesis. 1. Millennials (esp. those at Ivy League schools, or private colleges generally, or upper tier public universities) have faced little or no actual risk or danger in their lives, let alone oppression. Indeed, they represent an extremely sheltered generation. 2. Victimization/victimhood has been given a morally elevated status, and relatedly, through a form of political judo, has become a means of exercising power and control. In the absence of actual risk, danger, or oppression, to achieve victimhood and the status and power it confers, Millennials have to magnify trivialities into existential perils. It is sort of an inversion of Say’s Law (which stated that supply creates its own demand): here, demand for threat creates its own supply.

    I draw the exact opposite lesson: the laughable nature of the supposed mortal dangers that they claim exist shows just how good they have it. And I think at some level they know that. They are aware of their comfort and privilege, and that makes them feel unworthy. So they invent threats to bolster their fragile self-esteem.

    Indeed, the obsession over privilege (e.g., “white privilege”) suggests to me that they are projecting, in the psychological sense.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — August 19, 2017 @ 11:39 am

  8. Millennials are testimony to the fact that Americans are not good at bringing up children. It seems that The French are right about this. That’s not a sentence I type often.

    Comment by dearieme — August 19, 2017 @ 12:43 pm

  9. @dearieme-The fact that your statement refers specifically to a recent generation indicates that it was not always this way. I would phrase it as a question: why and when did Americans get so much worse at raising children? I don’t know the answer, but I suspect it has less to do with parenting per se, as with American public education (though parenting has changed, and no doubt changes in public education reflect parental preferences or the same social and cultural factors that affect parental preferences). There is no doubt that American public education was the left’s biggest victory in its march through the institutions. (Perhaps universities were a bigger victory–it’s a close call.) It’s complicated, and I don’t claim to comprehend all of the causal mechanisms, but a couple of things stand out. One is the elevation of the therapeutic (notably self-esteem) over academic performance. This encouraged mass solipsism and hypersensitivity to criticism or slight, and implanted the idea that differential outcome was out of individual control, but was instead the result of injustice. Another (and arguably related) factor is the adoption of a more radically egalitarian mindset. Crucially, this version of egalitarianism focused on outcomes, rather than inputs, or equal treatment.

    Of course, if I am correct that American public education bears most of the blame, this only shifts your question to why the French have done better in this sphere/have not made the same mistakes. I have some thoughts here as well, but want to make sure I phrase them carefully.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — August 19, 2017 @ 2:02 pm

  10. I’d pose the problem as a societal complacency born of too many years of cosseted safety. We now expect nothing, and I mean NOTHING, to present a hazard, an offense or even the slightest discomfort. Travel in third world countries and you have a much better feeling for life’s inherent dangers, unfairness and tragedy. Americans are promised nothing bad can happen in life and, if it does, someone else is to blame and will be sued. Europeans have so much bad history, there is, even 70 years after WW II, a sense of tragedy.

    Comment by The Pilot — August 19, 2017 @ 3:58 pm

  11. Do you guys ever step out of this echo chamber? Sheesh, if I didn’t know better (and actually I don’t) it’s all of you that hate America, not the folks you call out. Everything sucks, everything is getting worse, and everyone else but y’all are mindless fools being led down the primrose path of mainstream media, and – the latest, hottest, most exciting terminology that must be spread – identity politics.

    And the irony of your claim about millennials being of no use, or worse, because they haven’t experienced risk or “opression,” is so pathetically rich. Let’s see, Americans build the greatest country in the world, we fight to eradicate oppression by sacrificing hundreds of thousands of our precious citizens both with the USA – Civil War – and outside. We strive to free each succeeding generation or the trials and and terrors we experienced to bequeath them the proverbial ‘better life’ than we had, and upon getting closer and closer to that objective you cite them as “unworthy.”

    Good lord, men, it’s time to open the windows and breath in some fresh air. Maybe turn the computer off and get some sun too. There’s one hell of a beautiful country awaiting you out there.

    Comment by EL Lawrence — August 21, 2017 @ 7:55 am

  12. @EL Lawrence

    “and upon getting closer and closer to that objective”

    You seem to imagine a model of reality like a static staircase, where once you climbed up to some level, you can take a rest and continue climbing when you feel like it,the bright future patiently waiting at the top.

    The reality is more like an escalator moving down: you keep concentrating on some bullshit instead of climbing, you find yourself at the bottom in no time.

    It is an illusion that older generations endured hardship so we don’t have to. Today’s hardships may be different, but the stamina needed to overcome them is not. And “safe spaces” are only ensuring we are rolling back down to the kinds of hardships you seem to believe are “solved” by previous generations.

    Comment by Ivan — August 22, 2017 @ 12:02 am

  13. @EL Lawrence

    “fresh air”!?! “beautiful country”?!? You must be a commie environmentalist!! Hell no we don’t want fresh air, because that would be caving to the climate change types!!! Give us the freedom of our echo chamber!!!

    Comment by Job — August 22, 2017 @ 5:48 am

  14. @El Lawrence
    Sounds like we are on auto drive to a big beautiful Utopian future. I can’t wait to buy a Tesla that has Utopia as one of the self drive options. Just punch that Utopia button and lay back and enjoy. But wait how will the car determine what I consider Utopia? They will figure it out I’m sure.

    Comment by pahoben — August 22, 2017 @ 7:41 am

  15. Yeah, except you will starve on your way to Utopia, as all the ground will be covered by the solar panels to charge those EVs. But I think starving on the way to Utopia is something that occurs every time it is attempted, so it’s kinda a feature.

    Comment by Ivan — August 22, 2017 @ 9:37 am

  16. and in fact that is why Trump is president. Voters said screw this auto drive BS we need to try and bring runaway baby back under control.

    Rather than the destination being Utopia the cliff that the lemmings use came into view.

    Comment by pahoben — August 23, 2017 @ 3:56 pm

  17. “we fight to eradicate oppression by sacrificing hundreds of thousands of our precious citizens”: oh what rubbish. Until 1941 all the USA’s wars were wars of aggression, of aggrandisement. In 1941 she fought because Japan attacked her and Germany declared war on her, not because of some flummery about eradicating oppression. Lincoln declared that the Civil War was not about abolishing slavery but about preserving the Union. So pre-1945 you’re wrong; the question is whether you’re right post-1945.

    The US wars for which you’ve got a decent case are Korea and the First Gulf War. But the American dead in those two wars came nowhere near even one hundred thousand never mind hundreds plural.

    As for the slaughter that the US has visited on South East Asia, and more recently on Iraq, I have never seen an explanation for them that was both honourable and plausible. For Vietnam, the motive seems to have been the hope of getting JFK, and then LBJ, re-elected. For Iraq, Lord knows what it was about – this man in the street certainly has no idea. 9/11 he was told – dishonestly. WMD he was told – untruthfully. It’s a mystery.

    As for the American role in Libya and Syria it might just be best to avert one’s gaze. Obama was either very wicked or quite mad.

    Comment by dearieme — August 26, 2017 @ 9:31 am

  18. The reasons for Iraq are not in the least mysterious. Look at the PNAC papers and the signatories and Transformational Diplomacy program espoused by Rice. Just the usual neocon motivations.

    Millenials often assert they are the best educated generation in history. That assertion alone indicates how deeply they have been propagandized.

    Comment by pahoben — August 27, 2017 @ 10:19 am

  19. Maybe not usual-likely more that Iraq was the apex of neocon aspirations.

    Comment by pahoben — August 28, 2017 @ 6:01 am

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a comment

Powered by WordPress