A Fine and Dangerous Madness

To make sense of the recent spate of hysteria on the Left, it helps to understand how their minds work—or, as they like to say, connect the dots. The shortest route between an isolated instance (Jussie Smollett, John Wayne) and a knee-jerk cry of racism, sexism or some other pet -ism is from one neuron to the one directly adjacent to it in a progressive’s brain. Every event, even ones faked or misleadingly reported, must have both a political cause and a coercive resolution: the Narrative demands it. Amplified by social media, it’s driving us all mad.

Any random weather event can trigger cries of the apocalypse from the likes of Al Gore or Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. A putative but wholly implausible attack during the sub-zero arctic chill of a Chicago late night instantly is seized upon as proof of America’s incorrigible (and thus de-legitimizing) racial prejudice. A wrongly interpreted word, or gesture, or smile, even the use of a personal pronoun, is cause for alarm, insults, or legal action. J’accuse! has become the national motto as the Twitter tumbrels roll. Heads dutifully roll into the baskets as the Madame Defarges of the media click their knitting needles and fashion the next installment of the Narrative tapestry.

In his much underrated comic masterpiece, “Bowfinger,” Steve Martin (who wrote and starred alongside Eddie Murphy in the 1999 Frank Oz film) lampooned this way of thinking in the memorable scene in which superstar Kit Ramsey (Murphy, at the top of his game) is unhappy with a new script his agent (Barry Newman) has brought him (language warning):

It’s not Shakespeare, but . . . connect the dots.

Connecting the dots that rattle around in their skulls is what occupies a good deal of a liberal’s cogitation, such as it is. In their world, there are no accidents, no mistakes, and no coincidences. Everything is connected, delivering a constant stream of Narrative as the arc of history bends toward something or other—but in any case toward the leftist nirvana the sane among us call Hell. The malignance of their theories whenever put into effect is not the fault of the theories themselves—socialism, take a bow!—but because the implementation either was flawed or sabotaged by reactionary forces. (As Walter Lippmann, referencing Herbert Spencer, wrote in Public Opinion, “the murder of a beautiful theory by a gang of brutal facts.”)

Ah, but in the dot-connecting business, the theory is everything, the facts are fungible and the outcome is real even when it is imaginary.

Kit Ramsey may have thought that linking “Cliff” and “cliff” was too cerebral, but he was delighted to discover that the letters KKK appeared in the script for “Chubby Rain” 486 times, sending his agent fleeing for his life. To the “global warming” racket, for example, everything is proof of the theorem, which is therefore both unprovable and unfalsifiable. Never mind that “man-made climate change” is instantly rendered absurd by even a cursory glance at a history book. It is real, because it must be real, because the Left’s ulterior program of ever-expanding governmental power demands it.

Connect the dots. All women must be believed because historically men have raped women. Rape was once regarded as a byproduct of warfare; as recently as World War II, after the Battle of Berlin, rape was systematically employed by the Russians against the German women—most of the German fighting men having been killed or captured. Today, we rightly regard rape as a serious crime, ferociously prosecuted. But not all men are rapists.

Similarly, an attack on a black man can only be attributable to racism—and even when it’s not, it could have been: QED. If, as seems increasingly likely, the Jussie Smollett story turns out to be the hoax of a minor actor desperate for attention (he’s got it now), it won’t matter at all to the Left, who will (and in fact do) reply that we still need to have a conversation about racism. The noose was meant to evoke the lynch mobs of the South— the largest mass lynching in American history occurred in New Orleans in 1891, but its victims were Italians.

Connecting the dots means never having to accept an apology. All grievances must continue to be redressed, long after they have ceased to exist. But the Left cannot let them go, and use them as battering rams in their war on Western civilization. How different the fate of race relations in the aftermath of the Civil War and emancipation would have been had not the Democratic Party spent the next 100 years trying to overturn Grant’s victory. Indeed, Grant’s presidency, which was largely dedicated to ensuring and enforcing the rights of African American citizens in the teeth of implacable opposition from the Democrats, has been slagged off by left-leaning historians and only now is getting the reassessment it so richly deserves. And still the Democrats have the gall to raise the issue of reparations for slavery.

Wielding the simpleton’s version of Occam’s Razor, the dotty Left has a ready explanation for every social and political event. Donald Trump was not elected because the Electoral College gave him a majority of its votes, but because his voters were racists, sexists, white supremacists—Hillary’s whole “basket of deplorables.” For two years, they have been salivating for the conclusions of the Mueller investigation into the non-crime of “collusion” as payback for the lost election. They even went so far as to try and stage a soft coup involving the Justice Department, the FBI, and the Clinton campaign. When the final history of this fiasco is written, who will be surprised if all roads lead to Rod Rosenstein—the man who wrote the memo that got James Comey fired, and who then appointed Mueller at Comey’s urging in order to investigate . . . the firing of James Comey, among other things.

Sometimes the dots form a perfect circle of jerks.

And then, like Mardi Gras necklaces, someone pulls the string and down the beads come, pinballing off the walls of Twitter and Facebook and rattling around on the floor, propelling everybody headlong into the next imaginary crisis, the next hallucinatory outrage, the next manufactured frenzy over something or nothing at all. Facing the cliffs of their own lunacy, they howl in rage like King Lear, unable to bring reason to bear where emotion rules.

Alas, it’s not Shakespeare, but rather a fine, and very dangerous, madness. We indulge them in it at our peril.

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Photo Credit: Getty Images

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About Michael Walsh

Michael Walsh is a journalist, author, and screenwriter. He was for 16 years the music critic and foreign correspondent for Time Magazine, for which he covered the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union. His works include the novels As Time Goes By, And All the Saints (winner, 2004 American Book Award for fiction), and the bestselling “Devlin” series of NSA thrillers; as well as the recent nonfiction bestseller, The Devil’s Pleasure Palace. A sequel, The Fiery Angel, was published by Encounter in May 2018. Follow him on Twitter at @dkahanerules (Photo credit: Peter Duke Photo)