The Overbearing Conceit of the Oligarchs

"Even if all is covered by lies, even if all is under their rule, let us resist in the smallest way: Let their rule hold not through me! "
— Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

Deceit and propaganda define virtually all authoritative liberal commentary these days. This dishonesty is critical because as the rule of the left-wing oligarchy over this country becomes increasingly violent, the lies are its necessary and only cover. And this means for the rest of us there is one great strength: the truth, and only the truth, will set us free. 

David Brooks’s report on “NatCon2” in the current Atlantic is a bravura performance of the “new normal” exhibitions of dishonesty. The National Conservatism conference assembled leading figures from the Right to discuss the “the revival of the unique national traditions that alone have the power to bind a people together and bring about their flourishing.” Reporting from the conference, Brooks styles himself a latter-day Mark Antony, delivering himself of a self-promoting oration meant to excite the base passions of his audience, as the original Antony did in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. Unlike Antony, however, Brooks came not to praise, but to bury—the truth in this case. Brooks is not an honorable man. 

The essay is an example of the most common form of the Left’s Big Lie, which is to accuse their enemies on the Right with straightforward projections of their own assumptions and intentions. In the closing lines of his essay, Brooks mournfully reflects on a “NatCon World” that is “a hermetically sealed dystopian universe.” He tries to console himself with the thought that this is just “the brainchild of a few isolated intellectuals with a screwy view of American politics and history.” But he is not to be consoled, because in reality, NatCon World is “just one piece of a larger illiberal populist revolt that is strong and rising.”

In fact, Brooks himself is working feverishly here to keep intact the epistemological bubble in which he and his Atlantic readers live. This is a critical part of their strategy: keeping their base—with some variations in emphasis—angry, sanctimonious, resentful, fearful . . . but above all misinformed. 

Did you notice the statements on social media by a handful of honest liberals about how surprised they were to discover that the thugs Kyle Rittenhouse was forced to defend himself against were white? Are there more of such honest liberals out there who are still unaware of the shocking and frightening mistreatment of the January 6 prisoners?

To prevent such damaging infiltrations of truth, Brooks’ job, like most of the regime media, is to work night and day to keep Democratic voters inside the information airlock. This means his essay isn’t merely misguided; he doesn’t just get the facts wrong. One can’t even call it delusional. He probably knows, at some level, that he’s lying through his teeth, and engaged in a deeply cynical campaign of Orwellian newspeak. 

Take this bit:

[the Conservative schtick] demands that you ignore the actual suffering of the world—the transgender kid alone in some suburban high school, the anxiety of a guy who can’t afford health care for his brother, the struggle of a Black man trying to be seen and recognized as a full human being. It’s a cynical game . . . 

Cynical indeed. Again, this is pure projection and gaslighting. Consider his absurd examples, from which you would think we are living in 1953. The transgender kid “alone”—as if schools don’t move heaven and earth today to affirm transgender students. (They can even go into a girls’ bathroom and rape another student.) The “Black man trying to be seen . . .” Surely Brooks had to laugh when he wrote that one. We live in a country where any killing of a black man by the police—no matter the circumstances—triggers massive nationwide riots. Yet a black man “struggles to be seen” in the America of 2021!  

These desiccated tropes are the shadow paintings that many liberals barely (but just barely) still believe, the stories they tell themselves and each other in an increasingly tenuous alternate reality. The bubble survives because the Left invests vast effort in maintaining it. 

But those few honest liberals who discovered that they were lied to about Kyle Rittenhouse have revealed a great and possibly momentous secret. They have shown just how thin the bubble is. This should give us cause for hope. The Left is very certain of itself. After all, progress is on their side. But this hubris may be a fatal error. 

As a case in point, look at how Brooks’s ham-handed propaganda dispenses even logical consistency. He writes:

The NatCons are wrong to think there is a unified thing called “the left” that hates America. This is just the apocalyptic menace many of them had to invent in order to justify their decision to vote for Donald Trump.

They are wrong, too, to think there is a wokeist Anschluss taking over all the institutions of American life. 

Then, just three paragraphs later, without a blush, he admits that the NatCons are right. 

Left-wing parties are now rooted in the rich metro areas and are more and more becoming an unsteady alliance between young AOC left-populists and Google  . . .

Trump understood better than [other Republicans] did the coalescence of the new American cultural/corporate elite . . . 

Even the self-contradiction is deliberate, or by now instinctive. It is classic Soviet-style disinformation, psychological warfare. It’s like the Time magazine article that boasted, “Yeah we stole the election; here’s how.” Of course the woke are taking over all the institutions in the country. The Left boasts about it one minute, then denies it the next, to throw us off balance. But they don’t yet have absolute power to dictate their lies, so this is a risky gambit. It’s a sign of their desperation.

Brooks’ essay concludes with a boilerplate warning to his Atlantic bubble-dwellers: Stay alert! Keep voting and contributing. Stick to the script. But there’s also note of real concern when he writes, “the disconcerting reality is that America’s rarified NatCon World is just one piece of a larger illiberal populist revolt that is strong and rising.” It’s worth wondering whether the habitual lie meant to stoke resentment and fear has given way to hubris, inadvertently revealing what Brooks thinks will really happen. 

The overbearing conceit, the ugliness and malice, of the oligarchy’s propaganda may be overreaching, thus making it easier for us deplorables to imitate Solzhenitsyn’s courage and resist the official lies even in the smallest way—to take courage from the Gospel’s promise that truth will set us free.

Get the news corporate media won't tell you.

Get caught up on today's must read stores!

By submitting your information, you agree to receive exclusive AG+ content, including special promotions, and agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms. By providing your phone number and checking the box to opt in, you are consenting to receive recurring SMS/MMS messages, including automated texts, to that number from my short code. Msg & data rates may apply. Reply HELP for help, STOP to end. SMS opt-in will not be sold, rented, or shared.

About Glenn Ellmers

Glenn Ellmers' new book, The Narrow Passage: Plato, Foucault, and the Possibility of Political Philosophy, will be published by Encounter this summer. He is the author of The Soul of Politics: Harry V. Jaffa and the Fight for America and the Salvatori Research Fellow of the American Founding at the Claremont Institute. He is also a fellow of the Center for American Greatnsss.

Photo: iStock/Getty Images

Content created by the Center for American Greatness, Inc. is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a significant audience. For licensing opportunities for our original content, please contact licensing@centerforamericangreatness.com.