Poking the Deplorable Bear

“The United States is coming to an end. The question is how.” 

Those are the opening lines of The Next Civil War: Dispatches from the American Future, by Canadian journalist Stephen Marche. It is one of several new books examining the possibility of our current political differences escalating into open conflict. 

Marche’s book purports to be a fair-minded analysis of our partisan divide, but isn’t. His effort is interesting mainly as a sociological exhibit of the incurious leftist mind. The author launches his investigation by claiming that he has no stake in American politics, considering himself neither a Democrat nor a Republican. Yet on virtually the same page where he makes this statement he writes ominously about “the rise of the hard-right anti-government patriot militias” without so much as hinting at the existence of any leftist extremists. In fact, Marche claims “Left-wing radicalism matters mostly because it creates the conditions for right-wing radicalization.” (Keep that bizarre claim in mind; it turns up elsewhere.) 

Almost unbelievably, in a book devoted to the growing political divisions in the United States, the deadly and ideologically charged riots of 2020 are not even mentioned. In his single reference to the black-clad anarcho-Marxists who sacked the downtowns of major cities, Marche states, “Antifa does exist, but it lacks any power or the means to establish power. Left-wing defiance of federal authority, when it comes, tends to be legalistic and political.” 

The Next Civil War is shallow and tendentious, and Marche tells at least one flat-out lie, alleging that the January 6 “rioters beat a policeman to death on the steps of the Capitol.” Amazingly, however, Barbara Walter’s How Civil Wars Start: And How to Stop Them is even worse, flaunting its ideological blinders right out of the gate. 

Walter opens her book, released in January of this year, by solemnly recounting the 2020 “plot” to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer. As with Marche, there’s no excuse for not knowing the facts. Last July, Buzzfeed published a major story revealing how the FBI all but orchestrated this ridiculous escapade. Subsequent revelations by other journalists and media outlets (including Julie Kelly right here at American Greatness) have uncovered even more sordid details about the FBI’s questionable conduct. But Walter—a professor at the School of Global Policy and Strategy at the University of California, San Diego—studiously avoids noticing any of these inconvenient revelations, and clings dogmatically to the feds’ official narrative, which nicely confirms her narrative about the “white nationalist” threats that leave her “alarmed but not altogether surprised.” 

Both of these books are simply regime-compliant propaganda, designed to indict the Right preemptively and hold it responsible for any open conflict that might unfold in the coming months or years. Like Marche, Walter mentions Antifa only once, and only to make the same repugnant argument: “anti-fascist” thugs bashing skulls are problematic only because “the specter of left-wing radicals flexing their muscle will be what right-wing extremists invoke—to stoke fear and, ultimately, justify their own violence.” 

Since two examples show only a coincidence but three makes a pattern, let me mention one more title in this feculent genre. It Could Happen Here: Why America is Tipping from Hate to the Unthinkable—And How We Can Stop It is essentially a megaphone for Anti-Defamation League alarmism by that organization’s CEO, Jonathan Greenblatt. Predictably, this book like the others mentions Antifa precisely once. 

I couldn’t bear reading every page of this wearisome book, but given the ADL’s main concern I did check the index for any discussion of Islamic hatred of Jews. Will anyone be shocked to learn this is a phenomenon more or less invisible to Greenblatt? Under the index heading for “Muslims,” along with entries for “hate crimes against,” “hatred toward,” “interfaith actions,” “mosque shootings,” and “Trump ban on,” I did manage to find a reference to “antisemitic rhetoric.” This directed me to three pages of feel-good fuzziness about Imam Abdullah Antepli, a “recovering antisemite.” For the ADL, there is no active Muslim (or African-American) antisemitism worth mentioning. If there ever were antisemites in the leftist rainbow, Greenblatt implies, they are all now happily in recovery.

All this would be comical if it were not so infuriating; and there’s no point in wasting any more time on these wretchedly dishonest books. (Please don’t buy them!) The most relevant thing to note, from the perspective of political analysis, is that the woke oligarchy evidently decided that 2022 is the year they would explicitly address the possibility of civil conflict. 

On that note, it is important to emphasize here that contrary to these defamatory books, almost all Americans on the Right are repulsed by the idea of a civil war, and mostly just want to be left alone by the overbearing thought police. If open civil conflict does come, it seems indisputable that it will be entirely the fault of the leftist oligarchy currently in control of the federal government and most of our major institutions. I cast this blame unequivocally for a simple reason: Preventing civil war is always the responsibility of the invading and conquering nation. 

To explain what I mean by that, we need to take a step back. 

The ancient Romans—who knew something about conquest—were ruthless in demanding tribute from the tribes and peoples they subjugated. But Rome held its empire as long as it did because it knew when to restrain the heavy hand of cruelty. Imperial Roman policy, maintained over several centuries, usually avoided religious persecution. Generally, occupied nations were required to show total political obedience yet were allowed to keep their ancestral pagan gods. The Romans pursued war but knew the value of peace and thus did not try to conquer human nature. They acknowledged that most people would tolerate the loss of their political freedom as long as they were not robbed of what they held most sacred. 

America’s new ruling class is not as humble or gentle as those who dominated the Roman empire. 

If there is any doubt that the United States is currently occupied by a foreign power, fanatically devoted to an alien faith, consider this widely circulated photo.

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

This is an act of religious worship. Taken on June 8, 2020, the photograph shows the Democratic leadership of Congress kneeling in silent remembrance of the martyred George Floyd. Two dozen wealthy and aged plutocrats remained in this pose—with their creaky knees on a cold marble floor—for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, symbolically reenacting Floyd’s Passion. This painful act of contrition reveals unmistakably the remorseless piety that rules the souls of our political and intellectual elites. The god of the Holy Empire of Antiracism is a pitiless and jealous god—far more vengeful, in fact, than the God of the Bible. 

The intensity of our rulers’ woke piety is odd for many reasons, including that God (according to them) is supposed to be dead—a claim tediously repeated for more than a century by the leading intellectuals of the Left. Religion was held to be a lingering superstition that only deplorables cling to, along with their guns. Clearly that is no longer the case. There may once have been a time when people on the Left considered themselves, and perhaps even were, liberal believers in secular reason, freedom of speech, and the universal brotherhood of mankind. Those convictions—if they ever truly existed in fact and not merely in speech—are now gone. 

The religion of the Woke Occupation preaches a strange catechism. If George Floyd is the faith’s greatest martyr, its prophet was, until recently, Anthony Fauci. In November 2021, speaking on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” Fauci said of his critics, “they’re really criticizing science, because I represent science.” As the embodiment of science, of course, Fauci sanctified himself as a kind of public health oracle, whose authority exceeds any elected official in the federal government—including White House occupant Joe Biden. 

Millions of woke faithful obeyed Fauci’s commandments with worshipful devotion. (Recently, the prophet seems to have made a pilgrimage into the wilderness in order to be out of sight for the midterm elections.) Unlike Moses, Fauci could claim no miracles to endow his authority with divine sanction. On the contrary, his pronouncements revealed all-too-human ignorance and inconsistency, not to mention audacious dishonesty. Nevertheless, while racism constitutes the original sin of the woke religion, science represents its Holy Writ and promise of salvation. These elements—we must immediately note—fit together uneasily; so much so that most interpretations of the Left’s new religious impulse tend to focus on one aspect or the other, but rarely account for both. 

If the theology of the woke occupation has two distinct strands, it seems to comprise three political components: 1) a faction focused on racial grievances highlighted by BLM and critical race theory, largely sustained and legitimized by the universities; 2) a militant anarcho-Marxist wing led by Antifa which receives rhetorical and organizational support from socialist members of Congress, radical mayors and district attorneys, and obscure financial backers; and 3) an elite, cosmopolitan oligarchy that exerts powerful influence on our public discourse, imposes woke ideology on ever larger segments of the private sector, and swells the budgets of the militants with extravagant financial contributions. 

Clearly, the racial element of woke religiosity tracks with the BLM/critical race theory political component, while faith in science overlaps with the technocratic authority of the global oligarchy. Yet these factions represent very different, and in some ways conflicting, interests and policy agendas. And there is still the anarcho-Marxist element to account for. How all these pieces fit together and who controls whom (or even if anyone is clearly in charge) are difficult questions, to say the least. I plan to dig into this question a bit deeper in a future essay. 

What is clear is that the Woke Occupation Army, and its pagan gods, are at war with traditional America. And like religious fanatics throughout history, they regard all “heretics” as their implacable enemies.

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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.

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