The Battle Ahead

‘Live Not By Lies’

The Battle Ahead

The next two or three election cycles will determine whether America will retain liberal democracy, or will become a woke soft totalitarianism

Megan McArdle says the loony leftists who think the woke Berkeley law professor took Sens. Hawley and Cornyn to school are living in dream world. Excerpts:

The whole thing quickly became a Rorschach test. Many progressives cheered to see Professor Bridges school a reactionary Republican. But conservatives also cheered, because they see a gift to Republican election campaigns.

Unlike a Rorschach test, however, this one has a right answer, and the progressives have it wrong. Moreover, the fact that they can’t see just how badly this exchange went for their side shows what a big mistake it was to let academia and media institutions turn into left-wing monocultures.


When I was reporting on the story of transgender college swimmer Lia Thomas, I noticed a curious disconnect. If you read newspapers, watched television or listened to academic experts, you might have thought that most people supported Thomas, with some dissent from a few reactionaries or jealous competitors. Yet the overwhelming majority of people I actually spoke to thought it was unfairfor her to compete in women’s events, even though most of them were liberals who would never dream of voting Republican.

They were, however, a fearfully silent majority, which meant Thomas’s supporters never had to come up with good arguments. Instead, many of my questions got essentially the same answer as the one Bridges ultimately gave to Hawley: Even asking the question is transphobic and dangerous.

Within a narrow set of media and academic circles, this was a devastatingly effective tactic that made it impossible for opponents to organize an effective response. Outside those circles, however, it failed utterly; the swim federation swiftly made new rules to bar Thomas, along with other athletes who transitioned after puberty, from participating in future races.

Here’s a link to that exchange with Sen. Hawley. McArdle goes on to say that the Left is hurting itself tremendously with this behavior. It thinks it can get away with only talking to itself, and believing that the tactics it uses to shut down dissent in the institutions it controls can work in wider society.

But is she correct? True, supporters of sanity won an important victory with the swim federation, but I am not sure that other victories will come so easily, without a lot more people willing to refuse to live by the Left’s lies. McArdle’s column zeroes on on the totalitarian aspect of wokeness: “Even asking the question is transphobic and dangerous.” As Orwell wrote in Nineteen Eighty-Four, the most important victory Winston Smith achieved was the victory over himself — that is, by finally surrendering to the totalitarians, and ceasing to ask dissenting questions.

I wrote Live Not By Lies both to explain why wokeness is a form of totalitarianism and to prepare orthodox Christians and other dissenters to live under it without breaking. The happy truth is that these totalitarians have not yet won completely. We can still muster the strength to beat them back, if we understand how they work, the nature of the threat they pose, and organize ourselves to smash them. One of the greatest weapons they have to use against us is the presumption that they are working democratically — that their beliefs and methods constitute liberal democratic values and behavior (in the sense that we are all believers in liberal democracy), and those who oppose them are the “authoritarians” and otherwise threats to democracy. This is a lie along the lie told by the East German communists, who named their police state the “German Democratic Republic.”

Polls now show that the public is very much on the side of common-sense conservatives on these issues. From NBC, this story about a poll done by a teacher’s union:

A major set of red flags in the poll for Democrats and teacher unions was a series of questions that look like they were ripped from DeSantis’s Friday speech on “critical race theory” and teaching kids about sexuality and gender identity. While the survey didn’t mention DeSantis by name, it tested education messages he popularized nationally — more so than Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin, a Republican who won in a Democratic-leaning state last year on a parental-rights education platform that was far less provocative than DeSantis’.

One poll question found that voters, by a 32 percentage-point margin, said they were more likely to vote for candidates who believe public schools should focus less on teaching race and more on core subjects. By 27 points, they said schools should be banned from teaching sexual orientation and gender identity to kids in kindergarten through third grade. By 28 points, they said transgender athletes should be banned from competing in girls’ sports.

Writing in the UK website UnHerd, the London-based political scientist Eric Kaufmann says that journalists who believe the culture wars are a fake issue made up by conservatives to distract the public are deceiving themselves. (The link is here; I’m struggling to embed it with the new software: More:

The claim that the culture wars are a distraction is a popular progressive trope whose surfaceplausibility lures in many otherwise reasonable people. It has a ring of plausibility to it, but those who accept it are serving as useful idiots for the radicals who are waging an all-out culture war in our institutions, from museums and publishing houses to schools and universities. Because these cultural socialists largely control the normative climate in organisations, elected government — alongside the law — is the only way the majority can push back to defend historic British values of freedom of conscience, free expression, equal treatment, reason and national identity. 

This is true in the US too, of course. The woke — Kaufmann’s term is “cultural socialists” — really do control nearly all American institutions, even now, incredibly, the US military. They hold all the power in America today. Most Americans might have been amused or appalled by that woke law prof’s exchange with the Republican senators, but ask yourself: how many professionals, or those who aspire to be part of the professional class, would dare to criticize that law prof’s words at the office, or in professional circles? They would hesitate because they know perfectly well that the class of people who rule over them, and us, are on the side of the law professor.

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In a sane country, this would never have happened:

A transgender inmate who impregnated two women while incarcerated at Edna Mahan Correctional Facility for Women has been moved to a new facility, according to the Department of Corrections.

Demi Minor, 27, was transferred to Garden State Youth Correctional Facility, a prison for young adult offenders in Burlington County, last month, Dan Sperrazza, a Department of Corrections spokesman, said.

He said the DOC moved Minor to the vulnerable unit at the facility and that she is currently the only woman prisoner on the site. Sperrazza said he could not comment on the DOC’s specific housing actions in Minor’s case because of policies around privacy.

According to the corrections department, Minor is serving a 30-year sentence for manslaughter and is eligible for parole in 2037.

This is what it means to surrender to the transgender insanity. Yet it is happening, and there is little pushback to it. Parents all over this country are paralyzed with fear that their children — especially those kids made vulnerable by being on the autism spectrum — are going to have their minds colonized by these genderfreaks, and going to demand surgeries and hormones. Some states are moving to ban these treatments for minors, but the Biden Administration has warned those states that they may face federal civil rights action if they do it.

Take a look at this short clip from Bill Maher’s show, in which Maher discusses the trans insanity with Andrew Sullivan and Katie Herzog, who are both gay:

Sullivan and Herzog are being rational here. In fact, Sullivan’s Friday Substack essay was about how the Democrats are so gung-ho about woke insanity that it’s starting to look like the only thing that can save us from a Trump reconquista is Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is too conservative for Sullivan, but more sane than either the Democrats or Trump (according to Sullivan). Again, Sullivan disagrees with some of what DeSantis stands for, even as he says that Never Trumpers and liberals trying to trash DeSantis are being absurd. Excerpt:

But how different is it really from the Biden administration rigging Title IX to impose trans ideology and end due process for the accused in schools and colleges? Or from the federal government mandating active race and sex discrimination for the sake of “equity”? Or trying to ban any mental health therapy for gender-dysphoric kids that doesn’t instantly affirm the self-proclaimed gender of a child? Or proposing vaccine distribution by race? Or imposing mask mandates and lockdowns with a fervor that lasted far beyond the need to control the first and second waves — and that were instantly and conveniently waived when BLM arrived on the scene?

More generally, look at the broader context. The imposition of woke dogma throughout corporate America, the government, the nonprofit sector and our educational institutions has been a deeply authoritarian movement, brooking no dissent. The Democrats have embraced this putsch, with Biden among the most strident, deploying federal government power to advance far-left ideas. None of his underlings can define what a woman is. All seem to view America as a form of “white supremacy” — and want to teach this as fact to kids. Do Democrats really believe that all this is simply government-as-usual, and any attempt to balance this out on the right is inherently some kind of authoritarianism? I don’t.

At some point, we really do have to fight back and defend a liberal society. The Dems are attacking it. Trump can’t do it — he merely empowers and legitimizes the woke. DeSantis has shown he can actually beat them — at their own game. A conservative seeking some swing of the cultural pendulum back to the center is not a fascist.

I am significantly more to the Right than Andrew Sullivan, yet I invite you to look at his second paragraph above as a characterization of wokeness-in-power as a radical distortion of a liberal society. Sullivan believes that the Democrats today are the enemies of a liberal society — and he is correct. The question in my own mind is whether or not it is possible to restore a liberal society, or if we are compelled to choose between left-illiberalism or right-illiberalism. If we are going to have any kind of shot at a restoration of liberal society, wokeness must be destroyed. It has burrowed very deep within the institutions of American life, and extricating it will not be easy. A conservative government attempting to do so would need to be fearless, ruthless, and focused like a surgeon.

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This might well be our last chance. We know from survey after survey that Millennials and Zoomers are far to the Left on cultural issues, and are eager and willing to use authoritarian measures to silence dissent and curtail other liberties (James Poulos’s “Pink Police State”). As members of that generation take over institutional leadership, they are probably going to cannibalize those institutions from within, and set up even more stringent gatekeeping policies to ensure ideological conformity for those who seek entrance into the Inner Ring. America will be more polarized, and more fanatical at the top. And we certainly know that the Left has no problem using the security state and civil unrest against perceived threats to their preferred order. Donald Trump freaked them all out, but we know that he was never a meaningful threat to them, because he is so undisciplined, and the kind of people who rallied to his standard were those easily conned by grifters and mountebanks. As appalling as the January 6 events were, there is zero chance that that ridiculous mob could have overthrown the US government.

The far more serious threat to our democracy is in what Joint Chiefs Chair Gen. Mark Milley might have said and done during the MAGA Gotterdammerung. I’m not trying to downplay the ugliness of January 6 — you will remember that I supported at the time impeaching Trump over his behavior in those days — but rather to say that January 6 was nothing compared to the woke takeover of our institutions, vis-à-vis preserving American democracy. Think of it: the President of the United States wants the government to stand between parents and their minor children for the sake of guaranteeing that those minor children can receive cross-sex hormones in an effort to change their sex. This is something that the woke ruling class cannot bring itself to accept is an issue up for debate!

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People who grew up under Soviet communism know from experience that the State asserted the primacy of its connection to children, over and against parents. In the USSR, Pavlik Morizov was the child-martyr who turned his father in to Soviet authorities, and who was killed by his family for the betrayal — thus becoming a celebrated figure of Soviet mythology. The ruling class is going to start presenting Pavlik Morizovs soon — and both Hollywood and the news media will dutifully play their roles in enforcing official ideology. Recently I watched a series of network TV segments for Pride month, in which the only acceptable way to deal with a trans or genderqueer child was full affirmation. To even think otherwise — why, that’s transphobic, and putting the lives of trans people are risk!

These next two or three election cycles will determine whether or not America is doomed to soft totalitarianism, or if the people will rise up and elect leaders who are able and willing to fight very hard, and very smartly, to roll back wokeness. I like to think that the idiocy on display in Washington last week, from the woke Berkeley prof, is a sign that the ruling class is seriously out of touch with the people, but I can’t easily avoid the fear that in the end, there are too many Americans who are afraid to stand up, afraid to risk their own position within the professional world, and who instead will lie to themselves, and practice ketman. What is ketman? From Live Not By Lies:

Many Christians will see through these lies today but will choose not to speak up. Their silence will not save them and will instead corrode them, according to Miłosz.

In his writing about communism’s insidiousness, [Czeslaw] Miłosz referenced a 1932 novel, Insatiability. In it, Polish writer Stanisław Witkiewicz wrote of a near-future dystopia in which the people were culturally exhausted and had fallen into decadence. A Mongol army from the East threatened to overrun them.

As part of the plan to take over the nation, people began turning up in the streets selling “the pill of Murti-Bing,” named after a Mongolian philosopher who found a way to embody his “don’t worry, be happy” philosophy in a tablet. Those who took the Pill of Murti-Bing quit worrying about life, even though things were falling apart around them. When the Eastern army arrived, it surrendered happily, its soldiers relieved to have found deliverance from their internal tension and struggles.

Only the peace didn’t last. “But since they could not rid themselves completely of their former personalities,” writes Miłosz, “they became schizophrenics.”

What do you do when the Pill of Murti-Bing stops working and you find yourself living under a dictatorship of official lies in which anyone who contradicts the party line goes to jail?

You become an actor, says Miłosz. You learn the practice of ketman. This is the Persian word for the practice of maintaining an outward appearance of Islamic orthodoxy while inwardly dissenting. Ketman was the strategy everyone who wasn’t a true believer in communism had to adopt to stay out of trouble. It is a form of mental self-defense.

What is the difference between ketman and plain old hypocrisy? As Miłosz explains, having to be “on” all the time inevitably changes a person. An actor who inhabits his role around the clock eventually becomes the character he plays. Ketman is worse than hypocrisy, because living by it all the time corrupts your character and ultimately everything in society.

UPDATE: This is what we are up against: the systematic plan by the cultural Left to colonize the minds and terrorize the souls of our children, and to separate them from us, and their inheritance. I am sick of it, and there is no term of political abuse (“reactionary,” “authoritarian”) you can use against people like me that is remotely as bad as the disgusting reality of what the woke are doing:

UPDATE.2: Look at this. This is the country the Left wants.

This is Tekle Sundberg. Minneapolis Police Department killed this smart, loving & artistic 20-year-old after an hours-long standoff while he was experiencing a mental health crisis. We need ANSWERS from MPD as to why Tekle’s mental health crisis became a death sentence!

— Ben Crump (@AttorneyCrump) July 16, 2022

Poor sweet Tekle Sundberg. But wait, there’s more:

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Mind blowing to watch activists tell this woman “this is not the time” to mention that the man shot by police had been *shooting into her apartmentwhere her kids were.

— Thomas Chatterton Williams (@thomaschattwill) July 17, 2022

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