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America’s Permanent Mobs
Protesters in Berkeley, CA, February 1, 2017 (Elijah Nouvelage/Getty Images)
(Photo credit: Elijah Nouvelage/Getty Images)

America’s Permanent Mobs

Ronald W. Dworkin

Never trust anyone whose political convictions are unaccompanied by doubts. Without the willingness to entertain doubt, the signal virtue of true liberalism, a person takes his or her principles to be unconditionally correct and absolutely binding. The person becomes a dogmatist, and dogmatists are dangerous. They tend toward a totalitarian mentality made up of equal parts arrogance, utopian fantasy, and, when given a chance, a penchant for inflicting their own biases on others.

Like all people, dogmatists have different things on their minds, but a good part of the time they think about whom to destroy and how. All dogmas divide people into believers and heretics. During the Middle Ages there were only two ways to deal with heretics: Let them alone or torture them to death. Today’s dogmatists recoil from either course, and so they have devised a compromise: Torture heretics, not to death, but to some extent.

And so we arrive at the mindset of contemporary Western identity politics. The practitioners of identity politics do not wish to physically destroy those who question the #MeToo movement (think actress Catherine Deneuve) or casually misspeak (think Roseanne Barr). They wish only to torture them to some extent, by making their lives a living hell. Thus thousands of people have been smeared with charges of sexism or racism, charges that ruin their peace of mind, their reputations, and occasionally their livelihoods. All this has happened in the name of some higher good.

Many people feel something to be wrong in all this. Not everyone’s conscience sits well with dragging people into the public square to humiliate them, people who had whispered a bad joke or perhaps tried to think through a complex subject out loud. But they usually keep quiet about it out of fear of being attacked themselves.

Critics call this “totalitarian,” which is an accurate description, more or less. But understanding how identity politics is totalitarian, and how it is not, is an important first step toward fixing the problem. Assuming it can be fixed.

It’s Not the Economy

Astriking difference between identity politics and other political ideologies is the former’s focus on non-economic issues. Feminism combats sexism. Black Lives Matter combats racism. LGBT groups combat so-called homophobia. These issues touch on economics only tangentially, which is why identity politics is usually somewhat vague on policy matters. Socialists have precise proposals, such as national health insurance and a higher minimum wage. Feminists, on the other hand, dislike how some men treat women, but then are vague about how to get men to change their behavior. Black Lives Matters is similarly vague on how to improve relations between the police and African-Americans. At times, different groups within the identity politics movement voice support for progressive taxation and more government regulation. This conjures up the ghost of Marx among some conservatives, who then call identity politics “cultural Marxism.”

This is wrong. Marx would have disagreed with too many aspects of identity politics to be associated with any such movement. Marx rejected censorship. He rejected “tribalism.” He believed strongly in industry and material progress. He supported the withering away of the state, not the transformation of the state into an aggressive monitor of everyday life. Identity politics does not share these ideals.

The key to understanding identity politics is to take its vagueness at face value and not to look inside for any conventional system of policy ideas—because there is no such system. Indeed, most Americans accurately sense that identity politics is a form of theater. In the media or on the internet they see dramas play out involving accusers and accused, dramas that are staged to both entertain and edify. The accused have said something or done something politically incorrect, something racist, sexist, or homophobic; accusers then arrive on scene to place the correct interpretation on what viewers are watching and hearing, so that viewers can benefit from the lessons as well as from the warnings they might contain. Like all good theater, the drama unfolding on the screen has the power to affect viewers personally and directly; the accused are familiar to them, or at least like them, they are people in whose place viewers could without great stretch of the imagination imagine themselves. And so viewers are meant not only to be entertained and edified but also to be horrified, and perhaps terrified, by a spectacle that hits very close to home.

Identity politics and political correctness are first and foremost tactics. The media spectacles and the opportunities for public shaming arise by chance, as moral panics tend to do—for example, the Harvey Weinstein case that sparked the #MeToo movement or the Ferguson police shooting that fueled Black Lives Matter. The method of identity politics is to exploit opportunities as they arise by taking seemingly unconnected incidents and showing how they purportedly fit a pattern that, taken as a whole, sums to an indictment of the American status quo. Indeed, identity politics synthesizes patterns into a meta-pattern called “intersectionality,” meaning that abuses in the area of race are intimately connected to those in the area of gender and sexual orientation, as well as in business and the environment.

Armed with a unified theory of America’s evil, identity politics activists seek to subject people to politically correct theater for the greater part of their lives. They strive to make it constant and intensive even in unexpected places—for example, in sports or children’s literature—in order to spur people to develop a new mental background with fixed orientations and conclusions.

When they succeed the critical thinking faculties of their targets become blurred such that the ability to distinguish between the real and the imaginary is lost. Objectivity goes begging, and people start to invest even the simplest events with political meaning. In theory, they remain free people, but they are not free people; they are politically correct people; they have been educated in the awareness that their every email exchange or daily doing could be instantly discovered, discussed, condemned, and punished—and rightly so, they think, for identity politics has convinced them that the desire for objectivity betrays a desire to distance oneself from the identity politics cause, which betrays doubt in the cause’s goodness. Thus, people begin to worry if, for example, putting a flag up at home is a fascist act, or if singing an ethnic song is an example of cultural appropriation. In a recent BBC comedy sketch, one person wondered if water is racist.

In this respect identity politics owes more to Lenin than to Marx. Russians used to say that Marx is for theory, Lenin is for practice. In other words, Lenin is for tactics. Lenin developed many of his ideas in response to events, so much so that Leninism is not a “system” (like Marxism), but merely a bunch of scattered observations organized around a specific purpose: social control. Lenin’s ostensible goal was to erect a new regime that would make life better for the abused, but he spent far more time on revolutionary tactics than on any specific policy ideas for how a communist health care system or wage system might work. His policy ideas were vague, just as today’s identity politics practitioners’ policy ideas are vague. Indeed, Lenin’s first act after creating the Communist Party was not to issue policy directives but to create a newspaper for purposes of propaganda.

The emphasis on tactics in identity politics surfaces in another way. When judging an action, Lenin had a straightforward test: “Is it or is it not good for the Revolution?” Lying, cheating, and killing innocent people were fine if they helped the Revolution. As for the question of morality, “Morality is whatever serves to destroy the old exploiting society.”1 Everything that serves that aim is good, he said, while everything that hinders its realization is bad. Marx believed in some moral norms, but morality had no steady meaning for Lenin; it was a wholly instrumentalized concept. Until the Revolution, and even after as the Revolution tried to defend itself, writing a magazine article existed on the same moral plane as gunning someone down.

Adherents of identity politics adopt a similar approach. From their perspective, hounding innocent people who may simply not share their views (think the recent campaigns to boycott In-N-Out Burger and Chick-fil-A), shouting them down (think visiting speakers on college campuses, a tactic that used to be called “revolutionary intolerance”), lying about them (think Duke lacrosse players or the University of Virginia rape case falsified by Rolling Stone), or destroying their reputations (think the young man terrorized by Mattress Girl at Columbia University) are no different from disseminating revolutionary literature or preaching on the radio. If such activities show the rot in the American system, then they are all morally equivalent and good, according to the logic of identity politics.

Besides, no one with power can really be innocent, say the adherents of identity politics. That is because all power is acquired through exploitation of one kind or another, from which often follows the enigmatic verdict in cases of people who are able to prove their innocence: “Not guilty, but does not deserve lenient treatment.” Although the Duke lacrosse players may have been innocent on the night in question, they were likely guilty at other times, so there is no reason to hold back. As the old Soviet prosecutor Andrei Vyshinsky once said, “Give me a man and I will find the crime.”2 The crime is always there, somewhere.

Another Leninist tactic was to dehumanize the accused, not just to sow contempt for the old regime, but also to render obsolete the normal rules of assessing individual guilt or innocence. Lenin called businesspeople “dogs” and “pigs” unworthy of humane consideration, which cast a compelling spell on those asked to judge them. During the show trials of the 1920s, evidence was deemed superfluous because the accused had already been stigmatized as “carrion,” “vermin,” and “degenerate.” Similarly, in the United States today, accused murderers and thieves enjoy the benefit of conventional standards of evidence during trial, but those accused of sexism and racism by identity politics vigilantes are called dogs and pigs at the outset; hence actual evidence is unnecessary.

This tactic surfaced in the recent Brett Kavanaugh hearing. If Judge Kavanaugh had been accused of murder, evidence would have to be presented, but since he was accused of sexual misconduct, he was suddenly a “pig”; evidence became unnecessary as the identity politics crowd pronounced him guilty on day one. Indeed, the act of even asking for evidence was judged sexist and piggish: Senator Kirsten Gillibrand declared that forcing his accuser to testify was tantamount to silencing her—which was more Orwellian than merely nonsensical.

Identity politics tactics, like Lenin’s tactics, are immensely flexible. A person is accused of sexism, racism, homophobia, or any other bias, and the rest follows naturally. Thought leaders prepare the spectacle for presentation to public opinion; the proper ideological blanks are filled in, although the background is painted with a few distinctive colors to give the event an accent of singularity; the spectacle is then linked to other similar spectacles and presented to the public as a coherent whole. The distinction between truth and illusion in people’s minds grows ever more blurred. People make artificial connections between isolated incidents of alleged wrongdoing, and start to imagine that if the American system were only destroyed once and for all, peace and justice would reign.

The spectacles also remind people of the dangers besetting them from those whom identity politics calls the enemy. In a curious way, by helping people keep up their nervous tension, and by encouraging them to be on guard for racism and sexism, identity politics, like Leninism, shrewdly raises people’s self-esteem. Most people sense that they are non-entities in daily life. But if suddenly they are told that vast forces are arrayed against them, including the patriarchy and the white race in general, and that these forces are tied in with the big banks and corporate America, then people suddenly come to realize that their lives have colossal value as victims and even martyrs. They are important after all, for otherwise why would these great forces be out to get them?

Until recently, many of the accused played the role in the drama allotted to them. They confessed their crimes and admitted their need to be re-educated in the hope of receiving leniency. Now that the accused realize that leniency is rarely given, and that careers and lives are typically ruined, they increasingly refuse to admit guilt—at first. The identity politics crowd then sets to wear them down through Twitterstorms and other social media crusades. Sometimes this works. After all, without repentance, the accused would be outcasts, enemies of the people, cut off from humanity. Yet the accused—who very often hail from progressive enclaves—can themselves feel a certain loyalty to the cause of identity politics; they think that a confession on their part would be a service to that cause, so they give one, or at least pay their respects to identity politics.

Thus Aziz Ansari, the comedian recently accused of sexual misconduct, announced how he very much supported the goals of the #MeToo movement that was now devouring him. His behavior is indistinguishable from that of the old Soviet official who suddenly found himself in the dock falsely accused, but who confessed his crimes anyway because he remained loyal to the Communist cause—even though that cause had grown disfigured and debased beyond recognition. For without a cause, some people cannot live.

There are others who do persevere in their defense against false charges of sexism and racism, which then often calls forth more aggressive tactics to destroy them. In some ways the old style of torture to the death was kinder, as torture “to some extent” can go on for decades.

The Primacy of Dogma

Because identity politics is more about tactics than policy, one might mistakenly think dogma plays no role in it. People made a similar error about Leninism. On matters that Communists were supposed to be dogmatic about—economic policy—Lenin was surprisingly flexible. Although eager to bring agricultural production under state control, he was open-minded about the details, once musing that there was more to growing corn than issuing decrees and shooting peasants. Nevertheless, Lenin declared that there was a sharp contrast between good and evil, between darkness and light, which turned on a person’s complete and unwavering support for the Revolution. Such either/or, black-and-white distinctions lie at the root of all dogma.

Identity politics makes an analogous distinction. It divides the world into Social Justice Heaven and Social Injustice Hell. The problem for average people, then and now, is how to prove that one is not going to Hell for wrong-think. A pose of neutrality is insufficient. Lenin said that anyone who claimed to be neutral was a secret enemy. Identity politics shares this view. A withdrawal from politics is itself political, and suggests membership in the odious Silent (and generally White Male) Majority. So people must speak up; they must be political—which is just another way of saying that they must pray out loud and be part of the congregation. But when they speak they risk having their words parsed by experts in political correctness. They may accidentally commit a transgression, necessitating punishment. In the current Florida governor’s race the Republican candidate told people to vote for him so as not to “monkey around” with the economic recovery. This was a stellar example of such a misstep, for “monkey” has a racist connotation—even though, as any dictionary tells us, the English-language idiom “to monkey around” has nothing to do with race or racism. The candidate has gone from being ahead in the polls to being five points behind.

This is one reason why platitudes have become the coin of political conversation in the United States, as was the case in Lenin’s time. Fearing retribution, speakers often restrict their public speeches to stock phrases that emphasize “diversity,” “inclusion,” “tolerance,” and “fighting against hate.” This often strikes even favorably disposed listeners as meager and monotonous, yet it is dangerous to digress, to express nuances, or to admit the possibility of gray areas. The actor Matt Damon, for example, got into serious trouble after he tried to make distinctions between different levels of sexual harassment during the peak of the #MeToo crisis.

The Long March, Fifty Years On

Identity politics, like Leninism, possesses a clearly defined body of inexpungeable secularized religious dogma, binding on everyone, which permits neither laxity nor neutrality. For Lenin, the source of all dogma was the Communist Party. For identity politics, the source of all dogma is the academy, meaning the universities.

It was Lenin, not Marx, who pushed the concept of “false consciousness,” which holds that people fail to see their true interests because society has warped their minds. This is why Lenin said people must be led by a group of professional revolutionaries with true consciousness, in the form of a political party. The Communist Party was to supply people with ready-made answers to all political questions.

Identity politics shares an analogous relationship with the academy. It argues that only certain people are “woke.” Those who are woke must lead those with false consciousness, a process that half a century ago went under the name “consciousness raising.” Although the Democratic Party houses the identity politics movement, the academy is the movement’s source of social justice dogma. It operates in a way that Lenin would have well understood.

Lenin created the Party because he believed spontaneous anger among oppressed workers was insufficient to make a revolution. Instead, he argued, professional revolutionaries operating within an ideologically unified, centralized, hierarchical structure must guide workers toward a socialist consciousness. Not intellectuals—revolutionaries. For Lenin, intellectuals were too individualistic, undisciplined, and capricious to accomplish the task.

The academy works in analogous fashion. Like the Party, the academy has become the center of all forms of protest against social oppression. But it is not the true intellectual in the academy that raises consciousness. As Lenin said, intellectuals are too unreliable; their heads are in the clouds. Instead, professional activists in the university, people who have made social justice advocacy their major purpose, form the vanguard of identity politics. Although they may also teach, their primary purpose is to deliver “correct” ideas on social justice because they supposedly know the historic situation of oppressed people and thus what their consciousness should be. Like Lenin’s professional revolutionaries, these activists masquerading as professors represent the oppressed not because the oppressed agree that they should, but because they supposedly know best the laws of social development.

From these professors-cum-activists originates identity politics dogma—for example, the concepts of microaggressions, trigger warnings, mansplaining, subconscious racism, and intersectionality. Many supposedly oppressed people reject these concepts, at least to the extent they can even decipher them. But activists believe they represent the interests of the oppressed whatever the oppressed themselves may think. Lenin’s professional revolutionaries argued similarly.

Because the academy is the organ of dogma, speech inside the university must be policed more aggressively than in society at large. Lenin would have understood. Any deviation from the identity politics line, however slight, leads inevitably, irresistibly, to more deviations. Heterodoxy always spawns more heterodoxy. For a dogmatic ideology to succeed, the organ of dogma must present a united front; there can only be one source of political initiative.

Moreover, to avoid any tendency toward factionalism, conspiratorial conditions must apply. This is why today’s academy aggressively restricts speech on campus, as well as publishes books that no one outside the academy reads. Everyone knows in advance that these books will be bereft of original content, that they will be written in exact conformity with existing prescriptions, and that they will not contain a single idea that questions the basic precepts of identity politics dogma. They play the role of sermons to keep believers from straying from the official truth. Dogmatists know the power for evil lurking in “dangerous thoughts”—what used to be known as heresy. They know that a difference of opinion carries within it the germ of conspiracy. Such things must be stifled quickly, smothered in their cradles; for if professors deviate, or if students deviate, others will follow and the system risks collapse.

The academy is especially at risk here. Again, Lenin would have understood. Average people are not in the business of ideas. Seeing which way the political winds are blowing, many choose to submit to identity politics and just live with the foolishness. But freethinking intellectuals do take ideas seriously, and the honest ones sooner or later will start comparing them with practice, raising the risk that they might reject those ideas. This is why Lenin kept a watchful eye on Party members and disliked debate, and it is why the identity politics movement on any given campus keeps close tabs on what professors are saying. They exhibit Stasi-like antennae. Bret Weinstein, the biology professor hounded out of Evergreen State College for questioning the propriety of a special campus day without white people, is an example.3 Nothing threatens dogma more than an honest intellectual.

In my experience, the majority of professors are honest intellectuals. Today most of those honest folk live in fear. If a counter-revolution against identity politics ever begins, it must start with the academy. Many professors will privately be grateful. Few, however, are willing to throw the first rock.

The Democratic/Totalitarian/Authoritarian Triangle

Auseful rule of thumb to distinguish between democratic, totalitarian, and authoritarian regimes is that under a democracy one is more likely to get fired for being publicly drunk than for being politically incorrect; under totalitarianism, one is more likely to get fired for being politically incorrect than for being publicly drunk; under authoritarianism it’s a toss-up. Today in the United States, one is more likely to get fired for being politically incorrect. QED.

The rule suggests that democracy and totalitarianism lie on opposite ends of a continuum; but the relationship between them is actually more complicated than that. Democracy, authoritarianism, and totalitarianism are like three points on a triangle, each sharing something with the other two. Democracy and authoritarianism allow civil liberties (much less in the latter than in the former); totalitarianism shuts them down completely. Democracy and totalitarianism, on the other hand, encourage people’s participation in politics (think Hitler’s Nuremberg rallies or Mao’s Red Guards), while authoritarianism prefers a passive, half-asleep populace. And of course, totalitarianism and authoritarianism both concentrate authority in the hands of demagogues, systematically disenfranchising the people.

By this measure, the charge of totalitarianism against today’s purveyors of identity politics may overstate the case, or state it too narrowly. Yes, some angry political mobs have been unleashed in America, but mobs exist under both democracy and totalitarianism. Tocqueville compared the mob fervor in 19thcentury American elections to a river that periodically threatens to overflow its banks and destroy everything, before subsiding until the next disruption.

And yes, identity politics has penetrated every aspect of American social life—sports, movies, literature, science, art, education, and even children’s play4— which parallels Lenin’s refusal to allow any sphere of life to exist outside of politics. Lenin united all activities under a single worldview controlled by the Party. That tactic almost defines totalitarianism. But identity politics activists do not control the state, at least not the United States; therefore the identitarians have no choice but to let most Americans be as politically passive as they choose to be. Moreover, Tocqueville described how 19th century Americans brought their political rules of democracy into all aspects of life, including children’s play and table manners at a feast. Identity politics brings different rules into everyday social intercourse, but the principle remains the same.

The Vulnerabilities of Loneliness

To truly understand the threat of totalitarianism today one must understand what makes totalitarianism a distinctly modern phenomenon. According to Hannah Arendt, totalitarianism depends on the existence of atomized individuals whom tyrants can reconstitute into a kind of mob. The atomized individual goes from being alone to marching in lock step with others, such that he or she ceases to have a private existence and commits fully to a political cause.

This atomized individual is a modern phenomenon. Yet even in modernity, completely atomized individuals are rare. Even Tocqueville’s individualistic Americans were not atomized. Americans may have mocked authority, bucked tradition, and pursued their individual ambitions, but Tocqueville describes them as living in tight circles of families and friends. The pioneers generally moved west as families. When they found a place worthy of homesteading they built up common spaces—town squares, parks, libraries, music halls, and the like—as a community-in-the-making, working off the principle of self-interest rightly understood. What we today call mediating institutions—from book clubs to bowling leagues to Little League—were a prominent feature of the social landscape well into the 20th century. A society has to work at creating atomized people, including American society.

Lenin, Hitler, and Mao created atomized individuals in part through terror, by severing the traditional social bonds between people. To grab total power, for example, Hitler had to break apart the bonds that connected the German people to tradition, to local nobles, to local churches, to local state officials, to neighbors, to members of extended families, and so on, so they would look to the Nazi Party for all guidance. When people grew too afraid to talk to their neighbors, he accomplished this.

Curiously, in the United States atomized people have come into existence, at least to some degree, almost naturally as our reservoirs of social trust have run dry. A loneliness epidemic has worsened over the past sixty years.5 Fifty percent of Americans have either no one or at most one person to talk to about their private problems. Americans increasingly live alone or spend much of their time alone, increasingly in front of one sort of screen or another, where strangers pour powerful narratives into their heads. A third of all dinner meals are now eaten alone. As Arendt shrewdly observed, loneliness is the “essence of totalitarian government.”6

Permanent Mobs

But identity politics in the United States today has taken atomization to the next level—through the old-fashioned method of terror, albeit of the psychological and not physical sort.

Today, men and women increasingly fear each other. As a group, women fear men as potential rapists in our so-called rape culture, while men fear women as potential false accusers of sexual harassment. Increasingly men and women avoid each other at work. It’s no longer a Hobbesian situation where every man fears every other man (Hobbes had little to say about women), but rather an even worse situation where every person fears every other person.

Political correctness terrifies most people. It stifles casual, everyday banter. People from different backgrounds increasingly avoid everyday conversation, especially at work. They fear running afoul of speech codes or committing a microaggression that will get them fired, and so they avoid unnecessary conversation, or at least carefully watch themselves around others. They look for “safe” conversational partners. All of this produces more atomization, more tinder for the identity politics activists of psychic totalitarian aggression. Crushed, lonely, and scared Americans grow ripe for totalitarian coordination, what the Nazis called Gleichschaltung.

In Lenin’s Soviet Union and Hitler’s Nazi Germany it was the Party that did the coordinating. In the United States today it is social media. The fact that the former was planned and deliberate while the latter is accidental and incidental is worth noting, but as a practical matter it doesn’t change the resultant dynamic very much.

Social media takes people who feel humiliated, unhappy, and lonely and gives them an online life. In whatever online community they join, they confess their most holy aspirations, their proudest, most secret dreams, and receive the same confessions from others. Online, a nobody can become a hero, a genius, someone who could become the pride of the nation and change the course of history—but only insofar as he or she trades real life for the one on screen, and follows the online community’s unified purpose. But doing that has consequences: Bit by bit the mind submits to a never-ending, ever-intensifying socializing process. Thousands of people come together in an online bubble and lose themselves as they become cut off from other political and intellectual influences, from other standards of comparison, and are subjected to propaganda so concentrated and unremitting as to leave its mark on even the strongest intellect. In the women’s sphere and the manosphere, in the black supremacist sphere and white supremacist sphere, and so on, reality increasingly exists only in people’s imaginations.

From this acquired surreality arises the totalitarian psyche of the permanent mob, as opposed to the passionate but merely momentary insanity of the acute mob. From it arises too the relentless eagerness to destroy someone in the name of collective reason. Sometimes all that’s left of a person’s individual humanity after being completely socialized is his or her touchiness.

The Utopian Temptation

One other totalitarian trend is worth noting. Arendt argued that totalitarian societies have a different understanding of law. In conventional societies laws are static, designed to protect people and property; in totalitarian societies laws are “laws of movement” designed to move society toward utopia—the classless society in Lenin’s Soviet Union; the master race in Hitler’s Germany. Laws of movement make no sense in conventional societies. They even connote lawlessness because they have such an unconventional purpose. Lenin’s laws led to many innocent people being killed, and this suggests lawlessness, but as laws of movement they pushed society toward a new form. By the totalitarian standard of law these killings were just.

Something analogous is happening today. For example, reverse racism violates conventional laws that demand people be treated equally, but laws of movement are designed to move society toward social justice utopia, and therefore do not recognize the possibility of reverse racism. Similarly, conventional laws in the framework at least of Anglo-American jurisprudence demand that people are judged innocent until proven guilty, and that women who accuse men of sexual harassment must produce evidence; but laws of movement designed to move society toward utopia declare that women must always be believed, no matter what. Hence the potential for a near-permanent “warlock hunt.”

The utopia in identity politics is a society in which power exists but is somehow never exercised or felt, where an individual need not experience any psychological discomfort at the hands of any other person. Like Lenin’s utopia, it is considered the highest expression of humanism. But also like his utopia, cruelty and hatred are necessary to achieve it.

What is curious in all this is how much history repeats. Modern-day readers look back at grotesque political events in the Middle Ages and the 20th century and wonder how such things could have happened. Fortunately, they say, cruel dogmatists no longer exist, and given humanity’s experience they would not be allowed power if they did exist. But that’s not the way things really are.

Today’s generation in the West has its dogmatists, who are no better or worse than those of previous generations. They yield to the temptation of glorifying their own creedal system and destroying people who believe otherwise. Lenin would have understood. In all this they think they are different from dogmatists of past generations and could never become like them. But they are not different. As before, they refuse to see or admit their own dogmatism, insisting that they merely want to establish a good life in America for good people and a bad life for bad people, all in accordance with what amounts to revealed Truth. But what they actually reveal is simply how much the sum total of ignorance and viciousness in humanity neither increases nor decreases over the centuries, but stays roughly the same.

1 Leszek Kolakowski, Main Currents of Marxism (W.W. Norton, 2005), p. 769.
2 Arkady Vaksberg, Stalin’s Prosecutor, (Grove Press, 1991), p. 107
3 Bari Weiss, “When the Left Turns on Its Own,” New York Times, June 1, 2017.
4 For examples of this in theater and children’s literature, see: Terry Teachout, “‘Straight White Men’ and ‘Head Over Heels’ Reviews: All Identity, All the Time,” Wall Street Journal, July 26, 2018; and Meghan Cox Gurdon, “Children’s Books: The Young Person’s Guide to Grievance,” all Street Journal, August 30, 2018.
5 See Bella Depaulo, “Single People Aren’t to Blame for the Loneliness Epidemic,” The Atlantic, August 28, 2018; Miller McPherson, et al., “Social Isolation in America: Changes in Core Discussion Networks Over Two Decades,” American Sociological Review (June 2006); and the new book by Ben Sasse, Them: Why We Hate Each Other—and How to Heal (St. Martins, 2018), especially chapter 1, “Our Loneliness Epidemic.”
6 Hannah Arendt, Origins of Totalitarianism, Part 3 (Harcourt, Brace & World, 1968), p. 173.

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