Social Justice Isn’t Everything, It’s the Only Thing - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
Social Justice Isn’t Everything, It’s the Only Thing
Vaclav Havel at a Freedom and Its Adversaries Conference in Prague in Nov. 2009 (Ondřej Sláma/Creative Commons)

Black Lives Matter differs from past American mass movements from which it claims lineage. It represses rather than liberates.

Activists do not demand their rights. They come for your rights.

Paramount among the rights they regard as wrongs? Free expression, specifically, the ability to issue criticisms — real or perceived, overt or implied, conscious or unconscious — of Black Lives Matter or even to do something its votaries misunderstand, willfully or otherwise, as racist now rationalizes firings, ostracization, and criminal investigations.

We must see racism everywhere or everyone sees racism in us.

When the white mayor of Oakland dragooned the FBI into the hate-crimes investigation, she launched into “nooses” ominously spotted in trees, a civic-minded black fitness enthusiast stepped forward to announce that he put the rigging in a public park months ago for exercises, swings, and fun. “Out of the dozens and hundreds and thousands of people that walked by, no one has thought that it looked anywhere close to a noose,” a befuddled Victor Sengbe told the press. Yet Mayor Libby Schaaf insists, “Intentions don’t matter when it comes to terrorizing the public. It is incumbent on all of us to know the actual history of racial violence, of terrorism, that a noose represents and that we as a city must remove these terrorizing symbols from the public view.”

As the most famous Oakland resident could have told the mayor, “There is no there there.”

Mike Gundy, a past consensus collegiate coach of the year, wore a One America News t-shirt on a fishing trip. For ESPN college football commentator Paul “Fashion Police” Finebaum, this constitutes grounds for termination as head coach of Oklahoma State. Citing the fashion faux pas, FPF said he did not understand “why Mike Gundy has been allowed to continue to coach at Oklahoma State” and advised “the sooner that Oklahoma State gets rid of Mike Gundy the better it’s going to be for that school.” FPF admitted that he had never watched One America News and that the reasons for firing Gundy did not pertain to his record as a coach. He said, “The issue is his insensitivity.” This from a guy demanding someone’s job for wearing a t-shirt? He’s the insensitive one? Really?

Social justice isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.

Some people losing their minds translates into other people losing their jobs.

A Pennsylvania school district recommended firing a middle school principal for sharing on his non-school Twitter account a video made by two captivating African American twin brothers titled, “Black Lives Matter Is a Leftist Lie.” The LA Galaxy released Aleksandar Katai because of what his wife posted online. The New York Times forced James Bennet, brother of former Democratic presidential candidate Michael Bennet, to resign as op-ed page editor not because he wrote anything objectionable but because he allowed a Republican U.S. senator to write an op-ed endorsing the use of troops to quell riots.

All the news that fits the commissar’s agenda.

Andrew Sullivan cited Vaclav Havel’s “Power of the Powerless” as speaking to this moment in his thoughtful piece. It does, but another of the Czech playwright-turned-prime-minister’s essays, “On Evasive Thinking” — or at least one section of it — speaks to it more directly:

We live in a time when reality is in conflict with platitude, when a fact is in conflict with an a priori interpretation of it, when common sense is in conflict with a distorted rationality. It is a time of conflict between theory that plays fast and loose with practice, and theory that learns from practice; a conflict between two gnoseologies: the one that, from an a priori interpretation of the world, deduces how that reality should be seen, and one that, from how reality is seen, deduces how that reality must be interpreted. In my opinion, how quickly our society evolves will depend on how quickly we can replace the first gnoseology — the metaphysical one — with the second, the dialectical one.

There and then, like here and now, the censors primarily seek not to muzzle those fired, ostracized, and investigated, but everyone else. They want you to conform. This conversion by the sword creates a phonier society — that disconnect between thought and word Havel explores in his essay — than exists already. In doing so, it moves the parameters of debate in their direction.

We must see racism everywhere or everyone sees racism in us.

The University of Florida’s Gator Bait cheer? Like a cross burning, only louder. Lady Antebellum? Sounds like Lady of the Invisible Empire. Cream of Wheat? More like Cream of White Supremacy.

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Repression, in junior high or in a country, proves contagious. Other-directed “individuals,” and people legitimately concerned for their careers, not only cower but join the Monsters-on-Maple-Street mob. They say not what they want to say but what they think others want them to say.

Americans now act as Charlie McCarthys on the strings of some imaginary marionette. They want everyone to know how much they hate racism even more than they want everyone to know about their rescue dog. So, people play into the panic by acceding to black demands that come from white people imagining the demands of black people. Surely, exterminating Aunt Jemima, 300 newspapers capitalizing “B” in black, the University of Florida banning the “Gator Bait” cheer invented by a black player, and Lady Antebellum pulling a Kaja by becoming Lady A makes everything better.

No? Then why indulge this idiocy? Because, like the mayor of Oakland, much of America engages in a performance to persuade strangers that they do not hate them and exorcise the demons of other strangers long since dead to prove that the New & Improved White People™ in no way resemble, say, Christopher Columbus, George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and those other white people guilty of the crime of holding antiquated views while living in antiquated times. Hysteria masquerades as high-mindedness.

People with bankrupt ideas fear debate. So, they instill that fear in others. Rejecting debate they favor deplatforming, defunding, and dehumanizing. Give them time. They may show their enthusiasm for defenestrating yet.

And many falling from the window assuredly offer a “black lives matter” solidarity shout in gratitude on the way down.

Daniel J. Flynn
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Daniel J. Flynn, a senior editor of The American Spectator, is the author of Cult City: Harvey Milk, Jim Jones, and 10 Days That Shook San Francisco (ISI Books, 2018), The War on Football (Regnery, 2013), Blue Collar Intellectuals (ISI Books, 2011), A Conservative History of the American Left (Crown Forum, 2008), Intellectual Morons (Crown Forum, 2004), and Why the Left Hates America (Prima Forum, 2002). His articles have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, New York Post, City Journal, National Review, and his own website,   
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