The ongoing cultural revolution in much of the West has not yet achieved the absurdity of the Mao religion of 1967–69. Yet so-called “Wokeness” has the characteristics of a religion bent on the extirpation of heretics, as Joseph Bottum, Jamil Jivani, and Michael Vlahos, have observed. No wonder that some of the new religion’s adherents vandalized, desecrated, and burned churches and synagogues.
In America in 2020 as in China in 1966, ultra-left rage mobs have been allowed to riot, assault, loot, and pillage, as David Bernstein describes in “The Right to Armed Self-Defense in the Light of Law Enforcement Abdication.” The modern violent ultra-left is mostly above the law, including pandemic laws against mass gatherings.
As in China, the mobs do not target only the heretics. Anyone can be attacked for no reason at all—the better to terrorize the population into submission. Thus, mobs purporting to care about racial justice demolish apolitical small businesses owned by blacks; business that try to mollify the rioters by putting up signs of political support receive no mercy.
It’s easy to lose one’s livelihood over nothing, like the Hispanic truck driver fired for cracking his knuckles, which a Twitter mob interpreted as a white power symbol. Or for indirectly casting doubt on the mobs; an employee of a data company was fired for retweeting a study showing that peaceful protests are more effective than riots in achieving political objectives. (Both incidents are detailed in Yascha Mounk’s “Stop Firing the Innocent” essay for The Atlantic.) People who dare to criticize Black Lives Matter Global Foundation, Inc.—or who fail to praise it sufficiently—may quickly find themselves unemployed and unemployable.
School curricula and libraries are being “decolonized” by the elimination of classic books such as Mildred Taylor’s “Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry,” a black woman’s history of her family in Jim Crow Mississippi.
Today’s cultural revolution, like Mao’s, is top-down and led by the most privileged university graduates and students. They have worked themselves into self-righteous fury against the unawokened lower classes.
As in 1966, modern iconoclasts deface and destroy all statues with equal zeal: abolitionists, animals, 9/11 firefighters, Indians, Union soldiers in the Civil War, Ulysses Grant, and Abraham Lincoln all get the same treatment as Confederates. Although the destroyers may not have heard of Lin Biao’s exhortation to “Smash the Four Olds,” they implicitly understand that building the “anti-capitalist” new order they want requires the obliteration of the memory of all that come before: old ideas, old culture, old customs, and old habits.
An important difference between China in 1966 and the West today is that the rage mobs and their more sedentary allies do not yet control all means of communication—but the space for dissent is considerably narrower than it was just a little while ago. Unlike China, we don’t have a formal Socialist Education Campaign in every classroom—but we have something similar in more and more educational institutions, from pre-schools through university.
And at least in the United States, many do have the practical means to resist mob violence; professor Bernstein’s article collects numerous examples. But the exercise of lawful self-defense may still lead to criminal charges by prosecutors aligned with the extreme left.
China’s Cultural Revolution began to end in 1976 when Mao died, and the pragmatic totalitarians staged a coup that removed the more idealistic totalitarians. Will the people of the Anglosphere have to wait that long, or longer, for rescue? Or will the hundreds of millions of people who don’t support the totalitarian ultra-left emancipate themselves from mental slavery? Will they end the reign of terror of today’s Maoists?