The Civil War is going to be more like the Irish Troubles.
Whenever I hear Americans speculating about a civil war here, I usually roll my eyes and remind them that it is impossible to resist a force as large and well-equipped as the US military. In this Twitter thread, the Swedish Marxist commenter Malcom Kyeyune says that’s not how an American civil war in the 21st century would work.
Longtime readers will know that I used to not only defend NPR, but used to celebrate it, despite its liberal bias. … I was not even a Trump fan. Still, the obsession with race, gender ideology, and immigration — all of which was talked about exclusively from a radical-left point of view — was deeply alienating. …
Today I was in the car driving back from Jimmy John’s, and I turned on NPR. There was a locally produced news show that had a feature about “pregnant people” and their “fetuses.” I finally got so angry I turned it off. Nothing new about that. But the thought that came into my head this time was that I had been listening to the radio of an occupying power, and I was sick of it. Again, I get that this is an ultra-bourgeois right-wing moment — middle-aged fat conservative rages at NPR in his Honda! — but something had flipped slightly in my usual rantiness. For what I think was the first time, I began to regard these people — the ruling class that runs NPR and all the institutions — as people who despise normal people so much that they are trying to colonize our culture.
Rod Dreher would never use the phrase “Zionist-occupied government.” But he knows, at some level, that is what it is.
I’ve never understood how anyone can read the press of the last forty years, with the constant hysteria about “the Religious Right” and not see clearly who the people complaining are. I realize there is so much mystification – “muh Christian Zionism” – but the polarization is blatantly obvious. The fact that the Republicans are becoming a “white working class party” is also making it quite obvious it isn’t just a “religious thing.” It’s an ethnic thing – hence, Dreher’s complaing about “colonizing our culture.”
But it is a strange thing for someone like me to confront the growing conviction within myself that we are living not under a government, but within a regime.
I hear on a radio network funded by the government and rich liberals a change of language designed to compel us to think that men can have babies, and immediately I understand that these people, these power-holders, intend to dispossess us in our own country.
Milquetoast conservatives using language like this, it’s quite interesting. Republicans used this sort of language about Obama, but it was squarely contained in the typical GOP political context. This seems different. It’s not Biden, it’s not even just Democratic politicians. It’s the regime.
And Milquetoast conservatives like Rod Dreher are interviewing “Swedish Marxists” like Malcom Kyuyune?
What we might be starting to witness — might — is the governed beginning to withdraw consent from the regime.
Alright so this has been a fairly common point made in the last thread I made about these vaccine mandates and the whole latent conflict between the states and the federal government. This complaint actually hides a very interesting dynamic, so let’s dive into it.
At this point, some of these vaccines have just been quietly retired from general use, and others (like moderna) are being severely restricted across much of Europe, owing to fears of severe side effects.
European governments are slowly backing away from these vaccinations in specific situations and with specific groups, but will probably end up abandoning the idea of mass vaccination entirely. It was an idea that always had serious, serious problems, and reality is catching up.
I originally stated that the risk of even seriously faulty vaccines wasn’t that big in some sort of general sense. This caused a bit of consternation, as I think people made the assumption I was somehow interested in “underselling” the seriousness of this fight!
But actually, the idea that all of this can be boiled down to statistics or mathematics (just how dangerous is a faulty vaccine compared to driving in your car for 3 hours really?) is completely wrong. Man is a political animal, not a mathematical one.
Here, many liberals will throw up their hands and say “but you already accept all these other vaccines, aren’t you just being hypocritical about the new one?”, and while this point is in some sense true, it misses the big important thing in politics: legitimacy.
Any stable political order is predicated on the idea that the rulers have the *right* to do the things they do, even if you don’t like them. Once that basic, often unconscious, and generally passive consent disappears, a lot of things happen all at once.
I like to use the example of a parent-child relationship; as a kid, I often disliked my evil, stupid parents who told me to go to bed or do my homework or what have you. But as a kid, I also had the vague sense that they had the *right* to decide these things.
As a kid, you generally think your parents are just wrong and stupid a lot of the time (in a rational world, we’d eat candy every day!), but that it’s somehow an adult prerogative to be “wrong”. As it happens, this tend to be the cynical attitude toward politicians as well.
What is *clearly* happening with these vaccine mandates in the US (but not necessarily in other countries with similar mandates!) is that this belief in legitimacy, this sense of “oh well they’re wrong again but what can you do?” is rapidly disappearing.
To get a sense of what this actually means, think about the lead-up to the American war of independence. It’s not like the british were actually *trying* to get America to break away. Stuff like the Stamp Act and the Townshend act were not intended as *insults*.
What came to increasingly bewilder the british during the years leading up to the revolutionary war was that they were doing all these fairly ordinary things that they thought they had a *right* to do, things that were in some not that big of a deal.
I mean, who cares if tea is a bit more expensive? Is that *really* the end of the world? From the British perspective, the Americans were suddenly getting *incredibly mad* over stuff coming out of Parliament that they would have considered completely fine just ten years ago!
And honestly, more expensive tea *isn’t* the end of the world. If Washington had done something to make tea more expensive after the revolution, it’s not like everyone would have rushed to go back to living under the Crown. Washington, like parents, had the *right* to be “wrong”.
The British, however, had *lost* that “right to be wrong” slowly over the years in the eyes of many Americans, and then they were simply wrong about sometimes fairly mundane things one too many times.
Well, history never repeats, but it does like to rhyme. In 2021, the federal government is doing a pretty good job of standing in for Parliament. Like the tea act, mandates were only meant to cause that old “well I hate that they’re doing this but they have a right to” response.
Just like Parliament, there’s probably no way the federal government would have sprung for these mandates if they knew what would happen. The amount of defection and open resistance to these things is *incredibly* serious. Not because there’s going to be revolution tomorrow…
…but because the rot of lost legitimacy has clearly hollowed out much of the tree of government already. It’s still standing as tall as ever, but the tree is dead. The roots are gone. That’s a very hard situation to reverse, even if the immediate crisis passes.
When a societally significant amount of people start using the word “tyranny” seriously, and then acting on it, defying government writ, you have a serious crisis on your hands. Because “tyranny” *by definition* implies a lack of legitimacy.
There may be *lawful* tyranny, but there can never be *legitimate* tyranny. If the tyrant cites law, that just means you have a right to ignore the law as naturally unjust, otherwise you wouldn’t be up against a tyrant.
A couple of days ago Rod Dreher put up this piece that I think really illustrates how far this rot has spread. Dreher’s core point is one that he lampshades several times, but it is very real.
Dreher turns on the radio and tunes in to NPR, and quickly catches himself thinking “God, this is basically just the radio station of an occupying foreign power and I’m sick of it.”
In the piece, Dreher lampshades this realization by saying that he’s just a middle aged, fat, bookish conservative nerd; don’t just use a pinch of salt here, use the entire tub of it, because when middle aged bookworms get mad, that shouldn’t tell you much… right?
And you know, maybe that would be true, if Dreher had been shaking his fist at the steering wheel all on his own. But as it stands, he just happens to be one of the wispy top branches near the crown of a massive tree of social discontent.
Below him, there are now millions of people who have already had this same realization that they no longer buy into the idea that the people passing these mandates are legitimate at all. And by all accounts, some of these people are already willing to take serious risks.
So to tie all of this back together to the vaccine mandates, and how serious or not serious they are. When you are making the point that they *are* tyrannical, you should be aware that you’re not making a *statistical* point.
No economist with a time machine is going to prevent the revolution by visiting the angry people of Boston and saying “uhhh…. have you maybe considered that this tea stuff is just not a big deal??”. The world of statistics and the world of legitimacy are two different worlds!
In the end, the same problems that dogged the british are likely to bewilder the federal government going forward. Once you have this sort of slow-rolling legitimation crisis, any “fixes” you apply to the issue people are supposedly mad about are likely to just fail.
At this point, though people might have started out being angry about specific, solvable issues, discontent has a tendency to just balloon and become diffuse, spread out. Like a cancer that has metastasized, there’s no longer a sharp line between what is healthy and what is sick.
So to close this up, I do find these mandates to be incredibly significant *in America*. But it is unlikely they will trigger the same sort of reactions in much of the rest of the world. That doesn’t come down to statistics, but to legitimacy.
None of this is to say that Americans are somehow wrong to be angry or that Europeans are “rational” or “irrational” or whatever. Tyranny is real, but the definition of tyranny is *what you are no longer willing to put up with at the end of the day*.
It’s that aspect of political life that completely blindsided Parliament, as it often tends to blindside oblivious rulers throughout history. We are in some sense seeing a repeat of those early days right now; it’s anyone’s guess as to where that loss of legitimacy will lead!