In his meandering way, Rod Dreher moves from a survey of opinions about the Mueller report to a very important point about where our society is headed. The transition comes with the following quotation from David Brooks, whose column predictably makes President Trump a culprit:
We are being threatened in a very distinct way. The infrastructure of the society is under threat — the procedures that shape government, the credibility of information, the privacy rules that make deliberation possible. And though the Chinese government does not play a big role here, it represents a similar sort of threat — to our intellectual infrastructure, the intellectual property rights that organize innovation.
Like Dreher, I’d suggest that the Trump presidency is the reaction to this, not the cause. In some regards, he’s the medicine, maybe the only medicine that our variation of democracy would have allowed itself to take at this stage of the corruption. And is that medicine so bad? Consider Dreher:
The Iraq War, the greatest US foreign policy disaster since Vietnam, was also a matter of hubris, but there were lies too. Consequential lies. The Mueller report gave us a glimpse of the rottenness in the Trump White House … but what if we could have seen a report on the rottenness of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld emerging for his daily Pentagon briefings during the war, lying to the press? That’s somehow not as bad as Trump because Rummy was a consummate creature of the system? Because he was respectable? Because he played by the rules, and still lied, and helped lead this country, and the world, into a needless catastrophe?
Now, I think Dreher loses sight of the attempted coup of the past two years in his willingness to go with the latest narrative that the report is all about Trump’s “rottenness.” I also think he’s too much in line with the established narrative of the last decade regarding the Iraq War, but his point is well taken, and his conclusion is appropriate:
Trump is the corrupt man I can see coming. I’m far more afraid of the progressive, mission-minded zombies emerging from the knowledge-and-privilege factories.
This is founded in something more important than a simple ideological preference test:
The gist of [Shoshana Zuyboff’s book The Age of Surveillance Capitalism] is that nearly everything we do and say is monitored by multiple corporations, who are taking that data — usually without our knowledge or permission — and using it to figure out how to sell us things and, more crucially, to guide us toward behaving in particular ways without knowing that we are being manipulated. There is no real way to opt out of the system. It is overwhelming — and Zuboff shows how the tech companies have spent ungodly sums to manipulate politicians and regulators in order to maintain maximum access to the personal data of everyone. (The Obama administration was in Google’s pocket, for example.) Zuboff likens it to the Spanish conquistadores arriving in the New World.
Much of the hatred of Trump, from both sides of the aisle, has to do with his style, but his style is blunt and obvious. Do you think he could pull off a real conspiracy? I don’t, and that makes him exponentially preferable to those who could — those who code their conspiracy so thoroughly in their way of thinking that it isn’t really a conspiracy at all, but a cultural flow that just happens to head in the ideological direction of those who profit by it, and the are…
… sooner or later going to convince themselves to deploy the power of data in an aggressive way against deplorables like me, and every other person that they identify as an “oppressor.” They are already tearing American universities apart. In Barcelona, progressives in charge of schools have begun purging wicked non-progressive books from children’s libraries. In British Columbia, the provincial Supreme Court ruled earlier this year that parents cannot block minor children who wish to receive hormone injections to change their sex. In the Spanish province of Navarra, the left-wing provincial government is dismantling the concepts of male and female by compelling all schools, even private and religious ones, to teach radical left-wing gender theory. I could sit up till daylight citing particular egregious actions undertaken by progressive governments and private entities.
Therein lies the game of our political moment. The rottenness of government power was used to target a political candidate as he became president, and we’re distracted by the personal rottenness his accusers decry in him. His presidency has indisputably retarded the progress of the insinuating totalitarians who are seeking to force us to be, speak, and think like them, and they project their nature against him, declaring that he’s a dictator.
In their growing rage, the People have carried the jester through the gates as a gesture of contempt against their rulers, and those rulers have sent their whisperers to turn the people into a mob against him. As his temporary reign continues, let’s focus on rebuilding the actual infrastructure of society while the totalitarians are distracted by their effort to distract us.
Featured image: “Masks of the Italian Theatre Mounted on Horseback: Harlequin” by Martin Engelbrecht, hearkening back to a post in this space in October 2016.