02/11/2019

Sandy’s War

Kevin D. Williamson, National Review

The Green New Deal makes every progressive an armchair general

‘This is going to be the New Deal, the Great Society, the moon shot, the civil-rights movement of our generation,” Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D., N.Y.) says about her so-called Green New Deal. The marketing material published in support of the concept — and that’s all the Green New Deal is: an advertising campaign without a product — offers what passes for soaring rhetoric anno Domini 2019, calling for a “new national, social, industrial, and economic mobilization on a scale not seen since World War II.”

This is Sandy’s War.

In my forthcoming book, The Smallest Minority: Independent Thinking in the Age of Mob Politics, I consider an observation from Erich Fromm, the Marxist-Freudian social critic whose Escape from Freedom was required reading only a generation ago. (It remains worth reading.) Fromm believed that the disruption of the medieval social order by the early stirrings of what we would come to call “capitalism” left Europeans of all classes uncertain and anxious about their status: social, political, economic, and religious. He connected this to the rise of Protestantism and also to the genesis of something much more relevant to our own disruption-convulsed culture of social-media obsession:

This underlying insecurity resulting from the position of an isolated individual in a hostile world tends to explain the genesis of a character trait which was . . . characteristic of the individual of the Renaissance and not present, at least in the same intensity, in the member of the medieval social structure: his passionate craving for fame. If the meaning of life has become doubtful, if one’s relations to others and to oneself do not offer security, then fame is one means to silence one’s doubts. It has a function to be compared with that of the Egyptian pyramids or the Christian faith in immortality: it elevates one’s individual life from its limitations and instability to the plane of indestructibility; if one’s name is known to one’s contemporaries and if one can hope that it will last for centuries, then one’s life has meaning and significance by this very reflection of it in the judgments of others.

One of the more amusing psychotic delusions of our time is that reputation is quantifiable, and that this quantum represents a mathematical identity with one’s human value in toto. Talk-radio hosts boast about their audience size or their podcast downloads as a stand-in for credibility; Donald Trump brags (and, often enough, lies) about the size of the crowds he draws or the ratings of broadcasts with which he is associated in a way that very much calls to mind simpler male boasts involving ordinary rulers, and at the same time he mocks the “failing New York Times” — which is not actually failing at all — as though the truth or falsehood of its reports were reflected in its circulation numbers. Similar jibes were pointed at the much-missed Weekly Standard, even as people of no particular account believe themselves to be figures of some consequence because they have as many Twitter followers as a B-list film actor. Representative Ocasio-Cortez’s admirers — and more than a few of her critics — note approvingly that she is a capable user of Twitter, as though this somehow liberated her from such quotidian congressional concerns as knowing how a bill becomes a law or what it is the House of Representatives in fact does. Max Boot, whiling noting her deficiencies, admiringly describes her as a “social-media blackbelt.”

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