The outrage over Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez calling immigrant detention centers “concentration camps” says more about liberalism than what is happening at the border.
On one hand, Ocasio-Cortez’s histrionic rhetoric is a feature of a coarsened political discourse. In the era of social media and call-out culture, political discussion has been vulgarized and flattened. Much of what passes for political commentary amounts to shrill counter-signaling.
Neither side is innocent of this. But there is a particular tendency on the left to constantly dredge up the specter of fascism — an ideology that has been dead for nearly a century — to fit their political purposes. For these anxious progressives, genocide is never far in the offing.
Eric Swalwell is a particularly egregious offender here. There is no calamity that won’t fit his juvenile musings.
Here he is comparing Trump’s attacks on the mainstream media to — wait for it — the Holocaust:
First they came for the journalists.
Then they came for the elected officials expressing legitimate concerns about justice in our country and attacks upon our democracy.
— Eric Swalwell (@ericswalwell) March 26, 2019
Much of contemporary liberal commentary can be summarized as, Look! Nazis!
But the world that liberals paint is an inversion of reality. Not only is America not living under a Drumpfenreich; liberalism continues to enjoy cultural dominance. Where, then, do these delusions of persecution come from?
One of the original ideas behind liberalism was this: allowing the customs and institutions of society to carry on unchallenged keeps humans in an ignorant, unfree, and undeveloped state. And yet liberalism’s dominance has produced the same one-dimensional thinking, the same vulgarity, the same socially dysgenic trends that liberalism was supposed to correct.
Lacking challengers, liberalism has grown ossified, flabby, and trite. America’s leading institutions, from elite universities to prestigious newspapers, have been hollowed out by a monoculture. An obsession with identity politics has taken over completely. There is little left to say, other than to repeat woke dogmas ad nauseam while pointing out that there are — troublingly! — still people who don’t follow them.
In a way, this is all very unfortunate for the libs. The “radical” values of progressives have been co-opted by Fortune 500 companies. How, then, do they continue playing the revolutionary?
Pretending to be transgressive, while remaining utterly bourgeois in belief and lifestyle, the prototypical Brooklyn-based journo-activist must play up an imminent authoritarian threat to justify their narcissistic LARPing as the Justice League. The irony is pungent; while play-acting as the Red Army, so-called “socialists” ally with Big Tech conglomerates to “deplatform the bigots.” Where is the danger, the revolution, the romance?
Perhaps some liberals are really so deluded that, living in a country that thoroughly reflects their values in corporate culture, mass culture, and consumer culture, they still feel that “bashing the fash” is an exigent cause. But there may be another explanation.
Within living memory, social justice was countercultural. This is no longer the case. Now, it’s just culture. Yet, progressives must somehow justify attacking what little is left of the social order they destroyed. So liberalism invents challenges to its power.
Over the last couple years especially, progressives have invested much in building up an illusory threat to their dominance, embodied in the Orange Man himself. It is believed by many progressives that America is creeping toward, if not already living under, fascism.
Going off what the left says about the Trump era, it’s 1939 and concentration camps are being built at the border. In Alabama and Georgia, The Handmaid’s Tale is coming to life.
None of these things are true. They are delusions of persecution.
Sure, Trump has political power. But the White House is just one power among many. What about the many moral tastemakers that exercise cultural power — the media, academia, Hollywood, “woke” corporations, public education, Big Tech? What about the intelligence “community” that took it upon itself to intervene in a democratic election?
Have any of these powers suffered? Have their collective powers been curtailed?
The left never ceases to fret about the threat Trump poses to a free press. And yet, after two years of telling brazen lies to the American people about Russia, has the media lost any power?
Like a true fascist, Trump is directing his attorney general to go after the exalted intelligence “community.” But if we were living under a right-wing authoritarian government, wouldn’t the president have Crooked Hillary locked up already, along with Leakin’ James Comey, John Brennan, and the rest of the Deep State conspirators who sabotaged his presidency for two years?
Come to think of it, wouldn’t Trump have stopped this “coup” a long time ago, instead of waiting for Robert Mueller to decide he was done going through Trump’s Moscow bar tabs?
Drumpf, as they call him, is imagined to be an existential threat to democracy, and yet he spent the last two years fighting off a conspiracy by unaccountable bureaucrats working to overturn an election result. Their efforts did irreparable damage to Trump’s presidency, and their allies in the media and Congress still aren’t letting it go.
Two years into his presidency, Trump has done nothing to secure the border. If America had descended into authoritarianism, wouldn’t the president just round up all the illegal immigrants and have them deported already?
It’s checks and balances that are stopping him! Right. His own party doesn’t support the immigration agenda he campaigned on.
The “concentration camp” line is absurd on its face. America’s immigration status quo is decidedly in favor of the left — it’s not even a contest. After two years of Trump, illegal immigration is actually getting worse. Partly this is because of Trump’s ineffectiveness, but also it is because great institutional powers have decreed it so that the border Shall Remain Open.
The upside-down reality that AOC sees at the border can be extrapolated to almost every facet of politics. It’s ironic but true that those with power project their privilege onto their preferred ideological villains, who have anything but.
Woke elites shame downwardly mobile rural whites for their “privilege” from the heights of society in blissful ignorance. The real victims of illegal immigration are never the Americans in the communities that must absorb them; it’s the migrants who voluntarily cross the border.
How is it that migrants are always the victims of free choices they made, while the Americans having mass migration forced upon them from above are the villains?
These xenophobes are a threat to America and its values, Chris Cuomo and Don Lemon intone solemnly from inside a glossy studio. Yet they are socially in free fall, and their government is unresponsive to their concerns.
Who is the victim here? The migrants who enter a sovereign country unlawfully and remain indefinitely? Or the Americans who went to the ballot box to say “stop!” and were ignored anyway?
The American people voted to end illegal immigration, and yet a powerful set of interests works to frustrate this goal, at the expense of American citizens and in favor of illegal migrants. Central American migrants might be poor and wretched, but in a sense, the status quo is auspicious to their desires.
Liberal comedians rag on a powerless and declining Christian moral majority for supporting Trump, as if their mores were still at work in society. The irony is too neat: the woke priesthood of late-night entertainment is today’s secular church. Society reflects their ideas of “liberation.” They merely congratulate themselves, reinforcing what is already the norm.
Homophobia is imagined to be rampant, and yet gay marriage has become virtually anodyne, while Pride Month has the sanction of airline companies and the CIA. In a matter of years, mere tolerance has given way to a month of compulsory, ecstatic liturgical observance.
Two years after a small, powerless, irrelevant group of white nationalists assembled in Charlottesville, Virginia, the left continues to talk about the urgency of “punching Nazis,” as if America had returned to the days of lynchings and cross burnings.
The equally urgent call to “deplatform the bigots” from social media is just as meritless. Where does this urgency arise, when a small tech conglomerate is already taking care of that?
Most Americans are opposed to repealing Roe v. Wade. Hollywood and Netflix threaten to boycott Georgia. More Americans identify as having no religion than ever, federal judges are subjected to religious litmus tests, and Christians find themselves and their beliefs increasingly branded as hateful and taboo.
The message of Christianity is so alien to the norms of America’s thoroughly secular, liberal culture that going to church has become almost strange, particularly for young people. Yet a handful of states attempting to roll back abortion is Christian theocracy ascendant.
The common thread in these persecutory delusions is projection. Liberalism has a near-total stranglehold on American and Western culture. What little control it doesn’t have, it inflates into an existential threat to justify taking the rest.
And so a floundering president attempting to establish even a rudimentary level of control of the border is “literally Hitler,” despite what everyone knows to be true: mass migration will continue apace, despite Trump’s threats to deport “millions” of illegal immigrants.
Certainly, there is a real wave of populism rippling through the West. Liberals are troubled by the anti-immigrant sentiment fueling this movement. But how much of a threat is it, really? Especially in America, where the populist who started it all has signally failed to deliver on his core promises?
There may be a debate on the future of the liberal order, but just because people are discussing liberalism’s success or failure in op-eds and books hardly means that liberalism is in danger.
Progressives are seeing a right-wing threat everywhere. But those in power nod in agreement. How do you explain that?