Sixteen years ago, when I was first on the blogs (under deep cover, with mustache and sunglasses) there was a lot of talk about the cold civil war.
It is only now that I understand the name wasn’t EXACTLY right. Sure, there were two camps sharply divided, and the fact that we were geographically enmeshed meant that it couldn’t go hot in the traditional way. But there were other factors too.
In the cold war, what prevented it going hot was Mutual Assured Destruction. Sure, the Soviets were fanatics, but they weren’t the sort of fanatics who want to make sure they die TOO. They wanted to win. They wanted for various and complicated reasons, among them that the only way a communist society can be prosperous is through theft, to own the Earth. We weren’t about to allow that and we had the nukes to enforce it.
Oh, they grabbed what they could, mostly because the left here were very susceptible to Soviet propaganda, and the idea MAD was wrong, and we should disarm first. (Honestly, sometimes I think they’re aliens. That’s not how the world works, that’s not how humans work. That’s not how any of this works. The one who disarms first is known as “victim” or perhaps “dead.”)
But in the Civil War we fought, they commanded all the positions of power. It wasn’t just the arts, or publishing, just the press or universities. If you were fairly wealthy, even back in the eighties, you made “left noises” because being leftist was aspirational and a positional good. Their control of the rest of the culture had a hard lock on the idea that leftist ideas were not just right and good but “Smart”. Opening your mouth in public and revealing right-wing (and right wing was anything non-left, like supporting Ronald Reagan) opinions was the equivalent of committing social suicide. If you said you supported Ronald Reagan, all your acquaintances would SAY you were dumb, and whisper you were racist, sexist, anti-Semitic. (In fact I was reading a mystery by a very liberal writer, set in the eighties and the MOST unbelievable thing she has is high-class white people in the South being openly racist. Oh, my, no, that wasn’t done. I know, I lived there at the time. Forget saying racist things in public. They wouldn’t even voice a support for free markets in public. It just wasn’t DONE.)
This is not a Cold Civil War. We were occupied. The Vichy had full control of society, and we were the plucky resistance. We didn’t even have a flight helmet, or an egg beater, but we were doing what we could, in the shadows. Those of us in the arts ported seemingly incongruous bits into our stuff, at great risk of discovery or at least suspicion. Local journalists sometimes broke with the narrative. But none of this had a great deal of effect. We were mostly sidelined, and when someone managed to break through, he or she was immediately demonized. Even a hero of the gonzo right like P. J. O’Rourke had to refer to Reagan as “his dumbness” to prove he was cool and hip enough. (No one referred to Carter as his dumbness, and having heard the man, this is a miracle of the controlled press.)
It is no longer like that. Things have changed. Now we are in a cold civil war with occasional flare ups.
There are two problems. I’ve never condoned the wholesale condemnation of GOP stalwarts, partly because the press still had a bunchaton of power until … they didn’t.
What I’m saying is that if they could demonize a squishy left and frankly morally impeccable man like Romney as an uber-fascist, they could demonize anyone and anything. Which meant for a long time, when the right got pressured, they buckled. They had to. It wasn’t a cold civil war. It was a guerilla war. If you’re caught running with a bunch of dynamite to bring down a bridge before the Nazis bring in reinforcements, you don’t die bravely. That just neutralizes you. Instead, you invent a story and heil Hitler with all your might. Which is what the US right — btw, as far from fascists as it’s possible to be, while the left often uses fascist tactics — did. They buckled and lived to fight another day.
I thought that’s where we were. I thought that’s where we’d be for another hundred years.
Yeah, I’d heard of the power of online communication, but I didn’t buy it. I thought it would be very gradual.
You see, I did this with ebooks too. when I started writing in 1985, every conference and every writing magazine had a thing on ebooks. And it made no earthly sense to me. Who in actual hell wants to take a computer to the bathroom with them, or bring the computer to the kitchen while washing dishes, or… No one.
For twenty years they talked about ebooks, and I thought it would never happen. And then Amazon…
I don’t know what happened with this election cycle. Perhaps it was that the economy is really, stupendously, bad. We don’t know for sure, because the press would rather die than report on it until a year from now, when they can blame it all on Trump, and also because Obama played tiddly winks with our number gathering, making things mean not what they say they mean. But the signs on the ground, they suck. I belong to a highly educated/trained/hard working set, and the best of us have been holding on for the last ten years (since the Dems swept the legislature in 06) without a raise, in face of growing, unacknowledged inflation.
Then there is the fact that the internet reporting MIGHT have achieved just enough penetration to start getting to people through the rumor mill. People saying that Obama was the most ethical president ever were met with open laughter from friends and relatives who read the blogs, and who brought out chapter and verse on what really happened in Benghazi and the horror that was Fast and Furious. The indication of this is the approval rating of the MSM.
Then there is the fact that so many of the left’s theories are self-exploding. I’ve been telling lefties since Trump was elected that he can’t put gays in camps, because Bush has already done that, and in fact, Bush couldn’t even do it, because we all died in the war Reagan started by talking tough to the Russians.
Sure, we all know people who buy each one of these self-panics afresh, as if they never heard it before, but it has to peel off those on the margins. It does, in fact. Even in science fiction cons, the audience looks vaguely embarrassed when the idiotic boogeyman of global warming is trotted out. I mean, you can only have eminent DOOOOOOOM and the urgency of socialist measures now for so long before people stop going “aren’t we supposed to already have baked to death?”
And there was the fact that during Obama’s presidency, the left thought it had ALREADY won (their fault. By silencing opposition on threat to jobs or even lives, they lost sight of how big it was and wishfully convinced themselves there were only a few dead enders left) and acted at their most repulsive, from “I have a pen and a phone” to the outbreaks of SJWs trying to squish life out of the things people did for fun and demanding it all be “meaningful” and in aid of progressivism and by the numbers.
Then there is the situation with terrorism and Islam. By shouting Religion of Peace and reclassifying every incident as workplace violence or disgruntled soldiers or need for gun control, they tried to convince people not to see what their lying eyes told them. And they didn’t have that kind of power. And there was the internet.
Because they’d made it impossible for people to speak openly and keep working, or keep their social position, people didn’t. Not even to pollsters on the phone. Trump’s election was not only a shock to the left, it was a shock to most of the right. Metaphorically, I’m still jaw-dropped, sitting in Stephen Green’s living room, un-drunk cocktail in hand.
The problem with this is not that the cold war has gone hot. It hasn’t. I think instinctively that’s what the left fears. They’ve been doing all this stuff to keep us down with the understanding there were few of us and most very old, and now a preference cascade has revealed we were just lying to them. They’re afraid we’re going to, at the very least, do to them what they’ve been doing to us. And they might be right on that. But of course they can’t say that. They can’t say “I’m afraid I won’t get job perks for mouthing the right opinions” or “I’m afraid that my job won’t promote me because of my aggressive SJW blackmail.” Instead, they have to exaggerate their fears into extermination camps and women losing their right to vote, and other insanity that everyone (probably in their hearts of hearts even they) knows is insanity.
Hence the insurgence of the pussy hatters. (BTW they’re calling it three million — rolls eyes — yeah, there MIGHT have been three million all over the country, many of them elderly women who don’t seem to be quite sure what they were protesting or why, or old progressives recreating sixty eight out of sheer nostalgia, but that’s counting the not-women not-march on not-Washington (since it had to take all self identified women, it was more of a stroll, and most of them never went near DC) ) They think if they make a big display of force, we’ll be scared to do to them as they’ve been doing onto us.
They don’t realize it’s having the other effect. Because they are protesting, essentially, against election results, they have NO moral high ground. People watching can only think they’ve lost their minds.
Sure the media is inflating them, like they did with the Occupy Wall Street astroturf. Sure, leftist politicians will lend them credence and treat them as heroes. BUT the media and the lefty politicians CANNOT make them sound sane and justified. Nothing can. What the heck are they protesting, with their symbolic genitalia hats, anyway? All they can do is make themselves sound crazy by associating themselves with the crazy.
In other words, the people calling them the Trump 2020 dancers are more right than not.
Also, btw, three million? In a country of three hundred million, where we probably have fifty million aging hippies who long to recreate sixty eight? And countless vile prog teachers who dragged their classes to this thing? Three million? We laugh at your puny numbers, your vile smugness, your crazy assumption of moral rightness. And the vast majority who won’t answer polls or play your games anymore, laughs with us.
The fury of the left is the fury of someone playing by the rules, who has done everything that has ever worked before and yet finds themselves getting the opposite results of what they wanted. It often happens in societal change.
We are now, actually, and openly in a situation of Civil Cold War. The right has its own power to punish those who offend them, and who thought they were insulated by taking the command positions in the culture (often by skulduggery and by paying more attention to politics than competency, which is why every field the left takes over gets cacked.) Are you going to boycott us? We’ll counter boycott and take you down. Or worse, we’ll buycott. Remember Chick Fil A? It should have been a warning sign to the left. But it wasn’t.
They’re going to blow past all the warning signs, because people do. People’s minds aren’t that elastic. The situation they grew up with is the “right and just” one to which we’ll return. Note all the publishers waiting for ebooks to disappear.
Only the left’s displays are going to get more frantic and even aggressive. And I’m seeing signs, particularly among the young, that no one really cares about their sensitivities anymore. Which will only make them more frantic.
What can we do? How can we prevent the cold civil war going hot? And yes, as angry as we are, we really want to do that. Because if it goes hot what emerges at the other end won’t be the republic we love.
I don’t know.
So you must prepare. Prepare for disruptions. Prepare for attacks. Prepare for them to take our institutions down in a final attempt to destroy us.
Prepare. Be aware. Build under, build over, build around.
In the end we win, they lose, and we might get lucky and avoid the worst on the way. But the water will get very rough, so you have to make sure to have life preservers.
And be not afraid, for the times, they are achanging.