We analyzed Ochlocracy (mob rule) here from 10/15/19 – 12/10/19 via Kevin Williamson’s book The Smallest Minority – Independent Thinking in the Age of Mob Politics (2019). Chapter 6 of our current project, Ross Douthat’s The Decadent Society (2020), further examines this dangerous, dark and increasingly powerful force.
Douthat explains how and why our decadent culture has produced despotic government. But it’s a “kindly despotism”, as he puts it, because people don’t seem to mind, so it’s very much sustainable. Western despotic power is not unitary (like the Chinese communist), it’s diffuse. We have an interlocking directorate of institutions populated by like-minded people who use their power to keep the system stable and the elites in charge. The mob ruthlessly enforces certain civil liberties (pleasure, consumption, the freedom to be “safe” broadly defined) and punishes other more noble liberties (freedom of religion and speech, the ability to engage in civic discourse without sacrificing privacy to a menacing mob).
We toured The Coddling of the American Mind (2018) here, which explains the noxious cultural trend that tries to prevent and eliminate perceived “harm” or “danger”. Moral discrimination might wound someone’s sense of well-being and certain political speech might be harmful to a snowflake’s self-esteem. It is therefore labeled as damaging and therefore unacceptable. The internet has greatly exacerbated the mob’s ability to target what it perceives as wrong-think, thought crimes via online persecution and harassment. And people do this without being hired or paid by any central authority, acting like self-appointed cops.
The woke world is a world of snitches, informants, rats. Go to any space concerned with social justice, and what will you find? Endless surveillance. Everybody is to be judged. Everyone is under suspicion. Everything you say is to be scoured, picked over, analyzed for any possible offense. Everyone’s a detective in the Division of Problematics, and they walk the beat 24/7. You search and search for someone Bad doing Bad Things, finding ways to indict writers and artists and ordinary people for something, anything.
Next week we get to the third of four chapters on why cultural and economic decadence is permanent. Douthat has some interesting thoughts on the relationship between meritocracy and class warfare at the end of the next chapter.