Category Archives: Social Engineering

America’s New Nihilism – WSJ

America has deployed almost all of the progressive’s solutions to “social ills”.  Yes, as Mr. Henninger says, what has changed? Not much.  Could it be that the progressive solutions are no solutions at all?  Leadership would be pointing this out all day long.   mrossol

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WSJ 6/3/2020. by Daniel Henninger

This is not 1968. It’s worse.

The late 1960s were the heyday of modern American liberalism, which was then an ideology of hope. A bipartisan Congress passed landmark civil-rights legislation in 1964 and 1965. The precipitating event of the urban riots in 1968 was the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. New York, Trenton, Chicago, Detroit, Baltimore, Kansas City, and Washington were on fire. Arguably back then, despite passage of President Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society programs, not enough time had passed for liberal policies to ameliorate conditions in the inner cities.

Last week, George Floyd died after rough treatment from arresting Minneapolis policeman Derek Chauvin, who was arrested and charged with murder. Since then, there have been daily protests accompanied by riot and pillage in multiple U.S cities. A primary claim made repeatedly this week is that the U.S., which means the American people, are guilty of perpetual “systemic racism.”

It is evident from the coverage that most of the demonstrators were born after 1990. By then, the Great Society programs had been in place for 25 years, and now it is 55 years. Annual budget appropriations totaling multiple trillions of dollars on Medicaid, food stamps, welfare, public housing, rent subsidies and federal aid to public schools have produced . . . what?

Since the 1960s, essentially little has changed in the neighborhoods at the center of those long-ago urban riots. By current telling, they are about as poor, as crime-ridden, as under-educated and in poor health as they were when LBJ said he would change them. That means five decades of stasis and stagnation in America’s most marginalized places, virtually all of it under Democratic—now “progressive”—political control.

The failure of the liberal model is by now so embarrassing that the current owners of that model have created an alternative universe of explanations, such as blaming it on American settlers in the early 17th century or the nonexistence of “justice.”

It must be working because marchers in Paris and Berlin, of all places, are lecturing the U.S. on systemic racism. Thanks for the memories.

This is worse than 1968, because the political system is now engaged in a systemic act of forgetting. Let’s forget that this policy failure has happened or why. Let’s forget, for instance, that the people living in New York’s public housing are overrun with rats, unlit hallways and no heat in the winter. Let’s forget that many blacks have indeed been left behind—by a well-documented migration since 1990 of black Americans out of northern cities and Los Angeles into the South, where they have gone in search of economic opportunity. Let’s forget, despite a massive per annum outlay on Medicaid—some $593 billion in 2018—that black Americans still have a higher incidence of chronic disease.

Simply performing a cut-and-paste on 50 years of U.S. political history is an act of nihilism. Pummeled by activists and the media with constant accusations of “systemic racism,” as this week, and despite what many thought were 50 years of good-faith efforts on racial conciliation, people go numb, concluding that the solution being offered now is, literally, no solution.

This new progressive nihilism says the answer to inner-city crime is decriminalization. Because of New York’s new “bail reform” law, most of the looters arrested are being released, even as murders and burglaries were increasing in the city’s poorest neighborhoods before these events.

The new nihilism minimizes this week’s ideologically driven assaults on private property because it is “replaceable.” In fact, it is well-established that many of 1968’s burned-down neighborhoods have struggled to revive ever since.

The new nihilism says no matter how many reform police commissioners are appointed or black mayors elected, “nothing has changed.” That is the definition of hopelessness.

It is not hopeless.

One could, for example, give people a better chance at home ownership and home equity, as HUD Secretary Ben Carson has proposed, through reforms of the mortgage-lending market and reducing regulatory hurdles to urban housing construction. Get rid of those godawful public-housing prisons. But no, the public housing authorities are patronage mills, so it can’t happen.

Black parents love charter schools and voucher-supported private schools because they teach values, self-respect and hope. But no, this option for poor and lower-income parents has more Democratic Party opposition than ever. When will we see white college students marching in the streets over this moral abomination? Never.

One could argue that the job creation and rising incomes of recent years for young black Americans are more in step with the U.S.’s 244-year history of opportunity. But why bother? The nihilism of permanent guilt is easier because it substitutes sentiment for substance and absolves anyone of responsibility for past public-policy errors.

It remains to be learned how the American people, of any race, are processing the events of the past week. Media minimalism says the choice is between Joe Biden and Donald Trump. It’s a lot bigger than that.

Write henninger@wsj.com.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/americas-new-nihilism-11591225713?mod=opinion_featst_pos1

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Growing secularism

Growing Secularism Is Pushing Religion, Traditional Values Aside, AG Barr Warns

JANITA KAN – The Epoch Times 10/14/2019

U.S. Attorney General William Barr raised concerns about the increase in secularism in society in a speech on Oct. 11, speaking about how that has contributed to a number of social issues plaguing communities across the nation.

Barr, who delivered his remarks to students at the University of Notre Dame’s law school, drew attention to the comprehensive effort to drive away religion and traditional moral systems in society and to push secularism in their place.

“We see the growing ascendancy of secularism and the doctrine of moral relativism,” Barr said.

He said that the forces of secularism are using mass media and popular culture, the promotion of greater reliance on government intervention for social problems, and the use of legal and judicial institutions to eliminate traditional moral norms.

Barr explored several of the consequences of “this moral upheaval,” highlighting its effect on all parts of society.

“Along with the wreckage of the family, we are seeing record levels of depression and mental illness, dispirited young people, soaring suicide rates, increasing numbers of angry and alienated young males, an increase in senseless violence, and a deadly drug epidemic,” he said.

“Over 70,000 people die a year from drug overdoses,” he said. “But I won’t dwell on the bitter results of the new secular age. Suffice it to say that the campaign to destroy the traditional moral order has coincided, and, as I believe, has brought with it, immense suffering and misery.”

Barr said religion has come under increasing attack over the past 50 years, underscoring how secularists are using society’s institutions to systematically destroy religion and stifle opposing views.

“Secularists and their allies have marshaled all the forces of mass communication, popular culture, the entertainment industry, and academia in an unremitting assault on religion and traditional values. These instruments are used not only to affirmatively promote secular orthodoxy but also to drown out and silence opposing voices,” he said.

He said that people are moving away from “micro-morality” observed by Christians, a system of morality that seeks to transform the world by focusing on their own personal morality and transformation. Instead, he said the modern secularists are pushing a “macromorality,” which focuses on political causes and collective actions to address social problems.

“In the past, when societies are threatened by moral chaos, the overall social cost of licentiousness and irresponsible personal conduct become so high that society ultimately recoils and reevaluates the path it is on,” Barr said.

“But today, in the face of all the increasing pathologies, instead of addressing the underlying cause, we have cast the state in the role as the alleviator of bad consequences. We call on the state to mitigate the social costs of personal conduct and irresponsibility. So the reaction to growing illegitimacy is not sexual responsibility but abortion; the reaction to drug addiction is safe injection sites.”

“The call comes for more and more social programs to deal with this wreckage, and while we think we are resolving problems, we [actually] are underwriting them.”

He also pointed out how the law has been used to “break down traditional moral values and establish moral relativism as the new orthodoxy,” giving the example of how laws have been used to aggressively force religious people and entities to subscribe to practices and policies that are antithetical to their faith.

“The forces of secularism have been continually seeking to eliminate the laws that reflect traditional moral norms,” he said.

Barr also highlighted the role of religion in society, saying it promotes moral discipline while it influences people’s conduct.

“Religion also helps promote moral discipline in society. We’re all fallen. We don’t automatically conform our conduct to moral rules, even when we know that they’re good for us. But religion helps teach, train, and habituate people to want what’s good,” he said.

“It doesn’t do this primarily by formal laws—that is, by coercive power—it does this through moral education and by framing society’s informal rules—the customs and traditions which reflect the wisdom and experience of the ages. In other words, religion helps frame a moral culture within society that instills and reinforces moral discipline.”

https://reader.epoch.cloud/?token=5f9e19da6096341e744654c9d97b6559_5da445ce_f3c594f&selDate=20191014

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Wahooing Betsy Ross – WSJ

Mr Henninger has it right: “…corporation headquarters are not profiles in courage…” WSJ 7/10/2019

The remarkable thing about Colin Kaepernick ’s banning of Nike ’s Betsy Ross flag sneaker to commemorate the Fourth of July isn’t that it happened, but how easily it happened. Nike’s management simply folded over “concerns that it could unintentionally offend.”

Translating this waffly phrase into odds, I’d put “concerns that it could” at about a million to one. But because the thought found its way into Mr. Kaepernick’s head that the shoe was about slavery, Nike’s senior decision-makers nodded without dissent: We’ve gotta pull it.

No one has ever thought to go looking inside corporate headquarters for profiles in courage, but the lurch toward timidity in our time by individuals at the top of America’s private and public institutions is something to behold. Pusillanimity has become a plague.

The ownership of the Cleveland Indians engaged in several years of passive resistance before finally caving in this season to pressure from New-York-based Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred to ban the team’s mascot and logo, the joyfully smiling Chief Wahoo. The Indians’ cap now bear a nondescript C, which hereafter should stand for “craven” instead of Cleveland.

Banning Chief Wahoo—a constant presence in the city’s life since the 1950s—meant baseball’s factotums could get through Tuesday night’s All-Star game in Cleveland without the possibility that the logo might be seen on an Indian player’s uniform, forcing baseball’s leadership to endure apparently unbearable Twitter torture.

In April, the New York Yankees and Philadelphia Flyers caved in to pressure to stop playing a recording of Kate Smith singing “God Bless America” because it emerged that Smith recorded a song called “That’s Why Darkies Were Born” in 1931, when she was 24. The Flyers even removed a statue of Smith, erected in 1987, from outside their arena. If the Flyers players crumbled as quickly as their management, they’d be laughed out of hockey.

 

In a saner world, the Yankees and Flyers might have worked out a modus vivendi. Yes, it’s worth knowing now that racist songs were recorded in the U.S. in the 1930s. And it is good and useful if major institutions such as the Yankees and Flyers condemn them.

But it is also a fact that listening to Smith’s rendition of Irving Berlin’s “God Bless America” has been an experience of pure patriotic exhilaration for millions of people, most of whom by now have never heard of Kate Smith, whose life and career were stellar in every respect beyond two songs. Criticize the condescending songs she recorded in the 1930s—and move on.

One feels almost ridiculous getting pulled into arguments about things like baseball mascots or Kate Smith. But the Betsy Ross flag incident suggests something’s happening that is not ridiculous. It is insidious. It is insidious because with prominent American leadership falling over like empty plastic bottles, the bannings are coming too quickly and too easily. They’re starting to look like a slippery slope to institutionalized suppression.

Political disagreement is supposed to be about argument. But the proponents of these claims don’t bother to make an argument anymore. Instead, they posit assertions, such as that Kate Smith had to be held “accountable,” or mascots such as Chief Wahoo are “hurtful.” The Betsy Ross flag has to disappear because slavery existed in 1777 and, as bad, some white nationalists on the far fringe recently waved it in public somewhere.

Since about 1970, when the cultural divide in America was still just a fissure, an enduring reality of our politics has been the phenomenon of a Silent Majority, which never quite goes away. It mostly pops up in presidential elections to the always wide-eyed surprise of the East Coast media, which then sends out teams to rediscover why these people are upset.

The rest of the time when a Chief Wahoo or Kate Smith happens, most people find space inside themselves to absorb it. But for the increasingly Mao-like American left, even this choked-down acceptance of their political assaults isn’t enough. They no longer seem content with winning. The left today has a compulsion to force obedience again and again. Thus, You didn’t like Wahoo and Kate Smith? Try this: We’re getting rid of your racist Betsy Ross flag, and you’ll shut your face and take it.

What they want from their opposition isn’t agreement with their ideas but submission—a kind of political lobotomization. And disturbingly, a lot of contemporary leaders—at Nike, the Yankees, the Flyers, almost any university—are volunteering to assist in the procedure.

Anytime thought suppression goes too far, people look for ways to resist. One thinks of the determined objectors in Ray Bradbury ’s now barely fictional novel, “Fahrenheit 451,” evading the firemen who exterminate the possessions of people who read books. Today, the firemen are burning any symbol of American life they say has become unacceptable—to them.

 

Outside a baseball game this season at the Cleveland Indians stadium there was a guy with a sign: “Make Chief Wahoo Great Again.” Who could possibly be surprised, or pretend to be offended?

via Wahooing Betsy Ross – WSJ.

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The Deep Dangers of Life Online – WSJ

By Daniel Henninger WSJ 8/7/2019

The online forum 8chan is better known than it was last week because the El Paso shooter, Patrick Crusius, uploaded his “manifesto” to the site before he murdered 22 people. 8chan has also been linked to the mass murder in Christchurch, New Zealand, and to a killing in April at a synagogue in California. A similar online forum, Gab.com, was allegedly used by the shooter who killed 11 people at a Pittsburgh synagogue in October. The Dayton shooter, Connor Betts, spent much of his time raving on Twitter .

8chan describes itself a forum for unimpeded, uncensored “free speech.” That is wrong. 8chan is a nut house. But don’t blame 8chan, Gab.com or Twitter. Blame the internet. More specifically, blame the inevitable deterioration of lives lived online.

It is conventional wisdom that the internet has become a toxic force. Possibly the past year’s most astonishing news was that parents in Silicon Valley, where life online was created, are trying to keep their children away from screens.

As far as I know, none of this was predicted.

The internet was developed in the 1960s mainly by the U.S. government’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency to ensure the country had a communications system that could survive a nuclear attack. Based on the structure of the internet, the World Wide Web appeared in the early 1990s.

It isn’t possible to overstate the magic of the web. Or at least its early magic. With just a click, one could summon forth the whole world in pixels on a screen.

Once software engineers mastered the technology beneath the web, they manufactured countless apps that let everyone do just about anything—texting, image sharing, self-monitoring.

Cellphones, invented to make personal telephone calls possible anywhere, eventually allowed people to hold the web’s magic in their hands and go deeper and deeper into what it offered. Now, like the sorcerer’s apprentice, we are discovering that the magic can turn uncontrollably malignant.

Going back several years, I was startled at stories that began to appear in the Chronicle of Higher Education about the high incidence of anxiety among college students, and how university mental-health clinics were hard-pressed to handle their requests for help. “According to data from the 2013 National College Health Assessment,” said one of these stories, “nearly half of 123,078 respondents from 53 colleges and universities across the country felt overwhelming anxiety over the previous year and a third had problems functioning because of depression.”

A third had problems with depression? At first I dismissed these stories as overstating the normal anxieties and coping problems of young people. But I don’t think that anymore. Eve n anecdotally the rise in emotional instability is obvious. What happened?

Anxiety has existed since Adam and Eve. W.H. Auden memorialized its modern version in his long poem, “The Age of Anxiety” (1947). It comes and goes occasionally for everyone. Let us posit for discussion that anxiety runs along a scale of 1 to 100. Below 50, people cope. Above 50, anxiety starts tipping toward neurosis and more difficult coping challenges until it extends out to 100 and personal destruction.

It’s remarkable to think that across millennia, even after Freud popularized the idea of neurosis, most people managed to stay below 50—until about the year 2000. Then, as surveys suggest, it appears that masses of people—especially in the U.S., for some reason—started finding themselves drifting past 50, into deeper and more dangerous levels of anxiety. It now seems clear that one consequence of more people hitting 100 is more mass murder by young men who simply break down.

Whether the adaptability of the human brain is the invention of God or Darwin, I don’t think it was designed to endure the volume of relentless inner-directedness that is driven by these new screens. It is not natural or normal.

Anyone who spends that much time immersed inside their own psyche is headed for trouble—whether adolescent girls staring at images of women Photoshopped to perfection, college students measuring themselves constantly against other students, or young men in a state of daily or hourly anger over immigrants and other enemies. The stakes online become impossibly and inhumanly high.

A more pertinent question this tragic week is why the American system stands frozen amid what looks like a quiet epidemic of psychological and emotional erosion. The speed with which the system—politicians and the press—defaulted from the killers themselves into a paroxysm over Donald Trump has been, well, depressing.

Gun-control laws? Maybe, but no serious person can believe they would be much more than thumbs in a dike standing against a more massively destructive force turning young men into zombielike killers. Forget alt-right and alt-left. Life lived online, as practiced by many, is a destructive, dehumanizing alt-reality.

The screen genies are out of the bottle. Banning them won’t work. Maybe the app masters who elevated self-obsession on Instagram and 8chan could turn toward apps rooted in reality. After last week, we have nowhere to go but up.

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