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How Covid despots humiliated America The Democrats have become public health technocrats

What is America for?(Mark Makela/Getty Images)


November 10, 2021   7 mins

A year after Biden’s election, the question of whether anyone really intended to destroy democratic republicanism in the United States is now moot. Forty-six years ago, a headline in New York’s Daily News read “Ford to City: Drop Dead.” Today, the Biden administration and its legion of corporate media and big tech allies communicate the same message to the American people so consistently, and so pointedly, that one can only conclude the humiliation of the electorate is a matter of policy. The administration’s undeniable incompetence, fresh evidence of which is forthcoming every day as it squabbles over vaccine mandates and fails to address multiple crises of supply, inflation, and illegal immigration, both masks and serves its managerial method. Not least because the multiplication of crises furnishes a pretext for ever greater extensions of governmental control.

I am reminded of a trip through Eastern Europe that my wife and I took in 1981. In Yugoslavia one day, we planned to catch a bus in the late morning. The bus and driver were there but the departure time came and went. After an hour we knocked on the station window and the two or three functionaries behind the glass barely glanced up from their hard-boiled eggs and sandwiches. The other passengers remained uniformly inert, neither requesting nor receiving any explanation for what turned into a two-hour delay. It would take years of small humiliations to make a formerly free people this compliant, but that seems to be the goal of the vast coalition of governmental, corporate, academic, cultural, philanthropic, and media powers that has just now fused and hardened, right before our eyes, into an ominous social monster.

There is a common playbook for technocratic control of recalcitrant populations. The Biden administration employs the same siege tactics of declared exigency, deception, division, and intimidation that corporatist progressives used to destroy my former university — Tulsa — two years ago.

After a Left-wing billionaire engineered a hostile takeover of the institution, it was announced that we faced serious crises of finance and accreditation. Faculty were subjected to mandatory training sessions and a blizzard of futile paperwork. The supposedly “data-driven” administration ignored or manipulated information that conflicted with their hidden purposes. While preparing a comprehensive academic review of our department, I learned that the provost had already received the program review committee’s recommendation that our majors in philosophy and religion be eliminated.

The general idea was to overwhelm and exhaust potential opponents of the university’s plan to gut the liberal arts. Surprised by strong pushback, the administration stirred up staff animosity against faculty critics of the restructuring, who were publicly vilified, monitored, and in some cases (including my own) subjected to costly and time-consuming disciplinary actions.

I needn’t belabour the obvious comparisons with the current state of our American union, which has suffered its own hostile takeover. I note rather that the logic of 21st-century technocratic despotism was spelled out long ago in Plato’s Republic. In that dialogue, a class of self-styled experts — the philosopher-kings and their academically-trained ministers — considers its exclusive claim to a science of politics as a title to rule. Contemptuous of what they regard as the ignorant many, they treat their fellow citizens as subjects to be manipulated, and for reasons Matthew Crawford suggested in his essay on the new public health despotism.

They do so first, because persuasion takes time and effort and is less efficient than other available methods for achieving the desired results. In a democratic republic, this is a fundamental corruption of power. Second, because the notion that governance is an applied science or techne encourages the idea that human beings are basically raw materials to be shaped and stamped, like blanks at the Denver mint. Left unchecked, the state’s fundamentally idolatrous desire to coin young souls exclusively in its own image leads to the destruction of the family. The Attorney General’s attempt effectively to criminalise parental veto over public school curricula is a step in this direction. And third, because technocratic elites are inclined to regard the unsophisticated many as cognitively impaired. In the Beautiful City of the Republic, the rulers’ medicinal lies are justified on the ground that one wouldn’t give weapons to madmen. Just so, Dr Fauci’s supposedly noble lies about Covid presuppose that Americans are too sick to be entrusted with the truth.

It is hard to exaggerate the extent to which the therapeutic idiom of bureaucracies has taken hold in United States. (Here again, the University of Tulsa was ahead of the curve, having installed a safe-space affirming psychiatrist as president in 2016.) It is no coincidence that expressions of the manly confidence, candor, and “masculine independence of opinion” that Tocqueville saw as essential to the health of a democratic republic are increasingly likely to be condemned as “toxic”, a term that tries to square the circle by implying that the problem is simultaneously one of social disease and moral depravity. But this is yesterday’s news.

Tyrants have always attacked the political immune system of the people. Fearing spirited assertions of free thought, ancient Greek ones were known to close gymnasiums and ban philosophical discussion. At that time medicine was unsophisticated, and the psychiatric imprisonment of political opponents was not yet possible. Things have not gone so far in our country, but the identification of unorthodox speech and even of silence with violence — itself a symptom of a contagious political madness — serves the same purpose.

Such tactics may be effective in the short term, but progressivist technocratic despotism is disastrous as a long-term political strategy in the United States. It will either be decisively repudiated or do great (and perhaps irreparable) harm to the country. For it betrays a fundamental ignorance not only of what one might call the physics of democratic republicanism, but of the unique nature of the American political experiment.

Plato again illuminates matters. In the Republic, Socrates compares individual souls and political communities to spinning tops. This is a rich and suggestive image. Those short-lived wanderers we played with as children, setting them in motion like little gods, had a lifespan that depended on the rotational impetus imparted by a snap of fingers or string. Encountering irregularities on the hardwood floor, they would wobble and sometimes fall; we cheered when they righted themselves and continued to roam, as they often did. Children instinctively understand the allegorical character of such games.

A top that does not lean in any direction — as happens only at maximum energy — is Plato’s image of the healthy soul and city. Such vital rectitude, which the Romans called religio, was traditionally formed by social ligaments of ancestral custom and habit that constrained the wild impulses of the young and made them straighten up, balancing their characters and aligning them with the ancestors below and the gods above. The ancients understood that moral alignment with traditional and transcendent norms optimises the energy of the human organism in a way that is essential for navigation. Lives tend to drift and fall apart without it.

But punitive doctrinal correctness is no substitute for the basically healthy mores that have long kept the American polity from falling over. Our governing elites fail to understand that courage and moderation are the true and steady foundations of prudent policy. The good kind of political correctness that the Greeks called orthē doxa, upright opinion that furnishes sound premises for political deliberation, is rooted in these virtues and cannot be produced by the moral orthopedics of the propaganda state. The forceful imposition of woke political orthodoxy on the American public can only breed resentment and promote hypocrisy.

While energy is imparted externally to a spinning top, a republic is renewed from within, by the exertions of its citizens. But even well-founded ones eventually fall off kilter. Decline may begin gradually, with minute oscillations, or suddenly, through some external blow, but it always terminates in wild gyrations. Most often, decay results when internal forces move large numbers of citizens, and impede the motions of many others, in ways that throw the whole out of balance.

The chafing humiliations of the Covid police are just part of a surge of social friction that was gestating for years and exploded with the election of President Trump five years ago. Strong political passions, multiplied, amplified, and frequently concentrated on specific targets by corporate media and big tech, have destabilised our essential public and private institutions, virtually all of which, through some demonic Oedipal fatality, now seem intent on repudiating their founding principles and betraying their core missions.

Some of those who, by reason of experience and accumulated wisdom, might still be capable of righting these institutions have been purged; the rest have mostly retired or retreated under fire, withdrawing much good and necessary energy from our common national life. Depleted and uncharacteristically depressed, the American people now spin and shudder along the edge of the abyss. What future awaits us if we forget how to live and work together in amity, and if, emptied of honest debate on matters of pressing concern, the public square echoes with blood curdling war cries?

I have become convinced that a particular deficit of historical memory lies at the root of all our ills. I think there will be no cure for what ails us unless we can recover the answer to one big question: What is America for? What are we about, as a nation? Lincoln taught at Gettysburg that the United States was “conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal”. The twin pillars of our American story are ordered liberty and individual dignity.

Ours is a unique experiment in mature self-governance, testing whether a nation of citizens who are free and equal under the law — and therefore free to make mistakes, to be wrong or right in their own ways and to stand or fall as they will under the hammer of experience — can long endure. This experiment involves considerable risk; as Tocqueville repeatedly reminds us, every one of our political institutions and practices balances goods against evils. But even when faced with the gravest political exigencies, our forefathers reckoned that the rewards of participation in the story of America were too precious to forgo.

This question of risk goes to the heart of the problem Crawford raised. Failure to comply with Covid regulations is presumed to be irrational because it exposes the populace to unnecessary dangers. But risk is always relative to possible outcomes, which today are seen darkly through a glass of psychological and physical safetyism. To take a real example, does the possibility that a student might suffer psychic injury from a book spine justify removing a volume entitled American Negro Poetry from a high school library? But what sort of injury are we talking about? And how does it compare to the possibility that a student will never hear Langston Hughes sing America or speak of rivers, or dream a world “where every man is free”? And above all, who has the right to decide these matters?

Our technocratic mandarins dislike such questions and recoil from the political uncertainties of democratic debate. Whatever its psychological causes, their longing for certainty in practice leads them to insist on it in theory, and so to end debate by any means necessary. This is an engine of comprehensive despotism because it can be satisfied only with the advent of univocal global answers.

The best outcome we could hope for if we continue down this road is what Tocqueville calls “the type of social well-being that can be provided by a very centralised administration to the people who submit to it”. “Travelers tell us,” he writes, “that the Chinese have tranquility without happiness, industry without progress, stability without strength, physical order without public morality.
 I imagine that when China opens to Europeans, the latter will find there the most beautiful model of administrative centralization that exists in the universe.”


Jacob Howland is Provost and Dean of the Intellectual Foundations Program at the University of Austin.


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Matt Hindman
Matt Hindman
2 years ago

As an American I would like to say bravo Mr. Howland! You wrote an excellent essay. The one thing I would add is the technocratic experiment is not going so well and the blowback is likely to be nasty.

Last edited 2 years ago by Matt Hindman
Sam
Sam
2 years ago
Reply to  Matt Hindman

Yes. It is interesting to ponder how the equation would be different if the technocrats and authoritarians in charge were actually competent. The fact that they’re dictatorial and bad at their jobs is the worst of both worlds.

Alan Hawkes
Alan Hawkes
2 years ago
Reply to  Sam

I suspect that even if every social technocrat were a political Einstein it would still end badly. They may as well try to abolish gravity.

Ray Zacek
Ray Zacek
2 years ago
Reply to  Alan Hawkes

Well, why not? They’ve made great strides in abolishing biology and creating phony genders.

John Riordan
John Riordan
2 years ago
Reply to  Sam

Good point. It’s worth remarking, of course, that the conjunction of authoritarianism and incompetence is not an unlucky accident, it’s inevitable, because once people in power find the job beyond them, they don’t retire in the shame of failure, they just use their power to enforce the compliance with their agenda that they failed to achieve through the persuasion that competence on their own part would have brought about.

James Joyce
James Joyce
2 years ago
Reply to  John Riordan

The inconceivable has become the inevitable.
Sadly, this is not mine, but comes from Freddy in discussing Corona restrictions.

David Yetter
David Yetter
2 years ago
Reply to  Sam

“…worst of both worlds.” Are you sure? The competent tyrant is less easily displaced than the incompetent.

J Bryant
J Bryant
2 years ago

What a fantastic and readable essay. I’m not sure the author’s ideas are new (of course they’re not; he quotes Plato throughout), and they’ve appeared in various forms here on Unherd. But he makes his case so succinctly and compellingly.
I’ve noticed on Unherd that some otherwise fine writers who address what ails Western societies frame their discussion, and bury their ideas, in the jargon of political science (post-modernism, etc) and sometimes confuse and alienate an otherwise receptive audience.
There’s hopefully a lesson here for conservatives figuring out how to retake control of Congress in the midterms, and later retake the presidency: set forth a compelling vision of America in plain language; a vision based on individual liberty and responsibility. And translate the high-level policy language into clear, actionable, common-sense policies such as rebuilding an educational system devoid of political agenda and dedicated to the transmission of substantive knowledge.
Maybe the current author can find a job as a speech writer.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
2 years ago
Reply to  J Bryant

“And translate the high-level policy language into clear, actionable, common-sense policies”

That is like telling Pandora to get the spirits back into the box, it is not happening by any common sense, actionable, policies. That would be as easy as talking ISIS fighters into getting a job at Walmart and becoming good citizens.

AND the reason is this philosophy is actually the tool of the Global Elites – it is how a new Feudalism will be set on the world. Klaus Schwab and his WEF, the IMF, ECB, BoE, FED, BIS, WHO, CCP, the Bansksters, the Military Industrial Complex, the Pharma Industrial Complex, the Davos, the Donor Class, the Bezos, Gates, Zuckerberg, Dorsey, and even more powerful – the old global money families – they have decided it is time for the Great Reset, the Build Back Better – and as they say in the name – first the system must be destroyed, so that it can be reset and built back…. and these are their useful idiots they set out to destroy the world order….

“and bury their ideas, in the jargon of political science (post-modernism, etc) and sometimes confuse and alienate an otherwise receptive audience.”

hahaa

Jonathan Weil
Jonathan Weil
2 years ago
Reply to  J Bryant

It’s telling that he draws on Lincoln too — a man who also eschewed jargon, was ridiculed by political insiders for doing so, but succeeded in “setting forth a compelling vision of America on plain language.”

Tony Buck
Tony Buck
2 years ago
Reply to  J Bryant

Very much like Hillary’s no less fervent lust for power !

Trump’s vision – MAGA – may be mistaken, but it’s very clear; and to a certain extent, boils down to nostalgia.

Which is hardly going to be disliked in the tormented USA of today.

Hardee Hodges
Hardee Hodges
2 years ago
Reply to  J Bryant

speech writer” – a fine essay, indeed and brought back my studies of Plato in both literature and philosophy. But we need more plain speech as promoted by few politicians to reach the public. Their education might miss Plato but a few examples of government idiocy garners understanding quickly. A candidate that says parents don’t know best for their child, insisting some group does, discovers their error. As it becomes ever more obvious that the pandemic survives every mitigation strategy, the public loses faith that experts have failed them. A wise politician will not fall victim to those who wish to divide – united we must.

Douglas Proudfoot
Douglas Proudfoot
2 years ago
Reply to  J Bryant

One of the best ways to know a person is by his enemies. Corporate Media, Big Tech and the Deep State attacked Trump with the Big Lie of the Russia Hoax precisely because he laid out such an understandable vision. Trump’s key campaign promises were original intent judges, deregulation and lower taxes, in that order. In short, Trump promised a less arbitrary and intrusive federal government.
Trump’s judicial appointments attempted to pick judges who would follow the law as written, not arbitrarily invent new meaning for it that nobody voted for. Trump’s deregulation removed rules which hurt the economy that nobody voted for. Trump’s tax cuts and economic policies resulted in employment and wage growth for minorities and the lower end of the wage scale.
Trump’s enemies have delivered a more arbitrary and intrusive regime. The rule of “experts” has replaced the rule of law. Censorship is rampant. Inflation is at a 30 year high.
Your comment shows the victory of the Big Government – Big Media – Big Tech complex. They made Trump a rude tweet demon, and obscured his simple less government policies that were successful. If you voted for Biden, you voted for tyranny. You were part of the problem.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
2 years ago

As someone who writes posts way overly long I am impressed by this wildly sesquipedalianist length essay. Knock off about 70% of it and it will have twice the effect, tone down the overblown classic imagery and language and even better.
( you are preaching to the converted here mostly – and the non-converted would have put it down 1/4 the way through.)

Anyway, what ever, they won. But… you missed out even discussing what it was which won, which you lost to. You make it about people defeating your university

“After a Left-wing billionaire engineered a hostile takeover of the institution,”

“having installed a safe-space affirming psychiatrist as president in 2016.”

But your university was not wrecked by some wealthy and powerful guys – it was defeated by a philosophy. Same as they all are. It comes from blending of Marxism, Existentialism, Freudianism, Atheism, Nihilism, and the dark, but amazingly creative and really, demonic, time and place of the Weimar Republic. From there it moved to Columbia University and has marched through the Western University systems, winning every fight, every time. It has captured the whole Biden Administration, it has General (white rage) Miley forcing it on the military. It has captured the schools of the West, It is 100X the sickness covid ever was.

“The Frankfurt School was a school of social theory and critical philosophy associated with the Institute for Social Research, at Goethe University Frankfurt in 1929. Founded in the Weimar Republic, during the European interwar period, the Frankfurt School comprised intellectuals, academics, and political dissidents dissatisfied with the contemporary socio-economic systems of the 1930s.” from wiki

They gave us ‘Critical Theory‘, now famously Critical Race Theory‘s basis. From them came Neo-Marxism ((different from classical Marx and the Capitalist Oppressor and Proletarian Oppressed – as now oppressor/oppressed is based on immutable ‘Identities’ instead of economics, – sex, race, education, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, achievement, intelligence, success, etc)), Post-Modernism, and more recently ‘Identity Politics‘, Intersectionality, and ‘Equity‘.

This wicked philosophy is what defeated you, and has defeated all the education systems, till it has captured half the government, industry, Tech, 90% of the MSM, entertainment and Social Media, and we are doomed to a dark Totalitarianism.

Jordan Peterson, Bret Weinstein, all talk of it on multiple Youtubes, Bret even to Freddy here, of his same experience at ‘Evergreen’ College – like you they were ejected from the system as it was captured by these Post Modernists and destroyed.

You are blaming the person not the game, it is much bigger and more evil than those individuals. It is an anti-religion of darkness, and is on a global mission, and winning.

David Bell
David Bell
2 years ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

Perhaps they are paid by the word.

Laura Cattell
Laura Cattell
2 years ago
Reply to  David Bell

They need to be where this one is concerned.”sesquipedalianist”

Nicholas Rynn
Nicholas Rynn
2 years ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

A wise man takes his own advice.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
2 years ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

This non-converted stopped after reading about half the first paragraph. In a way I should thank him for not wasting my time – “the humiliation of the electorate is a matter of policy.” is right up there with ‘systemic racism’ and ‘micro-aggressions’ as a signal that this writer is too ideological to be worth reading.

Linda Hutchinson
Linda Hutchinson
2 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

Hear, hear. Conspiracy theories and unexamined ideology do not an argument make

Bogman Star
Bogman Star
2 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

Hear hear. I had my doubts at the emotive and hyperbolic misuse of “despotism” in this context; and the insular notion that the US is “a unique experiment in mature self-governance”.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
2 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

Is this the person who throws round the term white supremacist

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
2 years ago

Who? Me? Jacob Howland? When? To whom?

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
2 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

of course you

Tony Buck
Tony Buck
2 years ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

An anti-religion is of course itself a religion.

Political correctness is the left-wing tradition minus its working-class former supporters.

Its American derivative, woke, recruits black people to make up for the loss of the proletarians of the past.

James Joyce
James Joyce
2 years ago

This piece could only have been written by an academic. I’m on side, but I don’t think that the author has clearly and concisely described the problem and provided solutions, so let me give it a go: The Democrats in America are evil. They seek to undermine freedom and turn all of the citizenry into serfs, all spouting the same extreme left political beliefs. Dissent will not be tolerated. They wish to re-write history in their image, i.e. 1619 Project. They hate white people, especially straight white men. They look to COWs (Citizens of Wakanda–I HATE the term people of color, so I have coined my own, which is better) especially “charismatic” black men, as their savior, i.e. Obama, Morgan Freeman, even though they often lack substance. Their goal is to smash the “partriarchy,” destroy the American family, eliminate white people (Brittney Cooper) and the American way of life. This is, essentially, the BLM mission statement, which those paying attention will already know.
The Republicans are slightly better, as they resist much of what I have described above. But they mix religion into politics, and are also controlling in a different way, i.e. abortion. But right now they are the best hope.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
2 years ago
Reply to  James Joyce

I (rather surprisingly) agree with a lot of your points, but you would be much more convincing, and closer to the truth, if you dropped ‘The Democrats in America are evil‘. They are not. First they really disagree about lots of things, but even the woke wing is not evil. They are just promoting an alternative America,with alternative norms, myths and stories that reflects their values rather than yours. If you are black and a descendant of slaves, it arguably makes perfect sense to count US history from 1619 and to reject as tainted anyone who ever owned or profited from slaves. I would not think there are many statues to plantation owners left in Barbados or Jamaica.

Sure, the woke want to destroy the Amercan way of life and replace it with one that fits them, but then we want to preserve an American way of life that fits us, and where we feel at home. Their plan does not make them evil, it just makes them our enemies, and we should be better equipped to deal with them if we understand that. Bismarck, after the Austrian-Prussian war said that “The Austrians were not wrong in resisting our demands, any more than we were in making them in the first place”. That did not prevent him from fighting and winning his war, and probably made it easier for him to get a stable and productive peace afterwards.

James Joyce
James Joyce
2 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

First, thank you for your thoughtful comments. Perhaps, in my exuberance, I have chosen the wrong word, evil, but upon reflection, I stand by it. If you want to take my basic freedoms–freedom of speech, of thought, of association, I believe that that is evil. I also believe that this is a war, and will soon lead to a shooting war–a real Civil War–and while regrettable, I think it necessary. I don’t want to be a citizen of a country where half the people do not share my most basic values and traditions, truly bedrock stuff.
This is no longer a respectful debate where reasonable minds can differ, this is 1984. Just as I believe Big Brother was evil, I believe that the woke wing of the Democratic Party, and those who enable them, are indeed evil: profoundly immoral and wicked, embodying or associating with forces of the devil (not so much, I’m an atheist), harmful or tending to cause harm, extremely unpleasant.
I disagree with your comments on slavery. 1619 must be taught in history, as must all other years, but history must not be falsified either. And let’s focus on your comment “reject as tainted anyone who has ever profited from slaves.” OK, how far back? 10th generation “profited” from slaves? Isn’t that a bit like blaming living Germans, say 50 years old, as directly responsible and profiting from the Holocaust? Concept of collective guilt? And what about the African slave traders? Do you include them? Didn’t they sell their fellow Africans to slave traders? Do you include them among the tainted? See the insightful article “My Great-Grandfather, the Nigerian Slave Trader,” in New York Magazine. What’s your position on that? Tainted? And where does slavery exist today? Africa. A black American comedian had a funny riff on that–she saw some of the “brotha” being sold in Libya and was quick to tell her friends–can’t get a good black man–go to Libya and buy one for $200. Wait, can she say that? She did. Cancel her.
I feel no guilt and will challenge you if try to pin that on me. I stand up to evil, and the point of my comment was to write plainly, not like an academic.
Finally, you used “we” to refer to Americans above, but I thought you were a Dane. Am I right?

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
2 years ago
Reply to  James Joyce

Separate points:

  • Yes, I am a Dane, but the general problem of the woke, critical theory etc. is international (in part because of export from the US 😉 ), so i feel we are in the same fight here. I would not dare to say ‘we’ in a debate on gun control or more detailed US race relations. If you object, please let me know.
  • There might well be some kind of civil war, more or less virtual. Which 1) would be a disaster, 2) shows that the BLM people were probably unwise in going so hard for confrontation. If one wants to try to avoid it, it might be worth trying to see the other side as rational enemies instead of inherently evil.
  • I do not try to make you feel guilt for anything, and I do not think it makes sense to reject the entire white population of past centuries as ‘tainted’. In fact I strongly object to it. What I am saying is that ‘taint’ is in the eye of the beholder – the question is which group gets to set the standard.
James Joyce
James Joyce
2 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

Point 1: I don’t object, have no standing to object, and believe that the debate should happen on the strength of your argument, not your nationality. I’m a free speech guy. Give it a go, if I disagree, I’ll tell you. Nationality does provide context, though. Not sure we are in the same fight. In the US, there is an expression “Don’t bring a knife to a gunfight….” This means, in general, you have to have the right tools for the fight.
Point 2: Nah, I’m talking about a real Civil War, neighbor killing neighbor, brother killing brother. I like to joke that I lead the FAF (“Free American Forces”) here in Tallinn (think London during the war), but will return to lead from the front (unlike Obama) when the shooting starts. A new thing in America is flying the “black flag,” some kind of flag (new to me) that indicates one will “Take No Prisoners.” I like that phrase, but think of the true meaning. It seems that this new (really old, I just didn’t know of it) flag means that, when the shooting starts (soon) the neighbor flying it, will kill without mercy, the family living next door flying the BLM flag. This is the future (soon). I may be early, but I’m not wrong.
Point 3: with respect, I disagree. The woke (and you are hard to characterize, but perhaps a woke sympathizer?) make it their raison detre to make white people in America but really around the globe feel guilty about…..being white. Well they can ….. off. Does DK really need to fly the BLM flag? Why? What has DK done to make it need to “atone” for its guilt?
Finally, much of this woke rubbish came from SE, a country I know well. DK has resisted more than most (for example, taking the gold of the filthy scammers coming to DK under false pretenses), certainly more than SE. The US adopted and weaponized it and then released it on the world, but in many cases SE was first. Think of “hen,” the SE word that denotes a third gender.
(You correctly called me out for using the wrong word in another post–I think I used sex, when I meant gender or vice versa. You were right, I was simply tired of the debate, and I failed to respond. Point for you, though!).

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
2 years ago
Reply to  James Joyce

Actually I am a very soggy conservative, Ken Clarke, if you know UK politics, but very much anti-woke. Let us say that if I lived in a black country like Barbados or Africa I would not be upset at an anti-white culture – it is their country and there is nothing wrong with backing your own side. I would certainly not call them evil. Living in Europe I do get kind of pissed off about people trying to trash the local history and culture and making what amounts to a black/minority/woke minority take-over. There is nothing wrong with us backing our own side, either.

For the civil war, I really would prefer for both sides to look for something that both sides can live with. I am a compromise kind of guy, and civil wars are really bad for your health and peace of mind. Still, if I am forced to choose a side I will fight for my own side, the cis, straight, white, males, not against it.

Anyway, your position seems quite extreme, seen from my point of view, but thanks for saying what you think in straight English, avoiding insults and wordgames, and generally making it possible to actually discuss things.

Last edited 2 years ago by Rasmus Fogh
Hennie Booysen
Hennie Booysen
2 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

Hey Rasmus – you need to work a bit on your geography/history. Barbados was not originally a black country (as you call it) and Africa is definitely not a country.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
2 years ago
Reply to  Hennie Booysen

Close to 90% of all Barbadians (also known colloquially as “Bajan”) are of Afro-Caribbean descent” (Wikipedia). Which is the point that matters. This is about the history of people and societies, not about the prehistory of land masses. Turkey was originally Greek, not Muslim, and Australia was originally 100% Aboriginal. In neither case could you build a society, or its agreed history, by ignoring the story of the current population.

I’ll grant you Africa, though 😉

Last edited 2 years ago by Rasmus Fogh
Tony Buck
Tony Buck
2 years ago
Reply to  James Joyce

If the shooting starts, most of the culture war “combatants” will be conspicuous by their absence.

John Riordan
John Riordan
2 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

“If you are black and a descendant of slaves, it arguably makes perfect sense to count US history from 1619 and to reject as tainted anyone who ever owned or profited from slaves. I would not think there are many statues to plantation owners left in Barbados or Jamaica.”

This either makes sense or not depending upon what the facts actually are. It does not make sense or otherwise to a person as a consequence of their skin colour. To maintain that it does, is racist.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
2 years ago
Reply to  John Riordan

I really do not think this is a question of facts – they are not that hard to agree on. Was the US an experiment in freedom from tyranny, democracy and self-government, or was it heavily based on slavery and stealing other people’s land? Were Pearson and Fisher immoral eugenicists or the brilliant founders of all modern statistics? Was the British empire a source of innovations riches and glory for Britain and a spreader of good government and railways, or was it a violent, rapacious and racist enterprise? The answer in all three cases is ‘both’.

The question is which story you tell to the population and celebrate in your statues. You need some kind of shared story to get people to feel they belong together and make them willing to submit to losing elections or letting other groups be bailed out with their tax money. If you are an ex-colony, the common history is obviously one of a flourishing country being conquered and plundered by colonists until brave freedom fighters conquered independence. Nothing wrong with that. If you are the colonizers your story will be about the enterprise and daring of your ancestors, and the many discoveries and improvements they brought to both themselves and the colonies. Neither story is wrong, on the facts, and either emphasis fits with the people that believe it. It only becomes hopeless if you emigrate from the colony to the colonial power, and then insist that the colonising people should accept your story, by which they are all a gang of bandits.
It is tougher in the US, where exploiters and victims, Union and Confederacy, are all large groups with long-time residence, but it is still the case that each group will legitimately feel comfortable with different histories. It is not a mere question of fact whether you should choose Abraham Lincoln, Robert E Lee, Nat Turner, or Cochise to celebrate as a national hero – it is a question of whose story you want to tell.

For a democracy to work you need to end up with a national story that all the major groups can sort of identify with – which would rather suggest that you should not reject the majority as evil oppressors. But it is a difficult job.

Last edited 2 years ago by Rasmus Fogh
Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
2 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

Is history gory or glory? As you correctly state, it is both. A good history teacher is able to meander between the two extremes and pick out the facts and stories that bring students together. A lop-sided history teacher will lean toward one. The problem with the Anglosphere at the moment is that history is being used as an ideological tool to browbeat students into the idea of ‘privilege’ i.e. the society your parents and grandparents built up for you is founded on systemic racism, you don’t deserve it, therefore you shouldn’t complain as we go about dismantling it and making sure you have a much reduced quality of life. You have a problem with that? In that case you must be a racist. Hate has no place here, etc, etc.
This is the reason that many people are fooled into thinking that white supremacism is the biggest threat to America. This system is designed to create its own enemies and in doing so assert greater control over the masses. America’s War on Terror has come home.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
2 years ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

Opponents would surely argue that history was always used to support the current orthodoxy and the dominant groups. I would even grant the point. The question, as you say, is why we are now being told that we are all evil, and who appointed these people to dominate us anyway?

Douglas Proudfoot
Douglas Proudfoot
2 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

The fact is that the US fought the Civil War to abolish slavery. Over 204,000 Americans were killed in action, and over 388,000 additional deaths resulted from disease. The US paid a horrible price to abolish slavery.
Denmark had slavery in its Caribbean Islands. However, according to Critical Racist Theory, all white Danes are oppressors, based on their skin color alone. No character flaw required. I just want to make sure you feel your guilt sufficiently, since you’re passing judgment on Amercans so casually.

Douglas Proudfoot
Douglas Proudfoot
2 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

The 1619 project changes what happened historically in Orwellian fashion. It rewrites American history to make slavery the only event that mattered.
It ignores the fact that initially black slaves were treated as labor indentured for 14 years. Lifetime slavery didn’t begin until 1641, in Massachusetts. Slavery wasn’t inherited by the children of slaves until 1662, in Virginia. Why wasn’t it the 1641 project, or the 1662 project?
The 1619 project says the American Revolution was strictly to protect slavery. To say this, the 1619 project ignores all the advocacy for the Revolution, none of which mentioned slavery, and also ignores that Great Britain didn’t abolish slavery until 1833.
The purpose of the 1619 project was not accurate history. The purpose of the 1619 project was to discredit the foundation of the US government, to make it easier for Marxists to rule by decree, contrary to law.
If you need more historical detail, I can certainly provide it.
Also, if my ancestors were abolitionists, am I exempt from reparations? I can prove descent from a Kansas Redleg, who fought against slavery before the Civil War and subsequently was an officer in a black infantry regiment. I also can prove descent from a Methodist Minister who preached abolition in Viginia in the early 1850’s. What kind of credit do I get?

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
2 years ago

We are actually on the same side here. I am strongly against the statue-toppling and history-rewriting going on, and though I knew very little about the 1619 project (thanks for telling me more) I always expected its basis to be rather flimsy. And I refuse to accept that people living now should feel personally guilty (or pay reparations) for what happened 200 years ago. Even if your ancestors had been Jefferson Davies and Nathan Bedford Forrest that would still be wrong.

My point is different. This is not really a discussion about the facts – you say it yourself, it is about which events mattered. Therefore you cannot solve it by hammering on the facts. We are all better off admitting openly that this is largely about which story, and whose story, we want to tell, and settle that argument separately from deciding the facts.

In the UK it is generally the woke side that hammers the facts. They want to topple memorials – Colston who was a great philanthropist and benefactor for the city of Bristol (and, yes, made his money in the slave trade) – Thomas Picton, General and hero of Waterloo, where he fell (and, yes, suppressor of slave revolts and accused of using torture) – Pearson and Fischer, great scientists and founders of modern statistics (and, yes, eugenicists who campaigned for the elimination of the unfit). And if you protest against their changes, they accuse you of believing in fairy tales and refusing to acknowledge the facts. The answer is ‘no’. The facts are not in dispute. The question is which set of facts we should emphasize, and whether people’s relationship to slavery and eugenics should be the only thing that matters. And I would say that even Colston should keep his statue (if maybe with some counter-statue put up besides it), and that the others deserve to keep their place unchanged.

Admittedly, if you are the descendant of slaves and often seen as outside the mainstream, it could make perfect sense – for you – to decide that the relation to slavery is the only thing that matters. But here my answer is that (unlike Barbados) the descendants of slaves are not a dominant majority, and so you have no right to demand that your story should dominate everybody elses.

Douglas Proudfoot
Douglas Proudfoot
2 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

My point is that the woke are not about the facts, at least in the US. They are about their version of the facts, which ain’t real facts.

For example, Martin Luther King used the Declaration of Independence, “All men are created equal,” to argue successfully for black civil rights. He said that the US had to live up to those words. He didn’t say those words were invalid because they were written by a slave holder, Thomas Jefferson. Saying the Declaration is invalid paves the way for Marxist tyranny, treating people unequally for arbitrary reasons.

Claiming the American Revolution was a fight to preserve slavery is factually incorrect. However, the intention isn’t historical accuracy. The intention is to make the Constitution illegitimate, and then overthrow it.

The woke don’t deal in facts. Martin Luther King wanted his children to be judged by the content of their character, not the color of their skin. Critical Racist Theory wants the exact opposite. It judges everyone by the color of their skin, regardless of the content of their character. It tells 5-year-old children they are oppressors or oppressed based on their skin colors. That’s not a fact. That’s racism.

Tony Buck
Tony Buck
2 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

Bismarck’s wars led very directly, and almost inevitably, to the Cataclysm of 1914-18.

And thus to 1939-45 and the Holocaust.

Bismarck sincerely wanted a stable peace to result from his wars – but good rarely comes from evil; and Bismarck’s wars were cynically and cold-bloodedly evil.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
2 years ago
Reply to  Tony Buck

Is that not where original sin comes in? We all do evil. We all fight for advantage. All population groups have fought wars, plundered and raped their neighbours – hunter-gatherer groups have this tendency to steal wives from alien bands, in case you get romantic about pre-history. That being so, is there any point in apportioning blame to past centuries?

Tony Buck
Tony Buck
2 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

Any country’s history is tainted.

But woke and BLM go beyond that, regarding US history as accursed and evil to the core.

And the USA thus in need of replacement by a revolutionary successor.

Dustshoe Richinrut
Dustshoe Richinrut
2 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

“
 and to reject as tainted anyone who ever owned or profited from slaves.”

Well, the charge now that a trendy bunch of American individuals contends is that America profited from slaves, therefore America is tainted, therefore America must be rejected. One would like to think that if one were tainted by association, one could make amends easily. One would not wish to be ostracised from the community or penalised or both, as if one were in disgrace or found to be beyond the pale, merely for being the grandchildren of Nazis or whatever.

Douglas Proudfoot
Douglas Proudfoot
2 years ago

Democrats are the party of slavery, secession, Jim Crow, the KKK and, as Gov. George Wallace (D., AL) famously said, “segregation forever.” Democrats invented voter suppression, using poll taxes and bogus literacy tests to prevent blacks from registering to vote until the Voting Rights Act of 1965 put a stop to it.
Clearly, the Democrats are a tainted party, and anyone associated with them should be rejected.

Hardee Hodges
Hardee Hodges
2 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

While 1619 is sold as some sort of slave start date, it obviously was not as revealed in property records still existing at the Library of Virginia. The first boatload of blacks arrived in the colonies and aside from their absolute differences from normal migrants were treated like any other migrant. Difficulties with language and culture were overcome. Actual slavery took some time. Actual writings from the time belie the politically inspired myth.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
2 years ago
Reply to  Hardee Hodges

Interesting. Thanks. Do you have a link that gives more details?

Douglas Proudfoot
Douglas Proudfoot
2 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

“It’s rather clear that Virginia did not have a set way of dealing with these folks, and it got worked out over time,” Scott says. “They had indentured people in Virginia, and some people may have seen Africans just like they saw other indentured people. We know some people became free, so it looks like they were treated like every other indentured person.”
Quoted from:
USA Today article: “1619: 400 years ago, a ship arrived in Virginia, bearing human cargo”

Lifetime slavery didn’t begin until 1641, in Massachusetts. Slavery wasn’t inherited by the children of slaves until 1662, in Virginia.
Claims that the American Revolution was for slavery are also bogus. None of the advocacy for the Revolution mentions slavery.
Claims that mentions of property are a dog whistle for slavery are ridiculous. The British Crown was playing fast and loose with all American property rights. This pattern reminded many Americans of abuses in Ireland, where the ability to own property, firearms and even horses was restricted by religion. These restrictions were imposed by the British Parliament without Irish consent. Many American colonists had come from Ireland. They were worried that arbitrary restrictions could easily be placed on them.

chris sullivan
chris sullivan
2 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

Well put sir !

chris sullivan
chris sullivan
2 years ago
Reply to  chris sullivan

“Evil” being that which actively works against the ‘good’ – so maybe Evil can be in fact done with the best percieved intentions ( the road to hell) etc – or Evil is as Evil does. Is an action promoting well-being, or diminishing it – pretty simple really….tho a complex thing to analyse. I think any political or structural goal should follow the medical creed FIRST; DO NO HARM….

Tony Buck
Tony Buck
2 years ago
Reply to  James Joyce

The root of the evil that has largely conquered the Democrats, is their belief in the Sexual Revolution (ie sexual debauchery) and its hideous corollary, Abortion, which is mass-murder.

Until 1973, US law forbade Abortion – was that ban “controlling” ?

Dawn McD
Dawn McD
2 years ago
Reply to  James Joyce

Morgan Freeman told Don Lemon at CNN that all of this CRT/systemic racism stuff is complete nonsense and that he wasn’t going for it. This caused Lemon to become as close to speechless as we’re ever likely to see.

Dustshoe Richinrut
Dustshoe Richinrut
2 years ago

Humiliation of America? It’s probably as much an exercise in the Great Embarrassment of America. Elements of the Left have exploited the famed politeness of settled Middle America to undermine it, in my view. The accumulation of screens in a connected world amounts to being one giant mirror: held high in the sky for all the world to see. The poorer, very conservative, indeed family-oriented, developing and undeveloped world, Americans imagine, tuts tuts America for its excessive progress, its excessive and inappropriate happiness, its decadence as well as all the vices that are tagged unavoidably in a free society onto genuine artistic and creative endeavour. Things are so bad that the good old The Muppet Show has had to be tagged as potentially offensive and upsetting.

It’s as if America should be only ashamed of itself and nothing else for having raided the cookie jar even though it invented and baked the cookies in the first place.

Back in the 70s and 80s, there was slight trepidation among UK households about what Continental Europeans visiting the UK for educative purposes might have thought about the antics of the Brits when during their stay they watched a slice of one of the three or four TV channels, when staying with their host families. Will they think us too crude, too rude or too American? Well, this entertainment is us! And too bad for them if they’re shocked! Our good old war vets are laughing, sure!

But in such a situation, you can see how, in a more technologically sophisticated age, our enjoyment of life can be turned against us, to such an extent that we end up embarrassed enough to hate ourselves and our (old) ways.

Can you ask the President what his favourite Western is? His favourite Elvis number?
Are these questions verboten?

AC Harper
AC Harper
2 years ago

There’s an historical argument (Cliodynamics) that every 70 years or so the number of elites builds beyond the supply of elite jobs. So the elites generate fake jobs to prop up their elite status. You could argue that America (and perhaps the Western world generally) is in the later stages of this elite overproduction.
Symptoms of this malaise (and I over simplify) include reductions in social cooperation and an increase in social inequality, as well as some of the issues flagged in the article above. Including authoritarianism and elite hypocrisy.
Such a period often results in a failed state or a revolution. So it doesn’t look good for the USA, which is sad for all the ordinary people caught up in the turmoil they cannot avoid.

Tony Buck
Tony Buck
2 years ago
Reply to  AC Harper

Disappointed students and graduates cause revolutions, directly or indirectly.

Very true.

Dan Croitoru
Dan Croitoru
2 years ago

Secession is unavoidable and I’m looking forward to the times when Federation of Democratic America citizens will bribe the border patrol with 10 energy ration cards to escape to Republic of American States

Bogman Star
Bogman Star
2 years ago
Reply to  Dan Croitoru

Are you looking forward to the breakup of the American Union? Or would you consider any such breakup to be a geopolitical error?

Tony Buck
Tony Buck
2 years ago
Reply to  Bogman Star

It’s up to the citizens, not the geopolitics wonks.

Hardee Hodges
Hardee Hodges
2 years ago
Reply to  Bogman Star

There are those calling for an American Divorce. Not likely to be a long war.

John Riordan
John Riordan
2 years ago

“But punitive doctrinal correctness is no substitute for the basically healthy mores that have long kept the American polity from falling over. Our governing elites fail to understand that courage and moderation are the true and steady foundations of prudent policy. The good kind of political correctness that the Greeks called orthē doxa, upright opinion that furnishes sound premises for political deliberation, is rooted in these virtues and cannot be produced by the moral orthopedics of the propaganda state. The forceful imposition of woke political orthodoxy on the American public can only breed resentment and promote hypocrisy.”

This is masterfully expressed, but i suspect that the point needs to be taken further that even if our elites thought that they could rely upon the self-generating morality of a free people, they are no longer the kinds of elites who would welcome such a thing. It is obvious that the moral vacuity and political tyranny of modern political correctness is not a defect of the system, it is a feature: one intended to displace the authority of conscience and the instincts of personal decency with a system expressly intended to confiscate natural justice from the individual, producing a permanently broken social contract requiring an ever-growing bureaucratic clerisy to administer.

Alyona Song
Alyona Song
2 years ago

a particular deficit of historical memory lies at the root of all our ills” – indeed! And this deficit is constructed and imposed on purpose. Docile people are easy to rule over.

Richard Lord
Richard Lord
2 years ago

Reading this I was struck by thinking how much of this applies to to EU. Sadly many are also starting to get a foothold in the UK.

Jon Hawksley
Jon Hawksley
2 years ago

“What is America for?”. Or why does the population need a state? This, and other articles on UnHerd, convince me that the question should be answered afresh with a clear definition for every term used and without any historical references. Sure the experience over thousands of years can help but the fact that the question needs asking means they have all failed in one way or another, there is no point in building on any of them. Starting afresh might create a consensus that is not available with the current polarisation.

Alan B
Alan B
2 years ago
Reply to  Jon Hawksley

Have you ever read Rousseau, or Edmund Burke? Take a gander…

Hardee Hodges
Hardee Hodges
2 years ago
Reply to  Jon Hawksley

The beauty and wisdom in the US Constitution is that it tries to limit human greed. Humans haven’t changed much in several thousands years in basic terms. Restoration will take time and effort.

Andrew Walker
Andrew Walker
2 years ago

it exposes the populous… The word is populace, Professor.

Shane Emanuelle
Shane Emanuelle
2 years ago

One of the best articles I’ve read on Unherd. Thank you.

P C
P C
2 years ago

Well that really was an essay! Far too much waffle! If edited and reduced by 50% people might actually read it. I started scanning it after a while. Ironically for something so long and eloquent it feels quite lazy (and self indulgent). UnHerd and it’s journalism is so important right now and the sentiment of this piece is also important, but to win this war we need our soldiers to understand how to fight properly and it isn’t by showing off like the readers are first year philosophy students who need to ensure a hard essay to prove their worth. I have very little time to read and today I wasted it on this article. Quite annoyed.

John Riordan
John Riordan
2 years ago
Reply to  P C

“If edited and reduced by 50% people might actually read it.”

You are making this remark in a comment on the same page as a whole load of other comments which reveal that everyone did in fact read it.

Warren T
Warren T
2 years ago
M. Gatt
M. Gatt
2 years ago

Now that was a good read. Well done sir, well done. Best of luck to you.

hugh bennett
hugh bennett
2 years ago

From across the pond looking Westward the United States is showing all the components that can lead to major civil unrest. elites with competing narratives, deeply ingrained identity hysteria, and a mass of politically polarized citizens. Thing is your Civil War never really ended did it? Any chance that it would end died when Lincoln was shot and unable to oversee the post-war period. And so smouldered on, sometimes half submerged as US internal and world events came and went, but always there.
The shadowy walking ghosts of a past Civil War might now be awakening, national identity doubts
 race, faith, flags. Each clan, tribe thinking the other is evil for disagreeing, and so as sectarianism raises its ugly head, you may be on a slippery slope of no return from the brink.

Hardee Hodges
Hardee Hodges
2 years ago
Reply to  hugh bennett

The effort required to self-govern demands acceptance that it’s possible. Once sides are pitted against each other for political gain, the people must reject that division. Returning power back to individual states allows people to vote with their feet as they have been doing.

hugh bennett
hugh bennett
2 years ago
Reply to  Hardee Hodges

yes hopefully, but will they really, meaningfully be allowed to…

Julie Kemp
Julie Kemp
2 years ago

Right on! This Australian feels desperately sad and deeply worried about the appalling degradation of America. Maybe, just maybe, the tide is turning though.
Outrage is manifesting from the most talented, widely trained and hugely credentialled middle and lower ‘classes’ of the polity.
The vision of Francis Bacon and others was that ‘America’ would be the new Atlantis which, as the Age was moving from Pisces into Aquarius, would bring bounty and peace within a more conscious, law-abiding, spiritually knowing and psychologcally grounded edifying culture. Laughable it might seem right now, but the preceding several hundred years has been a project and the calumny of marxism (‘old country’ stuff and nonsense) et al is finally bursting its pustules and buboes! Good riddance! Remember the Phoenix!
Americans, the goodies (!) the wise, the converted, the re-awakened are realising their roots and know-how to en-act their glorious Constitutional principles of what are really a mix of deeply conservative democratic values that aim to foster well-being – top to bottom and vice versa. ‘As above, so below’. Ideal does not necessarily mean naivete. America will rise anew even stronger and clearer – as one so often does after having an illness.

Su Mac
Su Mac
2 years ago

Great writing thank you. “…the vast coalition of governmental, corporate, academic, cultural, philanthropic, and media powers that has just now fused and hardened, right before our eyes, into an ominous social monster.”
Like some kind of ghastly War of The Worlds/Transformer.
So my husband has been saying the USA is heading for another civil war since 2016 and of course now I believe him. How amazing that Tocqueville analysed the Chinese political character as administrative centralisation back in 1840-ish! I can’t decide if it is time to re-read Jung Chang’s Wild Swans or would it be too depressing.
Lack of hisorical knowledge is a huge handicap to critical thinking. I truly feel we have the best people on our side and that the American Constitution may save us all. Tonight the vax mandate for small businesses was overturned in District Appeals Court…

Zirrus VanDevere
Zirrus VanDevere
2 years ago

Damn this is a good essay. Perfectly encapsulates the trial we currently face in the West. Somehow
 SOMEHOW
 we’ve got to find a way towards balance and resisting the wobble. If we don’t, I think we will soon face something akin to a societal big bang, full of pain we didn’t need to experience if we had pulled back from the brink in time.

Bogman Star
Bogman Star
2 years ago

“Despots” lol. It’s far from actual despotism you were reared, mate.

Lloyd Byler
Lloyd Byler
2 years ago

Is the Internet to blame for your overly copious and ignorant attempt at bloviating truthful moral sophistry?

Lloyd Byler
Lloyd Byler
2 years ago
Reply to  Lloyd Byler

This article turns out to be another working example of busy body journalism.

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
2 years ago
Reply to  Lloyd Byler

Please explain.