Today’s disturbances in the United States have drawn parallels with the French protests of 1968, generally seen as the start of a great cultural shift in social mores. It was the year of the sexual and cultural revolution when the baby-boomers came of age, and the conservative cultural dominance of the American, French and British elites were swept aside (although in each case in a slightly different way).
Both 1968 and 2020 were led by middle-class graduates from the higher echelons of society, yet the differences between the two are also significant. The demands of the soixante-huitards were quite controversial, although the door was opening to them; racial attitudes were still antediluvian and sexual promiscuity was still frowned upon. Big business, the civil service and the military were overwhelmingly conservative, while even academia was mixed, and almost a third of British professors voted Tory.
In contrast the 2020 protests, and the Great Awokening of which they are part of, have almost universal establishment approval. Aside from the demented president, almost all elite institutions in the US support the protesters; theatres were providing help to demonstrators even as the protests turned to riots, while big businesses are falling over themselves to get behind BLM. Everything from the Wellcome Trust to National Public Radio have lined up to show support.
The only institution not in favour is the police.
Perhaps most bizarrely, even health officials overturned their own advice about demonstrations in the middle of a deadly pandemic because racism is a “public health crisis”. When Star Wars actor John Boyega bravely declares that “I don’t know if I’m going to have a career after this” because of his support for BLM, he can’t honestly think he’ll be blacklisted in Hollywood for voicing approval for something universally supported by America’s elite?
In contrast a number of people have lost their jobs just in the past few days for daring to question this progressive orthodoxy. As Scott Alexander wrote of the Great Awokening, the student protests in American universities like Yale, Missouri and Evergreen were not young people protesting against society’s norms or values. They were demanding that society adopts more of its norms, more stringently, and punishes people who disobey them.
They’re not saying ‘Down with Stalin!’ They’re saying ‘we need two Stalins! No, 50 Stalins!’
Anti-racism is not just the norm in polite American society, it’s a religion. The reason that we obsess over the idea of American racism is not because the country is more racist than other parts of the world, such as India, China or the Middle East, but because it’s obsessively less racist.
If you espouse conventional anti-racism, like Ta-Nehisi Coates, you get paid $41,500 to speak for 40 minutes and showered with plaudits and approval. In contrast, perhaps the most interesting critic of mainstream thinking, Steve Sailer, is relegated to a hugely obscure blog and has to beg readers to keep him going; many mainstream conservatives read Sailer, but they don’t dare to reveal the fact. If an actor admitted to it, he genuinely wouldn’t have a career.
Those who proclaim the high-status beliefs are naturally afforded privileges that the rest of us could only dream of. During the 2015 Yale protests one of the students was seen screaming at her professor in a way that, in any society previously, would have seen her thrown out for causing scandal, whatever her connections.
In contrast, question this new orthodoxy in the politest way and you’ll lose your job. Perhaps the most bizarre example of the privileges brought about by following the new state religion is that, while the dhimmis can’t even attend their grandparent’s funeral for public health reasons, totally different rules apply when true believers wish to gather in their tens of thousands.