by Victor Hanson
George Orwell published Animal Farm in August 1945, in the closing weeks of the Pacific War. Even then, most naïve supporters of the wartime Soviet-British-American alliance were no longer in denial about the contours of Moscow’s impending postwar communist aggression.
The short, allegorical novel’s human-like farm animals replay the transition of supposedly 1917 revolutionary Bolsheviks into cynical 1930s Stalinists. Thereby, they remind us that leftist totalitarianism inevitably becomes far worse than the supposed parasitical capitalists they once toppled.
Orwell saw that the desire for power stamps out all ideological pretenses. It creates an untouchable ruling clique central to all totalitarian movements. Beware, he warns, of the powerful who claim to help the helpless.
Something so far less violent, but no less bizarre and disturbing, now characterizes the American New New Left. It is completing its final Animal Farm metamorphosis as it finishes its long march through our cultural, economic, and social institutions. Leftists may talk of revolutionary transformation, but their agenda is to help friends, punish enemies, and to keep and expand power.
First, remember the 1960s and 1970s agendas of the once impotent, young, and supposedly idealistic leftist revolutionaries.
We were lectured 60 years ago that “free speech” preserves were needed on university campuses to be immune from all reactionary administrative censorship. Transparency and “truth” were the revolution’s brands.
The First Amendment was said by them to be sacred, even as the “free speech movement” transitioned to the “filthy speech movement.” Leftists sued to mainstream nudity in film. They wanted easy access to pornography. They mainstreamed crude profanity. The supposed right-wingers were repressed. They were the “control freaks” who sought to stop the further “liberation” of the common culture.
In those days, the ACLU still defined the right of free expression as protecting the odious, whether the unhinged Nazis, the pathetic old-Left Communists, or nihilistic Weather Underground terrorists.
“Censorship” was a dirty word. It purportedly involved the religious bigots and medieval minds that in vain had tried to cancel ideological and cultural mavericks and geniuses from Lenny Bruce to Dalton Trumbo. “Banned in Boston” was a sign of cretinism. Only drunken “paranoids” like Joe McCarthy resorted to “blacklists.” We were reminded that the inferior nuts tried to cancel the brilliant careers of their betters whom they disliked, or feared.
The Right supposedly had sunk into fluoride and “precious bodily fluid” paranoias, and “Who lost China?” conspiracy theories. Conservatives, the radicals lectured us, masked the poverty of their thinking by “red-baiting.” They talked as if “commies” and “insurrectionists” were around every corner – in hopes of militarizing the country, and using police and troops to intimidate the “people.”
Snooping, surveillance, wiretaps – all that and more was awful – the purported work of nutty J. Edgar Hoover. His flat-topped, wing-tipped “G-men” usually outnumbered Black Panthers, Weathermen, and SDS members at secret strategy sessions.
Hollywood went wild in the 1960s and 1970s by warning us about “them.” Endless movies detailed the solo efforts of heroes, who were watched and threatened by the “government,” working hand in glove, of course, with either corporations or the “rich.” In films like “Three Days of the Condor,” “The Conversation,” or “Blowup,” we were warned of the nefarious powers of surveillance.
Fearing Russia was the mark of a conspiracist nut. In films like “The Russians are Coming, the Russians Are Coming,” we were reminded that the paranoia about the Soviets was as deadly as the Soviets themselves, who were pleasant enough, not much different from us.
Students in the 1960s high schools were spoon-fed Nineteen Eighty-Four, Animal Farm, Brave New World, and other dystopian novels. Orwell and Huxley warned them of the dangers of a super-spy apparat, a one-party state that reorders a docile subservient population, and the combination of “science” with thought control – the sort of stuff that Nixon or Goldwater was no doubt plotting.
So better to be an individualist, the Left preached, a rebel at war with all orthodoxy and conformity, a “Rebel Without a Cause,” Holden Caulfield, or one of the good renegades in “The Wild Ones.” We were to worship James Dean, Marlon Brando, and Steve McQueen because they were “free,” “didn’t give a s—t,” and demolished “the Man’s” silly imposed “rules and regulations.” “Easy Rider” was the 1960’s bible.
On campus, professors began to drop F-bombs in class. They dressed like students, tore down hierarchies between student and teacher (“Just call me Mike”). Once staid academics now invited edgy campus speakers to blast America. In melodramatic fashion, they considered themselves perennially teaching from the barricades.
We were told that they were the frontline speakers of truth to power. These were the nonconformists who had defeated loyalty oaths. After all, they dated their students and joined radicals to storm the college president’s office. They preached a “do your thing” credo of letting professors pretty much say whatever they wished.
Reporters were either iconoclastic Gonzos or shoe-leather investigators on the scent of deep state overreach. They were obsessed with wrongdoing at the CIA and FBI. Politicians, of course, weren’t to be trusted – given the corporations who pulled their puppet strings.
The enemy of America, we were told, was the “big guys,” especially the international conglomerates like ITT with global reach. The corporationists refined the arts of the cartel, trust, and monopoly. “Small is beautiful” was the antithetical mantra.
Radical sons of the Left crusaded against “dirty money” and “the plutocratic rich” with their “concentration of wealth” – as if the Rockefellers or the Gettys posed existential threats to America by their abilities to insert huge amounts of cash to warp elections or to buy officials.
Generals were caricatured as caudillos, cigar choppers with shades, showy ribbons and bronze on their chests, and oversized hats and epaulets. We were warned they threatened us with a militarized police state.
The “revolving door” was a mortal sin, as the tentacles of the Pentagon octopus now squeezed out public money for bombs, rockets, and jets to fight needless wars. About every three weeks Ike’s farewell warning about the “military-industrial complex” was trotted out by liberal columnists to remind us of felonious corruption.
Civil and women’s rights were the twin pillars of the 1960s radicals. From Martin Luther King, Jr. to Malcolm X, the themes were for “white America” to live up to the ideals of their Constitution, to finally realize the “promises of the Declaration of Independence” and to treat people on the basis of the “content of their character” and not on “the color of their skin.” The problem was never 1776 or 1787, but those who had not yet fully met the Founders’ exceptional ideals.
A “color-blind society” was a ’60s sobriquet. Women strove to ensure girls had the same rights as boys, from leadership roles to sports.
The point of the 1960s, again we were taught, was to tear down the rules, the traditions and customs, the hierarchies of the old guys. The targets were supposedly the uptight, short-hair, square-tie, adult generation who grew up in the Depression, won World War II, and were fighting to defeat Cold War Soviet Union.
The good guys, the students, and the activists, if they only had power, were going to break up corporations, shame (or “eat”) the rich, and bring in young, hip politicians. Reformers like the younger Kennedy brothers, the John Kerry war hero-resisters, the Bay Area Dianne Feinsteins, and the hip Nancy Pelosis would disrupt the “status quo” of politics.
They would all push hard for assimilation and integration of the races, and the equality of the sexes in pursuit of universal equality of opportunity. The mantra of the 1960s and 1970s was “opportunity,” Remember the 1964 federal EEOC – the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Our Nightmare, 2021
Fast forward a half-century. What did these now-late septuagenarians give America?
Yes, the downtrodden pigs, the exploited horses, and the victimized sheep finally did expel Farmer Jones from America’s Animal Farm.
But in his place, as Orwell predicted, revolutionary pigs began walking on two feet and absorbed all the levers of American cultural influence and power: the media, the bureaucracies, Wall Street, Silicon Valley, publishing, the academy, K-12 education, professional sports, and entertainment. And to them all, the revolutionaries added their past coarseness and 1960s-era by-any-means-necessary absolutism.
We are now finally witnessing the logical fruition of their radical utopia: Censorship, electronic surveillance, internal spying, monopolies, cartels, conspiracy theories, weaponization of the intelligence agencies, pouring billions of dollars into campaigns, changing voting laws by fiat, a woke revolutionary military, book banning, bleeding the First Amendment, canceling careers, blacklisting, separate-but-equal racial segregation and separatism.
Conspiracies? Now they brag of them in Time. Read their hubristic confessionals in “The Secret History of the Shadow Campaign That Saved the 2020 Election.” Once upon a Time, radicals used to talk of a “secret history” in terms of the Pentagon Papers, or a “shadow campaign” in detailing Hollywood blacklisting. They are exactly what they once despised, with one key qualifier: Sixties crudity and venom are central to their metamorphosis.
Our left-wing American revolutionary cycle from the barricades to the boardroom was pretty quick—in the manner that the ideology of the Battleship Potemkin soon led to Stalin’s show trials, or Mao’s “long march” logically resulted in the Cultural Revolution. The credo, again, is that the noble ends of forced “equity” require any means necessary to achieve them.
The Left censors books in our schools, whether To Kill a Mockingbird or Tom Sawyer. It is the Left who organizes efforts to shout down campus speakers or even allows them to be roughed up.
The Left demands not free-speech areas anymore, but no-speech “safe spaces” and “theme houses”—euphemisms for racially segregated, “separate-but-equal” zones. “Microaggressions” are tantamount to thought crimes. The mere way we look, smile, or blink can indict us as counterrevolutionaries. Stalin’s Trotskyization of all incorrect names, statues, and commemoratives is the Left’s ideal, as they seek to relabel Old America in one fell swoop. No one is spared from the new racists, not Honest Abe, not Tom Jefferson, not you, not me.
For “teach-ins,” we now have indoctrination sessions. But the handlers are no longer long-haired 1960’s dreamy, sloppy, and incoherent mentors. They are disciplined, no-nonsense brain-washers.
The Left’s Russia is our new old bogeyman. Putin is the new “We will bury you” Khrushchev.
The Left spun conspiracy theories about computer pings in Trump Tower, and nefarious meetings of Trump’s campaign officials colluding with Russian agents. CNN and MSNBC tell us that the whole plot was laid out in a bought dossier—as the fantasies of Christopher Steele’s canonical hired hit piece became the Left’s version of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.
No longer were we told that our toothpaste and water were making us sterile. Instead, the Duke Lacrosse team was emblematic of the return of epidemic 1930s-style racial rape. The Virginia frat boys routinely roughed up and had their way with girls. The racist Covington kids, on the National Mall no less, mocked and insulted a noble indigenous combat veteran. And Jussie Smollett fought off racist thugs while managing to hold his sandwich and cell phone, as he stumbled home with a racist rope around his neck, stained with iconic bleach. “Hands up, don’t shoot” should have been true, even if it wasn’t.
Assimilation and integration are not our goals. Instead, we are to ferret out “cultural appropriation” and the odious culture of “white supremacy” and “unearned privilege.”
“All men are created equal. But some are more equal than others” is now posted on the electric barn wall.
Deprogramming 74 million “whites” and “Republicans” is the advice on the pages of the progressive Washington Post. Don’t like an idea? Then wash clean the polluted minds of those who embraced it.
The new and improved ACLU’s job is to encourage the suppression of conservative free speech. ACLU trains its handlers not to protect unfettered speech, but to spot “hate speech.”
To advocate burning or destroying a book is not some nightmare from Fahrenheit 451, but a woke way to “stop the hate.”
A new Orwellian phrase is “free speech is not free reach” – as leftists become the intellectual inheritors of the racists of the open-housing fights of the 1950s and 1960. The old racist boilerplate of apartment owners and realtors was “You can live anywhere you want, just not here.” The new hate mantra of Silicon Valley cartels is, “You can tweet or socially post anywhere you like – if you can manage to find a place.”
Surveillance and spying are now good. How else to ferret out “right-wingers,” “white supremacists,” and “insurrectionists”?
So the FBI and CIA have transmogrified into heroic agencies run by stalwart social activist fighters like John Brennan, the old Gus Hall supporter, James Clapper, James Comey, and Andrew McCabe. They cut to the quick to achieve social justice, without the messy give and take of Congress, or that albatross, the relic Constitution.
What a wonderful world they have created: Eavesdropping on the national security advisor, forging FISA documents, spying on American citizens, aiding one presidential candidate by surveilling another.
Finally, they can use their skills and surveillance to investigate and hound the “right” enemies, for the “right” causes.” The CIA and FBI always secretly wished to be beloved by the Left. Now they are deified.
And the military elite?
Militarization is now beautiful. The U.S. Army may become our People’s Revolutionary Army as generals sniff out counterrevolutionaries hidden deeply in their ranks. Maybe a cleansing purge or two is necessary, in the Soviet fashion.
Barb-wiring the capitol and stocking it with camouflaged troops send the message that the military is, at last, woke and in control of America’s central nervous system. Corporate profiteering for retired generals and admirals is a necessary amplifier of their critical work. How else to have the resources to spot new Mussolinis, Nazi tactics, Auschwitz caging, and the al-Qaeda-like terrorists among us?
Bank of America helps to find out which enemy of the people bought which coffee where. The financial heroes are not hip basement day traders taking down hedge funds by boomeranging them their own manipulative tactics, but Wall Street hedge fund traders, the holy wall between sober investment and Trumpian barbarians at the gate.
Could we have ever stopped the hate without the help of billions of dollars from Mark Zuckerberg and George Soros? Why break up monopolies and cartels when their profits pour into progressive wokeness? Only their warping of communication and knowledge retrieval correctly guides Americans to the “right” conclusions. Jeff Bezos’ net worth alone is as much as the combined GDP of Idaho and Alaska. But then again, we are to think he is far more valuable than two states full of bitter clingers, dregs, and deplorables.
The media? It is a Ministry of Truth. Informers and readers beg the Great Leader to let drop his favorite flavor of ice cream or the details of the Oval Office makeover. There is no need for censorship: the media are the censors. Whatever sinister idea a paranoid politician has for muzzling journalists, reporters themselves have already trumped it. Pravda is their model. Who can be disinterested when there is a war to be fought for diversity and equity, against climate change and white supremacy?
The revolutionary animals are now running the farm in a way that would be nightmarish even to Farmer Jones.
They won. They are now one with – but also far, far worse than – what they rebelled against.
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Victor Davis Hanson is a distinguished fellow of the Center for American Greatness and the Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution. He is an American military historian, columnist, a former classics professor, and scholar of ancient warfare. He has been a visiting professor at Hillsdale College since 2004. Hanson was awarded the National Humanities Medal in 2007 by President George W. Bush. Hanson is also a farmer (growing raisin grapes on a family farm in Selma, California) and a critic of social trends related to farming and agrarianism. He is the author most recently of The Second World Wars: How the First Global Conflict Was Fought and Won and The Case for Trump.
Photo “Animal Farm Graffitti” by Joanbanjo CC4.0