The following is adapted from a speech delivered at a Hillsdale College reception in Overland Park, Kansas, on November 18, 2021.
‘Here are two questions pertinent to our times: (1) How would you reduce the greatest free republic in history to despotism in a short time? and (2) How would you stop that from happening? The answer to the first question has been provided in these last two disastrous years. The answer to the second has begun to emerge in recent months. Both are worthy of study.
Reducing a Great Republic to Despotism
To establish despotism in a nation like ours, you might begin, if you were smart, by building a bureaucracy of great complexity that commands a large percentage of the resources of the nation. You might give it rule-making powers, distributed across many agencies and centers inside the cabinet departments of government, as well as in 20 or more “independent” agencies—meaning independent of elected officials, and thus independent of the people.
This much has been done. It would require a doctoral thesis to list all the ways that rules are made in our federal government today, which would make for boring reading. The truth is that very few people not directly involved know how all this works. Although civics education is practically banned in America, most people still know what the Congress is and how its members are elected. But how many know how the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) came to be, under what authority it operates, and who is its head? Here is a clue: it is not Anthony Fauci.
Admittedly, this new kind of bureaucratic government would take—has taken—decades to erect, especially in the face of the resistance of the Constitution of the United States, which its very existence violates. But once it has been erected, things can happen very fast.
What, for example, if a new virus proliferates around the world? There have been procedures for dealing with such viruses for a long time. They begin with isolating the sick and protecting the vulnerable. But suddenly we have new procedures that attempt to isolate everybody. This is commanded by the CDC, an element of this bureaucratic structure, and by a maze of federal and state authorities, all of which see the benefit to themselves in getting involved. The result is that large sections of our economy were closed for months at a time, and citizens placed under the equivalent of house arrest. This has not happened before. The cost of it, and not just in monetary terms, is beyond calculation.
To set up a despotism capable of pulling this off you would need the media’s help. Those controlling the media today are trained in the same universities that invented the bureaucratic state, the same universities the senior bureaucrats attended. The media would need to be willing to suppress, for example, the fact that 50,000 doctors, scientists, and medical researchers signed the Great Barrington Declaration. That document reminds people that you cannot suppress a widely disseminated contagious virus through shutdowns and mass isolation, and that if you try, you will work immeasurable destruction of new kinds—unemployment, bankruptcy, depression, suicide, multiplying public debt, broken supply chains, and increases of other serious health problems. Some of the signatories to this Declaration come from the most distinguished universities in the world, but never mind: their views do not fit the narrative propagated by the powerful. They have been effectively cancelled, ignored by the media and suppressed by Big Tech.
You would need some help from business, too. As far as influence is concerned, “business” is dominated by large institutions—those comprising big business—whose leaders are also educated in the same universities that conceived bureaucratic government and trained the bureaucrats and media heads. This provides a ground of agreement between big business and the bureaucratic state. Anyway, agree or not, businesses are vulnerable to regulation, and to mitigate the risk of regulatory harm they play the game: they send lobbyists to Washington, make political contributions, hire armies of lawyers. If you are big enough to play the game, there are plenty of advantages to be won. If you are not big enough to play the game—well, in that case you are on your own.
Amidst the unprecedented lockdowns, imagine there comes an election, a time for the people to say if they approve of the new way of governing and of this vast, unprecedented intrusion into their lives. Then let us say that in several states the election rules and practices are altered by their executive branches—the people in charge of enforcing the law—on their own, without approval by their legislatures. Say this brazen violation of the separation of powers takes place in the name of the pandemic. One does not need to know what percentage of votes in the final tally were affected to see that this is fishy. No sensible person would place control of the election process in one party—any party—or in one branch—any branch—of the government, alone. In some crucial states, that was done.
Finally, to sustain this new kind of government, you would need to work on education. You might build a system of centralized influence, if not control, over every classroom in the land. You might require certification of the teachers with a bias toward the schools of education that train them in the approved way. These schools, poor but obedient cousins of the elite universities, are always up on the latest methods of “delivery” of instruction (we do not call it teaching anymore). These new methods do not require much actual knowledge, which can be supplied from above.
As far as content, you might set up a system of textbook adoption that guarantees to publishers a massive and captive market but requires them to submit proposed books to committees of “experts,” subject of course to political pressures. You might build a standard approved curriculum on the assumption that everything changes—even history, even principles. You might use this curriculum to lay the ground for holding everything old, everything previously thought high and noble, in contempt.
Doing this, incidentally, deprives the student of the motive to learn anything out of fashion today. It is a preparation not for a life of knowing and thinking, but for a life of compliance and conformity.
This is by no means an exhaustive account of what it would take to build a thoroughgoing tyranny—for further instruction, read Book Five of Aristotle’s Politics or George Orwell’s 1984. But it gives an idea of a mighty system, a system that seems unassailable, a system combining the powers of government and commerce, of education and communication. Money and power in such a system would accrue to the same hands. The people who benefit from the system would be the ruling class. Others would be frustrated. And such a system would tend to get worse, because the exercise of unchecked power does not bring out the best in people.
Any elaborate system of government must have a justification, and the justification of this one cannot simply be that those in the ruling class are entitled on the basis of their superiority. That argument went away with the divine right of kings. No, for the current ruling class, the justification is science. The claim of bureaucratic rule is a claim of expertise—of technical or scientific knowledge about everything. Listen to Fauci on Face the Nation, dismissing his critics in Congress as backward reactionaries. When those critics disagree with him, Fauci said recently, “They’re really criticizing science because I represent science. That’s dangerous.”
The problem with this kind of thinking was pointed out by a young Winston Churchill in a letter to the writer H.G. Wells in 1901. Churchill wrote:
Nothing would be more fatal than for the government of states to get into the hands of the experts. Expert knowledge is limited knowledge: and the unlimited ignorance of the plain man who knows only what hurts is a safer guide, than any vigorous direction of a specialised character. Why should you assume that all except doctors, engineers, etc. are drones or worse? . . . If the Ruler is to be an expert in anything he should be an expert in everything; and that is plainly impossible.
Churchill goes on to argue that practical judgment is the capacity necessary to making decisions. And practical judgment, he writes in many places, is something that everyone is capable of to varying degrees. Everyone, then, is equipped to guide his own life in the things that concern mainly himself.
Another thing about the experts is that they are not really engaged in the search for truth. Instead, the powerful among them suppress the obvious fact that there is wide disagreement among the experts. There always is.
God save us from falling completely into the hands of experts. But God has given us the wherewithal to save ourselves from that. So let us move to the second question posed above.
How to Defeat a Rising Despotism
In answering the second question, I will tell two stories that are suggestive.
The first took place in the small town of Jonesville, Michigan, five miles north of Hillsdale College. In our state, as in most places where the lockdowns were enforced, businesses were crippled or destroyed en masse. Restaurants were chief among them. One of our local restaurants is a 30-year-old diner called Spanglers Family Restaurant. Mitch Spangler is the proprietor. The business was founded by his late father, and Mitch was purchasing the business from his mother. The payments to his mother depended upon the revenues of the business, and his mother’s retirement depended upon the payments. The life’s work of two generations was at stake. Mitch was also helping to support a daughter in college.
This is not to mention the more than 20 employees whose livelihoods are dependent on Spanglers. “Our employees are moms who have kids,” Spangler told the local paper. “One of our employees is pregnant; another is a 19-year-old kid. This is his first job, and he just bought a car.” Our leaders in Washington treat it as a small thing when trillions are being thrown about. To the Spanglers and people like them, their relatively small revenue streams are everything.
Mr. Spangler was not prepared to surrender all this. When a second lockdown was ordered by Michigan’s governor a year ago last month, he kept his restaurant open. He put a sign on the door and posted on Facebook to make clear, among other things, that he was acting out of necessity for the sake of his business and the livelihoods of all those dependent on it; that precautions would be taken, including the installation of an electrostatic fogger that would disinfect the air; that he understood the thinking of those who would choose to stay away from his restaurant, but that he hoped they would understand his own thinking. “If you cannot support us, we understand,” he wrote, “but please allow us to have the freedom to do what we have to do.”
The wheels of bureaucracy began to grind. Spanglers was visited repeatedly by the health department, by the licensing authorities, and even by the agriculture department (one wonders what they had to do with it). Spangler was fined and threatened with forcible closure. But he persevered, never backing down, and his busines did well. On a typical weekend, not only locals but supporters from the neighboring states of Indiana and Ohio lined up outside to show their support.
Mitch Spangler is our kind of fellow, and the College gave him some help organizing his legal representation. We did not wish to be in the newspaper about this because we were facing our own pressures, and we too were determined to resist them. But Spangler was no good at keeping a secret: he wore a Hillsdale College t-shirt on FOX News and thanked us for our help. And when he had a little ceremony in his parking lot in the spring to thank his staff and his customers, I was honored to say a few words.
This may not seem on its face a big story, but it is a most important story. It is important because it is a story about the nature of human beings and of citizens and of our rights. The nature of a thing is the essence of a thing. One aspect of the nature of a human being is that he must eat to live. In condemnation of slavery, Abraham Lincoln loved to say that every man was created with a head, hands, and mouth, the implication being that the head should guide the hands in the feeding of the mouth. Because we are made to live this way, we are also determined to live this way. The alternative is dependence, which does not make us happy.
It should not therefore be surprising that, if you try to destroy the business of a man whose family has spent over 30 years building it, he will resist. Trying to strongarm people like Mitch Spangler is not a good idea. There are millions of them, and they have always made up the core of this greatest of free republics.
The second story is more famous, but it too is about nature—indeed, about that word’s most basic meaning. The word nature, as I said, refers to a thing’s essence, but it comes from the Latin word for birth. Our nature begins with how we are born and how we grow. Just as we are attached by nature to the way we get our livings, so we are attached by nature to our parents, and still more to our children. And this second story, set in Loudoun County, Virginia, is about parents and children.
In schools throughout Virginia, including in Loudoun County, children are being subjected to critical race theory (CRT). This involves lecturing children, especially those belonging to the non-preferred races, about the “structural evils” of which they are told they are part. Being taught alongside CRT is a distorted view of the history of our country, which true enough has its warts, but which surely has its glories as well—including glories about equal rights regardless of race. Between fighting the armies of the English monarch, the Confederacy, the Nazis, the communists, and Islamic terrorists, something nearing a million Americans have died for the cause of equal rights. These Americans have come in all colors.
Amidst statewide controversy over the teaching of CRT, the Loudoun County School Board also adopted a broad policy of recognizing “transgender” students in preference to their “biological sex” (excuse the redundancy). Even before this, boys were permitted to use girls’ bathrooms, in one of which there was an assault and rape of a female student by a “gender-fluid boy.” The boy in question was then allowed to attend another school in Loudoun County, where he assaulted another girl. This first girl’s parents were understandably outraged and, at the risk of being called narrow-minded, went so far as to complain to the school board.
Groups of parents who had already been protesting CRT and policies promoting transgenderism joined in the complaint. There was no violence at the school board meetings with one exception: law enforcement was summoned, and the outraged father of the assaulted and raped girl was bloodied and dragged out of one meeting. It is true, however, that voices were raised.
The National School Board Administration called upon the Biden administration to investigate these protesting parents as potential perpetrators of “domestic terrorism or hate crimes.” Remember, these parents were citizens attending a meeting of an elected body to tell their representatives what they think. The rights of petition and assembly are protected in the First Amendment. Except for certain preferred groups, these rights today appear to have been repealed.
U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland intervened, instructing the FBI to investigate these parents and others around the country. The FBI’s Counterterrorism Division has reportedly deployed tools and resources normally reserved for terrorist threats against parents who are angry at school boards for what is occurring in their children’s schools. All this provoked massive support, across Virginia and around the nation, for the parents of Loudoun County.
This support is not surprising. By nature, parents love their children and feel responsibility for them. Citizens, especially one hopes American citizens, feel entitled to state their grievances. The Declaration of Independence itself contains a list of grievances against the King. The Biden administration reacted to these protests just as King George III reacted against the American colonists in the years leading up to the American Revolution: he called in law enforcement. And the people of Virginia reacted in a way reminiscent of the American colonists: they defeated the candidate for governor who took the position that parents should have nothing to do with their children’s education.
What do these two stories—one of them taking place in Hillsdale County, Michigan, a deep red county, and the other in Loudoun County, Virginia, which is deeply blue—have in common? In both stories we see reactions against violations of our rights, rights that we have by nature as human beings.
The story about Mitch Spangler is about our right to work and to store up the product of our labor so that we and our families can eat and thrive. The American Founders put this in terms of our natural right to property. The story about the parents of Loudoun County is about the natural right of mothers and fathers to raise their children. To interfere with these rights is to interfere with the nature of the human being.
These facts about nature were well known during the American Revolution, the very Revolution that is besmirched by the members of our ruling class today, just as it was besmirched by the ruling class at the time of the Revolution. It was the interference with the colonists’ natural rights by that former ruling class that led to the American Revolution. These recent stories from Michigan and Virginia show that we Americans do not seem to like that interference any better today.
In addition to the right to make a living and the right to raise our children, we have the right to participate in our government, even if we are not experts, and the right to look to the heavens and not to our ruling class for guidance. We have these rights because we—every single one of us—were born with them sewn by God into our nature, and we cannot find our earthly fulfillment without them.
If we put these facts together as a people, we will have recovered the understanding that produced the American Revolution. We will stop these current predations upon our rights. We will bring this overwhelming government back where it belongs, under the control of the people.
The signs of such a movement are emerging. Pray they are enough.’https://imprimis.hillsdale.edu/the-way-out/?utm_campaign=imprimis&utm_medium=email&_hsmi=193756221&_hsenc=p2ANqtz–tnTIeeTOtN0bEq0yHrClXtYes5w6Qht2itXjfLJy_erGHH6LnYmVB75BG4SZ-8hrA6NQYZvw2rst3HqXA4ljqDVnaKw&utm_content=193756221&utm_source=hs_email
The following is adapted from a speech delivered by Mark Steyn on April 26, 2021, at a Hillsdale College National Leadership Seminar in Franklin, Tennessee.
‘I live about 20 minutes south of the Canadian border, which used to be called the longest undefended frontier in the world. People moved freely back and forth across it all day every day. But now it’s been closed for over a year. At one point my daughter asked me to drive her up there, because there was a 30-minute opportunity for people on one side to talk to their friends on the other. “Sad!” as President Trump would say. It was like Checkpoint Charlie in Berlin during the Cold War, except that both sides are now like East Berlin.
I don’t know how this happened, but it is just one indication that America, and the West in general, have become almost unrecognizable from what they were not that long ago.
Look at just three things we have lost.
One is equality before the law, something absolutely essential to a free society. In its place, we now have politicized law. If a policeman fatally shoots someone, whether his name is released to the public depends on whether the shooting is consistent with the preferred narrative of the ruling class. A policeman recently took down a young woman who was threatening the life of another young woman with a knife, and that policeman was immediately identified—indeed, his photo was posted and he was threatened by NBA superstar LeBron James on Twitter. On the other hand, we know nothing of the policeman who shot dead an unarmed woman in the U.S. Capitol on January 6. His name will apparently never be released to the public.
Second, border control. Functioning societies, at least since the Peace of Westphalia three centuries ago, have borders. America has no southern border and no plans to get one. The official position of our government seems to be that any of the seven billion persons on this planet has a right to come and stay in the U.S. for three years, until his or her assigned court date comes up. As the number of people with pending cases continues to grow, that three years will extend out to five or seven or 15 years. If we get all seven billion people to come here, the court system will break down entirely and maybe we can go back to having a functioning border.
And third, dare I bring up the fact that it is a real question whether we can go back to agreeing to have open and honest elections? And if we don’t have open and honest elections, control of our borders, and equality before the law, then we don’t have the conditions for politics or free government.
And here’s the thing. It is not at all clear to me that many of America’s conservative politicians understand the seriousness of all this. You can see it in the fact that they go around trying to scare people with the specter of a “radical socialist agenda.” For well over a year now, we have been living in a world in which it’s accepted as normal that the state has essentially unlimited power—and in which our freedom to decide for ourselves has been diminished almost to invisibility. Why do these conservative politicians think the words “radical socialist agenda” still scare anyone in a time when the state can tell us whether we can have Aunt Mabel over for Christmas? They are completely out of touch.
Over the same period as the pandemic lockdowns, we have seen an escalation of so-called wokeness. And if you look at one of the most startling manifestations of this, transgender fanaticism—which involves, after all, the abolition of biological sex and, I’m sorry to have to say it, the physical mutilation of children—one notices that America is farther down this road than any other country in the Western world. In other words, at this moment of crisis for Western Civilization, or for what we used to call Christendom, the leading country of the free world is pulling the wrong way.
Think of it. Your daughter has been training since she was a little girl to run in school sports. Now at 17, she’s in the state high school track championships, and you are forbidden even to notice that she’s competing against a woman who is 6’2” with thighs like tugboats, a great touch of five o’clock shadow on her face, and the most muscular bosom you’ve ever seen. You’re not supposed to notice the craziness of this, and the craziness is at its craziest right here in America.
We traditionally think of France as being a bit screwy, but today there are French intellectuals who regard themselves as hardcore leftists and yet who think America has gone bonkers on this transgender issue. President Macron himself has said that American wokeness is an existential threat to the French Republic, and he even found bureaucrats in France’s education bureaucracy who agreed. There is not a single bureaucrat in the Department of Education in Washington, D.C., who would agree, but there are apparently a few in Paris.
If you look further east in Europe to the lands that were once behind the Iron Curtain—to Hungary, Poland, and the Czech Republic, which still function as conventional nation-states calculating their best interests—you find tremendous fear of the threat of wokeness that is being exported, sometimes aggressively, from America. So it is here in the U.S. where we have to put the stake through these ideas.
But again, even most of our conservative leaders and institutions seem oblivious. School districts in America are talking about revising their curricula to cover transgender issues from grade school on. Now, I went to an English boys’ school, and we were expected to pick up sexuality on our own time. In those days people would have looked puzzled if you had said, “We’re going to have to cancel geography or Latin, because we need to put gay studies in there.” These days, instead of going off behind the bike shed during recess to learn about sex, kids need to sneak behind the bike shed to do a little bit of closeted geography or closeted Latin. It’s completely backwards. And yet what do we hear from most conservative politicians? That it would be nice to offer people a tax cut!
We are way beyond tax cuts. We’re broke. We’re just a smidgen away from $30 trillion in federal debt—something with no historical precedent. Talking about tax cuts today is like talking about VAT tax refunds on the Titanic. It’s not actually what’s necessary at the moment.
Another big issue that should take our minds off tax cuts is China. I can’t get over the way we in the U.S. have been ordered by our governors and the CDC to punish ourselves by living small, shrunken lives, while the people in China who loosed this pandemic on the world have paid no price for it.
Dr. Fauci has been a federal government bureaucrat since 1968. He’s the J. Edgar Hoover of public health. He talks about the COVID virus as if we’re at war. But he seems to think a country wins a war by taking it out on its own population rather than the enemy, which is what we’ve done.
Which do you think was the only major economy to grow in 2020? It’s not a hard question. America’s economy shrank 3.5 percent last year. The economies of Germany and Japan shrank almost five percent. France’s, Italy’s, and India’s economies all shrank over eight percent, and the economy of the United Kingdom was down ten percent. China’s economy, on the other hand, grew 2.3 percent in 2020, and first quarter growth for 2021 in China set a new world record—it was up over 18.3 percent. The COVID pandemic has been hugely profitable for China.
U.S. policy towards China since the 1990s represents perhaps the biggest strategic miscalculation by any great power in human history. Just as communism was wobbling and beginning to fall everywhere else, we helped Beijing come up with the first economically viable form of communism.
At first we were told it was only our manufacturing that we would ship to China. After all, we were told, it wasn’t economically viable for Americans to make widgets. Remember the talk in the ’90s? We were going to be the “knowledge economy.” All the clever people told us this. We weren’t going to have mills and factories, but we were going to be the knowledge economy. Well, in case you haven’t noticed, China’s got the entire knowledge economy for itself now. It makes our laptops and our smartphones and it’s out front with Huawei and 5G. It also makes the batteries that power our gizmos and the chips that run our cars. When COVID struck, we found out fast that the Chinese not only make our viruses, they also make the personal protective equipment that protects us against the viruses—and all of our medicines to boot! Those wily Chinese get you both coming and going.
China is now the number one global power. You can define this militarily, where it now has the largest surface fleet on the planet. You can define it economically. But the way I define it is to look at who gets its way in the world. New Zealand has just effectively pulled out of the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing arrangement—an arrangement between the U.S., the U.K., Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, the oldest such arrangement on the planet. New Zealand has pulled out with respect to China because it doesn’t want to offend China. I would think Canada might be the next to go. Or look at the World Health Organization. America pays for it, but Chairman Xi in Beijing calls the shots. China gets its way now, and the U.S. doesn’t.
We need politicians with a sense of urgency about these problems, but all they seem to have is urgency about things that aren’t urgent. Look at climate change. People say we need to take action over climate change or else rising sea levels are going to overwhelm the Maldives in the Indian Ocean in the 22nd century. That’s the century after this one, which is still quite young. These same people say about the immediate crisis on the southern border that it’s “a natural phenomenon beyond the control of politicians.” But changing the weather in order to lower the sea levels that will threaten the Maldives in the Indian Ocean in the next century is within the power of politicians? In general, our leaders are urgent about nothing that matters and not in the least bit urgent about things that matter very much.
The things our news media talks about incessantly, whether it’s transgender bathrooms or Confederate statues being toppled or the totally dishonest national conversation on race—nothing like this is heard in China as it goes along steadily strengthening its position as the world’s leading power. The Chinese don’t find themselves stuck in these sterile, drain-circling, dishonest public conversations about identity politics. These conversations are a waste of time. And one thing we should demand of our politicians is that they talk about things that aren’t a waste of time.
At the root of our problems is that we have seen the emergence of a true ruling class, like Grand Dukes in medieval Europe. Its members intermarry. They send their kids to the same schools. They circulate back and forth between government and the private sector. And over time it has become increasingly easy to identify members of this class.
John Kerry gave a commencement address a couple of years ago in which he told the students, “You are going to be the first generation to live in a borderless world.” And for the elite, the idea of a borderless world rings true. A typical member of the ruling class will get a job with a firm like Goldman Sachs, work for a couple of years in Hong Kong, then move on for a couple of years in Geneva, and then maybe come back to America. What are borders to such a person? Meanwhile, for the common American, COVID has literally ended, to a large degree, any freedom of movement. They live in the farthest thing from a borderless world. Oftentimes they’re trapped in a town that is dying because of the open-border, cheap-labor policies advocated by people like John Kerry.
Our political division in America today is a class division, and we need to expose it as such whenever we see it. The ruling class tries to keep racial and other forms of division stirred up in our politics so that we don’t notice the class protection racket they are running. Look at that guy from Twitter, Jack Dorsey, who wears a beard like he’s playing the hobo in a Charlie Chaplin silent film. I wouldn’t mind betting that when he’s called to testify in Congress, he has his valet hook on the beard and lower him into the clothes that make him look like he’s been sleeping in a dumpster. Then at night after the cameras are off he’s like Lord Grantham in Downton Abbey, spending an hour being dressed for dinner. Our elites have become incredibly good at theater.
Getting back to the southern border, it perfectly symbolizes the bifurcation of our society. We’re told there’s a health emergency. We’re told we can’t open our businesses or attend weddings or funerals. Yet at the same time, every day, thousands of people pour across the southern border, test positive for COVID, and are then driven to a nice hotel and put up there at taxpayers’ expense.
It’s also interesting to compare the southern border with the northern. Prior to the pandemic, when the border with Canada was open, my kids had their Kinder Eggs confiscated by the Department of Homeland Security when we would cross the border going south into Vermont. Kinder Eggs are chocolate eggs with a kid’s toy inside. They are sold in Canada, but they are banned in the U.S. because the Food and Drug Administration calls the toy a “non-nutritive embed”—and that’s good enough to send Homeland Security agents swinging into action! There is always a big crackdown before Easter on Kinder Eggs. So at the northern border there are lots of things, down to Kinder Eggs, that are illegal. But at the southern border you can come in with pretty much anything you want, including COVID. Why is that? It is because some groups serve the needs of the ruling class and others don’t. License is extended to the former and not the latter.
People ask me, “Why are you going on about Kinder Eggs? They’re not important. It’s more important that so-and-so is up two points in Iowa and three points in New Hampshire. That could be a real game changer.” To which I answer no, that’s not how it works. If they take the small freedoms away from you, whether it’s the freedom to eat Kinder Eggs or to enjoy a high pressure shower, you will lose all the larger freedoms, which is the world we’re in now.
I used to get occasional pushback when I’d talk about rights. “Rights are abstract things,” people would say—“they don’t have anything to do with our real lives.” Well, after the last year, we know they have everything to do with our real lives. When you’re told you can’t open your hair salon, when you’re told you can’t have family or friends over for dinner, when you’re told you must wear a mask in your own garden, there’s nothing abstract about it. This is where all the stupid Kinder Egg laws have been trending for years. And it’s why we need to push back.
I made a little joke earlier about studying transgenderism in grade school, but it’s not a laughing matter. Education is the biggest structural defect in our society. We have an almost entirely corrupt and abusive education establishment. And in one corner of Governor Whitmer’s Michigan, of all places, Hillsdale College stands against this. Hillsdale’s literature, I’ve noted through the years, talks a lot about the College’s 177 years of being rooted in the soil of Michigan. And this reminds me of the fact that if you do not have roots, you are not a functioning society. You can’t just be flotsam and jetsam, bobbing around on the currents of the age, wheresoever they tend. If you do that, you’re cut off from your roots.
This is what’s so frightening about the trends in education today. Cromwell told his portrait painter, “Paint me, warts and all.” That’s not what is happening in America, where the trend in education is to paint only America’s warts. So even the great Kate Smith, who sang “God Bless America” for years, is having her statue taken down because she made a racially insensitive record in 1931. Well you know who really had a racially insensitive record in 1931? The Democratic Party. But unlike Kate Smith’s statue, it’s still around.
President Macron of France is not my favorite chap—he’s a sinister globalist for one thing. But he made an admirable stand when he announced that not one French statue would be taken down and not a single French street name would be changed, because they are all part of French history. And “Bingo!” as Peter Navarro likes to say, the statue toppling and street-name changing in France went away. Why can’t American conservatives show that kind of strength? The Senate Minority Leader says he personally would not be bothered if the historical names of U.S. military bases are changed. The editor of National Review says that he wouldn’t be bothered about taking down Confederate statues. But of course it doesn’t stop there—now they’re going for all the statues. Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, McKinley, and on and on. The point conservatives need to grasp is, unless you’re prepared to surrender everything, don’t surrender anything.
I’ll end by pointing out that the Left wins because it seizes language. Take the policy of letting people vote who are not U.S. citizens and shouldn’t be voting. The Left calls this policy “counting every vote.” Therefore someone who wants to make sure voters are citizens is opposed to “counting every vote.” If we don’t take back the language, we will lose the truth. Even on FOX News, I have noticed, news anchors now talk about “gender assigned at birth,” as if that’s something different from one’s biological sex. There may be 57 genders, but there are only two biological sexes.
Don’t surrender the language. Reclaim the language. It’s the first step to recovering our civilization.’https://imprimis.hillsdale.edu/increasingly-unrecognizable-civilization/?utm_campaign=imprimis&utm_medium=email&_hsmi=130183578&_hsenc=p2ANqtz-9ZZmDTnzZEOaOkaf0gv6AaC6QZHMKQabhwaLKjCPAyRQPW3Dmys46dp_fIpp6T7e3svlgAT5EdQi6kNgXeHWYz0nJk6A&utm_content=130183578&utm_source=hs_email
The following is adapted from a lecture delivered at Hillsdale College on March 30, 2021.
‘Critical race theory is fast becoming America’s new institutional orthodoxy. Yet most Americans have never heard of it—and of those who have, many don’t understand it. It’s time for this to change. We need to know what it is so we can know how to fight it.
In explaining critical race theory, it helps to begin with a brief history of Marxism. Originally, the Marxist Left built its political program on the theory of class conflict. Marx believed that the primary characteristic of industrial societies was the imbalance of power between capitalists and workers. The solution to that imbalance, according to Marx, was revolution: the workers would eventually gain consciousness of their plight, seize the means of production, overthrow the capitalist class, and usher in a new socialist society.
During the 20th century, a number of regimes underwent Marxist-style revolutions, and each ended in disaster. Socialist governments in the Soviet Union, China, Cambodia, Cuba, and elsewhere racked up a body count of nearly 100 million of their own people. They are remembered for their gulags, show trials, executions, and mass starvations. In practice, Marx’s ideas unleashed man’s darkest brutalities.
By the mid-1960s, Marxist intellectuals in the West had begun to acknowledge these failures. They recoiled at revelations of Soviet atrocities and came to realize that workers’ revolutions would never occur in Western Europe or the United States, where there were large middle classes and rapidly improving standards of living. Americans in particular had never developed a sense of class consciousness or class division. Most Americans believed in the American dream—the idea that they could transcend their origins through education, hard work, and good citizenship.
But rather than abandon their Leftist political project, Marxist scholars in the West simply adapted their revolutionary theory to the social and racial unrest of the 1960s. Abandoning Marx’s economic dialectic of capitalists and workers, they substituted race for class and sought to create a revolutionary coalition of the dispossessed based on racial and ethnic categories.
Fortunately, the early proponents of this revolutionary coalition in the U.S. lost out in the 1960s to the civil rights movement, which sought instead the fulfillment of the American promise of freedom and equality under the law. Americans preferred the idea of improving their country to that of overthrowing it. The vision of Martin Luther King, Jr., President Johnson’s pursuit of the Great Society, and the restoration of law and order promised by President Nixon in his 1968 campaign defined the post-1960s American political consensus.
But the radical Left has proved resilient and enduring—which is where critical race theory comes in.
WHAT IT IS
Critical race theory is an academic discipline, formulated in the 1990s, built on the intellectual framework of identity-based Marxism. Relegated for many years to universities and obscure academic journals, over the past decade it has increasingly become the default ideology in our public institutions. It has been injected into government agencies, public school systems, teacher training programs, and corporate human resources departments in the form of diversity training programs, human resources modules, public policy frameworks, and school curricula.
There are a series of euphemisms deployed by its supporters to describe critical race theory, including “equity,” “social justice,” “diversity and inclusion,” and “culturally responsive teaching.” Critical race theorists, masters of language construction, realize that “neo-Marxism” would be a hard sell. Equity, on the other hand, sounds non-threatening and is easily confused with the American principle of equality. But the distinction is vast and important. Indeed, equality—the principle proclaimed in the Declaration of Independence, defended in the Civil War, and codified into law with the 14th and 15th Amendments, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Voting Rights Act of 1965—is explicitly rejected by critical race theorists. To them, equality represents “mere nondiscrimination” and provides “camouflage” for white supremacy, patriarchy, and oppression.
In contrast to equality, equity as defined and promoted by critical race theorists is little more than reformulated Marxism. In the name of equity, UCLA Law Professor and critical race theorist Cheryl Harris has proposed suspending private property rights, seizing land and wealth and redistributing them along racial lines. Critical race guru Ibram X. Kendi, who directs the Center for Antiracist Research at Boston University, has proposed the creation of a federal Department of Antiracism. This department would be independent of (i.e., unaccountable to) the elected branches of government, and would have the power to nullify, veto, or abolish any law at any level of government and curtail the speech of political leaders and others who are deemed insufficiently “antiracist.”
One practical result of the creation of such a department would be the overthrow of capitalism, since according to Kendi, “In order to truly be antiracist, you also have to truly be anti-capitalist.” In other words, identity is the means and Marxism is the end.
An equity-based form of government would mean the end not only of private property, but also of individual rights, equality under the law, federalism, and freedom of speech. These would be replaced by race-based redistribution of wealth, group-based rights, active discrimination, and omnipotent bureaucratic authority. Historically, the accusation of “anti-Americanism” has been overused. But in this case, it’s not a matter of interpretation—critical race theory prescribes a revolutionary program that would overturn the principles of the Declaration and destroy the remaining structure of the Constitution.
HOW IT WORKS
What does critical race theory look like in practice? Last year, I authored a series of reports focused on critical race theory in the federal government. The FBI was holding workshops on intersectionality theory. The Department of Homeland Security was telling white employees they were committing “microinequities” and had been “socialized into oppressor roles.” The Treasury Department held a training session telling staff members that “virtually all white people contribute to racism” and that they must convert “everyone in the federal government” to the ideology of “antiracism.” And the Sandia National Laboratories, which designs America’s nuclear arsenal, sent white male executives to a three-day reeducation camp, where they were told that “white male culture” was analogous to the “KKK,” “white supremacists,” and “mass killings.” The executives were then forced to renounce their “white male privilege” and write letters of apology to fictitious women and people of color.
This year, I produced another series of reports focused on critical race theory in education. In Cupertino, California, an elementary school forced first-graders to deconstruct their racial and sexual identities, and rank themselves according to their “power and privilege.” In Springfield, Missouri, a middle school forced teachers to locate themselves on an “oppression matrix,” based on the idea that straight, white, English-speaking, Christian males are members of the oppressor class and must atone for their privilege and “covert white supremacy.” In Philadelphia, an elementary school forced fifth-graders to celebrate “Black communism” and simulate a Black Power rally to free 1960s radical Angela Davis from prison, where she had once been held on charges of murder. And in Seattle, the school district told white teachers that they are guilty of “spirit murder” against black children and must “bankrupt [their] privilege in acknowledgement of [their] thieved inheritance.”
I’m just one investigative journalist, but I’ve developed a database of more than 1,000 of these stories. When I say that critical race theory is becoming the operating ideology of our public institutions, it is not an exaggeration—from the universities to bureaucracies to k-12 school systems, critical race theory has permeated the collective intelligence and decision-making process of American government, with no sign of slowing down.
This is a revolutionary change. When originally established, these government institutions were presented as neutral, technocratic, and oriented towards broadly-held perceptions of the public good. Today, under the increasing sway of critical race theory and related ideologies, they are being turned against the American people. This isn’t limited to the permanent bureaucracy in Washington, D.C., but is true as well of institutions in the states, even in red states, and it is spreading to county public health departments, small Midwestern school districts, and more. This ideology will not stop until it has devoured all of our institutions.
Thus far, attempts to halt the encroachment of critical race theory have been ineffective. There are a number of reasons for this.
First, too many Americans have developed an acute fear of speaking up about social and political issues, especially those involving race. According to a recent Gallup poll, 77 percent of conservatives are afraid to share their political beliefs publicly. Worried about getting mobbed on social media, fired from their jobs, or worse, they remain quiet, largely ceding the public debate to those pushing these anti-American ideologies. Consequently, the institutions themselves become monocultures: dogmatic, suspicious, and hostile to a diversity of opinion. Conservatives in both the federal government and public school systems have told me that their “equity and inclusion” departments serve as political offices, searching for and stamping out any dissent from the official orthodoxy.
Second, critical race theorists have constructed their argument like a mousetrap. Disagreement with their program becomes irrefutable evidence of a dissenter’s “white fragility,” “unconscious bias,” or “internalized white supremacy.” I’ve seen this projection of false consciousness on their opponents play out dozens of times in my reporting. Diversity trainers will make an outrageous claim—such as “all whites are intrinsically oppressors” or “white teachers are guilty of spirit murdering black children”—and then when confronted with disagreement, they adopt a patronizing tone and explain that participants who feel “defensiveness” or “anger” are reacting out of guilt and shame. Dissenters are instructed to remain silent, “lean into the discomfort,” and accept their “complicity in white supremacy.”
Third, Americans across the political spectrum have failed to separate the premise of critical race theory from its conclusion. Its premise—that American history includes slavery and other injustices, and that we should examine and learn from that history—is undeniable. But its revolutionary conclusion—that America was founded on and defined by racism and that our founding principles, our Constitution, and our way of life should be overthrown—does not rightly, much less necessarily, follow.
Fourth and finally, the writers and activists who have had the courage to speak out against critical race theory have tended to address it on the theoretical level, pointing out the theory’s logical contradictions and dishonest account of history. These criticisms are worthy and good, but they move the debate into the academic realm, which is friendly terrain for proponents of critical race theory. They fail to force defenders of this revolutionary ideology to defend the practical consequences of their ideas in the realm of politics.
No longer simply an academic matter, critical race theory has become a tool of political power. To borrow a phrase from the Marxist theoretician Antonio Gramsci, it is fast achieving “cultural hegemony” in America’s public institutions. More and more, it is driving the vast machinery of the state and society. If we want to succeed in opposing it, we must address it politically at every level.
Critical race theorists must be confronted with and forced to speak to the facts. Do they support public schools separating first-graders into groups of “oppressors” and “oppressed”? Do they support mandatory curricula teaching that “all white people play a part in perpetuating systemic racism”? Do they support public schools instructing white parents to become “white traitors” and advocate for “white abolition”? Do they want those who work in government to be required to undergo this kind of reeducation? How about managers and workers in corporate America? How about the men and women in our military? How about every one of us?
There are three parts to a successful strategy to defeat the forces of critical race theory: governmental action, grassroots mobilization, and an appeal to principle.
We already see examples of governmental action. Last year, one of my reports led President Trump to issue an executive order banning critical race theory-based training programs in the federal government. President Biden rescinded this order on his first day in office, but it provides a model for governors and municipal leaders to follow. This year, several state legislatures have introduced bills to achieve the same goal: preventing public institutions from conducting programs that stereotype, scapegoat, or demean people on the basis of race. And I have organized a coalition of attorneys to file lawsuits against schools and government agencies that impose critical race theory-based programs on grounds of the First Amendment (which protects citizens from compelled speech), the Fourteenth Amendment (which provides equal protection under the law), and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (which prohibits public institutions from discriminating on the basis of race).
On the grassroots level, a multiracial and bipartisan coalition is emerging to do battle against critical race theory. Parents are mobilizing against racially divisive curricula in public schools and employees are increasingly speaking out against Orwellian reeducation in the workplace. When they see what is happening, Americans are naturally outraged that critical race theory promotes three ideas—race essentialism, collective guilt, and neo-segregation—which violate the basic principles of equality and justice. Anecdotally, many Chinese-Americans have told me that having survived the Cultural Revolution in their former country, they refuse to let the same thing happen here.
In terms of principles, we need to employ our own moral language rather than allow ourselves to be confined by the categories of critical race theory. For example, we often find ourselves debating “diversity.” Diversity as most of us understand it is generally good, all things being equal, but it is of secondary value. We should be talking about and aiming at excellence, a common standard that challenges people of all backgrounds to achieve their potential. On the scale of desirable ends, excellence beats diversity every time.
Similarly, in addition to pointing out the dishonesty of the historical narrative on which critical race theory is predicated, we must promote the true story of America—a story that is honest about injustices in American history, but that places them in the context of our nation’s high ideals and the progress we have made towards realizing them. Genuine American history is rich with stories of achievements and sacrifices that will move the hearts of Americans—in stark contrast to the grim and pessimistic narrative pressed by critical race theorists.
Above all, we must have courage—the fundamental virtue required in our time. Courage to stand and speak the truth. Courage to withstand epithets. Courage to face the mob. Courage to shrug off the scorn of the elites. When enough of us overcome the fear that currently prevents so many from speaking out, the hold of critical race theory will begin to slip. And courage begets courage. It’s easy to stop a lone dissenter; it’s much harder to stop 10, 20, 100, 1,000, 1,000,000, or more who stand up together for the principles of America.
Truth and justice are on our side. If we can muster the courage, we will win.’https://imprimis.hillsdale.edu/critical-race-theory-fight/?utm_campaign=imprimis&utm_medium=email&_hsmi=121792381&_hsenc=p2ANqtz-9MbG_CCSTOxYtkWZIAJ6rPkKi91EAgHQcSl9wvcQk7Duk9NL0XocHqKLjJPQq52cC63XkDVbJoesoZn8_BAitcX85Vog&utm_content=121790319&utm_source=hs_email
I wonder if the cultural sensitive checkers at Twitter will allow this article through? We’ll see. The following article is adapted from a speech delivered February 18, 2021, at a Hillsdale College National Leadership Seminar in Phoenix, Arizona.
‘The COVID pandemic has been a tragedy, no doubt. But it has exposed profound issues in America that threaten the principles of freedom and order that we Americans often take for granted.
First, I have been shocked at the unprecedented exertion of power by the government since last March—issuing unilateral decrees, ordering the closure of businesses, churches, and schools, restricting personal movement, mandating behavior, and suspending indefinitely basic freedoms. Second, I was and remain stunned—almost frightened—at the acquiescence of the American people to such destructive, arbitrary, and wholly unscientific rules, restrictions, and mandates.
The pandemic also brought to the forefront things we have known existed and have tolerated for years: media bias, the decline of academic freedom on campuses, the heavy hand of Big Tech, and—now more obviously than ever—the politicization of science. Ultimately, the freedom of Americans to seek and state what they believe to be the truth is at risk.
Let me say at the outset that I, like all of us, acknowledge that the consequences of the COVID pandemic and its management have been enormous. Over 500,000 American deaths have been attributed to the virus; more will follow. Even after almost a year, the pandemic still paralyzes our country. And despite all efforts, there has been an undeniable failure to stop cases from escalating and to prevent hospitalizations and deaths.
But there is also an unacknowledged reality: almost every state and major city in the U.S., with a handful of exceptions, have implemented severe restrictions for many months, including closures of businesses and in-person schools, mobility restrictions and curfews, quarantines, limits on group gatherings, and mask mandates dating back to at least last summer. And despite any myths to the contrary, social mobility tracking of Americans and data from Gallup, YouGov, the COVID-19 Consortium, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have all shown significant reductions of movement as well as a consistently high percentage of mask-wearing since the late summer, similar to the extent seen in Western Europe and approaching the extent seen in Asia.
With what results?
All legitimate policy scholars today should be reexamining the policies that have severely harmed America’s children and families, while failing to save the elderly. Numerous studies, including one from Stanford University’s infectious disease scientists and epidemiologists Benavid, Oh, Bhattacharya, and Ioannides have shown that the mitigating impact of the extraordinary measures used in almost every state was small at best—and usually harmful. President Biden himself openly admitted the lack of efficacy of these measures in his January 22 speech to the nation: “There is nothing we can do,” he said, “to change the trajectory of the pandemic in the next several months.”
Bizarrely, though, many want to blame those who opposed lockdowns and mandates for the failure of the very lockdowns and mandates that were widely implemented.
Besides their limited value in containing the virus, lockdown policies have been extraordinarily harmful. The harms to children of suspending in-person schooling are dramatic, including poor learning, school dropouts, social isolation, and suicidal ideation, most of which are far worse for lower income groups. A recent study confirms that up to 78 percent of cancers were never detected due to missed screening over a three-month period. If one extrapolates to the entire country, 750,000 to over a million new cancer cases over a nine-month period will have gone undetected. That health disaster adds to missed critical surgeries, delayed presentations of pediatric illnesses, heart attack and stroke patients too afraid to go to the hospital, and others—all well documented.
Beyond hospital care, the CDC reported four-fold increases in depression, three-fold increases in anxiety symptoms, and a doubling of suicidal ideation, particularly among young adults after the first few months of lockdowns, echoing American Medical Association reports of drug overdoses and suicides. Domestic and child abuse have been skyrocketing due to the isolation and loss of jobs. Given that many schools have been closed, hundreds of thousands of abuse cases have gone unreported, since schools are commonly where abuse is noticed. Finally, the unemployment shock from lockdowns, according to a recent National Bureau of Economic Research study, will generate a three percent increase in the mortality rate and a 0.5 percent drop in life expectancy over the next 15 years, disproportionately affecting African-Americans and women. That translates into what the study refers to as a “staggering” 890,000 additional U.S. deaths.
We know we have not yet seen the full extent of the damage from the lockdowns, because the effects will continue to be felt for decades. Perhaps that is why lockdowns were not recommended in previous pandemic response analyses, even for diseases with far higher death rates.
To determine the best path forward, shouldn’t policymakers objectively consider the impact both of the virus and of anti-virus policies to date? This points to the importance of health policy, my own particular field, which requires a broader scope than that of epidemiologists and basic scientists. In the case of COVID, it requires taking into account the fact that lockdowns and other significant restrictions on individuals have been extraordinarily harmful—even deadly—especially for the working class and the poor.
Optimistically, we should be seeing the light at the end of the long tunnel with the rollout of vaccines, now being administered at a rate of one million to 1.5 million per day. On the other hand, using logic that would appeal to Lewis Carroll’s Mad Hatter, in many states the vaccines were initially administered more frequently to healthier and younger people than to those at greatest risk from the virus. The argument was made that children should be among the first to be vaccinated, although children are at extremely low risk from the virus and are proven not to be significant spreaders to adults. Likewise, we heard the Kafka-esque idea promoted that teachers must be vaccinated before teaching in person, when schools are one of the lowest risk environments and the vast majority of teachers are not high risk.
Worse, we hear so-called experts on TV warning that social distancing, masks, and other restrictions will still be necessary after people are vaccinated! All indications are that those in power have no intention of allowing Americans to live normally—which for Americans means to live freely—again.
And sadly, just as in Galileo’s time, the root of our problem lies in “the experts” and vested academic interests. At many universities—which are supposed to be America’s centers for critical thinking—those with views contrary to those of “the experts” currently in power find themselves intimidated. Many have become afraid to speak up.
But the suppression of academic freedom is not the extent of the problem on America’s campuses.
To take Stanford, where I work, as an example, some professors have resorted to toxic smears in opinion pieces and organized rebukes aimed at those of us who criticized the failed health policies of the past year and who dared to serve our country under a president they despised—the latter apparently being the ultimate transgression.
Defamatory attacks with malicious intent based on straw-man arguments and out-of-context distortions are not acceptable in American society, let alone in our universities. There has been an attempt to intimidate and discredit me using falsifications and misrepresentations. This violates Stanford’s Code of Conduct, damages the Stanford name, and abuses the trust that parents and society place in educators.
It is understandable that most Stanford professors are not experts in the field of health policy and are ignorant of the data about the COVID pandemic. But that does not excuse the fact that some called recommendations that I made “falsehoods and misrepresentations of science.” That was a lie, and no matter how often lies are repeated by politically-driven accusers, and regardless of how often those lies are echoed in biased media, lies will never be true.
We all must pray to God that the infamous claim attributed to Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels—“A lie told once remains a lie, but a lie told a thousand times becomes the truth”—never becomes operative in the United States of America.
All of the policies I recommended to President Trump were designed to reduce both the spread of the virus to the most vulnerable and the economic, health, and social harms of anti-COVID policies for those impacted the most—small businesses, the working class, and the poor. I was one of the first to push for increasing protections for those most at risk, particularly the elderly. At the same time, almost a year ago, I recognized that we must also consider the enormous harms to physical and mental health, as well as the deaths attributable to the draconian policies implemented to contain the infection. That is the goal of public health policy—to minimize all harms, not simply to stop a virus at all costs.
The claim in a recent Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) opinion piece by three Stanford professors that “nearly all public health experts were concerned that [Scott Atlas’s] recommendations could lead to tens of thousands (or more) of unnecessary deaths in the U.S. alone” is patently false and absurd on its face. As pointed out by Dr. Joel Zinberg in National Review, the Great Barrington Declaration—a proposal co-authored by medical scientists and epidemiologists from Stanford, Harvard, and Oxford—“is closer to the one condemned in the JAMA article than anything Atlas said.” Yet the Great Barrington Declaration has already been signed by over 50,000 medical and public health practitioners.
When critics display such ignorance about the scope of views held by experts, it exposes their bias and disqualifies their authority on these issues. Indeed, it is almost beyond parody that these same critics wrote that “professionalism demands honesty about what [experts] know and do not know.”
I have explained the fact that younger people have little risk from this infection, and I have explained the biological fact of herd immunity—just like Harvard epidemiologist Katherine Yih did. That is very different from proposing that people be deliberately exposed and infected—which I have never suggested, although I have been accused of doing so.
I have also been accused of “argu[ing] that many public health orders aimed at increasing social distancing could be forgone without ill effects.” To the contrary, I have repeatedly called for mitigation measures, including extra sanitization, social distancing, masks, group limits, testing, and other increased protections to limit the spread and damage from the coronavirus. I explicitly called for augmenting protection of those at risk—in dozens of on-the-record presentations, interviews, and written pieces.
My accusers have ignored my explicit, emphatic public denials about supporting the spread of the infection unchecked to achieve herd immunity—denials quoted widely in the media. Perhaps this is because my views are not the real object of their criticism. Perhaps it is because their true motive is to “cancel” anyone who accepted the call to serve America in the Trump administration.
For many months, I have been vilified after calling for opening in-person schools—in line with Harvard Professors Martin Kulldorf and Katherine Yih and Stanford Professor Jay Bhattacharya—but my policy recommendation has been corroborated repeatedly by the literature. The compelling case to open schools is now admitted even in publications like The Atlantic, which has noted: “Research from around the world has, since the beginning of the pandemic, indicated that people under 18, and especially younger kids, are less susceptible to infection, less likely to experience severe symptoms, and far less likely to be hospitalized or die.” The subhead of the article was even clearer: “We’ve known for months that young children are less susceptible to serious infection and less likely to transmit the coronavirus.”
When the JAMA accusers wrote that I “disputed the need for masks,” they misrepresented my words. My advice on mask usage has been consistent: “Wear a mask when you cannot socially distance.” At the time, this matched the published recommendations of the World Health Organization (WHO). This past December, the WHO modified its recommendation: “In areas where the virus is circulating, masks should be worn when you’re in crowded settings, where you can’t be at least one meter [roughly three feet] from others, and in rooms with poor or unknown ventilation”—in other words, not at all times by everyone. This also matches the recommendation of the National Institutes of Health document Prevention and Prophylaxis of SARS-CoV-2 Infection: “When consistent distancing is not possible, face coverings may further reduce the spread of infectious droplets from individuals with SARS-CoV-2 infection to others.”
Regarding universal masks, 38 states have implemented mask mandates, most of them since at least the summer, with almost all the rest having mandates in their major cities. Widespread, general population mask usage has shown little empirical utility in terms of preventing cases, even though citing or describing evidence against their utility has been censored. Denmark also performed a randomized controlled study that showed that widespread mask usage had only minimal impact.
This is the reality: those who insist that universal mask usage has absolutely proven effective at controlling the spread of the COVID virus and is universally recommended according to “the science” are deliberately ignoring the evidence to the contrary. It is they who are propagating false and misleading information.
Those who say it is unethical, even dangerous, to question broad population mask mandates must also explain why many top infectious disease scientists and public health organizations question the efficacy of general population masking. Tom Jefferson and Carl Heneghan of the University of Oxford’s Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine, for instance, wrote that “despite two decades of pandemic preparedness, there is considerable uncertainty as to the value of wearing masks.” Oxford epidemiologist Sunetra Gupta says there is no need for masks unless one is elderly or high risk. Stanford’s Jay Bhattacharya has said that “mask mandates are not supported by the scientific data. . . . There is no scientific evidence that mask mandates work to slow the spread of the disease.”
Throughout this pandemic, the WHO’s “Advice on the use of masks in the context of COVID-19” has included the following statement: “At present, there is no direct evidence (from studies on COVID-19 and in healthy people in the community) on the effectiveness of universal masking of healthy people in the community to prevent infection with respiratory viruses, including COVID-19.” The CDC, in a review of influenza pandemics in May 2020, “did not find evidence that surgical-type face masks are effective in reducing laboratory-confirmed influenza transmission, either when worn by infected persons (source control) or by persons in the general community to reduce their susceptibility.” And until the WHO removed it on October 21, 2020—soon after Twitter censored a tweet of mine highlighting the quote—the WHO had published the fact that “the widespread use of masks by healthy people in the community setting is not yet supported by high quality or direct scientific evidence and there are potential benefits and harms to consider.”
My advice on masks all along has been based on scientific data and matched the advice of many of the top scientists and public health organizations throughout the world.
At this point, one could make a reasonable case that those who continue to push societal restrictions without acknowledging their failures and the serious harms they caused are themselves putting forth dangerous misinformation. Despite that, I will not call for their official rebuke or punishment. I will not try to cancel them. I will not try to extinguish their opinions. And I will not lie to distort their words and defame them. To do so would repeat the shameful stifling of discourse that is critical to educating the public and arriving at the scientific truths we desperately need.
If this shameful behavior continues, university mottos like Harvard’s “Truth,” Stanford’s “The Winds of Freedom Blow,” and Yale’s “Light and Truth” will need major revision.
Big Tech has piled on with its own heavy hand to help eliminate discussion of conflicting evidence. Without permitting open debate and admission of errors, we might never be able to respond effectively to any future crisis. Indeed, open debate should be more than permitted—it should be encouraged.
As a health policy scholar for over 15 years and as a professor at elite universities for 30 years, I am shocked and dismayed that so many faculty members at these universities are now dangerously intolerant of opinions contrary to their favored narrative. Some even go further, distorting and misrepresenting words to delegitimize and even punish those of us willing to serve the country in the administration of a president they loathe. It is their own behavior, to quote the Stanford professors who have attacked me, that “violates the core values of [Stanford] faculty and the expectations under the Stanford Code of Conduct, which states that we all ‘are responsible for sustaining the high ethical standards of this institution.’” In addition to violating standards of ethical behavior among colleagues, this behavior falls short of simple human decency.
If academic leaders fail to renounce such unethical conduct, increasing numbers of academics will be unwilling to serve their country in contentious times. As educators, as parents, as fellow citizens, that would be the worst possible legacy to leave to our children.
I also fear that the idea of science as a search for truth—a search utilizing the empirical scientific method—has been seriously damaged. Even the world’s leading scientific journals—The Lancet, New England Journal of Medicine, Science, and Nature—have been contaminated by politics. What is more concerning, many in the public and in the scientific community have become fatigued by the arguments—and fatigue will allow fallacy to triumph over truth.
With social media acting as the arbiter of allowable discussion, and with continued censorship and cancellation of those with views challenging the “accepted narrative,” the United States is on the verge of losing its cherished freedoms. It is not at all clear whether our democratic republic will survive—but it is clear it will not survive unless more people begin to step up in defense of freedom of thought and speech.’https://imprimis.hillsdale.edu/science-politics-covid-will-truth-prevail/?utm_campaign=imprimis&utm_medium=email&_hsmi=114208080&_hsenc=p2ANqtz-8b21bXCTHXX_sitz0PMuLe9UZa-xdmIpT-My9tfEISmSG6Ok97wfw58KVv91JNgBjVt5QNzNL77omnMfWudL4duf5qOg&utm_content=114197923&utm_source=hs_email
‘William Happer Professor of Physics Emeritus, Princeton University This speech was given at a Hillsdale College National Leadership Seminar on February 19, 2021, in Phoenix, Arizona.’ https://www.hillsdale.edu/
The following video is from Hillsdale College which receives no government funding and therefore is FREE to speak the truth!
The fact is that the Left does not want unity but they desire full control! This email was received this morning from Dr. Arnn, President of Hillsdale College. What he has to say is well worth your reading as the next four years will be unprecedented.
‘I was proud last year to accept President Trump’s appointment to chair the President’s Advisory 1776 Commission. Also appointed to the Commission was Victor Davis Hanson, the Wayne and Marcia Buske Distinguished Fellow in History here at Hillsdale. Matthew Spalding, dean of our Van Andel Graduate School of Government in Washington, D.C., served as the Commission’s executive director.
The Commission issued its 1776 Report this past Monday. The report calls for a return to the unifying principles stated in the Declaration of Independence. It quotes the greatest Americans, black and white, men and women, in devotion to these principles. It acknowledges the many ways we have fallen short of them even as it celebrates, following Abraham Lincoln, the influence for good that they exercised to the benefit of all. It acknowledges the way we fall short of them today and argues that it is only by returning to them that our current evils can be corrected. It calls for a civics education that fosters reverence for these principles, beginning with an accurate and honest teaching of American history. It is not a partisan document.
The Wall Street Journal, the New York Post, and other publications have made positive note of the report. The New York Times, the Washington Post, and other mainstream media organizations condemned the report, almost entirely for things it does not say. On Wednesday, the 1776 Commission was abolished by one of President Biden’s first executive orders.’
Abolishing the 1776 Commission means something and that something is not good. Here’s the web site where the Report may be read and downloaded https://info.hillsdale.edu/1776-commission?utm_campaign=landofhope&utm_medium=email&_hsmi=107566815&_hsenc=p2ANqtz-9WOoyLuTiQZKOSEl_9WG6t7TMRtHm5ZmRzOJxnsEg38BZ188btr8QoUIbgXA-5ZLiNYPHauQMM5jf0J-fA7pkJ_eo01Q&utm_content=107566815&utm_source=hs_email
Please share far and wide so that more people will know the truth of the real America.