It has been more than a year since Madonna proclaimed at the first Women’s March in Washington, D.C. that “Yes, I have thought an awful lot about blowing up the White House. But I know that won’t change anything.”
Her rant that day may not have changed anything, but it certainly spread like wildfire on the national news networks as the opening shot of women’s all-out war on Trump.
But what is this war really about? Is it mostly about a woman’s right to choose? Since the March planners refused to allow pro-life women to participate, one might think so. Yet, until very recently, neither President Trump nor the Republican Party has taken any official side on the abortion issue. More likely, this war is really about identity politics and what Columbia University Professor Mark Lilla has called “The Liberal Crackup.”
Lilla traces the origins of identity politics to a slogan of the feminist movement during the 1960s: The personal is the political.
“Originally,” Lilla observes, “it was interpreted to mean that everything that seems strictly private—sexuality, the family, the workplace—is in fact political and that there are no spheres of life exempt from the struggle for power…. But the phrase could also be taken in a more romantic sense: that what we think of as political action is in fact nothing but personal activity, an expression of me and how I define myself. As we would put it today, my political life is a reflection of my identity.”
Certainly, this “romantic” definition fits Madonna’s rant. She was not really planning to “blow up the White House;” she merely wanted to re-afffirm her already well-established public identity as a femme fatale. Given the circumstances, it wouldn’t have surprised anyone if she had followed her threat at the Women’s March by breaking into a soaring rendition of “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina.”
Such egocentrism, Lilla explains, “was an innovation on the left. Socialism had no time for individual recognition.” It was in the 1970s, Lilla notes, when “less radical liberal and progressive activists also began redirecting their energies away from party politics and toward a wide range of single-issue social movements.”
This, then, is what Lilla apparently considers a primary cause of “The Liberal Crackup.” As he concludes in his final paragraph, “The politics of identity has done nothing but strengthen the grip of the American right on our institutions. It is the gift that keeps on taking. Now is the time for liberals to do an immediate about-face and return to articulating their core principles of solidarity and equal protection for all.”
Sadly, the time for such an about-face is way too late. Writing in the November 2017 issue of IMPRIMIS, a publication of Hillsdale College, Matthew Continnetti has cited some of the most egregious liberal-left attacks on traditional American values:
* At the Democratic National Convention in 2012, a majority of delegtates opposed any reference to God in their party platform
* In 2014, the Affordable Care Act forced the Little Sisters of the Poor to provide contraceptive coverage for their employees under a mandate that violated the free exercise of religion.
* In 2015, an Oregon judge fined a small Christian bakery $135,000 for refusing to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding.
* By March of 2017, Democrat legislative majorities in19 states and the District of Columbia had passed anti-discrimination laws that let transgenders use public facilities corresponding to their gender “identity” instead of their gender at birth.
Perhaps even more significant have been the ubiquity of Facebook and the smartphone-induced epidemic of “selfies”—technological innovations that have launched our nation on what may be an irreversible path to “special interest” balkanization.
In her Jan. 12 Wall Street Journal article on when parents should give children smartphones, Betsy Morris stresses that the goal of Facebook and Google “is to create or host captivating experiences that keep users glued to their screens, whether for Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat or Facebook.”
“A child,” she adds, “can understand the business model: The more screen time, the more revenue.”
Morris cites three recent studies that reveal “Nearly 75 percent of teenagers had access to smartphones,…unlocking the devices about 95 times a day” and spending “close to nine hours a day tethered to screens large and small outside of school.”
As a result, Morris warns, “When to allow children a smartphone has become…as significant as when to hand over the car keys.”
Morris drills deeper into this parental “dilemma” by focusing on several specific case studies of individual parents in such major cities as Austin, Texas; Palo Alto and San Francisco; and Syracuse, N.Y. Like any good investigative journalist, however, Morris avoids passing judgment on any of these parents and makes a point of listing several smartphone features parents find beneficial, such as the following:
1. “Many parents are thrilled with the benefits technology delivers for their children. Programs and games teach arithmetic, foreign languages and logic. Online books are nearly limitless.
2. “Smartphones offer children greater independence, with apps that allow parents to locate them instantly. They also make it easy to keep parents at bay.
3. “Children set up Instagram accounts under pseudonyms that friends but not parents recognize. Some teens keep several of these so-called Finsta accounts without their parents knowing.”
Items 2 and 3 are not really beneficial, though, for they limit parental monitoring and encourage childhood deception. This only further isolates children from their parents. In another Wall Street Journal report titled “Zuckerberg’s Dilemma: When Facebook’s Success Is Bad for Society,” Christopher Mims has taken a closer look at these features.
According to a survey conducted in early 2017 by the U.K.-based Royal Society for Public Health, Mims notes, “all but one [social media] service had a negative effect on mental health. Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and the Facebook-owned Instagram all pushed survey participants to contrast their lives with others, a phenomenon known as social comparison.”
Another negative side-effect of Snapchat and Instagram is “fear of missing out,” or FOMO. This occurs when someone sees photos of “a missed social event on social media, which leads to both diminished enjoyment of one’s current experience and greater expected enjoyment of the missed experience.” In other words, FOMO is another symptom of the self-inflicted loneliness associated with addiction to social media.
Since time immemorial, the family has been the most basic unit of human society. Open and trusting communications among family members is the seed-bed of a thriving culture and the essential catalyst of every advanced civilization. But what happens when highly sophisticated artificial intelligence systems and hidden algorithms are introduced into the seed-bed by authoritarian corporate entities like Apple, Google and Facebook. In this environment individual identity and freedom of expression—even independent thought—are obliterated.
In the meantime, the college professoriate continues to make students “obsessed with their personal identities” so that civil discourse no longer has meaning. As Wall Street Journal columnist Steve Salerno observes, “Civility, you see, is a manifestation of the white patriarchy. Spearheading this campaign are a duo of University of Northern Iowa professors, who assert that “civility within higher education is a racialized, rather than universal, norm….their core contention is twofold: One, that civility, as currently practiced in America, is a white construct. Two, that in a campus setting, the ‘woke’ white student’s endeavor to avoid microaggressions against black peers is itself a microaggression…”
Since Salerno’s article was first published on Jan. 2, almost 2,000 comments have been posted to the online version. Perhaps the most succinct comment was one posted by Sarah Clinton on Jan. 8: “Dam*ed if you do and dam*ed if you don’t.”
Bruce Robinson is a writer and former Benicia resident. A longer version of this article was previously published on The American Thinker.