On the 27th of August, 2018, The New York Times published a review of two books, “The Splintering of the American Mind” (William Eggington) and “The Coddling of the American Mind” (Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt). Both books are concerned with threats to our democratic institutions from cultural and educational forces that have left citizens incapable of real and meaningful democratic participation due to a modern ignorance of liberal tradition (per Eggington) and/or to a fundamental insecurity about our own abilities (leading, ultimately to an emergent inability) to cope with basic human differences (per Lukianoff and Haidt).
The reviewer (Thomas Chatterton Williams) was generally sympathetic to the books’ premises, as am I, and many of the online comments on the review indicated a similar sympathy (there were, of course, skeptics — as there should be — and, this being The NYT, one person who took exception, despite agreeing that “they make reasonable observations,” to the fact that the books were written by yet more “white men” rather than by “…white women, or even better women of color…”).
And, of course (this being The NYT), there was a share of finger shaking about how it is all the Trumpians’ fault. One such, by a poster identified as “GMB”, objected to “The tens of millions of adults who obtain all of their understanding of the world from Fox News and other right-wing sources, who denounce anyone who disagrees with them as un-American and treasonous, and who now control nearly every element of our government and society.”
I don’t wholly disagree with his lament about ignorance, and I am wholly on-board with his condemnation of the scorched-earth partisanship that dominates our political discussions these days. However, I took exception to his assertion — seemingly shared by many on the left and a large part of the reason for its aura of panic about pretty much everything — that the “right wing” even comes close to controlling “nearly every element of our government and society.” I posted my own comment in response. I reproduce that here with, I admit, some ex post facto additions to my list of things that they don’t control (additions highlighted with italics) that occurred to me upon reflection and not in the heat of the original inspiration.
27 August 2018
I don’t like the current administration and its boosters any more than you do, but really? In what country are you living where they control “nearly every element of our government and society?” Leave aside that control of Congress may well change in the next election, now only months away. And leave aside that the vast majority of civil servants who actually implement government policy undoubtedly despise their current bosses and probably undermine their edicts in a thousand picayune ways when they can.
But the right wing controls the major media? Academia? Hollywood? Publishing? Music? The visual arts? The government of New York state? Of California? Of major cities like New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, Boston, Seattle?
It seems to me — and much to their obvious chagrin — that there are vast swaths of society — and even significant portions of government — over which they exercise very little control at all…
© Copyright 2018, Augustus P. Lowell