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The Big Lie

There’s been a lot of talk lately about the “Big Lie”—you know, Donald Trump’s rant that his re-election was “stolen” and that he actually won by a “landslide.” He was wrong, but the election did reveal some truths, a legacy we must begin to take more seriously. 

Specifically, the dark side of hyperbole. Words used immoderately. Loaded language designed to explode rather than explain. At some point, they become a numbing refrain.

Words are anything but harmless. There are always consequences to choosing them. The stakes can be high—even lethal. A figure of speech is easily weaponized. 

For instance, a peaceful march can be one word away from morphing into violence. Many of the January 6th rioters repeated that the election had been “stolen.” A fateful word provoked an unspeakable act of breaking and entering the Capitol.

Everywhere one looks there are words better left unsaid. Elected officials recite talking points even though they have no idea what they are talking about. Children come home from college and mimic their professors with statements that prove how high SAT scores are no inoculant against stupidity.

If the election taught us anything, it’s that words matter. There is grave danger in sweeping labels applied to very deep-seated domestic or global problems. 

Meanwhile, “Big Lies” proliferate around us.

Seemingly out of nowhere, the proponents of Critical Race Theory hijacked the books our children read and the ideas that fill their heads. Words like “racist” and “white supremacy” are fast becoming the bread and butter of our educational system—indeed, in some cases, the only items on the menu. The innocence of childhood is now forever subject to racial composition. 

In the broader culture, the charge of “racism” is all too common to defend against. No white person is allowed a passing grade in Woke 101. “White privilege” is an indelible sign of depravity. Many low-income, marginalized white people don’t feel privileged in the least, but their skin disqualifies them from raising an objection.

White bread is no longer just a metaphor for Caucasian blandness. It suggests something more sinister than gluten.

“Cancellation” is being employed by employers who have no causal reason to fire anyone. Twitter apparently has carte blanche over human resource departments. All employees who are white are presumed to have served in the Confederacy.

The purveyors of Big Lies know exactly what they are doing. They are disguising a lie as an idea, peddling a slander, fabricating a prejudice through repetition. They correctly surmise that no one will know the difference.

Whether innocuous or accusatory, language is now supercharged. And often misapplied. An entire vocabulary can be adopted to spread confusion, especially among the uninformed, which constitutes nearly everyone. 

The purveyors of Big Lies know exactly what they are doing. They are disguising a lie as an idea, peddling a slander, fabricating a prejudice through repetition. They correctly surmise that no one will know the difference. Who is going to take the time to check? The duplicitous always depend on libels. It’s the match that inflames mobs. 

Big lies can overwhelm a small country. Israel is an excellent example of a gaslight gone global. The language often used to describe the Jewish state bears virtually no relationship to the truth. But they are widely believed.

Hamas specializes in giving Israel a target densely populated with civilians.

The country is very much in the news given yet another deja vu war against terrorists hell-bent on its destruction. A war in Gaza is in its second week—the fourth war against Hamas since 2005. As is true with all warfare, there are human casualties. But the battles Israel is forced to fight are unique among nations. They are known as asymmetrical, Fourth Generation warfare. And they demand agonizing moral choices. 

Israel does not meet an opposing army wearing uniforms in an open battlefield. Hamas terrorists are indistinguishable from ordinary Gazans, intentionally so. Hamas specializes in giving Israel a target densely populated with civilians, knowing that the IDF won’t miss. They launch thousands of rockets from schools and hospitals, indiscriminately fired at Israeli civilians. Civilian casualties are Hamas’ war strategy. Why else would they establish command centers in apartments with children on their laps? 

Using children as human shields doesn’t quite describe it. The children don’t actually shield anything. They are the main event in an endgame of death. Arouse the sympathy of nations; cause revulsion among the press. Gazans set new lows in unfit parenting, but they have a keen sense of what the world will find unbearable.

So rockets explode prematurely over Tel Aviv all thanks to an Iron Dome that works better than the hand of God. Buildings storing Hamas operatives and weapons, along with underground terror tunnels, collapse from Israeli airstrikes. The casualty count is “disproportionate,” but how could it not be? One side is preternaturally homicidal, declaring victory with each loss of life. They erect tunnels to warehouse weapons rather than shelter their citizens. That’s because their citizens are weapons. “Ceasefires” don’t serve their interests, because they disrupt a war strategy that profits from rubble. 

Hamas rockets, 3,000 launched toward Israel so far in this campaign, mostly miss their mark or are intercepted by Iron Dome. But their intended destination is clear. These are not warning shots. Hamas wants its rockets to strike Jews—men, women and children—no matter where they live. For Israel, civilian Palestinian death is accidental; for Hamas, it’s existential.

Hamas’ methods renders one speechless, so Israel must fight on.

Must Israel allow Hamas’ rockets to land? Should they instruct Israelis not to hide in bomb shelters in order to make this a fair fight? No moral principle, or rule of engagement, supports such lunacy. Everyone seems to have an opinion about what Israel can’t do in retaliation for the tens of thousands of rockets fired at them since 2006. When it comes to dispensing advice on what they can do . . . silence. 

Hamas’ methods renders one speechless, so Israel must fight on. 

In the United States Congress, two Muslim elected officials, Representatives Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib, have referred to Israeli airstrikes in this recent battle as “acts of terrorism” by an “apartheid regime” that is guilty of “ethnic cleansing.” Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez seconded the “apartheid state” charge. Several years ago she referred to Israel’s defense against Gazans trying to breach its border fence as a “massacre.” 

Where to begin? That’s a lot of libel to rebut.

Most people can’t find Israel on a map even if you spot them a hemisphere and a longitude. Yet for decades anti-Zionists (See: Jew-Haters) described Israel as both a “settler-colonial enterprise” and “regional superpower.” Surely a nation with such imperial might should have a landmass more in common with Canada than New Jersey.

But it doesn’t. There are 22 colossal but failed Arab states and one phenomenally successful but tiny Jewish one. Attaching “settler” or “colonial” to the Jewish state somehow ignores the history of the Jewish people. According to the Old Testament, Jews and their patriarchs lived on the land of what is today Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza. Jerusalem is mentioned 677 times in the Bible.

If Jerusalem is so important to Islam, how did it manage to get left out of its holy book?

Guess how many times Jerusalem is mentioned in the Koran, where the Dome of the Rock is located, where last week’s skirmishes with Israeli police occurred outside the Al-Aqsa Mosque, presumably the third holiest site in Islam. Seriously, take a guess. 

The answer: not once.

If Jerusalem is so important to Islam, how did it manage to get left out of its holy book? And if Jews are so alien to Jerusalem, so much so that UNESCO disgracefully ruled in 2016 that they have no historic connection to the Temple Mount, why is the Old Testament a testament to Jewish life in Judea? 

How about the “Occupation”? Now there’s an often stated word that blurs core facts and guarantees that Israel’s conflict with the Palestinians will be widely misunderstood. 

First, as for Gaza, not a single Jew or Israeli lives there. Not one. Israel withdrew in 2005, uprooting its own citizens despite deep ties to that ancestral land. 

How does one occupy an area by living somewhere else? 

Even Egypt realizes that Hamas can’t be trusted to build anything other than bombs.

Gaza is a coastal enclave with magnificent views of the Mediterranean Sea. Nothing, aside from their own nihilism, prevented Gazans from building their own Monaco or Macau. Vacationers could have been spending these post-pandemic days, and dollars, in hotels all along the strip.

Instead of declaring statehood, however, which today would be in its 16th year, Hamas had a better idea: Turn Gaza into one big launching pad. This forced Israel, in the north, and Egypt, in the south, to impose a naval blockade. The reasons are obvious. Hamas’ main imports have always been artillery, rocketry and concrete with which to erect terror tunnels. Even Egypt realizes that Hamas can’t be trusted to build anything other than bombs.

As for the West Bank, the Palestinian Authority, pursuant to the Oslo Accords, controls much of it. But Palestinians loyal to Fatah, also have not kicked the habit of terrorizing Israelis with stabbings, car rammings, and other acts that do not reflect a people ready for statehood. 

Palestinians still refuse to recognize Israel’s very existence. Their charters are blueprints for Jewish death. Textbooks teach children to hate Jews. An unofficial national anthem, “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” is more in line with a genocidal fight song. The area between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea is Israel. Where are Jews supposed to live if Palestinians are banking on a state that is much larger than the West Bank?

Given all those impediments to co-existence, why shouldn’t Israelis doubt that a future Palestinian state would make for a nice neighbor?

Finally, under any fair reading of Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, Israel can’t occupy land to which it has a historical, ancestral connection, and that never once was there a sovereign state called Palestine—with a Palestinian citzenry. The West Bank has never not been unoccupied, as far back as the Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, Romans, Crusaders, Mamelukes, Ottoman Turks, British, Jordanians, and now Israel—the only country in that long list that actually has a legitimate claim of title to the land. Ironically, Palestinians are the one people to never have occupied the land that is to become their state. They might have lived there, but it was never theirs.

(During those first 19 years of Israel’s existence, when Jordan captured the West Bank and Egypt seized Gaza, no one mentioned the word “occupation” at all. In fact, drawing distinctions between Israeli Arabs and Palestinian Arabs, or contemplating Palestinian statehood, seemed to be on no one’s mind. That all changed, of course, when Israel recaptured it.) 

Because the word “occupation” has been so widely adopted, a concession from the Oslo Accords that Israel should have never conceded, most people believe that Israel is occupying a sovereign country once called Palestine and populated by Arabs who were known as Palestinians. That’s why “stolen land” is so casually repeated and added to Israel’s many crimes. 

Since 1947 when the United Nations carved a Jewish and Arab homeland out of what is now greater Israel, the Palestinians have rejected five offers of statehood.

But the land is not really occupied. It’s simply disputed territory between two peoples that have claims to the land—historic, ancestral, and a very complicated set of colliding truths.

Since 1947 when the United Nations carved a Jewish and Arab homeland out of what is now greater Israel, the Palestinians have rejected five offers of statehood. President Bill Clinton’s memoir acknowledges his stupefaction that the Palestinians spurned his last effort of bringing a final peace to the region, which included 97 percent of what the Palestinians had, purportedly, negotiated for. Did they come back to the table with a counteroffer? No. Instead, they reverted to old tricks of the terrorism trade and responded with the Second Intifada, which included suicide bombings in Israeli pizza shops and Passover Seders.

Does this sound like Israel is stubbornly standing in the way of Palestinian national aspirations? More likely is the conclusion that the Palestinians don’t really want statehood. (The Gulf states that normalized relations with Israel in last summer’s Abraham Accords have no doubt come to that realization.) 

What seemingly does interest Palestinians is any outcome where Israel is without statehood and the Jews of the region disappear. In addition to a number of rejected peace and statehood offerings, there is also a more damning truth: the timing of when organized Palestinian terror came into existence. The PLO was created in 1964—three years before Jews lived in East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza.

What does that tell you? It’s not about settlements, territories, Jerusalem, or even the Right of Return. It’s simply about Jewish existence.

Building a Palestinian nation holds far less appeal than blowing up the Jewish one. This is what progressive, liberal Democrats, many of them Jews suffering from a condition I call moral narcissism, seemingly can’t or simply won’t accept. They will call for a “two-state solution” no matter how many times Palestinians show disinterest in being one of those states.

Many Israelis now wonder whether it was a good idea to withdraw from Gaza altogether. It certainly brought no peace and ceded to Hamas a base of operations. And withdrawal earned Israel no global goodwill, either. They are denounced as an occupying power even though their dealings with Gaza are limited to the border.

Meanwhile, Palestinians sit in refugee camps operated by the United Nations instead of being absorbed as permanent citizens of other Arab states. In fact, the Palestinians are the only people allowed refugee status in perpetuity. In all other cases, the UN insists that displaced persons find a new placement within one generation.

The reason is plainly obvious. Anti-Semites holding out hope that time will run out on the Israelis. Meanwhile, Palestinians sitting in misery are a convenient eyesore.

Speaking of “displaced refugees,” that, too, has a meaning obscured from what most people are led to believe. Yes, Israel’s War of Independence scattered 750,000 Arabs from their homes. In some cases, Israelis forcibly evicted them, but mostly Palestinians received assurances that the combined Arab armies would vanquish the Jewish state.

That didn’t work out so well for Palestinians. But after Israel was created and so quickly embarrassed five Arab armies that had expected the Jewish state to be a very short-lived experiment, roughly one million Jews were exiled from Egypt, Syria, Tunisia, Libya, Morocco, Yemen, Iran, and Jordan, where their families had lived for generations. They immediately became Israelis. Is the world equally interested in granting Jewish refugees from Arab states a Right of Return? 

This is where the Big Lie about “colonial” and “racist” is laughable. More than half the population of Israel are dark-skinned Middle Easterners. Add to this Semitic mix Arab Israelis, who represent 20 percent of the country, and who enjoy civil rights and opportunities equal to Jewish Israelis. Further evidence of a multiethnic nation is a former Miss Israel from Ethiopia. “White supremacy?” “Apartheid” with Arabs sitting on the Israeli Supreme Court? Really?

No one should be weeping for terrorists, especially this bunch. Hamas remained an ally of Al-Qaeda after 9/11. Israel erected a 9/11 Memorial in Jerusalem, the first one outside of New York to list the names of the nearly 3,000 who lost their lives to the terrorism on that day.

Enough said. 

The special pleading of progressives to condemn Israel is especially galling since none of these people would last five minutes in a Muslim society—liberated women, out-of-the closet homosexuals, artists, journalists, and, of course, Christians. 

Beheaded. Lashed. Torched and tossed from rooftops. Jailed.

In capital cities all across Europe, Islamists wrapped in Palestinian flags marched on major boulevards and chanted “Death to Jews.” The story went completely unreported by all mainstream news services.

Perhaps the biggest lie of all is the charge of “ethnic cleansing”—which is so instantly associated with evil. But genocides are measured by mass murder and a drastic loss of a population. Ask the Armenians, Cambodians, Bosnians, Rwandans, Congolese, Sudanese, and, of course, Jews, and they’ll tell you that “cleansing” is a euphemistic way to describe the subtraction of a people. The Palestinian population, however, since the “Occupation,” has more than doubled. 

It is true that Gazan casualties are increasing each day. Given Israel’s air defense batteries and civil defense strategies, one can easily lose sight of a different reality for the Jews of the Middle East. Thankfully, some people are not shy in expressing their true desires. They serve as reminders of what Israel has no choice but to do. 

On Monday, in capital cities all across Europe, Islamists wrapped in Palestinian flags marched on major boulevards and chanted “Death to Jews.” The story went completely unreported by all mainstream news services. Maybe it’s because “Death to Jews” is not a big lie, but a truthful admission. 

Thane Rosenbaum is a novelist, essayist, law professor and Distinguished University Professor at Touro College, where he directs the Forum on Life, Culture & Society. He is the legal analyst for CBS News Radio. His most recent book is titled “Saving Free Speech … From Itself.”

The Death of the Post-Racial Society

When a youthful but electric Barack Obama was running for president in 2008, there was much talk about what it would mean to America to elect its first black president. The very prospect of it was exhilarating. It tapped into our truest democratic ideals, a major national milestone and giant leap in rectifying our racist past. Both black and white Americans shared the symbolism of the moment.

Obama’s political opponent, John McCain, was an old white male, a war hero who had been brutalized as a prisoner in Vietnam, and a longtime serving United States Senator. Immensely qualified and deserving, but he never stood a chance.

Color blindness has disappeared, replaced by full floodlight x-ray vision—deep into the soul of the nation.

What Obama represented was too intoxicating and exotic to ignore. Even the rest of the world wanted to vote for him. Before there would ever be an Italian, Jewish, Asian, Puerto Rican, Indian, or Greek president, America would first elect a black man. How appropriate; how morally vindicating. Not even a woman would reach the White House first, since Obama handedly dispatched Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination. It was a historic and touchingly romantic moment in American history. Obama won Iowa, with a 95 percent white population. More white people voted for Obama in 2008 than they did for John Kerry in 2004.

Obama’s victory carried with it the implicit possibility that a vote for Obama could lift the disgrace of racism that has strangled this nation since its inception. An Obama presidency would signify that white Americans once and forever will regard their darker-skinned fellow citizens as equals. The message to African Americans would be that feelings of inferiority and damaged dignity now and forever shall come to an end. And, hopefully, in time, all lingering resentment toward white Americans would dissipate in this newly “post-racial society.”

True colorblindness. Race-free judgments. Pigmentation a vague sidenote, scarcely visible in all interactions between blacks and whites. 

Obama’s campaign slogan was, “Yes, we can.” He made it easy, spending little time discussing race. It wasn’t a campaign issue, and the press did everything it could to deliberately leave race out of this presidential race. Anyone who wanted to racialize this presidential contest would be breaking the new ground rules, trespassing on the free lane that had opened up for Obama, and Obama alone. 

Who would want to be remembered for pulling such a hope-dashing stunt? 

For his part, Obama never once presented himself as a younger version of Jesse Jackson, a black activist clinging to the coattails of the civil rights era of the 1960s. That was the old guard of Congressman John Lewis, adorned with the moral authority earned at Montgomery and Selma, and with the actual scars to prove it. Obama wasn’t appealing to the old-time movement religion of Reverend Martin Luther King Jr., or, for that matter, Malcolm X. And he wasn’t a militant like Black Panthers Huey Newton, Stokely Carmichael, and Bobby Seale. 

Obama embodied a new-look to old-school liberalism—classy, cool, bookish, cultured, procedural, deliberate, Ivy League educated, and, well, black. He was the kind of smooth intellectual who could easily befriend John Locke, or better yet, Abraham Lincoln—two sons of Illinois, one a rail-splitter, and the other a racial barrier breaker. Obama was married to an African-American woman with similar credentials and charisma. 

The State Department had just been presided over by back-to-back African-American Secretaries of State—Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice. There were black CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, black Supreme Court Justices, black women partners in Wall Street law firms, black university presidents, astronauts, surgeons, and billionaires. Much of mainstream media featured black anchors and editors at their news desks. And at the grassroots level, more than 80 percent of Americans morally approved of interracial marriage.

Does this scream South Africa to you? Is Jim Crow the first thing that comes to mind? 

Critical Race Theory (“CRT”) and the New York Times’ 1619 Project have dominated discussions about race for the past several years. With schools in lockdown, chaos everywhere, and untimely police shootings, the adherents of this new racial agenda took advantage of COVID-19 and proclaimed a competing public health crisis. This one involved a nation at war with the use of language—which words can and cannot be said—while introducing new words like “woke” and “intersectional.” It would require a complete reimagining of school curriculum—what students must now know about themselves, books they can no longer read, academic standards that no longer applied to them. And the nation was also being asked to reassess its morality and reexamine its patriotism.

Mostly, there was one singular, unequivocal refrain: The United States, at its origins long before it even became a series of colonies and then a new nation, is an irredeemably racist enterprise. The ghosts of slave ships, slave auctions, and plantations haunted the entire land. Racial hatred lurked everywhere. Oppression was a white man’s Pavlovian affliction. White Americans all benefitted from the power differentials between the races, the oppressor class imposing its will over people of color. African Americans can never succeed in this land—not because they don’t want to, but because a systemic deck was stacked against them that dwarfed Mount Rushmore.

What about that lineup of high-achieving African-American advancement I mentioned above? What about Obama’s two terms as president? How could that have happened in a nation that practiced and celebrated such widespread systemic racism? It is a question that hangs in the air amid swirling winds of accusation. An inconvenient question deliberately unanswered. Asking it betrays racism. White Americans should simply listen, learn, and, most of all, bring equity to all those they have harmed. 

So “systemic racism” has become a national talking point despite most people not knowing what it means. Institutionalized, systemized racism is taken for granted. Anti-racism policies must be implemented—everywhere. An entire apparatus of educational, legal, public, and corporate policies, with the avowed purpose to bring about racial equity, have materialized almost overnight.

Changes to American culture have been swift. Hollywood, publishing, and television have adopted the ethos of diversity and inclusiveness. The making of art must avoid cultural appropriation, or worse, misappropriation. An image and a voice may not belong to your imagination.

Americans are paying more attention to skin color than perhaps ever before. Color blindness has disappeared, replaced by full floodlight x-ray vision—deep into the soul of the nation. There are new warning signs, premises that go unchallenged. Whiteness is now self-incriminating. It is a pigment very much out of fashion. Worse still, it carries with it guilt and complicity—with no presumption of innocence. Collective guilt, based on skin color alone. Indictable offenses brought by people of color, without color of law. 

What changed? Everyone accepts, or used to accept, that there are those who hold unfavorable views of black people. Some are even profoundly prejudiced. As a Jewish-American, I know that anti-Semitism is the world’s oldest enduring prejudice. I wish I could convince the haters of blacks and Jews to feel otherwise. 

But such animus among human beings is not systemic. Anti-humanistic, yes; but systemic? The 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments to the Constitution along with the passage of pivotal civil rights legislation throughout the 1960s, dealing with public accommodations, employment, desegregation of schools, voting, fair housing, welfare, and Affirmative Action to advance educational opportunities for black students—all are examples of the system doing the very opposite of racism. They are designed and enacted to address, and redress, racial disparities. 

Yes, surely there have been “systemic failures” in the delivery of these governmental initiatives. Governments are imperfect. There’s red tape and dysfunctional cogs in every bureaucracy. But the remedial intent of all this legislation demonstrably contradicts the charge of systemic racism itself. Did these governmental programs completely redress America’s racist past? Do they amount to restitution? Could more have been done, and could the programs themselves have been executed better? Are economic disparities between white and black American families still present? 

Outcomes are not the same as intention.

More importantly: is the “system” configured to perpetuate black failure? Many urban cities with large concentrations of African-American residents have black mayors and police chiefs. That means that many African Americans, at the local level, have black leaders who are the custodians of the “system” that is built to prevent their progress. 

Perhaps what is meant by “system” is just the ill-motives and race-hatred of all white people. It is what’s lodged in the soul of white Americans—a much deeper depravity than the mere pulling of levers. President Biden pretty much acknowledged that recently, defining “systemic racism [as] a stain on our nation’s soul.” Machines can be repaired. But there is no redemption for white skin.

In a woke world, there is no forgiveness, and contrition rains down hard.

Americans are being told to always check their white privilege at the door. Bow their heads. Contemplate the sin of their skin. And yet, nothing can be done to rid themselves of this chronic condition. Perhaps that is as it should be. Some, but surely not most Jews believe that Germany can never remove the stigmatic black mark of the Holocaust. The enormity and legacy of the loss condemns Germans for eternity. Many Germans, however, resent how much the crimes of their grandparents are imputed to them. Why should the guilt and responsibility be inherited? After all, doesn’t the nation deserve some measure of forgiveness? America, in fact, could learn something from Germany. The United States can’t quite claim the same levels of introspection, moral scrutiny, and restitution when it comes to its African- and Native Indian-American victims. 

Critical Race Theorists are not predisposed to granting pardons—not even to descendants. They see plantations on Park Avenue. Rodeo Drive is tantamount to a slave market—the oppressor’s power on full display in the obscene price tag of a Rolex.  In a woke world, there is no forgiveness, and contrition rains down hard. Some members of the white race are as fanatical as the leaders of the Black Lives Matter (“BLM”) movement itself.

Not everyone is obtuse to the implications of these new heresies. Paul Rossi, a math teacher at the Grace Church School in New York City, was suspended and his contract not renewed. He audaciously raised concerns about the school’s anti-racism protocols. Standing alone, he charged that harmful indoctrination had replaced critical thinking. Curiously, the school’s Headmaster did not deny the anti-white propaganda he was peddling. “We’re demonizing kids, we’re demonizing white people for being born,” he acknowledged, without embarrassment. Further adding, “We are using language that makes them feel ‘less than’ — for nothing that they are personally responsible for.”

Andrew Guttman yanked his daughter out of Brearley, an all-girls school in Manhattan, one of the citadels of “higher education” where CRT has inserted itself into the curriculum. Guttman wrote a letter to all Brearley parents, accusing the school of brainwashing their daughters. It doesn’t appear as though he has succeeded in starting a revolt.

So much for “white privilege.” Being able to financially afford the annual $54,000 in tuition—and the scholarships that subsidize the costs for underprivileged students—buys these parents everlasting damnation. And their children are debased, being held to account for the Middle Passage.

Everything is now racialized. Playing the race card is a game of 52-Pickup where every card is the race card. Simon & Schuster succumbed to the pressure of its own employees when it cancelled the publication of Senator Josh Hawley’s new book. It is now facing renewed pushback to cancel a two-book deal from former Vice President Mike Pence—for the same reason: employees insisting that Pence is responsible for white supremacy.

So much for the diversity of ideas.

Major League Baseball, Coca-Cola, and Delta Airlines took political stands against Georgia’s new election laws. It was a calculated risk. Surely many customers will feel alienated. But it was, apparently, more important to ingratiate themselves to the captains of the anti-racism industry. 

Coke wanted to demonstrate that it was woke. 

A post-racial society is now a fantasy. Remember the Nazis and their Master Race? Now race has become our master. We have become prisoners to our racial past, with whiteness as the new scarlet skin.

Democratic, liberal values, perhaps, is the “system” that is being rejected as racist.

Fairness is the essence of liberalism. To liberals, this means never allowing someone’s race to be the cause of inequality, or the denial of opportunity, or access to resources. Equality of opportunity is what Thomas Jefferson meant by the “pursuit of happiness”—no assurance of happiness, only a level playing field. But this is not what “racial equity” means today. The leaders of BLM and CRT have a vision of enforced equality of outcome. They place no trust in opportunity; white playing fields are rocky and uneven to people of color. What they want is to make things equitable, to correct for historical imbalances.

That’s a very different vision of America. But then again, they don’t believe in the promises of America. They mistrust liberalism and its false, oppressive values: meritocracy, intellectual rigor, free speech, individual liberty, equal opportunity, the rule of law, freedom of contract, hard work, and intact families. There is also little faith in multiethnic democracy with its power grab in favor of white people. Democratic, liberal values, perhaps, is the “system” that is being rejected as racist.

The presidency of Barack Obama proved nothing. It didn’t eradicate poverty, income disparity, or the disproportionate incarceration of black males. It did not eliminate racial profiling, or address lower standardized test scores, or stabilize single-parent families.

The pandemic, the killing of George Floyd, and the unexpected ease with which CRT graduated from college and coalesced with the ground troops of BLM, created a perfect storm of progressive racial activism. It also benefitted from President Donald Trump’s MAGA message, a presidency committed to dividing the nation between red and blue, patriots and traitors, white and black. In this new anti-racist crusade, America was never great in the first place.

What was also different in the loud voices of the progressive left was their access to funding. They had discovered a secret weapon: white guilt. The suffering and victimization of African Americans attracted corporate sponsorships and the political donor class. The taking of a knee, improbably, became big business. Colin Kapernick kneeled himself out of a job, but the gesture ended up funding a revolution. 

How else to explain the co-founder of BLM, Patrisse Khan-Cullers, an avowed Marxist, purchasing four homes in the United States for $3.2 million? Congresswoman Maxine Waters, who traveled to Minneapolis before the verdict in the Derek Chauvin murder trial and spurred on public protests and called for more “confrontation,” lives in a $6 million Los Angeles mansion, far from her dilapidated district. That’s one way to look at “equity”—real property rather than racial politics. 

Feelings of white guilt are understandable, given this nation’s abysmal racial history. George Floyd’s dying words, “I can’t breathe,” galvanized peaceful and violent protests, resurrecting the ghosts of this nation’s original sin. But how far can guilt go? Financial support is one thing; lawlessness quite another. Social activism and racial justice revealed a violent streak—purportedly in honor of George Floyd, and to reform law enforcement. Once the BLM movement caught some momentum, any violence emanating from it was downplayed. The same excuse-making did not apply to the Capitol rioters on January 6th, who overall caused far less destruction and constituted only a single event. Hundreds of them are sitting in jail and most will remain there.

The vandals and arsonists of BLM had a very different experience with the justice system. A Minnesota Freedom Fund was established to provide bail for those arrested during the Minneapolis demonstrations. There, and in other cities, police precincts and squad cars were torched, businesses ransacked, and outdoor diners harassed. Over a dozen Biden campaign staffers donated to these funds. Then presidential candidate Kamala Harris encouraged others to contribute. The vast majority of the over 2,600, from 15 different cities, arrested in connection with the BLM protests, were charged with misdemeanors. No one who participated in the violence is still in jail. 

Indeed, the violence itself was casually accepted. CNN’s Don Lemon suggested that the violence was justified, as compared with the siege on the Capitol. His fellow anchor, Chris Cuomo (disclosure: a friend and former student), asked, “Please, show me where it says that protests are supposed to be polite and peaceful?” 

Well, you could start with Mahatma Gandhi and then work your way to the teachings and methods of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Many Americans believed it was racist to identify violence associated with BLM. It was similar to the response one receives at the mere mention of “black on black” crime. Could police misconduct become a license to loot? Was vandalism now a protected right under the First Amendment? Mayors told their police chiefs to stand down in enforcing laws against rioters. New York City’s Mayor, Bill de Blasio, helped paint a BLM mural on Fifth Avenue. 

The linking of arms has been replaced by the fierce raising of fists.

Others were more forthcoming, drawing a moral equivalence between peaceful and violent protests. BLM activist Bree Newsome tweeted, “I’m definitely in the camp of defending looting as a legitimate, politically-informed response to state violence.” Michigan Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib called for defunding the police and recently tweeted, “No more policing, incarceration and militarization.”

This is all very different from the example set by Martin Luther King, Jr. Peaceful nonviolent resistance is a phrase scarcely heard. The linking of arms has been replaced by the fierce raising of fists. And a different legal standard is being applied to lawbreakers, which coincides with a rethinking of police practices at the point of arrest.

Police shootings of black males is the heartbeat of BLM. Without them, upheavals about race would have remained on campus. A nation that legalized slavery and Jim Crow for most of its history will invariably awaken the dead whenever an African American loses his or her life to an abuse of power.

But is law enforcement actually targeting African Americans—is that ground zero for systemic racism? It sounds preposterous, especially since police officers are wearing body cameras, and bystanders are trained to video any encounter when police approach a suspect. How brazen are cops nowadays?

What isn’t being said amid all the talk about defunding militarized, trigger-happy law enforcement is that, generally speaking, these videos depict crime scenes, not church picnics. African Americans disproportionately live in high-crime neighborhoods, which just might explain why, of the 1,000 Americans shot by the police in a given year, a higher percentage are African-American males. 

That doesn’t mean the police should have carte blanche authority to fire upon anyone, especially African Americans. But it does mean that context matters, and the context of many of these shootings involve African Americans resisting arrest. 

One of the reasons why Derek Chauvin was so decisively found guilty on all three charges brought against him in the death of George Floyd is because while Floyd was agitated and mentally in distress, he wasn’t resisting arrest. He was handcuffed for the final nine and a half minutes of his life. Americans, historically, have been sympathetic to police who patrol high-crime neighborhoods. In courtrooms, juries have traditionally granted the police more leeway in not second-guessing split-second decision making.

Chauvin rightfully received no benefit of the doubt.

The circumstances of the recent police shooting of the teenage girl in Columbus, Ohio, in any other year but this one, with searing racial tensions, the politics of race overshadowing the coronavirus, and demoralized police officers taking early retirement, would have been regarded as the tragic loss of a teenage girl who, if not for the intervention of the police, would have taken the life of another teenage girl.

But this isn’t any other year. While many were sheltering at home, others, more progressively inclined, rebranded the debate over race in America, weaponized language, and mobilized a powerful new political movement that is fundamentally antithetical to what America once represented. 

Indeed, it is a toxic amalgam of illiberal, anti-white, anti-capitalist, anti-American zealotry. It has permeated our schools, media, museums, corporate suites, and seats of power. Its influence is unchecked and disproportionate. Yet, it would be wrong to assume that a majority of Americans agree with any of it. Everyone is simply too fearful to voice dissent. The consequences are all too well known. Accusations of racism. The leaders of this intersectional madness—and their Internet trolling minions—are warlike in defense of their anti-racist cult. 

They cancel. They intimidate. They shout down. They make demands. They form digital mobs. They threaten corporate America, and their human resources departments, with mass walkouts and declining shareholder value.

We are living in a race-first universe, and the soft bigotry of low expectations has become softer still.

No one seems to be willing to risk calling their bluff. And it appears they are having their way with President Biden, who, so far, isn’t governing like a moderate. Count the number of times he has invoked the term “systemic racism.” He’s now a racial justice warrior of the first order. 

Wokeness has awakened America to a new racial reality. We have become obsessed with skin color; the prerogatives and taboos of pigmentation are everywhere. Dr. King’s wish to be judged by the “content of one’s character” is now wholly obscured. We are living in a race-first universe, and the soft bigotry of low expectations has become softer still.

Professors at Harvard Medical School are advocating for race-based discrimination in order to give preferences to minorities in the delivery of health care. They are not alone at Harvard in advancing this approach to “structural racism.” Such policies would violate Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, but no one seems especially concerned. 

Following the death of George Floyd, dismantling police departments became a BLM ultimatum. Lisa Bender, a Minneapolis city councilmember, told CNN that she understood the trepidations of white people no longer being able to call the police in an emergency. But she reasoned that given the overabundance of “white privilege,” it would be beneficial for white people to experience what it feels like not have access to police protection.

Maybe so, but only if you have never been placed in such a defenseless, fearful position. The actress Alyssa Milano, a staunch defund-the-police activist, failed to rise to the challenge. She placed an emergency call to the police when she noticed an intruder with a gun on her property. The Los Angeles Police Department rushed over and arrested a teenager shooting squirrels with an air-gun.

The Virginia Department of Education just announced that it is ending all accelerated math courses for high-achieving students below 11th grade. All students will be at the same math level for their grade—without exception. Purportedly, this is a way to achieve racial equity. It’s also an excellent way to ensure that bridges built in the future will collapse, drug discoveries will come to a halt, startups will stop-down, and China, unburdened by such regressive educational models, will own this century. Violence is excused. Complex math is deemed too complicated. STEM snaps like a twig. 

When inclusivity becomes more important than Euclidean geometry—we have a serious problem. 

This is all a very different understanding of equity. It’s apparently more than just fairness. It is wholly remedial and regressive. Anti-racism has become a proxy for anti-American. We are being taught to hate our own country. No wartime American adversary has ever conceived of such a potent weapon.

With each passing day, our liberal democracy appears less liberal. A different America, altogether—browbeaten, ashamed, and unforgiving. And, perhaps, worst of all—tragically in denial of all the immense progress African Americans have achieved once their rightful American liberties were restored.

Free Speech & Social Media

The great irony—if not outright fraud—of the internet is that it is a digital highway without speed limits. That’s true, of course, until the summonses show up. Users then learn of restricted access and banned accounts. Some receive lifetime sanctions, others mere probation. 

The digital highway actually has unseen speed traps that operate with all the subtlety of southern sheriffs. The revving up of search engines gets halted. The common courtesies of the road dispensed with. Fellow travelers come to complete stops. 

Remember the old IBM operating system known as DOS? Today it stands for Denial of Service. Against now private citizen President Trump and his once treasured Twitter account. And former Congressman Ron Paul, recently locked out of Facebook. They are not the only political leaders to have had their communications on social media disabled. Many private citizens were surprised to discover their Facebook pages suspended for violating the social media giant’s very much unevenly applied and ill-defined “Community Standards.”

Conservative African-American commentator, Candace Owens, had her Facebook page temporarily blocked when she wrote that African-Americans have less to fear from white supremacy than “liberal supremacy,” which she firmly believes incentivizes fatherless families within the black community – along with all the ensuing social pathologies.

The romance of the interconnected wireless network is being hijacked by the suffocating web of intersectionality. Mobs gather fast online. Rigged algorithms sabotage free thought. The PC police have apparently learned how to code. And it has resulted in a systemic failure that is not merely a glitch. It’s the moral revulsion of anonymous trolls and smug, high-tech tycoons. 

The geniuses who gave us these wondrous tools for the mind are revealing themselves to be private sector versions of government censors. Social media companies and internet platforms are like the tyrants of old—accountable to no one, omnipotently immune from everyone, and downright indignant toward even the mere mention of regulation. 

Wasn’t the internet supposed to be a global public square—open to all without barriers to entry? A true liberals paradise: knowledge always at the ready, without limits, uncensored, available any time of day? An internet connection provided the ultimate soapbox. 

Free speech never had a better friend. 

Except that the internet was never really a public square in the traditional sense. For one thing, it was a private square without constitutional safeguards. Unlike an outdoor public park where a speaker addresses a spontaneously gathering crowd, holds their attention by shouting to be heard, the internet begins with browsers, followed by search engines, and then usernames and passwords. Silence is the dominant sensation; blue light is the prism through which we make artificial eye contact. The crowds are immense, but the freedom of assembly is distant and unfelt. 

Internet users gather alone. A “Like” should never be confused with a roar.

It was always a soap box nestled inside Silicon Valley’s sandbox. Freedom of movement, and speech, was restricted. Algorithms targeted specific audiences. Surveillance was everywhere—what we search for, who is searching for us. People make a lot of stupid decisions on their Smart phones.

Driving a car on the open road is different from the digital highway, where destinations are more predetermined. The steering wheel is an online illusion. And virtue signaling is more important than merely obeying the street signs.

Speech is being regulated by Big Tech even though the websites, search engines and social media platforms are not being regulated by the government. The prior restraint is all privately performed. The internet has become less a repository of intellectual freedom than an actual net that traps.

For liberalism to flourish, open markets are as indispensable as open minds. But the internet is dominated by extraordinary concentrations of power—Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple. Look what happened to Parler, a conservative’s alternative to Twitter. Gang, monopolistic warfare seems to have put it out of business. These internet players mean business—and they are pretty mean about it. Valuable companies they may be, but liberal enterprises they are not. They play favorites. They have ideological preferences and political points of view. They communicate through machines, but the decisions they make are very much subject to human bias and error. 

When you look past the youthful hoodie culture you see vindictive corporate fiefdoms that arbitrarily stifle free speech.

The FANG stocks have actual fangs

This should come as no surprise. From mainstream to social media, the news we consume and the social engagements we make are increasingly being dictated by illiberal, anti-democratic purveyors of groupthink. A global pandemic, which converted our homes into self-contained isolation centers—for binge eating, sleeping, schooling, working and exercising—only magnified our dependence on social media and internet portals for touchless human contact and glimpses of the outside world. We have become prisoners of bandwidth and blinking screens. And what is perversely blinking back at us is not content neutral. 

Just think back to this summer. The New York Times retroactively and aggressively distanced itself from an opinion piece it had published – a piece it had actively solicited from Senator Tom Cotton. He argued in favor of invoking the Insurrection Act to quell the violence that erupted from some of the Black Lives Matter protests. It was an opinion shared by a majority of Americans. Soon after publication, however, the Times completely disavowed the essay. The editors responsible for its publication were either forced out or were reassigned.

If the cause of Black Lives Matter is just—which I firmly believe it is—must its violent offshoots be either ignored or downplayed?

Apparently, a United States Senator’s opinion was unfit for the Opinion page—and the weight of our regressive social media agreed. Surely, calling for military assistance to put an end to all that arson, looting and violence could only spring from the mind of a racist. The Senator’s surname was further proof of his evil intent.

But why? If the cause of Black Lives Matter is just—which I firmly believe it is—must its violent offshoots be either ignored or downplayed? The Insurrection Act is best known for integrating southern schools and universities during the civil rights era. Local law enforcement was committed to maintaining segregation. Clearly, mobilizing the National Guard is not, per se, a racist endeavor. 

The Times doesn’t seem to be all that troubled by the presence of 7,000 National Guardspersons, for the time being, occupying Washington, D.C. Surely the storming of the Capitol on January 6th while a Joint Session of Congress was in progress was horrific. But so, too, was the torching of police precincts and police cars, the ransacking of businesses and vandalism that occurred in the 220 locations were violence was reported over the summer.

This was a tale of two demonstrations. Both largely peaceful. Yet, having favorable opinions about one is morally defensible; the other is a woke war crime.

So far, over 200 people have been arrested in connection with the breaching of the Capitol. Thousands were at the National Mall on January 6th, exercising their First Amendment freedoms of assembly, association and speech. Questioning the outcome of the 2020 Presidential Election does not make them all white supremacists, although some undoubtedly were. 

Meanwhile, lawmakers who debated the tally of the Electoral College on that same day now find themselves with shelved book contracts, college degrees under threat of being rescinded, and, of course, social media accounts shut down. And what they were doing was protected under the Speech and Debate Clause of the Constitution. President Trump was nearly convicted by the Senate for inciting an insurrection, and yet he, too, has a First Amendment right to engage in political advocacy, even if his words are incendiary, emotional and spontaneous.

Except for the riot itself, everything else that took place on January 6 was constitutionally permissible, and a demonstration of our liberal values and democratic freedoms.

The cancel culture’s illiberal tendencies has graduated from the college campus and now pervades our politics, news sources and, of course, the gathering mobs of social media. Note how the Hunter Biden story was quashed on Twitter and belittled and ignored on all internet platforms. There may be nothing to that story, but how will we ever know? Did these high-tech companies do their own due diligence—conduct their own truth-seeking—before determining that they would simply not allow Biden’s son to doom his father’s march to the White House?

Seemingly all of corporate America has taken its cue and acted swiftly to pass its own verdict on wrong-thinking—especially within its own ranks.

Amazon recently removed a documentary about Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas from its streaming service. So much for Black History Month. Apparently only one version of that history is acceptable. A documentary that featured actual interviews with an African-American who has served on the Highest Court of the land for 30 years was not something Amazon felt deserved a platform—nothing at all to learn from the man, or about the man. Why? Well, perhaps for the same reason that most people have never heard of Thomas Sowell and Shelby Steele, two African-American conservative public intellectuals. They haven’t been cancelled, per se, because they have barely existed in the public sphere.

Amazon’s censorship is racism of a different sort: not the soft bigotry of low expectations but rather, ironically, the suppression of individual and cultural achievement. The views of all three of these men simply do not match the perpetual victimization of African-Americans that progressives wish for closed-minded people—white and black—to know.

Social media presents its own opportunities for self-righteous cancellation. Colleen Oefelein was recently fired as an agent with the Jennifer De Chara Literary Agency. Apparently, simply maintaining a profile on Parler and Gab ended her employment. She hadn’t posted anything that was objectionable.

Here is her employer’s released statement. One hesitates to believe that something like this could happen in a liberal society:

“The Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency was distressed to discover this morning, January 25th, that one of our agents has been using the social media platforms Gab and Parler. We do not condone this activity, and we apologize to anyone who has been affected or offended by this. The Agency has in the past and will continue to ensure a voice of unity, equality, and one that is on the side of social justice. As of this morning, Colleen Oefelein is no longer an agent at The Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency.”

Nowadays, one demonstrates a commitment to “social justice” by terminating the employment of different thinkers.

The actress Gina Carano wasn’t even notified by her employer, Disney, that she had been released from her contract on account of social media postings that expressed opinions that were no longer permissible in polite society—with politeness measured exclusively by intersectional taboos. She equated the intolerance shown toward conservatives with the persecution of Jews during Nazi Germany. She mocked the wearing of multiple masks during the pandemic. And she committed the unforgivable faux pas of not taking pronoun usage and gender identity seriously enough.

Disney’s overheated explanation for Carano’s abrupt firing mentioned that “her social media posts denigrating people based on their cultural and religious identities are abhorrent and unacceptable.”

Does that accurately reflect what she did? She didn’t denigrate Jews. She merely, awkwardly, invoked a tortured analogy. She’s a former mixed martial artist, for heaven’s sake! She’s not an English professor.

Liberal societies value their exposure to a mix of opinions so that arguments can be weighed and judgments made about ideas, policies and people. The First Amendment applies only to government actions that deprive citizens of their right to speak. Employment contracts in private industries are exempt from free speech protections. That was true for Colin Kaepernick’s taking a knee, Colleen Oefelein’s Parler account, and Gina Carano’s Instagram postings. 

As a nation we used to think of ourselves as extending the right of free inquiry beyond constitutional boundaries. We took pride in maintaining a permissively tolerant understanding of free speech… Those days are long gone.

None of them have the legal right to reclaim their jobs. And Justice Thomas can’t force Amazon to make the documentary about him available for streaming.

But as a nation we used to think of ourselves as extending the right of free inquiry beyond constitutional boundaries. We took pride in maintaining an indulgent understanding of free speech. We respected the points of view of others, even if it conflicted with our own. We didn’t reflexively, heartlessly banish them from civil society, deem them morally unfit to live and work among us. Blotting them out was un-American.

Those days are long gone. How many heated subjects are now disallowed at dinner table discussions around the country? Simply off-limits. Even talking about the weather carries risk. It might reveal too casual an attitude about climate change. How many are afraid to Like a post on Facebook for fear of alienating “Friends”?

Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996 was enacted, among other reasons, to facilitate the nascent internet industry to develop the information superhighway. The pioneers of the digital economy were incentivized to speed up the task by receiving immunity from civil liability. Why did Google and Facebook, which didn’t even exist at the time, deserve such protections? Well, they merely built and maintained the new highway—the gravel and guardrails that granted everyone access. They were neutral and agnostic when it came to content; indifferent to what content appeared on their platforms. Mark Zuckerberg proved this point by refusing to take down Holocaust denial Facebook pages.

But these internet portals are now multibillion dollar industries with creeping Fourth Estate powers. And they most certainly have more than a passing interest in what opinions are being exchanged. Reporting the truth is not one of their priorities. Zealously mining our personal data is, however. And they privilege some speakers over others. Favorable points of view mysteriously show up on everyone’s news feed; opinions out of favor will end up in places where search engines, apparently, abandon the search. 

Especially since this past presidential election, we have come to learn that internet providers care very much about politics. Most people depend on the internet for their news and information, a cultural phenomenon that allows these entities to operate like free speech cartels. Access is denied to individuals and ideas deemed unworthy of this new means of communication. —

They editorialize as they digitize. 

…in what twisted moral universe does Ayatollah Khamenei, who repeatedly denies the Holocaust, threatens Israel…deserve a Twitter platform while Trump does not?

Social media companies are not only in it for the money. By suspending and shutting down accounts and de-platforming certain websites, they are functioning like true censors—engaged in viewpoint discrimination and interfering with the public trust. Yes, they are private businesses, but they also happen to be in a business that provides essential infrastructure. And if it’s essential, then it becomes the public’s business, too. American corporate history recalls that Standard Oil, AT&T, IBM and Microsoft each faced regulatory sanction not just because of their size, but due to their indispensability. 

You don’t have to have liked Donald Trump to believe that a former American president shouldn’t receive a lifetime ban on social media. After all, in what twisted moral universe does Ayatollah Khamenei, who repeatedly denies the Holocaust, threatens Israel and is responsible for nearly all the murderous mischief in the Middle East, deserve a Twitter platform while Trump does not? 

The internet’s flinty private square, not unlike the old public square, is a marketplace filled with more junk than ideas. Neither soap boxes nor Twitter handles offer much in the way of mind expansion. Free speech is more costly than ever.

Thane Rosenbaum is a novelist, essayist, law professor and Distinguished University Professor at Touro College, where he directs the Forum on Life, Culture & Society. He is the legal analyst for CBS News Radio. His most recent book is titled “Saving Free Speech … From Itself.”