But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods, or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg…Reason and free inquiry are the only effectual agents against error. Give a loose rein to them, they will support the true religion by bringing every false one to their tribunal, to the test of their investigation.
– Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia
Here’s a prediction. Right-wing snowflake culture will expand exponentially in the coming years, and its rise will be cynically and intentionally fueled by Donald Trump himself. Having proved himself a fake populist on most issues that actually matter, Trump has no choice but to move more enthusiastically into the culture war to deflect away from his obvious betrayal on economic populism and keep his diehard supporters in heat. In other words, he’ll do exactly what mainstream Democrats and Republicans have been doing for decades, which is distract the public and keep it fighting while oligarchs grab what little is left. This works out just fine for billionaire Trump and the Goldman Sachs guys running his administration.
If I’m correct, how should we respond? How do those of us who see a creeping right-wing snowflake culture emerging push back? Rule number one is don’t act like a snowflake in response. Exposing hypocrisy with incisive rational arguments and humor is the best way to push back against right-wing authoritarianism, just like it’s the best way to push back against left-wing authoritarianism. The authoritarian mindset is the enemy of freedom loving people everywhere irrespective of your specific views on health care, taxes, etc. There are far bigger things at risk to us as a people if we allow ourselves to be divided into two separate authoritarian gangs fighting for power.
Unfortunately, this is exactly what seems to be happening with far too many people, and I ask that you not play this dangerous game. People are vulnerable to autocratic cults when they lack real principles based on freedom; when they know what they’re against, but don’t really know what they’re for. Standing for something as empowering and ethical as liberty is what keeps you grounded and sane in the midst of a society-wide mental breakdown.
A perfect example of the emergent right-wing snowflake mindset comes courtesy of Donald Trump himself. In his commentary on NFL protests last Friday in Alabama, the president showed a degree of thin skinned outrage quite reminiscent of the hordes of college cry bullies I’ve criticized so harshly over the years. Let’s revisit that comment, which is what sparked everything that followed.
“Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now, out, he’s fired!’ You know, some owner is going to do that. He’s gonna say, ‘That guy disrespects our flag, he’s fired.’ And that owner, they don’t know it. They don’t know it. They’re friends of mine, many of them. They don’t know it. They’ll be the most popular person, for a week. They’ll be the most popular person in the country.”
If you take a step back and honestly analyze the emotional sentiment at play in the above rant, you’ll see it’s quite similar to that of a 19 year old Berkley leftist dressed like a ninja hyperventilating about Milo Yiannopoulos giving a speech. For left-wing snowflakes, right-wing trolls is where they draw the line, while for right-wing snowflakes it’s the act of refusing to stand for a song or salute a flag. It’s one thing to have a strong opinion on your own personal behavior, but it’s quite another to demand your fellow citizens behave in the same way you see fit. The mindset of someone obsessed with telling you how to live or behave in your everyday life is the mindset of an authoritarian.
It doesn’t matter if that person is marching with antifa, wearing a MAGA hat or draped in the American flag. The true enemy of freedom is, and always has been, the authoritarian personality. A left-wing snowflake gets triggered by Milo or Ben Shapiro, while a right-wing snowflake gets triggered by a millionaire athlete kneeling during the national anthem. Each side will argue their position is more enlightened, patriotic or whatever, but at the end of the day, if you feel emotionally harmed by a fellow citizen exercising free speeches rights, you should probably start by examining your own demons.
When examining the authoritarian personality one thing becomes clear. Authoritarian types can typically be divided into two camps, leaders and followers. The leaders tend to be opportunistic, power hungry and manipulative. In many cases these people are highly intelligent when it comes to the ways of human nature, which is how they were able to propel themselves into a position of leadership in the first place. Such people typically aren’t even genuinely offended by the taboo act they demonize, but they are instinctive enough to know it can be used to corral and manipulate a certain segment of the population. They only care to express outrage over the action in question to bolster their own power. Donald Trump and his high profile cheerleaders tend to fall into this camp. Creating outrage boosts their careers.
Importantly, it’s the followers of authoritarian leaders who ultimately hold the real power. Without followers, leaders would fail to exist since the power and social capital of the leader depends on a willingness to follow that person. Most people who fall for authoritarian signaling do so out of deep insecurity, which the authoritarian leader instinctively grasps. It is the insecure and ungrounded person who most easily falls prey to the authoritarian leader.
Take the national anthem for example. Why does someone not standing for it bother you so much? If you feel standing is a patriotic gesture that’s your right, but why do you care so much if a fellow citizen fails to see it the exact same way you do? Moreover, what does a patriotic gesture mean if it isn’t voluntary? If Americans are cowered into standing for the anthem out of fear of being deemed unpatriotic, then the gesture itself no longer has any meaning. It merely becomes a ritual act of symbolic dogma, more appropriate for a society like Nazi Germany than the U.S. Republic. The fact so many Americans stand for the national anthem voluntarily is precisely what makes it a powerful gesture.
In this sense, right-wing snowflake culture employs the same tactics as left-wing snowflake culture. Left-wing snowflakes are quick to categorize anyone with a different political opinion as a Nazi in an attempt to shut down political debate via intimidation. Right-wing snowflakes do the same thing with superficial patriotic gestures, and then call those who won’t stand or salute “un-American.” Both tactics are destructive, wrong and the antithesis of a freedom loving person.
Our culture is one of extreme superficiality. This is exactly why so many people lose their minds over NFL players taking a knee, but could never be driven to such burning outrage over a war launched based on falsehoods that killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqis. Politicians and oligarchs encourage such superficiality, because if the public can be kept extremely ignorant and stupid then those who actually call the shots and craft the legislation can be left alone to steer society in the way they deem fit without the general public interfering. The end result is the rabble fights about the national anthem, flags and Milo, while the country continues to get looted.
Going forward, I expect Trump to pull many more stunts like the one he did this past Friday. He knows he’s a fraud on the populist issues so many of his voters cared about, so his only option is to rally the troops by further inflaming the culture war. A culture war between right-wing and left-wing snowflakes, each promoting their own brand of authoritarianism. This works just fine for a politician like Trump. His Goldman Sachs advisors can do as they please as a distracted public shrieks over the cultural supremacy of their particular brand of self-indulgent, self-rightous outrage.
So what’s my advice? First of all, don’t become a snowflake. As Martin Luther King, Jr. noted, hate doesn’t drive out hate. Similarly, snowflakes don’t drive out snowflakes. You don’t battle back against left-wing snowflake culture by becoming a right-wing snowflake, or vice versa. If you truly believe in freedom, don’t compromise that core principle just because you got triggered.
Are you a proponent of liberty, or do you want a society based upon whatever type of conformity makes you feel most comfortable? Don’t react based upon emotion, or simply because you want to give the other team a black eye. If you believe in liberty, act like it, and please do not become a snowflake.
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