By Jonathon Van Maren
Earlier this week, I wrote a column examining the likelihood of violence over the next several months, as both Right and Left gear up to go to war over the confirmation of a Supreme Court justice to replace Anthony Kennedy. I noted that some on the Left are already creating justifications for physical violence, especially with their characterization of the Trump Administration as “fascist,” replete with the requisite comparisons to the rise of Nazi Germany. It is hard to know where the rhetoric can go from here, considering that the Left seems to have hammered up against a ceiling and will be forced to grope around for examples that are even more evil than mass-murdering Nazis.
Dennis Prager, as I mentioned in my earlier column, has been describing the current cultural standoff as a “nonviolent civil war” for some time now, often adding that he fervently prays that it will stay that way. And that is why it was incredibly jarring to hear two mainstream figures on the Left chatting about the logistics of a civil war on TV this weekend as if such a thing were not only possible, but likely. It began with a conversation between HBO host Bill Maher and filmmaker Michael Moore, discussing the resignation of Justice Anthony Kennedy—an event that Maher compared to “1940, when France fell, it was like 70 AD when the Temple in Jerusalem fell, you know, that’s how it felt.”
Michael Moore, never renowned for being rooted in reality, was even more despairing and emotional than Maher was. He first proposed finding ways to stop the confirmation of Kennedy’s replacement, which Maher laughed off. “Find ways? What does that mean?” Moore had a ready response: “Well, I’ll join a million other people surrounding the United States Capitol. I will stand there. I will put my…” At this point, Maher’s cynicism shifted to skepticism, and Moore rushed to defend his idea: “If this judge goes through, for the rest of all of our lives, it’s a right-wing court. That’s it. It’s over.” The Democrats could win the midterms, Moore promised, as long as the Left rallied together to stop a vote on Kennedy’s replacement.
At this point, Moore shifted to parody, attempting to imitate what he believed a conservative pro-lifer would sound like, squawking: “They go, a fertilized egg is a human being! A fertilized egg is a human being! And they say it over and over, and they’ve got millions behind them—when are we going to start talking like that? We’re the truth!” Moore, clearly, is not aware of the science of when a human life begins, and thus cannot even avail himself of the correct terminology. But regardless, he launched immediately into a dire warning to America that without abortion on demand, the nation was plunging directly into The Handmaid’s Tale, a gruesome television series in which women are kept as sex slaves and raped repeatedly to produce children for the elites.
He was actually serious, and Maher joined him in his delusion: It turns out that America is apparently a very short way from becoming a totalitarian patriarchal rape culture. “We are living through The Handmaid’s Tale,” Moore asserted, without providing any of the similarities. “In The Handmaid’s Tale…the best part of the show are the flashbacks where she tries to figure out where was the point where it was too late. Where was the point that if we had all just risen up, if we had just done something, but because it happens in little increments…” Maher interrupted at this point to loudly agree: “That’s right, that’s right, that’s how fascism works.” Moore, nodding: “That’s how fascism works.” Neither of them, it seems, know how fascism works.
Bill Maher seems to have changed his position and given in to progressive hysteria, because previously he was simply contemptuous of Trump, deriding him as an ignorant buffoon unprepared for the job. Now, he has decided instead that Trump is a sinister dictator-in-waiting. After Moore warned the HBO audience that Trump is probably going to win the 2020 election—an interesting prediction from someone who just claimed that the Democrats could clean house in the midterms because America is liberal—Maher interrupted him: “Even if he doesn’t [win], he’s not going to leave. That’s what you have to understand.” To which Moore responded: “This man believes in being president-for-life. He said a few weeks ago [that] Roosevelt got four terms, why can’t I…he loves dictators, and I’m telling you my friends [at this point, his voice is trembling with emotion] if we don’t stop it now, you’ll look back at the show where we were all goofing around and talking about The Handmaid’s Tale, but this is the moment…”
What was left unsaid in the pregnant pause, Moore’s suggestion that mobs swarm Washington notwithstanding, is what, exactly, this is “the moment” for. In the next segment, the discussion shifted to an open contemplation of the logistics of civil war, with Bill Maher asking Moore about guns: “I was going to ask you about Bowling for Columbine, about guns—now that fascism’s coming to America, and their side has all the guns—any second thoughts?” Moore looked thoughtful: “Hm. 78% of Americans do not own a gun.” Maher concurred with a painful chuckle: “Right, and they’re all the liberals—that’s what worries me.” A bizarre exchange followed.
“There are 7 million Americans that own 160 million guns. They have stockpiled them.,” Moore explained. “This is the elephant in the room in terms of the discussion about what are we all gonna do—putting our bodies on the line, what does that really mean—we’ll do it non-violently, but people are afraid. People who voted for Hillary were afraid that she would win because he told ‘my Second Amendment people’ that it’s going to be a rigged election, get ready, get your guns–he was calling for an armed revolt if Hillary won. Ask yourselves a question. If it had gone the other way, where he won the popular vote and she won the electoral college—that civil war would have already happened. And that’s what everyone’s afraid of. We don’t own the guns, but there is more of us, and I think the military is still with us”— Moore gestured at Retired Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, another member of the panel—”and they’ve got bigger guns and more guns if it comes to that.”
Maher turned to Wilkerson: “So you think the military is still with us? Because he’s their commander-in-chief.” There was apparently no awareness on the panel—which also included Jennifer Rubin of the Washington Post, who said that harassing Trump officials was good because “we’re not going to let these people go through life unscathed,” as well as Bradley Whitford from The Handmaid’s Tale—that asking a former officer if “the military is still with us” is a pretty incredible thing to do. This can only be described as paranoia combined with siege mentality.
“That’s a huge question,” Wilkerson replied. “I got that question from a sitting senator when we were talking about the war in Yemen and I was trying to talk him into declaring it unconstitutional and getting us out of the d*** war. And he sent everyone out of the office and we talked for a few minutes and he sort of presented that to me. It was in the terms of a massive loss in the midterms—which I don’t think’s going to happen now, but let’s say it did—and then impeachment proceedings proceeded with haste from both parties, and then Trump would then call his legions into the street with their guns, and what would the military do? And frankly, I couldn’t answer him. I said I don’t know.”
“You can’t,” Maher agreed. “It’s worse because the military is in general conservative and also because he is their commander-in-chief.” Michael Moore looked ill.
“Here’s an interesting point though,” Wilkerson went on. “Two sociologists did a paper recently called the Casualty Gap. They studied World War I, World War II, Korea, all the wars we have good data on, granular data on. They found that there’s always been in imbalance—poor people die more than rich people. Everybody knows that, I think, who has a brain, but in the last 17 years of war, the gap has grown astronomically. So they wanted to see if that had a political impact. They went and did a very fine poll, with controlling factors for other answers and so forth. Came to find out that most of the families who lost someone, or had someone wounded badly, voted for Trump. There’s a political result of what we’re doing right now, which is letting poor people die overseas or get horribly wounded or come back with post-traumatic stress, for all the rest of us.”
I have no idea what can erupt in a divided America, and I have no idea if actual violence is coming. But well-known figures discussing which way the military would swing if civil war broke out and complaining that liberals don’t have enough guns to fight the rise of fascism on national television is a strange and somewhat sobering development at the very least. It may be blustering—when I read one of Moore’s quotes to Conrad Black earlier this week, he snorted and noted that the First Marine Corps would be more than enough to deal with whatever rabble Moore managed to bring to DC with him to barricade the Capitol, and he’s obviously right. The idea that the Republicans are fascist, or that Trump wants to be president for life, or that the United States of America bears any resemblance to a dystopian rape culture—one has to be at least slightly unhinged to believe these things. And yet, many people genuinely do believe them—and that is incredibly worrisome.
For anyone interested, my book on The Culture War, which analyzes the journey our culture has taken from the way it was to the way it is and examines the Sexual Revolution, hook-up culture, the rise of the porn plague, abortion, commodity culture, euthanasia, and the gay rights movement, is available for sale here.