Who is defending civilizational “norms”–the populists or the liberals?

By Jonathon Van Maren

“Apassionate tumultuous age will overthrow everything, pull everything down; but a revolutionary age … transforms that expression of strength into a feat of dialectics: it leaves everything standing but cunningly empties it of significance,” Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard wrote in The Present Age in 1846. So it is today, when our Potemkin civilization still boasts its great architecture, art, and literature, but has almost entirely lost the beliefs that animated those who built this heritage.

We have been gutted by the sexual revolution, and from the family to the church, every key institution has been torn down—but there are many who would like us to believe that everything is just fine and that there is no cause for alarm. Most notably, many of these figures—highly intelligent, literate, and well-informed folks who claim to be classical liberals or conservatives—insist on believing that the world we are currently inhabiting is a ‘normal’ one that must be defended rather than repulsed.

The defenders of the current order constantly insist that the populists from Hungary to Poland to America are destroying ‘norms.’ David Frum was nearly beside himself each time he watched Donald Trump’s semi-literate banter or uncovered more run-of-the-mill Washington corruption; Bill Kristol flung himself into campaigning for Democrat Joe Biden; Anne Applebaum wrote an entire book titled Twilight of Democracy: The Seductive Lure of Authoritarianism, detailing the many ways in which norms are being smashed by populists and their conservative allies.

Applebaum’s book is representative of the views of her cohort. She believes that darkness is spreading across the West: the Law and Justice party in Poland, Brexit in Britain, Viktor Orbán in Hungary, and Trump(ism) in America. She also believes that conservatives who are friendly with or defend these politicians and political movements are sell-outs seduced by authoritarianism—the late Roger Scruton, John O’Sullivan, J.D. Vance, Laura Ingraham, Tucker Carlson. For a variety of reasons—fear, desire for power, crass opportunism, temporary insanity—these people are willing to side with the norm-smashers destroying the West.

But here is where we need to define our terms. What ‘norms’ are Applebaum, Frum et al defending? We can agree that corruption is … well, corruption, and that it should not be excused. We can also agree that Trump in particular is a boor who offended the sensibilities of the elites on all sides, and that a fraction of self-control would have done him much good (although, if he’d had it, he’d likely still be president). But for the rest—what ‘norms’ does a man like Joe Biden actually defend?

I happen to be one of those who believe that the times we’re living in are not ‘normal’ and that we have smashed many essential norms. Most Westerners now inhabit nations where the entire political and academic class believe the phrases “pregnant man” and “her penis” are valid ones. Marxist academic disciplines have spawned scores of new genders. Children are identifying as “transgender” in the tens of thousands, and adults are giving them drugs so they can grow beards and breasts and destroy their fertility and sexual function before they can vote or drive.

The insanity of our current moment, of course, is the end result of other norms we smashed. We decided that children in the womb were not children (contrary to human reason, instinct, and 96% of biologists) and that suctioning them to death or dismembering them was excusable. This was done because the sexual revolution had eliminated norms surrounding coital encounters.

Prior to 2000, not a single nation on earth had redefined marriage—but now, gay ‘marriage’ is considered a societal bedrock, with Christians being told that they are on the “wrong side of history” for adhering to 2,000 years of history and tradition rather than joining the twenty-year trend. This new norm ushered in the annual month-long Pride carnival, where adult men frolic nude on public streets and families watch simulated sex acts on colorful floats. A Dutch photographer won €2,500 this August for “the most iconic, meaningful, and aesthetic” photo—of a toddler playing while men in latex bondage gear gathered around the child.

That brings us to the colonization of children’s entertainment by the LGBT movement, from Drag Queen Story Hour to the incessant pushing of LGBT content on children’s TV shows. This wasn’t a ‘norm’ even five years ago, but now saying that drag queens shouldn’t be reading stories to children at daycares and kindergartens is likely to get you called a bigot—or many merely ‘economic conservatives’ will tell you that you shouldn’t get so worked up about the sexualization of children when there are real live fascists to defeat.


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