How progressives have convinced us America is evil — and must be destroyed
The following essay is an excerpt from Ben Shapiro’s new book, “How to Destroy America in Three Easy Steps”
The philosophy of division is a philosophy that derides any notion of American unity as a lie, and bathes that which links us — Abraham Lincoln’s “bonds of affection” and “mystic chords of memory” — in acid, disintegrating our ties and casting us all adrift.
I call this strain of thought “Disintegrationism.”
In order to argue that America’s philosophy is wrongheaded, her culture diseased, and her history evil, Disintegrationists must engage in an extraordinarily selective reading of reality. They must home in, in excruciating detail, on America’s sins, which, in context, would be fine — but rob that history of all context or subsequent history. Exploitation is a feature of every human society, and repeated mistreatment by some groups of other groups is a similarly common feature. What is uncommon — indeed, unprecedented in human history — are prosperity, peace, and freedom.
It is simply undeniable that capitalism, founded on protection of property rights — the ideology of the Founding Fathers — has been uniquely successful in spreading peace and prosperity both domestically and around the globe. Since the dawn of the Enlightenment, the enshrinement of individual rights, and the advent of protection for private property — the roots of capitalism — global GDP has increased exponentially, in shocking fashion. In the year 1 BCE, global GDP amounted to $183 billion; in 1000, global GDP was approximately $210 billion; in 1500, it was still just $431 billion; in 1700, $643 billion; as of 2013, $101 trillion. That is a 15 percent increase in the first millennium, and a 15,700 percent increase from 1700 to present.
It is similarly undeniable that the spread of peace has been a direct result of American hegemony. On a year-by-year basis, international war deaths have decreased precipitously since World War II, from a high of nearly 200 deaths per 100,000 people at the end of that conflict to a low of well below 0.5 deaths per 100,000 people at the turn of the twentieth century. Global life expectancy has doubled since 1900. Furthermore, America has become the most tolerant country on earth. According to the Washington Post, a new Swedish survey found that people from the United Kingdom, America, Canada and Australia, as well as certain Latin American countries, were “most likely to embrace a racially diverse neighbor.” Other European countries aren’t nearly as tolerant. And none of those countries has ever elected a black man — twice — with more than 65 million votes each time, to serve as the leader of those countries.
Finally, it is perfectly obvious that global freedom has expanded wherever American influence has expanded. According to the Polity Project at the University of Maryland, democracy is actually at a global high, and has been in particularly steep ascent since the death of the Soviet Union — a collapse brought about, of course, by America’s willingness to “pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty,” as John F. Kennedy put it in his inaugural address.
The bar for Disintegrationists, then, is high. To surpass it, they must employ a clever, seductive, and deeply vicious strategy.
Disintegrationists offer a subversive but seductive view of America as an evil actor — and have provided an alternative Unionism rooted in intersectional solidarity. Intersectionality, in its original iteration, was perfectly plausible: It suggested that Americans may be targeted based on membership in more than one minority category. So, for example, a black woman might meet discrimination in a different way than a white woman. But intersectionality has now become a rallying cry for Disintegrationists who aver that America is subject to unbending, rigid hierarchies that can be torn down only by uprooting the entire American system.
By convincing Americans that any unexplained disparity is the result of the American system — philosophy, culture, institutions and history — Disintegrationists have a succinct and irrefutable argument in favor of tearing down the system. Any evidence of disparate treatment becomes an argument against Unionism.
This is an emotionally resonant pitch. Traditional Americanism suggests that while our system has never been perfect, it has grown increasingly so — and this means that it should be easier to succeed today, without the obstacles of bigotry that have plagued our history, than ever before. That worldview places an awful responsibility on individuals: If you fail to succeed, you can certainly blame personal disadvantages, but it becomes difficult to blame a miasmatic, existential, systemic, flag-draped boogeyman haunting your dreams. Additional freedom means additional responsibility.
If, however, all disparity can be chalked up to the system, then personal responsibility becomes a secondary concern. Failures are no longer individual, but systemic. In fact, every failure becomes an additional brick in the wall of evidence against America.
This outlook has become a rote part of radical Democratic politics: the notion that a coalition of the supposedly oppressed must rise up and rewrite the entire nature of the American bargain. Thus Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand announces that “resistance is female, intersectional and powered by our belief in one another.” Sen. Kamala Harris of California explains that identity politics shouldn’t be eschewed — in fact, she argued, the phrase itself was designed to “minimize and marginalize issues that impact all of us.” As former Texas Democratic representative Beto O’Rourke, the id of the Democratic Party, put it in 2019, “this is a country that has been defined by foundational systemic endemic racism since the very founding of this country.”
Failures are no longer individual, but systemic. Every failure becomes an additional brick in the wall of evidence against America.
Thanks to the politics of Disintegrationism, the media routinely focus on demographic change in the United States as a harbinger of radical political change. Steve Phillips of the Center for American Progress triumphantly wrote in The Nation that “the concerns of people of color should be driving politics today and into the future.” This is hardly fringe thinking in Democratic circles; for a large swath of the Democratic intelligentsia, it’s a strategic linchpin. It’s no small irony that alt-right racists hold the precise same viewpoint — that the changing ethnic composition of America represents an inherent threat to the American system — and prescribe their own form of racial Disintegrationism as a solution. Unfortunately, that alt-right mindset has, from time to time, crossed over into the Republican Party, too.
All of this is deeply divisive. But in the Disintegrationist view, the true anti-unity forces lie among advocates for traditional Americanism. Unity, say the Disintegrationists, can be born of opposition to the system. This is why Disintegrationists have categorized culturally unifying symbols like the American flag as inherently divisive. Kneeling for the national anthem represents more authentic unifying behavior than standing for it (Beto O’Rourke suggested, “I can think of nothing more American than to peacefully stand up, or take a knee, for your rights, anytime, anywhere, in any place”). Scientific investigation is deemed bigoted, and meritocracy itself derided as discriminatory. Belief in free markets — even opposition to nationalized health care — is evidence of America’s roots in slavery. Adherence to American institutions like federalism and the Electoral College is castigated as inherently discriminatory. America’s traditional reliance on reasoned conversation is itself deemed polarizing, as was seen when moderate opinion editor Bari Weiss resigned from The New York Times, accusing the paper of squashing any ideas that diverge from a left-wing orthodoxy.
All the factors that once would unify us are now portrayed as divisive. And only kowtowing to the Disintegrationist worldview earns moral absolution.
And Disintegrationists demand kowtowing. They leverage the power of cultural institutions to target and destroy those who stand in their way. Their strategy relies on a simple rule: The squeaky wheel gets the grease. In the world of social media, this means targeting corporations who are too risk-averse to stand up for either free speech or for their own values. Thus Disintegrationist activists spend their days trolling conservative shows for clips to misrepresent, then crowdsourcing support on Twitter for boycotts that never actually materialize. A few tweets are often enough to prompt advertisers to drop hosts, prompt social-media platforms to demonetize or de-platform supposed violators, or even shift entire broad-based policies.
The ever-shifting boundaries of political correctness, as enforced by the elitist Disintegrationist mob, force silence or compliance.
Corporations — which, after all, are motivated by profit rather than principle — often cave to even mild pressure. Corporations are nonideological in nature, contrary to left-wing characterization; they’re legal structures designed to limit liability. This means that a few interns mouthing off at a massive company can shape policy from the inside — and it also means that a mild media firestorm may be enough to shift even billion-dollar companies toward more restrictive speech standards.
Even charities aren’t spared the Disintegrationist lash. The Boy Scouts can be forced to denounce its own principles, should those principles comply with traditional attitudes toward Judeo-Christian morality. Chick-fil-A can be forced by both governmental and nongovernmental pressure to drop charitable giving to organizations like the Salvation Army. College campuses, where Disintegrationists effectively control many administrations, have become the scene for egregious de-platformings and Maoist struggle sessions.
Hollywood, too, has become the tip of the sphere in the intimidation business. Because celebrities are particularly vulnerable to bad press, they are often forced to comply with the Disintegrationist viewpoint or face firings. The mildest objection to the most radical-leftist agenda items earns a career-threatening rebuke. Mario Lopez, for example, committed the grave sin of suggesting that it would be “dangerous as a parent” to determine based on a 3-year-old’s gender confusion that the child is indeed suffering from gender dysphoria, adding “You’re just a kid.” This was enough to spur E! to pressure Lopez for a public apology, which he duly gave. The man has a family to support. So do we all. The Disintegrationists know this. And they are unwilling to leave any area of American life untouched by their acidity.
Every piece of connective tissue in American life is being stripped away by Disintegrationists. This is happening constantly, all around us. We cannot watch a football game without confronting Disintegrationism; we cannot pick up a celebrity magazine, attend a church event, or go to a restaurant without first considering politics.
This is effective. It’s effective because it’s exhausting. It is meant to be. It is meant to convince Americans to throw up their hands and simply comply with the dictates of the Disintegrationists, or to force Americans to divide up every element of daily life politically. Either solution is unworkable for a country that wishes to remain united. Unionism suggests that despite our differences, we are, at root, Americans. Disintegrationism suggests that despite our American passports, we are, at root, different.
The dirty little secret of Disintegrationism is that there is no unity at the end of the destruction. There is only more destruction. The revolution will eat its originators. No new world will be rebuilt after the razing of America’s philosophy, culture, institutions and history. Tribalism will simply replace national unity. The glue of opposition that currently binds together the disparate factions of Disintegration will simply melt away. All that will be left are polarized groups, seeking their own interests.
That means that the fight to save America is, first and foremost, a fight to defend Unionism. It is to that fight which we must turn.
“How to Destroy America in Three Easy Steps” by Ben Shapiro. Copyright © 2020 by Benjamin Shapiro. Reprinted by permission of Broadside Books, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.
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