Get Ready for the Struggle Session, by Peggy Noonan.
In the mid-1960s Mao Zedong … unleashed university and high school students to weed out enemies and hold them to account. The students became the paramilitary Red Guards. They were instructed by the party to “clear away the evil habits of the old society” and extinguish what came to be known as “the four olds” — old ideas and customs, old habits and culture. “Sweep Away All Monsters and Demons,” the state newspaper instructed them.
With a vengeance they did.
In the struggle sessions the accused, often teachers suspected of lacking proletarian feeling, were paraded through streets and campuses, sometimes stadiums. It was important always to have a jeering crowd; it was important that the electric feeling that comes with the possibility of murder be present. Dunce caps, sometimes wastebaskets, were placed on the victims’ heads, and placards stipulating their crimes hung from their necks. The victims were accused, berated, assaulted. Many falsely confessed in the vain hope of mercy.
Were any “guilty”? It hardly mattered. Fear and terror were the point. A destroyed society is more easily dominated.
The Chinese Catholic Margaret Chu, a medical-lab assistant, was dragged into the office of her labor camp in 1968 and made to answer invented charges. “Their real motive was once and again to force me to admit all my alleged crimes,” she wrote decades later. “ ‘I did not commit any crimes,’ I asserted.” She was accused again, roughed up. She denied her guilt again. “Immediately two people jumped on me and cut off half my hair.”
She was tortured, left in handcuffs for 100 days, and imprisoned for years. While being tortured she sometimes prayed for death so her suffering would stop.
The Cultural Revolution lasted roughly a dozen years and died with Mao in September 1976. In time a party congress denounced it as what it was: ruinous.
So I ask you to entertain an idea that has been on my mind. I don’t want to be overdramatic, but the spirit of the struggle session has returned and is here, in part because of the internet, in part because of the extremity of our politics, in part because more people are lonely. “Contention is better than loneliness,” as my people, the Irish, say, and they would know.
The air is full of accusation and humiliation. We have seen this spirit most famously on the campuses, where students protest harshly, sometimes violently, views they wish to suppress. Social media is full of swarming political and ideological mobs. In an interesting departure from democratic tradition, they don’t try to win the other side over. They only condemn and attempt to silence.
The spirit of the struggle session is all over Twitter . On literary Twitter social-justice warriors get advance copies of new books and denounce them for deviationism—as insensitive, racist, appropriative, anti-LGBTQ. Books on the eve of publication have been pulled, sometimes withdrawn by authors who apologize profusely. Everyone’s scared. And the tormentors are not satisfied by an apology. They’re excited by it and prowl for more prey. …
Joe Biden understands the moment. He quickly apologized last week after calling Vice President Mike Pence “a decent guy.” Progressive Cynthia Nixon denounced Mr. Pence as “America’s most anti-LGBT elected leader and asked Mr. Biden to “consider how this falls on the ears of our community.” “You’re right, Cynthia,” he quickly responded.
All the Democratic candidates have apologized for something. Elizabeth Warren is abjectly sorry she took a DNA test.
Leaders of great liberal newspapers are in constant fear because so many of their readers — and writers — are more doctrinaire in their views, and angry. The struggle session is in the internal chatroom.
There’s a feeling in the air, isn’t there?
It’s not just the Democratic maniacs in Congress fueling the phenomenon; it’s politics of political correctness in academia. It’s the Twitter mob forcing publishers to pull books. It’s in the destruction of Confederate statues, the covering up of Columbus pictures, and the renaming of airports. It’s also in the groveling of the current Democratic presidential candidates over past positions, and it’s in House speaker Nancy Pelosi’s continuous bowing to the fresh new socialist revolutionaries elected to the Democrats’ ranks — the ones who want to take away your cars and force you onto government health care and, more disturbingly, openly promote Jew-hatred which up until now has been the province of social pariahs. In short, the mania of the socialist left seen today has a valid parallel in China’s Cultural Revolution and will lead the same place: a state-dominated hell. …
Noonan, who’s a NeverTrump, must feel the same way about having to state the obvious from such a superb description of the parallel events. That missing conclusion in her piece is that the only one thing standing between this repulsive neo-Cultural Revolution and us is President Trump, someone she will never be able to bring herself to say good things about.