Millenarian Mobs Are Here Again

Millenarian Mobs Are Here Again, by Angelo Codevilla.

Again and again over the centuries, persons who have imagined themselves cleansed by ritual confessions have believed themselves elevated above the rest of humanity and, hence, entitled to oppress or even annihilate those around them. Today’s self-purifiers, arms outstretched in supine submission, who then countenance violence against persons, property, and cultural symbols, are mostly unwitting protagonists in yet another chapter of a hoary history. …

Pelosi, Schumer, and co. kneeling for eight minutes while wearing African scarves

Between the 11th and 16th centuries, any number of movements of this sort used ritual confessions to cleanse themselves, and energized the mobs that waged Europe’s bloodiest wars of that age. Thereafter, though such movements secularized their terms, they fit into the same moral and intellectual categories. Now as ever, they are about destroying civilization in the name of altering the human condition. …

Today we see scenes of monuments which had stood for decades, now destroyed and defaced, as well as the forceful cancellation of names from circulation. Smashing others’ idols was, and remains, a staple of tribal warfare. The Old Testament recalls the divine command to destroy idols, and the clashes between Christian and Muslim armies always aimed as much at symbols as at people. …

War against statues, paintings, books, biographies, etc., has been a defining feature of civilization’s revolutionary enemies, consistent with their chosen identities as alien tribes. …

It fuels the same pattern of growth from semi-legitimate protest to mayhem to tyranny to ripping down civilization:

Always, millennial movements grow out of ordinary struggles. A few firebrands interpret the struggles radically, gather followers, and lead them along their own apocalyptic logic to bloody disaster. Social dislocations, as well as injustices, failures of leadership, and excessive expectations have been like tinder waiting for sparks. …

Almost invariably the leaders have been outcasts, or what Marxists call “lumpen-intellectuals.” In the Middle Ages they were half-educated, dissident or apostate lower clergy. Their initial focus was some obvious evil. As often as not, they claimed heavenly messages or apparitions as their authority. Their audience was twofold: those who saw themselves as the evil’s primary victims and those who wished to shed their responsibility for it. To the former, the prophets promised redress and immediate relief, while to all, and especially to the latter, they promised a role in a holy enterprise. …

Those who had undergone cleansing believed themselves so pure that they were no longer capable of sin. These elect believed they could, and even should, engage in the very practices that they had decried in others. Ridding the world of misbelief and misbelievers motivated the ritually purified elite. But the masses to whom they transmitted their mission dispensed with self-cleansing. They reduced the mission to killing their enemies. They would cleanse themselves as well as the world while entitling themselves to primacy and vengeance by wreaking destruction. …

In pursuit of power

Our own generation’s ruling classes are seized by no demons. Instead, they are principally concerned with holding on to power, and short-sightedly regard the revolutionary movements as allies against their socio-political competitors. That is why today it makes sense to consider the violent masses, and to some extent even the purified elite, as in effect pawns of the ruling classes. …

These movements’ foremost historian, Norman Cohn, describes in The Pursuit of the Millennium (1957) what they offered to people awash in filth, who had lost faith in their leaders and their futures. To “the disoriented, the perplexed, and the frightened,” they held out the prospect of long-sought vengeance — of taking power over the evil ones and destroying them utterly. At the very least, they offered a justification for the robbery, rape, and murder they had always dreamt of committing.

Cohn shows how the adherence of lower-class masses, the phenomenon of crowds shut off from alternative sources of information and argument, helped drive these movements along their radical logic, to the point that their adepts became utterly closed to reality. …

Hitler, in his published table talk, claimed that he and Stalin were the only true revolutionaries because, unlike Mussolini, they were tearing down their countries’ intellectual and physical ties to the past. …

The 1931 demolition of Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Savior — by some measures Christendom’s biggest church — was Stalin’s boldest statement in support of Marxism’s contention that all previous history had been an abomination, and of the Communist Party’s right to crush its enemies. It is difficult to over-emphasize the importance of civilization’s symbols. Suffice it to note that in 1990, as the Soviet Union was collapsing, Russia’s impoverished people set about rebuilding that cathedral to its precise specifications. …

The logic of millennialist revolution is very much alive among us. History teaches that the names of the evils — of the supposedly oppressed and their oppressors, as well as their grievances — are interchangeable and irrelevant.

Today, we need not imagine that the corporate magnates, the hard-bitten politicians, the FBI officials, who kneel draped in Kente cloth in penitence for “white racist America,” who declare solidarity with the mobs that deface statues — that any of them believe in anything other than their own power and advantage. Nor need we imagine that the majority of those mobs’ members are doing anything other than enjoying a holiday from the law. Protagonists and pawns are part of a revolutionary avalanche that must flow by its own logic.

Today, as in the Middle Ages, the mobs, the fires and desecrations, the ever-present focus on “the Jews!” have nothing to do with any truth or with the details of any particular event or accusation. What sense does it make for a mob in Brussels, Belgium, to tear down a statue of Julius Caesar in protest against four U.S. policemen’s killing of a black man whom they were arresting? Or for that matter, for a mob in Philadelphia to deface a monument to an unknown soldier of the Revolutionary War of 1776, or for Bostonians to organize the removal of a statue of Abraham Lincoln?

Alas, the millennialists and their mob do not need specific grievances against specific targets. The civilization itself is the only real target; its existence and the mob’s lack of complete mastery over it are the only grievances that really matter. They need know only that the civilization they are attacking has become vulnerable, undefended, and may be safely treated with contempt.

PNW = Pacific NorthWest, i.e. Seattle and Portland. More.

The current nonsense in the US fits the pattern pretty well.

hat-tip Charles