A Red Terror Now Stalks the West

A Red Terror Now Stalks the West. By Mark Bauerlein.

Why did most Russians go along with communism, even though most of them detested it from the get-go? Because they were terrified of being shot or sent off to a gulag. In the West, people are merely cancelled. But just as in communist Russia, our elite are being terrorized into obeying a bunch of Marxists.

Here is a story by Heather Mac Donald of a renowned teacher at the Manhattan School of Music accused of racism and homophobia. The teacher has supported minority musicians for years, and she’s mounted performances of works by women and non-white composers. Nothing in her past suggests hostile attitudes. But in a Zoom call with students in June 2020, one of them challenged her for having produced, several years earlier, Franz Lehar’s The Land of Smiles, which, according to the student, portrays Asians in a demeaning fashion. The challenge came out of nowhere (Mac Donald wonders if the interrogator, who remained anonymous, was a “plant”), the accusation was irrelevant to the discussion, and the teacher dropped it and moved on….

The agitator, of course, didn’t let it go, and soon after a petition against the teacher circulated and gathered more than 1,800 signatures. The petition added charges of homophobia and “body shaming” as well. The administration acted quickly. The teacher, a white woman, was fired, and a black male replaced her.

Such a fate has become so common in our cancel-happy society that it doesn’t astonish us any longer. What does astonish us, however — or at least it should — is the response of others at the school.

Mac Donald puts it this way: “Vaughn’s colleagues, cowering from the mob, let her twist in the wind. Almost none came to her defense.” Mac Donald does quote two people who spoke up for her, one a former student who is now with the Metropolitan Opera, the other someone who worked with her in the School’s Opera Lab in the early 2010s, but that’s it. Otherwise, silence. None of her active colleagues in 2020 protested, and the administration didn’t bother to investigate the charges. (Mac Donald finds no evidence that college officials asked former students about the behavior of the teacher.)

How is it that the faculty said nothing and that administrators acted so precipitously to satisfy the angry kids? How could they ignore what was happening? The personal component alone can only make you shake your head. It forced them to sit and watch the persecution of someone with whom they’d worked for many years, whom they’d passed in the halls 500 times, and with whom they had dined and collaborated. No anger at what they had to witness, no indignation, no personal outrage?

Because they were terrified it would happen to them too:

The timid reticence of the elite whenever a charge of political incorrectness is launched is one of the sure signs of abnormality. This is a world turned upside down, seized and ruined with the compliance of those who are obligated to keep it right side up. …

The college president who rushes to apologize for imaginary crimes, the CEOs who pour money into the coffers of Black Lives Matter leaders who despise the very system that the business heads otherwise uphold, the famous actor who turns his own (putatively) insensitive remark into a public drama of penitence . . . fear has turned them into timorous tacticians.

They’re nervous, very nervous — and they’re willing to violate the norms of their own workplaces and fields and personal ethics when the pressure comes, or at least to retire in fear as others commit those violations.

The elite have more to lose, so they are more vulnerable to the fear of being canceled:

One wonders if there is something about the ladder of achievement in 21st century America that robs individuals of integrity the higher they go. They have more to lose, obviously, having gained so much, and the cancel mobs can be intimidating, to be sure. …

Too many people who recognize the illiberalism act too swiftly in order to show their goodness, stay out of the crosshairs, and mutter not even a whisper of doubt about the allegations for it to come down merely to self-protection.

A society led by chickens:

A society whose leaders are so easily cowed is heading toward a dark fate. To watch our prestigious academic chiefs bow down to a pack of irate 20-year-olds is to feel the American spirit drain away. …

The highly credentialed members of our society boast of their worldliness and tolerance and enlightenment, but there is now more freedom of speech and diversity of thought in an automotive repair shop than there is in the faculty lounge.

Never has there been more insecurity among the smart set, never more caution in the boardroom. Our high-achievers make the (supposedly) conformist 1950s look like a loose and free-wheeling Bohemia.

An excellent point, which goes some way to explaining the apparent stupidity and gutlessness of our elites.