By Corey Wolf. Corey can be found on Twitter @DrCoreyWolf
The year was 1900. A group of about 50 young African-American students are assembled outside the Whittier Primary School in Hampton, Virginia. One student stands in front of the group, at the military position of attention. Between his hands is a flag standard, three times his height, bearing the colors of the United States of America. The group of students each have their right hand raised in a flag salute. Why did these grandchildren of slaves pledge an act of allegiance to the American flag? And what could make the descendants of these children protest the same flag during the national anthem today? The answer has to do with stories.
People think in stories. As psychology professor Jonathan Haidt said, “the human mind is a story processor, not a logic processor.” Utilitarianism does not bind our nation together; believing the same origin story does.
These children saluting the flag were taught a story about America, a story in which they played a positive role. A story about a nation that lived up to its calling and bestowed the blessings of liberty to all races. This story has been the dominant origin story for some 240 years. But over the past few years a new dark narrative has descended from our country’s elites. The conflict between these two stories has the potential to destroy America by poisoning the roots of our origin story and even generate a third story. What are these stories?
Story 1 goes roughly like this: The founding of America was a remarkable achievement in human history, the first country rooted in philosophy, rather than genetics. These ideological roots enshrined liberty and allowed non-elites to have a say in how they were ruled. Although there have been fits and starts since the founding, Americans have used these roots to continue to build a more perfect union.
This story has good guys, the Founders, in conflict with tyrants, the British, and a narrative arc that tell us who we as a nation are (people who love freedom) and what we should do (support freedom). It is a Western story, replete with respect for the individual, toleration, the belief in reason, and reverence for the truth.
Story 1 leads people to have the attitude that anyone from anywhere can be American; all one has to do is understand the value of liberty and believe in Story 1. It is a story that forges a tribe (“Tribe 1”) out of disparate peoples and leads to prosperity and prevents totalitarianism.
However, today Story 1 is being attacked by leftists. Story 2, which has been present in academia and deep-blue pockets of America for decades, is now becoming the dominant story of our cultural elites. This is evidenced not only by data showing the pushing of propaganda and the leaked recordings from the New York Times that all their reporting will be filtered through the lens of racism, but through their latest 1619 Project, the stated aim of which is to understand the first slave shipment to North America in 1619 as “our true founding” and “at the very center of the story we tell ourselves about who we are.”
Story 2 goes something like this: America was founded by white supremacists who oppressed others. The racist descendants of the Founders continued the oppression. But the jig is up. There are now enough woke people to wrestle control of this country from the oppressors to create a utopia.
There is a word that describes the process of changing origin stories: revolution. The relevant fault lines in our cultural revolution are not black/white, left/right, red/blue, but Tribe 1 and Tribe 2. But who are the revolutionaries?
Given the salience of race and sex it may be tempting to identify what professor Jon Haidt calls the left’s “common enemy” as white men because Tribe 2 preach the socio-sexual-racial intersectional caste system known as the “progressive stack” that generally has non-college educated straight white male Christian conservatives at the bottom. However, this is not quite accurate because the belief in Story 1 renders members of a higher caste as apostates who are then tossed into the basement of the hierarchy, as has happened to Story 1 believing Dinesh D’Souza, Andy Ngo, and Candace Owens (an Indian immigrant, a gay Asian man, and a black woman, respectively).
Further, according to the Hidden Tribes Study, the members of Tribe 2 are disproportionately white and educated. Reihan Salam has attempted to explain this apparent contradiction by arguing that we are engaged in a Cold Civil War between “upper-whites” and “lower-whites.” Or in simpler terms “Prius whites” are using non-whites as proxy warriors against “pickup-truck whites.” Scott Alexander is more accurate when he writes that “white” is a codeword for “Red Tribe.” Although there may be elements of truth to these explanations, it does not explain what happened to former Evergreen College professor Brett Weinstein, a Bernie Sanders supporter who was run out of his tenured position by a mob for failing to bend the knee to members of Tribe 2, nor does it explain the Christakis’ being excommunicated from Yale, nor the Sam Harris-Ezra Klein animosity.
This framing also explains the current clash over immigration. Tribe 1 views immigration as a means to increase the number of people who believe in, and benefit from, Story 1. Thus, they believe that it’s best to have quality control to maintain the long-term health of the tribe.
Tribe 2’s support for unlimited illegal immigration proves they do not believe in quality control; they view immigration as amassing troops before storming the castle (immigrants and their children vote almost 2-1 for the left).
What are the implications of this revolution? Revolutionaries always change symbols. The Union Jack gave way to the Stars and Stripes. And like the Taliban dynamiting Buddhist statues in Afghanistan, the Tribe 2 zealots promise to destroy any symbols associated with the “old” tribe, including the alleged patriarchs of white supremacy: the Founders. Recently a decision was made to paint over a mural of George Washington in a San Francisco school and Charlottesville will no longer celebrate the birthday of its native Founder, Thomas Jefferson. Nike and a Major League Soccer team refuse to display the Betsy Ross flag.
But this won’t stop with symbols. The license to dismantle white supremacy is unconstrained because Tribe 2 is “finding” writing material for their narrative in every corner of American culture. Indeed, “white supremacy” is said to be lurking beneath everything from “the written word” to “perfectionism” to “free speech” to “individualism” to Western civilization to the Constitution to the Second Amendment and to our criminal justice system. Even the idea of properly manicured lawns has been framed by the New York Times as a symbol of the “colonizing of America.”
As Story 2 develops, it simultaneously delegitimizes the belief in the Constitution as a binding document for the nation by tarnishing it with “whiteness.” A frenzied mob hacking at the roots of Story 1 in the name of dismantling white supremacy could rip through the core principles of our country: freedom of speech and due process.
Tribe 2 believes that everything and anyone can be accused of white supremacy and the allegations must be taken as unquestionably true. Unlike in the legal world, objective facts cannot rebut these accusations because objectivity itself is alleged to be white supremacy. This assures that power-hungry leftists will hurl unfalsifiable accusations of white supremacy like third graders throwing chicken nuggets in a food fight. Except the stains left behind will not be ketchup, but blood.
The aftermath may be especially brutal given that our elites are disproportionately atheistic. Over the past century, no group has stacked up a larger body count than leftist atheistic elites. Such elites in communist China, the Soviet Union, North Korea, Ethiopia, and Cambodia oversaw the murder of at least a hundred million of their citizens. The causal mechanism between leftist atheistic elites and murder is unclearbe it moral relativism leads to the most intolerant in power or the lack of respect for the sacredness of individual soulsbut the correlation is clear.
Indeed, Story 2 rhymes with many Marxists narratives throughout history. For example, the Bolsheviks believed that landowning farmers, the kulaks, were oppressors. Once labeled as such, up to 12 million Ukrainians were murdered by starvation during a period called the Holodomor, the largest genocide in history.
Having whipped themselves into the frenzy of believing Tribe 1 are kulak-like oppressors, will Story 2 fanatics enact their Holodomor in America? If this seems unfathomable, realize that within decades automatization will render tens of millions of Americans permanently unemployable and dependent upon the government. Will Tribe 2 starve their enemies by drafting laws so that “white supremacists” will be ineligible for a government services? Will they take more active measures?
Any large-scale actions would necessarily rely upon Silicon Valley’s data. The Bay Area is ground-zero for Story 2, so it is not surprising that tech companies like Google, Twitter, and Apple are Tribe 2. Assuming the allegations are true, does this explain why Google refuses to lend artificial intelligence expertise to the US military, yet arms the Chinese military with what Peter Thiel calls an “AI Manhattan Project”? Given that intelligence is what transformed uranium from a useless gray rock into a weapon that can destroy nations, the rise of China as an unstoppable military superpower may be the most profound global risk of Story 2.
Perhaps with such coercive power, violence, advances in the surveillance state, and the treasure trove of data that Google has, Tribe 2 will be able to use totalitarian means to attempt to build a utopia based on Story 2.
But as Story 2 creeps up the tree of Story 1 like kudzu, the roots of Story 1 will die, slowly, then all at once. The tree will fall. And like mushrooms popping out of a dying tree, a new story will sprout.
As European-Americans increasingly perceive that they are viewed by Tribe 2 as a disease to be eradicated, they will feel backed into a corner. Resentment will build. They may come to perceive Tribe 2’s support for immigration as ethnic cleansing. Brett Weinstein has theorized what happens next. As he notes, the historical basis for voluntary cooperation has been genetic. Only recently has a shared story, like Christianity or Story 1, been capable of substituting ideological roots for biological roots.
Once Story 1 is gone, America’s ideological roots will be dead. We will become Yugoslavia. The survival instinct will force European-Americans to coalesce around Story 3, based on genetics.
Story 3 will be that only whites are capable of building and maintaining Western civilization, and others are parasites. As the future battles heat up, Tribe 2 will proclaim that they were right all along, triggering a negative feedback loop that will end with dismantling the Constitution. The American experiment and our freedoms will be dust in the wind.
This is a future that all Americans need to work to avoid. Is it too late, has Pandora’s box been opened, the demons never to be re-captured? Will we ever feel community with our fellow citizens again, or is there no hope for our dying roots?
Story 1 can be a powerful salve, capable of healing many wounds, but it may not be enough. Do we need another Great Awakening, a religious revival, such that we have more in common? Do we need to fight what Jon Haidt calls the left’s use of “common-enemy” identity politics in the courts and in the culture?
These and more questions need to be answered before we bring ourselves back from the brink of disaster, but now the goal is clear: believing in America again. Both elites and non-elites must believe in America again, but saving America will be impossible if our elites refuse to believe Story 1. Therefore, we must adopt the motto Make Elites Believe in America, Again.