President Trump’s speech on July 3, 2020, in front of Mount Rushmore, succeeded tremendously. We know the speech was successful, judging by how quickly the anti-Trump voices in the media panned it, calling it dark, divisive, and many other maleficent adjectives. The full text of Trump’s speech got reposted on Newsmax.
Whether the speech will help him defeat Joe Biden’s challenge or not remains for November to decide. The forces of reaction against Trump have so many powerful sponsors and control of so many platforms, even the best worded oratory can only go so far. But given the room Trump has to deliver a message, define his followers’ movement clearly, and present a compelling vision for American politics, he did the best he could.
I consider the best parts of this speech the following:
- He named cancel culture and made it clear that it’s not a cosmetic or superficial issue but one that strikes at the very root of our country’s foundational principles.
- He named “far-left fascism” and forced people to acknowledge that the great extremist threat on the political spectrum has until now flown under the radar. Overwhelming attention has been paid to “far-right” extremist groups defined as white nationalist, nativist, theocratic, neo-Nazi, etc. These latter right-wing fringes exist on the margins of society, largely blacklisted by conservative organizations as much as by left-wing organizations. The left-wing fringes, however, are no longer fringe. The predominance of Marxist-Leninist ideology, packaged as postmodern criticism, has had a palpable effect. The growing percentage of intellectuals and influencers in the United States who trace their inspirations back to Marxist-Leninist leaders has created a dire situation in the United States. The far-right extremists are dangerous because they target people based on race. The far-left extremists evince a general contempt for humanity and callous disregard for human suffering, because they have been trained and mentored by postmodernists who were really Marxist-Leninist and felt comfortable with Maoist and Stalinist tactics even as they universally condemned Naziism. Until now no major public figure has convincingly named “far-left fascism,” which is essentially the Maoist and Stalinist tactics minus truly socialist economic philosophy. In doing so, Trump drew attention to a gigantic problem, which is the left’s blind spot about the dangerous extremists on their own side.
- Trump named the “cultural revolution” taking place, referring to Mao’s cultural revolution in China, a country that is currently in protracted conflict with us. While Russia has gone through turmoil and sloughed off her Stalinist government (albeit not totally), China still has a Communist Party that traces its descent to the oppressors of Tiananmen Square and earlier, to the grotesque excesses of Chairman Mao. The Maoist model of overturning history and such movements’ typical focus on iconoclasm bears directly on what is happening in the US today.
So let’s take a moment to thank Donald Trump for placing these issues out of the shadows and into the spotlight where they belong. Let’s talk each one by one.
While it has some connection to far-left fascism and the cultural revolution, cancel culture also represents a very specific, recent American problem. It is not only a leftist problem; in fact, an honest history must pin some of the origins of cancel culture on David Horowitz and his infamous targeting of Ward Churchill. Ward Churchill and Norman Finkelstein were left-wing professors driven out of multiple jobs during the 2000s. The manner of “canceling” such men created the template that the leftists would use in the 2010s: Create a media firestorm, gather outraged members of the public to pressure institutions, figure out the chain of command within an institution, and pull strings at the appropriate level in order to make the targeted person disappear.
Many of the early anti-leftist “cancel” pushes revolved around critics of Israel. In the 1990s and 2000s, it may be hard for people to remember now, but anti-Semitism was the deadliest charge one could level at another person. In those days there were still many Holocaust survivors in their lucid 60s and 70s, and World War II was still the moral gold standard. I can remember when anyone in the academy who said anything remotely critical of Israel would be vicious attacked and barred from a further career. That changed by 2011, however, when I wrote this piece for American Thinker noting that anti-Semitism had been replaced by homophobia as the ultimate career-killer.
The year 2011 stands in as a crucial transition because that was the year Barack Obama’s secretary of education issued a “Dear Colleague” letter that changed the standard for investigation in anti-harassment charges (on college campuses). It stated that rather than proving beyond a reasonable doubt, accusers only had to show a “preponderance of evidence” that their charges were true. A series of changes in the handling of harassment charges led to a rash of politically motivated cases brought against any professor considered conservative, Christian, or anti-leftists.
The change toward “preponderance of evidence” came with new changes in how colleges treated harassment charges. The accused no longer had a right to see the charges against him. Often the accused did not even know why questions were being posed to him. The “investigator” was also the one who advocated for the accuser and the one who decided the guilt in the case. “Retaliation” was suddenly taken very seriously, and you could be found guilty of retaliation even if the charges against you were deemed untrue.
Many colleges like Cal State Northridge, where I was subjected to years of this star chamber treatment, claimed to defend academic freedom even while allowing leftists to manipulate all the loopholes left by Obama’s changes in the education code. Someone who made a statement that “offended” or “triggered” someone anywhere, on campus or off, could easily raise a mob to get the supposed offender disciplined, even fired, while the university could claim they did nothing to violate academic freedom because they were simply “required” by law to investigate. Once they’re investigating, the accused is under onerous procedural rules that case anything he does to defend himself as “retaliation.” So if a student accuses Professor X of harassment by assigning Lolita in class, the six months of investigation give the university many chances to find Professor X guilty of retaliation by the time they conclude that the original accusation was groundless.
In changing the nature of campus investigations Obama birthed a new kind of cancel-crazy mob, combining phony off-site campaigns with internal kangaroo courts and media mobs. The original Horowitz cancel culture was bad, but it was limited and didn’t have the backing of powerful institutions or violent street mobs.
The victims of 2010s cancel culture are numerous. They have suffered in silence for years because the conservative movement only finds them useful briefly and invariably cuts them loose in search of more media-friendly poster children like Baronelle Stutzman or Jack Phillips. Trump’s “cancel culture” reference was powerful and necessary. This reference acknowledges also that cancel culture birthed the Trump movement. Trump’s policies never stood out by themselves; what people most wanted was Trump’s challenge to the politically correct discourse that had stifled almost all national policy deliberation.
But it’s crucial that Trump follow through on his mention of cancel culture. He needs to empanel a commission to deal with cancel culture and seek reparations for its documented victims. This is key.
The left will protest that fascism is a “right-wing” movement by definition but such protestation is silly. Nobody can fully define fascism when we consider that Franco, Mussolini, and Hitler were all fascists but had quite different policies in mind. The current “left” is not openly advocating for a Communist revolution since their corporate sponsors and billionaire backers don’t want that. Hence the only sensible authoritarian designation for the current left wing and its domination of corporations and institutions is fascist.
Trump’s reference to far left fascism gives a name to the problem people are trying to ignore: the dangerous extremism flowing from the Marxist-Leninist fount of the university professors. Far-left professors long ago broke with the liberal precepts of free speech and a “marketplace of ideas,” opting instead for protection of people who need safe spaces and feel triggered. Colleges have escaped serious scrutiny except from conservative critics who are still too worried about getting their children into elite colleges to take on the problems with the collegiate left fully.
But the left has banked for decades on their casting of right-wing people as violent, presuming that they could convince the public that leftists, since they support gun control and claim (at times) to oppose the military, are somehow nonviolent. The left has never been averse to violence, if the target is right in their eyes. Trump tore away the cloak of rhetoric by which people have directed all public concern to the violence of the far right and have ignored the much more pervasive threat of far-left violence, which has the backing and implicit support of many institutions such as schools.
The cultural revolution
The Maoist Cultural Revolution has scarcely been studied in the United States, receiving even less attention in the curriculum than has Stalin’s purges.
But by naming a “cultural revolution” in the USA, Trump has brought attention to key parallels between today’s left and the massive purges carried out by Nazis, Soviets, and Maoists in the twentieth century.
The Nazis declared people defective or enemies of the state, and made them disappear.
The Soviets declared people insane, and made them disappear.
The Maoists declared people uneducated or stupid, and made them disappear.
The extermination camp, gulag, and reeducation camps were all born from massive cultural purification efforts that sought the disappearance of all dissent, even if it meant erasing large percentages of the population. Of these, right now the Maoist modality seems most comparable to the US left, but the left has tinges of all three.