The Year of Stupid

People react as they listen to speeches near an enclosed statue of Abraham Lincoln during a protest for racial equality at Lincoln Park in Washington, D.C., June 26, 2020. (Leah Millis/Reuters)
Has any people’s uprising ever been as moronic as the Great Awokening?

NRPLUS MEMBER ARTICLE I t turned out that the novel coronavirus was only the second-most-infectious disease to spread through the U.S. this year. Satan’s Cupcake has, after all, been diagnosed in less than 1 percent of Americans. The not-so-novel imbecility virus is, on the other hand, ravaging the minds of everyone from news reporters and politicians to brand managers, high-school kids, and utility-company executives. The fervor out there is often compared to the French Revolution, complete with the installation of a toy guillotine/vegetable chopper in front of Jeff Bezos’s house. But this revolution has a distinctly 21st-century American flavor: Let’s hear it for liberté, égalité, stupidité. Has any people’s uprising ever been this moronic? It’s like a sketch-comedy spoof of history, Bastille Day reenacted by the characters from Anchorman.

Item: In Minneapolis, the City Council votes unanimously to disband the police department and replace it with a “department of community safety and violence prevention” driven by “a holistic, public-health-oriented approach.” So, a Committee of Public Safety, then? Should Minneapolis ever follow through on this barmy scheme, which it won’t, I guess the Mini Apple can look forward to friendship bracelets instead of handcuffs, armed robbers getting suites at the nearest Hilton Garden Inn instead of jail cells, and lots of holistic counseling sessions for rapists. If there’s one thing we owe black folks, it’s to let criminals roam unchecked in their neighborhoods while rich, white, and well-connected people surround themselves with private security. People like, er, the members of the Minneapolis City Council.

Item: In Washington, D.C., working with the loud backing of leading public intellectuals who claim Abraham Lincoln and other Republicans did nothing to free the slaves, a mob of the historically challenged gather around a statue commemorating emancipation that was universally understood as a moving symbol of the liberation of black America until ten minutes ago, before the super-spreading of the stupidity virus. Protesters at the Emancipation Memorial have for days threatened to give Lincoln and a freed slave the Saddam Hussein treatment and drag them off the plinth they’ve shared for 144 years. Over the weekend, a young woman yelling at a pitch that would cause a dog’s eardrums to explode screeched, “Why are you protecting it?” The calm and historically literate older black gentleman at whom the question was directed patiently asked, “Who paid for it?” The answer to his question was, of course, “freed slaves.” But she didn’t know, so she hopped around as though suffering a full-body case of Jimmy legs and screamed, “Why are you fighting me?” A black woman with a keen interest in local history, Marcia Cole, pointed out on a local news program that the slave depicted in the statue “is not kneeling on two knees with his head bowed. He is in the act of getting up. And his head is up, not bowed, because he’s looking forward to a future of freedom.” Instead of looking up he’ll soon be looking at the bottom of a river bed or a ditch if the mob gets its wish, as today’s mobs usually do.

Item: Hulu removes an ancient episode of The Golden Girls from its streaming platform, presumably never to be seen by human eyes again. It seems two of the famed Filles d’Or were wearing mud treatments on their faces when they met the black family into which one of their sons was about to marry. Hilarity ensued. Betty White’s character Rose said, “This is mud on our faces, we’re not really black.” Scenes from, or entire episodes of, Community, 30 Rock, The Office, and Scrubs were similarly memory-holed. An exasperated Twitter user wrote that not a single black person in America was offended and called the removal “white guilt knee-jerking into reactionary performative allyship.”

Item: A Latino truck driver, Emmanuel Cafferty, is publicly humiliated and fired from his job at San Diego Gas & Electric Company because he allowed his left thumb to touch his left index finger while driving a truck. Since the OK sign is coded as a white-power gesture among batty people who spend way too much time freaking out online, Cafferty was canned by panicky superiors. “To lose your dream job for playing with your fingers,” he said, “that’s a hard pill to swallow.” The motorist who pulled the pin on this social hand grenade on Twitter later deleted the tweet, allowed he may have gotten “spun up” about the non-meaning of the non-incident, and said he hadn’t intended to cost the man his job. Oops.

Item: Woke flume riders demand that Disneyland and Disney World rethink their popular Splash Mountain attraction because of racism. What racism? Well, the rides themselves, which feature cartoon animals, are not racist in any way, but they’re linked to the 1946 Uncle Remus film Song of the South, which features heavy use of regional accents by black and white actors and which CNN tells us has a “romanticized view of the antebellum South.” The movie is set entirely during Reconstruction, as anyone who has ever seen it could tell you, but why see it when you can just denounce it? The ride, meanwhile, is being reimagined to depict characters from The Princess and the Frog, a movie built around black protagonists in New Orleans. Here’s hoping Disney has enough wit to acknowledge our age of absurdity by rechristening it “New Orleans Mountain.”

Item: One David Shor, a white data analyst for the firm Civitas, is ritually degraded for accurately tweeting the results of a paper by a black Princeton professor, Omar Wasow, which found that violent protests tended to decrease voter support for the Democratic Party while nonviolent protests tended to bolster it. Shor’s white colleagues were incensed that anyone might mention research showing that burning down neighborhoods tends not to endear the voters to your agenda, and their obloquy got him a pink slip.

Among the very dim and very woke, some seem to find the Robespierre model too dull and have installed Stalinism as their O.S. As Martin Amis explained in his Stalin book Koba the Dread, “You might denounce someone for fear of their denouncing you. You could be denounced for not doing enough denouncing; the only disincentive to denunciation was the possibility of being denounced for not denouncing sooner. . . . Children who denounced their parents became national figures, hymned in verse and song.” Recently, on TikTok, a girl racked up 277,000 likes for a video in which she reenacted how she had supposedly shouted at her “Republican father” over dinner that he was a “stupid f***ing dinosaur.” This never happened, as the girl admitted to HuffPost; her parents actually “support the movement and are horrified at what happened to George Floyd.”

Today’s youngest radicals are taking the family denouncing a step farther; children are anonymously using social-media platforms to denounce other children, with the stated goal of destroying their future career prospects or chances of being admitted to college. The denouncers get rewarded with today’s equivalent of verse and song: the fawning news-media profile. A 16-year-old student in Smithtown, N.Y. told the New York Times, “I’m not trying to target freshmen or middle schoolers, but people who are about to go to college need to be held accountable for what they say. . . . I don’t want people like that to keep getting jobs.”

Terrified parents hoping to buy insurance against their pubescent children being socially murdered via Facebook post while they’re trying to get into Wesleyan are clamoring to fend off the race police by getting a copy of one of the signature texts of the Year of Stupid: the cartoonish board book, Antiracist Baby, which is ostensibly for two-year-olds but is plainly aimed at grownups, like a woke successor to Go the F*** to Sleep. Garbled lessons include, “Some people get more while others get less/Because policies don’t always grant equal access.” Never mind that there is no way “equal access” can possibly guarantee that no one gets “more while others get less.” That’s just normal, 2019-level stupid. What makes this book extra-strength, 2020-level stupid is its assumption that you should roll up the social-justice artillery to a tiny human in diapers who thinks Elmo is real. Have no fear, Sesame Street watchers: Even if you don’t get Antiracist Baby for your second birthday, you’ll get plenty of chances to learn socially approved, grownup kinds of stupidity soon enough.

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