Reflections on American carnage

Many Britons looking at the turmoil unfolding in America will be glad that they live in the relative tranquility of the United Kingdom. The monarchy provides our country with much needed stability and deprives politicians of the respect and loyalty so many of them crave. In Britain, patriots might lay down their lives for Queen and Country, but they have a relationship with politicians that is not dissimilar to that between dogs and lampposts. From what is being said on Twitter, in contrast, it seems the USA has just narrowly avoided a coup d’état, so loyal were some to their own dear president.


The reaction within the chattering classes that followed Wednesday's events was misguided, however. They reveal the lofty and arrogant assumptions which led to the Trump revolution of 2016. Much of the commentary has been hyperbolic with people on twitter grandstanding and wishing to pretend that this is the most significant, violent, and awful event in American history. It is not. If the rioters had not managed to get through the five lines of police defences and into the Capitol Building, there would be no story. And considering the damage it has done to Trump and his family, I cannot believe that he seriously expected his supporters to do what they did following his rally. This was not a planned and orchestrated coup attempt; things would be significantly different right now if it had been. Trump’s rhetoric certainly whipped up the mob, but the president is too short-sighted a man to have foreseen what they then went on to do. Before the pandemic scuppered his chances of re-election, the 45th President achieved much more than his critics ever expected him to do, but his refusal to accept defeat has severely damaged the legacy he will leave. Many now view him to be a stupid and dangerous charlatan who did not understand the forces that have looked to him as their saviour.


Trump will exit the White House leaving behind a country that is riddled with political strife and disorder: the western world now hopes that Biden will end this American carnage. Unfortunately, it is unlikely that Biden will achieve this because the Democratic Party have not taken responsibility for much of the turmoil which they have helped to create. Commentators on the Left have avoided the hard questions and continue to hide behind their cosy world view. Seemingly, we have still not got beyond the “Great Man” theory of history, as many want to point the finger solely at Trump. This is obviously wrong. The history tripos in Cambridge has not traditionally favoured this Great Man view of history. If one looks to the paper on social and economic history in Early Modern England, for example, essay titles demand analysis of “the crowd” or “popular protest and revolt”. Left wing historians used to love to write about this topic. To historians like E P Thompson, the moral economy of the poor, expressed through riot and protest, was something to be admired and considered as a significant vector of historical change. I do not necessarily agree with this analysis but the swiftness with which Left commentators have forgotten this interpretation of history does demonstrate how the political dynamics of our time are shifting and becoming confused. Class analysis of politics has disappeared and much of the snobbery and condescension that was once the reserve of the Right, seems to have moved to parts of the Left.


The American carnage will not end so long as the hypocrisy, endemic on the Left, is not overcome. During the summer, political violence erupted across America. BLM rioters looted and burned down cities for many months while politicians and commentators expressed support or justification for this criminality. It was apparently the righteous and justified anger of the unheard. Many of the large corporations and institutions across the western world that have gone “woke” also expressed support and promised to change in the direction the rioters demanded. No doubt China laughed as the West succumbed to this madness and self-destruction.


Wednesday’s violence has been described alternatively as terrorism, sedition, or the beginnings of a coup. While it is true that the fools who made it into the Capitol were attempting to disrupt the peaceful transfer of power, it is also the case that they failed. They will most likely end up in prison. In the summer, however, rioting was seen as the collective voice of the righteous. It led to, and is still leading to, enormous cultural and probable political change. This has affected the whole western world. Even in Britain, statues were toppled or added to disturbing lists dedicated to the new iconoclasm, last seen in the days of Cromwell. Maddening acts of stupidity occurred, such as when the British Library exacted a strange investigation into their collections to ensure they appropriately dealt with “problematic material”. This led to a bizarre scenario when Ted Hughes was included on a blacklist because one of his ancestors from the 17th century had owned slaves (thankfully after complaints this decision was reversed). A similar act of cultural suicide occurred at Liverpool University where a building named after the great Liberal Prime Minister William Gladstone was renamed because one of his forefathers had links to slavery. This decision was not reversed. Episodes like these have been repeated throughout the western world, as corporations and institutions scramble over themselves to display their woke credentials.


Clearly then, mob rule can win, if rioters have momentum and institutional backing. Absurd ideologies concerning racial identity politics have been filtered from obscure textbooks, through riot and social media, into the lexicon of everyday life in the West. The few hundred idiots who managed to get into the Capitol, however, have no backing. They will all be arrested and most likely charged with sedition. Believing they were brave patriots defending their president from a fraudulent election, they will soon discover that their president would rather save his own skin than theirs.


Many on the Trumpian Right will not change their views, however. These events will further entrench their opinion that a deep state globalist conspiracy exists that stole the election from Trump and is destroying the USA. While the storming of the Capitol was an abject failure, many will conversely see Big Tech’s banning of Trump from social media as an obvious example of the emerging technocratic elite’s success in subverting the political system. Afterall, success in a coup has always depended upon the plotters taking control of the airwaves. It is why the revolutionaries of the 1916 Easter Rising marched on Dublin’s General Post Office, where Patrick Pearse proclaimed the advent of the Irish Republic. When Big Tech has the power to silence a president, which they have now done, everyone should be concerned – whatever they think of Trump and recent events. The way technology and media are manipulated to control opinion is a grave threat to liberty and democracy in the modern world – much more serious than the few hundred angry Trump loyalists who will soon be sat in prison.


Commentators from all sides must therefore understand that chaotic events like the storming of the United States Capitol, as it is now being remembered, cannot be explained with simple and partisan analysis. Political instability in the USA has multiple causes: societal atomisation, globalisation, mass migration and demographic change, political distrust, and economic depression. These problems will not disappear when Trump leaves office. Indeed, Trump was elected because of these issues. The Left therefore has just as much responsibility for American disorder as does the establishment Right: both have failed for decades to tackle these concerns. To take the easy path and revel in the comfortable self-assurance that you were right all along to call Trump a fascist, is therefore the worst possible reaction to this event. That reaction will simply serve to continue to fragment American politics and expand the number of angry Americans who feel they have been betrayed by an out of touch elite. If this happens, the USA will continue in its degrading and decadent journey of decline, and its society, culture, and standing in the world will be atrophied. The 21st Century will in consequence belong to China, who have been laughing at this charade for too long.