The Oligarchs, the Courtiers, and the Others

Some thirty years ago I watched how flabbergasted parents of a Columbia University freshman, a.k.a., “first year,” reacted with incredulity to their daughter’s shrill peroration about the necessity to remove crosses from all public spaces so as “not to offend anyone.” Her folks showed up in New York to fetch her home for Thanksgiving. They yearned for familial continuity. Instead, a chain of love snapped, perhaps irreparably, because within three short months, their daughter became indoctrinated in the dogma of what we now refer to as wokeness.

The young (former) lady became a janissary, one of the active participants in the revolution of the One Percent. There are several levels in the woke revolutionary hierarchy. For the sake of clarity we can describe their representatives separately but, in reality, they tend to overlap.

The gazzillionaire One Percenters stand at the top, of course. The oligarchs are followed by the courtiers. The latter consist of several categories.  Some of the courtiers are loyal, and well-remunerated, personal attendants, perhaps sometimes even junior partners, maybe even friends, who identify completely with the One Percenters. The personal attendants tend to be both comforters and problems solvers. Others can be ubiquitous “experts,” often guns for hire. They will work for the highest bidder. Both sub-sets include lawyers, investors, foundation heads, and other enablers at the highest end.

A bit lower at the courtier rung, there are classical minions. They are the hangers on, attracted by power and wealth. Always eager to please their One Percent masters, they live off of the crumbs of the tables of the oligarchs and bask in the light of their reflected glory. Their fortunes ride on the success of whatever enterprise their betters undertake. This cohort fields such otherwise superfluous talent as personal shoppers, interior designers, dog psychologists, and other specialized spongers and fawners.

Then, we have the magicians. The magicians can be courtiers, but, more often than not, they are stand-alone. They are activists, artists, performers, creatures of fashion, press posturers, so-called experts, and social media "influencers." If needs be, the magicians can partake in the glory of the court.  Sometimes, they stay away to appear independent. In fact, the most sophisticated ones cyclically bite the One Percenter hand that feeds them. But they bite it just a bit and never tear it off, at least not at this stage.

Some of the magicians are dialectical manipulators, while others are just venal mercenaries or both. The most cynical simply salivate for grants, trickling down to them from the One Percenter-endowed foundations. Some of the manipulator-magicians can wear several hats, including as courtier-experts, say, in a One Percenter foundation. Knowing the oligarchic master’s general sentiments, they can channel an unending stream of largesse to the magicians’ own pet projects, for example Antifa or Black Lives Matter.

The manipulators among the magicians cynically and brazenly take advantage of the One Percenters, whom they consider useful idiots. The gazillionaires are either dupes supplying income, or blind bankrollers providing the wherewithal for a real revolution that will end with the extermination of the One Percenters and their system. 

The manipulators thus combine business and pleasure for their own nefarious ends. They either manipulate the One Percent or anticipate their incoherent progressive desires and translate them into sophistry’s intellectual constructs of a pseudo-morality play. The products of their deception become irresistibly fashionable. Repetition is the key to success. And so is drawing on preexisting thought patterns and prejudices. By regurgitating the products of the magicians, the One Percenters are convinced that they are merely voicing their own opinion. With pre-packaged cliches, they can not only sound sophisticated but also righteous. It is convenient for them to have their incoherent theories processed and interpreted by the magicians so to have their fantasies appear viable in practice.   

Many of the magicians are denizens of academia and/or media. They therefore cultivate the garden of a common woke vernacular. It tends to be, on the one hand, convoluted and hermetic, to create peer group solidarity and uniqueness at the magician level; on the other hand, it is also sufficiently primitive to communicate the most basic signals to lower-level woke followers.

The magicians have been extremely successful in their Orwellian endeavor. They have the opposition outmaneuvered through a simple gimmick. Regular Americans believe in “live and let live.” They interpret tolerance as grudgingly putting up with the unpalatable for the sake of domestic peace and as long as the regular folks remain unaffected by it.

The magicians however have managed to convince us that tolerance is not just joyous acceptance of everything they contrive, but a mandatory celebration of every pathology they embrace. The magicians further insist on exercising their own freedom of speech, while muzzling others with speech codes and allegations of “hate speech.” Thus, religious faith becomes “hate” unless it conforms with the diktat of “tolerance.”

The magicians both contrive the narrative, and serve as its propaganda transmission belts. Their rumor mill meets the expectations of the One Percent. The oligarchs identify with and expect others to spout and believe in just this sort of propaganda. 

With the ready largesse, the magicians direct the flow of the propaganda, but it is amplified by their apprentices: the janissaries.  In the Ottoman Empire from the 14th century the Yeñiçeri were little, pre-teen Christian boys from the Balkans who were kidnapped or otherwise forcibly taken from their parents as devshirme, or a punitive tax. Compelled to convert to Islam, they were indoctrinated and trained to serve as Ottoman bureaucrats or, much more often, personal bodyguards of the Sultan.

Before qualifying, many experienced the “joys” of the Great Porte. Rape was routine, not just of would-be janissaries, but of Christian child hostages in general. That, incidentally, was the lot of little Transylvanian prince Vlad Tepes. Held prisoner in Istanbul (Constantinople) since he was five, upon regaining his freedom, he turned on everyone with a vengeance becoming Vlad the Impaler, a real life precursor of Count Dracula.  

Nonetheless Muslim popularizer Tamim Ansary, of Destiny Disrupted: A History of the World Through Islamic Eyes (New York: Public Affairs, 2010), argues that the lot of the Christian boys in Ottoman was absolutely marvelous. It was comparable to winning a lottery ticket or obtaining a free education at an Ivy League school: for they were uplifted from their crummy villages to join the Ottoman elite, where they would fight and die for the Sultan. Never mind that the parents considered their children stolen.

Today we have no devshirme, but we are chained to the conviction that university education is the key to our success. Consequently, it boils down to a very similar predicament: send your child to college; go into debt to the tune of $200K; and see your progeny apostatize. Your daughter or son will abandon Christianity and patriotism, embrace an alien creed and civilization instead. Ultimately, they will join the ranks of woke revolutionaries. You have lost your child, including the piercings and tattoos.

The janissaries are the most effective grassroots missionaries and cannon fodder. Fueled by Critical Theory, they terrorize the campus quite effectively. Some of them get out to loot, burn, and riot. The most committed convert others on and off campus.

Of course, modern day janissaries find themselves at different levels of wokeness. Some of them may be even redeemable. Even the most committed may grow disenchanted and yearn for a way back home. But left to their own devices, they tend to succumb to the siren call of the revolution of the One Percent and its courtiers, magicians, and other minions. 

Only within this context, incorporating the courtiers and others, can we make sense of Michael Anton’s The Stakes: America at the Point of No Return (Washington, D.C.: Regnery Publishing, 2020): “This is the real nature of the modern American regime: a high-low coalition against the middle. The high—the oligarchs and their (relatively) impecunious but “educated” culturati—team up with the so-called “disfavored” or “disadvantaged” or “marginalized”: the fringe, the poor (but not the taxpaying working class!), single women, the unemployed and unemployable, welfare recipients, immigrants, and anyone unhappy with or angry at America.”

There is hope: the contemporary janissaries tend to be the weakest link. And one can buy some of the courtiers and magicians, if needs be. Once the Good Guys start winning, most of the rest will flock to our banners. Because it has been promised to us that, ultimately, the Gates of Hell shall not overcome the Kingdom of Heaven. Meanwhile, we are expected to fight the Good Fight, which, today, is a sort of social and political counterrevolution.

Marek Jan Chodakiewicz is a university professor.

Image: Picryl / public domain