Bari Weiss notices that the elites have turned against America

Bari Weiss left the Wall Street Journal because it didn't condemn Donald Trump enough during the 2016 campaign.  She joined the New York Times, which condemned Trump all the time.  Weiss was a little to the right of most reporters and editors at the Times, and she eventually felt their wrath.  Weiss says the Times treated her like a "heretic," which caused her to leave the "paper of record" and start her own Substack newsletter, which has become popular.  She tells her story to Peter Robinson on the Hoover Institution's Uncommon Knowledge.

Robinson, who wrote speeches for President Ronald Reagan, is a fabulous interviewer.  Weiss is not a conservative.  She is as critical of Fox News as she is of MSNBC.  What she reveals is not only the wokeness of our elites but also the intolerance of what she calls the "illiberal left."  And she says a chasm has opened up between the elite and the public, and the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed an elite that makes rules for the public that it does not itself obey.

The elite, she says, is causing the unraveling of America from its dominant positions in the media, educational institutions, and cultural institutions.  That elite has a very different view of America and the world from what most of the American public sees.  What we are witnessing, Weiss says, "is the story of an elite turning against America."

Weiss recalls how her former employer the Times, the so-called "paper of record," missed Trump's victory, which Weiss's mother told her was going to happen.  The Times missed it — as other mainstream media missed it — because everything at the Times is political, and that includes its coverage of culture.  And its reporters and editors live in a bubble of leftist ideology that is often ignorant about actual reality.  To quote Weiss: "Inside the old institutions, the brand of what you were allowed to be curious about has shrunk. . . . That leaves the entire rest of the world."  That is the audience Weiss says she is trying to reach with her Substack.

Weiss says she is disenchanted with both political parties and hopes Andrew Yang will start a third party. She envisions an anti-woke counter-revolution that will not just oppose wokeism, but rebuild and reinvent our American democracy in our institutions of culture, education, and politics. 

Weiss, perhaps because she is relatively young, sees this anti-American elite as a new phenomenon.  It isn't.  Perhaps she should read Paul Hollander's great book Political Pilgrims, which told the story of American intellectuals' alienation from their country due to its imperfections and the elites' embrace of totalitarian ideologies that promised to "remake" the world.  It is no accident that most of the communist agents and fellow travelers in the West during the Cold War were intellectual elites.  What Weiss also fails to understand is that the root of that alienation is the rise of secularism among our elites, who, because they do not believe in a heavenly afterlife, seek to produce a political Utopia on earth — but, of course, always fall short.

Those elites — one of whom famously derided Americans for clinging to God and guns, and another of whom labeled many Americans as "deplorables" — believe they are entitled to political power.  When they have that power, they use it to acquire riches and more power for themselves and their fellow elites.  Barack Obama did not hide the fact that he sought to fundamentally change America — because, in his mind, America's past sins outweighed its remarkable achievements.  What Weiss describes as woke ideology is an effort to regulate, control, and if necessary punish thoughts and ideas that are unacceptable to the elite ruling class.

The problem — the chasm — is much deeper than Weiss appreciates.  As Whittaker Chambers once wrote, it is as old as the story of the Garden of Eden, where the Devil tempts Adam and Eve with the promise that they, too, can be as gods by eating the forbidden fruit.

A third political party is not the answer to America's dilemma of wokeness.  The institutions must be taken back by what Richard Nixon once called the "silent majority."  But it may be too late.

Image: Adam Jones via Flickr (cropped).

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