Did former President Donald Trump’s behavior lead to Black Lives Matter, the 2020 riots, and the fraught racial and sexual politics upending American society? That’s a far-fetched theory that can’t withstand the barest scrutiny, yet one of the leading voices in today’s leftist media advances it as an explanation for the present moment.
Jonathan Chait is not just any journalist. A columnist for New York magazine, he’s one of the preeminent members of the political class that forms elite leftist opinion in this country. It is important, therefore, to point out when he veers from the truth.
This time, Chait didn’t just veer but took a Left turn into Left field. His report on the National Conservative conference that took place in Miami in mid-September, and on that budding movement in general, was filled with easily disproven assertions and snide asides. It degenerated from the start by, sadly and predictably, labeling the movement “semi-fascist.”
One of these days, it will dawn on the Left that if fascism means economic corporatism plus political authoritarianism, then it is by far a much more useful moniker for those who seek to shut down debate, cancel the lives of those who disagree, sic law enforcement on concerned parents and Christian anti-abortion campaigners, and demand that private-sector tech publishers join the state in its crackdown on those who dissent from regime ideology.
Alas, we’re not there yet.
Instead Chait, one must assume unintentionally, widely confirmed the opinion expressed at the conference’s very good media panel that Americans must stop conferring on journalists any claim to being validators of truth. Chait railed against this idea but in the process, displayed Olympian levels of unself-awareness.
In his view, for example, the conservative journalists now vying for eyeballs with liberals like himself “really are activists or at least make no effort to follow norms of objectivity.” Is Chait so delusional that he thinks he’s objective? Did he at least wrestle with his conscience at all when he wrote those words, or is this all water off the duck’s back for him?
That he engages in very selective quoting is in itself a sign that it might be the latter. He bemoaned, for example, that, during the media panel, commentator Amber Athey quipped, referring to Chait, that “even here, goblinesque reporters lurk.”
Only that there was no period at the end of that sentence, only a comma. Athey had added, “… waiting for one of us to say something that they can spin into a gotcha headline or viral tweet.” That everyone knew he was there in bad faith and lurking for a rabbit punch made it plain that he was not seen as a follower of the “norms of objectivity.”
But let me concentrate now on Chait’s comments on the panel in which I took part, the one on race.
Chait was troubled that today’s conservatives “have looked at the angry atmosphere of the post- George Floyd protests as the starting point of a social revolution that, they fear, will only accelerate.” It also upset him that conservatives have “ignored the causal role Trump’s grossly racist and sexist behavior played in inciting this backlash.” Indeed, he added, “the panelists’ entire narrative of the Trump era was one of persecution … By their way of thinking, the true insurrection was undertaken against him.”
Except I never uttered the name Trump in my remarks (and I have reviewed my written text), let alone decry how persecuted he was. I don’t remember my friend and co-panelist Ian Rowe saying anything like that, either.
My talk was entirely about BLM, a subject I have written a book about and speak publicly about often. In my talk, I detailed how the architects of BLM had been recruited by committed Marxists more than a decade before they founded the organization and then trained for a decade on Marxism-Leninism and the practical arts of community organizing. One name I did mention (11 times!) in my talk, which Chait attended and took notes on, was that of Eric Mann, the former Weather Underground terrorist who mentored BLM co-founder Patrisse Cullors. As I said in Miami:
By the time she and Alicia Garza and Opal Tometi founded BLM after neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman was acquitted for the killing of Trayvon Martin in 2013—or at least that’s the story—Cullors had already had more than a decade of this type of revolutionary programming. And that’s Cullors. Garza was not trained by a former terrorist but by someone arguably worse—a scholar of the thought of Antonio Gramsci.
It was the following year, in 2014, that BLM’s founders created the revolutionary network it is today, during the riots it helped provoke after the police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. The rise in crime and lawlessness between 2014 and the present has been dubbed “the Ferguson effect.”
All of this happened while Trump was telling people, “You’re fired,” on national TV. Someone else was president.
It was the point of my remarks, and it is of my book, that “the angry atmosphere” we have today—which, indeed, purposely does seek a social revolution that will only accelerate—was planned and executed years prior to Trump ever measuring curtains in the Oval Office. The 2020 riots were part and parcel of the violent seven-year history of BLM and the decadelong indoctrination effort that preceded it. Trump played no “causal role” in either the formation of BLM or the discord it has wrought ever since.
So, forgive me if I don’t trust an activist, which is exactly what Chait is when he says that “one blind spot in [conservatives’] analysis is that they have dismissed the possibility that liberal society has any capacity to moderate. In the real world, Democrats nominated their most moderate candidate in 2020.”
Nah. The Left has repeatedly proved that they’re not only unwilling but incapable of moderating themselves. And, surely, if Chait had even an ounce of self-awareness, he’d recognize that he’s part of the problem.
This piece originally appeared in the Washington Examiner