Folks tire of my Weimar ‘n’ Whig analogies, so let me try another way to explain my read on what’s happening now. Call it a Martin Luther Moment.
[Please be advised that I’m not discussing The One True Faith here. I have no opinion on who is, or isn’t, going to hell. I’m pointing out some parallels to some stuff that happened. Capisce?].
Luther’s ideas got traction for a lot of reasons. They were politically useful — google up the Peace of Augsburg and work back. They were a finger in the eye of the establishment — Henry VIII doubled his income with the Annates Bill; imagine how much better off peasants and burghers would be if ecclesiastical duties were cancelled. They might even have been right — no small thing in a religious age.
But the most interesting part, for our purposes, is this: They kicked the mystical mumbo-jumbo out from under the Official Ideology.
95% of Europe’s population had never read the Bible before Luther. They couldn’t. It was in Latin, which nobody outside the elite spoke, and proposing that it should be translated into one’s own language got you burned at the stake. Luther’s key doctrine was Sola Scriptura, and it required you to read the Bible (he helpfully provided a translation into German). So lots of people did. They discovered that a whole bunch of stuff they were told was in there, wasn’t, and a bunch more stuff they were told wasn’t in there, was.
Official Ideologies depend on unquestioned assertions — canons of the Church; conventional wisdom; stuff “everybody knows.” One guy questioning the unquestioned assumptions is a heretic. One hundred guys questioning the unquestioned assumptions is a movement, and a thousand is a revolution.
The Powers That Be, caught flat-footed, bungle the job of suppression. They lack the tools — unquestioned dominance of the public sphere has so eroded their ability to think critically that they’re left repeating the old mantras, just louder and shriller. Luther was a mouth-frothing maniac, and calmer heads crushed him in debate. Alas for the PTB, the cooler heads’ time was long past. What Luther himself called a debate between monks had, thanks to the printing press, spread at lightning speed to every corner of Europe. What followed was a charming time historians call the Period of the Wars of Religion, where maniacs far more maniacal than Luther turned the Official Ideology completely on its head. Fun stuff, if you like forced polygamy, torture, and cannibalism.
Apply these examples to our own times. It starts small, with the lunatic fringe, in an arena nobody cares about. Then it grows, and mutates, spreads like wildfire over new, uncontrollable technology. The PTB know that Donald Trump is leading in the polls. Everyone who follows politics, and a lot of people who don’t, know what “cuckservative” means. But nobody in the PTB knows why. All they can do is repeat the same old mantras, louder and faster and shriller.
Until, of course, they get a mouth-frothing maniac of their own….Loading Likes...