I belatedly listened to Bari Weiss’ November 17th talk to the Federalist Society. Others on HBL have found fault with it, but those flaws are of no consequence compared to the two extraordinary virtues of the talk.
But there is a prefatory virtue: she gives us a benchmark for the decline of Western civilization. After 9/11, everyone in America was on the right side. There was an outpouring of American flags and genuine patriotism. People and government officials around the civilized world said things like, “We’re all Americans now.”
People woke up to a new (to them) menacing evil: militant Islam. Yes, there was a terrible reluctance to name it (supposedly, what we were fighting was “terrorism”). Yes, President Bush described Islam as “a religion of peace.” Yes, the American sense of “solidarity” evaporated in a few months. But what Bari Weiss observed was the marked contrast in Western reaction to 9/11 and October 7th.
I don’t think I have to enumerate the shocking pro-slaughter demonstrations that swept the university towns immediately after the 10/7 massacre. I had not thought to compare the two. But that chilling comparison is the benchmark I was referring to. We see how far, far down America and the West have come in 22 years. It is gruesomely fitting that on social media, Osama bin Laden’s “Letter to America” has received almost 200 million views.
After describing the difference in the two public reactions, she asks the cause. And that’s when she makes the point that is never made, the connection that we most need to hear: the decline of the West, concretized in the pro-slaughter “protests,” is due to one thing: the ideology coming out of the universities.
Although she doesn’t get to the basic philosophic roots (unreason and anti-selfishness), the evil ideology she condemns is not just the latest wrinkle (“wokeness”). She goes to a mid-level set of ideas: de-constructionism, multiculturalism, anti-colonialism, identity politics, and the hatred for “power” even when it is the power to create, produce, achieve values. She is quite clear that these doctrines are anti-civilization. She identifies the rot as coming out of “academia” but now having spread throughout society, mentioning not only secondary education but the “human resources” departments of all large corporations. (A sobering thought.)
The second extraordinary virtue in the talk was the call to the audience, and to all those who treasure civilization: “Fight, fight, fight!” Stand up and counter the lies, she said. Don’t be silent when they are being spread. And—since she was speaking to an organization of lawyers—enforce the law. The rule of law, even when the law is (somewhat) wrong, is part of civilized existence. And she is right.
The moral confidence and righteous determination of this woman are a pleasure to behold. So, I urge you to listen to the video: https://www.youtube.com/embed/a6i9VPrj170?feature=oembed