Don’t Think That!
The 2022 book The Rise of the New Puritans: Fighting Back Against Progressives’ War on Fun is by Noah Rothman, an unabashed conservative (associate editor of Commentary magazine), so it’s not surprising that he gives many examples of the current trend toward denigrating and ultimately cancelling people’s freely expressed opinions and then ascribing such behavior to “progressives” (which seems to be the euphemism du jour from the left end of the political spectrum for themselves, since they’ve apparently worn out the welcome of “liberals” and “socialists”, let alone “Commies”, “pinkos”, ”leftists”, “permissivists”, “Demonrats”, etc.).
But don’t judge too quickly. Rothman demonstrates his intellectual integrity in noting that modern censorial tactics were pioneered by conservatives — specifically Puritans — and he devotes about half of his book to reaming them out as well.
He is unsparing in his analysis that “don’t do that” leads to “don’t say that” and ultimately to “don’t think that”. And he has no time for the idea that the ultimate objective of society is complete homogenization of all attitude, expression, and action into bland, inoffensive uniformity. In particular, he thinks that modern bluenoses are much like their 17th Century forebears in heartily disapproving of anything resembling fun.
Examples: A college professor was denounced to his dean for referring to a cheapskate as “niggardly”. Another one, an art-history professor, got fired for showing an image of Mohammed painted by a 16th Century Muslim artist who did not consider it blasphemous, making the point that not all Islamic sects hold that view. Calls for the abolition of American football because it’s too violent. An environmental organization saying it’s time to end meat-eating. Saying “all lives matter” really means that you don’t think Black lives matter. The very existence of rape means all men dominate all women. White women making Mexican food are engaging in the horror of cultural appropriation. Baseball-card collecting is racist because Black and Hispanic players were historically under-represented.
And all of these bad things must be stamped out, not only in practice but in the very idea that there might ever have been anything OK with them.
Rothman does soft-pedal the right’s comparable objections to things like teaching evolution in schools or fair treatment for transgender people, tho he’s forthright in recognizing inappropriate police violence, while still asserting that it doesn’t mean all minorities should feel persecuted because they’re its most frequent targets.
A recurring refrain is his irritation at the attitude that nothing anybody can do to address the concerns of the offended is ever good enuf. “There’s always more that could be done, because we haven’t yet reached nirvana, so how dare you be self-satisfied with your wishy-washy half-efforts?” Yes, he notes, it does get wearying trying to live up to those expectations.
The book is organized into sections based on half a dozen principles that Puritanism supposedly stood for: piety, prudence, austerity, fear of God, temperance, and order. And, even tho modern social-justice warriors don’t hold themselves out as a religion, as the Puritans did, they nonetheless seek perfection on Earth by having EVERYBODY DO WHAT’S RIGHT! (By their own — varying — definitions, of course.)
So read the book if you can, but there’ll be plenty to discuss even if you haven’t.
This will be a virtual meeting conducted via Zoom. A link will be sent out at noon on the day of the event to people who’ve RSVPed.
Don’t Think That!