PEACE AND RECONCILIATION: BIDEN STYLE
Calls for unity, peace, and reconciliation coming from Biden and liberals are very common these days. Long gone are their divisive slogans “Not My President” and shrill outcries for resistance. Now Biden and the liberal elite strike a very different tune. In his inauguration speech, Biden repeatedly gave a solemn promise to be “a President for all Americans” and summoned the whole nation to come together and work for peace.
So, what kind of reconciliation do the liberal elites have in mind? What are their plans? How do they think they can bring peace to America? A recent article by Kevin Roose in the New York Times entitled “How the Biden Administration Can Help Solve Our Reality Crisis” gives some idea of what they have in mind.
First of all, both the author of the article and all the contributors without exception consider that those who oppose Biden live in their own alternative reality based on lies and malicious rumors. They try to create an impression that they represent what is true and good and that their opponents, consciously or unconsciously have succumbed to evil. Those in the latter category are 75 million people who voted for Donald Trump in 2020, 70% of Republicans who believe that Trump has won the last election, and 40% of all Americans who believe that Covid-19 was manufactured in China. They are not talking about small fringe groups; they are talking about mainstream Americans.
I have two concerns with this attitude. Anyone who values critical thinking may wonder what gives the elites this unshakable certainty that they are right and the other side is wrong? The article offers no reason; moreover, the question does not even come up.
There is also another concern. Reconciliation presupposes that both sides should recognize at least some legitimacy of each other’s views and opinions. But if one side sees the other as quintessentially evil, how can it reconcile with what is evil? Will it grant at least some legitimacy to what the other side stands for? I sincerely doubt it and the article has no indications to this effect.
All contributors to the article see that the source of division in America is the proliferation of what they regard right-wing extremist views in this country’s information ecosystem. Never mind that the vast majority of those who oppose Biden and the Democrats are common Americans who have nothing to do with right-wing extremism, never mind the fact that right-wing extremists are a tiny number in comparison with the 75 million Americans who support Trump. In one fell swoop the article bunches all opponents of liberal elites in one group and suggests that they should be censured–their rights to free expression should be restricted and even removed. Common Americans who do not support the liberal elites have no right to view and interpret reality in their own way. They must accept the interpretation that comes from the elites.
The individual solutions that the contributors propose and the article endorses are essentially undemocratic. These solutions are mostly administrative and bureaucratic.
Despite their minor differences, they all have one common feature: they envision the creation of some super agency led by a kind of information or “reality czar” (the term used by one of the contributors) that will centralize all controls over all of the media. This centralized agency will ensure uniformity of all policies related information. The task of this super agency is to inculcate in the minds of all Americans how they should view and interpret reality.
To be fair, restrictions in rights and freedoms are not the only method that the elites plan to use. They also want to employ what they call a “social stimulus”—“a series of federal programs to encourage people to get off their screens and into community-based activities that could keep them engaged and occupied.” In addition, they recommend providing access to “mental health and education” (whatever it may mean). The goal is to manufacture a “reality worth coming back to.”
The more one reads and hears from the elites about “peace and reconciliation,” the more one realizes that what they really have in mind is not reconciliation. They want submission. If they implement their plans, they will bring peace but it will be the peace of a cemetery. Their envisioned unity will require totalitarian control.
Indeed, the elites can try to implement their policies, but I doubt that they will succeed. Even communist China and Putin’s Russia can fully control the flow of information. The elites live in a delusional world; they seem to be oblivious to many possibilities that the new communication technology offers to circumvent the kind of censorship and restrictions that they propose. They do not understand that they cannot pursue these policies in their white gloves. They will have to soil their hands in real blood of their fellow citizens.
Gennady Shkliarevsky is Professor Emeritus of history at Bard College in New York.