Is Today’s Far Left “Possessed”?

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John ZmirakBy John Zmirak, a Senior Editor of The Stream, June 20, 2017 – During the primaries it was all the rage among some conservative pundits to cite the 2006 comedy Idiocracy as prescient of the election. The joke was on Trump supporters, who supposedly were as clueless as the characters in that movie. Some of those Tweets were funny, if mean.

But recent months have spoiled the humor. Between the relentless efforts by Deep State actors to sabotage a presidency, and the rising frenzy of hatred that has burst forth from the left, one thing is clear. We’ve stumbled from farce to the blackest kind of satire, the kind that bleeds over sometimes into the tragic. We’re not living out Idiocracy. Instead we’re re-enacting Dostoevsky’s The Possessed.

For those of you who didn’t work as night doormen in college, reading Russian lit in a polyester uniform, here’s what happens in that novel: A band of youthful “nihilists” emerge in a sleepy provincial town. They have no positive program for reform, or even revolution. Instead, they focus solely on tearing down what’s around them — everything from the family to the church, from private property to linear modes of rational thought. They’ve decided that the world as it really exists is so hopelessly tainted and evil, that only “pure” destruction can offer the clean slate needed to start again.

Those who oppose them are hapless, clueless, frightened or confused. Both conservatives and old-fashioned liberals resort to denial. They can’t face the truth of how their young people have turned out, can’t admit that when “idealists” call for annihilating paroxysms of violence, they really mean it. So the defenders of the old order do nothing. They make little concessions, which only feeds the beast. They lie to themselves, to get just one more good night’s sleep. Surely these young people will come to their senses before it’s too late… . Won’t they?

Dostoevsky Saw 2017 Coming

In Europe today, elites are taking just this approach to radical Islam. Surely there really can’t be millions of people living in Western countries who yearn for a seventh-century theocracy, along the lines of ISIS or Saudi Arabia. Who wish to repay the hospitality of secular Swedes, Germans, and Frenchmen by imposing sharia on them. Only some hateful Western extremist would say such a thing. Best to silence those “intolerant” alarmists, and go back to getting some rest in your tasteful, climate-controlled and peacefully childless house.

We are not dealing finally with bad ideas, but evil spirits.

The attack on the U.S. Congress reminds us that Dostoevsky was right. People don’t rant on and on about “resistance” and revolution without any consequences. Without provoking real violence, which can escalate very quickly. Remember that Lebanon, Yugoslavia, and Venezuela were each once peaceful vacation spots. Citizens couldn’t imagine how bad things might really get. Until it hit them square in the face.

We must prepare ourselves, especially spiritually. Because multiculturalism really has morphed into a kind of cult. Andrew Sullivan laid out its elaborate system of dogmas and stigmas. It has no positive aim, no set of demands that we could ever possibly meet. No surrender will be sufficient.

For Souls, It’s a Buyer’s Market

In Britain, former Liberal Democratic leader Tim Farron learned that. An evangelical Christian in his private life, he tried to hold onto his position in politics by embracing legal abortion and same-sex marriage. It didn’t matter. The fact that in the quiet of his heart he might know better, might still hold to Christian principles, was absolutely intolerable. And so even after those sellouts, Farron was forced to resign. The lesson: Don’t bother trying to sell your soul. The market’s so flooded with them, it has run down the price to zero.

What spirit is it that demands at the same time that the British public accept millions of prescriptively intolerant orthodox Muslims, whose leaders demand sharia — but won’t let a pro-choice, pro-gay politician privately cling to Christian precepts? It’s the spirit of pure destruction, straight out of The Possessed.

The same spirit goads the comfortable, middle class white kids who put on hoods to help Antifa swing metal poles at visiting scholars. It drives some Jesuit priests to deny that Satan really exists — and then to go on to demonize those who dare to disagree. It compels the same people who think that “meat is murder” to defend Planned Parenthood, when it sells baby parts in buckets like KFC.

Pray for the Maniacs

We’re not just dealing with bad ideas, but evil spirits. Nor are you and I immune to their attractions. They will tempt us to cruelty, callousness, and fantasies of vengeance. They will drive us to treat our fellow men as if they were demons. But they aren’t. They are those demons’ victims — as surely as some drug-addled or psychotic hobo who screams at us in the park. (Where I live, this happens to me, late at night.)

When you meet such a scary homeless person, do you hate him? Should you? You might need to rouse some anger, in case you need to defend yourself. But on a deeper level, you know that he’s not in control. That his mind is no longer his own. Maybe you can’t help lure him back to sanity or sobriety. You might need to call the cops. But you feel that deep human kinship with him we should all feel as children of God.

Just so, we must look at the people now drunk with demonstrable madness, at intellectuals who hate reason, professors who silence discussion, and students who spit on learning. We must face them down firmly. We must use the ordered force of law to protect ourselves and our institutions. But we can’t let them tempt us into sharing their spiritual disorder. They must be rebuked and restrained. But they also deserve our pity. Something deep inside them even hungers for our prayers.


John Zmirak is a Senior Editor of The Stream, and author of the new Politically Incorrect Guide to Catholicism. He received his B.A. from Yale University in 1986, then his M.F.A. in screenwriting and fiction and his Ph.D. in English in 1996 from Louisiana State University. His focus was the English Renaissance, and the novels of Walker Percy. He taught composition at LSU and screenwriting at Tulane University, and has written screenplays for and with director Ronald Maxwell (Gods & Generals and Gettysburg). He was elected alternate delegate to the 1996 Republican Convention, representing Pat Buchanan.

He has been Press Secretary to pro-life Louisiana Governor Mike Foster, and a reporter and editor at Success magazine and Investor’s Business Daily, among other publications. His essays, poems, and other works have appeared in First Things, The Weekly Standard, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, USA Today, FrontPage Magazine, The American Conservative, The South Carolina Review, Modern Age, The Intercollegiate Review, Commonweal, and The National Catholic Register, among other venues. He has contributed to American Conservatism: An Encyclopedia and The Encyclopedia of Catholic Social Thought. From 2000-2004 he served as Senior Editor of Faith & Family magazine and a reporter at The National Catholic Register. During 2012 he was editor of Crisis.

He is author, co-author, or editor of eleven books, including Wilhelm Ropke: Swiss Localist, Global Economist, The Grand Inquisitor (graphic novel) and The Race to Save Our Century. He was editor of the Intercollegiate Studies Institute’s guide to higher education, Choosing the Right College and, for ten years, and is also editor of Disorientation: How to Go to College Without Losing Your Mind.