From the March-April 2021 issue of News & Letters
France’s generals of culture sounded the alarm: the country is being invaded by Americans! “American ideas,” that is—“critical race theory”! No less than President Macron himself ordered an inquisition into academics who dare to associate themselves with radical theories. In its leap to the Right, Macron’s government adopted fascist Right terms: “Islamo-leftism” as a slander of academics, as well as “ensauvagement,” as a way to apply the racist epithet of “savage” to people of African and Middle Eastern descent. He went on to blame the corrupting influence of America’s Black liberation movement and all the other social movements.
CRITICAL RACE THEORY ATTACKED
Critical race theory has also been subjected to legal attacks in the UK and U.S. While President Joseph Biden lifted Trump’s ban of racial sensitivity training, state legislators in Arkansas, New Hampshire, West Virginia and Oklahoma proposed bills to ban teaching of critical race theory, the 1619 Project and in one case “social justice.”
How serious this assault on the freedom of thought can get is illustrated by Florida’s arrest of Rebekah Jones, a scientist whose crime was telling the truth about the toll of the pandemic. Previously she had been fired by the state Department of Health after making public what the state tried to hide. Months later, her home was raided by the police, who confiscated her phone and computer.
In Alberta, Canada, the provincial government is carrying on a fake “inquiry” of “anti-energy, anti-Alberta” groups, meaning First Nations, environmentalists, and journalists who oppose or just report on the damage caused by the oil industry. States in the U.S. have been criminalizing anti-fossil fuel protests. In states and provinces like the Dakotas and Alberta, the Indigenous are prime targets of these laws, which spread across the U.S. in the wake of the Indigenous-led actions at Standing Rock resisting the Dakota Access Pipeline.
The global wave of totalitarian attempts at thought control advanced in Poland’s turning of Holocaust denial into a legal weapon. Courts packed by the ruling party wielded the law against historians whose crime was telling the truth about what happened in Poland during the Holocaust. Poland, which suffered under “Communist” totalitarianism, is backsliding—this time with an ultranationalistic stench. Meanwhile, China’s repression and genocidal “re-education” camps for Uyghurs are the latest incarnation of Maoist brainwashing.
The interconnected climate, ecological and economic crises destabilize the status quo and generate revolt as well as anxiety. The battle of ideas and lies is one expression of the rulers’ fear.