Yesterday, on the 18th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, the New York Times posted and deleted an odd tweet:

18 years have passed since airplanes took aim and brought down the World Trade Center. Today families will once again gather and grieve at the site where more than 2000 people died.

The tweet was widely excoriated for its anthropomorphizing of airplanes, as if the vehicles acted of their own volition, apart from the hijackers who took control of them.

One inartful tweet should not be used to make a broad inference, but if it fits a pattern, it certainly can reinforce one.

It does.

The contemporary progressive movement’s focus on identity group politics has long had a dehumanizing effect. Each of us is first considered by outward markers such as skin color and secondary sexual characteristics, and/or “check-box” traits such as sexual orientation, religious beliefs, gender self-specification, and the like. Because identity markers are considered first, everything else is subordinated. It is, however, the totality of those subordinated aspects that are the true makers of an individual.

It is also in those subordinated aspects that we find diversity and dissent, and it is dissent that clashes with contemporary progressivism’s ever-more-strident demand for lockstep thought. In short, modern identity politics dehumanizes all those upon whom it casts its vision.

Since nature abhors a vacuum, people who think this way have apparently become prone to anthropomorphizing everything else. After all, an action requires an actor engaging in willful conduct.

We see this most obviously in the debate about guns and crime, especially as related to mass shootings. Demands to “do something” constrain, from the outset, solutions to guns, whether or not particular guns were actually used in the prompting incident and whether or not the proposed solutions would have any efficacy at all. This is the subject of mockery from pro-rights groups – I’ve seen many social media posts of people noting that they watched their guns for hours, fruitlessly waiting for those guns to shoot someone of their own volition. But, the predilection for doing this has become so pervasive that it has dominated the debate, with all other proposed points of discussion subject to derision and mockery.

We also see it from animal rights groups that seek to apply legal protections that humans enjoy to non-humans ranging from primates to livestock. We haven’t seen it applied, broadly, to cars (yet), but now that the vehicle threshold has been broached (albeit by one ninny), and with the eventual advent of self-driving vehicles, it’s just a matter of time.

And, more and more, we are being told that individualism is a problem, that it can be “excessive,” that it needs to be checked, and that the principles at the core of the Revolution and the nation’s founding should be repudiated. Individualism is itself considered racist by the taste-makers of contemporary progressive thought. Human consciousness is itself individual, but all the fruits of human consciousness, including free will, personal thoughts, preferences, decisions, etc, are (when they don’t conform to the narrative) not only to be subordinated, but treated as negatives to be actively discouraged.

Why dehumanize us in the first place? It is both a natural outcome of the collectivist mindset and a mechanism for muzzling dissent. Socialism-communism-fascism requires that the individual be subjugated and incorporated into the collective to various degrees. Opinions, beliefs, associations, life decisions, career decisions, property, and the fruits of one’s labor are all claimed by collectivist systems, and contemporary progressivism has abandoned all the anti-authoritarian and free-will elements of half a century ago in favor of top-down control and narrative authoring.

This is how someone can draft a tweet that blames airplanes instead of hijackers, especially when the latter belong to a protected identity group. And, it is how so many people can blame a particular format of gun for mass shootings, instead of societal factors that either prompt someone or overlook someone’s intent. The mindset that produces such thinking is (or should be) alien to anyone who comprehends that the nation’s roots are born of individualism and that the nation has been structured to protect individuals rather than groups. It’s toxic and corrosive, and it’s the same as that which produced the horrors of Red China, the Soviet Union, Nazi Germany, North Korea, and Southeast Asia, among many others. The dress-up game played by today’s “democratic socialists” has fooled and suckered many, but the core is just as rotten as it always has been.

Dehumanizing people in such a fashion cannot exist apart from the more overt dehumanizations that were at the core of the political purges of Stalin’s Soviet Union and Mao’s China, and of the jaw-dropping inhumanity of the Holocaust. We see seeds of that inhumanity in Bernie Sanders’ ideas on population control to combat climate change, ideas that eerily echo the progressive movement’s century-old roots in eugenics.

Dehumanizing people can also be traced to social media, both in origin and in execution. By delaying reaction, social media platforms insulate people from the instant feedback that teaches and reinforces civil behavior and the treatment of each other as real people. With Twitter, Facebook, and other platforms, it’s much easier to make widely-witnessed statements that one would never even think of uttering face-to-face. And, knowing that one is insulated from immediate response has given rise to “internet muscles,” with people feeling justified in savagely inhuman treatment of fellow members of society.

In blaming things instead of individuals, people are taking steps down a dangerous and destructive path, one that will ultimately lead to a repeat of the human tragedies and atrocities of the 20th century.

The only morally defensible philosophy is one that places primacy in individuality and a premise of equality. No one of us is superior or inferior to another. That is, unfortunately, the opposite of the message of contemporary progressivism, which mirrors the blatant racism of centuries past in its presumption that superficial physical traits define your position in the societal strata.

Peter Venetoklis

About Peter Venetoklis

I am twice-retired, a former rocket engineer and a former small business owner. At the very least, it makes for interesting party conversation. I'm also a life-long libertarian, I engage in an expanse of entertainments, and I squabble for sport.

Nowadays, I spend a good bit of my time arguing politics and editing this website.

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