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‘Selma Envy’ and the Left’s Increasing Embrace of ‘Eliminationist Rhetoric’

Posted on | April 26, 2024 | Comments Off on ‘Selma Envy’ and the Left’s Increasing Embrace of ‘Eliminationist Rhetoric’

For at least 30 years, going back to when I was covering local schools for the Rome (Ga.) News-Tribune, I’ve been worried about how history is taught in America’s education system. This problem was apparent to me by the time our oldest child was in kindergarten, and I didn’t at first fully understand until, working on an assignment from my editor, Pierre-Rene Noth (who, coincidentally, was a half-Jew whose family fled the Nazis in Europe), I undertook a study of Marxist philosophy. You see, while I’d always hated Communists — as every patriotic American should — I had never been aware of the philosophical roots of Marxism as a theory of history (e.g., Hegel and all that). “The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles,” Marx and Engels declared. If you teach students to look at history from the Marxist perspective, it is predictable that they will develop a radical worldview, believing they have a duty to support those who claim to be victims of societal oppression.

As I became acquainted with how history was being taught — even in classrooms in rural Floyd County, Georgia — the pervasiveness of this Marxist influence was impossible to ignore. Just skimming through the textbooks commonly assigned in public schools, it was possible to show how the “class struggle” theme was reiterated, and how much the content of history classes had changed since my boyhood in the 1960s and ’70s. All of that is preamble to introducing you to Hans Fiene. He is a Lutheran pastor in his 40s and, by simple arithmetic, it can be deduced that he was a high school student at just about the time I was becoming alarmed about the Marxist influence in the teaching of history.

Pastor Hans Fiene

In 2015, surveying the widespread enthusiasm for same-sex marriage among his age cohort, Pastor Fiene coined the term “Selma Envy” to explain this otherwise inexplicable phenomenon:

Why do so many people, Gen Xers and younger, invent a monster of anti-gay bigotry and keep screaming the monster is real despite a mountain of contrary facts standing before them?
The answer is “social studies.” My generation engages in straw men, misinformation, and lies because, in every year of social studies class, we studied the civil-rights movement not as history, but as hagiography. We didn’t just learn what events happened on American soil, we were encouraged to mimic the segregation-defeating holy ones and merit for ourselves a place alongside them in glory. . . . [W]e concluded that the only thing necessary to be as righteous as the saints who fought racial injustice was to decry an injustice that no one else was. And we became so desperate to find that injustice, we lost our minds in the process.
Once upon a time, my generation learned in first-grade social studies, everyone thought it was good to hate African-Americans. But then a group of saintly figures arose who were better human beings than the rednecks from the South, and they changed the world for the better. This story captivated us, and we wanted to change the world, too. . . .
More than we wanted to find the perfect prom date, we wanted to find our own bigotry to eradicate. After years of hearing those saints sing “We Shall Overcome,” we were overcome with jealousy. We coveted Selma. We envied that march. We looked at that footage and hungered for our own cause to devour.

You can read the whole thing, but the point I wish to make is that my concerns about how history was being taught — as a moralistic “class struggle” melodrama — were not paranoid. All the left-wing “social justice” crusades of recent years are consequences of the crypto-Marxist pedagogy that has suffused America’s classrooms since the 1990s.

Now consider the pro-Hamas protests on university campuses:

National Review senior editor Charles C. W. Cooke said Tuesday that the escalating anti-Israel protests at Columbia University appear to reflect a desire on the part of the contemporary Left to “contrive” a kind of “great clarifying Manichaean moment,” even if they’re not living through one.
“I think that we are once again witnessing what is generally termed ‘Selma envy,’” Cooke said on The Editors podcast, “but I think that there is an attendant wrinkle to it.
“They have managed to deploy the logic and rhetoric of Selma in all circumstances in a manner that always, invariably, helps them,” Cooke said. He brought up something National Review Online editor Phil Klein pointed out, that “it’s not just that there is a double standard when it comes to Jews. It’s that there is a double standard when it comes to who is protesting Jews.”
Cooke recalled the Charlottesville riots, where “right-wingers were protesting Jews. They are therefore the bad guy who are making the world less safe. . . . but if the Left is protesting Jews, then they [i.e., the anti-Jewish protesters] are the downtrodden.
“You can’t win. You cannot win in this framework. It’s extremely clever.”

You see how this works: Because history is about “class struggles,” then certain groups must be the victim class (analogous to the role of the proletariat in 19th-century Europe) while others must be the oppressor class (playing the role of the capitalist bourgeoisie), and this Marxist formula of victims and oppressors is applied to different situations with little consideration to exactly how the alleged “oppression” has occurred, or whether it even exists as a meaningful phenomenon.

“Selma Envy” — a desire to “mimic the segregation-defeating holy ones” in a crusade against injustice, an attitude Hans Fiene testifies that children have been encouraged to adopt since he was a first-grader growing up in Indiana — fuels this irrational radicalism. Ivy League students, who certainly should be intelligent enough to read the actual history of Israel, instead mindlessly devour Hamas propaganda about a (wholly imaginary) “genocide” of the so-called “Palestinian” people (who are just Arabs, including people who might more properly called Lebanese, Syrian, Egyptian, or Jordanian). The idea that the “Palestinians” are the historical victims of an outrageous oppression perpetrated by Jews — well, any reasonably skeptical researcher can find plenty of evidence to rebut that propaganda narrative. But skepticism is in short supply among Ivy League students these days, who have been so indoctrinated with the “class struggle” mentality that they consider any dissent from their belief system to be wicked. They literally fantasize about murdering anyone who disagrees with them.

A ringleader of Columbia University’s anti-Israel encampment is under fire after newly resurfaced video showed the student publicly raging that “Zionists don’t deserve to live.”
Khymani James, who says they go by “he/she/they” pronouns, made the disturbing remarks during a meeting with university officials back in January, which the student livestreamed and then blasted out on social media.
“Zionists don’t deserve to live comfortably, let alone Zionists don’t deserve to live,” the student filmed themselves saying.
“The same way we are very comfortable accepting Nazis don’t deserve to live, fascists don’t deserve to live, racists don’t deserve to live, Zionists, they shouldn’t live in this world.”
“Be grateful that I’m not just going out and murdering Zionists,” James added. “I’ve never hurt anyone in my life, and I hope to keep it that way.”

Notice the equivalence: “Nazi” = “fascist” = “racist” = “Zionist.”

Let’s not pretend that such ranting fanatics are scrupulously careful in how they define these categories. If you disagree with the Left, if you are a member (or supporter) of a group the Left accuses of oppression, they angrily declare you “don’t deserve to live.” And this is an entirely logical conclusion, if you accept the premises of the Marxist-influenced “class struggle” curriculum with which they’ve been indoctrinated.

This “eliminationist rhetoric” from the Left, their relentless demonization of anyone who opposes them, is a product of how the teaching of history has been hijacked for political purposes, and the bad news is, there’s no way to put the crypto-Marxist genie back in the bottle. While some small number of these student radicals will repent of their youthful folly, the vast majority of them are irredeemable. Their minds have been destroyed by the poisonous beliefs with which they have been indoctrinated since childhood, and there’s no point even trying to reason with them.

The Ivy League Is Decadent and Depraved, as I’ve been saying for years, because of a phenomenon most conservatives have never contemplated: If the curriculum taught in our schools is corrupted, then the “best” students — those who most diligently study the lessons they’re taught — will be the most corrupt of all. There’s little danger that the lazy student, happy to coast along with a “C” average, will grow up to be the kind of radical who chants pro-Hamas slogans at Columbia University. No, it’s the apple-polishing honor student, the kid with the perfect GPA, who is most likely to become a left-wing fanatic. Their minds have been utterly ruined, for the very reason that they are such “good students.”


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