I watched this clip the other day, and it made me ponder how much our culture and our media have changed in just a generation.
The message here is obvious. The Team that Dare Not Speak its Name used to be something that united Washington across racial and political lines, which was no easy feat. Not only that, but also note that the media didn’t reflexively foment division. Instead, in the simpler time of 1983, CBS News cheerfully celebrates the fact that the Redskins’ championship pleased Washingtonians of all stripes.
Even taking the last six months off the table, imagine how a story about the Redskins winning the Super Bowl in, say, 2017 would have been presented on the CBS Evening News. There would have been more time devoted to angry activists than celebrating fans, and, if President Trump said anything positive about the victory, those remarks would have been framed as “divisive.”
The Redskins are seemingly an easy target, because of their (former) nickname. However, it’s remarkable that, even after the team decided to retire the name, a mere 29 percent of the public approved.
Think about that. Even with the addition of whatever portion of the population simply tapped out and accepted the reality of the situation after the team announced the nickname retirement, proponents could still only get up to 29 percent. Perhaps the real number of people who actively supported the change was somewhere between 15 and 20 percent, which is typically the level of support the pro-change position enjoyed over the past 20 years.
The key, as Kyle Smith pointed out in National Review, is the fact that those 15 to 20 percent-ers dominate our culture. As he said:
From that minority, however, come the vast majority of our opinion journalists, news editors, museum curators, television talking heads, university administrators, and the rest of the generalship of the culture. That’s the problem with the 29 percent — their ideas are unpopular but they won’t shut up about them till they get what they want, and they control most of the megaphones.
Not only that, but their position becomes the One True Position. Case-in-point, how many news stories did you see about the Redskins’ nickname retirement that included a line stating matter-of-factly that “Redskins” is a “slur?”
That’s a point with which a vast majority of Americans would disagree, as has been shown in polling time and time again. But it has become the One True Position. It is a matter of historic record now, even if the other 80 percent of the country disagrees.
This is the danger, and we see it playing out in endless contexts today. But there’s another component to this phenomenon that I mentioned earlier: many of the very same things that can unite us and allow us to recognize that we live in a shared nation and society are the precise cultural elements being attacked most vigorously.
This is not a coincidence. It is a strategy.
Even if you think “Redskins” is an easy case because of its antiquated etymology, consider some of the other symbols and rituals that are under attack or raised as points of problematic contention today.
In a matter of months, we’ve shifted to a place where mainstream media outlets will critically investigate a player’s decision to stand for the National Anthem. Not only is the National Anthem itself a problem, but anyone who strays from the sanctioned orthodox behavior can look forward to interrogation by the press.
This is the same press, mind you, that has now decided that Mount Rushmore is a symbol of white supremacy, rather than a celebration of several prominent American presidents and our nation’s history.
To the woke vanguard, those two ideas aren’t even in conflict. Ours is an evil, racist nation with an evil, racist history, and, so, erasing that history is a moral imperative. We must “replace” it with something more just and equitable. Tearing down Rushmore, or turning sports leagues into sociology lecture series, or banning any language that doesn’t meet woke approval, is all part of a very deliberate process.
None of this is accidental. Controlling language and undermining ideas, symbols, and practices that create unity are essential to burn a culture to the ground and remake it in one’s own image.
They know that.
And so do we.
This is why national totems are a primary target. This is also why they inject politics—specifically, their politics—into pastimes that allow us to release the pressure of everyday life and permit us a modicum of escapism.
They are relentless and purposeful. They will not stop until American society as we have known it, which they believe is inherently evil, is destroyed. That destruction will be impossible if we maintain any kind of national unity. Thus, potential points of unity must be attacked.
Meanwhile, the media, which both sympathizes with these aims to some extent, and which craves conflict to prop up almost universally declining ratings, will aid and abet this endeavor at every turn.
There is no end to this in sight.
For the moment, we can remember fondly a time when our media and other cultural elites treated the discovery of common ground as preferable to incessant, merciless demands of purity.