“The white Christians are coming! The white Christians are coming!”
So wails Washington Post columnist Margaret Sullivan on her post-yoga ride up and down K Street, forewarning Washingtonians of the imposition of a new ethno-theocracy taking root in America. She’s not saddled on Brown Beauty; rather, in D.C. drab couture, she’s on a Bird scooter, crunching cicada husks and wheeling over discarded surgical masks.
An established chronicler of media ecology, Sullivan is no view-from-nowhere, hard-nosed guardian of journalistic neutrality. She takes a stance, and on more than one issue: media ethics, the importance of civic education, the need for diversity in the city room, how “cancel culture” is fake news.
She’s also concerned America is regressing into a John Wintrhop sermon. In her column, Sullivan celebrates the naming of the first female editor-in-chief to the imperial city daily: Sally Buzbee. The article is titled, “The Washington Post will soon have a woman as its top editor. And yes, that matters” — “matters” being the lazy catchall verb journalists use to justify whatever bilge they’re batting out. Kamala Harris’s Converse matter! Donald Trump’s two scoops of vanilla bean matter! Joe Biden picking a dandelion on the South Lawn for his wife matters!
Why does Buzbee’s promotion matter? Because it’s 2021, and while sex and gender are fictitious social constructs, we must raise a glass and clap our forelimbs like seals for someone who identifies as an outmoded genitaled classification being appointed the editor of the obsolete Washington Post.
Sullivan notes that while “it’s now routine for women to hold high-ranking posts in journalism,” Buzbee taking the wheel is “still significant.” Oh, and it’s also “a thrill.” Like plunging down Splash Mountain. Or saying “I do” to your spouse.
So Sullivan is thrilled her supervisor shares her chromosomes. More girl power to them. But there’s a disturbing passage that stands out in her panegyric to the Swamp Post newsroom becoming an Amazonian outpost. And it reveals the paranoia that’s endemic among the upper-middle-class, i.e. loyal Post subscribers.
Sullivan tries to bring in a more critical assessment of her new girl boss:
A longtime Post subscriber in Virginia, one of my regular correspondents, had something to say about [Buzbee] in a recent email about the appointment: ‘Does she understand — really understand – that… the United States is on track to become functionally an authoritarian White Christian nationalist state in the very near future? And if the answer is ‘Yes,’ what is she prepared to do about it?”
Whoever Sullivan’s (unquestionably Northern) Virginian correspondent is, his ideas simply don’t comport with reality. The entire concern reads like Sparknotes for Gilead fanfiction. The idea simply doesn’t comport with reality.
After decades of native-born Americans filing out of church pews, the U.S. is not on the brink of becoming a theocracy. The Christian church, no matter the denomination, has a harder time attracting new congregants than a Quaker outreach director at a UFC match. That faith is losing its normative hold on American public life is no cause for celebration, but there’s no two opinions about the trendline. Over 15% of Generation Zers identify as one of the letters in the LGBTQ endless-acronym — up from almost 10% of its ante-generation.
On immigration, there’s a lot of brouhaha on the left about the ineluctable majority-minority makeup of America. The left’s thinking goes: the demographic change train can’t be stopped; it will run clean over the Grand Old Party of white men. Up will rise a rainbow coalition of minorities-cum-pluralities who cast reliable votes for the party that insists that the “b” in “black” must be capitalized when referring to African-Americans.
There’s just one problem with that reading. This destiny isn’t all that determinative, especially given the flexibility of assessing “whiteness” by our Census Bureau. Between Latinos who identify as “white” and increase in interracial marriages, with more children being born to parents of differing races, the majority-minority narrative has a few explanatory gaps — Donald Trump’s improved performance with minorities in the last election being a big one. But the popular conception of what “whiteness” means is changing.
Sullivan’s pen pal gets one presentiment right: the U.S. is slouching towards authoritarianism, and the pace is picking up. But it’s hardly the authoritarianism of puritan piety. Rather, it’s a plusher and less outwardly less intimidating, “soft authoritarianism.” And it takes its enforcement cues from leftist identity ideology.
Just ask: who is more at risk of setting off mob fury and having their livelihood destroyed? The pale-faced Christ-worshipper who believes marriage is between man and woman? Or the transgender BLM activist hooked on antidepressants who thinks capitalism is just patriarchal oppression?
The question answers itself. There’s a growing authoritarianism all right, but it’s not colored with a white Crayola.
That Sullivan thought to include this left-of-sanity remark is indicative of how out of touch she, and Post readers, really are. It wasn’t the kind of thoughtful inquiry that belongs in a professional periodical. It was an unhinged Facebook comment.
And “unhinged Facebook comment” is about the best descriptor for our media nowadays.
Image: Washington Post
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