The Romans had their arenas, Elizabethan England had bear baiting and Obama’s America has the trial. HLN has already shot past CNN with wall-to-wall coverage of the latest trial whose defendant is indistinguishable from a celebrity and whose coverage is barely distinguishable from that of the movie premiere. But in between the usual criminal cases whose defendants seem like failed aspirants for the Big Brother house or Survivor, reality TV stars who found fame with a butcher knife, are the politically edifying cases. The ones that aren’t just meant to humiliate and degrade the participants and the viewers, but to indoctrinate them as well.It is into this category that the Zimmerman trial falls. It’s an involuntary case based on insufficient evidence whose course was compelled by government intervention. And like the tribunals of the French Revolution or the Moscow Trials; it’s there to teach us something. And the thing it’s there to teach us is racism hysteria.
Racism is the new sex for a creed of politically correct puritans who are obsessed with a new kind of prurience. As the last sexual taboos fall by the wayside, the new taboos are political and the new witch hunts are all about exposing hidden reservoirs of bigotry among celebrity chefs and lurking White Hispanic menaces.
The intimate moral faults that keep a population in a state of conformity and terror are no longer sexual, but political. The new prudery is political and the new hypocrisy is racial, knotted over with double standards and exceptions for the watchers and the elites who are exempt from the occasional witch trial, no matter how many black cats and cauldrons they own.
Racial tolerance has long since become racial denunciation. Tolerance has become paranoia. The fear of saying the wrong thing at the wrong time. Of giving the wrong impression. Of failing to be properly guilty for some vague complicity of privilege and oppression. Those fears and guilts must be constantly reinvigorated with fresh doses of trials and denunciations. Public spectacles to serve as reminders that the greatest evil of all lurks everywhere and that we must stand vigilant against it.
The graduate of a modern liberal arts university receives training in spotting and identifying the most obscure forms of bigotry. He isn’t taught to spot burning crosses, but to denounce implicit narrative privilege. The microscope that he wields to spot the most obscure forms of bigotry imaginable doesn’t really detect bigotry, it manufactures it. It crafts his higher moral ground by exposing the wrongdoing of everyone and everything else.
His or her contemporaries have few skills, except the familiar one from every totalitarian state of denouncing enemies of the state for some trivial act. Having been turned into inquistioners by an educational system that is terrible at producing engineers or scientists, but spectacular at producing politically correct policemen of public spaces, they might as well inquisition.
Bigotry is the bugbear of the moment, but next year it might be salt or short hair. Racism just happens to be easier to rally against. It also comes with the most moral authority points.
The Soviet Union reduced everything to class and built its moral authority to rule around economic redistribution and the classless society. The United States from LBJ onward reduced everything to race and built its moral authority to rule around social harmony. The enemy that disrupts that social harmony is eroding the latest accomplishments in the national social progress program.
The pursuit of bigotry has as little to do with fighting actual racism as witch hunts had to do with hunting actual witches. Real Neo-Nazis and Klansmen can’t get arrested in this town. Overt bigotry is boring and actual racists have taken to showing up at courthouses in Nazi uniforms to get attention. . There’s no point in hunting a witch who boasts about her witchcraft. There’s no sport to it. The whole point of baiting a bear is to get the bear to react. The Roman arenas wouldn’t have lasted very long without gladiators willing to fight. And the entire tawdry spectacle of the trial and the morality mob requires cooperating defendants who care what the faceless mass audience thinks of them and try to prove their innocence.