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The second worst fate that can befall an agitator is when nobody takes his fiery exhortations seriously. But by far the worst fate is when the crowds take him literally; because then he faces something far more frightening than the mere customary order he is trying to overthrow: he is faces the full import of a radical vision taken to its ultimate conclusion.

One of the biggest hazards in the social change business is runaway virtue. Ideology in the lives of true believers often becomes an end in itself and this becomes a problem for practical politicians who want to come across as radical but not insane, and are embarassed by the wide-eyed zeal of their adherents. As Mao Tse-tung, who would use this fact to spawn and later suppress the Red Guards observed, “there are not a few people who still regard odd quotations from Marxist-Leninist works as a ready-made panacea which, once acquired, can easily cure all maladies”. Armed with their new found religion, they become angry and impatient with anything contrary to their all-consuming faith. In the 21st century this has given rise to what popular culture calls the “Karen phenomenon“.

Kansas State University professor Heather Suzanne Woods, whose research interests include memes, said a Karen’s defining characteristics are a sense of entitlement, a willingness and desire to complain, and a self-centered approach to interacting with others. According to Woods, a Karen “demands the world exist according to her standards with little regard for others, and she is willing to risk or demean others to achieve her ends.” Rachel Charlene Lewis, writing for Bitch, agrees, saying a Karen doesn’t view others as individuals and instead moves “through the world prepared to fight faceless conglomerate of lesser-than people who won’t give her what she wants and feels she deserves.”

Although the ‘Karen’ stereptype has been caricatured, for some of the Woke at least, to be educated is to be angry. As one academic explained, “transformative pedagogical developments .. make use of discomfort and criticality, including the suggestion of ‘brave spaces’” to teach rage not as a bug but an actual feature. A growing number of institutions churn out graduates deliberately conditioned to see unfairness in everything and ready to do battle with it. The difficulty arises when these graduates are subsequently employed in Woke institutions and raise hell.

The Washington Post has fired Felicia Sonmez for “insubordination” after the well-known reporter spent days publicly accusing fellow colleagues and leadership at the paper of fostering an environment unsupportive of female staffers. … Sonmez’s firing tops a whirlwind week for one of the nation’s most venerable media institutions, in which internal newsroom strife erupted into public view, affecting some of the most high-profile people on staff. It comes just days after the paper suspended a fellow reporter, Dave Weigel, for a month after he retweeted a crude joke about women. … But the infighting continued from there. Another Post reporter, Jose A. Del Real, accused Sonmez of trying to publicly bully Weigel over a mistake for which he had apologized. Sonmez responded in kind: “When women stand up for themselves, some people respond with even more vitriol.”

The Sonmez incident illustrated what Mao always understood: fanaticism was like high explosive. Unless carefully controlled the anger can deflagrate just as easily inside a progressive organization as outside of it — and blow it up. Militant ideologues seem at first to benefit Woke institutions because the true believers act as enforcers of ideological conformity in the mold of commissars in the old Soviet Union. But soon this system of dual authority reveals its potential risks, because whereas in the Soviet system the twin lines of authority converged in a single figure controlling both Party and State, and were thus never ultimately in conflict, progressive Western institutions answer to regular management on the one hand, while the commissars report to a militant community outside the organization, creating the possibility of hypergolic ignition.

In cashiering Somnez, the Wapo may have beaten down the commissariate for now, but the problem isn’t confined to a few runaway radical crazies. The progressive culture warriors and educators have spawned an entire generation of fanatics, who instead of taking academic speculation with a grain of salt, imbibed the fiery rhetoric seriously and are now an out of control zombie army. They are now firmly embedded in the Democratic party matrix, dug in too deep to root out. Unfortunately, like fanatics through history, many lack even a lick of common sense. The older generation of left politicians, warned by a childhood memory of reality, realize that unless the ideological zombies are stopped, they will precipitate blackouts, ruin the economy and unleash a crime wave on the populace, not to mention starting witch hunts everywhere.

Disregarding the imperatives of power, the zombies must prioritize ideology above all else, to the detriment of the pro pols. Thus, as Joe Biden desperately tries to shift blame for the skyrocketing fuel prices that are collapsing his approval polls; even as he hectors Exxon Mobil to make emergency investments to produce more fuel; while he invokes the Defense Production Act (DPA) of 1950 to reopen and subsidize rare-earth mines to produce batteries; as he in a nutshell scrambles to save his political neck, radical environmental groups remain remorselessly in opposition to anything that might actually ease the crisis. Electoral suicide? But then District Attorney Chesa Boudin persisted in his crime-inducing Woke policies even after deep blue San Franciscans rose up in disgust to recall him. “Political consultants and law-enforcement officials say the recall of Mr. Boudin in this left-leaning city signals a broader voter backlash against the movement amid rising violent crime over the past two years.” Boudin of course, was unrepentant. “In forceful speech Tuesday night, during which he shouted at times, Mr. Boudin said he was proud of the reforms he enacted during his 2½ years in office. ‘We have already won because we have redefined the way people think about the role of the district attorney’s office,’ he said.”

Of course he would say that, because ideologues are never wrong; that’s why the zombie army is unstoppable. No setback, refutation or catastrophe fazes them. They just keep coming. “China and India have announced plans to increase their domestic coal production by a combined total of 700 million tons per year. For perspective, US coal production this year will total about 600 million tons,” reports Real Clear Energy. Yet, in an era when Europe is still paying billions to Vladimir Putin for energy:

Campaigning groups have launched legal action to challenge a decision by the European Union’s executive arm to include 30 gas projects in a list of operations considered as beneficial to the 27-nation bloc’s energy market. The campaigners said on Tuesday that the European Commission has given “these climate-destructive projects VIP status, in contradiction of its legal obligations.” They said the projects are worth 13 billion euros and will lock the region into dependency on the fossil fuel that EU institutions say that they want to get rid of. …

Supporters of the gas projects argue that they would improve Europe’s energy security, particularly in the context of energy sanctions taken against Russia for its war in Ukraine. The bloc is seeking alternatives to decrease its dependence on Russian gas, which accounts for about 40% of the EU’s gas consumption.

As King Theoden cried in despair to Aragorn: “what can men do against such reckless hate?” Nothing. Absolutely nothing — unless you’re Mao. “By February 1967, political opinion at the center had decided on the removal of the Red Guards from the Cultural Revolution scene in the interest of stability. … The PLA violently put down the national Red Guard movement in the year that followed, with the suppression often brutal … the PLA carried out mass executions of Red Guards in Guangxi province that were unprecedented in the Cultural Revolution.”

Some Red Guards were killed. But most were re-educated by a vengeful Communist party. “By late 1968 Mao realised his revolution had spiralled out of control. In a bid to rein in the violence he issued instructions to send millions of urban youth down to the countryside for ‘re-education’,” which would be like Joe Biden mandating that Wokesters live with Deplorables to learn how the world worked. One person who would never forget what harm the zombie army did to China “was a slight, softly spoken 13-year-old who loved classical Chinese poetry. Two years later, adrift in a city torn apart by warring Red Guards, Xi Jinping had hardened into a combative street survivor.”

His father, a senior Communist Party official who had been purged a few years earlier, was seized and repeatedly beaten. Student militants ransacked his family’s home, forcing the family to flee, and one of his sisters died in the mayhem. Paraded before a crowd as an enemy of the revolution and denounced by his own mother, the future president of China was on the edge of being thrown into a prison for delinquent children of the party elite. …

Unlike some youths from elite backgrounds, Mr. Xi did not turn against the party or Mao, but learned to revere strict order and abhor challenges to hierarchy, said Yongyi Song, a historian and librarian in Los Angeles who has long studied the Cultural Revolution.

“He suffered much under Mao,” Mr. Song said, “but I think that actually increased his belief that those who are ‘born red,’ those children of the party elite, earned the right to inherit Mao’s place at the center.”

The full import of a radical vision taken to its ultimate conclusion is never obvious, but a good guess is that extremism, and its handmaiden fanaticism, inevitably lead to tyranny. Both impulses scour the world searching for the absolute, the total, the pitiless to feed upon. Where else would they go except to the party promising paradise? Xi was wise and cynical. What Xi learned after ‘suffering much under Mao’, was not that zombies were bad, but that they were useful, if like Mao, you could stay in control of them.

Books: Against the Great Reset: Eighteen Theses Contra the New World Order by Richard Fernandez and 17 others. In this timely and necessary book, Michael Walsh has gathered trenchant critical perspectives on the Great Reset from eighteen eminent writers and journalists from around the world. Victor Davis Hanson places the WEF’s prescriptions and goals in historical context and shows how American politicians justify destructive policies. Michael Anton explains the socialist history of woke capitalism. James Poulos looks at how Big Tech acts as informal government censors. John Tierney lays out the lack of accountability for the unjustified panic over the virus. David Goldman confronts the WEF’s ideas for a fourth industrial revolution with China’s commitment to being the leader of a post-western world. And there are many more.