I’m sure, but let me add a less obvious but ultimately more important hypothesis: the sudden hysteria is a result of decades of pent up exasperation over failure at achieving racial equality. In a nutshell, for at least a half-century, perhaps longer, America has struggled with its “race problem” and while proposed solutions exceed dozens, and expenditures in the trillions, progress has been scant. In fact, on at least some indicators, for example, illegitimacy and crime, race-related matters where better off in the 1950s. Not even electing a black President has cured America’s race strife despite all the assurances that Obama would be a “post-racial” President that would, once and for all, bring everybody together. What we have gotten for all our efforts is Black Lives Matter and yet even more black condemnation of whites.
This accumulated frustration can be likened to a situation where a patient with a grim prognosis grows ever more desperate as one standard treatment after the next fails to reverse the illness. These frantic patients often gravitate to quacks despite the low odds of a cure. Nevertheless, the very act of visiting a faith healer or drinking a magical herbal concoction outshines passivity. And who knows, the world abounds with testimonials to quack cures and “doing something” calms the despair.
Think of the Monumental Madness as social engineering quackery—it probably will accomplish little if anything but it feels better than doing nothing. What encourages this desperate quest for today’s “miracle” is that so many past solutions, at least according to all the learned experts, were “guaranteed” to perform as advertised and all failed. Recall when the surefire cure was improved education—ending segregation, equalizing school expenditures, hiring more black teachers and administrators, altering textbooks to make it more relevant to black youngsters, intensive pre-school (Head Start, Sesame Street) and, more recently, eradicating unconscious teacher bias and no longer disproportionately disciplining blacks. We’ve had Bush’s No Child Left Behind and Obama’s Race to the Top and countless other expensive remedies.
A similar guaranteed cure was political empowerment, that is, the Department of Justice would ensure that blacks would live in cities run by black elected officials and self-government would cure everything from crime to joblessness. The upshot, of course, have been urban disasters like Detroit and Selma, AL. And let’s not forget tough anti-discrimination laws that would ban employers from using racist job descriptions, and affirmative action programs that would temporarily give a leg up to those who began the race a few steps behind.
All and all, genuine successes are rare, typically only cosmetic, and if there were a Museum of Failed Cures for America’s Racial Problems, it would be the size of Washington’s Smithsonian.
In other words, by the summer of 2017, the frustration over repeated failures plus the lack of any more “guaranteed” solutions on the agenda had created a perfect setting for quackery. Now, as with all serious but likely intractable problems, the marketplace supplies something to meet these needs, and to continue our parallel with those suffering from incurable cancer, taking down statutes of Confederate soldiers or re-naming buildings is the equivalent of using Laetrile among countless other bogus cures. Yes, there is no scientific evidence that past crusade against “hate” has even helped African Americans, but given the sorry record of past efforts, why not give it a try? Hard to resist anything that feels so good.
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