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Herald the Apostates
They will point the way...
[Author’s note: Herald the Apostates was first published a little more than a year ago, back when Tucker Carlson was still on FOX News. With the exception of Tucker’s exit from corporate media and newfound home on X, not much has changed…]
I’ve always admired and always been drawn to apostates — religious or otherwise — for much the same reason, I think, that I’ve always admired and always been drawn to art, cats, birds, nature, kids, baseball, and the great American experiment at large: I see in all of them the breathtaking expression and indomitable spirit of freedom…
Not long after the printing press destroyed Western theocracies, not long after the Enlightenment and Age of Reason gave birth to the scientific method and the American, French, and Industrial revolutions, Friedrich Nietzsche declared God dead. The very next day we looked up to the heavens and said, in so many words, “Thanks, but no thanks. We’ll take it from here.” In the absence of the sacred, the 20th century that followed was murderous beyond comprehension.
It was also revelatory and liberating. The Liberal World Order that rose like a phoenix from the ash and charnel houses of World War II was, in many ways, the real-world manifestation of a bright and blinding utopian vision. It described a new world order wherein democracy, free trade, universal human rights, collective security, and respect for the environment would ascend in the penumbra of secular institutions grounded not in religious superstition but in the unassailable foundations of science and technology. It worked wonders: for a while at least, democracy flourished and billions were lifted from the misery of crippling poverty.
But the utopian vision and optimism that marked the second half of the 20th century came crashing down like the World Trade Towers in the early 21st, replaced instead by the dark specter of a dystopian Technopoly, a deep state of utterly unaccountable power and wealth powered by trillions of microchips. Big Data was quietly anointed as the new reserve currency and put to work behind the scenes, hidden from view like the Wizard of Oz behind a massive streaming curtain of endless entertainment and mindless diversion.
With Big Data came the rise of global fascism in the unholy union of immense private corporations, equally immense government agencies, and global NGOs — all equipped with the same tools of digital scale. Western democracies withered under the assault and were transformed before our eyes into autocratic surveillance states. Once enervated military alliances were born again in the War On Terror, reconstituted with trillions of pilfered public dollars and reinvested with new marching orders to protect the established priesthood of the once Liberal World Order — now thoroughly illiberal and highly militarized.
Like the citizens of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, we suddenly found ourselves controlled less by the things we fear and more by ironclad addiction to the things we love: state-sanctioned pharmaceuticals, sex, and endless entertainment. Addiction — the deliberate end state of mass consumer society in the 21st century — became the established social rule rather than the occasional exception.
While ongoing passive compliance is all but guaranteed by the Huxleyan model of default addiction to the things we love, ultimate enforcement falls — as always — to more traditional Orwellian tactics predicated on the things we fear: things like social destruction, financial ruin, jack boots, tear gas, imprisonment, and bullets. In the Great Age of Addiction, Huxwell smiles down at us but rules with an iron fist.
Throughout it all, what the elite high priests of the Digital Church and the Liberal World Order fail to acknowledge in the shimmering haze of their own narcissistic narcosis is that the scientific, pharmaceutical, and technological canon they preach and expect us to worship without question today is no less religious than that of the Judeo-Christian ethic they so brutally dismissed and replaced in the 20th century.
Turns out that all gods — religious and secular alike — are jealous gods. Turns out that the secular high priests of technomedia, when confronted by the sudden rise of apostates in their midst, close ranks and behave just like the high priests of Solomon’s Temple, just like Torquemada’s henchmen, just like the Iranian mullahs.
Of course, the ideological apostates of the 21st century, like the religious apostates of previous centuries, are all but impossible to deny, in no small measure because they — like all apostates — step into the light as orphaned stepchildren of the establishment priesthood that spawns them.
It’s one thing when some of us refuse to live our lives in the gender realities of our DNA. Or when we proclaim our freedom from traditional religion or ethnic ethos. Especially when our refusals and proclamations conform entirely to the institutional orthodoxy of the moment. Quite another, apparently, when we step out as Wrong Thinkers. However inconvenient for the ruling elite, Black and Hispanic Republicans are still Black and Hispanic. Gay and lesbian Trump voters are still gay and lesbian.
Always the brightest examples of liberty and freedom among us, apostates are intolerable to the status quo not only because they have escaped the physical, religious, and ethnic shackles that once defined them, but — far more critically — because they have escaped the prisons of contemporary orthodox thought. In the state of Huxwell, the only apostasy that stirs the ire of power is apostasy of thought.
The narratives and arguments of apostates are rendered more authentic and less refutable with each contrarian life choice they make, just as their apostatic credentials are enhanced by the enmity and vilification they endure at the hands of those most threatened by their existence. More important still, their struggles inspire other apostates to step from the shadows into the light.
Historically, many apostates are reluctant heroes. Cast aside as pariahs and enemies of the state, pronounced unclean by their own communities, friends and families, apostates are compelled like early Christians to find comfort and safety in the company of other apostates. It is here — in the often accidental confluence of social decay, shared passion, and common cause — that we find the most reasoned and well-tuned narratives in the most unlikely places.
Here, for instance, we find progressive apostates (like Jimmy Dore, Glenn Greenwald, Tulsi Gabbard, Michael Tracey, Bret Weinstein, Kara Dansky, RFK Jr., Batya Ungar-Sargon, Aaron Maté, Max Blumenthal, Russell Brand, and Naomi Wolf) seated across from the only corporate media host who will still talk to them: Tucker Carlson — whose antiwar, anti-vax, and populist anti-establishment apostasy puts him very much at odds with most of the prevailing narrative on FOX News.
In more ancient times, most apostates didn’t survive long enough to enjoy their own success. More typically, disease, the noose, or the crucifix killed them off before the age of forty. In modern times, however, apostates live much longer, much more comfortable lives. Comfort, security, and success, however, are the enemies of apostatic passion.
Witness the last graduating class of social apostates, perhaps the first generation to survive their own apostasy: the formerly liberal campus radicals of the 1960s. Their success, security, and comfort as tenured professors over the past three generations has transformed most of them into willing illiberal tools of a system they once despised.
Success and material comfort are seductive mistresses. Almost three generations after the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the introduction of The Great Society, almost three generations after Betty Friedan’s Feminine Mystique, and almost three generations after the very first Earth Day, today’s Democratic Party — despite the diverse racial and ethnic mix — is now ideologically monochromatic and effete. Today’s Democratic Party is awash with diversity of everything except thought.
Three generations of ideological inbreeding has rendered it all but indistinguishable from the Republican Party of the 1960s: classist, racist, authoritarian, censorious, anti-feminist, ecologically ruinous, deeply indebted to corporate power, and — like lovestruck teenagers — hopelessly enamored with the FBI, CIA, NSA, and other deep state agencies. In essence, the apostates of the 1960s survived just long enough and experienced just enough material success to become the ideological monsters they once hated the most.
Still, their success is undeniable: their ideological disciples now control almost all of institutional America, and almost all American culture. As a karmic result of their success, however, most ideological apostates in the 21st century — so far, at least — are conservative. Nothing draws more ire and sheer contempt from the ruling liberal elite these days than the rise of high-profile conservative Blacks and Hispanics, or conservative gays and conservative lesbians — with the possible exception of the truly progressive apostates who appear on Tucker Carlson.
Of course, there is no guarantee that the conservative apostates of today won’t succumb to the addictions of modern creature comfort and extended life expectancy — just like their liberal counterparts of the 1960s. My hope, however fragile, is that they will remain ideologically steadfast and resolute regardless of success or longevity. But time will tell.
In any event, enough is enough. We can no longer seek to replace reality with utopia. The jury was out for the entire 20th century, but now the jury is back and the verdict is irrefutable: all of our utopian visions eventually turn against us. Communism turned against us. The Thousand Year Reich turned against us. The Great Society has turned against us. The Green New Deal is turning against us right now as nations with the highest ESG scores are unraveling at the seams and foaming with populist dissent.
The lesson is clear: today’s utopian dream is always tomorrow’s dystopia. Notably, today’s class of conservative apostates may be the first generation of secular apostates to predicate their ideology on the humble notion that we cannot replace reality with utopia. They may be the first class of apostates to understand what happens when we aspire to the knowledge of God in a secular society all but purged of God. However long it lasts, their sobriety in the Great Age of Addiction is nothing short of a modern miracle.
The secret to finding truth in the corporate muck and stench of the 21st-century media ecosphere is to seek out those places where apostates from both sides of an issue feel safe to congregate and commiserate for a moment or two — precisely why more Democrats watch Tucker Carlson than any other show on cable news. Thankfully, I’m not the only one attracted to apostates.
Hopefully, conservative and progressive apostates alike will continue to understand that we will always have more in common with each other than we have with the forces of a Huxwellian authority that would prefer to divide and conquer us. Pay close attention to the apostates of the 21st century. They will point the way…