Genocide is not measured simply by the number of human beings in a demographic group who have been killed. Such numbers vary. The pogroms in Europe of the 14th century killed far, far fewer Jews than died in the 20th-century Holocaust, but it would be crazy not to see a very similar eliminationist impulse. It’s the genocidal intent that defines a genocide. The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum defines it as “the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial, or religious group.” Their definition includes the following five categories:
1. Killing members of the group.
2. Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group.
3. Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part.
4. Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group.
5. Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.
There is no doubt at this point that communist China is a genocidal state. The regime is determined to coerce, kill, reeducate, and segregate its Uighur Muslim population, and to pursue eugenicist policies to winnow their ability to sustain themselves. The Associated Press just published an exhaustive and chilling account of the extent of the campaign, which was reportedly supported and seconded by the president of the United States when speaking with President-for-life Xi.
We already know about the reeducation camps. We found out this week the grisly detail that China may even have been exporting human-hair products taken from Uighur political prisoners in those camps. What the AP helps us better understand is how the regime is forcibly sterilizing Uighur women inside and outside the camps, attempting to control the Uighur population by assaulting basic reproductive freedom. Uighur families with multiple children are now in danger of being sent to camps for the crime of bringing Uighur kids into the world: “Time in a camp — what the government calls ‘education and training’ — for parents with too many children is written policy in at least three counties, notices found by [scholar Adrian] Zenz confirmed. In 2017, the Xinjiang government also tripled the already hefty fines for violating family planning laws for even the poorest residents — to at least three times the annual disposable income of the county.”
And the campaign of terror is working: “Birth rates in the mostly Uighur regions of Hotan and Kashgar plunged by more than 60% from 2015 to 2018, the latest year available in government statistics. Across the Xinjiang region, birth rates continue to plummet, falling nearly 24% last year alone — compared to just 4.2% nationwide, statistics show.” In the Uighur city of Hotan, over a third of all married women of childbearing age were sterilized in 2019 alone. And this is taking place in the context of a new campaign to increase the fertility and offspring of the majority Han Chinese. This is pure racial social engineering.
This genocidal dictatorship also took this past week to stomp all over what’s left of freedom in Hong Kong. Just before the anniversary of the end of British rule in Hong Kong, Beijing has introduced a new security law that all but eviscerates any freedom for dissent in the former British colony. It renders a variety of offenses that involve pro-democracy activism and criticism of the regime punishable by up to a lifetime in jail. The law is deliberately vague, was passed with no input from Hong Kong’s own government before its details were revealed, and criminalizes offenses such as “secession, subversion against the central Chinese government, terrorism, and colluding with foreign forces.”
The effect has been immediate: Key members of a leading dissident group, Demosisto, resigned, and the party has been disbanded. Throughout Hong Kong, businesses that had posted messages of support for the pro-democracy forces are swiftly removing them. People are deleting their social-media accounts for fear of imprisonment. A BBC reporter notes the immediate impact: “One contact of mine, a lawyer and human-rights activist, sent me a message shortly after the law was passed. ‘Please delete everything on this chat,’ he wrote.”
Mass demonstrations on Wednesday were greeted by riot police holding up large banners that read: “This is a police warning. You are displaying flags or banners/chanting slogans/or conducting yourselves with an attempt such as secession or subversion … You may be arrested and prosecuted.” A barge suddenly appeared in Hong Kong’s Victoria Harbor with the slogan: “Celebrate the National Security Law!”
All of this violates China’s solemn vow to protect Hong Kong’s special status within the communist state, and effectively marks the end of any political freedom on the island. It also appears to criminalize pro-democracy activism even for those who are not permanent residents of Hong Kong, and those who do not live there at all — a way of also crippling the Chinese diaspora’s organizing efforts. Going forward, the law effectively criminalizes the kind of demonstrations that have taken place in Hong Kong, and authorizes sweeping surveillance of any individuals suspected of dissent.
This genocidal dictatorship has also presided over the emergence of a terrifying virus that many scientists believe crossed over to humans in China’s wet markets, which it still won’t close. The country is now home to yet another swine-flu virus, which has been found on pig farms in China since 2016, and which, according to one study, has serious potential to cause a mass outbreak among humans in more aggressive mutations. China is also harassing its neighbors with military aggression, with a dangerous recent clash on the Indian border, serious provocations against Taiwan and Japan, and assertion of more control over the South China Sea.
Few countries are spared from Beijing’s newly beefed-up military, which is enjoying a major buildup, even as other spending is being cut. According to the Times: “In April, China’s Coast Guard rammed and sank a Vietnamese fishing boat. The same month, a Chinese government research ship stalked an oil vessel in waters Malaysia claims as its own, prompting the United States and Australia to send four warships to monitor the situation. The Philippines lodged a formal diplomatic complaint after a Chinese warship pointed its targeting radar at a Philippine naval vessel.”
It’s time we treated China as the rogue dictatorship it is. When a totalitarian nation is enacting genocide, has a dictator for life, is showing itself to be a health menace to humankind, has crushed an island of democracy it pledged to protect, and is militarily acting out against its neighbors, we cannot continue as normal. The type of response we take is up for debate, but that things have changed for the worse is unmistakable. Granting asylum to all Hong Kongers in the U.S., as the U.K. has now promised, would be a start. This is a classic asylum case — like Cuba’s. But the delusions and weaknesses of the Trump years need to end. Biden needs to tell us what our future policy should be, and what actions we can take to rein in this genocidal obscenity.
The New Newspeak
One of the core premises of critical theory — the academic project that undergirds much of today’s progressive politics — is that controlling language is essential. Since critical theorists suggest that there is not any objective reality, and that there are only narratives imposed by oppressors, changing the meaning of words is essential to gaining and maintaining power. After all, they sure don’t believe in open debate. Some of this is subtle. The New York Times, an institution now meaningfully captured by the doctrines of critical theory, will now capitalize “Black,” for example, but will not capitalize “white” or “brown.”
I’ve read their explanation a few times and it seems to boil down to the idea that all people of African descent all around the world are somehow one single identifiable entity, while white and brown people are too diverse and variegated to be treated the same way. (The Times explains: “We’ve decided to adopt the change and start using uppercase ‘Black’ to describe people and cultures of African origin, both in the United States and elsewhere.”)
Given the extraordinary diversity of the African continent, and the vast range of cultural, ethnic, religious, and tribal differences among Americans of African descent — new immigrants and descendants of slaves, East and West Africans, people from the Caribbean and South America, and the Middle East — this seems more than a little reductionist. As Times contributor Thomas Chatterton Williams has noted, there are “371 tribes in Nigeria alone. How can even all the immigrants from Nigeria, from Igbo to Yoruba, be said to constitute a single ethnicity? Let alone belong to the same ethnicity as tenth-generation descendants from Mississippi share-croppers?” The point, of course, is to ignore all these real-life differences in order to promote the narrative that critical race theory demands: All that matters is oppression.
Similarly, Reddit this week announced its new policy against “hate” and banned a whole slew of discussion groups, including some pro-Trump ones. Again, the reasoning was straight out of critical theory: The ruling against hate only protects minority groups and “does not protect people who are in the majority.” (After complaints, Reddit removed the specific claim that any and all attacks on “a majority” are fine, but kept the notion that it does not apply to all groups or identities.) But the implication remains that it is perfectly kosher for discussion groups to demonize and spread hatred for all white people, or, say, women. Louis Farrakhan would thereby be protected to speak of “the white devil.” Ditto any Islamists defending the burka. But J.K. Rowling’s defense of biological sex as a key element supporting the rights of women is impermissible — because it could be deemed a form of hate by some trans groups.
And indeed, groups that dissent from critical gender theory — which seeks to efface the basic fact of biological sex — have been banned. Arguments rooted in good-faith differences over the nature of sex and the meaning of gender are thereby suppressed because of alleged transphobia. But countless porn groups with extraordinarily misogynist content — r/RapeKink, r/degraded females, r/putinherplace — are still up. You can celebrate the rape and abuse of women on Reddit, but you cannot debate the contentious question of what sex and gender actually mean.
A Canadian Broadcasting Service program also debuted a new term this past week: “non-straight cisgender people.” This is the newly approved newspeak for gay people, parsed through the language of critical queer studies. The proponents of this new language seem eager to retire familiar terms like “gay men” or “lesbians” — perhaps because they suggest that the homosexual experience is rooted in basic human nature and can exist outside the parameters of structural oppression. So they find ways to define us in terms of queer theory, insisting there are only oppressed LGBTQ+ people. That’s also why, for example, so many on the left insist that gay white men had very little to do with Stonewall, which was led, we’re told, by trans women of color, subsequently betrayed by white men, who stole the movement from them. That this is untrue is irrelevant. It’s a narrative which serves to dismantle structures of oppression. And that’s all that matters.
Leading progressive maternity and doula organizations now deploy and encourage a whole array of “gender-neutral language” with respect to sex, birth, labor, and parenting. And so we now have the terms “chest-feeding,” “persons who menstruate,” “persons who produce sperm,” and “birthing person” for breastfeeding, women, men, and mothers, respectively. And instead of a butthole, we have a “back-hole”; instead of a vagina, we have a “front hole.” “Ovaries” and “uterus” are now rendered as “internal organs,” which may strike you as somewhat vague. These may sound completely absurd now, but given the choke hold critical gender theory has on almost all elite organizations, you can be sure you’ll hear them soon enough. They’ll likely be mandatory if you want to prove you’re not a transphobe. It was an objection to one of these terms — “people who menstruate” — that got J.K. Rowling tarred again as a bigot.
Those of us who oppose this abuse of the English language, who try to abide by Orwell’s dictum to use the simplest, clearest Anglo-Saxon words to describe reality, are now instantly suspect. Given the fear of losing your job for resisting this madness, most people will submit to this linguistic distortion. As you can see everywhere, the stigma of being called a bigot sweeps away all objects before it. But the further this goes — and there is no limiting principle in critical theory at all — the less able we are to describe reality. Which is, of course, the point. Narratives, only narratives, exist. And power, only power, matters.
A Shadow Over the Military
One of my many fears when Trump became president was that he would authorize war crimes, just as the last Republican president, George W. Bush, had. He promised as much during his campaign, and his enthusiastic support for some of the vilest acts of criminality in wartime made him unique among American presidents. Bush and Cheney did not actually campaign on war crimes, after all. And, in office, they tried to hide them in fake legalisms and euphemism. Trump, on the other hand, was an out-and-proud barbarian. He seemed to insist that abiding by the laws of war was for the weak.
Mercifully, Trump’s aversion to foreign intervention and the relative lack of terrorist incidents on his watch helped make the question moot. But Trump’s pardons of war criminals — egged on by Sean Hannity and the darker elements of Fox News — have nonetheless entrenched the idea that military service is not so much about honor as it is brutality. This past November, Trump pardoned three convicted soldiers: Army First Lieutenant Clint Lorance, convicted of second-degree murder in the death of two Afghans; Army Major Mathew Golsteyn, who faced murder charges for a similar crime; and Special Warfare Operator Chief Edward Gallagher, who had been acquitted by the surprise reversal of a key witness’s testimony, had his rank restored by the president. Each individual was fȇted on Fox News. Trump called Lorance and Golsteyn to the stage at a Florida fundraiser in December to honor them.
So much of this speaks to the depravity of this disgrace of a commander-in-chief, and his utter inability to understand the code of honor that the U.S. military does its best to uphold. But one aspect of Trump’s flouting of moral law is the impact on other service members, the ones who resisted the easy acts of revenge and dehumanization that can turn warfare into outright barbarism. Which is why I strongly recommend a deeply reported piece in the Washington Post this week on the collapse of morale among the platoon that the murderous Clint Lorance once commanded in Afghanistan.
After Lorance was convicted, the platoon lived under a double shadow: “To some of their fellow troops they were the ‘murder platoon,’ a bunch of out-of-control soldiers who had wantonly killed Afghans. To others they were turncoats who had flipped on their commander.” Over time, the usual PTSD of surviving service members, along with the memory of these atrocities by their commander, undid many of them. They got no honors; they felt abandoned. One survivor explains: “I thought of the Army as this altruistic thing. I thought it was perfect and honorable. It pains me to tell you how stupid and naïve I was. The Lorance stuff just broke my faith … And once you lose your values and your faith, the Army is just another job you hate.”
In the last seven years, five members of the platoon have died, four more have nearly died from alcohol, drugs, or suicide attempts. The impact of atrocities on those who witness them, and who are coerced into participating in them, is immeasurable. To have the war criminal who committed these crimes be pardoned and honored and treated as a hero by the commander-in-chief compounds the damage. These men may never recover. Neither will the military’s honor — until this president, and the profound moral stain he represents, is out of office.
See you next Friday.