The increasing instability of our society gives rise to an increasing number of unstable people inhabiting it. Their instability, especially about the grounds of their identities, makes them susceptible to all manner of weird beliefs and behavior. By far, the most pervasive source of identity now for people severed from the normal means of knowing who they are –family, tradition, faith– is the activist Left. By declaring their allegiance to the Left, unmoored people can locate themselves. Immediately upon enlisting in the social justice army, they are equipped with a narrative that, though simplistic, tells them they are one of the good guys in the ongoing struggle against the dark forces of ignorance, superstition, and oppression.
mock Southern accent whether he wanted some grits was one of these people. Halls was in Oregon working on the Oregon Bach Festival when he made the remark. As all good social justice warriors do, the eavesdropping woman knew minding one’s own business is a tremendous moral failing, and so alerted the relevant authorities that Halls had made a “racist” joke.
University officials responded to her accusation by firing Halls. The woman who reported Halls is likely white. The university staff who made the decision to fire him are probably mostly, if not exclusively, white. Adding to the ridiculousness is the fact that the friend to whom Halls made the supposedly racist remark, singer Reginald Mobley, is black. Mobley is now speaking out against the injustice done to his friend.
So, we now have a situation in which a bunch of white people are rushing to prove how “not racist” they are by discounting and dismissing the words of a black man.
The absurdity of such situations belies these people’s claims to care about justice. Such behavior is obviously not about justice. It is about identity. The woman who created this bizarre situation probably thinks of this as a defining moment of her life, the time she stood up to the evil racists. Reporting Halls to the authorities was, for her, most likely, a means of asserting personal power in an increasingly impersonal society. Getting Halls canned might have been one of the few times in her life where she felt real efficacy.
Of course, that’s all speculation. She could just as easily be a person who has done this sort of thing repeatedly, a person addicted to the frisson of righteous indignation springing from accusing the guilty and seeing them punished. For all we know, this woman is a decorated veteran in the war to stamp out dangerous jokes.
The important point here is not so much this woman’s history, but the larger narrative that motivated her behavior. A person who reports an overheard joke as “racist” to authorities whom she knows are eager to punish lives inside a story that tells her such behavior is appropriate. The same story tells her that exposing a perceived violation of her moral code, no matter how slight, is what good people do. She, no doubt, longs to prove she is one of the “good people.”
The madness we are witnessing here is what happens when you combine millions of needy, rootless people with a cultural narrative that tells them Nazis are lurking behind every bush. Eager for approval and affirmation, some of these needy people will spot Nazis even where they quite evidently don’t exist. When those in power impose unjust consequences in the name of justice based on such flimsy testimony, they only amplify and confirm the original delusion. The case of Matthew Halls will lead to others who are unjustly punished. We have seen such cases before.
At bottom here is a cultural narrative concocted by the radical, activist Left that has now become dominant. The Left has cultural frame. Lonely, alienated people will act to relieve their suffering. But, when they act inside a frame as pernicious as the currently ascendant one, we enter into a culture-wide war, not against injustice, but against reality itself. Like all wars, this one too inflicts death and destruction on the expendable innocent. Matthew Halls is just today’s collateral damage.