A friend recently told me he asked the management at a vegan restaurant why they didn’t have honey on the menu. “It’s from an animal, so it’s not vegan,” he was told. He tried to explain that honey isn’t part of a bee but instead nectar that bees carry back to a hive, mix with enzymes, heat, dehydrate . . . Exasperated, he finally said, “It’s bee barf!” (It’s not, but it isn’t prime rib either.) He didn’t win the argument.
I mention this because last month a California court ruled that bumblebees are actually fish and can be protected by the California Endangered Species Act. This is as silly as the Environmental Protection Agency trying to define puddles and drainage ditches as “navigable waters.” Yes, they were saying that a puddle should be regulated like a lake or river. Even before this, the Army Corps of Engineers had a “glancing geese” test, meaning if a migratory bird ever looked at a wet spot, that spot was under federal jurisdiction.
Meanwhile, we have oat milk and almond milk, even though they obviously aren’t milk. Similarly, oxymoronic “plant-based meat,” which isn’t meat, is really fake meat. Even worse, it’s nasty, chock full of salt, and not even good for you. Be warned, we’re being trained that anything can be anything. The truth has taken a back seat. I don’t like it one bit.
In June 2020, in the middle of coronavirus lockdowns, tens of thousands marched in American cities in protest of the police. In the protesters’ defense, 1,200 health and medical professionals signed a letter “in response to emerging narratives that seemed to malign demonstrations as risky for the public health because of Covid-19.” It went on: “Instead, we wanted to present a narrative that prioritizes opposition to racism as vital to the public health, including the epidemic response.” Ah, the narrative. How have the signers not been summarily fired and barred from the healthcare industry? We know why: If a bee is a fish, then protests provide immunity.
This is the world we live in today. Who actually believes this stuff? George Orwell said it best in his 1945 “Notes on Nationalism”: “One has to belong to the intelligentsia to believe things like that: no ordinary man could be such a fool.” Bertrand Russell had a similarly great line: “This is one of those views which are so absurd that only very learned men could possibly adopt them.”
It wasn’t only protests. I spent the week after Memorial Day 2020 flipping between CNN and Fox News. I watched Chicago Lake Liquors in Minneapolis repeatedly looted—even the safe was dragged out. I watched rioters throw rocks at police protecting the White House behind flimsy fences. I watched cars on fire in Manhattan and luxury stores with smashed windows and a line of looters stealing goods. In August 2020, CNN famously called protests in Kenosha, Wis., “mostly peaceful” as flames from riots raged behind the reporter. Even my own lyin’ eyes could see it. I must not be part of the learned intelligentsia, who believe that if a puddle is a river, then riots are peaceful.
There’s a reason for all this, according to Nikole Hannah-Jones, the leading voice behind the
’ factually challenged “1619 Project.” Awarded the Freedom of Speech Award by the Roosevelt Institute, her acceptance speech noted that “the narrative allows for policy.” As a presidential candidate, Pete Buttigieg was even more blunt. Gracing the May 13, 2019, cover of Time with his husband, Mr. Buttigieg admitted that “the narrative is policy,” and “narrative is how you get people to embrace the policies you’re putting forward.”
Remember the “infrastructure bill” full of social programs? Seventeen Nobel Prize-winning economists—their names are here—wrote a letter in September 2021 insisting that government spending “will ease longer-term inflationary pressures.” I remembered that as I filled my car with $6.99-a-gallon gas last week.
Maybe the intent is to change the subject. Last week President Biden told Californians, “I’m doing everything in my power to blunt Putin’s price hike and bring down the cost of gas and food.” Never mind that prices were already rising before Russia invaded Ukraine. Mr. Biden also told the United Nations COP26 climate conference in November that climate change is “an existential threat to human existence as we know it.” Really? Never trust those pushing narratives that conflict with the truth.
Another example: A New York Times columnist last week, speaking of the Jan. 6 Committee, wrote, “Most political theater is tedious and partisan. Cheap meat for a hungry base. But there are times when these theatrics can serve a real purpose for the public at large.” To paraphrase his thoughts: Spectacles are useful, whether they are true or not. Anyone arguing his point will be flagged on social media for misinformation.
We are so used to this nonsense that it rolls off our backs. Cuba, Libya, China and Venezuela all sit on the U.N. Human Rights Council. This is considered normal. We sigh, shrug our shoulders, and move on.
In the culture wars, I’m OK with anyone identifying as anything, so long as they don’t take advantage of the system—Elizabeth Warren, are you listening? But in March a nominee for Supreme Court Justice refused to answer the question, “Can you provide a definition for the word ‘woman’?” insisting “I’m not a biologist.”
A woman named Kellie-Jay Keen, in the stands for a University of Pennsylvania women’s swimming meet, stated that 6-foot-4 Lia Thomas wasn’t a woman, and was taking advantage of the system. Another spectator pushed back and asked, “Are you a biologist?” which now seems to be the established talking point. I’ll spare you the rest of the exchange, but it ended with this zinger from Ms. Keen, “Do you rely on stupid arguments because you don’t have an argument?”
Narratives affect our lives, and they aren’t harmless. Look at the effort to promote and subsequent backfiring of the alphabet soup of ESG, CRT, MMT, BTC and on and on. Advocates use stupid arguments—“carbon spewing,” “everyone’s racist,” “free money,” “fiat hedge”—because they don’t have real arguments.
Maybe sanity is returning. Last week the Nonhuman Rights Project, which has been trying to establish “legal personhood” for “great apes, elephants, dolphins and whales,” including Happy the elephant at the Bronx Zoo, was rebuffed in a 5-2 decision by the New York State Court of Appeals. For now, an elephant is an elephant, not a person, though elephants are clearly smarter than two dissenting New York state judges and the humans at the Nonhuman Rights Project.
A bee is a fish, a puddle is a river, protests cure pandemics, war is peace, freedom is slavery, ignorance is strength. Beware of manipulative narratives.
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