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Leftists Destroy Abolitionist Statues Because Scorched Cultural Earth Is Their Only Option

Our iconoclasts of 2020 do not care. This is about leveling each and every institution and rebuilding America from scratch, not making repairs.


“Who even is this guy?” one Wisconsin protester asked, staring down at the toppled statue of Hans Christian Heg, an abolitionist leader who fought and died for the Union in the Civil War.

It’s a baffling but instructive image. Why would antiracism protesters target Abraham Lincoln, let alone daring 19th-century abolitionists? In being toppled by supposedly antiracist protesters, Heg is accompanied at least by John Greenleaf Whittier and Matthias Baldwin, among the other memorials to worthy causes swept up in this fervor.

The reason is that our iconoclasts of 2020 do not care. This is about leveling each and every institution and rebuilding America from scratch, not making repairs. That’s why the counterproductive destruction of abolitionist monuments is actually useful to observers—it reflects the broader incoherence of the ideology driving this potent wave of iconoclasm.

Critics of academia have for years carefully dismantled the faulty logic underpinning abstract poststructuralist Ivory Tower doctrines like intersectionality and critical race theory. Plainly, they do not make sense, and regularly dissolve when applied to reality. But because they insist on a progressive-or-bigot binary, slowly these ideas intimidated and persuaded people of good faith into submission.

How, for instance, does intersectionality explain video The Federalist captured last week of a white woman in luxury athleisure harassing a working-class black female cop for being a racist? It does not. This is an ideology that classifies all dissent as bigotry and violence, whether the dissenter is black or female or working class.

While political moderates were not paying attention (or mocking the concerns of conservatives), a much more radical strain of progressivism was developing in academia, ultimately migrating into the newsrooms and boardrooms of our world. What we’re experiencing now is society hurtling past the point of critical mass.

It’s this ideological incoherence that fuels, for instance, the mass corporate pandering to a movement set on the destruction of capitalism, cheered on by so-called anti-capitalists. Try to square that circle.

Of course, not every person who embraces this worldview is out toppling statues of abolitionists, or would even agree with that strategy. Those who embrace it, however, are helpfully illuminating the incoherence of their motivating worldview. They are blowing up American culture because that is the logical conclusion of an ideology that trains adherents to see every institution as soaked in white supremacy. Scorched cultural earth is their only meaningful tool of reform.

Fighting white supremacy by destroying monuments to its enemies remains wildly stupid. But at least it’s honest.