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Has the war in Ukraine made Americans rethink our priorities? That’s the claim made by Renee DiResta in the Atlantic magazine this week. According to the researcher at the Stanford Internet Observatory, the Ukraine crisis “briefly put America’s culture war in perspective.”

Because “when something real happened, Americans found a way to pay attention.”

You may recognize that argument. We heard it two years ago, at the start of the Coronavirus pandemic. As the world was locking down and we faced what looked like a much deadlier virus than COVID turned out to be, some optimistic voices said a similar thing. Now that we have a real crisis all the culture wars will die down, they said.

Yet no such thing happened. After the briefest of pauses to concentrate on the pandemic, American culture wars were back up and running. Almost immediately activists claimed that women were bearing the brunt of the COVID crisis. When the stats showed that more men than women were actually dying of COVID, the same voices hardly paused for breath. The men may be doing the dying, they sometimes conceded, but women were suffering in some deeper, longer-lasting, way.

So it was with America´s endless wars around race. The Atlantic magazine contributed to this, giving space to America’s “anti-racist” racist-in-chief, Ibram X Kendi. There, barely a month into COVID, Kendi was claiming that “The coronavirus is exposing our racial divides.” He and others argued that more black people were dying of COVID than white people and that the only explanation must be systemic racism. Which is his only explanation for everything. When some brave souls dared to point out that there might be other ways to read the stats, Kendi fired back (again in The Atlantic) that “Black people are not to blame for dying of COVID-19.” While precisely no one had actually said that they were.

And then of course we had the summer of George Floyd, where medical professionals said that although we couldn’t meet our loved ones, protestors were allowed to take to the streets in their thousands and set light to American cities because “racism” was “the real pandemic.” Other obsessions continued. Britain’s state broadcaster, the BBC, ran a piece about a trans person who said that they were worried about being buried in the wrong gender. While many of us were simply worried about being buried at all.

A large crowd protesting George Floyd's death in Brooklyn amid the COVID-19 pandemic on June 6, 2020.
A large crowd protesting George Floyd’s death in Brooklyn amid the COVID-19 pandemic on June 6, 2020.
Kevin C. Downs for The New York Post

As it was two long years ago, so it is now. Russian tanks may have rolled into Ukraine. Formerly peaceful and civilized cities may be being shelled and refugees spilling from the country in their millions. But there is no reason why this would still the modern West’s bizarre obsessions. Why would Russian tanks stop the gender wars, for instance? There is no way to avoid them. It would need much more than a thermobaric bomb a couple of continents away to stop such obsessives.

True, at the very beginning of the Russian invasion there was a moment where America’s news media (especially rolling cable news) talked of nothing but the war. But that did not make the underlying obsessions of our era go away. It did not, for instance, stop male-born athletes from trying to bulldoze their way to the top podiums in women’s sports.

Consider what has understandably dominated much of the news in the past week: the triumph of Lia Thomas at the NCAA women’s swimming. That news understandably ignited this country’s obsessions once again. On the one hand were those who keep pretending that biological sex is a fiction, that human beings can change their sex whenever they like, and that anyone who says otherwise is a bigot. On the other hand are people who cling to what we used to call “facts.”

Transgender University of Pennsylvania swimmer Lia Thoma on the podium after winning a NCAA championship on March 17, 2022.
University of Pennsylvania swimmer Lia Thomas on the podium after winning a NCAA championship on March 17, 2022.
Photo by Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

At the stadium where Thomas was once again leagues ahead of her female competitors, a feminist in the stands got into a row with a male observer. “Every body is different” this man claimed. “I’m a woman, and that is not a woman,” the female observer replied. “Are you a biologist?” the man demanded. The woman responded, “I’m not a vet, but I know what a dog is.”

Another observer at the stadium told National Review writer Madeleine Kearns that she couldn’t possibly even know what sex she is herself, because she hasn’t been “tested.” Gee, well I guess neither have I. If I’d been there I think I might have asked whether there is any scientific test to prove when someone is talking utter bollocks.

Of course some people dismiss these sorts of stories, claiming that they only come about because of a highly motivated fringe of activists. And in one way they are right. But in another such people underestimate what a group of highly motivated activists can achieve. For example, could anyone even a few years back have predicted that at a hearing for a nominee to the Supreme Court of the United States a senator would ask the nominee whether she can say what a woman is? And that the judge would be unable to answer.

Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson declined to define what a woman is at her confirmation hearing.
Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson answers questions at her confirmation hearing.
Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson — for it was she — found it impossible to answer that simple question this week. She assumed an air of confusion, and finally said “I’m not a biologist.” As though only a biologist could answer such a tricky question. Perhaps we should all adopt this attitude of non-expertise? “That’s a really nice blue sky we’ve got today” someone might say in New York one day soon. “I don’t know,” you should reply, “I’m not a meteorologist.”

Of course most of us want this madness to go away. But there is no reason that it will. And even less reason that it will do so simply because Vladimir Putin has reminded us of what real wars look like.

America is stuck in this crazy cycle because it has a public square in which basic truths everyone knew until yesterday are being made unsayable. Russian tanks will not cure that. The only thing that will cure that is if we learn how to ignore and sideline the monomaniacs. By having the courage to say what is true. However much they squawk.

Source: NYPOST

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