Bari Weiss: “You are the Last Line of Defense”

by James C. Sherlock

Video courtesy of the Free Press.  See that link for a full transcript.  I recommend it to everyone.

Bari Weiss recently delivered a speech that will be long remembered.

She offered eloquence in the service of experience, sorrow and determination.  And defined the internal, and existential, threat to America.

I will share with you below short slices of the transcript.

She spoke to the Federalist Society about college radicalism turned antisemitism.  But not just antisemitism.

It is a radicalism that turns with threats, career assassinations and even violence on everything outside its very narrow, “intersectional” acceptance zone.  It is – proudly – a threat to America’s security and the western civilization it hates.

She would not have been welcome at some of Virginia’s most prestigious public IHEs.

And all of us know it.

Just a sample:

“When antisemitism moves from the shameful fringe into the public square, it is not about Jews. It is never about Jews. It is about everyone else. It is about the surrounding society or the culture or the country. It is an early warning system—a sign that the society itself is breaking down. That it is dying.

It is a symptom of a much deeper crisis—one that explains how, in the span of a little over 20 years since Sept 11, educated people now respond to an act of savagery not with a defense of civilization, but with a defense of barbarism.

It was twenty years ago when I began to encounter the ideology that drives the people who tear down the posters. It was twenty years ago, when I was a college student, that I started writing about a nameless, then-niche worldview that seemed to contradict everything I had been taught since I was a child.

At first, things like postmodernism and postcolonialism and postnationalism seemed like wordplay and intellectual games—little puzzles to see how you could “deconstruct” just about anything. What I came to see over time was that it wasn’t going to remain an academic sideshow. And that it sought nothing less than the deconstruction of our civilization from within.

It seeks to upend the very ideas of right and wrong.

It replaces basic ideas of good and evil with a new rubric: the powerless (good) and the powerful (bad). It replaced lots of things. Color blindness with race obsession. Ideas with identity. Debate with denunciation. Persuasion with public shaming. The rule of law with the fury of the mob.

… Over the past two decades, I saw this inverted worldview swallow all of the crucial sense-making institutions of American life. It started with the universities. Then it moved beyond the quad to cultural institutions—including some I knew well, like The New York Times—as well as every major museum, philanthropy, and media company. It’s taken root at nearly every major corporation. It’s inside our high schools and our elementary schools.

… The takeover of American institutions by this ideology is so comprehensive that it’s now almost hard for many people to notice it—because it is everywhere.

For Jews, there are obvious and glaring dangers in a worldview that measures fairness by equality of outcome rather than opportunity. If underrepresentation is the inevitable outcome of systemic bias, then overrepresentation—and Jews are 2 percent of the American population—suggests not talent or hard work, but unearned privilege. This conspiratorial conclusion is not that far removed from the hateful portrait of a small group of Jews divvying up the ill-gotten spoils of an exploited world.

But it is not only Jews who suffer from the suggestion that merit and excellence are dirty words. It is every single one of us. It is strivers of every race, ethnicity, and class. That is why Asian American success, for example, is suspicious. The percentages are off. The scores are too high. The starting point, as poor immigrants, is too low. From whom did you steal all that success?

The weeks since October 7 have been a mark to market moment. In other words, we can see how deeply these ideas run. We see that they are not just metaphors.

“Decolonization” isn’t just a turn of phrase or a new way to read novels. It is a sincerely held political view that serves as a predicate to violence.

If you want to understand how it could be that the editor of the Harvard Law Review could physically intimidate a Jewish student or how a public defender in Manhattan recently spent her evening tearing down posters of kidnapped children, it is because they believe it is just.

Their moral calculus is as crude as you can imagine: they see Israelis and Jews as powerful and successful and “colonizers,” so they are bad; Hamas is weak and coded as people of color, so they are good. No, it doesn’t matter that most Israelis are “people of color.”

That baby? He is a colonizer first and a baby second. That woman raped to death? Shame it had to come to that, but she is a white oppressor.”

That is just part of her predicate before arriving at what we must do.

She offers and expands upon four action items: look and see what is going on, enforce the law, no more double standards on speech and, lastly, accept that we are the last line of defense and fight.

Our enemies’ failure is not assured and there is no cavalry coming. We are the cavalry. We are the last line of defense. Our civilization depends on us….

There is no place like this country.  And there is no second America to run to if this one fails.

Bottom line.  Tell me if you can at which of Virginia’s elite state IHEs she could have given that speech without armed guards.

Didn’t think so.

I rest her case.

Bari Weiss is the founder and editor of The Free Press and host of the podcast Honestly. From 2017 to 2020 Weiss was an opinion writer and editor at The New York Times. Before that, she was an op-ed and book review editor at The Wall Street Journal and a senior editor at Tablet Magazine.

See her letter of resignation from the New York Times here.