Revolt of the Fatherless
A magazine of American Culture
MAY 1, 2022BY STEPHEN BASKERVILLE
Our conservative elites clearly have no clue why our civilization is collapsing before our eyes. They can provide no explanation for the triumph of the woke left. Nor can they explain why the virus hoax fools huge numbers into further acquiescence. It is not surprising, then, that they offer no way out of our predicament either—other than more of what got us into it. They react negatively to the left while accepting a steady stream of defeats. But the very notion of mounting a counter-offensive seems beyond their comprehension.
Lately appearing on conservative media are professional psychologists who explain virus hysteria as “mass formation psychosis.” The necessary conditions for this affliction, according to psychologist Mattias Desmet, are summarized by Dr. Joseph Mercola in one of his recent online articles: they are, “[l]ack of societal bonding, experiencing life as meaningless and senseless, widespread free-floating anxiety.”
But this explanation clarifies very little and prompts no remedy. In fact, the psychobabble encourages conservative leaders’ existing proclivity to lament and bemoan while doing nothing. Still, the psychologists are trying. But if we are to escape the accusation of being “conspiracy theorists,” we must account for not simply the machinations of those who want to “reset” the world, but also our own apparent impotence to stop them.
So why did the left win? Why, for example, is virus hysteria driving people like lemmings to the sea, and what can be done about it? A plausible explanation is available in plain English. It also suggests straightforward remedies through cost-free changes in identifiably pernicious policies. The right kind of leadership could well rally the majority to achieve these changes.
First we must understand that this crash of civilization is a revolt of adolescents—some superannuated, but adolescents all the same. It represents the culmination of a power shift, from the mature to the immature, that accelerated during the 1960s: “The times they are a-changin’,” as Bob Dylan sang. Both Cancel Culture, with its contempt for civil liberties, and Black Lives Matter, with the violence and destruction it rationalizes, are perpetrated by those with a smattering of university education, young militants under the sway of their predecessors from the 1960s.
The media collusion is largely explicable in like manner. The manipulable, twenty-something journalism and political science graduates head out into the media world and make it like themselves. I have taught many such students (including conservative ones), and I know how intoxicated they become with their own righteousness and unaccountable power.
But why has this generation been so easily radicalized, and why does their rebelliousness enjoy such free rein? Why has the older generation lost its nerve? Something subtle but sinister has been at work in the intervening decades since the 1960s. The young have not simply been “empowered” to revolt against their elders; most of today’s youth have never known effective parental authority to begin with.
This suggests the origins of our malaise to be in something conservatives should understand but do not: government’s systematic destruction of families. More precisely, it demonstrates further fallout from what David Blankenhorn calls in his 1995 book, Fatherless America, “the most harmful demographic trend of this generation,” and what John Turnipseed, a former gang leader who is now the director of the Center for Fathering, describes as “the biggest problem we have in the nation”: the elimination of fathers from the lives of tens of millions of children, the effects of which long ago transformed poor communities into war zones and now wreak havoc in middle-class society as well. Adolescents rage out of control because they never had any paternal authority to keep them under control and teach them how to channel their emerging discontent with the world’s imperfections into constructive dissent and productive habits of life.
Fatherlessness (not poverty or race) already accounts for every social pathology among the young: the violent criminality, substance abuse, and truancy that draw police to ungovernable minority and poor neighborhoods, where they themselves face criminalization for trying to fight crime. Fatherless youth suffer disproportionate emotional disturbance and self-destructive disorders—precisely those that psychologists now associate with COVID lockdowns: depression and suicide. These youth also indulge more in smoking, overeating, and other unhealthy practices. In 2018, Fox News ran a story titled, “Missing fathers and America’s broken boys – the vast majority of mass shooters come from broken homes.” Unfortunately, these “broken boys” perpetuate their problems into succeeding generations by siring more out-of-wedlock children.
In short, while some rise above their origins, fatherless youth are much more likely to be dysfunctional, self-destructive, and—in ways that lack purpose or direction—rebellious. The effect is compounded when entire communities have hardly a father among them for generations.
None of this is controversial. Mainstream conservatives quote the statistics. Liberals even jumped on the bandwagon with the elaborate (but useless) Responsible Fatherhood Initiative of the Clinton administration (later refashioned into Bush’s equally ineffectual Healthy Marriage Initiative). What neither did, nor do, is fix the problem.
If people today feel “disconnected,” the sensation may be tied to an absence of fathers, whose role is teaching them to engage with the world, conquer their fears and anxieties, and channel their insecurities into constructive endeavors.
Now, with fatherlessness overwhelming middle-class communities, a new stage in the devastation emerges. The half educated intellectualize their dysfunctional rebelliousness using political ideologies, allowing them to collectivize their fury. Radical movements infuse apolitical social resentments and unfocused petty rebellions. Affluent fatherless youth rationalize political power grabs by exploiting the havoc and lawlessness that uneducated fatherless youth have been inflicting in poor communities for decades.
In short, social anomie has mutated into systematic revolt. With fathers and men emasculated, no effective resistance impedes the fictional utopia of the radicals.
Why is fatherlessness so debilitating, both individually and socially? Because where motherhood is biologically inevitable, fatherhood constructs the social order. Philosopher Thomas Hobbes credited patriarchal authority with a central role in leaving the state of nature and entering civilized society. In nature, Hobbes argued,
…the dominion is in the mother. For in the condition of mere nature, where there are no matrimonial laws, it cannot be known who is the father, unless it be declared by the mother; and therefore the right of dominion over the child dependeth on her will and is consequently hers.
Only with the advent of civilized society—where “patrimonial laws” operate—did sovereign authority over children migrate to the father. Yet today we are reversing this stage of civilizational development and reverting to matriarchy. Our revolt targets both fathers and civilization itself.
The fatherhood crisis results not from impersonal social forces, as reputed fatherhood experts like Blankenhorn would have us believe. It is rather an insurrection: a deliberate and collective attack against actual fathers. This trend has been building for centuries, and it has accelerated with new sexual ideologies that target fatherhood (“patriarchy”) directly: feminism, homosexuality, transgenderism, and more.
Psychologist Howard Schwartz of Oakland University explains the dynamic in standard English. He strips away the hocus-pocus from Freud’s inquiry into father-hatred and demonstrates why revolting against fathers (and every other authority) proceeds from our most primal and intimate relationships—or rather, from their disruption.
As Schwartz explains in his paper, “The World Turned Upside Down,” when life begins, “a loving mother is the world to us … we are the center of a loving world.” She accepts and approves unconditionally our “spontaneous impulses.” Eventually, however, the larger reality intrudes on our cozy comfort zone:
Over time, the outside world, strikingly indifferent to our desires and unimpressed by our importance, makes its presence known to us. Within the family, this outside world is represented by the father, who has a relationship with mother that does not revolve around us. At first, we experience this as a violation and try to eject it, but ultimately we recognize that we will have to understand it in its own terms.
This involves “taking father’s relationship with mother as the basis” of a kind of promise: “If we become like him, learning about and dealing with the world on its own terms, we can regain something like mother’s love, as he appears to have it.” We thus learn to engage with the indifferent world and to do what it requires, though we can still recognize its imperfections and exercise our own creativity as we engage with it. All this “offers the realization of one’s potential, or as a vehicle for advancement, or of fame, or as part of a career, or of a moral project.” He goes on to say,
The object, for the father as much as for anyone else, is to become again the center of mother’s love. … The premise of our tradition is that he gains it through his accomplishments within the indifferent world. … He is creating something that mother values, as a way of balancing what would otherwise be a source of overwhelming dependency. This interdependence can form the basis of a stable, emotionally close relationship.
All this is premised on one critical assumption: that “the mother appreciates and feels emotionally connected to the father; she loves him.”
This natural paradigm is attacked by radical sexual ideology and its institutionalization in government welfare and existing divorce laws. These structures empower officials to “divide and rule” parents by turning fathers and their authority into objects of invective or ridicule and by turning children into narcissistic and nihilistic rebels. As a result of feminist ideology, “the most striking characteristic of our time is that the mother resents the father,” writes Schwartz, and resentment (as Nietzsche and others understood) is the most poisonous emotion in politics. In the milieu of resentment, “the way for the children to become again the object of mother’s love is by joining her in her hatred of the father and the attendant wish to destroy him.” Schwartz goes on to explain this animosity in terms reminiscent of our current ideological resentments:
Father has not earned mother’s love, in this configuration, but stolen it. His claims of accomplishment have been all subterfuge and lies. The victims of the theft have been all of us children, but especially the marginalized. … He is to be hated for this theft and the marginalized loved in compensation.
This precisely describes today’s revolt, beginning with adolescent children of welfare and involuntary divorce, who almost universally hate their fathers with an animus that is visceral and irrational.
Not only fathers but the entire regimen of paternal authority, as established in civilizational norms, are targeted for destruction: the father replaces unconditional love and acceptance with rules and limits and is therefore the archetypal oppressor. Liberation is defined by his destruction and rebellion against his rules. Schwartz writes in his book, Political Correctness and the Destruction of the Social Order,
Getting rid of him … we will be free of the demands and expectations placed upon us … We will not be subordinate to any roles, rules, or obligations, but will be able to do what we want, act on our whim, in perfect safety, to the accompaniment of mother’s love.
Society then becomes a massive collective rebellion. It starts with our individual petty resentments, but these merge into our seeming altruism and solidarity with the larger community of the oppressed and marginalized. As Schwartz explains in his “World Turned Upside Down” paper,
Our task, then, is to destroy the father’s power. We must puncture his privilege and put the lie to his ideas of his supremacy. Then the world will revolve around us with love, as it should. In doing this, we must support our allies in this struggle, the marginalized, who are seen as the most grievously oppressed.
Indeed, fatherless children are not alone in this resentful animus. Their hatred is reflected in our collective Oedipal tragedy, wherein fathers—at least fathers who fall afoul of mothers—incur the contempt of moralizers both left and right. “Is there a species on the planet more unjustly maligned than fathers?” observes columnist Naomi Lakritz in the Calgary Herald. “Fathers are abusers, bullies, deadbeats, child molesters, and all-around sexist clods who have a lot of gall wanting a relationship with their children once the initial moment of conception is over.”
While feminists comprise the vanguard, they have also tapped into something visceral among conservatives, whose sentimentalization of women leads to the embracing of leftist dogma. This in turn leads to piling on in the blaming of absent “irresponsible” fathers instead of the state’s machinations, which have legally isolated them from their children. Such hostility among so-called conservatives defies both logic and social science. “Virtually every aspect of what I call the ‘bad divorced dad’ image has turned out to be a myth, an inaccurate and damaging stereotype,” writes psychologist Sanford Braver in his book, Divorced Dads. “Not only is this myth seriously inaccurate, it has led to harmful and dangerous social policies.” Our bipartisan policies reproduce the very enmity they claim to be addressing by further rupturing familial bonds.
As I have documented in my book, Taken Into Custody, state machineries routinely and forcibly separate millions of legally unimpeachable fathers from their children, strip them of their patrimony, and incarcerate them without trial or record. From dishonest witch hunts against so-called deadbeat dads to trumped-up accusations of domestic violence, governments have orchestrated hysterical vilification campaigns against millions of their own citizens, who have been convicted of no crimes.
Witch hunts against fathers might be seen as rehearsals for further government abuses. For example, measures to trap unvaccinated citizens within a maze of legal sanctions eerily resemble divorce court proceedings against other innocents. Methods and rationalizations developed for forcibly separating children from fathers have already been applied against homeschoolers and other parents accused of ill-defined “abuse,” and those same strategies are now being used to remove children from parents who have ignored mask mandates and lockdowns.
COVID hysteria provides a further rationalization, as when the Children, Youth and Family division of the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services obtained an emergency ex parte order to seize the son of conservative activist J. R. Hoell, who had treated the boy with ivermectin. The hysteria is explicable through the same maternal ideology. At a 2021 International Conference on Men’s Issues, Janice Fiamengo showed how COVID policies are “closely aligned with feminist ideology, elevating feminist values and dismissing masculine ones.” According to Fiamengo, the state’s playacting as the “all-knowing mother” demands docility from naturally outgoing men, inhibits and prohibits masculine endeavors like work and civic leadership, and appeals to feminine fear, encouraging “a feminized identity, one that values security above all.”
This feminized conditioning has long operated in the vast welfare underworld that most people find too dreary to understand. It is the world of social work, child psychology, child and family counseling, child care, child protection, foster care, child support enforcement, juvenile and family courts, and public education (which conservatives do challenge, but by then it is too late). Its matriarchs are quasi-police civil servants who devour vast resources managing other people’s children. Bureaucrats are now “the hand that rocks the cradle.”
These functionaries pioneered the innovation responsible for the COVID hoax. In the words of Jeffrey Tucker, of the Brownstone Institute, “The people with the real power in the 21st century aren’t those we elect but those who have gained their privileges through bureaucratic maneuvering.” They do this foremost by creating problems for themselves to manage.
Today’s COVID regimen operates by way of this underworld in its single-minded determination to enforce measures that increase the harm they claim to be alleviating. The latest of these is the indefensible, even sadistic, demand to inject children needlessly, which many are calling child abuse. But then it is well established that, by eliminating fathers and multiplying single mothers, the matriarchy’s apparatchiks have been proliferating child abuse for decades. The case of James Younger in Texas, whose father fought his ex-wife and the courts to save his son from gender transition, illustrates how close we are to court-ordered castration.
What can be done? Quixotic promises to “change the culture”? Interminable philosophizing? Hurling anathemas at cultural Marxism and CRT? Like our wayward children, we too are rendered dysfunctional, debilitated by bromides from the lips of our own parlor intellectuals instead of being focused on constructive, concerted action.
Our civilizational imperative is to get the adolescents under control—not just the Peter Pan junta controlling the current presidential marionette, but especially the Huxleyan hatcheries breeding successive generations of insurgents. Mobilizing the adults to forego video polemics that tell them what they already know, to exercise their rightful authority, and to mount a concentrated counterattack against two intolerable perversions of power will shut down the supply of radicals and prevent them from reproducing their kind.
First, we must expunge from the law the indefensible oxymoron of no-fault justice as applied to marriage and everything else. At a stroke, this devious legal subterfuge fatally undermined two bedrock institutions of western civilization: marriage and common law. As Maggie Gallagher, author of The Abolition of Marriage, points out, no-fault divorce law prohibits any legally binding agreement to raise children. It also authorizes judicial proceedings (including criminal punishments) against legally innocent people. No free society, no civilization can possibly survive this innovation. A half century after the enactment of this measure, its baneful effects seem to have caught up with us in the form of the new radicals.
Rectifying this law will facilitate the larger challenge of dismantling the socialist-feminist welfare behemoth, which institutionalizes this source of abuse. State-mandated feminization was inflicted first upon the poor and then upon others. Devouring one-fourth of our GDP, this underworld criminalizes breadwinning men, embitters single mothers, empowers radical apparatchiks, and disfigures (morally and physically) innocent children. It also impoverishes all of us and entrenches leftists in public office.
These effects can be undone by prioritizing focused counterstrikes against the bureaucratic factories. Mobilizing the grownups—mostly men—is a necessary first step.
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Baskerville is brilliant but I think his message is often overlooked by conservatives and others on the right because most people cant relate to what he is talking about, unless they were also victims of (say) family law themselves. Its a brilliant point he makes that a lot of time is spent on the right working out how the far left subverted all institutions over the course of the last 40 years, its not a mystery, the legal groundwork was done by no fault divorce (and other feminist laws) that paved the way and made woke apparatchiks necessary for the function of the modern post-truth woke state. Remove the innovations of the sexual revolution and Western society falls back to how it was previously.
MAY 11, 2022JOEREPLY