THE CANCELLATION OF RUSSIAN CULTURE. By Gary Saul Morson

In the medieval era, when a thinker successfully claimed divine revelation, he placed his words beyond dispute. Only the hopelessly benighted or demonically inspired could doubt him. In recent decades, the claim of “science” achieves a similar result. Politicians maintain they “just follow the science” while supportive mass media platforms banish questioners as enemies of science. Pseudoscience never had it so good.

There is another way to silence opponents today: Claim an issue is one of “moral clarity,” a phrase that signals the question is “settled” and allows for no further discussion. In such cases, facts don’t give rise to a narrative, the narrative determines the facts. When an issue is declared “morally clear” in this way, the implication is that only the immoral could entertain the slightest doubt. The world divides neatly into good and evil. There can be no conscientious skeptics. And when people are unqualifiedly evil, anything one says about them or does to them becomes justified.

As a specialist in Russian literature and thought, I am more than familiar with this way of thinking. It is how the Soviet Union operated. Once the Party ruled on a topic, gray areas vanished. That is why every vote of the Soviet parliament was unanimous and elections offered only one candidate. The very idea of disputable questions was a bourgeois mystification, designed to keep the working class from acting decisively in its interest. By the same token, all issues became zero-sum games. In first-year economics, one learns that in any unforced transaction both sides benefit or they would not make the exchange, but in Marxist-Leninist thinking, one side’s gain is necessarily the other side’s loss.

I was therefore less than happy to discover an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal expressing relief that the present situation in Ukraine offered “moral clarity.”

https://www.firstthings.com/web-exclusives/2022/03/the-cancellation-of-russian-culture


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