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Victor Davis Hanson: The Chinese Spy Balloon, Orwellian Newspeak & the Woke Revolution

“I’m just bewildered that these two evil regimes are so asymmetrically treated as we saw with the balloon … Had Russia done that, we would have shot that down the moment it got near the Aleutians,” says Victor Davis Hanson, a classicist, military historian, and author of a number of best-selling books, including most recently “The Dying Citizen.”

In this broad-ranging interview, we discuss the Chinese spy balloon, Orwellian newspeak, and the woke revolution he sees gripping America.

“When they were trapped about the balloon, the new Soviet talking point came: ‘Balloons came in during Trump. Trump ignored them. Trump ignored balloons.’ And that talking point, it was sort of like the old Roman maxim that a lie travels around the world before the truth can catch up. And that’s how they operate.”

Unlike the protests of the 1960s, this current woke revolution “was staged from the top,” Hanson says. “The left was not marching on the Pentagon. The left was not marching on the campus administrator. The left was not marching on Anaconda Copper or I.T.T. as they had been. They were inside the boardroom. They were inside the president’s office. They were inside the FBI. They were inside the CIA. They were inside the Pentagon.”

Ultimately, we are witnessing the unraveling of Western civilization, Hanson says.

“It’s actually an attack on meritocracy, and the whole empirical system of hiring the most qualified better person for the stability and success of society … Where this ultimately goes … it means that, as you see in Cuba or Venezuela or Colombia, very successful societies start to break down and they can’t deliver the essentials of life because they have a commissariat, a commissar system of ideology trumping empiricism,” Hanson says.


Interview trailer:

Watch the full interview:



Jan Jekielek:

Victor Davis Hanson, such a pleasure to have you back on American Thought Leaders.

Victor Davis Hanson:

Thank you for having me.

Mr. Jekielek:

Victor, you wrote a piece recently titled “Anarchy, American Style.” You talk about a revolution that’s happening here in America, but you actually describe it as being something more serious and more dangerous than what was happening in the ’60s. Can you explain this?

Mr. Hanson:

The ’60s was a cultural revolution, and it was largely confined to young people. It germinated from the Vietnam War, to be frank. When the all-volunteer army came into practice, it petered out, and it was bottom-up or middle class-up. This is very different. It’s holistic, almost totalitarian. By that I mean it affects all aspects of our lives.

We woke up one day and instead of 70 per cent of the electorate voting on election day, it was 30 per cent. We woke up in California and mailed a ballot out to every single person they had on their files, 10 million of which were never returned. They don’t know what happened to them. So, the very aspect of voting changed. Suddenly, everything was on the table.

The filibuster of 180 years, the Electoral College of 233 years. Packing the court was a slur. Now it’s a serious discussion. Whoever thought that you would bring in Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico? And then, all of our references like the border. It’s not that the border was as porous as it had been, it doesn’t exist. Five to six million illegal entries.

Nobody ever thought that the savior of the American energy industry, natural gas, of which we were the largest producer in the world and gave us options in the Middle East—it cut back the consumers’ energy bills. It was clean burning and all of a sudden we were told that it was a pollutant and it caused asthma and you were going to ban natural gas stoves, which people had been urged to buy.

This revolution was staged from the top. It was Al Gore-down, John Kerry-down, CIA-down, and FBI-down. What that meant was that the protests were flip-flopped. The Left was not marching on the Pentagon. The Left was not marching on the campus administrator. The Left was not marching on Anaconda Copper or ITT as they had been.

They were inside the boardroom. They were inside the President’s office. They were inside the FBI. They were inside the CIA. They were inside the Pentagon. They were mandating radical reforms that didn’t have public or popular support, and that was very new. I think people on the traditional conservative side said, “This can’t be happening. Nobody would open the border and destroy it.”

I’m a big supporter of the defense budget. I grew up with Efrem Zimbalist Jr. and The F.B.I. on television every Saturday night. I supported the CIA. These became revolutionary, weaponized institutions. The same thing with the school boards at K-12. The same thing with the old stereotype of the liberal professor with elbow patches and wire-rimmed glasses, kind of an eccentric old Adlai Stevenson liberal. He vanished and was taken over by these wokesters.

We’re still baffled by it, and that’s why it has been so successful, because people have not yet galvanized a counter-revolution. I think it’s coming, but when you have control of all the institutions, it’s very hard.

Mr. Jekielek:

There are some mea culpas that are coming in, and this is interesting. I did notice that you were discussing, and this is something I was looking at as well, in this recent article in the “Columbia Journalism Review,” basically talking about the Russiagate hoax as a real hoax in a very important publication that I wasn’t expecting to see that in.

Mr. Hanson:

Yes, that was a 79-year-old veteran Pulitzer Prize winner. He systematically went through the media collapses of the last four years, the Russian collusion hoax, the Alfa Bank ping hoax, and the laptop disinformation hoax. He even went into some of the January 6th exaggerations.

He was trying to show and he was giving a warning to the media that prior to the woke movement of 2020, they were starting to incrementally regain some credibility, but after they had completely given up their independence as the Trump administration wore on. And as the woke George Floyd phenomenon absorbed them, they had no credibility.

That showed in the poll. Only 26 per cent, he points out, support the media now. You see that, and you can see it in the latest Newsweek. There’s a graduate student, PhD and MD, and he’s now mea culpa. He uses the word mea culpa, that we were wrong. By insisting on total lockdowns and quarantines, we didn’t evenly apply them across class lines. We spiked the suicide rate, the familial abuse rate, and the spousal abuse rate. We robbed kids of two years of school. They have never recovered.

We created psychological problems for people en masse that made them more prone to act erratically, i.e. rioting and things like that. That was all an introduction to the economic damage we did, and now he’s saying, “I was wrong.” But juxtaposed to that, you see Dr. Fauci announced today that he’s getting $100,000 on the lecture circuit and he’s in demand. So, he will never issue an apology, and yet he’s more culpable than anybody.

Also in all of this, we’re starting to see it in entertainment, Dave Chappelle, Bill Maher, and some people like that. And I think they say if this goes on, we know how it ends—the Salem witch trials, Mao’s Cultural Revolution, the Robespierre Brothers, it eats or devours its own, and they understand that. The people in the street are starting to worry that they felt the woke revolution was kind of crazy. It affected history departments or English departments or Hollywood actors squabbling for parts or Disney cartoons.

They’re starting to see that it’s actually an attack on meritocracy and the whole empirical system of hiring the most qualified, better person for the stability and success of society. We’re starting to hear about in the last 30 days two near-misses of aircraft. There has been some suggestion of pilot error and air traffic control error. I was traveling the other day, and I went very early to the airport in Los Angeles. That was last week, at LAX, when the whole power went off, and everything went off; the scanners, the boards, and the planes couldn’t get passengers out. It was just total. It was somebody that had damaged the electrical system during construction.

These are things getting more and more common. Here we have the wettest year in memory up to now, and we’ve let about 75 or 80 per cent of that precious water out to the ocean. It’s either ideological, anti-empirical activity by government employees, or it’s promoting people like Pete Buttigieg who are total incompetents. They have enormous power and they’re failing.

Where this ultimately goes, we know where it goes. It means that, as you see in Cuba or Venezuela or Colombia, very successful societies start to break down and they can’t deliver the essentials of life, because they have a commissariat, a commissar system of ideology trumping empiricism.

Mr. Jekielek:

I’m remembering Alana Newhouse’s piece from perhaps a couple of years ago, “Why Everything Is Broken.”

Mr. Hanson:


Mr. Jekielek:

I hadn’t really thought of it as the consequence of ideology incrementally trumping good governance or good decision-making and even engineering.

Mr. Hanson:

Yes. Everybody thought that the United States ran on autopilot, that from Little League you picked kids to Babe Ruth to high school sports, that you picked people based on their ability. It was a good thing to be a National Merit Scholar. And yet, we learned that that information was suppressed from students so they would not be better than someone else. Teachers deliberately tried to hurt the college application process of National Merit Scholars, because of their superb scores.

Or to take another example, Stanford University just announced the incoming class of 2026, and they boasted that there were only 23 per cent white applicants in a demographic that has three times that number. In other words, we’re into compensatory or repertory admissions. But here’s what was interesting. They would not tell you of the people who were admitted how many did or did not take the SAT, which is optional now.

But they did want to emphasize that those that took the SAT and got a perfect score, which is almost impossible to do, a perfect score on the SAT, they proudly announced they rejected 75 per cent of them. It’s almost a boast that we’re not going to be bound by meritocracy and what that means.

So, I was very interested in this phenomenon because I knew it was not new, and it had been going on. I talked to some people off the record in Silicon Valley and I said, “Is this affecting you the last two or three years?” They said, “We have our own test that we have to give now. We don’t talk about it.” And one person, if I were to name his name, everybody would know him. He said “We would rather have a coder from Georgia Tech than we would from Stanford.”

Stanford was the birthplace of the whole Silicon Valley phenomenon. It’s electrical engineering, it produced Hewlett Packard and Terman and all these people. And so, it’s starting to affect us everywhere. It’s a war on meritocracy, and it’s inequality by results-enforced mandate. It’s all done under the guise of being morally superior, but it’s a very amoral system, because it destroys the lives of people who play by the rules and try to achieve.

If it’s aimed at repertory advantages for “marginalized people,” then you would be much better to start at K-1, 2, 3 and go into the inner city and have Latin required or mathematics rather than woke education, but they don’t want to do that. If they don’t want to do that, then we know where it’s going to go, because we can see it in Cuba, we can see it in Russia, we can see it in areas of Iran, we can see it in North Korea, anywhere where ideology replaces empirical discussion and merit. That is really scary. Nobody thought the United States would do that.

Mr. Jekielek:

One of the things that disturbs me the most is it’s all done under the guise of a moral quest. But in reality, it seems to be patronizing and looking down on people, like you’re not capable of doing certain things, so we will lower the standards for you, as opposed to helping people shine and be the best they can be, actually.

Mr. Hanson:

That’s a good take on it. That take is saying that a bi-coastal, largely white, and to a lesser degree Asian elite who’s very Left-wing says, “We’re going to help people.” It is very condescending in that they establish how they are going to help and what they are going to do. But a more conspiratorial exegesis might say that they have something wrong with them. I can look at the lives that they live, and I see them going from a very poor area in the San Joaquin Valley on a Monday and then going to work at Stanford on a Tuesday. It’s almost like, when I look at their lives, they’re not comfortable with the people that they help and they abstract them.

In other words, it’s almost like a psychological mechanism, and it functions across these issues. So, John Kerry wants that private jet, but he says he’s for climate change, so that’s a circle he can’t square, except he says, “Well, I’m not just going to be for climate change. I’m going to be a fanatic for climate change. I’m going to tell you that your leaf blower or your lawnmower is a problem. And the more radical I or Al Gore get, the more exemption I get to fly my jet.”

Or the Stanford administrator, the more that he virtue signals and does performance art that he only has 23 per cent whites, and that basically means he eliminated the entire white male working class from Stanford, the more likely he’s going to have his child get in through special admittance as an administrator, or he will call up a donor and let that person in.

A lot of this wokeness is self-serving, you can see it, and I’ve used this kind of metaphor. You have the Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle, and she has that iconic interview with Oprah Winfrey, another billionaire from Montecito, and when you listen to them and they were swapping stories of microaggressions, you got the impression that they were desperately trying to dig up some victim status to justify their privilege.

Because they understand that in America, race and class are no longer synonymous. That’s something that they don’t want to talk about. They don’t want to talk about the white working class, that’s something that’s a taboo subject. They keep saying, “White privilege, white privilege, white rage, white rage, white supremacy.”

And then you say, “Okay, let’s look at this very carefully. So, you’re suggesting that the white male is raging and doing all this damage to people of color. Let’s look at some statistics. With homicide, is he vastly overrepresented? No, he’s not. He’s underrepresented as a demographic. With suicide, he’s vastly overrepresented. He commits suicide twice as often as latinos or blacks per capita.”

“How about we look at people of color in a white man’s war overseas, as we heard of Vietnam, which was untrue by the way. No, he dies at double his demographics. 75 per cent of the deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan were white male. How about the rare interracial crime? He must be preying on people of color since he’s raging. No, he’s more likely to be a victim of interracial crime. African Americans commit six times the racial crimes against whites as vice versa.”

You think, “If it’s white, white, white, white, white, he’s committing hate crimes.” No, he’s vastly underrepresented as a demographic in hate crimes. The marginalized group, African Americans, commit double the number of hate crimes based on their population percentage.

When you look at who would be the most likely victim of a hate crime, it’s Jewish white people. It’s just not even close. They are 3 per cent of the population, and it’s about 10, 15 per cent of all hate crimes. When you look at anti-Asian hate crimes and you look at the perpetrator, it’s not white males. It’s African American, disproportionately, and yet we don’t talk about that.

When they keep talking about this, it’s very hard to find data that would support it. It’s almost a rage. When you hear it, what’s scary is this is not coming from Black Lives Matter, Antifa, or the academic lounge. This is coming from Lloyd Austin and Mark Milley. The other thing about it is when they’re doing all of this woke commissariat, what are they not doing?

We look at the Pentagon and we say, “You told us that Ukraine would fall in a week. It didn’t, and you were wrong, but then you were wrong when you told us in June and July that Afghanistan was sustainable when it collapsed. And then, you left somewhere between 10 and $50 billion of equipment and you told us that the Taliban would never sell it and Putin wouldn’t want it. And Putin is now negotiating to buy some of it.”

“At first, you told us that this balloon was a weather balloon, and then you said it was a spy balloon, but that it had no efficacy because it was slow. When we learned that in fact it had advantages over a satellite, then you told us that you didn’t shoot it down, because you were afraid of hurting people. But it entered the Aleutians with one person per square mile or five or six in Montana, where it would have been easy to shoot down.”

“When that kind of folded and the State of the Union was coming up, then you told us that these balloons came in during Donald Trump’s administration and he didn’t do anything. We talked to the head of NORAD and he said, ‘They may have come in, but we didn’t spot them, so of course we didn’t tell anybody.'”

All these people in the military are not doing what they should be doing. They’re doing other things, and the result is that some areas of the Army and the Air Force and the Navy are 50 per cent short on soldiers. People are not enlisting. We have a great walkout. Everybody thinks everybody’s walking to Tennessee from California or from New York to Florida. It’s also that they’re walking out of these institutions. They’re leaving the military because they feel insulted and targeted.

The Grammy’s, the Tonys, and the Emmys are failing. Nobody watches them. Even the NBA is going down like this. Netflix, when they went on the whole woke theme and Michelle and Barack advised them on that type of woke material, it went like this. So far, half the country or 55 per cent doesn’t want all this, but they’re not galvanized to fight for their institutions. They say, “I’m going to walk away,” or, “I want to make sure my representative doesn’t vote for a new $100 million FBI building.”

But what they should be doing is saying, “These institutions are ours. We built them just as much as you did. We’re not giving up Stanford University. We’re not giving up the CIA. We’re not giving up the FBI. We’re not going to make alternatives. You hijacked them.” And then, they can take them back.

Mr. Jekielek:

So many things I want to talk about with you right now, but one thing you mentioned was the Grammys, and there was this unholy piece. I don’t know if you’ve seen it.

Mr. Hanson:

I saw it, the Satanic…

Mr. Jekielek:

I saw a clip of it and I just couldn’t watch further. But what do you make of that? Are we supposed to think this is somehow normal? This is the part that I find so bizarre. Is this part of the revolution?

Mr. Hanson:

Yes. I got a PhD in philology, so you specialize in both Latin and Greek literature, and you can pick areas of emphasis. One of my areas of interest was the author Petronius who wrote a novel called The Satyricon. It’s about cross-dressing, transgendered issues, dancing, public fornication, defecation, urination, it’s all in there. This author wrote around 60 AD in the reign of Nero, and he was called the arbiter elegantiae, the tester for elegance, what they called elegance for the emperor. What he’s trying to convey is that this society is so affluent and leisurely and so disconnected from its agrarian past and the ethos that created it, that it’s doomed.

It’s eerie that when you watched that, it was the first thing I noticed. I looked at the ratings and they had gone from just 20 years ago 40 or 50 million people down to 12 million. It had gotten down to eight million, and they thought this was the recovery from COVID. But they have only 25 per cent of the audience they had just at the millennium. It’s because nobody wants to turn on their screen and one; be lectured by a very, very wealthy, privileged person about how illiberal they are. And two; they don’t want to look through a window at these people’s lives, because they feel that they’re decadent, morally bankrupt, and dangerous.

When you see these people, and these people know, they would rather be right with a revolution and have no audience, than wrong with a revolution and be popular. So, when this person puts on devil horns and gets into a red union suit and then is dressed up as a woman and then simulates fornication with dancers and sex acts, he’s saying, “I’m part of the revolution and I have revolutionary fetes, and I don’t care that I’m destroying this institution. In fact, I’d probably like to destroy this institution.” He feels that he has an embryo or a blanket around him that will protect him as an elite. We’ll see if that’s true.

I don’t think that is true. I think that you will see people walk. People are walking away from Disney. People are walking away from the Grammys. When zero people watch them, then you go broke, unless you can change the capitalist system, and they know it. That explains why politically they’re so intent on this new protocol.

Tear up the State of the Union address on national TV. Deny the Minority House Leader the ability to select committee members. Put Steve Bannon or Peter Navarro in leg irons and use performance art arrests if they do exactly what Eric Holder did who refused to go when subpoenaed to Congress. They’re trying to change the rules or change the system like you see in Venezuela or Colombia or Nicaragua or Peru or Cuba, because they understand there’s no political support.

So, we’re kind of in a race right now, and that is, can they change the system and capture the so-called administrative state to such a degree where popular counter-revolutionary activity will be nullified? They understand that nobody wants this. That’s why you can see poor Karine Jean-Pierre, the Press Secretary, is in an impossible situation. She has to take revolutionary fervor and then spoon it out to the media as good old Joe Biden from Scranton.

Because if she would deliver what Joe Biden is really doing, destroying the border or destroying the energy industry or destroying the centuries of jurisprudence, nobody would want it. I don’t know how long this is going to go on.

Mr. Jekielek:

A couple of things. First of all, do you think these mea culpas are starting to come? I’ll just mention that I noticed that at the National Press Club, where I’m a member, Dr. Anthony Fauci was actually there swearing in the new president recently. Certainly, there aren’t mea culpas in some areas. But the Columbia Journalism Review was unexpected. As well as the young scientists like this one that was published in Newsweek. Do you think that is the sign of the change?

Mr. Hanson:

It is, with one caveat. I think the fellow’s name was Bass in the “Newsweek” article.

Mr. Jekielek:


Mr. Hanson:

We look at Bari Weiss who was forced out of The New York Times and started this Substack phenomena or energized it. Glenn Greenwald and Matt Taibbi, these were all people on the Left, and they all bumped into the Left. At some point they were not revolutionary enough, not that they didn’t try to be, but they were turned on in a very unfair manner. It could be because of their desire to be a classical liberal and be fair.

So, we’re having people that the Left cannibalized and then they become anti-woke and they’re very valuable, but so far we have not seen the conservatives that were always skeptical about this. The majority of people, we haven’t seen what they’re saying about it. And we didn’t see it in the midterm elections. Partly it’s because they still don’t control the institutions.

We can talk about these changes all we want, but Mark Zuckerberg is Mark Zuckerberg. He’s still going to give millions of dollars. He gave $419 million to warp the election in key precincts in 2020, and Disney is still doing it. They had a cartoon the other day about race saying that Lincoln was basically a racist. Professional sports are still woke, and you can argue that so is the corporate boardroom and BlackRock investment.

We haven’t seen people say, “We’re losing the country. We played by the Marquess of Queensberry Rules. We tried to elect Trump so he wouldn’t be a John McCain or Mitt Romney, and they destroyed him, basically. We should have won in 2020. We should have won in 2022.” But when you don’t understand absentee mail-in balloting or vote curing or vote harvesting, and the Left does, we got stymied there. We’re frustrated because we feel the country is slipping through our fingers.

What are we going to do? We are going to have to go to a whole new mentality of getting organized and raising money, and everybody has to get involved. If they do that, it will be like the French Revolution where one day Robespierre is in the French assembly basically saying, “Then this person, this person, and this person is going to be beheaded.” And the next moment the Thermidor comes in and grabs him. They take him in and that’s the end of him. He gets what he did to other people.

Of course, I’m not using that simile to suggest the guillotine, but what I’m suggesting is that it can happen very quickly if people will get galvanized. It just takes one or two very prominent people to say, “I’m not going to do this anymore.” You just need one S. I. Hayakawa. When I was a student and people were yelling profanities at San Francisco State, he just walked up and pulled out the cord. He was the president and that was it. Basically he just clamped down.

When the Weathermen were blowing up people, they indicted them. It wasn’t like Antifa. They indicted them and they sentenced them and they were in prison for 20 years. We had six or seven Antifa members who went down to Georgia and shot people and they were arrested. If they try them and convict them if they’re guilty, and they sentence them to 20 years, that will send a message, but so far we haven’t done that.

But it can be done very easily if people will just follow existing laws and understand that all of us have a target on our back. We all have a rendezvous in some manner or another. It could be you’re a teacher and a woke administrator, your child could be beaten up on a bus like in Florida and you complain. You can be a doctor riding down the PCH [Pacific Coast Highway] near Dana Point. A person can run you over, injure you, and kill you.