The Moral Authorities

Our country's self-professed moral authorities haven't only failed to be as good as they claim to be. They've proved themselves worse than many of us are able to imagine.

The Moral Authorities

They found him guilty. The pig president I mean. White evangelical Christianity's bronzed calf. They found him guilty. That's good.

I'll admit I'm surprised. The pig president hasn't seen a lot of direct consequences, despite a lifetime of flagrant infractions against law and basic human decency. 

Part of this is because we have a legal system designed to punish marginalized people and use their bodies for profit, while keeping wealthy and powerful people shielded from consequence. The pig president proved that out for decades by committing crimes both flagrant and secret, both petty and grave, day in and day out, perfectly assured that nothing would ever happen, and indeed for decades nothing ever did happen. But now a unanimous jury has found him guilty of 34 felonies, which is a lot as felonies go, and his cultish political party thinks that's a scandal, not because they believe it is a dangerous corruption for politicians to commit dozens of felonies, but because they believe it is a dangerous corruption for anyone to bring an appropriate consequence for it. If somebody living in poverty gets their bones ground by the gears of what we call justice, that's just law and order, baby, but if any consequence ever befalls a wealthy and powerful guy for no better reason than a bunch of crimes and a lifetime of flagrant corruption and abuse, well that sets a dangerous precedent, and a bunch of very expensive haircuts perched atop professionally confused faces will gravely intone is this the sort of country we want to be?

So yes, I'm honestly surprised to discover that there does still seem to be some kind of line somewhere, even if the sentence involves no jail time, or if it is overturned on appeal, or if the bribed corrupted Supreme Court decides to announce out of nowhere that it has jurisdiction over state rulings in this one instance citing "just because" as rationale, or if the pig regains the presidency and pardons himself and nobody stops him even though he isn't legally allowed to that ... even if all of that happens, I am surprised that at least they found him guilty on all 34 counts—"they" being the jury in his criminal trial. "They" I suppose also meaning anyone willing to observe observable things, who noticed him doing crimes every day, bragging about them while denying them, and accusing his accusers of being the real criminals, and ... well, his whole circus act, you've seen it.

By "they" I do not mean the members of his supremacist cult, who continue to find him as innocent as they find themselves, who see his conviction on 34 counts as 34 more points of evidence of his innocence, because if the pig president weren't innocent, then "they" wouldn't have engaged in such dirty tricks as using the judicial process and a duly appointed jury to find him so guilty. If you want to know who the pig president's supremacist cult means when they say "they," go ask. They'll be happy to tell you. It's all the people they hate.

It's a really long list. It includes migrants and refugees, foreign people, trans people, gay people, nonbinary people, Black people, brown people, women, infertile people, fertile people, people who have children, people who choose not to have children, children who an adult might want to "marry," children working in factories, children raped by family members or by strangers, librarians, schoolteachers, students, university professors and administrators, writers, journalists, doctors, nurses, epidemiologists, government employees, unhoused people, unemployed people, employed people, hungry children, single parents, city dwellers, people nearing retirement age, retired people, working people, union members, Mexicans, Muslims, Arabs, Jewish people, Sikhs, any other practitioner of any religion that isn't a dominionist form of Calvinistic conservative Protestantism or its Catholic counterpart, atheists, sick people and disabled people and young people in general, and Hunter Biden.

It's a list that seems like it includes almost everyone. In fact it sort of does include everyone, but (other than multi-millionaires) the people who love the pig president seem to love him because even though he will definitely hurt them, they believe he'll hurt other people considerably more, and he's pretty good at expressing an equal mix of 100% patriotism and 100% hatred for the country whose laws and people he and they all hate even as they insist they are the only ones who love it.

Because of this, there's an idea that being convicted of 34 felonies might even help the pig president regain his throne, perhaps forever.

Maybe so.

I still don't think that being convicted of 34 felonies actually helps you in a general election, but I get why somebody might think it would. There's certainly nothing so horrible the pig president can ever do that will cause his cult to turn away from him, nothing so horrible he can ever do that the expensive haircuts and professionally confused faces will ever start understanding him to be the sort of thing that does and says what he does and says, or ever start treating the act of understanding him accurately as being anything other than dangerously polarizing.

And the members of the pig president's cult will also tell you that his convictions help him, because these convictions stand as proof that he is being persecuted (and therefore by proxy they are being persecuted), so these convictions will be additional justification for abusing and menacing most of the rest of us, which is what they were already planning on doing anyway.

The justification they are planning on using for this violence and abuse is their moral authority, which they credit to themselves as a natural and indestructible inheritance.

They don't just have moral authority. They are the moral authorities. They've convinced themselves of this. They've convinced the expensive haircuts and the professionally confused faces of it. They've convinced most politicians of it. They've managed to convince a lot of us of it—this idea that these supremacist bullies are not only actually fundamentally good and decent people, but are the fundamentally good and decent people, through whom decency and goodness must be defined and mediated.

They even fooled the pig president.

Let me show you how it happened.

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To establish their moral authority, our country's cult of mostly male mostly white mostly Christian supremacists use a variety of tactics that will be familiar to anyone who has spent time around a narcissist bully.

The pig president makes for an instructive example of this. As mentioned, he's enjoyed an almost astonishing level of immunity to appropriate legal consequence throughout his life, even while engaging in a near-constant spree of the most flagrant crime and the most obvious corruption. He has done this while demanding to be held totally innocent—not by actually obeying the law, but by demanding that legality itself must be defined not by rules and statutes, but rather as being whatever he does. This is classic narcissistic bullying, and when narcissistic bullying reaches the halls of power and influence, it creates a situation that is best described as totalitarianism. If the totalitarianism is capitalist and tied to nationalist myths of purification through violence, then the totalitarianism is best described as fascism.

The pig president isn't lawful. He is lawfulness itself, intrinsically. If he does it, it is lawful. This is his actual defense, which he expresses as a demand.

He is accommodated in this demand by a justice system designed to accommodate men like him, but also by his mostly white mostly male mostly Christian supremacist cult, who hold themselves to be our moral authorities, and who themselves define legality as whatever the fuck they want to do, and illegality as anything other people do of which they disapprove; an arrangement they refer to as "freedom." The pig president's cult supports him unfailingly not despite his flagrant corruption, but because of it—because it proves that the law exists not to serve justice, but to serve them.

Furthermore, both they and their leader are accommodated in this demand by political power—not only their own party, which is entirely captured by the cult, but even by much of the nominal opposition party, which habitually treats the support of mostly male mostly white mostly Christians as intrinsically more important to seek than any other. And they are further abetted by the aforementioned expensive haircuts and professionally confused faces (and even by many of the rest of us who listen to them), who performatively refuse to recognize the most obvious cases of corruption and crime as being criminal or corrupt, and refuse to recognize even the most appropriate legal consequence for corruption and crime as appropriate. This, not because the corruption is not harmful, or because the consequence would not be appropriate, but because in the halls of power and influence it is agreed that it must be moral and legal if our moral authorities are doing it, no matter what "it" is.

In the same way, the self-proclaimed moral authorities who comprise the pig president's supremacist cult demand a reputational immunity similar to the legal immunity they enjoy. This is immunity from being understood as the sort of people that they prove themselves to be every day. They demand to be seen as virtuous and decent without ever even having to gesture toward decency or virtue; demand to be granted a permanent license of moral authority by insisting that morality be defined not by any principal or virtue, but simply as being whatever it is they do, and that what they do should never be understood as what they actually do, but only what they claim to do.

They aren't moral. They are morality itself, intrinsically. If they do it, it is moral because they do it. This is classic narcissistic bullying, and when narcissistic bullying finds expression at societal scale, it's most accurately described as supremacy.

In their demand for reputational immunity, they and their pig of a leader are accommodated in the halls of power and influence by the same politicians and institutions and haircuts and professionally confused faces that bestow upon them unending legal immunity, and by many of the rest of us, too, who all instinctively extend assumption of moral authority to those who have proven the most contemptuous of both morality and authority, in much the same way that assumptions of patriotism are extended to those who most hate this country's laws and people.

The result of all this is a group of people who are the most legally protected, politically overrepresented, and societally coddled people on the face of the planet, all of whom despite their dominating supremacy see themselves as persecuted victims. They are victims not because they are actually persecuted, but because of the ongoing defiant existence of the people they persecute, and a growing (if tentative) societal determination to treat all people with dignity and respect. This determination to treat all people with dignity and respect is a demonstration of actual virtue and principle, which creates a real moral authority, one that exposes the pig president's supremacist cult's fraudulent moral authority for the society-scale narcissistic bullying that it is.

So these supremacist abusers treat this true moral challenge to their empty moral authority as oppression and a violent threat, and they use it as justification for the violence and abuse that they have been doing all along and as a justification for future escalations of violence and abuse that they were already planning.

You'll never believe it, but these abusers' demands, that they be cast as victims and that their victims be cast as their abusers, is accommodated in the same way and by the same people as their demand for legal and reputational immunity.

The perverse dominant social narrative we see is that those professionally confused expensive haircuts, who are least willing to recognize supremacist narcissist bullies for what they are, never stop admonishing those of us who understand the bullies best, never stop telling us we should try to understand the bullies a little better by agreeing to not understand them at all, and that we should do so in the name of virtues and principles of civility and unity and compromise and social health that the bullies have proved they hold in the deepest contempt. They are better than you say, scold the expensive haircuts and those who listen, when the truth of the matter is that even our most jaded guesses about their intentions and beliefs were never jaded enough; indeed, they are proving themselves to be worse than many people are capable of imagining.

As we might expect, all of this instinct toward unawareness leads us wrong. It leads us to see crimes and corruption as legal, to see cruelty as kindness, to see abuse as virtue, to see indecency as decent, to see appropriate consequence as divisiveness, and to bestow upon the least moral among us the title of moral authorities. 

And yes, it even steered the pig president wrong. His supremacist cult claims to care about virtue and morality, and their prize pig believed them. He committed those 34 felonies to keep his cult from knowing that he had sex with an adult film actress while his wife was convalescing with their infant son. At the time he didn’t realize that none of these good lawful decent mostly white mostly male mostly Christian supremacists give a single fuck about any of that, and never will, as long as they continue to believe he will punish the people they want punished in defense of their empty moral authority. It’s doubtful the pig president would make the same mistake today, now that his followers have clearly proved that true morality—even by their own definitions—means as little to them as the lives of those they intend to consume and control and destroy.

These days he's bolder. These days he knows there are no lines he can't cross.

So the pig president isn't going to make those mistakes anymore about his cult of moral authorities.

Neither should we.

The idea that these supremacist bullies are actually fundamentally good and decent people is a popular one. It's a notion that runs deep—as deep as the notion runs in our legal systems that a crime isn't a crime if a rich white guy does it.

The trial of the pig president helped puncture this idea of legal immunity, if only a little. The verdict went even farther, even if it hasn't yet gone far enough. Hopefully the sentence goes further still.

Now, and at last, I think it's time for a similar puncturing of the reputational immunity that our cult of supremacists enjoys.

In cases of criminal corruption, the appropriate consequences are a trial, and (if the laws are just) a verdict and a sentence, and (if the judges are just) the sentence will be appropriate to the crime.

In the case of narcissistic abuse on a societal scale, I think a public trial is in order, and since the immunity demanded is reputational, I think that the sentence should involve public awareness and understanding about reputation. We are all the jury, and we get to decide the verdict ourselves. I'd say we should find the cult of narcissistic bullies guilty. I think the sentence suggests itself.

I think the sentence should be a permanent revocation of the reputational license of our self-professed moral authorities, and the cost should be the moral authority itself, and the reputational immunity it bestows.

I think we can do this if we all recognize the great truth: Our nation's supremacist cult—mostly white, mostly male, mostly Christian people—are not authorities at all, but vicious greedheads and creepy, religious weirdos, people who are willing to commit any atrocity in order to control our bodies and our lives for the satisfaction of their own self-regard and personal comfort.

I think it’s time for us to recognize that moral authority lies with those who practice actual decency and actual virtue, who stand in solidarity against supremacists, and with those that supremacists abuse and harm and kill.

This means that we'll actually have to do that, by the way.

It's only by connecting to actual virtue that we create real moral authority, and it's only real moral authority that can expose the fraud of an empty morality.

It might not be comfortable, and it might carry a cost. But it's how we as the jury issue the verdict.

If we pay that cost, we say "guilty."

If we don't do it, we say "not guilty."

That's the thing I'd like to ponder today. Join me if you like.

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A.R. Moxon is the author of The Revisionaries, which is available in most of the usual places, and some of the unusual places, and the upcoming essay collection Very Fine People, which you can learn about how to support right here. He is also co-writer of Sugar Maple, a musical fiction podcast from Osiris Media which goes in your ears. You won't steal his tape recorder, he'll call the Lord and he'll put you in the pen, you won't steal that thing again.