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Culture

The extremists who’ve given up on America

Ringo Chiu/Getty

“Nobody cares about what’s happening to the Uighurs,” crypto billionaire and former Facebook executive Chamath Palihapitiya said last week. “I’m telling you a very hard, ugly truth. Of all the things that I care about, yes, it is below my line.” It’s a “chilling statement”, says Abigail Shrier in The Truth Fairy newsletter, casually thrown off “by one of America’s richest titans”. But it’s typical of a newly prominent voice in political discourse: “the American Cynic”. Last week a Republican congressman from Ohio likened vaccine passports to Nazi efforts to degrade Jews before murdering them. On Friday, a Democratic candidate for Florida governor compared the Republican incumbent to Hitler.

Right-wing comparisons of vaccine passports to Nuremberg laws end up “fraudulently” vilifying America – as do the left’s “hysterical comparisons” of detention centres on the Mexican border to concentration camps. At the cynical heart of these extreme views lies the idea that we are only “an executive order” away from totalitarianism – that there is no fundamental difference between America and a genocidal dictatorship led by an unaccountable Führer. This is the real fault line in American politics: not the one between liberals and conservatives, but the one between those who believe in bedrock American principles of free speech, due process, equal protection and religious liberty, and the cynics who disdain those liberties as merely “ornamental”.

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