When I was a kid, my parents had a round, three-foot-deep pool in the backyard. We played a lot of games in that pool, but a recurring classic was to make a whirlpool. Water doesn’t spontaneously circle around. You need a drain, or you need some force applied around the outside edge. Five young boys walking as fast as they can, it turns out, is plenty of force to get a whirlpool to form in a swimming pool like the kind I grew up with.
Three events from 2020 had a pattern I couldn’t quite put a name to, but this week’s fourth instance of the same pattern finally reminded me of those whirlpools we used to create. It turns out, when enough extremely powerful and influential people act in unison, they create a whirlpool of public madness.
The first event, naturally, was The Great Hysteria caused by the coronavirus. The second, the death of George Floyd. The third, the suspect November election. The fourth was the invasion of the congressional building by a few dozen unarmed by strongly costumed men.
In each one of these events, a fairly minor thing (respectively, a new cold virus, a man on hard drugs dying after committing a crime, a demand for election integrity, yet another crowd getting into congress) caused one influential person or organization (the NBA, BLM, the Democrat Party, big tech and media) to overreact and craft a narrative (the bug will kill us all, the US is racist, the election was perfectly handled, Trump tried to incite an insurrection). These narratives are then picked up by adjacent powerful groups, which run with them and try to outcompete each other. With all of these groups running along the narrative path as established, the whirlpool begins to swallow up any that might try to stand against it.
Think the virus isn’t serious enough? The whirlpool sweeps you away by labeling you into a monster who wants people to die.
Disagree with critical race theory or the reality of systemic racism? Then you are a racist and hate Christ.
Have some problems with the integrity of the election? You’re a conspiracy theorist who can’t accept defeat.
Don’t think the events of Wednesday were a big deal? It’s time to lose your access to public life, you traitor.
Every major company joins in the fun during these bouts of hysterical whirlpool-making. They’ll contradict themselves within six months. Coca Cola stands for the rights of those engaged in burning down neighborhoods but naturally condemns the theft of Nancy Pelosi’s podium. The important thing is that these organizations are extremely powerful and their unified dance creates a whirlpool and normal people can’t resist being caught up inside of it.
You’d think there would be some resistance to these madness whirlpools from evangelical leadership, or from conservative writers like David French, and you’d be wrong. Not only do these organizations not stand against the whirlpool, they walk along the edge, too. You can’t get knocked down if you walk with the big kids.
God is not phased by any of this, naturally, and can walk any way He wants. Christians have the hope that even they can resist the whirlpool with God’s grace. There are ways to fight this nonsense, and it’s becoming more and more apparent that these fights need to be local first. If we can’t win those battles, we can’t stop the whirlpool of the national culture.