Bari Weiss: you are the last line of defense

I just came across a speech that Bari Weiss recently gave for the Federalist Society, specifically for their lawyers' convention. She starts by talking about how surprising a choice she was for that; she's not exactly their type.

I found this worth my time to read. Choosing concise excerpts (to stay within the bounds of fair use) is hard, but here are some bits to give the flavor. I read the transcript; there's also a video if you prefer to listen.

By the time Americans woke up on October 7, 2023, it was clear that what had unfolded while we slept was not like previous wars or battles Israel has fought in its 75-year history. This was a genocidal pogrom. It was a scene out of the many places Jews had fled—a scene from the history of the Nazi Holocaust and of the European pogroms before that and of the Farhud, the 1941 massacre of Jews in Baghdad, a city that, it’s hard to believe now, was 40 percent Jewish at the beginning of the twentieth century—all of which remind us of Israel’s necessity. [...]

These Cossacks had smartphones. [...] Others filmed the slaughter with GoPros. [...] In all of this, the terrorists are euphoric. No one who has watched the unedited footage fails to note the glee of the butchers. [...]

The difference between 9/11 and 10/7—two massacres of innocent people, symbols to their killers of Western civilization—was the reaction to the horror. The difference between 9/11 and 10/7 was that the catastrophe of 10/7 was followed, on October 8, by a different kind of catastrophe. A moral and spiritual catastrophe that was on full display throughout the West before the bodies of those men and women and children had even been identified. [...]

What could possibly explain this? The easy answer is that the human beings who were slaughtered on October 7 were Jews. [...] But that is not the whole answer. Because the proliferation of antisemitism, as always, is a symptom. When antisemitism moves from the shameful fringe into the public square, it is not about Jews. It is never about Jews. It is about everyone else. It is about the surrounding society or the culture or the country. It is an early warning system—a sign that the society itself is breaking down. That it is dying. [...]

[This new ideology] seeks to upend the very ideas of right and wrong. It replaces basic ideas of good and evil with a new rubric: the powerless (good) and the powerful (bad). It replaced lots of things. Color blindness with race obsession. Ideas with identity. Debate with denunciation. Persuasion with public shaming. The rule of law with the fury of the mob. [...] This is the ideology of vandalism in the true sense of the word—the Vandals sacked Rome. It is the ideology of nihilism. It knows nothing of how to build. It knows only how to tear down and to destroy.

So what do we do? First: look. We must recover our ability to look and to discern accordingly. We must look past the sloganeering and the propaganda and take a hard look at what’s in front of our eyes. [...] I do not need “context” to know that tying children to their parents and burning them alive is pure evil, just as I do not need a history lesson on the Arab-Israeli conflict to know that the Arab Israelis who saved scores of Jewish Israelis that day are righteous.

Look at your enemies and your allies. [...] For many people, friends and enemies are likely not who they thought they were before October 7. [...] The other thing to look for is the good. Look hard for the good and don’t lose sight of it. [...]

But nothing is guaranteed. The right ideas don’t win on their own. They need a voice. They need prosecutors. [...] We have let far too much go unchallenged.