Patrick Byrne intrigued me as one of the final presenters at the Reawaken American Tour in Batavia, NY. He stirred my curiosity. Byrne holds graduate degrees in Philosophy from Cambridge and Stanford. He founded a company (Overstock.com) with $2.5 billion in 2020 revenue. His father and Warren Buffett (a rare multi-billionaire who lives humbly in Lincoln, Nebraska) are friends and in business together. His manner of presentation drew me in to listen, but what he said appalled me.
His 15-minute talk focused on Frederick Douglass, a former slave and abolitionist, and referred to Douglass’ famous Fourth of July speech on July 4, 1852, in Rochester, NY. Why would he do that, I wondered. How does Frederick Douglass fit the context of this event? He didn’t quote the speech, directly, of course – or anything Douglass said. Rather, he abused his legacy of fighting for true freedom and misconstrued the meaning of his words to make Douglass sound like he belonged to the MAGA movement. Douglass, he said, “urged us to protect our rights.” Byrne claimed that “we are about consent – the consent of the governed” and called him a “defender of constitutional rights.” He even styled himself to be “a Frederick Douglass Republican.”
Frederick Douglass would be appalled at this abuse of his name and legacy. Some of his words might sound to this crowd as if they meant the same thing:
“To side with the right, against the wrong,
with the weak against the strong,
and with the oppressed against the oppressor! …
With brave men there is always a remedy for oppression.”
That’s only because the MAGA movement twists reality and the meaning of language to claim they are on the side of “the right, the weak, and the oppressed”! They speak of tyranny of government as if it is 1776, and they are patriots fighting against the British, when they actually are fighting on the side of the Confederacy in 1860. And that’s what Douglass would say to them.
Byrne claimed that systemic racism is nonsense, that U.S. “history is the exact opposite of what people demonstrating (and CRT) are claiming,” and that “there is not a shred of white identity in this movement” – and the crowd applauded. I can imagine the crowd’s angry, vitriolic, even violent reaction Douglass would invoke with his actual words:
“American justice is bound by the law to hear (only) the side of the oppressor. Let this damning fact be perpetually told. Let it be thundered around the world, that, in tyrant-killing, king-hating, people-loving, democratic, Christian America, the seats of justice are filled with judges, who hold their offices under an open and palpable bribe, and are bound, in deciding in the case of a man’s liberty, to hear only his accusers!” … For my part, I would say, Welcome infidelity! welcome atheism! welcome anything—in preference to the gospel, as preached by those divines. They convert the very name of religion into an engine of tyranny, and barbarous cruelty. …. All this we affirm to be true of the popular church, and the popular worship of our land and nation—a religion, a church, and a worship which, on the authority of inspired wisdom, we pronounce to be an abomination in the sight of God.”
Intrigue has a second meaning, other than curiosity and fascination. It also can refer to people making secret plans which are illicit and detrimental to others. The second meaning describes the leaders of these events and of The America Project, and would-be leaders of this nation – Michael Flynn and Patrick Byrne, for instance. Claiming to be patriots working to “save America,” they boldly and publicly undermine all trust in our elections and elected officials. They praise the January 6 insurrection. They threaten violence in the streets if the FBI and DOJ – and Congress and the Courts – continue to investigate Trump for criminal behavior. And all the while, they cloak themselves in the language and symbolism of the Christian religion. But what I experienced at this event is in the words of Frederick Douglass: “a religion, a church, and a worship which, on the authority of inspired wisdom, we pronounce to be an abomination in the sight of God.”
4 thoughts on “Intrigue of the Movement”
Jimmy, thanks for all your updates. Just wondering if you were “undercover” on your visits or did you identify as one of them? Thanks again
I simply registered and attended – sat in the back and wandered around – and took notes on my phone in Evernote. No one questioned or ask me or spoke to me, and I didn’t engage with people. So not really “undercover,” but no pretense to be something I’m not.
I appreciate your clear thinking and your ability to capture these insights with the simplicity that Strunk and White would have approved.
Haven’t heard of Strunk and White in a long time, but I did learn how to write with that book back in college. Thank you for the compliment.