Commentary: Navigating the Vibe Shift of a Cultural Reckoning

Masked woman holding American flag
by Roger Kimball


We have been hearing a lot about a “vibe shift” in American culture recently. The phrase has been around for a while. It gained new currency after the commentator Santiago Pliego wrote an essay about the phenomenon, and Tucker Carlson had him on his show to talk about it.

I recommend both.  For one thing, they offer notes of cheerfulness (I almost said “optimism,” but optimism is Dr. Pangloss’s failing) in the midst of our sea of gloominess and despondency. According to Pliego, Americans are awakening from their “dogmatic slumbers,” where the dogmas in question are the rancid pieties of the so-called “progressive” establishment. Have you checked your privilege today, Comrade? How are your pronouns holding up? What have you done to combat “whiteness,” “toxic masculinity,” and “climate change?”

The air of unreality is as unmistakable as it is noxious, and I think Pliego is right that the modification in the ambient vibrations—to the extent that one is underway—”is a return to—a championing of—Reality, a rejection of the bureaucratic, the cowardly, the guilt-driven; a return to greatness, courage, and joyous ambition.”

I like all those things—the items on the list of affirmations just as much as the tally of rejections.  Pliego admits that the shift he discerns may be ephemeral, though he is emphatic about his hope that the inklings of change he discerns are strong enough to last and effectively challenge what has become the dominant narrative in our culture.

I, too, have sensed a sea change abroad.  This forthright manifesto by Newsmax’s Carl Higbie is a representative declaration of the New Resistance.

But I also sense a robust resistance to the resistance, an increasingly agitated effort to tamp down and discredit anything or anyone that dares to wake up from wokeness.

That exercise in vibe stiffening takes place around the electric nodes of our culture war.  The carefully manicured narrative surrounding the January 6 entertainment, for example, has become increasingly tattered in recent months as revelation after revelation has undercut, contradicted, or exploded the official “insurrection” narrative. True, there were skeptics from the very beginning (I was one).  But the succeeding months and years—thanks in large part to the tireless efforts of investigative reporters like Julie Kelly and Darren Beattie—have knocked one pillar after the next out from under the official account of what happened during those few hours in and around the Capitol. Remember the “pipe bombs” that were supposedly planted by “insurrectionists” that day? It turns out they were almost certainly dummy explosives planted by government agents.

The further we get from the day and the more investigation that is undertaken, the more orchestrated and choreographed the day looks. I believe it was Darrien Beattie who coined the term “fedsurrection” to describe what happened that day. That seems about right, even if it has proven impossible to get an accurate accounting of federal assets in place at the Capitol that day. Who were those men with red MAGA hats milling about inside the Capitol before any protestors entered?  Who actually erected that pseudo-gallows on the Capitol grounds early that morning? Why did Liz Cheney’s January 6 Committee edit and bowdlerize the film clips they released, entirely omitting the scenes of protestors being politely escorted about the Capitol by the Capitol Police?

From one perspective, the Narrative gets shakier and shakier.  Nevertheless, innocent people are still being hounded and swept up in Christopher Wray’s “insurrection” dragnet.  Just this past week, Rebecca Lavrenz, a 71-year-old grandmother who spent 10 minutes wandering peacefully around the Capitol, was convicted in a four-count indictment.  She could face a year in prison and be fined $200,000, excluding legal fees.

That vibe hasn’t shifted. Nor has the vibe emanating from the poodle media. The competition for the title “worst media talking head” is stiff, but for her irritating Karen-like indignation, communicated in tones an HR Nurse Ratched would be embarrassed to own, MSNBC’s Nicolle Wallace deserves some sort of trophy.

I, too, discern cracks in the Narrative. I seem to see the Overton Window being forced open here and there.  But I also sense an aroma of panic among the dispensers and enforcers of the Narrative. You can feel it in the arrogant incredulousness of Nicolle Wallace attempting to digest the novel idea that maybe, just possibly, her snotty but ill-informed idea of what happened on January 6, 2021, is completely wrong.

You also see it in the minatory actions of the Deep State and its increasingly blatant resort to intimidation and coercion.  We might ask former Trump adviser Peter Navarro about that, but he is now moldering in jail, yet another political prisoner of the regime.  His tort? Ignoring a Congressional subpoena—the same thing that Barack Obama’s Attorney General Eric “wingman” Holder did, but of course he belongs to a protected class, so nothing was done to him.

My point is this: as evidence of a “vibe shift” grows more numerous and more substantive, so too will the vibe-stiffening reaction among the guardians of the status quo.

The melancholy datum to bear in mind is that those guardians control virtually all of the levers of power in our society, beginning with the regime’s police power and wending its way down to the soft but ingratiating power of the media, the ditto-head cultural establishment, and practically the entire educational apparat.

What this means is that for any serious “vibe shift” to happen, something like cultural warfare, if not the other kind, is going to have to unfold.  I do not expect the coming months to be tranquil or pleasant. I do think they will tell us whether we get to resuscitate our constitutional republic or whether we will continue the long and rebarbative slide into woke socialist conformity.

– – –

Roger Kimball is editor and publisher of The New Criterion and the president and publisher of Encounter Books. He is the author and editor of many books, including The Fortunes of Permanence: Culture and Anarchy in an Age of Amnesia (St. Augustine’s Press), The Rape of the Masters (Encounter), Lives of the Mind: The Use and Abuse of Intelligence from Hegel to Wodehouse (Ivan R. Dee), and Art’s Prospect: The Challenge of Tradition in an Age of Celebrity (Ivan R. Dee). Most recently, he edited and contributed to Where Next? Western Civilization at the Crossroads (Encounter) and contributed to Against the Great Reset: Eighteen Theses Contra the New World Order (Bombardier).
Photo “Masked Woman with American Flag” by Brett Sayles.



Content created by the Center for American Greatness, Inc. is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a significant audience. For licensing opportunities for our original content, please contact [email protected].

Related posts