“Because the Current Thing deserves our total attention and deference, anyone who disputes the existence or the urgency of the Current Thing is a problem.”
Adam Ellwanger teaches English at the University of Houston-Downtown. In a recent piece at The American Conservative, he talks about how the ‘current thing’ is having a negative effect on our discourse:
The Tyranny of the ‘Current Thing’
There is no better evidence of the managed nature of what passes as “democratic deliberation” than the recent development of “Current Thingism.” Even if you aren’t familiar with the term, you know the phenomenon well. There are many crises unfolding in contemporary America, and the “Current Thing” is whichever one our elites insist should be the focus of our attention at the present moment.
For a while, the Current Thing was #MeToo. From 2016 until 2018, the Current Thing was Russian collusion. After that scheme unraveled, we moved through a series of Current Things, each of which was said to compound the grave threat Trump supposedly posed to Our Democracy: in March 2020, it was Covid-19; for a few months that summer, it was systemic racism; then, it was the Delta variant; finally, for a stretch of early 2021, it was the January 6th “insurrection.” And when Russia invaded Ukraine, Ukraine became the Current Thing. You knew it was the new Current Thing because all the smart people suddenly changed how they spelled and pronounced “Kiev.”
So, you know what the Current Thing is. What, then, is “Current Thingism”? Current Thingism is the default mindset of a certain segment of the American population: typically, the professional, liberal, educated, urban caste of society. Current Thingism is an enduring assumption that whatever the Current Thing happens to be, it should, in fact, be the Current Thing—the issue among issues.
Current Thingism also enables some judgment on the part of the Current Thingist. Because the Current Thing deserves our total attention and deference, anyone who disputes the existence or the urgency of the Current Thing is a problem. The person who does not concede the urgency of the Current Thing is dumb, dangerous, or both. Remember the treatment of those who doubted the efficacy of masks? Those who were reluctant about mRNA vaccines? Those who doubted the wisdom of sending billions of dollars to fund Ukraine’s defense? Such is the fate of those who don’t get in line with the Current Thing.
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