James Patterson Implies: The Hills We Die On

James Patterson, the world’s bestselling author of the past ten years, has faced considerable backlash since claiming in The Sunday Times that white men, especially older ones, have a harder time finding writing jobs than most. In last Sunday’s interview, the “Alex Cross” author went so far as to cite “racism” as the source of this entirely imaginary issue. “You don’t meet many 52-year-old males [in the publishing industry],” said Patterson, despite most of the highest-paid authors–Stephen King, John Grisham, Dan Brown, Jeff Kinney, himself, etc.–being white men older than fifty.

This week, a USA Today article compiled data from Penguin Random House and The New York Times attesting to the obvious and inordinate whiteness of the publishing world. On Tuesday, feeling the weight of the public, and, hopefully, common sense, Patterson buckled, taking to Twitter to assure us that he no longer believes what he believed a few days ago. It would appear he’s done a lot of soul searching recently.

Patterson is the latest in a remarkably long line of people, famous or otherwise, who live quite comfortably but would have you believe that they and others like them don’t. They champion the least pressing causes, pick the least noble fights, and die on the least necessary hills. Like Patterson’s, their complaints often ape those of legitimately afflicted parties, almost always for the purpose of redirecting public attention from those parties to themselves. They take up an endlessly ignoble practice of silencing the voices that are truly in need to continue benefiting from what’s being spoken out against. Though they speak madness, there is method in’t.

It’s difficult to imagine there ever being a time when reactionaries weren’t employing and perfecting this tactic. Surely the greediest Neanderthals found a way to shift blame away from themselves and onto the starving. Tens of millennia later, the same red herrings are being thrown by the opponents of gun control, police reform, the Black Lives Matter movement, abortion rights, and scores of other reasonable humanitarian concerns. With many of the least oppressed parties claiming that they’re oppressed, it can sometimes seem that suffering is in vogue. It’s as if after witnessing so much support for other causes, privileged classes began pleading that they, too, deserved to be fought for.

Take for example the “People’s Convoy,” that intrepid battalion of truck drivers who obstructed countless highways in their quest to descend on the United States Capitol in protest of COVID-19 mandates. Like the Canadian “Freedom Convoy” that inspired them, they claimed “Freedom” as their guiding principle, and fully believed themselves to be embattled in a revolutionary war against a tyrannical and delusional government making mask mandate mountains out of a molehill. Although that molehill claimed its millionth life on American soil last month, I suppose that’s merely “fake news.”

The heavily Republican Convoy’s incredibly contrived plight coincides with ongoing calls for racial justice, voting rights, investigation into the Capitol insurrection, and other characteristic concerns of Democratic politicians. Instead of supporting any of those causes, they chose to obscure them by fighting the good fight, which is apparently done by attacking lifesaving public safety measures.

While I’m sure that there’s a healthy helping of truly confused souls in their ranks, I find it very hard to believe that the timing of their crusade wasn’t intentional. The truck agenda is no different from the Patterson agenda, the insurrectionist agenda, the All/White/Blue Lives Matter agenda, or the disgraced former President’s agenda: when human rights are at risk, distract, distract, distract.

But whatever you think of the “People’s Convoy,” which finally disaggregated three weeks ago, it can’t be denied that they sported a spectacularly impressive number of participants. One can only imagine what numbers like those could accomplish in the pursuit of actual freedom today, or what someone with Patterson’s wealth and influence could do in the spirit of actual antiracism. If there’s anything positive to be salvaged from their deeply misguided exploits, it’s that the Convoy truckers, conspiracy groups like QAnon, and other ideological associations prove just as much as Black Lives Matter and abortion rights protestors: that the public is far from apathetic. They’re organized, calculated, and exceptionally passionate about their causes. It’s the causes themselves—and the reasons they’re taken up—that we could stand to reorganize.

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