Choosing Barabbas: The Anonymous Power at Work in Our Culture – The American Spectator
“Which one do you want me to release to you, Barabbas, or Jesus called Messiah?”
So asked Pontius Pilate to the crowd, which replied by shouting, “Barabbas!”
“Then what shall I do with Jesus called Messiah?” Pilate retorted.
“Let him be crucified!” they answered.
“Why?” asked the Roman governor. “What evil has he done?”
An excellent question, but in Matthew’s Gospel narrative, the mob evidently was in no mood to attempt a reasonable answer. Mobs never are. As Matthew explained, they merely shouted louder: “Let him be crucified!”
Pilate, a classic compromising public official, washed his hands of the whole thing. They wanted Barabbas, a rebel, a revolutionary, a robber, a murderer. He released Barabbas to them. He handed over Christ to be crucified.
Writing of this tragic moral choice in his book Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week, Pope Benedict XVI observed that it serves as a metaphor not only for the moment but for the ages: “Again and again, mankind will be faced with the same choice: to say yes to the God who works only through the power of truth and love, or to … violence.”
Going deeper still, Benedict ascribed this to a deeper, more sinister power. It was the same dark power that led Judas to betray Christ. “After receiving the morsel” during the Last Supper, states John’s Gospel, “he [Judas] immediately went out; and it was night.” Benedict interpreted: “Judas goes out—in a deeper sense. He goes out into the night; he moves out of light into darkness: the ‘power of darkness’ has taken hold of him.”
This power is, of course, evil — the “powers of this present darkness,” as Ephesians describes it. But it’s also anonymous, and that’s crucial to its strength, back then and today.
Benedict warned of what he called the “anonymous power” that dictates the prevailing fads and fashions of the culture. It’s no mere modern phenomenon. It goes back thousands of years. He connected it with the crowd that turned on Jesus and with Judas’ betrayal of Jesus. He called Judas “a sycophant who bows down before the anonymous power of changing moods and current fashion.” And yet, said Benedict, “[I]t is precisely this anonymous power that crucified Jesus, for it was anonymous voices that cried, ‘Away with him! Crucify him!’”
Judas and the mob that chose Barabbas were mere sycophants to the anonymous power of shifting moods and fashion. That force lives on through the ages, from the time of Christ’s suffering to our sufferings today. The power holds sway over the people. It’s interesting that we do not know the names of those who barked at Pilate and Jesus, “Away with him! Crucify him!” We know, however, that mere days after hailing Jesus with hosannas, pleading with him to come into their villages and homes to heal them, they flipped, suddenly demanding that he be tortured and killed. They rejected faith, hope, charity, mercy, and truth. They chose Barabbas.
It’s really a metaphor for our culture of chaos today.
Much of the mischief fomenting our cultural rot today is frustratingly anonymous. I’m always struck by this aspect of cancel culture: Who exactly are the bullies doing the canceling? Who are the specific guys and gals shaking down everything from the Boy Scouts to all of corporate America? It was an extraordinary sight to behold during the COVID fanaticism when respected dissenters such as Dr. Robert Malone, Dr. Peter McCullough, and Robert F. Kennedy Jr. were censored by Google and Twitter and Facebook for “misinformation.” These men puzzled and marveled at just who exactly was responsible for smearing and blackballing them. And it continues. Look at the Wikipedia entry for Dr. Robert Malone, a pioneer of mRNA technology:
Robert Wallace Malone (born October 20, 1959) is an American physician and biochemist. His early work focused on mRNA technology, pharmaceuticals, and drug repurposing research. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Malone promoted misinformation about the safety and efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines.
Promoted “misinformation?” Says who? Dr. Malone damn well would like to know which twentysomething twit is responsible for crafting this Wikipedia entry besmirching his name. He’ll never know. They’re anonymous.
Look at the opening words in RFK, Jr.’s Wikipedia entry:
And look at what this entry says of the group that RFK Jr. founded: “[He] is founder and chairman of Children’s Health Defense, an anti-vaccine propaganda group.”
Again, who’s responsible for those slimy lines assassinating the character of RFK Jr. and the once highly respected organization he founded? He will never know.
Such anonymous voices are everywhere. During COVID, they ran HR departments and forced you to get vaxxed against your conscience and often even against the advice of your physician. You rarely knew the name of the hidden authoritarian behind the coercive company emails. If you ended up with myocarditis, too bad.
In our toxic culture, anonymous powers force hockey players to wear gay Pride logos. What a spectacle it is to see how they’ve pushed Jack Daniels, Budweiser, NASCAR, the NFL, countless churches, and even the calendar to celebrate gender transitioning, drag queens, and everything LGBTQ.
Who are the people forcing this? Don’t try to fight back and cancel them because you can’t find them. The cancelers thrive on their anonymity. It emboldens their bullying. They’re never accountable.
We at The American Spectator constantly have to be sensitive about headlining articles that deal with issues related to gender or sexuality. Certain keywords get us blocked by major platforms. If we protest the censorship, we have no individual to protest to. They’re anonymous. And they’re shaping the culture.
The anonymous power dictates the zeitgeist, or spirit of the times. Our magazine’s founder, R. Emmett Tyrrell, Jr., long ago developed a clever phrase: He and The American Spectator speak of the Kultursmog. It’s a good word, recognized even by Urban Dictionary, which credits Tyrrell for coining it. Like smog, it’s suffocating, and it pervades our stinky culture. And which person or persons are responsible for fanning it? Like cancelers on Google and Twitter and Facebook, you know not their names.
What Tyrrell has long described as Kultursmog, however, is almost benign compared to the force that Pope Benedict identified. The “anonymous power” is far more sinister. It inspires the mob and has consumed the culture.
It’s Western culture that today increasingly chooses Barabbas.