Note the first paragraph of Mr. Divine’s latest essay:
One of the things you know if you were brought up as a Catholic in a Protestant country, as I was, is how the attempted extirpation of England’s historic Catholic faith was enforced not just by executions, imprisonments, and public burnings but also by the destruction of monuments, statues, artifacts, paintings, buildings, and sacred sculptures. The shift in consciousness that the religious revolution required could not be sustained by words or terror alone. The new regime — an early pre-totalitarian revolution imposed from the top down — had to remove all signs of what had come before. The items were not merely forms of idolatry in the minds of the newly austere Protestant vision; they also served to perpetuate the rule of the pope. They could be occasions for treason, heresy, and sin.
Note that he presents himself as a member of a religious minority: a Catholic ,who came of age in a Protestant country, Great Britain. What can this mean to the reader? I don’t know that I can answer this question, perhaps just a preliminary starting point ? Some conjecture: could a stance that put him in another category, that of being in a sexual minority, might ill serve his political ends?
The body of his essay is ‘A History Made to Measure’, that serves the momentary needs of propaganda. Mr. Divine’s cast of characters resembles those Hollywood Movie Epics. Once produced by Cecil B. De Mille, late in his career, filmed in vibrant Technicolor, with a cast of Movie Stars, of varying degrees of fame. This political melodrama features a series of walk-ons, of actual villainous historical actors, ideas, even institutions and places, a selection is revelatory:
The Taliban, Mullah Mohammed, the spirit of Paris in 1789, Denis Diderot, French Revolution, The Romans, Iconoclasm, Mao’s Cultural Revolution,Mao’s model, late-19th-century Russia,the New York Times newsroom in 2020, Jenny Slate, Ibram X. Kendi, a chemistry professor at Queen’s University in Canada, post–Reformation Europe, Calvin’s Geneva, Orwellian moment, its crude ideological Manichaeanism etc.
Mr. Divine’s mimics De Mille’s late style, where mid-century actors, resemble silent actors, mugging to covey meaning, as if sound was still an absent quantity in film. Divine’s essay moves at top rhetorical speed, fueled by an equally reductive, cartoonish iteration of political hysteria.