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Hard rocks of reality

The emperor has no clothes: illustrated


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For the younger generation, who have heard the expression but not the story, here is the story:

Once there was an emperor who loved clothes; he was obsessed. A couple of swindlers saw an opportunity and told him they could create for him the most magnificent suit ever—finery so magical, in fact, that it would be invisible to any of his officials or subjects who were not fit for their posts, or who were very stupid.

The swindlers went to great lengths, burning the midnight oil while working at looms with thread that did not really exist, to weave fabric that did not really exist. The emperor personally came to check on their progress, and of course saw nothing on the looms (because there was nothing there). But greatly alarmed to think that his failure to see the cloth might mean he was unfit or stupid, he pretended to be delighted.

His officials, one after another, also praised the clothes they could not see, some going into great detail about its wonderful fabric, colors, and design. Soon the whole court was exclaiming over the emperor’s wardrobe.

The Bible just calls it a “strong delusion” or “debased mind,” and says this confusion is the end state of those who refuse the truth.

The swindlers urged the emperor to show off his completed raiment in a parade, persuading him to take off his regular clothing and helping him on with his new trousers, coat, and mantle. The officials following behind him in the procession pretended to pick up his train and carry it. The citizens along the road pretended to exult in the spectacular display.

Then suddenly a child in the crowd said, “But the emperor has nothing on!”

Everyone was dumbfounded, and a great division broke out among the citizenry. (Here is where I take liberties.) One third of the people continued to say the emperor had clothes on, even in the face of evidence to the contrary, for they feared to fall afoul of the official narrative. One third had never believed the lie to begin with and were now emboldened to say so. Another third had actually come to believe the story they had so often retold.

There are many applications of this parable in our day. One close to home concerns “transfemale” Lia Thomas on the University of Pennsylvania female swim team who is cleaning the clocks of rival school teams—and of his own teammates. (I will say “his” because this is in accordance with reality.) A middling athlete while on the Ivy League school’s male team for two years before realizing he was a woman, Thomas is now a superstar when competing with girls. In Ohio he finished the 1,650-yard race 38 seconds before the second-place finisher.

Eyeing a photo of the towering, broad-shouldered, square-jawed Thomas posing with his teammates in his girl’s spandex dive skins, I was reminded of something but couldn’t put my finger on it. Then it hit me:

Feathers McGraw! The evil penguin in “The Wrong Trousers,” a 1993 Wallace and Gromit claymation episode in which eccentric inventor Wallace and his dog are taken in by a criminal mastermind penguin posing as a chicken. The penguin’s disguise? A red rubber glove worn on his head. It is apparently enough to fool Wallace.

Ghent University (Belgium) professor Mattias Desmet describes a phenomenon he calls “mass formation psychosis” that occurs in societies under certain specific conditions, in which “the individual disappears, and a collective becomes predominant.” It doesn’t make a difference whether the individuals are very intelligent or not intelligent … “everybody becomes equally stupid.”

The Bible just calls it a “strong delusion” (2 Thessalonians 2:10-12) or “debased mind” (Romans 1:28), and says this confusion is the end state of those who refuse the truth.

Sixteen members of Penn’s swim and dive team penned an anonymous letter complaining of Thomas’ presence on the team. The signatories are probably as woke a group of people as your typical Ivy Leaguer, and it is interesting that none go so far afield of the required narrative as to deny that Thomas is a woman.

But sometimes, thank God, ideology runs up against the hard rocks of reality.


Andrée Seu Peterson

Andrée is a senior writer for WORLD Magazine. Her commentary has been compiled into three books including Won't Let You Go Unless You Bless Me. Andrée resides in Philadelphia, Penn.

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