As America Turned Into Stasi-Land, Norm Macdonald Made It Through the Wall
However, in my view America in 2021 doesn’t resemble the old Soviet Union, but its satellite state East Germany. Specifically, the American left has emerged as a clone of the Stasi, the feared secret police that controlled and terrorized the country from 1945 to the fall of the Berlin Wall.
Check out a compelling new book, A State of Secrecy: Stasi Informers and the Culture of Surveillance by Alison Lewis. She notes that while a dictator like Stalin sought to crush writers and other artists because he feared the freedom they represented, the German Stasi saw writers and artists as allies to work with.
There Weren’t Three Stooges, But Thousands
And a shocking number were perfectly willing to do so, to promote the lies of the State. She writes
From its inception to its dissolution, the Ministry for State Security recruited an alarmingly high proportion of writers as informants. It recruited sources from deep inside official circles, such as the consecrated spheres of the German Writers’ Guild (Deutscher Schriftstellerverband), as well as from the fringes of society.
The Stasi touched the life of virtually every writer in the country. Writers, whether of poetry, novels, drama, essays, radio, television, or film scripts, belonged to the intelligentsia. Although writers were persecuted in the Soviet Union by Stalin in his cultural revolution of the 1930s, postwar-era Eastern European regimes desperately relied on them to shape Soviet-style revolutions.
She goes on:
Writers were members of the political elite; hence, they were needed to support the socialist cause. As Stephen Brockmann argues, they were an intrinsic part of the ‘large scale attempt to use culture to shape the German future.’ In other words, in Brockmann’s view, ‘every work of literature was also a political speech act’ in the new GDR. In this way literature and writers ‘exerted their own kind of power over politicians.’ The East German regime realized that, because writers wielded so much public authority, they had to be politically organized and controlled.
“The Stasi is often described as a ‘state within a state,” Lewis concludes, “although a more accurate description is probably ‘society within a society,’ or ‘secret surveillance society.’ With a large degree of latitude, and with tentacles reaching into all corners of social life, the Stasi, or ‘octopus,’ as it has fittingly been called, grew monster-like.”
Our Home Grown Stasi Thrives
The American left seems to have learned from the Stasi. It has become a curtain of fear that smothers the American arts. It’s a barricade that prevents Western artists, musicians and comedians from creating certain songs, writing certain plays, or telling certain jokes.
Upon his recent death, comedian Norm Macdonald was celebrated as a genius by the media and the arts community. This was welcome, of course. It was also a kind of catharsis, since those very same people who laud him (such as John Oliver) live now in a kind of terror. They wouldn’t dream of telling the kind of jokes Macdonald did. Or coming out as Christian, as Norm did.
I was born in 1964 and, like Norm, raised in an Irish-Catholic house. My father was a journalist, poet, and amateur painter. I was raised with Thomas Aquinas and John Paul II, but also the Beatles, Saturday Night Live, Martin Scorsese, Richard Pryor and Mad magazine.
We Used to Have Freedom. Remember?
I understood that unhinged freedom could turn into slavery. More freedom of expression in film didn’t mean pornography was good or healthy. We had a kind of a bargain with our artists. They were given leeway and freedom but would only earn respect if they produced something insightful, moral, memorable. We were against censorship, but for red light districts.
That is to say: create whatever you want, but if it’s too vulgar or irredeemably violent there’s a section of town where people must proactively go to see it. We won’t let you stuff it in everybody’s face. It was a good balance. We allowed for talented envelope-pushers while respecting traditionalists.
The Cultural Morning After Pill
With the rise of the American Stasi since the end of the Cold War, all of that has changed. Social media has become its own surveillance state. Movie and books get scrapped as soon as they are conceived, by the cultural “morning after” pill that is Wokeness. “I can’t write that,” people say, and lapse into silence. The overlords presiding over this crushing of the spirit? Artists, producers and writers themselves.
At my 30th high school reunion in 2013, something happened that would come back years later, weaponized by the American Stasi. Someone in our class had compiled a few pages of The Unknown Hoya, an underground newspaper that me and a couple other guys had produced. The Unknown Hoya was equal parts slapstick, 1980s teen party scene, and some semi-serious journalism. After the pages were passed around, I noticed one former classmate taking particular interest in what was on them.
A Stasi Informant at Our Reunion
In 2018, this same person used those pages against me when my high school friend Brett Kavanaugh was nominated to the Supreme Court. The classmate at our reunion who had taken such an interest in the paper had fed our silly sheet to the media. Fart jokes were being used to derail a Supreme Court nomination.
Overnight, The Unknown Hoya was on every TV. Our kegs, girlfriend quips and bad haircut jokes were in the pages of the Washington Post and the New York Times. The octopus of the American Stasi reached its tentacles into every aspect of our lives. If that wasn’t enough, people who claimed to know us (but didn’t) simply made stuff up.
The media also combed through our yearbook. It is no exaggeration to say that we had become the focus of a Stasi-like mob. Hollywood, newspaper columnists, cable hosts and artists were the most bloodthirsty.
At one point, when I refused to give in and condemn my friends for once being teenagers, a writer for the Washington Post described me as “surpassingly loyal to his friends.”
If you listened closely, you could hear his East German accent.
Mark Judge is a writer and filmmaker in Washington, D.C.