Totalitarianism in America is Nearer Than You Think
Vladimir Lenin and Josef Stalin would be so envious. Totalitarian government could be so much easier to pull off today than it was back in their days in Russia. These days it wouldn’t take much; nearly all the pieces are in place here now. They had to do it the hard way: guns and gulags, KGB and secret police; black police vans carting pastors and dissidents off at midnight, to disappear where guards and fences and dogs would keep them in line and out of sight.
It was all so very complicated, making dissenters disappear that way. Tyrants today need only send them to Twitter jail. Or shadow-ban them. Or even let algorithms do the dirty work, so they can claim a clean and respectable distance from it all. And that’s only the beginning of all they can do, easily, cleanly, with a mere nod of the head and a click of the mouse.
What we’ve seen so far is just a taste of totalitarianism, yet enough to show how easy it might be. Someone — or some computer — flips a switch or two, and you’ve been disappeared, as surely as if you’d been shoved on a train and sent to Siberia.
And we’d be defenseless. There is no safety from it, not even inside supposedly free and open apps like Parler or MeWe. Apple or Google (Android) could hit a kill switch at any moment, and the apps would vanish. Poof! Web-based communication is no less vulnerable. It wouldn’t take a night visit from the Stasi to disconnect you from the internet, both home and phone; just the click of some bureaucrat’s obedient mouse.
Social Support for Censorship
Technology does wonderful things for us. But it’s also made us dependent, which makes us vulnerable. Where great power exists, someone not-so-great will always want to use it. What prevents them, and protects us, is a combination of social pressure, market forces and governmental restraint. Those forces are weakening. Google (especially its YouTube subdivision), Facebook and Twitter have market support behind their anti-conservative policies. Corporate America itself appears to think the market supports its sponsoring censorship.
I don’t know how far this trend will go. I do know it’s heading the wrong direction. At this point I can’t see, say, Verizon, unilaterally cutting off any anyone’s phone usage on account of their political views. But then there was also a time when I couldn’t imagine American colleges turning hostile toward freedom of speech. Just ten years ago I couldn’t have pictured the NCAA campaigning for men’s rights to use women’s locker rooms. I wouldn’t rule anything out for the future: Too many unimaginable things have happened lately.
The Left Controls Too Much to Let Them Control Any More
But no, none of this just “happened,” did it? The Left has been working patiently, steadily, for decades, to establish its intolerantly “tolerant” viewpoint as the only approved morality. They now control nearly all higher education, almost all news media, and most of the deep state. While they don’t control all of social media, they do have the portions with the greatest audience. In their most stunning feat of all, they’ve won over such formerly staunch conservative strongholds as corporate corner offices and the world of athletics.
So let’s take a hypothetical case now, one that’s fully imaginable though morally unthinkable. Picture the Left controlling all this plus the White House and both Houses of Congress. Imagine them feeling free to run with their hubris, having all that technology at their fingertips, and unrestrained by any human powers or any fear of God.
It’s a chilling scenario: All that social, political, and technological power, under the control of one totalizing ideology. Checks and balances would be gone. Gone from Washington, gone from everywhere, at least at the national level. (The news media haven’t practiced their proper, unbiased braking role upon government for years.)
Meanwhile conservatives, having been kicked out of Congress, the White House, and most every other power center, would be badly hamstrung in doing our part to hold them back. Some conservatives talk about arming against a dictatorial government. That’s one line of defense, granted, but it’s an awful one at best. I own a weapon; I don’t ever want to use it. And I especially wouldn’t want to try using it alone, cut off from all lines of communication, as I fully expect would happen if things came to that.
This Is Not Just Some Dark Fantasy
This is no mere dark fantasy. We stand on the brink. Mere weeks from now we could be under the unrestricted dominance of a Leftist government, unopposed from within, and in virtual control of all other major power centers. They will claim benevolence. They will even practice it, but they will decide that that means and doesn’t mean. Very likely it will mean more and more squashing of dissent.
No one individual, group, or ideology should ever hold that much power. It can only go wrong, no matter which party is in that position.
That’s why I plead with liberals today, meaning especially those for whom “liberal” means “freedom loving.” You probably don’t agree with much that Republicans say. This week, this year, you must pull for them anyway. They are your last protection in Washington against the tyranny of unrestrained power. They are your safeguard against a future America where free speech means freedom only to agree; where freedom of religion means only freedom from religion; where dissent means cancellation carried out in far purer teams than we’ve seen to date; and where my old-fashioned Bill Clinton-voting liberalism might soon qualify as the dissent that would earn that sentence of cancellation.
The stakes are as high as they could be, and the time is just as urgent. Today my worst-case scenarios are mostly thought experiments. If the federal government falls to the Left, though, they’ll have the major pieces in place for a smooth slide into easy totalitarianism. We dare not let it happen.
Tom Gilson (@TomGilsonAuthor) is a senior editor with The Stream and the author or editor of six books, including the recently released Too Good To Be False: How Jesus’ Incomparable Character Reveals His Reality.