Category Archives: totalitarianism

Black Lives Matter is much to be feared

In 1976, in The Totalitarian Temptation, Jean-François Revel

condemned the Western intelligentsia’s faiblesse, which was at the same time dishonest, posturing, stupid, and evil, for Stalinist-style dictatorships.

Dalrymple writes:

One might have thought that with the downfall of the Soviet Union, the totalitarian temptation had been exorcised. This was a superficial view. The temptation balkanised and was repatriated. Totalitarianism had been shown to be inherently absurd, intellectually nugatory, and catastrophic in practice. This was not sufficient to destroy its attractions, a least for those who desire a complete solution to all life’s little problems such as how to live and what to live for. A solution in the mind is worth a thousand disasters.

It takes, he says,

a certain level of education to feel the temptations of totalitarianism: they do not occur to the illiterate but only to the intelligentsia. The latter has increased in size with the expansion of attendance at institutions of tertiary instruction.

We do not yet live, Dalrymple points out,

under a Soviet-type tyranny in which every university thesis, on no matter how arcane a subject, is obliged to quote Lenin. It is still possible, though not at all easy, to live as a scholar in our societies outside the university system.

But

it does not require the tyranny of the complete police state to obtain a high degree of intellectual conformity. Young academics of my acquaintance tell me that they are afraid to speak their minds, not because they would fear for their lives, but fear for their promotion. This is very far from the Millian ideal of freedom of thought and speech.

It is not merely that they must keep their mouths shut and not say what they think;

it is that they must positively subscribe to things that they believe to be bad or false. This is a mark of totalitarianism. They must subscribe to doctrines they believe absurd, for example by describing in job applications their future efforts to promote diversity, so-called. By making the expression of untruth the condition of employment, probity is destroyed in advance. Those who lack it are easier to control.

Increasingly, social movements

do not allow any neutrality with regard to the causes that they promote. Non-adherence is no different from enmity and derogation is evil: if you are not part of the solution you are part of the problem. In vain might you argue that your interest is elsewhere, in the taxonomy of grasshoppers or in the biochemistry of acorns or in the bibliography of Pope: there is one subject that trumps all others, and on it only one opinion is permissible. You must pass a test of loyalty.

Dalrymple says that the success of Black Lives Matter in cowing so large a part of the intelligentsia

is in a way admirable, a model of political organisation, though one much to be feared. By claiming that silence is violence, it has made hand-wringing (to avoid its anathema) the mark, and almost the whole, of virtue. It has successfully reversed King’s goal, such that the colour of a man’s skin is once again more important than the content of his character, and it has made respectable that most Stalino-Maoist of notions, that people should be promoted and rewarded according to their social (in this case, racial) origins. Anyone who disagrees is an enemy of the people, the word people being used in a severely technical sense, to mean the arbiters of the allocation of rewards.

The obvious incompatibility of this with freedom

should not blind us to its popularity with the very large number of people who have been trained in the various branches of Resentment Studies. Totalitarianism offers career prospects to those of apparatchik disposition and abilities, while appealing to the resentment of at least a portion of the population and its joy in the humiliation of those who were previously more fortunately placed than themselves.

Dalrymple notes that it is now many years that power rather than liberty has been

the cynosure of all teaching of political philosophy in universities, the latter being regarded as a veil or smokescreen for the maldistribution of the former. The only question worth asking is Lenin’s, ‘Who, whom?’ All else is persiflage. The stage is set for social conflict that can be adjudicated only by a class of all-powerful philosopher-kings.

A grievance-politics entrepreneur’s imbecilic proposal

A man called Dedrick Asante-Muhammad has proposed in the London newspaper the Guardian that every American with an enslaved ancestor be given $20,000 annually for 20 years.

Dalrymple sees in this

a great deal of anxiety and self-contempt, as well as condescension. It is not deemed necessary to assist any other group in the way proposed, not even women. There is in it the suspicion that in an open society, blacks are doomed to end up, on average and as a group, at the bottom of the pile unless they are given special privileges.

Prejudice by itself, Dalrymple notes,

provided it is not universal and there are people who do not share it, does not prevent ascension on the social scale. It is not a lifetime ago that some of the élite educational institutions placed limits on the number of Jews admitted. No one would say that the Jews in America were impeded. Something similar is true of many other groups, some of which started off poorer than American blacks today, and whose members did not require subsidies to advance.

In any unequal society, he says,

life is easier for some people than for others. This is unfair, but as Thomas Sowell has pointed out, the quest for cosmic justice is both totalitarian in implication and can lead only to continual sifting of the entrails of group and individual disparities, a sifting that promotes resentment as well as conflict.

Open societies have a disadvantage.

They force you to look at your part in your situation. Unless you are a rip-roaring success, which few of us are (and those few are often not very attractive), you are forced to confront your ineptitude, lack of talent, bad choices from an early age, etc., etc. It is much easier to deny that your society is an open one, and sink into apathy, politicking, and continuation of immediately gratifying but ultimately self-destructive bad habits.

Silence is violence

Dalrymple notes that the slogan reflects the demand that

everyone join in a chorus, failure to do so being a crime.

This, he points out,

goes further than authoritarianism, under which dissent is a crime. As under the totalitarians, positive and public assent to and enthusiasm for certain propositions are required.

Failure in this regard

is a symptom or sign of being an enemy of the people. If you do not join in the chorus, but are silent, you are a racist, complicit in the killing of George Floyd and other crimes.

Wuhan flu and the public health Moloch

Cult of the (failing) state health service

Dalrymple writes that the Chinese virus crisis has in the West reinforced a tendency to authoritarianism and emboldened bureaucrats with totalitarian leanings. He has been surprised by

how meekly the population has accepted, on the say-so of technocrats, regulations so drastic that they might have made Stalin envious. There has been no demand for the evidence that supposedly justifies severe limitations on freedom.

One view is that the authorities

are trusted by the population to do the right thing. Much as we lament the intellectual and moral level of our political class, there are limits to how much we despise it. We believe that our institutions still work, even when guided or controlled by nullities.

A less optimistic interpretation, says Dalrymple, is that the population

is so used to being administered, supposedly for its good, under a régime of bread and circuses that it is no longer capable of independent thought or action. We have become what Tocqueville thought the Americans would become under their democratic régime, a herd of docile animals. Only at the margins — for example, the drug-dealers of the banlieues — do the refractory rebel against the regulations.

Creepy weekly state-sponsored ceremony of compulsory applause

The Wuhan flu has revealed that,

whatever our traditions, we are less proof against authoritarianism than we like to suppose.

Authority, says Dalrymple,

is rarely content to stay within the limits set down for it, but is like an imperial power always seeking the means of its expansion.

He warns:

There is no human activity that has no consequences for health, either individually or in the aggregate; and what is the public but an aggregate? Public health, we have learnt, is the highest good, the precondition of all other goods. A solicitous government has the right — no, the duty — to interfere in our lives to make sure that we stay healthy. And authority once taken rarely retreats of its own accord.

The West is soaked in academic drivel

The fatuous ideology of diversity

People in the West live, writes Dalrymple,

in a totalitarian condition in which they are afraid to say some things and—what is worse—are required to say others. They are obliged to deny what they believe and assent to what they do not believe. There is no better way to destroy the personality. People become cynical, time-serving, increasingly self-absorbed. Their impotence breeds apathy. Once they start to utter things for the sake of their careers or their peace and quiet that they do not believe, they lose self-respect and probity and thus their standing to resist anything. People without probity are easy to control and manipulate; the purpose of political correctness is not to enunciate truth but to exercise power.

The threat comes not from government

but from the universities and the semi-intellectuals that they turn out. The governments of once-liberal democracies lamely follow the fashions and obsessions that emerge from universities, and few politicians have the courage or stamina to resist. To do so would require a willingness to present an intellectual case against them, not once but repeatedly, as well as a rhinoceros hide to be unaffected by the opprobrium and insult to which they would be subjected (insult these days being the highest form of argument). We do not live in times propitious to patient argumentation by politicians about matters of principle. What cannot be said in three words will not be heard, so that surrender is the default setting.

A dictatorship of virtue

Dalrymple notes that even applying for a job, particularly in US universities,

is a kind of Calvary for the person who does not share modern academic-bureaucratic obsession with race and sexual proclivities. The applicant must fill in forms about his attitude towards diversity—there being no permissible diversity in attitudes towards diversity.

Many universities demand a personal ‘diversity statement’ from the applicant. It requires of the successful candidate a full commitment to modern orthodoxies.

To admit that all you want to do is study the life and times of, say, William the Silent, the Khedive Ismail or José Gaspar Rodríguez de Francia, and convey your enthusiasm for this subject to others, would be fatal to your chances. You must want, in the cant phrase of our times, to make a difference. You must bring your straw to the fires of resentment, so that the diversity bureaucracy will never extinguish them and never be out of a job.

Champlain College is hiring!

Situation vacant: assistant professor of interdisciplinary studies

The institution of higher education in Burlington, Vermont, USA, states in its advertisement:

We specifically welcome candidates with interdisciplinary teaching expertise in one or more of the following areas:

  • postcolonial studies
  • decoloniality
  • critical race theory
  • queer of color critique
  • ethnic studies
  • indigenous and/or settler colonialism studies
  • disability studies
  • feminist theories
  • gender and sexuality studies
  • transnational studies
  • composition and rhetoric with a specialization in any of the above areas

As we strive to create the most intellectually diverse, equitable, and inclusive institution that we can, we especially encourage candidates from historically underrepresented groups to apply.

The pleasures of denunciation

Young people, Dalrymple writes, are creating

a totalitarian environment in which they denounce one another.

Thus

the social media that were going to set opinion free and give voice to everyone end by stifling expression and creating fear.

The world is full of people like Madame Defarge. Denunciation, Dalrymple notes,

combines the delights of self-righteousness with those of revenge and the contemplation of the discomfort or worse of other people. It requires no courage and is within the capacity of all. In Nazi Germany and occupied France people wrote denunciations of their neighbours and others by the millions, often for the sheer pleasure of doing so and usually in the hope that they would have serious consequences for the persons denounced.

The day cannot be far off

when people will viscerally understand the danger to themselves of saying certain things on social media and will censor themselves automatically. If this continues long enough, certain things will not only become unsayable but unthinkable, for habit eventually is transformed into character. This is the point of political correctness: it aims at the most radical of dictatorships, that which requires the enforcement of no police because everyone is incapable of breaking the rules.

Meanwhile the appetite for public expressions of contrition is insatiable. Dalrymple points out that

it is not contrition that is wanted, but the humiliation inflicted on those who are forced to express it. The enjoyment is in the spectacle of the squirming of the wrongdoer.

The logic of the combination of social media and a taste for burning witches at the stake

will reduce us to a strange state of malice and blandness. The ambitious will refrain from saying anything that could offend anyone; the bland will lead the bland. Any deviation from current orthodoxy will be punished with vengeful vituperation or worse.

The orthodoxy to be adhered to

will change — as the enemy changed during the two-minute hate sessions in Nineteen Eighty-Four — as a test of the obedience and loyalty of the population. The politically correct will find new orthodoxies to enforce, new locutions to prescribe or proscribe, to keep decent society in a state of subliminal fear.

The sort of thing one would expect in a dictatorship

Out come the candles: women must be believed qua women

Femaoism on the rise

Dalrymple writes that Brett Kavanaugh’s statement to the committee after Christine Blasey Ford had given her evidence

was a very bad one. As he was soon to recognise, he spoke in a way in which he should not have spoken and said things that he should not have said. To me he sounded more like a politician than a judge.

However, Dalrymple points out that those who demonstrated to the effect that the women who accused Kavanaugh of misconduct were to be believed qua women

are guilty of flagrant sex stereotyping. They degrade their sex and render it less than human.

Dalrymple does not say that Christine Blasey Ford lied, only that

to claim that she did not do so because women ex officio do not tell lies is to diminish women as human beings.

What Ford said

was not substantiated, and insofar as there is evidence other than what she said, the evidence is against her. This is not the same as saying that her testimony was untrue; but no criminal prosecution could be brought on the basis of what she said, and even a civil case would fail. What we are left with is a mere possibility, and it seems to me unlikely that, in the absence of startling new evidence, it will ever amount to more than that.

The protesters showed

how little they respected due and established process and how fragile was their belief in the rule of law. They would let unsubstantiated allegations—provided they were of the right sort—wreck a man’s career and perhaps deprive him of a living, certainly stain his reputation for the rest of his life if not longer, principally because they didn’t like his views. This is the kind of thing one would expect in a totalitarian dictatorship, complete with staged outrage and accusations against which there can be no complete defence.

The effect of the episode is the advance of the cause of what Dalrymple calls

femaoism, an amalgam of feminism and Maoism. For some people, there is a lot of pleasure to be had in hatred, especially when it is made the meaning of life.

Femaoism

Dear man held out hope of humanistic totalitarianism

Dalrymple finds that a century after the great October putsch, it is interesting to return to what was written 50 rather than 100 years afterwards, so he digs out Ironies of History. He notes that at the time of publication (1966) of Isaac Deutscher’s collection of essays,

the Soviet Union seemed as permanent a feature of the modern world as, say, global warming.

Deutscher had entered his phase as superstar of the New Left, on account of

  • his three-volume biography of his hero Trotsky, which offered willing dupes the hope of a humanistic totalitarianism
  • his opposition to the Vietnam War, during which he formed a tactical alliance with draft-avoiding students, the offspring of what, in other circumstances, he would no doubt have called the petty-bourgeois and kulak class

Such books as Deutscher’s Ironies, Dalrymple points out,

have gone the way of antimacassars and whalebone corsets.

Unctuous drivelling bilge from the UN

The United Nations parasites and their poppycock

In Geneva, Dalrymple is handed a pamphlet with the title 170 Daily Actions to Transform Our World, produced by the so-called Perception Change Project of the United Nations Office at Geneva (UNOG).

On the rear of the pamphlet are the words

The Sustainable Development Goals are humanity’s to-do list for a sustainable planet, a clear roadmap for a better future.

Dalrymple comments:

Are there people in the world who think in words such as these, or who have thoughts that correspond to them? If so, they are much to be commiserated with; it must be an affliction. Compared with UNOG’s totalitarianism, all other totalitarianisms—the totalitarianism of Stalin and his gulag, the totalitarianism of Hitler and his extermination camps, the totalitarianism of Pol Pot and his relocation of city dwellers to the rice paddies—were but local solutions to local problems. According to UNOG, about 6bn human beings have a uniform list of things to do that, presumably, they must all stick with a magnet to the door of their fridge.

To-do list for humanity

Here is one of the 170 things for humanity to do:

Conserve, conserve, conserve. When ice cubes are left over from a drink, don’t throw them away. Put them into plants.

Here another:

Once a month, have a coffee with a person who is different from you, whether in race, beliefs, culture or age.

Dalrymple overfulfils the target:

When it comes to having a coffee with a person who is different from me, I overfulfil practically every day of my life. I have more than one coffee a day with my wife, who is different in gender (as we must now put it), culture, and beliefs from me. I do not wish unduly to boast, but everyone I meet seems to be different from me; in fact, I never meet my clones. And I leave it to readers to decide how easy it is for nomads of the Ogaden to meet their Swiss bankers or some Canadian lumberjacks for their monthly coffee.

Dalrymple asks:

What to do about the unscrupulous hypocrites of UNOG and its Perception Change Project, who imagine that when they are producing this unctuous drivelling bilge they are working rather than parasitising the humanity to whom they give to-do lists?