Category Archives: totalitarians

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.

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.

Corbyn: cause for alarm

A damned fool — and dangerous

Dalrymple points out that the populist-Leftist leader of the opposition in Britain, Jeremy Corbyn, is

an admirer of the Hugo Chávez school of solution to poverty and social problems.

Corbyn’s thought,

if such it can be called, is stuck in a primitive, almost pre-Bastiat stage.

This lifelong Castro devotee thinks that

expropriation and redistribution according to his view of what is right is the route to justice and prosperity. One might have hoped that the world had had sufficient experience of such notions to extinguish them from the human mind forever, but foolishness springs eternal.

In order to appeal

to the sentimentality of the electorate and to the xenophobic resentment of rich foreigners who can afford to speculate in London property, Corbyn is prepared to destroy his country’s reputation for probity and predictability in its laws of private property, a reputation that can be destroyed in a week but not restored in a decade, and which is vital to its prospects.

Corbyn

is dazzled by his virtuous vision, his mirage or hallucination of social justice.

There is, says Dalrymple,

no totalitarian as dangerous as he who does not realise he is one.