Theme: Totalitarianism and the Fully Politicized Society

As Jonathan pointed out here, one problem with the blog format is that worthwhile posts tend to fade into the background over time, even when they might be of continuing value.  One approach I’d like to try is Theme roundups, in which I’ll select a number of previous posts on a common topic or set of related topics, and link them with brief introductory sentences or paragraphs.  At least initially, I’ll focus on my own posts.

The posts in this first “theme”  roundup focus on the nature of the politically-dominated society, ranging from the effects of extreme political correctness in America and Europe today to the nature of life under absolutist totalitarianism.

Stasiland.  Shortly after the fall of the Berlin Wall, author Anna Funder traveled to the previous East Germany to interview both those who had lived under Communist oppression and the perpetrators of that oppression.

The Nature of Dictatorships.  Thoughts from Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, maker of the excellent film The Lives of Others, which is set in Communist East Germany.

Prefiguring the Hacker…and the American Surveillance Society. A 1953 science fiction story, Sam Hall.

Eric Hoffer on the destruction of individualism. “Even in the freest society power is charged with the impulse to turn men into precise, predictable automata. When watching men of power in action it must be always kept in mind that, whether they know it or not, their main purpose is the elimination or neutralization of the independent individual – the independent voter, consumer, worker, owner, thinker – and that every device they employ aims at turning man into a manipulatable ‘animated instrument,’ which is Aristotle’s definition of a slave.”

Bitter Waters.  A Stalin-era Soviet factory manager writes about his experiences.  Describing the chaos into which the Russian lumber industry had been thrown by Soviet central planning:  “Such is the immutable law. The forceful subordination of life’s variety into a single mold will be avenged by that variety’s becoming nothing but chaos and disorder.”

Rose Wilder Lane.  The author and political thinker describes a debate she had with a Russian village leader, back in 1919 when she was still a Communist, about the centrally planned society.   “It is too big – he said – too big. At the top, it is too small. It will not work. In Moscow there are only men, and man is not God. A man has only a man’s head, and one hundred heads together do not make one great big head. No. Only God can know Russia.”

The mentality of the totalitarian revolutionary.  Thoughts from the Russian writer of Dr Zhivago, Boris Pasternak.

Life in the fully politicized society.  Michelle Obama explains what Barack Obama wants to make you do, Sebastian Haffner writes about those 1920s and 1930s Germans who needed to have “the entire content of their lives…all the raw material for their deeper emotions”  delivered gratis by the public sphere, and Ayn Rand paints a vivid picture (based on personal experience) of the dreariness of living in a society in which everything is political.

Life in the fully politicized society, continued.  Even Maureen Dowd may be finding limits as to how much politicization of art she wants to see.

The bitter wastes of politicized America.  “The best way to hold a large group of people together is to make them feel as if everyone else is out to get them.  The most effective political adhesives are distilled from hatred and distrust.  People who disagree with your agenda are “attacking” you or “robbing” you…When the government controls everything, there is no constructive relief valve for all this pent-up tension.  It all boils down to a “historic” election once every couple of years, upon whose outcome everything depends.  They’re all going to be “historic” elections from now on.  That’s not a good thing.”

“But would you want your daughter to marry one?”  Americans increasingly say they would be displeased if their son or daughter were to marry a supporter of the opposing political party.

Deconstructing a Nazi death sentence.  The text of the justification for the sentence passed on three members of the White Rose resistance group provides useful insight into the totalitarian mind.  (The link to the transcript in the post doesn’t work anymore; use this instead)

Defying Hitler. This important and well-written (but mis-titled) memoir deals mainly with the social environment in Germany prior to the Nazi takeover, but the latter part of the book demonstrates what life was like under a new totalitarianism that was rapidly tightening its grip. The section about the author’s father–who was given the choice of either endorsing political opinions he did not share or losing his pension and being reduced to destitution, along with his family–is painful to read and is unpleasantly reminiscent of certain recent events in America today.

The party of paranoia, racial obsession, and totalitarian thinking. Link to a post by Daniel Greenfield, aka Sultan Knish, in which he explains the nature of today’s Democratic Party.

15 thoughts on “Theme: Totalitarianism and the Fully Politicized Society”

  1. On your post about sports.

    “Black players who made it to the pro level were pigeon-holed to the skill positions like the outfield or wide receiver because of their perceived superior athleticism.”

    Look at offensive linemen. That is the last bastion of white football players. That takes thinking and quick decisions.

    Another good book. Jay Cost’s Spoiled Rotten

  2. Defying Hitler, by Sebastian Haffner.

    I made a request for that book at the local library. Looks worth reading.

    For me, the name Haffner rings a bell or two. Vinko Hafner was an apparatchik of some note in Tito’s Yugoslavia. In WW2 Vinko Hafner had ordered the execution of some members of the family of a friend’s grandmother. Communists did not like Socialists. Turns out that during WW2 Vinko Hafner was close enough to the family of my friend’s grandfather to later marry into it. In Civil Wars, not just in Yugoslavia but also in the US, it is not just family against family, but family members against each other.

  3. Megan McCardle suggests that the White House ordered ABC/NBC/CBS NOT to carry Obama’s immigration speech last night. However, the White House made sure the speech was carried by Spanish language TV. That way Obama gained the votes of Spanish speakers without upsetting English speakers.

    Soon Spanish speakers will be the majority. Already Spanish is the official language of the USA. The next President will be a Spanish speaker.

  4. “That way Obama gained the votes of Spanish speakers without upsetting English speakers.”

    He may be deluding himself about Hispanics’ sympathies. Those with legal status may want amnesty for relatives but, in general, there is doubt that they want the deluge of illiterate illegals.

    Among other things, they depress the wages of those ahead of them on the ladder.

    The next generation seems not to be doing well as the children lag far behind in learning English, which is the key to any but menial jobs. The parents don’t speak English so there is no reinforcement at home.

    The earlier generation was different. My wife taught school in a heavily Hispanic school in the early 60s when I was in medical school. The kids were translators for the parents at parent-teacher meetings but the parents came. She also quickly learned not to tell the parents that the kid was slacking in school. The kid would come to school the next day black and blue.

    I don’t think it is the case today. Maybe the La Raza activists are telling parents how to behave or maybe union teachers don’t care now.

  5. “Megan McCardle suggests that the White House ordered ABC/NBC/CBS NOT to carry Obama’s immigration speech last night. However, the White House made sure the speech was carried by Spanish language TV. That way Obama gained the votes of Spanish speakers without upsetting English speakers.”

    I wouldn’t put it past them….”them” encompassing both the Obama administration and the networks…but I think there’s a simpler explanation. IIRC, the networks didn’t do much in terms of covering Presidential campaign debates, either. I think these networks have focus on lowest-common-denominator programming, and it is assumed that people who are seriously interested in political affairs will follow them on a cable channel,

  6. Vinko Hafner. What a great name.

    Check out Sharyl Atkinsson’s recent interview at The Blaze where she discusses her experiences working for the major league “news”. My cynicism issues continue to metastasize grotesquely.

  7. Sharyl Atkisson: ““Here’s what’s frightening to me,” Attkisson said. “I routinely have conversations now with other journalists, with sources and members of Congress who refer to the idea that they think our phone calls are probably being monitored and the computers — but there’s not really outrage. It’s sort of like, ‘We better not talk on the phone. Let’s talk about this in person.’ Where’s the outrage?”

    (includes video)

  8. Recent events have reminded me of a particular passage in Haffner’s memoir. For those who haven’t read the book or the review, in 1933 the author was working as an entry-level lawyer in the Prussian Supreme Court, the Kammergericht. Hitler had just become Chancellor, and one day, the Nazis came to the Kammergericht:

    Haffner was in the library, reading some document on which he had to give an opinion. There was a clatter of footsteps in the corridor, shouts, and doors banging. Brown uniforms surged in, and the leader announced that all “non-Aryans” must leave immediately. One brown shirt approached Haffner and asked “Are you Aryan?”

    Before I had a chance to think, I had said, ‘Yes.’ He took a close look at my nose–and retired. The blood shot to my face. A moment too late I felt the shame, the defeat….I had failed my very first test.

    As I left the Kammergericht it stood there, grey, cool and calm as ever, set back from the street in its distinguished setting. There was nothing to show that, as an institution, it had just collapsed.

    (Excerpted from my post When Law Yields to Absolute Power)

    I don’t think we’re at that stage yet, but we’re moving in that direction at a dangerous speed.

  9. An interesting post at Powerline about the DoJ obstruction of the search for e-mails about their attacks on Sheryl Atkinson.

    The reason that this reference to Sharyl Attkisson made it into this document dump is that her name was mis-spelled (Sharryl rather than Sharyl). There are assuredly more emails about this that were searched for and deliberately withheld. They apparently did not search for this particular mis-spelling of her name.

    The banality of evil.

    Another thought about Obama’s speech last night, which I didn’t watch. The more I read about it, the more apparent it is that he was just making one more phony speech like, “If you like your doctor, you can keep him.” There is really nothing of substance in the speech. A three year delay in deportation if you register. Who is going to register ? This is nothing !

    I wonder if the Hispanics will be fooled? I’m sure he thinks so. It’s really an opening for the GOP to do something serious.

    I wonder if they are smart enough to do so.?

  10. My big question: Who will ever prosecuted for all of this after 2016? If no one is held to account in a serious way, and I mean jail time here, doesn’t that create an incentive for the next group?

  11. Theodore Dalrymple, via John C Wright

    Political correctness is communist propaganda writ small. In my study of communist societies, I came to the conclusion that the purpose of communist propaganda was not to persuade or convince, nor to inform, but to humiliate; and therefore, the less it corresponded to reality the better. When people are forced to remain silent when they are being told the most obvious lies, or even worse when they are forced to repeat the lies themselves, they lose once and for all their sense of probity. To assent to obvious lies is to co-operate with evil, and in some small way to become evil oneself. One’s standing to resist anything is thus eroded, and even destroyed. A society of emasculated liars is easy to control. I think if you examine political correctness, it has the same effect and is intended to.

    I think this is very true, though it is not limited to the Communist variant of totalitarianism–surely it is equally a factor in the Fascist variant.

    Modern American “progressivism” is also very much about humiliation, as witness the public verbal stoning of a scientist over his shirt. Hundreds of additional recent examples could easily be cited.

    Link via American Digest

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