Sell Your Soul or Lose Your Livelihood (updated)

Every day, people are losing their jobs because of political opinions or assertions about reality which are considered unacceptable. David Shor, a political data analyst, lost his job after tweeting a summary of research indicating that nonviolent protest tactics tend to be more effective than violent tactics. At the Poetry Foundation, both the president and the chairman resigned after being heavily attacked because their statement on the current situation…which said that the members “stand in solidarity with the Black community, and denounce injustice and systemic racism”…was vague and lacked any commitment to concrete action. An Illinois high school principal finds her job under attack after advising students that, if they protest, they should refrain from violence and looting. The list could be expanded indefinitely and includes people in all industries and at all levels.

This isn’t new. For the last two decades, the ‘progressive’ left has loudly insisted that dissenting voices (dissenting from the Prog worldview, that is) must be suppressed. But the trend has accelerated sharply.

I am reminded, as I often am, of the memoirs of Sebastian Haffner, who grew up in Germany between the wars. One very affecting section of the book describes what happened to Haffner’s father–a civil servant under both Weimar and the Kaiser–following the Nazi takeover. The elder Haffner, long-since retired, had considerable accomplishments to his credit: There had been great pieces of legislation in his administrative area, on which he had worked closely. They were important, daring, thoughtful, intellectual achievements, the fruits of decades of experience and years of intense, meticulous analysis and dedicated refinement”–and it was extremely painful to him to see this work ruthlessly trashed by the new government. But worse was to come.

One day Mr. Haffner received an official letter. It required him to list all of the political parties, organizations, and associations to which he had ever belonged in his life and to sign a declaration that he ‘stood behind the government of national uprising without reservations.’ Failure to sign would mean the loss of his pension, which he had earned through 45 years of devoted service.


After agonizing about it for several days, he finally filled out the form, signed the declaration, and took it to the mailbox before he could change his mind.

“He had hardly sat down at his desk again when he jumped up and began to vomit convulsively. For two or three days he was unable to eat or keep down any food. It was the beginning of a hunger strike by his body, which killed him cruelly and painfully two years later.”

Haffner Senior was retired; he would surely have no chance for other employment if he crossed the new regime. He could either violate his convictions and sign the document, or sentence his wife and himself to total impoverishment and possibly actual starvation.

As recently as 10 or 15 years ago, it would have seemed unlikely that any American would have to face Mr. Haffner’s dilemma. But things have changed. If current trends continue, it is very likely that you will have to foreswear your beliefs or face career and financial devastation.

Plenty of markers along this dark path have been visible for years. Things have been especially bad in academia, it seems. At Yale, lecturer Erika Christakis resigned after being vitriolically attacked for suggesting that people not get all stressed up about Halloween costumes. Her husband, Nicholas, has also resigned from Yale. Ms. Christakis says that many of those were intellectually supportive of the couple were afraid to make their support public: “Numerous professors, including those at Yale’s top-rated law school, contacted us personally to say that it was too risky to speak their minds. Others who generously supported us publicly were admonished by colleagues for vouching for our characters.”

This article uncomfortably parallels the Haffner story:

(Iowa State University) students are told that they must abide by the school’s policy against “harassment” of anyone in the university community. Students must complete a “training program” consisting of 118 slides online, covering the university’s non-harassment policies and procedures, and then pledge never to violate them.

But what if a student thinks that the ISU policy goes way beyond preventing true harassment and amounts to an abridgement of his rights under the First Amendment?

In that case, ISU reserves the right to withhold the student’s degree. So either the student agrees to abide by the policy even though it may well keep him from speaking out as he’d like to, or have his academic work go for naught.

Iowa State is going beyond ‘only’ requiring you to shut up about your opinions and will also require you to positively affirm beliefs that you may not share.

The attack on individuals’ careers and finances due to their political/philosophical beliefs is by no means limited to academia. There is the case of Brendan Eich, who was pushed out as CEO of Mozilla because of his personal support (in 2008) of a law that banned same-sex marriage in California. There are multiple cases of small businesspeople subjected to large fines because of their refusal to violate their convictions by baking a cake or providing other services for a same-sex wedding.

And don’t think that just because you support gay marriage — even if you support what you think is 100% of the ‘progressive’ worldview — that you are safe. Deviationism can always be found, as the Old Bolsheviks discovered during the time of Stalin. Northwestern University professor Laura Kipnis, herself a self-defined feminist, was investigated by the university after complaints were made about an essay she published under the title “Sexual Paranoia Strikes Academia.” Kipnis writes:

A tenured professor on my campus wrote about lying awake at night worrying that some stray remark of hers might lead to student complaints, social-media campaigns, eventual job loss, and her being unable to support her child. I’d thought she was exaggerating, but that was before I learned about the Title IX complaints against me.

At least some liberal/’progressive’ academics are evidently starting to realize that they are not exempt from Deviationism or Heresy accusations. One may have 99.99% of the approved opinions, but there is always the danger of that .01% mismatch. Especially since the approved opinion set is highly subject to change.

And proof of an accusation is not necessarily required, a mere allegation may suffice to destroy your career. So may association with one of the accused. ”Goody Thompson was seen talking to Sarah Williams, and we all know that the Williams woman has attempted to summon the devil.” See Jonathan Kay’s story, here.

And also consider what the work climate is going to be like for those that do manage to stay employed and avoid dismissal for political reasons. Again I cite Haffner–here, he describes what conditions were like in his place of employment, the Prussian Supreme Court (Kammergericht) following the Nazi takeover. The Jewish judge had been moved down to an administrative role in a lower court, and his place had been taken by a young and inexperienced man who was there to represent the Nazi position on legal matters. The new judge didn’t seem to know much about law, but asserted his points in a “fresh, confident voice.”

We Refendars, who had just passed our exams, exchanged looks while he expounded. At last the president of the senate remarked with perfect politeness, ‘Colleague, could it be that you have overlooked paragraph 816 of the Civil Code?’ At which the new high court judge looked embarrassed…leafed through his copy of the code and then admitted lightly, ‘Oh, yes. Well, then it’s just the other way around.’ Those were the triumphs of the older law.

There were, however, other cases–cases in which the newcomer did not back down…stating that here the paragraph of the law must yield precedence; he would instruct his co-judges that the meaning was more important than the letter of the law…Then, with the gesture of a romantic stage hero, he would insist on some untenable decision. It was piteous to observe the faces of the older Kammergerichtsrats as this went on. They looked at their notes with an expression of indescribable dejection, while their fingers nervously twisted a paper-clip or a piece of blotting paper. They were used to failing candidates for the Assessor examination for spouting the kind of nonsense that was now being presented as the pinnacle of wisdom; but now this nonsense was backed by the full power of the state, by the threat of dismissal for lack of national reliability, loss of livelihood, the concentration camp…They begged for a little understanding for the Civil Code and tried to save what they could.

Surely this passage comes close to describing the feeling and actions of many genuine scholars while watching their university departments be taken over by the forces of political correctness, or the emotions of many experienced government officials and corporate managers as these institutions also are subjected to the rack of ideological absolutism.

There can be no serious doubt that the election of a Democratic President..especially if coupled with Democrat control of Congress…would greatly strengthen the push toward an America in which the expression of unapproved opinions is dangerous and the affirmation of approved opinions is mandatory. We are already heading in that direction at alarming speed: a Democrat presidency–with all that means in terms of empowerment of the ‘progressive’ wing of the Democratic party and its allies in media and academia–would accelerate the trend greatly and quite possibly make it unrecoverable.

(An earlier version of this post was published here in 2016; the current post is cross-posted at Ricochet)

20 thoughts on “Sell Your Soul or Lose Your Livelihood (updated)”

  1. It’s horrifying, with how little pressure, the woke pissants can threaten academics and corporate employees. Being semi-retired and working for a couple of small enterprises (including one which I own) I still have the luxury of refusing to bow or kneel.

  2. After you published this in 2016, I bought and read Haffner’s book.

    As I recall, at that time I thought it somewhat alarming how easily one could see parallels with then-current events.

    Ah, such blissful naivete.

  3. This is not sustainable; the dynamic of this kind of mass psychosis requires the faithful to become more and more extreme until eventually the faithful join with the normals in disgust, and the Robespierres get their comeuppance.

    We must be approaching that phase soon.

  4. “… the Robespierres get their comeuppance.”

    Hitler’s Reich took 12 years to get its comeuppance, and then only due to foreign conquest, and the country was in ruins.

    Soviet Communism took 70 years to get its comeuppance, the butcher’s bill was in ten figures, and the country was a moral, environmental and physical ruin.

    Chinese Communism, having learned its lessons from the death of the USSR is now in its 71st year, it is ruled by hard, serious, ruthless men, and it seems on track not only to survived but to defeat the United States.

    The “Robespierres” do not inevitably lose. They do not inevitably get what they deserve, but typically they die in bed. And there is no reason to say that they cannot win finally and permanently take over a society like the USA, which is divided, conflicted, and where many people are trying desperately to impose their idiotic and self-destructive totalitarian ideology on themselves and the rest of us.

  5. There was an opinion poll some time ago which said that 80% of Americans were tired of Political Correctness. The need for Politically Correct language may be the Achilles Heel of the Lefties — if we can impress on listeners that when we say Nigger, Chink, Spic, Paddie, Dego, Jock, Polak, etc, we are not been disrespectful to our fellow citizens; instead, we are deliberately taunting the small minority of extreme Lefties who see all those people as mere fodder for the great Leftie campaign to Divide & Conquer.

  6. @Gavin Longmuir

    I would very much like it if everyone dialed back their outrage detectors and laughed off any and all slurs, which would of course totally defang them.

    It seems as though a certain proportion of the population lives to find things to be offended about.

    “I’m offended!”

    “You’ll get over it.”

  7. The only way to avoid or end this kind of thing is to impose a real, physical cost on those who would enslave us . . . at the line level AND the command level. It will be most untidy, but they will ignore anything else. And they will whine and cry at anything less.

    Subotai Bahadur

  8. Welcome to the results of a century and a half of the “Germanic System of Education”.

    The ruin of Enlightenment ideals of free expression, and the imposition of mental and ideological fascism.

    Frankly, if given a time machine, I’d seriously consider going back to kill Horace Mann in his crib, rather than Hitler, Stalin, or Mao.


  9. I think anyone working for a large corporation is foolish if they really voice their opinions (unless they meet the PC standards of course!) on social media. Or just remain bland.

    Of course non-violent protest is more effective. But I guess you can’t say it on social media.

    Me? I don’t care. Had a small business for 20 years but never said anything outlandish. At least to me ;-)

    Running for office? Scary what they try to dig up on you. And then distort what they find.

    What is even scarier is the kind of candidates we get that pass the test.

  10. Increasingly it is not enough to be silent if you disagree, you are must positively affirm the social justice party line or you risk being canceled. “No comment” is not an acceptable response during the sensitivity training sessions. Atlanta charged cop’s step mom loses her job, said charges against her son “are nonsense.” Made the other employees “uncomfortable,” but the company values “diversity of opinions.”


  11. Death6: “Diversity of opinion” has joined the likes of “military intelligence”, “jumbo shrimp” and “legal ethics”.

    I knew decades ago “hate crime” was dangerous wedge legislation …

  12. I suspect that stepmother will have a nice payday in a couple of years if the mortgage company is still solvent. I expect Atlanta real estate to crash in the next year. Marietta will probably still be OK. Probably a lot of former Atlanta LEOs.

  13. well there was thermidor which brought napoleon, the coup that toppled bela kun, and installed horthy, franco and the spanish civil war,

  14. It’s ironic that this was cross-posted at Ricochet, because I know from personal experience that many Trump supporters were harassed by management and eventually banned from the site, circa 2017.

    I have no idea what’s going there now, as I won’t waste my time visiting sites that delete comments, ban people, or simply insult them until they leave. I presume Ricochet management has roused itself enough that it can join with Trump to oppose the burning of Americans cities by violent rioters, but I shouldn’t presume.

    In any case, this sort of thing has been my experience for decades, going back to the early 1990s when C-Span changed their call-in format from open to dedicated Republican, Democrat, and Independent lines, to stop getting swarmed by angry conservatives. Subsequently, the I watched the GOP establishment work really hard to limit debate to within certain narrow guidelines, chasing away millions of potential supporters, all to ensure the moribund leadership could keep globalism safe.

    The end result was the election of Donald Trump, and now what is essentially a communist insurgency covered up by a blanket of gauzy virtue signalling. The GOP is, of course, preparing yet another surrender, planning to rename various military bases based on the complaints of people who no idea who the namesakes were in the first place.

    I’ve had enough of this- and I bet millions of other people have too. Despite the fondest wishes of the deranged maniacs of the left, they aren’t going to be able to otherize 150 million people. They have miserably failed to disarm the American people, despite decades of effort, and lately their sheer incompetence- permanent rolling lockdowns, dropped instantly once they wanted mass protests- has seriously damaged the willingness of the public to go along with their endless schemes.

    Plus, I have no idea why the left thinks burning cities would be popular. I suspect if you are a resident of Seattle or Minneapolis, you might be questioning your allegiance to the left. I further suspect you will soon if you haven’t already, once reality starts to bleed through the leftist lies.

    This comment is too long already, so I’ll close with this- the left needed a trigger and they found one in Minneapolis- but too early. They needed this to happen September at the earliest. Now the public will have months to ponder events, which the left can’t abide.

    Restrain the despair, if you’re feeling it.

  15. Xennady…Ricochet: I’ve been there for quite a while, and haven’t had any problems. I’d say based on comments that 90%+ of the people there are pro-Trump. Are you sure the banning wasn’t a function of obnoxiousness rather than views?

  16. these are what the late herman kahn called ideological renewal, he threw in the colonels of mid 20th century, authoritarian populists, nationalistic, I guess small d democrat as responsive to lower middle class interests,

  17. Ricochet: I’ve been there for quite a while, and haven’t had any problems. I’d say based on comments that 90%+ of the people there are pro-Trump. Are you sure the banning wasn’t a function of obnoxiousness rather than views?.

    I think any obnoxiousness was caused by the fact that the pro-Trump people gracelessly declined to lose arguments to the nevertrumper fringe, causing the latter to run squealing to management to make the pain stop. Management was quite willing to go along, being nevertrump themselves. My experience there was roughly the same as that of Mike K, although I’ve never been back to see what’s happened since.

    The only way to avoid or end this kind of thing is to impose a real, physical cost on those who would enslave us . . . at the line level AND the command level. It will be most untidy, but they will ignore anything else. And they will whine and cry at anything less.

    Spot on as usual, and nice to read you again.

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