Author Laurie Calhoun at the Libertarian Institute writes A Perfect Totalitarian Storm about a US populace habituated to submit to authority and the resulting dangers.
People often express consternation over how something as awful as the Holocaust could ever have transpired. It seems utterly incomprehensible, until one reflects upon the acquiescence to government authorities of individuals, most of whom served as unwitting cogs in a murderous machine. The vast majority of people in 1930s and 1940s Germany went about their business, agreeing to do what officials and bureaucrats told them to do and brushing aside any questions which may have popped up in their minds about policies preventing Jewish people from holding positions in society and stripping them of their property. For ready identification, Jews were preposterously made to stitch yellow stars onto their clothing. Later, in the concentration camps, they were tattooed with identification numbers. The rest is the most grisly episode in human history.
It is easy to say today, looking back, that we would never have supported the Third Reich and its outrageous laws, but citizens everywhere develop habits of submission to authority from an early age. Many “rule-governed” persons never pause to ask whether the current laws of the land are in fact moral, despite the long history of legislation modified or overturned in the eventual recognition that it was deeply flawed. It is understandable that people should obey the law—they are threatened with punishments, often severe, for failure to comply. But the little things do eventually add up, and one thing leads to another, with the result that the bureaucratic banality of evil diagnosed by Hannah Arendt in her coverage of the Adolf Eichmann trial in 1960 applies every bit as much to our present times as it did to the people going along to get along with the Third Reich. Of course no one is currently sending trainloads of “undesirables” to concentration camps for liquidation, but when one considers the death and degradation of millions of people in the Middle East over the course of the twenty-first century, carnage and misery funded by U.S. taxpayers, one begins to comprehend how the very mentality which permitted the Holocaust to transpire is indeed at work today. The vast majority of Western citizens freely agree to pay their governments to terrorize and attack, even torture, people inhabiting lands far away. The perpetrators call all that they do “national defense,” but from the perspective of the victims, the effects are one and the same.
The banality of evil at work today involves a profound complacency among the general populace toward foreign policy. President Biden bombed Syria about a month after becoming the Commander in Chief of the U.S. military, without even seeking congressional authority, and people barely blinked. The elimination of the persons responsible for the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, was achieved long ago. Yet military intervention continues on inexorably, having come to be regarded as the rule rather than the exception. The “collateral damage” victims are essentially fictionalized in the minds of the citizens who pay for all of the harm done to them. Habits of deference to the Pentagon and its associated pundits on matters of foreign policy have as their inevitable consequence that confirmed war criminals are permitted to perpetrate their homicidal programs unabated, provided only that they claim to be defending the country, no matter how disastrous their initiatives proved to be in the past. Indeed, it is difficult to resist the conclusion that the more mistakes a government official makes, the more likely it becomes that he or she will be invited back to serve again, and the more frequently his or her opinion will be sought out by mainstream media outlets.
It requires a type of arrogance to reject the proclamations of the anointed “experts,” and in the age of social media, there are always thousands of shills—both paid and unpaid—standing by to defend the programs of the powerful. Antiwar activists are very familiar with how all of this works. They are denounced as anti-patriotic, ignorant, naïve, and even evil for refusing to promote the company line. During the Cold War, the reigning false dichotomies of “Capitalist or Communist?” and “Patriot or Traitor” held sway and, sad to say, such false dichotomies abound today. The fact that the pundits and policymakers calling for and applauding military intervention themselves often stand to profit from the campaigns they promote is brushed aside as somehow irrelevant. In contrast, antiwar voices are muted, suppressed, and censored despite the fact that reasons for opposing more war cannot be said to be tainted by mercenary motives because peace, unlike war, does not pay. It costs nothing to not bomb a country, so anyone who speaks out against the idea is not doing so in order to profit. Yet such persons are denounced and marginalized in the harshest of terms as cranks, crackpots, extremists, Russia sympathizers and more. President Obama’s drone killing czar John Brennan famously organized terror Tuesday meetings at the White House where “suspicious” persons were selected for execution by unmanned combat aerial vehicles (UCAV), aka lethal drones, on the basis of flash-card presentations crafted from bribed intelligence, drone video footage and cellphone SIM card data—all of which is circumstantial evidence of the potential for future possible crimes. Brennan recently included libertarians among what he warned is an “unholy alliance” of “domestic extremists” in the wake of the January 6, 2021, protest at the U.S. Capitol. What happens next?
One certainly hopes that educated people are aware that Brennan’s inclusion of libertarians among his list of potentially dangerous domestic enemies betrays his utter ignorance of the very meaning of the word ‘libertarian.’ The non-aggression principle (NAP) embraced by libertarians precludes not only wars of aggression but also individual acts of terrorism. Sadly, it has become abundantly clear that the people still watching television news continue to accept and freely parrot what the mass media networks pump out despite their clearly propagandistic bias in recent years. Accustomed to heeding the prescriptions of “the experts,” people blithely listen to Brennan (and those of his ilk) despite his manifest record of duplicity regarding the drone killing campaigns, and his histrionic, even hysterical, comportment during the three-year Russiagate hunt for a Putin-Trump connection.
Neoliberal and neoconservative powerbrokers naturally wish to quash alternative viewpoints, so perhaps no one should be surprised that Brennan has attempted to discredit libertarians. After all, they pose disturbing questions such as whether all of the mass homicide carried out in the name of the nation actually helps anyone, including those paying for the carnage, or rather harms everyone, with the notable exception of those who stand to profit financially or politically from the wars. What Brennan revealed by lumping libertarians together with “domestic terrorists” is that he is not so much concerned with violent threats to the nation but with dissent from the political and warmaking authorities, a tendency which is becoming more and more marked as the Democratic-controlled Congress attempts to force Big Tech companies such as Facebook and Twitter to “do more” to prevent the dissemination of so-called disinformation. By denouncing some of the most articulate, consistent and persistent opponents to the war machine as “dangerous,” Brennan made it more difficult than it already was for those voices to be heard much less heeded.
The current complacency of people toward U.S. foreign policy is nothing new. Contemporaneously, people any- and everywhere tend to go along to get along, whether or not they are convinced that the policies imposed upon them and their fellow citizens make any sense. In 1930s Germany, anti-semitism was real, but part of the reason for the efficacy of the nationalist fervor drummed up by Adolf Hitler and used to support his quest for total global domination was the dire economic situation following the loss of World War I. Germany was weak and its people hungry. These conditions made it easier than usual to persuade people to comply, in the hope that their lives would be improved by banding together against what was denounced at the time as the evil enemy.
This perennial Manichean trope of political propaganda has most recently emerged in the abject, overt, hatred by about half of the people of the United States of anyone having anything whatsoever to do with Donald Trump. “Trump Derangement Syndrome,” or TDS, is a genuine phenomenon, at least judging by the comportment of people online and sometimes in person as well. As bizarre as this may seem, people actually hate people who do not hate Donald Trump, having failed to understand that contradictions and contraries are not one and the same. It is entirely possible to not hate Trump while also not loving him, but attempting to elucidate this false dichotomy to anyone who spent the last four years of his life wishing fervently for the former president’s demise will be met with an even more strident repetition of the very dichotomy being debunked. Again, if you happen to believe that the post-presidential impeachment trial was a waste of time and taxpayer money, then you must, according to the anti-Trump mob, love the former president. Even more remarkably, somehow over the course of the past four years a large swath of people have come to believe that seething hatred is a moral virtue, so long as it is directed at appropriate objects of loathing. But the capacity to hate one’s fellow human beings reveals absolutely nothing about the hater beyond his or her ability to hate. It certainly does not mean that they are good by contrast, and it is no mean feat of self-deception to come to believe that because one hates Donald Trump, this alone suffices to establish one’s moral superiority over all of the people who do not.
Once people become convinced of their own moral righteousness in the battle against whoever has been designated the evil and benighted (deplorable!) enemy, then it’s only a few short steps from “The end justifies the means” to “Everything is permitted.” A glaring example has been the more and more prevalent suppression and erasure of so-called disinformation, which of course lies in the eyes of the censors. The necessity of defeating “the enemy” became the basis for such curious developments as the refusal of any of the mass media networks to investigate the pay-for-play connections suggested by the contents of the Hunter Biden laptop made public during the 2020 presidential election cycle. Immediately following election day, when some people pointed out anomalies such as the appearance of vertical lines in the graphs of vote tallies in the middle of the night in multiple states—indicating the sudden addition of troves of votes none of which were for Trump—the mass media immediately, in concert, issued headlines everywhere proclaiming that any and all charges of electoral fraud were “baseless”. The point here is not that the charges were not baseless, which perhaps they were in some cases—those explained away by local election authorities as clerical errors. But no one could know that allegations of electoral fraud were baseless before the matters were investigated.
The slippery slope of censorship is difficult to resist, having taken the first step onto that totalitarian-veering path, and the removal from social media of thousands of conservative and right-wing accounts regarded as sympathetic with Trump and his gallery of rogues is simply not enough, according to Democratic Party elites. Despite having already propagandized much of the mainstream media (as was evident in the election and post-election coverage), the Democrats, giddy with their majority Blue-Blue-Blue capture of Washington now wish to exert total control over what people may say, write and read. This is of course a violation of the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States, but by achieving their goal through the indirect manipulation of private companies, which are subject to federal regulation and therefore receptive to “innuendos” on the part of legislators, they are hoping that no one will notice what has transpired—at least not before it is too late to do anything about it.
After Trump’s acquittal in the second Senate impeachment trial, the news coverage claiming that he had incited “insurrection” at the Capitol continued on, as though the facts had already been established and the outcome of the trial was entirely irrelevant. These Associated Press (AP) excerpts are typical:
“The only president to be impeached twice has once again evaded consequences…” (February 13, 2021)
“After [Trump] incited a deadly riot at the U.S. Capitol last month…” (February 14, 2021)
One might with reason wonder whether the wrongness of questioning the outcome of an election does not imply the wrongness of questioning the outcome of a trial. Of course both are perfectly permissible in a society which champions freedom of speech. What this political control of the news reveals is a republic in crisis, for if even supposedly objective news outlets such as the Associated Press reject the outcome of processes intended to ascertain the truth, then the people have no way of being able to determine what actually transpired. Similar examples of journalistic léger-de-main abound in every area of importance to neoliberals, above all, in matters of war, and the mainstream media’s refusal even to discuss the plight of Julian Assange is a case in point. Assange made public evidence of war crimes committed by the U.S. government but is now being persecuted as though he were a murderer. So pathological has the mainstream press become that the only times they were able to bring themselves to praise Trump was when he ordered military strikes on the people of the Middle East.
The tech outlets have now also decided to censor alleged disinformation about the experimental mRNA COVID-19 vaccines, conflating the criticisms of persons opposed to all vaccines (the antivaxxers) with those of persons who have read the spec sheets, are aware of the data on disease prognosis, and find that the risk of possible, as-of-yet unknown, longterm side effects are not outweighed by the alleged benefits of the novel technology (which, it is worth pointing out, never made it past the animal trials when it was tested in the past). Those who express concern about the Procrustean lockdowns have also been subjected to suppression of their speech. The Facebook page for the Great Barrington Declaration was taken down by censors, and Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s Children’s Health Defense organization has also been deplatformed. But the criticisms offered by these groups are grounded in scientific literature. Indeed, the authors of the Barrington Decree are in fact epidemiologists and public health scientists, yet they are summarily dismissed as quacks because they disagree with the Fauci-Gates program.
What the vast majority of people want is for the current abnormal situation to be stabilized. If that means embracing what the powers that be are calling “the new normal,” then so be it. Anyone who stands in the way of the needed changes—those who refuse to volunteer as unpaid subjects in the largest experimental trial of a novel medical device in history—are summarily denounced in the usual terms: selfish, deplorable, ignorant, inbred, racist, nutjobs, etc. It does not matter in the least whether any of the epithets are true. They are deployed indiscriminately against anyone who disagrees by the self-styled morally superior types who shill for the reigning political and corporate elites—often also for free.
The present circumstances offer the necessary prerequisites to totalitarianism. We would do well to heed the historical record and look closely at how Nazism and Stalinism became dominant outlooks for entire populations, despite the fact that large numbers of people were destroyed by them. The total control of the mainstream media, with a specific agenda being promoted, all alternatives suppressed and the extreme polarization of citizens under Manichean false dichotomies are everywhere on display. What’s more, in these COVIDystopic times, we are witnessing people struggling under the same economic hardships as were the people of 1930s Germany. What is worse, after a full year of nonstop television coverage of death tolls, with nearly no effort by any mainstream pundits to place the tallies into proper context and consider how many people were dying everyday before COVID-19 arrived on the scene, many citizens are understandably afraid.
Fear always brings out the worst in groups of people, who may team up against what they all decry as the evil enemy. But fear, hatred and self-deception conjoined produce a toxic soup, and we need not search the annals of the first half of the twentieth century to find evidence of this. Post-9/11, violent crimes against Muslim people (and other brown-skinned persons sometimes mistaken for “Arabs”) were on the rise. We are currently on a trajectory leading to a place where those who read the spec sheets for the “free” vaccines and then, based on that information, decline to roll up their sleeves, will be denigrated as criminals. The divisions being concretized between those healthy, robust people who agree to COVID-19 vaccination and those who demur are being strengthened by virtue-signaling campaigns making everyone who gets the vaccine believe, again, amazingly enough, that they are morally superior to those who do not. Even Britain’s Queen Elizabeth has come out publicly to denounce those who decline to participate in the experimental vaccine trials as “selfish.”
Technocrats the world over have been warning since at least April 2020 that the only way out of our current predicament will be to issue “vaccine passports” through which the healthy can be distinguished from the unhealthy. However, even if the first and second round of vaccines together work to prevent transmission and infection—which has yet to be established—those who have received them will not be protected from the new variants, and will need to submit to a third round of so-called booster shots, which in another six months will likely “require” a fourth booster, and so on. All of this would seem to imply that the “vaccine passports” being floated by government and corporate leaders will in no way ensure that the persons carrying them are not going to contract or transmit the latest variants of the virus. So what do they really mean?
The idea that those who have accepted COVID-19 vaccines are “fit to fly,” and to work and to socialize, or even to go outside, rests on a truly Orwellian redefinition of “healthy” as “vaccinated,” even as scientists continue to warn that the virus has already transformed enough to check the already questionable efficacy of the current crop of vaccines. Those who support the implementation of vaccine passports are fond of pointing out that people traveling to Africa are required first to be vaccinated against Yellow Fever. But COVID-19 is nothing like Yellow Fever, which kills half of the people it infects. The vast majority of persons do not need to introduce foreign substances into their body in order to survive COVID-19. Because the vaccines appear to mitigate serious symptoms and increase the odds of survival among vulnerable persons, they should of course be offered the option of vaccination, but it must remain their choice, since they alone will bear the brunt of any untoward side effects, which invariably arise in a small portion of the population with every vaccine.
In the Nuremburg trials, nonconsensual human experimentation was decried and judged to be a crime against humanity. But extortion, too, is a form of coercion and we should not be fooled by the latest Newspeak press releases in which “authorities” attempt both to cajole and to threaten us for defying their will. Former UK Prime Minister (and confirmed war criminal) Tony Blair has determined that vaccine passports will be our ticket to freedom. This is a shocking pronouncement because our freedom is not his or anyone else’s to withhold from us, least of all when our own person and body are at stake. It’s as though we are currently inhabiting an episode of Black Mirror (Netflix), where the dark heart of pharma-technocratic rule is working to bend us to its will, using compliant citoyens as its unwitting tools. Peer pressure, shaming, bribes and threats are nothing new, but in this case the consequences could not be more personal.
History clearly demonstrates that one repressive measure leads to another, and totalitarianism creeps in step by step, unnoticed until it is too late. From the suppression of speech to the lockdown and quarantine of healthy people to coercing or extorting them to participate in experimental trials—none of this bodes well for the future of freedom. The fight to retain what are our rights—to speech, liberty, privacy, and the pursuit of happiness—and above all to not be treated as the possessions of government-funded corporations, must be defended while this is still possible. When a system is sufficiently infiltrated at every stratum by fanatics convinced of their own moral superiority and monopoly on the truth, then totalitarianism is near. It happened in Nazi Germany and it happened in Stalin’s Soviet Union. We are moving perilously close to that nightmarish reality right here and now as people redefine basic terms such as ‘sickness’ and ‘health’ and insist on exerting total control over information flow.