The Totalitarian Impulse

The Totalitarian Impulse June 18, 2024

When we read about the brutality of totalitarian regimes–the Nazis, the Soviets, the North Koreans–we can hardly believe it.  How could people do such things–the re-education camps, the political executions, the extermination projects–to each other?

Well, in our over-heated political and ideological polarization today, even in the United States of America, the totalitarian impulse to punish and liquidate political opponents is manifesting itself.

Re-education Camps.  Dissidents are subjected to intense propaganda indoctrination, including sessions of self-criticism and ritual humiliation, all designed to wash their brains until they conform to the party line.  I know that sounds like workplace consciousness raising seminars, but the prospect of actual re-education camps has been mentioned.

Paula Collins, the Democratic candidate running against the incumbent Republican Elise Stefanik to represent New York’s 21st congressional district said this in a Zoom townhall:

“Even if we were to have a resounding blue wave come through, as many of us would like, putting it all back together again after we’ve gone through this MAGA nightmare and re-educating basically, which, that sounds like a rather, a re-education camp. I don’t think we really want call it that. “I’m sure we can find another way to phrase it.”

Imperialism.  Progressives decry “colonialism” in their protests against Israel, but they are not above engaging in the conquest, subjugation, and even liquidation when it comes to cultures that do not agree with them about homosexuality.

Someone with the X-handle Rat_Solaire tweeted this:

I think we can use this first day of the gay month to remind ourselves that human rights are absolute.

Any country that criminalises homosexuality should be forced to change this.

Any culture that stigmatises homosexuals should be forced to change or disappear.

He helpfully appended a map showing the countries he wants to force or cause to disappear.  They include most countries in Africa, the Middle East, Oceania, and some in Southeast Asia.  There is a limit to multi-culturalism!

Genocide.  While anti-Israel protesters are accusing that country and its supporters, including the USA, of “genocide” for fighting the Hamas terrorists who invaded their country to kill, rape, and kidnap Jewish civilians, they themselves are in many cases calling for genocide of the Jews.

On October 7, Hamas attacked the Nova Music Festival, slaughtering 260 young people in an orgy of rape, mutilation, and mass murder.  In New York City, an exhibit entitled the Nova Music Festival Exhibition:  The Day the Music Stood Still was installed in memory of those who died.

The protesters showed up, at least 100 of them, chanting “long live the infitada [uprising]!” and carrying signs reading “Long live October 7” and “The Zionists are not Jews and not humans.”  At least one protester was saying, that he wished “Hitler was still here.”  They were overtly celebrating the massacre.

Off with their heads!  Both sides of our political chasm have been calling for summary executions of the enemies of their revolution.  Specifically, they are invoking the French Revolution and the execution technology favored by the Reign of Terror.

Donald Trump entitled a recent fundraising email “Haul Out the Guillotine!”  This has shocked and horrified his opponents, even though the text of the message referred to images from progressives of him being beheaded!

And as we blogged about, protesters who occupied the campus of George Washington University entertained themselves by staging proxy trials of college administrators followed by the mob’s sentence “To the guillotine!”

Trials of Political Opponents.  A time-honored tactic of totalitarian dictators is to put your political rivals on trial on trumped-up charges (if I can say that).  Democrats are trying to put Trump in prison.  Republicans are trying to do the same to Joe Biden’s son.  All amid other promises of retaliation and escalation.

The Ideological Rejection of Liberal Democracy.  As we have often blogged about, this is coming from both sides, which, for all of their polarization, have more in common than they realize.

I know, these are (mostly) just words, but words come from thoughts, and deeds can emerge from thoughts and inflammatory rhetoric can inspire inflammatory actions.  I know, these are (mostly) from isolated individuals, but isolated individuals can come together to form a mob, whose civilized inhibitions can evaporate.  I know, my examples here are mostly from the left and similar examples can be found from the right, but that both sides are saying these sorts of things is even more alarming.


Illustration:  Propaganda for the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution By Red Guards (China) – Scan of cover of elementary school textbook from Guangxi 1971, Public Domain,

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