CultureWatch

Bill Muehlenberg's commentary on issues of the day...

Big Business and the Big State Mean Big Trouble

Jan 3, 2021

When Big Business and Big Government get into bed together, we are in big danger:

As a conservative, I have often written about the dangers of statism and Big Government. And I have also defended the free market – at least in principle. But what happens when Big Business and Big Government climb into bed together, scratching each other’s back?

Big trouble is the answer, and we have a term for that: crony capitalism. And what happens when big, powerful and often monopolistic corporations get into bed with radical left politics? The answer is the same: big trouble. And we have a name for that as well: woke capitalism.

And what happens when big, powerful and often monopolistic media and tech giant corporations get into bed with the state and the left? Once again, the answer is the same: big trouble. And we also have a name for this: it is called surveillance capitalism.

As I say, I support capitalism and detest its failed rival: socialism. But needless to say, I have real problems with crony capitalism, woke capitalism, and surveillance capitalism. And all three are upon us big time. So I must add to my many older writings in which I warn about the dangers of Big Government new articles warning about where Big Business is heading.

Of course many have been sounding the alarm about this for years now. One very important new book has made the case that these new mutant forms of capitalism are easily leading us down the path of soft totalitarianism and will eventually lead us into hard totalitarianism.

In Live Not By Lies Rod Dreher argues that this hybrid capitalism along with the radical “social justice” agenda is taking the West down the tubes real fast. See my review of this very significant book here: billmuehlenberg.com/2020/12/30/a-review-of-live-not-by-lies-by-rod-dreher/

An important part of this volume is a collection of stories of a number of those who lived under Marxist totalitarianism and have lived to tell the tale that he appeals to. Their stories are such a powerful – but often unheeded – warning. He notes how deeply alarmed they are with the way Westerners are now undergoing the same sort of things that they once did.

Let me draw from Dreher’s fourth chapter, “Capitalism, Woke and Watchful.” He starts it with the story of a Czech couple who lived under communist tyranny. Their apartment of course was bugged, and they dared not say anything of substance since the State heard every sound they made. They are utterly shocked about how Americans by the millions are installing things like smart speakers in their homes where all their talk is overheard.

And Dreher mentions the East German secret police and how their job was made so much easier by ordinary citizens who, “with no prompting by the government, volunteered negative information about their friends and neighbors.” Hmm, sound just like the Covid snoops and snitchers of 2020! As Dreher says:

Should totalitarianism, hard or soft, come to America, the police state would not have to establish a web of informants to keep tabs on the private lives of the people. The system we have now already does this—and most Americans are scarcely aware of its thoroughness and ubiquity. 

The rapidly growing power of information technology and its ubiquitous presence in daily life immensely magnifies the ability of those who control institutions to shape society in according to their ideals. Throughout the past two decades, economic and technological changes—changes that occurred under liberal democratic capitalism—have given both the state and corporations surveillance capabilities of which Lenin and Stalin could only have dreamed.

He also discusses the enormous power and influence of Big Business: “Now an elite club of global megacorporations are more powerful than many countries. Walmart has more annual revenue than Spain and more than twice as much as Russia.”

And the five internet monoliths – “Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, Google – have an almost incalculable influence over public and private life. At the same time, Big Business has moved steadily leftward on social issues. . . . The embrace of aggressive social progressivism by Big Business is one of the most underappreciated stories of the last two decades.”

Couple this leftward move with surveillance capitalism and the picture gets even uglier. He tells us that we have NOT learned our lessons from Orwell. He says 70 million Americans already have smart speakers in their homes. The massive amount of personal data various groups have on all of us is simply staggering.

Writes Dreher: “You may have given up Facebook over privacy concerns, and may have vowed never to have a smart device under your roof, but unless you are a hermit living off the grid, you are still thoroughly bounded and penetrated by the surveillance capitalist system.”

We all have experienced this. The other day I looked up online a very particular and specific home appliance, and within moments that exact same item was being advertised on my personal FB page. They know everything about us, and they are talking to each other! The State can also far too easily get into the action. Critics will say that there are laws to prevent all this.

But over and over, dissidents told me that the law is not a reliable refuge: if the government is determined to take you out, it will manufacture a crime from the data it has captured, or otherwise deploy it to destroy your reputation. Both the spread of the cult of social justice and the reach of surveillance capitalism into areas that the Orwellian tyrants of the communist bloc could only have aspired to have created an environment favourable to the emergence of soft totalitarianism.

Image of Live Not by Lies: A Manual for Christian Dissidents
Live Not by Lies: A Manual for Christian Dissidents by Array Amazon logo

And the marriage of technology and totalitarianism already exists in places like communist China. Dreher quotes one writer who says, “China is about to become something new: an AI-powered techno-totalitarian state.” As I said in my book review:

“The Chinese social credit system is a clear case in point: it ‘automatically tracks the words and actions, online and off, of every Chinese citizen, and grants rewards or demerits based on obedience.’ Doing what the State approves of will get you a higher social credit score, while doing what it frowns upon will result in a downgrade.”

Says Dreher:

The bottom line: a Chinese citizen cannot participate in the economy or society unless he has the mark of approval from Xi Jinping, the country’s all-powerful leader. In a cashless society, the state has the power to bankrupt dissidents instantly by cutting off access to the internet. And in a society in which everyone is connected digitally, the state can make anyone an instant pariah when the algorithm turns them radioactive, even to their family.

And the Chinese leaders are ensuring that the next generation cannot properly fight back: “The state’s information-control apparatus has demolished the ability of young Chinese to learn facts about their nation’s history in ways that contradict the Communist Party’s narrative.” Scary stuff indeed.

They are not alone: all this is happening here, especially thanks to the corona panic. Numerous states and businesses have already told us you will NOT be able to travel, do business, or be schooled without a mandatory vaccine. This is just like what is happening in communist China, and it sure sounds like the spooky stuff we read about in the book of Revelation.

He tells the story of one Slovakian teen whose parents lived under totalitarianism. She was in the US in the mid-2000s as a student, not too long after 9/11. Says Dreher:

“I saw that people were willing to sacrifice a lot of their personal freedoms for the sake of national security,” says Petra. “There was a lot of talk along the lines of, ‘I don’t care if they listen to my phone calls or read my emails or text messages, because I don’t have anything bad to say.’ So that was really strange for me, because I thought, this is something really personal. And it doesn’t really matter if you do or don’t have something bad to say. It’s just my personal space.”

How strange it was for a teenager to come from a culture just emerging from the reality of one careless word or indiscreet meeting having the potential to destroy a person’s life, only to find herself living temporarily in one place where everyone said whatever they wanted to, without a care in the world.

He goes on to discuss Western young people raised on smartphones and social media who are willing to share everything to everyone: “having become habituated to sharing reams of personal data with marketers simply by moving through their daily lives online, these young people are making themselves highly vulnerable to manipulation by corporations and outside entities. To put it bluntly, we are being conditioned to accept a Westernized version of China’s social credit system.”

He closes the chapter this way:

Big Business’s embrace and promotion of progressive social values and the emergence of “surveillance capitalism”—the sales-directed mining of individual data gathered by electronic devices—is preparing the West to accept a version of China’s social credit system. We are being conditioned to surrender privacy and political liberties for the sake of comfort, convenience, and an artificially imposed social harmony.

This is the brave new world of the twenty-first century. Christian dissidents will be unable to mount an effective resistance if their eyes aren’t open to and focused on the nature and methods of social justice ideology and the ways in which data harvesting and manipulation can and will be used by woke capitalists and social justice ideologues in institutional authority to impose control.

It is coming, and it is coming fast.

Sober words about a sober reality. I am not stretching things by saying this may be one of the most important books you will read this year. I strongly encourage all of you to get a copy or two, for yourself and for those you care about.

[1655 words]

15 Responses to Big Business and the Big State Mean Big Trouble

  • Thanks Bill. Grateful for your constant warnings over many years. The alarms are ringing loudly now even if most don’t listen. Will we hear the trumpet call? As I sit in quarantine and have my calls tracked and recorded I know Dreher is right. Our world has changed faster than we can fathom and we have no where to hide but in Christ. He is our quiet and resting place. They are trying to remove Him too (enjoy and read, instilling it within your heart) your Bible now as that is in the process of being banned by big brother too. Most people don’t even care.

  • Many thanks Emily. Stand strong champ.

  • Grateful for the likes of you and Martyn Iles who are constantly pointing us in the right direction – scary days indeed it is my children and grand children I really worry and pray about.

  • Bill, the real issue is not how the pagans are moving toward globalism. The real issue is the lack of Christian leadership in light of all these changes. I live in Virginia Beach, Virginia. Home of the 700 Club and the Christian Coalition. Virginians elected a pro-infanticide governor and I am confident that many professing Christians helped to elect him. Same with Joe Biden. I have been trying to find a church in this area in which these issues are being discussed. No such luck. All the pastors here are cultural pietists who do not believe Christianity has anything at all to say to the culture. With church leaders like this – who needs Satan as an enemy? We are losing the culture and our youth by default. Until our church leadership changes their loser outlook and theologies, we are doomed as a nation.

  • Yes Hector many churches ae a big part of the problem.

  • Bill, after reading so many of your articles over the years, I have come to appreciate your words of truth and wisdom, and to put them to good use. Already taking steps to prepare, both physically and spiritually.
    I am increasingly disturbed by the lack of warnings from church leaders about what is coming….what is already here…..and the apathy of so many fellow Christians.
    After all, the warnings are clear in the Bible…..God has shown us what happens when we ignore His clear directions.
    Like Emily, I am taking refuge in Christ, my rock and my salvation.

  • Thanks Jan. We all need to keep standing strong.

  • Awesome Bill as always,
    You are a light in the darkness to us all.
    Things are moving so fast and I often look to someone to blame like church pastors who are either clueless, wilfully ignorant or just afraid to warn and prepare their trusting flocks.
    I’m tired of being looked at like a conspiracy theorist every time I try and inform or educate family or unsaved friends. As for me and my family we will serve the Lord regardless.
    Bless you buddy and I pray Dictator Dan will let you come to Perth for a much needed break as promised.

  • Many thanks Andy. Yes that would be terrific.

  • I was talking to a, saved, loved one at Christmas time and was astonished at how little he knows about what’s happening in the world. He actually said that “the mark of the beast might not happen for another 500 years.” I know he was just throwing a figure out there, but it showed that lack of understanding because it seems that he’s too busy to even know what’s happening in the world. But I thank God, as others do, for your knowledge and wonderful way of expressing truth in such a troubled world, Bill. Keep sounding the alarm; may many come to realise the truth; and may God protect us all, as I know He will. He is faithful to Himself and His word all the way to, and beyond, the end.

  • sad thing is Hector in way too many churches satan has a pew up front under the pulpit and never hears one thing to even make him squirm.

    in Rome it was Bread and Circuses now it is Apps and Amazon.

    It can’t happen here. How many a civilization that has fallen has uttered those words?!

  • There have been many voices over the last century, like the clanging of warning bells of an approaching tsunami, or panels on motorways, warning us of dangers ahead, flashing past as we put the foot down even harder on the accelerator. But one whose voice stands out is that of Solzhenitsyn who was interviewed on the BBC by Michael Charlton on March Ist, 1976.
    These are extracts from that interview.

    ‘All of us are standing on the brink of a great historical cataclysm….. It is with a strange feeling that those of us who come from the Soviet Union look upon the West of today….. we contemplate the West from what will be your future, or look back seventy years, to see our past suddenly repeating itself.

    And what we see is always the same, always the same as it was then; adults deferring to the opinion of their children; the younger generation carried away by shallow worthless ideas; professors scared
    of being unfashionable; journalists refusing to take responsibility for the words they squander so profusely; universal sympathy for revolutionary extremists; people with serious objections unable or
    unwilling to voice them; the majority passively obsessed by a feeling of doom; feeble governments; societies whose defensive reactions have become paralysed; spiritual confusion leading to political upheaval.

    What will happen as a result of all this lies ahead of us. But the time is near, and from bitter memory we can easily predict what these events will be. …. And all of us are standing on the brink of a great historical cataclysm, a flood that swallows up civilisation and changes whole epochs. A people which no longer remembers has lost its history and its soul…..
    Our Russian experience is vitally important for the West; because by some chance of history we have trodden the path the West is taking seventy or eighty years, before the West. And now it is with a rather strange sensation that we look at what is happening to you, when many social phenomena are repeating what happened in Russia before its collapse. Our experience of life is of vital importance.
    One must think of what might happen unexpectedly in the West. The West is on the verge of a collapse created by its own hands. My warnings, the warning of others – Sakharov’s very grave warning directly from the Soviet Union – these go unheeded, most of them fall, as it were, on the ears of the deaf – people who do not want to hear them. Once I used to hope that experience of life could be handed on from nation to nation, and from one person to another. But now I am beginning to have doubts. Perhaps everyone is fated to live through every experience himself in order to understand.
    I am not a critic of the West, I am a critic of the weakness of the West. I am a critic of a fact which we can’t comprehend: How one can lose one’s spiritual strength, one’s will-power, and possessing
    freedom not value it, not be willing to make sacrifices for it’.

    David Skinner UK

  • At some point as man becomes prosperous in his nation he starts to think “I did this” with no regard to God then he starts to feel he is better than God because of his prosperity then he thinks there is no God. With no God man is the final authority the final arbiter and he alone can make a perfect world. Too much success can be detrimental to a nations faith. Too much tech made life too easy and led to great success but far less faith. (I am NOT anti tech but believe tech should be kept in it’s place and some tech has no place). Life needs some difficulty to be appreciated and to allow one to see the need to thank God. Technology has become god to so many with names like Siri and Alexa and Google that man has forgotten the true God and confuses his long suffering for apathy or non existence.

    It is true what the Bible says there is nothing new under the sun. This keeps playing out throughout history yet we never learn. Decadence, immorality, chaos. Nothing ever changes!

  • All too true Bill, and don’t forget about that “smart” meter attached to your home. I resisted, and still have a manually read meter. It’s no surprise that Victoria was the first to rollout smart meters.

Leave a Reply