Leftists are the new authoritarians that we are resisting:
It is interesting how things can turn on their head. I was once a radical counterculturalist. As a wild leftist and hippy, I was against the system. I was a radical confined to the fringes of society. ‘Do not trust anyone over 30’ was one of our war cries. All those in authority were suspect, and we were insistent on questioning everything.
As a radical minority group, we championed free speech, zero censorship, and the freedom to fully express ourselves in any way we pleased. All forms of repression and restriction and thought control were rejected. We wanted to be totally free in every way.
Radicals on college campuses in the ’60s led the way here. Think of the Free Speech Movement at the University of California, Berkeley. One of the leaders of the movement, Mario Savio famously said in a speech late in 1964:
There’s a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can’t take part! You can’t even passively take part! And you’ve got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels…upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you’ve got to make it stop! And you’ve got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it, that unless you’re free, the machine will be prevented from working at all!
My, how things have changed. The left today has morphed into the very beast it once so vehemently opposed. Now it is those on the left who are repressing free speech, free thought, and other forms of freedom.
Who is it that is now championing cancel culture? Yep, the left. They are the ones who are forcibly shutting down debate, banning people from speaking, burning books (sometimes quite literally) and are moving to restrict the freedoms of others.
And Western universities today are at the forefront of this new censorship. Even lefties at UC Berkeley have gone full tilt repressive, doing the very things they denounced a half century ago. As but one example, student riots broke out there a few years ago when the conservative activist Milo Yiannopoulos sought to speak there.
The event was cancelled. Free speech lost, and repression won. I discussed the incident at the time here: https://billmuehlenberg.com/2017/02/03/free-speech-fascism-left/
And all this is quite clear when it comes to the Covid hysteria. Who are the ones most supporting the draconian lockdowns and the severe repression of our freedoms, civil liberties, and basic democratic rights? Yep, it is the left, be they media leftists at CNN, the NYT and the ABC, or leftist politicians and bureaucrats.
Who are the ones calling for freedom, free choice, and an end to coercive health mandates? Yep, it is the conservatives. Just recently for example Texas joined Florida in telling Joe Biden to butt out – they would NOT be enforcing his tyrannical mandatory Covid vaccinations.
And it is the leftist elites running the Big Media and Big Tech monopolies who are pulling books, taking down videos, censoring posts, and banning those who they consider to be too dangerous because they dare to think for themselves and not buy the Party line.
So we see a complete reversal here: those who once screamed the loudest for freedom, the end of censorship, and resistance to Big Government are now at the forefront of curtailing freedom, censoring other points of view, and seeking to expand the scope and power of the State.
We conservatives are the ones demanding freedom, democracy, human rights, and limited government. The Left is now opposing all this, and it has become the new home of authoritarians and tyrants all over the West.
A number of new books have appeared dealing with all this. Here is a short list of some titles to be aware of:
Alan Dershowitz, Cancel Culture (Hot Books, 2020)
Ben Shapiro, The Authoritarian Moment: How the Left Weaponized America’s Institutions Against Dissent (Broadside Books, 2021)
Michael Knowles, Speechless: Controlling Words, Controlling Minds (Regnery, 2021)
Stephen Strang, God and Cancel Culture: Standing Strong For the Truth (Frontline, 2021)
Michael Brown, The Silencing of the Lambs: The Ominous Rise of Cancel Culture and How We Can Overcome It (due out March 2022)
Let me highlight two of these volumes. Ben Shapiro’s new book is very important indeed, and I hope to soon have a review of it up. In the meantime, he recently had an interview about it which is worth quoting from. He said this about how these changes in our culture have been building up over recent years:
The key, for the last couple of decades at least, has been incrementalism. In the ’60s, they went too radical too fast, and the reaction was the Reagan years. But since the 1990s, the left has really decided to be pretty incremental in its approach.
They take over institutions, they bully and they cudgel, but what they’re bullying and cudgeling on behalf of is usually some sort of small incremental step. So people in the middle just kind of throw up their hands and go, “OK. Well, is it really that big a deal?” And sooner or later, you’re going to run up against the fact that the left has moved pretty radical.
And now they’ve put the pedal to the metal. I mean, the last year really is, I think, a breaking point for the country. The fact that corporations were basically threatening their own employees if they weren’t posting black squares on Instagram, or the fact that he voted for [Donald] Trump, this was considered rationale enough for you to be disowned by friends and family. Or now the fact that if you have serious questions, data-driven questions, about the approach being taken by, for example, the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention], you could be completely deplatformed from social media. https://www.dailysignal.com/2021/08/02/ben-shapiros-advice-for-resisting-americas-authoritarian-moment/
The second volume worth noting is the one by Knowles. In it he has a chapter on “Locking Down Dissent.” He also looks at Covid and how we have responded to it. He writes:
According to the old constitutional standard, we the people have the right and responsibility to determine those goals through deliberation and persuasion. According to the new progressive standard, we the people have the obligation to defer to “scientific experts” who dictate not merely how to achieve specific policy goals but often which goals to pursue in the first place…
But which experts do we trust, and what sort of expertise should they possess? . . . One imagines 2020 would have played out rather differently had politicians deferred to economic or military experts rather than epidemiological experts, and the country might well have been the better for it. Pandemics do not put other political concerns on pause. While America followed the advice of public health experts, the nation’s international adversaries took advantage for economic and military gain…
The United States has endured countless epidemics, from smallpox in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries to cholera in the nineteenth century to the Spanish and Hong Kong flus in the twentieth century. Not one of those epidemics prompted politicians to shut down the country as they did for the Chinese coronavirus, even though that virus was by no means the most virulent the country had ever faced. The nature of death and disease have not changed between then and now. But the standards by which people judge death, disease and politics have changed, and this new standard demands deference to progressive technocrats, whose words carry the authority of science itself.
The Left’s abuse of scientific credentials to effect political ends long predates the coronavirus pandemic, going back at least to the earliest days of “global warming,” then known as “global cooling.”
Yes all this is a big problem. In America we now have the radical left in control of the White House, almost all of the mainstream media, the universities, Big Tech, and even Big Medicine and Big Pharma, so that anyone who dares to take a differing view WILL be silenced – they WILL be cancelled.
So now it seems that I am – once again – standing against the system shouting “No”. As a hippy in the ’60s I was opposed to what I saw as the authoritarian state that was about suppressing freedom and stifling dissent. Now as a conservative Christian I seem to be back at the same place! I am now resisting the rise of Big Brother Statism and an ugly cancel culture that is fully intent on silencing any of us recalcitrants.
It seems I am doomed to always be an outsider!