I was flying back to the US last night, and missed Joe Biden’s prime time speech. But oh, oh, oh, I did not miss the memes, which were savage. I cannot for the life of me understand why the White House allowed this speech to be framed this way, unless they’ve taken the Dark Brandon stuff too seriously. A speech that framed millions of Americans as “threats to democracy” and is delivered in this fascist-aesthetic setting, is an extremely bad look.
I actually read the speech on the White House website last night while waiting for the connection in Atlanta, and though I think it was extremely inappropriate for a US president to use that kind of setting for a speech so partisan, it was not as bad as I expected, given the imagery. But the imagery is what is going to count more than the words, in the end. And you know, I’m not a MAGA guy, and never was, though I’ve never been a Never Trump person either. Still, it is seriously chilling to hear an American president say words like this:
And here, in my view, is what is true: MAGA Republicans do not respect the Constitution. They do not believe in the rule of law. They do not recognize the will of the people.
They refuse to accept the results of a free election. And they’re working right now, as I speak, in state after state to give power to decide elections in America to partisans and cronies, empowering election deniers to undermine democracy itself.
MAGA forces are determined to take this country backwards — backwards to an America where there is no right to choose, no right to privacy, no right to contraception, no right to marry who you love.
They promote authoritarian leaders, and they fan the flames of political violence that are a threat to our personal rights, to the pursuit of justice, to the rule of law, to the very soul of this country.
They look at the mob that stormed the United States Capitol on January 6th — brutally attacking law enforcement — not as insurrectionists who placed a dagger to the throat of our democracy, but they look at them as patriots.
I believe America is at an inflection point — one of those moments that determine the shape of everything that’s to come after.
And now America must choose: to move forward or to move backwards? To build the future or obsess about the past? To be a nation of hope and unity and optimism, or a nation of fear, division, and of darkness?
MAGA Republicans have made their choice. They embrace anger. They thrive on chaos. They live not in the light of truth but in the shadow of lies.
But together — together, we can choose a different path. We can choose a better path. Forward, to the future. A future of possibility. A future to build and dream and hope.
And we’re on that path, moving ahead.
Democrats, independents, mainstream Republicans: We must be stronger, more determined, and more committed to saving American democracy than MAGA Republicans are to — to destroying American democracy.
We, the people, will not let anyone or anything tear us apart. Today, there are dangers around us we cannot allow to prevail. We hear — you’ve heard it — more and more talk about violence as an acceptable political tool in this country. It’s not. It can never be an acceptable tool.
So I want to say this plain and simple: There is no place for political violence in America. Period. None. Ever.
Fine, but let’s consider the context. I am not aware that Joe Biden ever endorsed left-wing violence, but the Left in general in the US downplayed or excused the George Floyd rioting. Some called it “rebellion.” Remember NPR elevating that book “In Defense Of Looting” by a tranny author? Over and over and over these last two years, we have seen left-wing mobs deface and remove statues of historical figures they hate. I’m not talking about removing them through the political process, which however regrettable the outcome may be to some people, is at least done in a law-and-order manner. I’m talking about mob violence.
And let’s keep in mind the kind of America that Joe Biden and his team stand for:
An America where children can be mutilated by surgeons and physicians attempting to change their gender, and where parents are allowed by law to be kept in the dark — and even disempowered by their minor children. An America in which once-trusted institutions, like local public schools, are now in the business of corrupting the minds of little children sexually, and lying to parents about it (see Chris Rufo’s latest).
An America where you can be fired for not giving the correct answer to the question, “What is a woman?”
An America where people are promoted or kept behind on the basis of race, and in which “whiteness” is demonized.
An America in which the country’s Founding Fathers, and founding principles, are treated with contempt in our public historical memory.
An America in which the US military is being wrecked, and readiness hurt, by culture-war progressive politics being imposed from the top down.
An America in which the tech industry collaborates with the US government to suppress political speech deemed unhelpful to progressives.
An America in which every institution in the country, including Big Business, has been captured by the Woke, who reject liberal ideas of free speech and tolerance.
There’s a lot I dislike about MAGA Republicans, but when Biden says this:
They live not in the light of truth but in the shadow of lies.
I want to stand up and scream: “YOU PEOPLE ARE THE ONES WHO ARE COMPELLING ALL OF US TO LIVE BY LIES, OR ELSE FACE PUNISHMENT!!!”
Don’t forget either how the White House press secretary defined the MAGA Republican enemy this week:
“And if you are not with where the majority of Americans are, that is extreme. That is an extreme way of thinking.”
There is very little more un-American and dangerous to democracy than to say people who dissent from the crowd are “extremists” because they dissent from the crowd.
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It seems very, very clear to me that this Administration is laying the groundwork, rhetorically and otherwise, for the suppression of political and religious dissent in this country. As I have been saying again and again, people who came to this country to escape Communism have been warning us Americans for years that something dark and wicked is arising here. Here is the introduction to my book about that, Live Not By Lies:
“There always is this fallacious belief: ‘It would not be the same here; here such things are impossible.’ Alas, all the evil of the twentieth century is possible everywhere on earth.”—Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
In 1989 the Berlin Wall fell, and with it Soviet totalitarianism. Gone was the communist police state that had enslaved Russia and half of Europe. The Cold War that had dominated the second half of the twentieth century came to a close. Democracy and capitalism bloomed in the formerly captive nations. The age of totalitarianism passed into oblivion, never again to menace humanity.
Or so the story goes. I, along with most Americans, believed that the menace of totalitarianism had passed. Then, in the spring of 2015, I received a phone call from an anxious stranger.
The caller was an eminent American physician. He told me that his elderly mother, a Czechoslovak immigrant to the United States, had spent six years of her youth as a political prisoner in her homeland. She had been part of the Catholic anti-communist resistance. Now in her nineties and living with her son and his family, the old woman had recently told her American son that events in the United States today reminded her of when communism first came to Czechoslovakia.
What prompted her concern? News reports about the social-media mob frenzy against a small-town Indiana pizzeria whose Evangelical Christian owners told a reporter they would not cater a same-sex wedding. So overwhelming were the threats against their lives and property, including a user on the Twitter social media platform who tweeted a call for people to burn down the pizzeria, that the restaurant owners closed their doors for a time. Meanwhile, liberal elites, especially in the media, normally so watchful against the danger of mobs threatening the lives and livelihoods of minorities, were untroubled by the assault on the pizzeria, which occurred in the context of the broader debate about the clash between gay rights and religious liberty.
The US-born doctor said he had heard his immigrant parents warn him about the dangers of totalitarianism all his life. He hadn’t worried—after all, this is America, the land of liberty, of individual rights, one nation under God and the rule of law. America was born out of a quest for religious liberty, and had always been proud of the First Amendment to the US Constitution that guaranteed it. But now there was something about what was happening in Indiana that made him think: What if they were right?
It’s easy to laugh this kind of thing off. Many of us with aging parents are accustomed to having to talk them down from the ledge, so to speak, after a cable news program stoked their fear and anxiety about the world outside their front door. I assumed that this was probably the case with the elderly Czech woman.
But there was something about the tension in the doctor’s voice, and the fact that he felt compelled to reach out to a journalist he didn’t even know, telling me that it would be too dangerous for me to use his name if I wrote about him, that rattled me. His question became my question: What if the old Czech woman sees something the rest of us do not? What if we really are witnessing a turn toward totalitarianism in the Western liberal democracies, and can’t see it because it takes a form different from the old kind?
During the next few years, I spoke with many men and women who had once lived under communism. I asked them what they thought of the old woman’s declaration. Did they also think that life in America is drifting toward some sort of totalitarianism?
They all said yes—often emphatically. They were usually surprised by my question because they consider Americans to be hopelessly naive on the subject. In talking at length to some of the emigrants who found refuge in America, I discovered that they are genuinely angry that their fellow Americans don’t recognize what is happening.
What makes the emerging situation in the West similar to what they fled? After all, every society has rules and taboos and mechanisms to enforce them. What unnerves those who lived under Soviet communism is this similarity: Elites and elite institutions are abandoning old-fashioned liberalism, based in defending the rights of the individual, and replacing it with a progressive creed that regards justice in terms of groups. It encourages people to identify with groups—ethnic, sexual, and otherwise—and to think of Good and Evil as a matter of power dynamics among the groups. A utopian vision drives these progressives, one that compels them to seek to rewrite history and reinvent language to reflect their ideals of social justice.
Further, these utopian progressives are constantly changing the standards of thought, speech, and behavior. You can never be sure when those in power will come after you as a villain for having said or done something that was perfectly fine the day before. And the consequences for violating the new taboos are extreme, including losing your livelihood and having your reputation ruined forever.
People are becoming instant pariahs for having expressed a politically incorrect opinion, or in some other way provoking a progressive mob, which amplifies its scapegoating through social and conventional media. Under the guise of “diversity,” “inclusivity,” “equity,” and other egalitarian jargon, the Left creates powerful mechanisms for controlling thought and discourse and marginalizes dissenters as evil.
It is very hard for Americans who have never lived through this kind of ideological fog to recognize what is happening. To be sure, whatever this is, it is not a carbon copy of life in the Soviet Bloc nations, with their secret police, their gulags, their strict censorship, and their material deprivation. That is precisely the problem, these people warn. The fact that relative to Soviet Bloc conditions, life in the West remains so free and so prosperous is what blinds Americans to the mounting threat to our liberty. That, and the way those who take away freedom couch it in the language of liberating victims from oppression.
“I was born and raised in the Soviet Union, and I’m frankly stunned by how similar some of these developments are to the way Soviet propaganda operated,” says one professor, now living in the Midwest.
Another émigré professor, this one from Czechoslovakia, was equally blunt. He told me that he began noticing a shift a decade or so ago: friends would lower their voices and look over their shoulders when expressing conservative views. When he expressed his conservative beliefs in a normal tone of voice, the Americans would start to fidget and constantly scan the room to see who might be listening.
“I grew up like this,” he tells me, “but it was not supposed to be happening here.”
What is happening here? A progressive—and profoundly anti-Christian militancy—is steadily overtaking society; one described by Pope Benedict XVI as a “worldwide dictatorship of seemingly humanistic ideologies” that pushes dissenters to society’s margins. Benedict called this a manifestation of “the spiritual power of the Antichrist.” This spiritual power takes material form in government and private institutions, in corporations, in academia and media, and in the changing practices of everyday American life. It is empowered by unprecedented technological capabilities to surveil private life. There is virtually nowhere left to hide.
The old, hard totalitarianism had a vision for the world that required the eradication of Christianity. The new, soft totalitarianism does too, and we are not equipped to resist its sneakier attack.
As we know, communism was militantly atheistic and declared religion to be its mortal enemy. The Soviets and their European allies murdered clergy and cast an uncounted number of believers, both ordained and lay, into prisons and work camps, where many suffered torture.
Today? The Western world has become post-Christian, with large numbers of those born after 1980 rejecting religious faith. This means that they will not only oppose Christians when we stand up for our principles—in particular, in defense of the traditional family, of male and female gender roles, and for the sanctity of human life—but also they will not even understand why they should tolerate dissent based in religious belief.
We cannot hope to resist the coming soft totalitarianism if we do not have our spiritual lives in order. This is the message of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, the great anti-communist dissident, Nobel laureate, and Orthodox Christian. He believed the core of the crisis that created and sustained communism was not political but spiritual.
After the publication of his Gulag Archipelago exposed the rottenness of Soviet totalitarianism and made Solzhenitsyn a global hero, Moscow finally expelled him to the West. On the eve of his forced exile, Solzhenitsyn published a final message to the Soviet people, titled, “Live Not by Lies!” In the essay, Solzhenitsyn challenged the claim that the totalitarian system was so powerful that the ordinary man and woman cannot change it.
Nonsense, he said. The foundation of totalitarianism is an ideology made of lies. The system depends for its existence on a people’s fear of challenging the lies. Said the writer, “Our way must be: Never knowingly support lies!” You may not have the strength to stand up in public and say what you really believe, but you can at least refuse to affirm what you do not believe. You may not be able to overthrow totalitarianism, but you can find within yourself and your community the means to live in the dignity of truth. If we must live under the dictatorship of lies, the writer said, then our response must be: “Let their rule hold not through me!”
What does it mean for us today to live not by lies? That is the question this book explores through interviews with and testaments left by Christians (and others) from throughout the Soviet Bloc who lived through totalitarianism, and who share the wisdom they gained through hard experience.
Part one of this book makes the case that despite its superficial permissiveness, liberal democracy is degenerating into something resembling the totalitarianism over which it triumphed in the Cold War. It explores the sources of totalitarianism, revealing the troubling parallels between contemporary society and the ones that gave birth to twentieth-century totalitarianism. It will also examine two particular factors that define the rising soft totalitarianism: the ideology of “social justice,” which dominates academia and other major institutions, and surveillance technology, which has become ubiquitous not from government decree but through the persuasiveness of consumer capitalism. This section ends with a look at the key role intellectuals played in the Bolshevik Revolution and why we cannot afford to laugh off the ideological excesses of our own politically correct intelligentsia.
Part two examines in greater detail forms, methods, and sources of resistance to soft totalitarianism’s lies. Why is religion and the hope it gives at the core of effective resistance? What does the willingness to suffer have to do with living in truth? Why is the family the most important cell of opposition? How does faithful fellowship provide resilience in the face of persecution? How can we learn to recognize totalitarianism’s false messaging and fight its deceit?
How did they get through it? How did they protect themselves and their families? How did they keep their faith, their integrity, even their sanity? Why are they so anxious about the West’s future? Are we capable of hearing them, or will we continue to rest easy in the delusion that it can’t happen here?
A Soviet-born émigré who teaches in a university deep in the US heartland stresses the urgency of Americans taking people like her seriously.
“You will not be able to predict what will be held against you tomorrow,” she warns. “You have no idea what completely normal thing you do today, or say today, will be used against you to destroy you. This is what people in the Soviet Union saw. We know how this works.”
On the other hand, my Czech émigré friend advised me not to waste time writing this book.
“People will have to live through it first to understand,” he says, cynically. “Any time I try to explain current events and their meaning to my friends or acquaintances, I am met with blank stares or downright nonsense.”
Maybe he is right. But Maybe he is right. But for the sake of his children and mine, I wrote this book to prove him wrong.
If you haven’t read the book yet, I hope that seeing the president’s speech last night will open your eyes to what a lot of these refugees from Communism have observed building in this country for years. And I hope you will read the book, because they have solid advice about how to resist, and how to prepare the resistance. We don’t have forever. It’s happening right in front of our eyes.