There is a quote surfacing, variously attributed to Lenin and Marx, urging the authoritarians to:
Accuse your enemies of what you are doing.
Whether this is the work of Lenin or the Akron cookie clerk, it doesn’t matter. Powerful authorities actively use such tactics.
When President Biden delivered his now-famous “Dark Brandon” speech against a blood-red backdrop that the authorities could have yanked out of Lenny Riefenstahl’s movie, it revealed as much about the machinations of the powerful as the corruption of their strategy. Up to this point, despots have been boiling us humble frogs. Now the Politburo has raised the temperature.
Click the burner goes.
There is a sinister brilliance in the call for “unity” while at the same time referring to half the country as fascist. There is a glorious aberration in the idea of calling the electorate extremists while directing the state apparatus – this extraordinary fusion of corporate and state power – to censor speech and harass your political enemies. But the real genius is to drive half the country so crazy that they’re willing to let the device put 150 million people under their thumb. After all, they are just caves. They are the other.
It is all done in the name of protect democracy.
DVEs and American Stazi
The phase had already begun in 2021 when the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued an advisory memorandum warning that “domestic violent extremists (DVE), including … anti-government/anti-authority violent extremists, will continue to pose a significant threat to our homeland.” .
Speaking of anti-government/anti-authoritarian extremists: One of the American founders wrote that “the tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.” Does it matter that today’s anti-authoritarians are mostly peaceful people who want to express their doubts about the power of the state in a tweet?
To the DVE advisory, Secretary of Homeland Security Mayorcas adds that “DHS has renewed its commitment to working with our partners across every level of government, the private sector, and local communities to combat all forms of terrorism and targeted violence.”
The Department of Homeland Security does not need to enlist the Stasi. Volunteers lined up to work with them. Nina “Hide a Little Lie” Jankovi? was just another fan of the machine before she was recruited for president
Ministry of Truth The Disinformation Council, which was (and probably still is) a thing.
Let’s not forget that the FBI raids the homes of voters they don’t like, and “works with” social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter to silence opponents and label opponents as extremists.
Click the burner goes.
When it comes to rating the American extremist/fascist half, Team Blue is positively naive, sometimes frothy. This means that they care about the rights of Team Red as much as they do the rights of the Uyghurs. Indeed, the administration’s recent efforts reveal more steps toward a constituent America of China – including the CBDC (Central Bank Digital Currency), a monetary blanket token that will be rolled out under watchwords: Innocent people have nothing to fear.
Those who fear creeping authoritarianism from the left may be tempted to look to the right for electoral redemption. But increasingly, you’ll find that the other side will be motivated more by revenge than to protect any American principles or ideals. This means that Team Red is likely to seize the device and return it to Team Blue. Far from denouncing such out-of-principle moves, the Reds would enjoy all the schadenfreude.
That is, until the pendulum swings.
The current configuration creates incentives for retaliation that will likely swing back and forth until the device breaks down. This could mean a civil war that would push most of what is now known as the “indifference center” to pick a team.
Therefore, the nation finds itself drawn to a theoretical construction of the game that is unlikely to lead to any good or healthy place. It’s an arms race to see who can be more authoritarian.
The smartest in the Beltway will try to tell you otherwise, even those whose work you have long admired. They have decided that the evidenceTM You are already asked to choose a team.
I remember the old Nolan chart, which, while not a perfect political classification, is more accurate than the left-to-right spectrum. David Nolan added another axis – libertarian to authoritarian – designed to add an important dimension to the political landscape.
Unfortunately, it is incentives and culture like centers of gravity that pull people down. That is, progressives, moderates and conservatives are becoming more and more authoritarian. Historically, red shirts and brown shirts hated each other, but both had their feet rooted in a lot of common ground. It is not even clear whether these groups are aware of the process. It is more than that hostility can turn people into what they claim to hate. This is definitely happening today. Each side defines itself against its enemy and imagines itself on the side of the angels. They think of their tactics as a necessary evil, so they gradually embrace evil.
Click the burner goes.
The partisan intellectuals of either side will wiggle their fingers and warn us about “both sides,” as if there were a cosmic scoreboard of tyranny that they alone were privy to. Some even call themselves libertarian. But notice how they scratched themselves, having lay down with the dogs. They are selective in their anger. They join in pointing fingers and tu quoque. They choose a team.
On a personal level, I am well aware of the rush to tolerate the growth of authoritarian power rooted in fear and hostility. After 9/11, it failed to heed warnings about the kind of government surveillance measures like the Patriot Act and, later, the creation of the new Department of Homeland Security, which would mean civil liberties for Americans. I was wrong. In hindsight, I can see that I have overcome fear and polarization. You have chosen a team.
Click the burner is gone.
Since that time, subsequent administrations and legislatures have relied on these measures to create what is now collectively known as the deep state. And I was a fan of her appearance, despite all I know about mission creep and the march through institutions. Now, the deep state has turned its capabilities into ordinary citizens.
I understand that some rare event has led us all to raise our concerns about extreme violence against innocents, from murders in churches and synagogues to clashes between protesters that resulted in deaths. To some extent, we accept that police powers must be applied to deal with such threats. But we must remain vigilant, because any police force that can turn against violent extremists can turn against them. Named violent extremists.
Although rare but frightening things happen from time to time, including mass shootings and out-of-control protests, many of these events stem from ideological polarization and this illiberal arms race, as from any endemic evils of ordinary Americans.
It would be a huge mistake to have the revolutionaries drag the rest of us into something like this:
“It is the state that educates its citizens on civic virtue, gives them awareness of their mission, and unites them.”
Whose country is it? Whose idea is virtue? For what task? And the unit welded by what means? Until now Both sides They seem to have tacitly accepted Mussolini’s words as they struggle to seize power.
Writing reasonStephanie Slade warns,
What hasn’t changed—and may get worse—is the problem of emotional polarization. Various studies have found that Americans today have far more negative feelings toward members of the other side than they did in decades past.
But partisan hostility suits authoritarian elements on both the left and the right well. Their goal is power, and they have little patience for the procedural details that interfere with their practice. As history teaches us, a base that turns into fear and anger is willing to accept almost anything to ensure its survival. Perhaps even destroying the institutions and ideals that make America itself special.
Slade is right and she has the data. Whoever accuses her of “both sides” has his head where the sun does not rise.
So no. Now is not the time to “retreat from the metaphor of both sides”. It’s time for an anti-authoritarian coalition to turn against the emotional polarization and drive to pick a team. It’s time to invite authoritarianism wherever it raises its head. We must do everything we can to innovate so that there are exits from the rickety and overburdened conflict machine. God forbid “any side” win this war. God forbid we descend into civil war, especially since real authoritarians wait in the shadows as we continue to occupy ourselves with the spectacle of all that.
Click the burner goes.