The Totalitarians Among Us


One of the most insidious effects of the neocon takeover of the Republican Party is that years and years of neocon propaganda from talk radio, neocon publications, the Faux News Channel and elsewhere, seem to have created a large, critical mass of totalitarian-minded, blind followers that comprise a large part of the Republican Party "base." The bloodthirsty "evangelicals" are one important example, but some recent events suggest that it is more widespread than that. There was, for example, the loud booing of Congressman Ron Paul at the GOP "values debate" by hundreds of Republican "evangelicals" when he mentioned the fact that Jesus was known as The Prince of Peace.

At that same debate, as was recently noted on the blog, there were loud murmurings from the audience of things like, "Did he (Ron Paul) really say that homosexuals had rights?!" It was just unbelievable to some of those Republican "values voters" that anyone would think that homosexuals should have the same constitutional rights as everyone else.

A former undergraduate student of mine, who is now a Ph.D. candidate at a prestigious east coast university, recently emailed me some responses he got when he ventured onto the "Fred Thompson Forum" online and wrote an article there arguing that Thompson is not really a "Ronald Reagan conservative," as some have been arguing, but just another neocon. (The pro-war Thompson has been pro-abortion, for example, and has refused to take a pledge not to raise taxes if elected president).

The responses to the article completely ignored the substance of the arguments that were made by my former student. Instead, the "Fredheads," as this group of Thompson supporters calls themselves, responded with statements like these: "[Student’s Name] = GITMO." "You are an international terrorist, hater of freedom and liberty." "Homeland Security should also be made aware of his plans to overthrow the United States government." "Your ass better be on a plan back to New Delhi . . . or you’ll be on a one way ticket to Gitmo." (The student is an American citizen who has an ethnic European surname and is not from India).

Sending critics of Republican politicians to "GITMO" seems to be a major theme of the "Fredheads." Browsing the web site, one finds additional comments such as these: "Fight Terrorism: Send Fred Thompson to the White House and Ron Paul to GITMO." "Keep the brilliant Bush legacy alive," and vote for Fred Thompson. "Anyone touting civil liberties all over the place simply doesn’t realize that it’s a new world after 9/11." This of course is a constant refrain of the talking heads on the Faux News Channel, Rush Limbaugh, and the rest of the neocon electronic megaphone network.

Then there is, "We can’t have civil liberties right now because we’re at war," and "Civil liberties are Government GRANTED rights. All your rights come from the state, thus, the state has a right to take them away." Hitler and Stalin could not have said it better.

"Liberty is the freedom to taser loudmouth traitors," said another Fredhead. Another theme of the Fredheads is that anyone who disagrees with "the brilliant Bush legacy" is a "traitor." This of course was the opinion of Lincoln during his regime, which is why his administration imprisoned (without due process) tens of thousands of Northern political dissenters. Not surprisingly, the web site also includes talk of how Abe Lincoln would be a Fredhead if he were alive today. The Fredhead site is probably a parody, but the only thing that makes parodies work is that they possess a large grain of truth. All of these things have been said in one form or another by various neocons.

We have no way of knowing how many totalitarian-minded knaves like this have become blind followers of the neocon/GOP crusade for "national greatness" that is on display today in Iraq (and coming soon to Iran, if they have their way). The predominance of this mindset at the GOP-sponsored "values debate," and the perpetual refrain of "kill, kill, kill, bomb, bomb, bomb," that comes from the "evangelicals," whose numbers are in the millions, suggest that it is a very large number.

Creeping Totalitarianism

In his famous 1944 book, The Road to Serfdom, Nobel laureate economist Friedrich Hayek warned of how creeping totalitarianism could find its way into democratic societies. First, there must be the wish on the part of political "leaders" to "unite" the entire country behind some plan for "national greatness" or "national glory," such as the one the "National Greatness Conservatives" (a phrase coined by Bill Kristol) have in mind for us. As the great 19th century economist Frdric Bastiat wrote in his masterpiece, The Law, democracy can be just as dictatorial as genuine dictatorship if it enforces laws that compel national uniformity to a sufficient degree.

Since there is never anything like unanimity of agreement over one plan for the entire society, the "leaders" must gather around them as large a group as possible that would have a uniformity of opinion and the political clout to impose that opinion on the rest of society by force. There are several necessary characteristics of such a group, Hayek wrote in his chapter entitled "Why the Worst Get on Top." First, "if we wish to find a high degree of uniformity and similarity of outlook, we have to descend to the regions of lower moral and intellectual standards where the more primitive and u2018common’ instincts and tastes prevail." The largest group of people whose values are similar "are the people with low standards," the "lowest common denominator," wrote Hayek.

Moreover, if a "numerous group" in a democracy is strong enough politically "to impose their views on the values of life on the rest, it will never be those with highly differentiated tastes — it will be those [who are] the least independent, who will be able to put the weight of their numbers behind their particular ideals."

The political leader will also have to recruit many others to "the same simple creed," whatever it is. He will succeed by being able "to obtain the support of all the docile and gullible, who have no strong convictions of their own but are prepared to accept a ready-made system of values if it is only drummed into their ears sufficiently loudly and frequently. It will be those whose vague and imperfectly formed ideas are easily swayed and whose passions and emotions are readily aroused who will thus sell the ranks of the totalitarian party."

Finally, the "skillful demagogue" will be able to "get people to agree on a negative program — on the hatred of an enemy . . . the common fight against those outside the group, seems to be an essential ingredient" in "the armory of a totalitarian leader." In Nazi Germany, for instance, the "enemy," wrote Hayek, was "the Jew" who "had come to be regarded as the representative of capitalism . . . German anti-Semitism and anti-capitalism sprang from the same root . . ."

It is not surprising that the self-described "godfather" of neoconservatism," Irving Kristol, has mocked and ridiculed what he called "the Hayekian notion that we are on the road to serfdom . . . . Neoconservatives do not feel that kind of alarm of anxiety about the growth of the state." (The Weekly Standard, August 25, 2005). As long as the neocons are in charge, and kept in power by the masses of Fredheads, Freepers, bloodthirsty "evangelicals" and other primitive and easily-swayed followers, they will continue to destroy what is left of America’s constitutional republic.