Resistance: Czechoslovakia and America

As we celebrate the 30th anniversary of the liberation of Eastern Europe, a growing portion of our own political system has become dedicated to totalitarianism. We can better understand our own socialist media culture when we revisit one Eastern Bloc country’s resistance to a notorious Soviet crackdown. In the Prague Spring of 1968, Soviet tanks invaded and reimposed full communist tyranny after Czechoslovakia had temporarily loosened the reins of Soviet control.  The Czechs responded heroically, practicing various forms of resistance and showing complete unity in a way that the United States of today could not match. (The full story of the Czech resistance has been famously recounted in Phil Kaufman’s film The Unbearable Lightness of Being.)

When the Soviet tanks suddenly rumbled through Prague and other Czech cities in August of 1968, the Czechs responded with unified action that would seem impossible in similar circumstances in the U.S. today. The Czech response of 1968 would put modern American institutions to shame.

Almost immediately, Czech radio and television stations began broadcasting unauthorized programs denouncing the invasion and presenting actual news to the Czechoslovakian people. These stations broadcast from undisclosed locations, moving around the country on a nightly basis to avoid detection. In today’s United States, could we count on our mainstream media to oppose a totalitarian crackdown? Would our media overcome their own totalitarian sympathies in order to transmit clandestine broadcasts?

As Czechoslovakian radio struggled to stay on the air, they used familiar voices to convey the news. The broadcasters could not identify themselves, but their voices were known to the listeners from years of service. The recognition of these trusted voices reassured the listeners that the broadcasts were authentic. Today in America, recognizable news anchor voices would have the opposite effect. Americans do not trust the network newscasts.  Instead, many Americans get their news from late night “comedians,” most of whom spend their airtime advocating the very policies that motivated the Soviet tanks in 1968.  Late-night comedians are expert at the kind of character assassination and “two minutes hate” that are used in countries where the law is enforced under the treads of tanks. They would not rally Americans in opposition to a totalitarian crackdown.

Most remarkably, opposition radio used Czech celebrities to lend credibility to their pirate broadcasts, including famous athletes and songwriters, who contributed new songs to the resistance. Would the celebrities of today’s United States lend their voices or talents to such rebellion?  Lebron James has chosen Red China over the U.S. without the prodding of a single tank.  Our most vocal football players rebel not against tyranny, but against our own flag and national anthem -- again without being threatened by one tank.  How likely would they be suddenly to turn patriotic when the tanks are crushing resistance in the streets?

Large corporations own our modern media outlets, none of which are known for taking risks supporting nonleftist causes.  They fire employees for the least provocation, proven or not.  They turn away ads even for legal products that run afoul of today’s creeping totalitarianism.  Do not count on these companies authorizing their “journalists” to oppose a socialist government -- clandestinely or otherwise.

So our own mass media and celebrities do not measure up to their counterparts from revolutionary Czechoslovakia of 1968.  How does that matter today in the United States?  No one believes that Russian

tanks are about to occupy our streets (even though the Democrats spent three years trying to prove that the President is a Russian agent). Why should it matter that our celebrities and media lack the character found in their counterparts of Eastern Europe more than 50 years ago? 

While we will not see an invasion by Soviet tanks, we are faced with politicians that advocate almost every aspect of a totalitarian society.  Every Democrat presidential candidate calls for complete government control of almost every aspect of our lives.  While they have not mentioned every single sector of the economy in their socialist promises, we must not confuse mere oversight with principled resistance.  Once elected, it is safe to assume that they will eventually get around to socializing everything that they have failed to mention in the limited speaking time available during the Democrat debates. 

History shows that government rationing of medicine, government seizure of private pension money to prop up insolvent municipal pension plans (as has been proposed in this country and enacted abroad, government restrictions on fuel for housing and travel, de facto repeal of various constitutional amendments, restoration of taxation rates that are far more confiscatory than we now endure, imposition of rent control and other housing restrictions, elimination of all gender distinctions,  and unfettered immigration with accompanying burdens on local communities will lead to dire consequences.  Russian tanks will be the least of our concerns.  The chaos that these programs would create would eventually lead to the use of U.S. tanks in various places -- anywhere that food, fuel and medicine are stored or distributed, any transportation hub, government offices, banks, etc.  Venezuela will seem like a nice vacation destination by comparison.  Socialism is totalitarianism and will lead to the same chaos.

When that totalitarianism comes, do not expect our own media personalities to speak out bravely or help in any meaningful way.  Celebrity outspokenness is a one-way street.  The celebrities that now claim to be “political” and support “causes,” in fact, advocate bigger government.  When big government becomes oppressive, they will place themselves in service of that oppression.  With each new outbreak of violence, the athletes may play “benefit” games and sell merchandise of a special color to raise money for the injured.  But they will never meaningfully oppose the programs that created such harm.  Instead of finding creative ways to skirt censorship and keep the public informed, megamedia conglomerates/tech giants will censor those that protest against the oppressions.  Famous “scientists” will claim that each new atrocity is necessary to prevent “global warming.” They do that already, but they will turn up the volume, as their dire predictions will then have to compete for attention against actual calamities that their government benefactors perpetrate. 

Far from opposing and resisting totalitarian government, our celebrities will act as a salve that reduces the pain and disguises the symptoms. They will be a distraction that softens resistance.  They will be a weapon in service to the state as the government targets dissidents and stifles criticism. Late-night comedians use their “jokes” to do that already, but their propaganda will become more toxic as totalitarianism advances.

Should full totalitarianism come to the United States, we will be unique among totalitarian subjects in history. We will be the first such subjects to have bought our own way into slavery. Our entertainment dollars have created a beast.  We have made millionaires of those who would oppress us. We have given fame to those that would use that fame in support of dictatorship and misinformation. We hasten the day of our enslavement with every sporting event we watch, every movie we see and every television program that takes up our time.

As we celebrate the 30th anniversary of the liberation of Eastern Europe, a growing portion of our own political system has become dedicated to totalitarianism. We can better understand our own socialist media culture when we revisit one Eastern Bloc country’s resistance to a notorious Soviet crackdown. In the Prague Spring of 1968, Soviet tanks invaded and reimposed full communist tyranny after Czechoslovakia had temporarily loosened the reins of Soviet control.  The Czechs responded heroically, practicing various forms of resistance and showing complete unity in a way that the United States of today could not match. (The full story of the Czech resistance has been famously recounted in Phil Kaufman’s film The Unbearable Lightness of Being.)

When the Soviet tanks suddenly rumbled through Prague and other Czech cities in August of 1968, the Czechs responded with unified action that would seem impossible in similar circumstances in the U.S. today. The Czech response of 1968 would put modern American institutions to shame.

Almost immediately, Czech radio and television stations began broadcasting unauthorized programs denouncing the invasion and presenting actual news to the Czechoslovakian people. These stations broadcast from undisclosed locations, moving around the country on a nightly basis to avoid detection. In today’s United States, could we count on our mainstream media to oppose a totalitarian crackdown? Would our media overcome their own totalitarian sympathies in order to transmit clandestine broadcasts?

As Czechoslovakian radio struggled to stay on the air, they used familiar voices to convey the news. The broadcasters could not identify themselves, but their voices were known to the listeners from years of service. The recognition of these trusted voices reassured the listeners that the broadcasts were authentic. Today in America, recognizable news anchor voices would have the opposite effect. Americans do not trust the network newscasts.  Instead, many Americans get their news from late night “comedians,” most of whom spend their airtime advocating the very policies that motivated the Soviet tanks in 1968.  Late-night comedians are expert at the kind of character assassination and “two minutes hate” that are used in countries where the law is enforced under the treads of tanks. They would not rally Americans in opposition to a totalitarian crackdown.

Most remarkably, opposition radio used Czech celebrities to lend credibility to their pirate broadcasts, including famous athletes and songwriters, who contributed new songs to the resistance. Would the celebrities of today’s United States lend their voices or talents to such rebellion?  Lebron James has chosen Red China over the U.S. without the prodding of a single tank.  Our most vocal football players rebel not against tyranny, but against our own flag and national anthem -- again without being threatened by one tank.  How likely would they be suddenly to turn patriotic when the tanks are crushing resistance in the streets?

Large corporations own our modern media outlets, none of which are known for taking risks supporting nonleftist causes.  They fire employees for the least provocation, proven or not.  They turn away ads even for legal products that run afoul of today’s creeping totalitarianism.  Do not count on these companies authorizing their “journalists” to oppose a socialist government -- clandestinely or otherwise.

So our own mass media and celebrities do not measure up to their counterparts from revolutionary Czechoslovakia of 1968.  How does that matter today in the United States?  No one believes that Russian

tanks are about to occupy our streets (even though the Democrats spent three years trying to prove that the President is a Russian agent). Why should it matter that our celebrities and media lack the character found in their counterparts of Eastern Europe more than 50 years ago? 

While we will not see an invasion by Soviet tanks, we are faced with politicians that advocate almost every aspect of a totalitarian society.  Every Democrat presidential candidate calls for complete government control of almost every aspect of our lives.  While they have not mentioned every single sector of the economy in their socialist promises, we must not confuse mere oversight with principled resistance.  Once elected, it is safe to assume that they will eventually get around to socializing everything that they have failed to mention in the limited speaking time available during the Democrat debates. 

History shows that government rationing of medicine, government seizure of private pension money to prop up insolvent municipal pension plans (as has been proposed in this country and enacted abroad, government restrictions on fuel for housing and travel, de facto repeal of various constitutional amendments, restoration of taxation rates that are far more confiscatory than we now endure, imposition of rent control and other housing restrictions, elimination of all gender distinctions,  and unfettered immigration with accompanying burdens on local communities will lead to dire consequences.  Russian tanks will be the least of our concerns.  The chaos that these programs would create would eventually lead to the use of U.S. tanks in various places -- anywhere that food, fuel and medicine are stored or distributed, any transportation hub, government offices, banks, etc.  Venezuela will seem like a nice vacation destination by comparison.  Socialism is totalitarianism and will lead to the same chaos.

When that totalitarianism comes, do not expect our own media personalities to speak out bravely or help in any meaningful way.  Celebrity outspokenness is a one-way street.  The celebrities that now claim to be “political” and support “causes,” in fact, advocate bigger government.  When big government becomes oppressive, they will place themselves in service of that oppression.  With each new outbreak of violence, the athletes may play “benefit” games and sell merchandise of a special color to raise money for the injured.  But they will never meaningfully oppose the programs that created such harm.  Instead of finding creative ways to skirt censorship and keep the public informed, megamedia conglomerates/tech giants will censor those that protest against the oppressions.  Famous “scientists” will claim that each new atrocity is necessary to prevent “global warming.” They do that already, but they will turn up the volume, as their dire predictions will then have to compete for attention against actual calamities that their government benefactors perpetrate. 

Far from opposing and resisting totalitarian government, our celebrities will act as a salve that reduces the pain and disguises the symptoms. They will be a distraction that softens resistance.  They will be a weapon in service to the state as the government targets dissidents and stifles criticism. Late-night comedians use their “jokes” to do that already, but their propaganda will become more toxic as totalitarianism advances.

Should full totalitarianism come to the United States, we will be unique among totalitarian subjects in history. We will be the first such subjects to have bought our own way into slavery. Our entertainment dollars have created a beast.  We have made millionaires of those who would oppress us. We have given fame to those that would use that fame in support of dictatorship and misinformation. We hasten the day of our enslavement with every sporting event we watch, every movie we see and every television program that takes up our time.