Huxley's Warning: Totalitarianism in the 21st Century
In the foreword to the 1946 edition of his novel, Brave New World, Aldous Huxley anticipated the continued emergence, perhaps in novel forms, of statist totalitarianism:
There is, of course, no reason why the new totalitarianisms should resemble the old. Government by clubs and firing squads, by artificial famine, mass imprisonment and mass deportation, is not merely inhumane (nobody cares much about that nowadays), it is demonstrably inefficient and in an age of advanced technology, inefficiency is the sin against the Holy Ghost. A really efficient totalitarian state would be one in which the all-powerful executive of political bosses and their army of managers control a population of slaves who do not have to be coerced, because they love their servitude. To make them love it is the task assigned, in present-day totalitarian states, to ministries of propaganda, news-paper editors and schoolteachers. But their methods are still crude and unscientific.
Because, in 1946, the world had yet to witness the horrors of Red China, North Korea, Cuba, and Cambodia, Huxley guessed wrong that artificial famines, mass imprisonment, and political executions would go out of fashion. Totalitarianism is impossible without brute violence. And, from our brave new world of 2021, where Big Tech’s promiscuous deployment of tools like Machine Learning Fairness and shadow banning prevent users’ exposure to wrongthink, his estimation of propaganda methods as “crude and unscientific” is badly out of date.
But how chilling is Huxley’s prescience about propaganda ministers, news editors, and schoolteachers training generations of serfs to willingly obey “political bosses and their army of managers”?
Just like the truism that “generals always fight the last war,” Huxley’s point that there’s “no reason why the new totalitarianisms should resemble the old” calls for both vigilance and imagination on our part; our next totalitarian enemy isn’t limited to patterns of twentieth-century Nazism or Soviet-style Communism.
For instance, the suffocating blanket of censorship and suppression of free speech, which seems to defy any constitutional remedy because it’s not directly traceable to government action, remains a problem without an obvious solution. Regardless, it’s an open secret that the corporate executives in media, Big Tech, and Hollywood managing this suppression are acting on behalf of a single political party -- a party that, due in large part to that interference and suppression now have near total control of the federal government. Townhall's Matt Vespa quotes even a liberal reporter, Michael Tracey, warning that the “absolute authoritarian lunacy” of Twitter’s decision to ban President Trump isn’t about “‘safety,’ it’s about purposely inflating a threat in order to assert political and cultural dominance.” Warns Tracey, “The new corporate authoritarian liberal-left monoculture is going to be absolutely ruthless -- and in 12 days it is merging with the state.” [My italics].
Glenn Greenwald, another committed progressive, also complains “that political censorship has 'contaminated virtually every mainstream centre-left political organization, academic institution and newsroom.'” In October, Greenwald, co-founder of The Intercept news site, resigned after they refused to publish his article about Joe Biden and Hunter’s shocking influence-peddling, unless Greenwald first removed “critical points against the Democratic candidate.”
In reality, standing alone with election fraud notwithstanding, last October’s lockstep decision by an entire news industry to suppress the starkly headline-worthy scandals around Hunter Biden’s laptop, along with all other negative stories about Joe Biden, accounts directly for 17% of Biden voters who would have abandoned him “had they known the facts about one or more of these news stories.” Because those lost votes “would have changed the outcome in all six of the swing states won by Joe Biden,” re-electing Trump, burying those stories was first-degree election interference.
Huxley foresaw this, too:
The greatest triumphs of propaganda have been accomplished, not by doing something, but by refraining from doing. Great is truth, but still greater, from a practical point of view, is silence about truth. By simply not mentioning certain subjects, by lowering what Mr. Churchill calls an "iron curtain" between the masses and such facts or arguments as the local political bosses regard as undesirable, totalitarian propagandists have influenced opinion much more effectively than they could have done by the most eloquent denunciations, the most compelling of logical rebuttals.
In 2020 alone, news outlets systematically misinformed, or kept uninformed, scores of millions of voters whose only news sources are either mainstream media or the occasional de-contextualized sound bite. Corporate news, in addition to disappearing the Hunter Biden story:
- Misreported that opportunistic politicians imposing destructive, arbitrary lockdowns to stop the spread of the Wuhan virus were only “following the science,” while disregarding all scientific studies showing how lockdowns were ineffective, detrimental, and even deadly;
- Misreported for months that Black Lives Matter/Antifa’s nightly demonstrations were “mostly peaceful,” while refusing to report on hundreds of BLM and Antifa-organized protests involving widespread arson, looting, and violence against police and innocent civilians;
- Perpetuated the dangerous myth that black men are casually shot down by white police every day, while ignoring that “statistics “flatly debunk the false narratives about ‘racist white cops’ and the ‘hunt for unarmed black men’”;
- Parroted the Democrat talking point that Trump’s allegations of election fraud were made “without any evidence,” while obstinately refusing to investigate well-documented evidence of pervasive election irregularities in battleground states.
But Fake News is only as powerful as its consumers are gullible. Knowing that, PJMedia’s Stephen Kruiser was able to predict in advance that a Biden win would be “the complete triumph of decades of public education indoctrination,” which is no longer education, anyway, but “more of a leftist catechism class.” Journalist William Haupt III reports that 12 years of Common Core “has resulted in 51 percent of our youth preferring socialism to democracy.” It’s also why “[t]wo thirds of the millennials believe America is a racist and sexist country and 40 percent agree America is ‘the most unequal society in the world.’” In fact, in 2011 Chuck Rogér traced this decline to the sixties, when teachers’ colleges began churning out “[s]ocial justice-indoctrinated teachers [who] instill resentment in ‘non-dominant’ (minority) children and guilt in ‘dominant’ (white) children. Judging by the abundance of guilt-ridden white Americans, the tactic is working its magic well.” At present a reported 3,500 classrooms across fifty states are incorporating the New York Times’ specious 1619 Project, which teaches that every accomplishment in America’s history came out of slavery. The purpose of this all this falsified history? Not education, but more generations of Americans “unable to discern fact from fiction.”
Now that progressives have complete control of Washington, they’ll escalate their lies -- of commission, and especially of omission -- to gain a tighter and more permanent grip. Still, Truth remains their real enemy. It explains social media’s current blitz of de-platforming conservatives, trying to drop an "iron curtain," just as Huxley predicted, to separate the people from undesirable facts.
Likewise, fidelity to truth is our best defense; that, and continuing to refuse their lies. That’s one positive action Solzhenitsyn was able to offer his comrades who felt powerless against the repressive Soviet system, “the most perceptible of its aspects” being lies: “Personal non-participation in lies. Though lies conceal everything, though lies embrace everything, but not with any help from me.”
T.R. Clancy looks at the world from Dearborn, Michigan. You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Image: John Collier