Opinion

The Liberalism That Isn’t

The leaders of American clients Bahrain or Saudi Arabia are pikers compared to Putin. They do stomp out more lives in absolute numbers. But if you’ve never heard of their abuses on CNN, as you incessantly hear of Putin, it’s because they target merely gays and Shiites, obviously lower forms of humanity, whereas Putin exterminates journalists, who are surely the elect of the species. As it happens, one of the most widely-spread memes to illustrate Putin’s genocide of the journalist race—a photograph where unoccupied chairs stand for victims of his anti-press jihad—was quickly shown to be a fraud.

It turns out that many of these journalists were killed before Putin came to power, that is, during the 1990s, when American-supported Boris Yeltsin was president. Some were killed presumably by oligarchs who Putin sought to bring to heel and in some cases later imprisoned.  As is customary, the retraction got far less attention than the original lie.

The reason the media emphasize Putin’s attacks on freedom of the press is of course to contrive a parallel to the bully Trump. Trump, after all, says mean things about CNN and questions its objectivity. Forget that Trump has not yet put journalists under surveillance, as Obama did, or spied on tens of thousands of Americans for political purposes. What matters is the promotion of a heroic narrative where America’s security service apparatchiks, crony oligarchs, and their quasi-state media,  are engaged in an existential struggle against Trumpist “authoritarianism” on behalf of liberty and democracy.

But the truth is that the American-led “liberal world order” doesn’t do well in measures of liberty of press or of speech, even when compared to, say, 1980’s Communist Eastern Europe. France is well ahead of Russia, and behind only Turkey in censorship requests to Twitter. In Germany, France and Orwellian England, police carry out raids and jail people over Facebook posts questioning immigration and refugee policy. And jail for thoughtcrime can amount to a literal death sentence.

Although no clear studies exist, there’s a good chance that there are more political prisoners now in Germany than there were in the 1970s or 80s in Czechoslovakia and even in harsher “Soviet Yugoslavia,” to use a journalist-geographer’s recent coinage.

Most effective is the tactic, long-favored in western Europe, of inciting Antifa mobs to do the work of repression indirectly. Police need merely to look the other way. The state or university then has its own Red Guard, with plausible deniability. This is becoming more common now also in America. Even before the well-known attacks on heretics at Berkeley and Middlebury, white students were racially targeted in protests at the Dartmouth library and violently barred from entering the Berkeley campus. At the  University of Virginia, a false article based on ethnic resentment and sexual neurosis against “the toned, tanned, overwhelmingly blond” led to mob violence against a fraternity building.

It would be bad enough if, as is the case, America’s “free press” merely refused to report on these abuses. But members of the media, especially from news organizations braying the loudest about Trump’s “authoritarian” attacks, are now the ones who incite mobs. They are less journalists than they are political officers of a repression more thorough than any that existed under late-stage communism.

It’s hard for Americans to accept, but Eastern Bloc social life under communism was considerably freer than contemporary American life is for the middle and upper middle classes. With a few high-profile exceptions, the consequences of being “caught” saying something naughty by the 1970s and 80s was the loss of a job and some mild official ostracism. The days of getting picked up by men in leather jackets in the middle of the night were long gone, a Stalinist relic. Mob incitement was unheard of.

In the same way, the main threat used by journalists and the principal means of speech and thought repression in America today is economic terrorism. Gutted of productive high-wage jobs, Americans of all classes have low pay and are burdened with debt to make up for it; most feel they can’t lose employment.  The savings rate is very low, and therefore there is little room for error. Many feel losing a job means the end. The magnitude of public, private, and student debt means that no one actually owns anything. Everyone is therefore easily intimidated.

The intensity of anxiety in American life over what you can say, what you can laugh at, what you can think and feel, when you should stop clapping—an extreme and insidious form of repression that communist governments could only approximate with a secret police—is connected to America’s economic problems. The “global economy” means political and social tyranny. Employers are made exceedingly arrogant by the glut of cheap labor that is the result of immigration. The ability to intimidate, not just to pay lower wages, is one of the big reasons H1B and non-American employees are preferred, despite studies that show such employees produce lower-quality work.

Your daughter working twelve-hour days in a chicken processing factory, for $2/hour, with no bathroom breaks, and returning at night to a favela—this is the glorious future that the “globalized economy” and its owners have planned for the peoples of the West.

In this arrangement, the self-styled “elite,” or Outer Party, is much worse off than it would like to think. I’ve seen many graduates of Ivy schools in New York who work in finance, who only have enough money for an apartment and food, and who live in permanent terror of their employer. Large corporations routinely and absurdly enforce speech and “sexual assault” codes of behavior—go work for a big bank in New York and in orientation you’ll be treated to a four hour “seminar” that rivals in sheer nuttiness any Party rally you would have been forced to attend in 1980 Romania. The “elite,” which in terms of measurable living standard is generally worse off than a middle class citizen of modern Tokyo or even Budapest, is subject to corporate Maoism.

Massive public and private debt, mass immigration, and deindustrialization mean a people beholden to grim-faced clipped-hair HR viragos and soft-cheeked “journalists” who take on the role of capos. It is an intolerable form of slavery, for which the working class couldn’t get, in the bargain, even the feeble pride or paltry salary allowed to the dutiful of the striver class. It is for this that they revolted. Whether Trump delivers or not, he was elected in large part because people felt, even if intuitively, that his economic promises were connected to this push against political repression.

If he can, indeed, stop the pillaging and pauperization that goes under the name of “globalization,” he will have denied the tattletales and sycophants of CNN and the commissar-journalist class their greatest tool of intimidation.