I recently read a mea culpa, posted on social media, by someone who food-blogs. Apparently, his lack of messaging regarding the George Floyd incident and the Black Lives Matter movement was deemed a punishable lack of support. In other words, his failure to comment politically-correctly in a non-political forum was a transgression that deserved his being called to task.

This reminded me of a joke made by comedian Yakov Smirnoff, who made his career goofing on life in the Soviet Union:

In America you can always find a party. In Russia the party always finds you.

In totalitarian regimes of yore, failure to be conspicuously pro-Party was considered cause for suspicion. It wasn’t enough to simply live your life with your head down, keeping your mouth shut about all matters political. It wasn’t enough simply to be neutral, politically, or even to believe in the Party’s principles without expressing that approval in a public way. The food blogger’s episode reeks of this demand for affirmation, and it’s an extension of the on-going effort to redefine racism: If you aren’t actively preaching against racism, if you aren’t demonstrating your woke-ness, if you are white and not in a permanent and visible state of self-flaggelation, you are presumed racist. If you declare yourself color-blind, or avow that you live your life simply by the Golden Rule of treating others as you’d have them treat you, or even if you simply avoid any decelerations whatsoever and live an apolitical life respectful of all others, you’re now deemed racist.

As an internet friend just reminded me, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn wrote in The Gulag Archipelago, “Don’t ever be the first to stop applauding!” As the story goes, a ten minute ovation followed a Stalin speech. One man finally got tired, stopped clapping and sat down. Almost immediately, everyone else did the same, as if waiting for a cue to do so. The next day, that man was arrested on a trumped up charge and thrown in jail for 10 years.

In other words, don’t get noticed, lest the Machine cast its wrathful gaze upon you.

We don’t have, in America today, a State machine that punishes the insufficiently enthusiastic. The tyrants don’t need it. They have the Twitter horde, which is far worse in many ways. These self-appointed apparatchiks don’t have formal power the way the Party members and government officials of the USSR, or Red China, or of many other totalitarian states did, but they are able nevertheless to ruin people, via their cancel culture, via doxxing, via social shaming, and via accusations of racism. And, their demand isn’t mere loyalty to a corrupt and self-serving Party, which can be satisfied by saying the right words from time to time, after which you’re left alone. It’s instead, a thirst that can never be slaked. Even the most woke among them is one minor miscue away from excoriation.

This reminds me of a C.S. Lewis quote I’ve shared before:

Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.

The demands of the Soviet Union’s apparatchiks were not bottomless. Do enough, make the occasional show of obeisance, and you were left alone after that. They didn’t have the fanatic’s infinite energy and relentlessness.

Our woke-warrior zealots, on the other hand, are relentless and unquenchable, and in their worldview, if you’re not participating in their solution, you are part of the problem. Your individuality and your freedom are not of any interest to them – you’re a pawn on the board, to be put at risk and/or sacrificed in furtherance of their game. If you don’t fulfill the role they expect of you, and they can bend or break you for failure to fulfill that role, they’ve won a victory, they’ve claimed a scalp that they can nail on their wall.

This is not the way to improve race relations, nor does it move society in a positive direction. No matter, though, because those aren’t their true aims. They relish the power and the punishment, the ego and the narcissism. They don’t really give a shit about the people whose cause they’re championing, because their tactics make things worse. A whipped dog is not your friend. You don’t win converts, friends, and allies by hurting them. As Martin Luther King told us, violence never brings permanent peace.

Twitter-violence is mostly a virtual sort, but it is violence nonetheless. It achieves the same results: intimidation, fear, resentment, and sullen anger.

I reject the Left’s efforts to deem non-conforming opinions “violence” – words themselves are not “violence,” no matter what our woke-folks try to assert. Nor is silence, as the photo above tries to assert. You’re not obligated to speak as someone else demands.

But, it’s well established that threats and intimidation that are sufficiently credible and proximate are violations of individual liberty. Causing economic harm to someone merely for voicing an unfavored opinion is not the “marketplace of ideas” in action. It’s aggression and repression. So is putting someone in legitimate fear for his safety, which is the motivation behind doxxing (i.e. publishing someone’s home address or personal telephone number in a forum where other angry folks might use to harass that someone personally).

If we could ignore the rantings of a bunch of jackasses, they’d have no power. But, the phrase “cancel culture” has emerged with reason, and those jackasses absolutely have the power to inflict harm on others, and they have demonstrated absolutely no reservation in wielding that power whenever it strikes their mood. As is so often the case, those who accuse others of a misbehavior are themselves guilty of it.

Peter Venetoklis

About Peter Venetoklis

I am twice-retired, a former rocket engineer and a former small business owner. At the very least, it makes for interesting party conversation. I'm also a life-long libertarian, I engage in an expanse of entertainments, and I squabble for sport.

Nowadays, I spend a good bit of my time arguing politics and editing this website.

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