Sunday, October 18, 2009

The impulse to censor

All totalitarians censor.

There aren't enough guns or enough gunmen to force each and every person in a country to do what they're told to do, so in order to control a population and keep them subjugated, totalitarians instill fear and resignation.

Fear and resignation will keep people in line very effectively, with the added bonus that they can't be seen with a camera. A population that's held down through fear and resignation looks quiet and peaceful in a news photograph.

Still, you can see the weapons at work, if you look.

You can observe fear in the silence that fills the gaping space that would otherwise be filled by someone standing up and saying, in any language, "Hey, this ain't right."

You can observe resignation in the proliferation of comments like, "Who am I to know? This is what everyone says, so it must be true."

It's easier to instill fear than resignation. Cut off a few heads, and you're there.

To induce a widespread feeling of resignation, it's essential that the population doesn't ever hear, read, or see credible evidence that what the totalitarian asserts is untrue.

That's why they censor. That's why they close down television stations, control newspapers, arrest intellectuals, burn books, restrict the Internet, and prohibit free speech.

If you study history, or live through it, the startling thing about totalitarianism is that a society can arrive at it by traveling a road that is paved with good intentions.

Totalitarianism is the logical result of collectivism, the belief that the welfare of the group is more important than the rights of the individual.

Freedom is the logical result of individualism, the belief that the rights of the individual are more important than the welfare of the group.

A totalitarian society tells the individual, "Sorry, you must sacrifice (or be sacrificed) for the sake of a group of people."

A free society tells the group of people, "Sorry, that individual has the right to his own life, liberty and property, and you can't take those things away from him just because you need his help."

The United States is a free country with a Constitution that protects an individual's right to life, liberty and property, but over the course of the 20th century the nation pushed further and further down the road of good intentions toward collectivism, stretching the Constitution through interpretation to accommodate policies widely believed to be good for society.

The crown jewel of collectivism, a health care system that would provide free care for all by taxing some and restricting payments to others, eluded the well-intentioned grasp of the collectivists time and again.

President Barack Obama is not succeeding either.

But as if to demonstrate the unavoidable connection between collectivism and totalitarianism, he is showing the totalitarian's impulse to censor.

On Friday the Obama administration, under pressure, lifted a gag order issued by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. The CMS had ordered health insurers not to send mailings to their customers telling them how the proposed health care reform bill would affect their benefits.

On Saturday, a "senior White House official" denounced as "outrageous and unacceptable" a public complaint about new taxes in the health care reform bill from Gerry McEntee, the president of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), one of the nation's largest labor unions:

"He’s doing his members a real disservice," said the official, who said that while all other labor leaders had been careful to keep their opposition to elements of health care proposals modulated and largely inside the tent, McEntee was "beyond the pale."
On Sunday, the White House escalated its effort to discredit Fox News, with White House senior adviser David Axelrod telling ABC's "This Week" that Fox News is "pushing a point of view" and White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel telling CNN, "The way we -- the president looks at it and we look at it, is, it is not a news organization so much as it has a perspective."

Last week, White House Communications Director Anita Dunn derisively described Fox News as "a wing of the Republican Party." Mr. Emanuel's comments make clear it is the president personally who is driving the administration's war on an American news organization. The administration is trying to damage Fox News by publicly impugning its reputation and limiting its access to government officials.

"Despite calls to the White House this week," Fox News reported on its website, "the administration did not offer a guest for this weekend's 'Fox News Sunday' to talk about Dunn's comments, although administration officials appeared on all four Sunday morning shows to speak on various issues."

While the justification for any one of these strong-arm tactics might be open to debate, the pattern tells the unmistakable story. The Obama administration is trying to prevent the American people from hearing dissident views from credible voices.

When the health insurance industry released a study last week by PriceWaterhouseCoopers saying the proposed health care reform bill would result in higher insurance premiums, the president used his weekly radio address to denounce and threaten the industry. "Our health care dollars continue to be poured into their profits, bonuses, and administrative costs that do nothing to make us healthy," the president said. He accused the industry of "smoke and mirrors." He called the study "bogus" and "phony" and said Congress is "rightfully reviewing" the health insurance industry's "privileged exemption from our anti-trust laws."

See the earlier post, "The hit on Rush Limbaugh," for more about that.

It's clear that the Obama administration is trying to convince the American people that every well-informed, well-intentioned person supports the president's plan for health care reform. They would like the American people to believe that something must be done and that experts have determined that the president's plan, whatever it turns out to be, is the one-and-only thing that should be done.

They would like to induce a general sense of resignation.

That's why people who stand up and say, "Hey, that ain't right," -- whether at tea parties or on the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange or on the Glenn Beck show or at a town hall meeting or in a letter from your insurance company or in a union newsletter or in a 'fishy' e-mail or in a Chamber of Commerce TV ad or on the Rush Limbaugh show -- are ignored, ridiculed, denounced, demonized or, if possible, ruined.

Every effort by the government to censor or silence critics is a step in the direction of totalitarianism. Every effort to use the power of government to intimidate American businesses into silent acquiescence is a step in the direction of totalitarianism.

The length of the road is uncertain but the destination is not.

Totalitarianism is the logical consequence of a bad idea, the idea that the welfare of a group can be improved by limiting the rights of the individual. It is not unique to nations with evil leaders. It is not unique to any one culture or geographic region.

It is not going to happen in the United States of America.

Our troops overseas are not the only Americans fighting for freedom.

Copyright 2009

Editor's note: You might be interested to read "Defending Capitalism" at