Review of Rod Dreher’s book “Live Not By Lies”

Review of Rod Dreher’s book “Live Not By Lies.” By Bill Muehlenberg.

The title may seem strange, until one understands that it comes from an essay by Solzhenitsyn, the last one he wrote before being evicted from the Soviet Union. In the piece he told the Russian people that totalitarianism is built on lies and the people’s fear. The way to defeat it is to not live by lies.

The importance of Solzhenitsyn and others who have lived under totalitarian regimes is they know how it works. They have been done there and done that. Some of their stories are recounted here. And these brave souls who are now living in the West are utterly shocked at how clueless Westerners are as they follow the same path to totalitarianism — although via new means.

And the two main means by which this is happening today is by so-called social justice, where group identity trumps the individual, and by technological surveillance. As to the former, the West is of course awash in identity politics:

It encourages people to identify with groups — ethnic, sexual, and otherwise — and to think of Good and Evil as a matter of power dynamics among these groups. A utopian vision drives these progressives, one that compels them to seek to rewrite history and reinvent language to reflect their ideals of social justice. Further, these utopian progressives are constantly changing the standards of thought, speech, and behavior. . . . Under the guise of “diversity,” “inclusivity,” “equity,” and other egalitarian jargon, the Left creates powerful mechanisms for controlling thought and discourse and marginalizes dissenters as evil

That of course ties in with the latter. Dreher looks at how technology and totalitarianism combine to create Big Brother statism. The Chinese social credit system is a clear case in point: it “automatically tracks the words and actions, online and off, of every Chinese citizen, and grants rewards or demerits based on obedience.” Doing what the State approves of will get you a higher social credit score, while doing what it frowns upon will result in a downgrade.

Dreher asks if it can happen here: “Of course it can. The technological capability to implement such a system of discipline and control in the West already exists.” …

He reminds us that it was the supporters of Mussolini who first used the term totalitarianism with this meaning: “Everything within the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state.” Dreher says we are heading there: “Hard totalitarianism depends on terrorizing us into surrendering our free consciences; soft totalitarianism uses fear as well, but mostly it bewitches us with therapeutic promises of entertainment, pleasure, and comfort” But the end result will be just the same.

Theodore Dalrymple:

Political correctness is communist propaganda writ small. In my study of communist societies, I came to the conclusion that the purpose of communist propaganda was not to persuade or convince, not to inform, but to humiliate; and therefore, the less it corresponded to reality the better.

When people are forced to remain silent when they are being told the most obvious lies, or even worse when they are forced to repeat the lies themselves, they lose once and for all their sense of probity. To assent to obvious lies is in some small way to become evil oneself. One’s standing to resist anything is thus eroded, and even destroyed.

A society of emasculated liars is easy to control. I think if you examine political correctness, it has the same effect and is intended to.

hat-tip Stephen Neil