“Imagine a boot stamping on a human face— forever.” That’s how George Orwell in 1984 described living in a totalitarian regime. Up until recently, I thought that meant that totalitarian states always hung the threat of violence over their citizens’ heads. But now that totalitarianism is coming to the United States, I see that it involves much more than that. There are all sorts of ways to apply a boot to a face.
Totalitarianism is, at the most basic level, total. The government’s power is unlimited: it either controls the means of production or owns them outright. It controls what can be said and what cannot be. It asserts authority over every aspect of the citizen’s life.
In America today, the totalitarian impulse is not coming from the U.S. government, at least not directly, but it is coming nonetheless. Yesterday I spoke with a young person who works in an industry that has nothing whatsoever to do with politics; she told me that anyone in her circle who expressed support for Trump and/or skepticism about the agenda and goals of Black Lives Matter risked being fired, and not just losing the one job, but become unhirable. Supporting Trump means career ruin. We knew that already, but its totalitarian implications have not been sufficiently highlighted. Just like in the old Soviet Union or Nazi Germany, in America today, only one point of view, only one political perspective, can be stated openly and freely in public without consequences.
Armed police won’t pound on your door at 3 a.m. and haul you away to a camp for dissenting, at least not yet (unless you’re Roger Stone or the filmmaker that the Obama administration blamed for the Benghazi massacre), but it is increasingly taken for granted in America that only Leftists may speak. The implications of that, and the consequences of that, are ominous.
And so not long after the riots began, dispirited by the daily news, I decided to forget about it all for a while and find a good movie. But when I went to Amazon to find one, the top, most prominent row was a series of racial grievance propaganda films designed to reinforce the Left’s claim that America, the freest and most egalitarian society the world has ever known, is an inveterately and criminally racist entity. Did Amazon care that some of its customers might think that highlighting such material would do more harm than good, and intensify, rather than heal, racial strife? Obviously not. It was demanding that the totality of its audience be Leftists who had contempt for America and a healthy appreciation for Marxism.
With baseball it’s the same. The 2020 baseball season just started, and may shut down almost immediately due to the coronavirus, but I am not paying attention for the first time since 1970. At MLB.com there is now a section headed “Social Justice,” providing “resources” for “understanding allyship, anti-racism and advocacy.” It is filled with Marxist agitprop from the likes of Angela Davis and Ta-Nehisi Coates, as well as guidelines on “how to have conversations about race” and the like.
What does any of this have to do with baseball? Why, nothing, nothing whatsoever. But it is there because it has to be. The Left’s totalitarianism now allows for no aspect of life to be free from politicization and propagandizing.
For Amazon, MLB, and the multitudes of other businesses that are now retailing Black Lives Matter propaganda, this is also a form of paying protection. Display your wokeness, and the baseball stadiums won’t go up in flames. Recently a friend told me that every house in his neighborhood had put Black Lives Matter signs on the lawn, at the behest of young activists who knocked on the door. He told me that when they got around to knocking on his door, he would put up a sign, too, because he understood the hint of menace behind the request. You got a nice house, mister. Would be a shame if it turned out to be owned by a “racist.”
The BLM signs on the lawn are the modern American equivalent of Chinese having photos of Xi or Germans during the Nazi days having copies of Mein Kampf prominently displayed in their homes: they may have never read the book, they may have hated the dictator, but it was a prudent thing to have if one cared about one’s safety and didn’t want the boot on one’s face, forever.
That’s totalitarianism, and it’s here. There is no escaping from the Left’s propaganda today. The advance of totalitarianism in America has been swift and, indeed, total. There is nowhere one can go, nothing one can do, that will not require one to pay obeisance to the Left’s new gods.
But one aspect of the old totalitarian regimes is conspicuously lacking, at least thus far: the charismatic leader. There is no personality cult on the Left, no secular god, no Xi, no Stalin, no Hitler. We have the totalitarianism, we just don’t have the Führer. Joe Biden certainly isn’t it; he is just a placeholder. But given the trajectory of totalitarian movements, one is likely to emerge, a rough beast who even now may be slouching toward Portland to be born.
Robert Spencer is the director of Jihad Watch and a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center. He is author of 21 books, including the New York Times bestsellers The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades) and The Truth About Muhammad. His latest book is Rating America’s Presidents: An America-First Look at Who Is Best, Who Is Overrated, and Who Was An Absolute Disaster. Follow him on Twitter here. Like him on Facebook here.