Ed Driscoll

#Occupyfail: The Totalitarian Temptation

Charles Cooke’s latest article at NRO on Occupy Wall Street dovetails perfectly with my previous item on German socialists using “climate change” as a pretext to transform their nation. (Which seems to happen on a regular basis in Germany, oddly enough…) After dropping by Madison Square Park, Cooke writes:

“Naomi Klein went to the Heartland Institute’s International Conference on Climate Change,” the speaker was saying, “which must have been an unpleasant experience.” (Snickers greeted this addition.) “And what she discovered was that the conservatives get it. She wrote about it in The Nation.” He picked up a piece of paper and read aloud: “Here’s what she said they think:

. . . climate change is a Trojan horse designed to abolish capitalism and replace it with some kind of eco-socialism. As conference speaker Larry Bell succinctly puts it in his new book Climate of Corruption, climate change “has little to do with the state of the environment and much to do with shackling capitalism and transforming the American way of life in the interests of global wealth redistribution.”

The assembled Occupiers laughed nervously, and some nodded. “Yes!” smiled the speaker. “The Right gets it. They spread misinformation about the science, as they know that it means the end of how we’ve been living. And they’ll do anything to keep the system as it is.” At this, everyone nodded. “So,” he continued. “What can we do?” The group had a brief conversation about the importance of educating Americans in scientific truth — which will, no doubt, have raised a few hackles among those intent on relitigating the Science Wars — and an agreement that everybody needs to stop driving cars, and then moved on to more important things.

“Well,” the speaker said, “I want to move on a bit. A lot of people live in the suburbs and they have a few cars and they live in houses that they probably bought in the 1980s. We need to morally exclude those who don’t recognize the problem, and let them know that they have no place in a future America.” This sounded a bit off to my ears, so I waited until they were finished and then asked one of the friendlier-looking participants a question: “I understand that you think these people in the suburbs can’t continue their lifestyles. Where will they live if not there?”

“Where will they live? In a community!” she replied.

“They do live in a community,” I said.

She laughed nervously. “A different community. One that we’d all design together.”

“Forgive me,” I said. “But you just described America. This is a community that we all designed together. How would yours differ?”

After a while, we established that what she actually meant was that people who shared her views would need to design the parameters of others’ lives — for the “common good,” of course. She was very nice — more Tom Friedman than Mussolini — and would surely be horrified if I were to buy her a copy of Liberal Fascism and suggest that people like her are exactly what the book is about. But neither her basic decency nor her naïveté can change the fact that she and her fellow panelists have succumbed to the totalitarian temptation, and adopted wholesale the seductive idea that the future is just too important to be left to individuals and free institutions and must thus be bent to the will of experts who happen to look very much like them.

There’s an unintentionally hilarious disconnect in this article yesterday in the San Francisco Chronicle on Occupy Oakland, that dovetails well with Jonah’s latest book, The Tyranny of Cliches:

At one point, one group of protesters surrounded a Bank of America branch on Lakeside Drive, pounded on windows and chanted, “Oakland is the people’s town, strike occupy, shut it down.”

“We are here today because capitalism has destroyed basic human need,” said a 20-year-old protester who only identified himself as Connor.

“I am sort of into the libertarian/communist thing myself,” he said. “I am an advocate of human need, not monetary need.”

I know Brink Lindsey of the Cato Institute had his paradoxic “liberaltarian” movement around 2006 or so, which largely ran out of steam once Obama took office and “liberals” found themselves rather intoxicated by their newfound power, but how exactly does “libertarian-communism” work? As Jonah and I recently discussed when I interviewed him about the new book:

DRISCOLL:  Let’s discuss some of the liberal clichés that are debunked in the new book.  One of your chapters spends quite a bit of time debunking a newly favorite phrase of President Obama, “social Darwinism.”

GOLDBERG:  Yeah, this is, you know—this is a good example of the sort of—the spinoffs from Liberal Fascism.  One of the things, when you start studying fascism, that you have to deal with, is this thing called “social Darwinism.”  And you’re constantly told in various, you know, textbooks and all the rest, that Nazism was a doctrine of social Darwinism.  And at the same time, we’re told that the Robber Barons and people like Herbert Spencer were champions of something called social Darwinism in the United States.

And there’s a huge disconnect here.  Right?  I mean, it sort of gets at sort of the same problem you have where people call libertarians fascists.  You know, a libertarian fascist is almost, by definition, an oxymoron.  Hitler was not a real leave-’em-alone kind of guy.

Neither was Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Che, etc., oddly enough.

Watch for my interview with Jonah early next week. In the meantime, Zombie has video of the mostly peaceful Occupy San Francisco throwing bricks off a rooftop in a mostly peaceful way at police and innocent bystanders.

Related: “History is replete with Peoples’ movements that, claiming weight of numbers and well-meaning intentions for others, have changed the course of society–but not necessarily for the better. In other words, pathologically altruistic movements.”