Hard-totalitarianism is the absence of liberty produced by a totally brutal civil government. Any refusal to conform to state-mandated rules, especially in regard to speech, results in an arrest and being sent to the Gulag (the prison for non-conformists) …. Soft-totalitarianism is much more subtle. Rather than escort you off to prison, the civil-government (including such powers as Big Tech) will slowly take away your freedom by means of offering you a more comfortable lifestyle, including a reward of convenience and pleasure for complicity, and also promising you a secure future in exchange for your freedom.
In his recent book Live Not by Lies, Rod Dreher distinguishes between hard and soft-totalitarianism. The name of the book is taken from the words of Alexander Solzhenitsyn who experienced the tyranny of communism in Russia before he was expelled from the Soviet Union in 1974.
Dreher interviewed a number of people from European nations who grew up under Soviet-style communism after World War II. He parallels the early stages of European communism with numerous present-day movements in America. Part 1 of his book is an analysis and a warning to America about the rise of Neo-Marxism. In Part 2, he lists a number of actions that we Americans can take now to prepare for increased tyranny in this country.
Dreher distinguishes between hard and soft-totalitarianism. Hard-totalitarianism is the absence of liberty produced by a totally brutal civil government. Any refusal to conform to state-mandated rules, especially in regard to speech, results in an arrest and being sent to the Gulag (the prison for non-conformists). The police will simply knock on your door and take you away in handcuffs. In other words, under hard-totalitarianism, you will either conform or be sent to prison to be de-programed and re-educated.
Soft-totalitarianism is much more subtle. Rather than escort you off to prison, the civil-government (including such powers as Big Tech) will slowly take away your freedom by means of offering you a more comfortable lifestyle, including a reward of convenience and pleasure for complicity, and also promising you a secure future in exchange for your freedom. Consumerism has become therapeutic to most Americans and they can’t live without it. This incentivizes silence for the sake of peace and profit. If you obey the new rules by refraining from certain offensive speech, then you will remain in good standing in the community. Liberty of speech that offends the masses will be punished by ways such as the fear of being ostracized from your friends (removed from Facebook), being expelled from school, or losing your job. In other words, you will not be carried off to prison. You will simply be cancelled.
Dreher compares soft-totalitarianism to present-day communist China where spying is everywhere, and all citizens are given a social-credit score. Conforming citizens who obey all the rules and remain silent are given a high social credit rating and are granted extra benefits like being able to send their children off to college, or being able to live a house in a nice neighborhood. A bad social credit rating (that partially comes from attending an unapproved church) prevents you from many freedoms like traveling, and access to good career opportunities. Dreher argues that the technical tools (smart-phones, internet, security cameras, data storage, etc.) used in China for spying are already available in America.
The most ominous warning sign of the increase of soft-totalitarianism is simply the unspoken demand to believe lies. Affirming obvious lies by silence is required in order to conform.
This is best exhibited by the secular parable about the little boy who said that the emperor had no clothes on. The king was naked but he believed that he was fully clothed in garments fit for only a king. Out of fear of the emperor, the people of the kingdom would not dare contradict him. His servants and the all of the citizens knew that he was naked, but no one was willing to speak the truth, except for the little boy who was unaware of the danger of speech, and who simply recognized the truth and made his startling but obvious statement that the emperor had no clothes.
We live a nation now that is increasingly reflecting this parable. We are daily being told to believe lies, and for the most part we do, or at least we give the impression that we do, because we are afraid to speak the truth. We are afraid of the consequences. Silence is our best friend. Let me list just a few examples of such lies.
Recently, I attended a fifth-grade girls’ basketball game where my granddaughter goes to a Christian school. The game was against a public school. The best ballplayer by far on the court was a boy on the public-school girls’ team. It was obvious to all that he was a boy, but no one said anything. He didn’t even try to look like a girl. Even the girls on my granddaughter’s team asked their coach why a boy was playing on the opposite team. The coach responded to the girls that the player was a girl and not a boy. End of conversation. She was afraid to speak the truth. It was soft-totalitarianism.
I have a hard time judging the coach because her job and career were at stake. We have to support our families. We have to choose what hills we are willing to die on. She was not responsible for the choices of the public school. We need martyrs, but it may not be a calling for everyone in every circumstance where we see a lie being lived out in our circles. I sat there as a grand-parent and as a preacher and did not say anything publicly. I did however speak to my granddaughter.
Shawn Hannity of Fox News recently conducted an hour-long interview with California gubernatorial candidate Bruce Jenner who now dresses like a woman and calls himself Caitlyn. Every possible politically conservative topic was covered, except the fact that Hannity was interviewing a man dressed like a woman. That topic was forbidden. Hannity had to avoid the obvious and chose to believe a lie. It’s called soft-totalitarianism.
With the hegemony of Critical Race Theory (CRT) in America, if you are a white male then you are automatically guilty of racism. This has nothing to do with your heart or your intent. It is a fact because you simply belong to the white race. This is a lie. If you disagree then you are labeled fragile. Even your negative reaction is further proof that you are a racist. It may be to your benefit socially to remain silent. This is soft-totalitarianism.
The 1619 Project which was made popular by the New York Times is pushing the historical narrative that America was founded when the first slaves arrived on our shores in 1619. We are told that the historical significance of the year 1776 is no longer valid. This is a lie. History is being rewritten. Again, it is one more example of soft-totalitarianism.
Unless wise and bold men and women stand against soft-totalitarianism, the gulag of hard-totalitarianism may become the future of our children and grandchildren. I have found that the church is always way behind the curve in understanding cultural movements. It’s time for a change lest we be overcome by our enemies. Let us all pray for God’s mercy and grace, and learn when to speak the truth in love. Let us not live by lies!
Larry E. Ball is a retired minister in the Presbyterian Church in America and is now a CPA. He lives in Kingsport, Tennessee.