Ernst Nolte’s Three Faces of Fascism examined the three devastating ideologies that led to the undermining of European democracy in the 1930s. Today, democratic life is also under threat – and there are also three basic forms that this authoritarian threat takes.
The most pervasive comes from the so-called progressive left. The second represents the reactionary response from the right. These two forces are like cats or snakes forced into bags, biting, clawing and spitting at each other.
The most dangerous form of potential autocracy, however, comes not from these extremes, but from the corporate oligarchs. Although they often mimic the cultural memes of the left, the oligarchs, who constitute some of the world’s richest people, certainly do not favour a socialist revolution.
Today, the left revels most in intellectual vandalism, cancelling contrary ideas and shouting down dissenting voices. These ‘progressives’ have achieved virtual control of many key institutions – notably, the education system, the cultural industry and much of the media. In a reversal of traditional roles (once it was the right that tended to advocate censorship), left-wing journalists at places like the New York Times have become the biggest advocates of speech control, as so poignantly revealed in former opinion-section editor James Bennet’s recent exposé in The Economist.
These authoritarian attitudes are increasingly common among Democratic voters, notes a Real Clear Politics survey. Nearly a third of them think that Americans have ‘too much freedom’. This figure is far higher than among either Republicans or independents. And, it seems, education only makes matters worse. Although Ivy League schools have received much condemnation for inculcating these authoritarian attitudes, as Nate Silver points out, they are actually fairly common across all colleges. Universities serve as both the primary incubators and enforcers of ideological conformism. The communities they dominate – such as Boston, Massachusetts – are some of the most intolerant in the US, according to the Atlantic.
Schools like Harvard, Yale and the University of Pennsylvania have long harassed and even forced out faculty who deviate from the accepted norms. As many as 20 campuses in the US ask professors to sign a pledge to support the official campus doctrines on ‘diversity’. Presumably this does not mean diversity of opinion. These pledges eerily reprise the ‘loyalty’ oaths of the Cold War era.
This definition of diversity is certainly a narrow one. Whole academic fields, from music to physics, are being rethought, notes John McWhorter, to exterminate ‘whiteness’. In the UK, some universities seek to replace such supposedly offensive epithets as ‘mother’, ‘men’, ‘parents’, ‘mankind’ and ‘manpower’. People who acknowledge the existence of only two sexes find themselves cut from academic conferences, while some medical doctors are forced to take ‘implicit bias’ training as a prerequisite for work.
Today’s leftist repression, like both Stalinism and fascism before it, seeks to delegitimise any opposition. Platforms like Salon claim that there is ‘no such thing as a conservative intellectual’ and that those who claim to be are little more than ‘apologists for right-wing power’.
Read the rest of this piece at Spiked.
Joel Kotkin is the author of The Coming of Neo-Feudalism: A Warning to the Global Middle Class. He is the Roger Hobbs Presidential Fellow in Urban Futures at Chapman University and Executive Director for Urban Reform Institute. Learn more at joelkotkin.com and follow him on Twitter @joelkotkin.
Homepage photo: composite with U.S. Capitol Building, GPA Archive via Flickr in Public domain.