So I noticed that a video from 1946 is apparently doing the rounds online again. It seems that it was released as an educational video by Encyclopaedia Britannica, and is notable for how chillingly prescient it was when it comes to America’s transformation from a free society to an authoritarian nightmare. Given that the film was made shortly after the end of World War II, the death of Adolf Hitler, and the fall of Nazi Germany, it’s easy to surmise that the film was made to warn the next generation of the signs of despotism. Assuming that’s the case, I find it tragic that today’s children simply aren’t getting that lesson.
The central premise is that you can measure any community in the world on a sliding scale with democracy on one end, and despotism on another, and that two effective yardsticks for measuring the path to despotism are respect and power. Starting off by measuring respect, the first argument is that as a community moves towards despotism, respect is reserved for increasingly few people. In theory, people in communities that would rank low on the “respect scale” tend to withhold respect for large groups of people because of their political attitudes, or when their wealth and position in life gives them that right, or if they don’t like somebody’s race or religion.
When I see leftists, social justice warriors and younger people disrespecting people just because they’re right-wing, I think there’s a whole heap of truth in that. You certainly can’t deny that in today’s society, it’s perfectly acceptable for people to deny respect to somebody just because they happen to be white, and especially if they happen to be Christians. Today we live under the illusion of tolerance, where we’re supposed to tolerate everything and everyone, but if you’re white, male, Christian and conservative, or simply have one of those traits, you’re treated as the black sheep of the family by establishment leftists.
After talking about developing one’s skills, the next yardstick is the “power scale”. Essentially it boils down to measuring how much of a share citizens have in making a community’s decisions. Communities approaching despotism, the film argues, see the power to make decisions being concentrated in the hands of fewer and fewer individuals, much like France under the despotic rule of Louis XIV, or fascist Italy, or the various communist dictatorships that sprung up after the film was made.
The film rightly states that the sign of despotic power is if a state can disregard the will of the people, ruling without the consent of those it governs, and sometimes, pressuring people into voting a certain way (for example, in just about every communist state, you could only vote for the local communist party). Despotic governments also tend to have legislatures that essentially have little more than a ceremonial function, lacking any real control over law-making. There is in fact a real life example of this happing – the European Commission. Once the European Commission makes any decision, you can’t vote for or against it. The EU Parliament is essentially little more than a ceremonial function, as our representatives in Brussels can’t do jack shit whenever Jean-Claude Juncker wants to ingratiate himself with more state power. I’m amazed he doesn’t just go out and exclaim “I am the state” at this point.
It’s also worth noting that EU nations were either forced to approve an EU motion, or pressured to vote in favour of it. For example, Ireland initially rejected what was then a new EU constitution, but was pressured into voting in favour of it, after it was renamed the Lisbon Treaty. The Greeks also rejected a third bailout payment in a democratic vote, but the EU forced the Greek PM Alexis Tsipras to take the money anyway, leading his finance minister Yanis Varoufakis to resign. Indeed, during the EU referendum, the establishment tried to pressure us to vote Remain, but thankfully most of the voters resisted, and voted Leave. Meanwhile, in America, Obama enjoyed far too much state power, and when Trump ran for office, even the US government was backing his opponent. I think it’s fair to say that the West ranks very low on the power scale currently.
The film also argues that it is also important to measure the means of economic distribution and the spread of information in society, as those apparently affect the respect and power scales, and thus the path to democracy or despotism. The economic argument is that societies headed towards despotism generally suffer from “slanted” economic distribution, and I assume this means much of the wealth being concentrated in the hands of a few. I believe the video has a slightly left-leaning stance on economics, but the point seems to be that in a society with slanted economic distribution, the middle class shrinks, and it just so happens that the Obama administration’s policies shrank the middle class.
Part of the economic argument concerns private land ownership being concentrated in the hands of a few, and communities that depend entirely on a single industry, such as mining. If jobs and land ownership are controlled by a few, the film argues that the community has a poorly balanced economy, and so despotism stands a good chance. I guess this makes sense in one way. Slanted economic distribution tends to result in the formation of an oligarchy, rule by a corrupt, corporatist class like we see having taken hold in Britain and America. Another major sign of economic despotism would be taxation system that unfairly attacks those in a certain income bracket. The best example would be America’s “progressive tax” system, which unfairly targets the rich. When taxes for the rich are increased, however, it’s only inevitable that the poor are hurt by the same tax hike. Come to think of it, the whole concept of an income tax sounds like a cheap way for the government to steal some of your hard-earned cash (incidentally, I’m eagerly awaiting a president who would scrap the IRS).
Finally, the film talks about the dissemination and evaluation of information in society through academia and the media, and this I feel is the most important lesson to take in. In a society ranking low on an information scale, the press, radio, TV and other forms of communication are controlled by a few, and when citizens must uncritically accept what they are being told, which is something I’ve being trying to warn people about on this site for many years. Despotism stands a good chance when teachers are taught that their role in life is to tell young people to accept what they’re told uncritically, which is exactly what happens in our public schools. When students are taught to think uncritically what they hear from the schools and from the overwhelmingly left-wing press, they are imparted with the attitude that they know what’s right because they saw it in a book, or heard it on TV.
It is a well-established fact that the more control the government has over the means of communication (read, they’re next target is the Internet), the easier it is for the people to believe exactly what the powers that be want them to. Government censorship and/or oversight is perhaps the classic example of press censorship, which manifests itself in Britain as Ofcom (a tyrannical media censorship organisation launched in 2003), and in America as the FCC (which, frankly shouldn’t even exist according to the constitution). However, freedom of the press can also be neutered by private interests, namely advertisers threatening to pull their ads if a newspaper runs a certain story. I remember a classic case of this happening to the left-wing magazine Mother Jones. During the 1980’s they relied ad revenue, and ran ads from a tobacco corporation. When the magazine ran a story that wasn’t friendly to the tobacco industry, they had their ads pulled, costing the magazine valuable ad revenue. Today, private interests still pose a threat to people who speak the truth on YouTube, which can now cut off a YouTuber’s ad revenue from videos that offend’s the site’s purposely vague content guidelines.
This is the kind of thing I have been against since I founded this site, and I think it’s stunning to find out that people in the 1940’s were more aware of this sort of thing then we are today, and yet we look at them now as backwards just because they had different values than we do (for better or worse by the way). I’d say Western civilisation stands very low in all the scales, because when you look at the signs, the only conclusion I can draw is that the West is headed for the path of despotism, and has been treading this path since the middle of the Cold War.
The signs are obvious. Government is getting bigger and more illiberal, with more power concentrated into the hands of a few, the media is a tightly controlled propaganda mechanism, information is controlled and forcibly accepted as academic truth, the economy is slanted in favour of corporate interests, and respect is reserved for an elite celebrity class, all of whom say the same things (climate change is real, Trump is bad, Brexit is bad, borders are racist, etc.). At this point, how can I not come up with the conclusion that we are on the path to despotism?
However, I believe that there is a way out. We need to shrink the role of government, abandon cultural Marxism, stop ingratiating the multi-national corporations with more privileges than they already have, and we need to teach the next generation to question what they’re being told. I believe that we are capable of reversing the damage done, so that we can return to the path of liberty, but we want to have very little time. I believe that either the West has only two options. Either it can turn away from the path of despotism, or become consumed by it and be compelled to repeat history, whether it falls prey to communism or fascism. Neither outcome would be desirable, and both outcomes would lead to the ruination of a once great civilisation.