‘Policing the Minds’

by Jay Nordlinger

In the course of today’s Impromptus, I cite a report from a place called Aba: “China’s stifling lockdown of this Tibetan town has not only been about patrolling its sleepy streets, but also policing the minds of a community . . .” I then comment, “Patrolling streets is necessary; but policing minds, that is the vital thing for any totalitarian government.” I further comment, between parentheses, “We’re not supposed to call China’s government totalitarian. But sometimes — they can fool you.”

Yeah, they can. For many years, some have likened the Communists in China to the PRI in Mexico, and there’s something to that. But, every week, I read reports of the death-by-torture of Falun Gong practitioners in laogai, the Chinese gulag. I think about the “disappearance” of Gao Zhisheng, the human-rights lawyer. I think about the years-long torture of another such lawyer, the blind Chen Guangcheng, who is said to be near death (like Gao). I think of the imprisoned Nobel peace laureate, Liu Xiaobo, and the house arrest of his wife, Liu Xia.


I’d like to publish two notes, from two distinctive and regular readers, Alex Bensky and Jack Jolis. Bensky, after speaking of self-criticism sessions and some other things, says, “Fascist regimes by and large just wanted your compliance; Communist regimes want your soul.” And the swashbuckling and legendary Jack writes,

Many years ago, my parents had a friend called Countess Lilli Dubblehoff (sp.?). She was a Mitteleuropa grand dame who had, in the course of a long and not-unmovemented life, contrived to be jailed by both the Nazis and the Communists.

I’ll never forget, as a boy, hearing her declare: “The National Socialists [she always called them that] imprisoned you for who you were, but the Communists imprison you for what you think.”

Of course, the Nazis imprisoned you for what you thought, too — but the point still holds. And the countess had standing.

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