National Security & Defense

In America, a Thousand Little Castros

(Dreamstime image: Vlue)
For many social-justice warriors, systematic oppression of dissent is a feature, not a bug.

Totalitarianism employs three primary methods of silencing dissenters: convert them, marginalize them, or eliminate them. The Castro regime’s success in pursuing these ends was evident in the public silence that followed the government’s declaration of a nine-day mourning period after Fidel Castro hopped that Edsel to Hell. In Havana, the streets were quiet, in accordance with the government decree. 

In the United States, there was another eerie silence. From the Left’s ever-churning outrage factories, which hum 24/7 with the din and clatter of denunciations and pronouncements on every topic that can be bent to political use, we heard only the white noise of spinning gears.  

As a general rule, the Left refrains from denouncing its own. Movement solidarity is a hallmark of leftism. But this does not fully explain why so many self-proclaimed champions of justice and human rights have ignored, dismissed, or explained away the corruption and murderous oppression of Fidel Castro and other socialist dictators. Something darker is at work.

For many romantic leftists, socialism is a glorious utopia that one day will magically separate itself from the strong men who somehow always manage to clamber to the top of the People’s Ladder. If only the enlightened thinkers on the Harvard Bookstore’s e-mail list could be put in charge! 

Others are not so naïve. They understand that socialism is systematic oppression — but they see this as a feature, not a bug. To them, as it was for Castro, who wandered his way to Marxism, socialism offers a system in which the social and political orders are overturned and the leftists at long last can be on top. With the levers of power finally in their grasp, the redistribution — and the retribution — can begin. 

If this seems a little far-fetched, grab a Donald Trump sign and go loiter in the quad of your nearest lefty college campus for an hour. Or play “Sweet Home Alabama” in a Brooklyn supermarket. Castro forced every Cuban to face this daily choice: comply or be punished. This is precisely the choice America’s would-be totalitarian leftists dream of imposing upon as many Americans as possible. 

In Cuba, as in socialist regimes everywhere, the entirety of life is politicized. Castro erased the line between public and private. He initially banned The Beatles and jazz because they encouraged the wrong kind of thinking. In an interview with Jazz Times, the great Cuban trumpeter Arturo Sandoval recalled that Castro’s mania to suppress decadent Western culture led him to control even what instruments musicians could play (effectively ordering more cowbell). “We wanted to play bebop,” Sandoval said. “But we were told that our drummer couldn’t even use cymbals, because they sounded too jazzy. We eventually used congas and cowbells instead.” 

America’s totalitarian Left attempts to reshape American life by politicizing everything.

Likewise, America’s totalitarian Left attempts to reshape American life by politicizing everything. It uses boycotts to pressure companies to comply with political demands. It shames public and private figures who express “incorrect” opinions. It demands the firing or public humiliation of any prominent person who strays from orthodoxy. It tells us what TV shows we should watch, which musicians we should listen to, what jokes we should find funny, what food to eat, where to live, how to dress, how to speak, and how to think.

One could counter that patriots used social-pressure tactics against loyalists during the American Revolution. But that was during a war, when losing meant execution for treason. The totalitarian Left uses these tactics in an all-encompassing, never-ending culture war. The end goal is nothing short of a complete reversal of the American social order. 

To get a taste for American culture under complete leftist control, read the news from college campuses, where thought police lurk everywhere and few who stray from political orthodoxy dare speak their mind. 

Last year, Northwestern University feminist communications professor Laura Kipnis wrote an essay for The Chronicle of Higher Education in which she questioned the prevailing attitudes toward sex between professors and students. Approximately 30 students marched on her office, and two filed a federal Title IX complaint against her. The university responded by investigating her — simply for raising questions.

The response made these lines from her essay eerily predictive:

The new codes sweeping American campuses aren’t just a striking abridgment of everyone’s freedom, they’re also intellectually embarrassing. Sexual paranoia reigns; students are trauma cases waiting to happen. If you wanted to produce a pacified, cowering citizenry, this would be the method.

Producing a “pacified, cowering citizenry” could be the goal of the University of Vermont’s bias policy, which encourages students to report one another for expressing “a personal inclination or temperament based on unreasoned judgment or belief.” The university’s options for responding to complaints of bias are set in one paragraph that could come from a Soviet pamphlet on how to handle disloyal comrades:

Depending on the nature and severity of the behavior, the associated bias, and impact, incidents will be addressed as appropriate through interventions such as: education, restorative practices, community dialogue, and formal processes through institutional offices (e.g., review, investigation, resolution).

In sum, if reeducation doesn’t work, there is shame, and if that fails, formal punishment. 

On some campuses, sexual assault and “civil rights violation” complaints are increasingly handled not first by law enforcement, but by kangaroo courts that deny the accused the opportunity to present evidence or challenge the accusations. The Washington Post reported that during Professor Kipnis’s meeting with investigators, she was denied an attorney and not informed of the charges against her. 

“I’d plummeted into an underground world of secret tribunals and capricious, medieval rules, and I wasn’t supposed to tell anyone about it,” she wrote later.

The Left’s never-ending harassment of political opponents is designed to suppress dissent, and it is taken straight from the socialist-dictator playbook. Here is how Freedom House describes the political climate in Cuba:

All political organizing outside the PCC [Partido Comunista de Cuba] is illegal, and independent campaigning is not permitted. Political dissent, whether spoken or written, is a punishable offense, and dissidents are systematically harassed, detained, physically assaulted, and frequently sentenced to years of imprisonment for seemingly minor infractions. The regime has called on its neighborhood-watch groups, known as Committees for the Defense of the Revolution, to strengthen vigilance against “antisocial behavior,” a euphemism for opposition activity. This has led to the use of “acts of repudiation,” or supposedly spontaneous mob attacks, to intimidate and silence political dissidents.

The totalitarian Left supports speech codes, hate-crimes prosecutions for political opponents, and a rewriting of the First Amendment to allow government to suppress political speech uttered by opponents of the government. (In fairness, President-elect Trump also favors some curtailing of First Amendment freedoms, though to a lesser degree.) 

#related#The way the totalitarian Left in America handles political opponents is disturbingly similar, in spirit, to the the way the Castro regime handles them. The primary difference is that the American Left lacks the dictatorship’s tools. Were it to have full access to the tools of the state, it almost certainly would use them. Note that every single Democrat in the House voted in 2014 to suppress political speech and, in large measure, repeal the First Amendment.

We can only guess how far the Left’s aspiring dictators would go to reshape society. But we can take clues based on how they have handled the power they have accumulated and how they have responded to reports of brutality from the people they emulate. 

The totalitarian Left has spent decades cultivating a thousand little Castros throughout the United States. They have attained significant authority on college campuses, which they have labored to convert into their own little island prisons. God help us if their angry, busy hands ever grasp control of the machinery of state.

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