|It seems to be an unspoken rule of emotionally-fueled debates online that using terms such as “Nazi” and “Fascist” is the surefire way to win the argument. Or to at least shut someone up. Perhaps it’s not the wisest strategy to play your trump card just because you’ve run out of pejoratives but it seems to be a “get-out-of-conversation-free” card. Do the noisiest of tweeters really believe that the current occupant of the White House is a “Fascist”? Are they saying these things out of ignorance of history, virtue signaling or just being plain old intellectually lazy? Whichever it is, speaking clearly has become one of the more important lost arts of our age. While bringing out the big guns might win the argument, It is harder to think everybody you disagree with is a Fascist when you know what Fascists really did and really believed. Hearing about the violence produced by evil ideologies and evil men makes it seem a bit trite to say that “speech is violence”. Advocates of “reproductive justice” and supporters of Socialism might throw these terms around less carelessly if they brushed up on the injustice inflicted on entire populations by ruthless men. History is a good teacher. All this came to mind this week, as a certain member of the Mad Mondays team was binge-casting a recent find, Real Dictators. It is a podcast that tells the stories of some of the most notorious dictators (are there any other kind?) in modern history. It is, as you might expect, fascinating and harrowing in turn. The level of control gained by these men over whole nations but also over individual lives is astonishing, from the mandating of haircuts (Kim Jong Il), the killing of every sparrow in China (Mao), right through to nuclear brinkmanship (Kim again) and breathtaking “purges” of whole groups of people (pretty much all of them).|
It is difficult to say which comes first with a tyrant: the Utopian visions or the particular sort of murderous paranoia needed to carry them out. In each episode you might find clues about “How to Spot a Dictator”, but it is evident from these case studies that there are many paths to becoming a totalitarian leader.
Stalin had a slow bureaucratic rise, Mao started out with grassroots rabble rousing, and Papa Doc kept the Haitian people subservient with deceptive “voodoo.” There are notable references to some having cruel and violent fathers, a common disdain for human life, a knack for propaganda and raw selfish ambition. The adherence to godless doctrines is also there, especially in the lurking specter of Karl Marx.
The proliferation of loose language in internet chats is one thing, but language is being molded to shape narratives in academia, media and other places of power. There is no doubt that we should be concerned about where power lies today, what agendas are being fomented and by whom. While, it would seem there is no set template for what makes a dictator nor even a way to predict where one is going to rise, it is people who are “sober”, who will spot the erosion of freedom. Those who are well-versed in truth and liberty are the ones who are best placed to call out lies and coercion.
We know we’re preaching to the Mad choir here, but words have meaning, and careful speaking rescues those caught in the subtle drag of the white noise. The world’s lies can slowly move you far from the shore, especially when you’re tired of swimming against them. Being staid on the truth is the anchor for us and a lifeline we can give to others.
Joseph Goebbels reportedly said if you “repeat a lie often enough, it becomes the truth” and while this is the case when propaganda holds sway, the power of repeating nonsense for self-deceiving shouldn’t be overlooked. The stream of people losing their minds over SCOTUS decisions and TikTok-ers shouting for “climate justice” are not likely to go away any time soon, but our job is the same. Wherever we are, we need to know the Truth and speak the truth. God grant us boldness and wisdom!
*We owe David Webb for his awesome quip