You might recall back in the late 1990’s a quasi-religious movement in China called Falun Gong. It was, at least to a Westerner, a pretty conventional Asian set of practices regarding meditation and exercise to grow spiritually – but the Chinese government hated it. And, so, it was (and remains) heavily persecuted in China and is now actually headquartered in New Jersey. As to why the Chinese government hated it: Falun Gong held itself to be outside of Chinese government control. It wasn’t a movement of rebellion, but it appears to have rejected the the PRC’s totalitarian control over the minds of the Chinese. As far as that goes, just par for the course in China. But I was reminded of it yesterday.
What my mind went back to was some news reports when it was a big thing in China back in the 1990’s where one enterprising reporter decided to ask regular Chinese people what they thought about it. Naturally, given what was going on, you had to take anything said to a foreigner with a grain of salt but one bit of opinion stood out starkly: several Chinese asked about it came up with an opinion that religious faith should be free, but it was the responsibility of the government to protect the people from “bad” religion.
I put that answer down at the time to PRC propaganda combined with the basic Asian social structure which is tightly disciplined and hierarchical. I never imagined that any such thing could come to America. I was wrong.
As Musk has taken the lid off of what Twitter was doing what we’re seeing – aside from all the illegal censorship – is that plenty of people sincerely believe that the government has a role to play in “protecting Democracy”. That is, protecting it from people who put out dis- or mis-information. That the government must protect us from “bad” ideas. How very Chinese, huh?
This is, of course, an entire reversal of the very idea of the United States. It must be remembered that it was us, we Americans, who proposed and first implemented the idea that sovereignty resides with the people, not with the government. Under the European monarchies, the Monarch was sovereign. All power flowed out and down from the King. You were assigned your station and granted that power which the King thought best for you to exercise. We turned that around and said that we, the people, were sovereign and we lent the government such of our power as we thought necessary to promote the general welfare. Even in the Republics of modern Europe is it still the State holding the ultimate power as those States hold themselves the inheritors of Royal authority. We are pretty unique. But now we have very many of our own people saying that the government should assign our opinions and make sure that no bad opinions make it into the public square.
This is a gigantic problem and it may prove fatal to liberty. It has already de-facto killed off liberty in Europe, Canada and Australia: in the UK, if you question why biological males are in the female hospital ward they will kick you out of the hospital. Meanwhile, in Norway people are facing three years in jail for saying that men can’t be lesbians. Scores of examples like that are out there – if you have the “wrong” opinion then you will be punished. And the reason you’ll be punished is because your “wrong” opinion puts Democracy at risk. It is all very Orwellian. Kafkaesque, too.
And I’m not at all sure how we fix this – how, that is, do we turn people who have developed the mentality of a serf back into citizens? They are so far gone now that they positively crave someone to take charge and “protect” them…something, of course, our corrupt Ruling Class is all too willing to do. And they have a wide variety of reasons to “protect” – not just Democracy but also The Climate Emergency and Covid…we’ve all gotta be protected from that, too. And if there is some aspect of life not covered by Democracy, Climate and Covid, rely on it on that they’ll find some other thing they need to “protect” us from.
We will have to figure it out, though. Because if we don’t, then we’ll find ourselves all doing 20 years in the Happy Fun Re-education Camp because we once said “boys will be boys” or some such.