The authoritarian moment

David Brooks writes,

progressives are getting better and more aggressive at silencing dissenting behavior. All sorts of formerly legitimate opinions have now been deemed beyond the pale on elite campuses. Speakers have been disinvited and careers destroyed. The boundaries are being redrawn across society.

There seems to be a bit of a trend. Putin is getting more authoritarian. Erdogan is getting more authoritarian. Xi Xinping is getting more authoritarian.

I know I’m not saying anything original here. But I wonder what it will take to turn things around.

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13 Responses to The authoritarian moment

  1. Handle says:

    Progressives, Putin, Erdogan, and Xi: which of these things is not like the others? I think ‘authoritarian’ is quickly going the way of ‘fascist’ in terms of linguistic precision as anything more than a vague derogatory epithet.

    The progressives are declaring themselves insurgents and part of the #Resistence and rooting on mob violence and harassment as “protest” and certainly not insisting on strict and orderly obedience to the dictates of the man currently in charge of things. They are more like Puritan theocrats demanding universal adherence to their morality and willing to do whatever they can get away with to punish infidels and transgressors.

    It would be more accurate to describe the progressives as ideologically intolerant, and engaged in the persecution and ostracization of their adversaries in a kind of decentralized version of the old “Cold Pogrom,” which turned hot and bloody soon enough.

  2. collin says:

    Well, in terms of college and corporate censorship, we have to remember that the US government does very little censorship so other actors have to act.

    1) In terms of corporations, they are at risk for litigation. In reviewing James Damore memo, it was fine for the National Review but not in a corporate setting. It gives Exhibit A in every sex discrimination suit for the next ten years. (TBH I suspect James Damore goal is become a conservative pundit hero, the next James O’Keefe, not to correct liberal thought.)

    2) In terms of diversity, it is reasonable for Hollywood and tech to be very careful supporting diversity. Have you seen the foreign grosses on Marvel movies and US dominated global diversity sells big? (I am surprised Trump’s Hotels have not been with more protest although his Panama hotel is an interesting case study.) I am in the middle of corporation and I have numerous calls with foreign co-workers and customers.

    3) In the office, it is best to remember people don’t care about your political theories. And I have had customers bring up political opinions (pro-Trump after the election) and it is best to nod your head and switch to the business at hand.

    4) I think there are issues here, but this university stuff is becoming a conservative hobby horse. And a lot of conservatives including Jordan Peterson have benefited from being anti-PC. It is not like a young university can’t listen to Rush Limbaugh rants on the radio.

  3. collin says:

    There seems to be a bit of a trend. Putin is getting more authoritarian. Erdogan is getting more authoritarian. Xi Xinping is getting more authoritarian.

    And conservatives have been supporting a bit of authoritarian President. (Although long term Trump cares more about being ‘Great’ than being an authoritarian power. So we get parades!) And it is true that liberals allowed President Obama to become more authoritarian in a slightly different way in which he did a lot of small gain Executive Orders.

    Several Points:
    1) In the developed world, the center is holding A LOT. (Remember Trump promised to protect Social Security.) Or look at Trump implementing steel tariffs in which the largest steel exporters nations were exempted. So steel tariffs are going effect like 10 –
    15% of the steel market. So voters want CHANGE! but not really. Or think of the Brexit negotiations in which Great Britian can not commit to anything.
    2) There is a very statistical revert to mean on Presidential/House politics. Look at any President first Midterm elections in which they almost always House lose seats. 1954, 1962(small), 1966, 1970, 1978, 1982, 1990, 1994, 2010. (I not including Ford) So only one President, George Bush Jr, gained House seats when he was building up to the then popular war in Iraq.
    3) I think the global economy is making individual nations weaker in general. So nations feel the need for a strong executive to promote their values and economic interest. So China wants Xi for longer and Russia believes in Putin. (Note, I do believe one day a private company will raise an army against a nation that screwed them over. Probably not my lifetime.)

    • A Leap at the Wheel says:

      “And conservatives have been supporting a bit of authoritarian President. (Although long term Trump cares more about being ‘Great’ than being an authoritarian power. So we get parades!)”

      Collin, what are the top five things would you say that Trump has done in his year+ that you would call authoritarian? (Not said, done.)

      The most authoritarian thing I can think of is the repeated attempts at immigrant restriction by executive action. These all have been struck down by courts, leading not to dissolving the courts but instead by less restrictive executive order that look to me like an attempt to achieve the same policy goal while also respecting the rulings of the courts.

      Has he done anything else authoritarian?

      • collin says:

        In terms of authoritarian, Trump is a loud speaker with less actions. Like Obama he has done a number of executive orders that done most of the moving here as well. Whereas second term Obama was the Master of quiet 3 yard gains of executive orders (with his that is not who we are speeches) , Trump speaks of huge executives and then backs down to a one yard gain.

        1) Look at the steel tariffs in which nobody is really sure what the tariffs are on right now. Which countries do the tariffs apply to? I don’t know. What about semi-finished steel for final production in the US? Again he spoke very loud authoritarian but backs down a lot implementation.

        2) How about his meddling with the A&T and Time Warner merger? I can’t tell if the Justice Department wants to stop the merger for business reasons or Trump Justice does not like CNN.

        3) Trump administration has increased troops in a lot of areas in Africa and Middle East without Congress support. (Again this occurred a lot during Obama to point Congress did not want to participate.)

        • A Leap at the Wheel says:

          Those are all bad. I don’t like any of those. But they are not authoritarian. Your basically saying “he’s yucky, and just like every conventional president in recent history.” This is always the charge leveled against him, I think.

          But you seem to have the self awareness to know that’s what you are saying, and you don’t shy away from that. So kudos to you.

  4. Lord says:

    A reaction to the over tolerance of BS perhaps.

  5. EB says:

    Arnold, read again Brooks’ column. He claims two forces have changed the landscape. How can you ignore conservatives (the first one) to talk only about progressives (the second)? Brooks is worried that by silencing conservatives his beloved progressives are making a huge mistake. BTW, I don’t agree with Brooks’ ideas about conservatives and progressives.

  6. “progressives are getting better and more aggressive at silencing dissenting behavior.”

    I really don’t think that’s the case. It was, but the high water mark seems behind us now.

    The article you link to is an example of such, and the right is playing the same game now, while most active centrists, moderates and even regular ol’ liberals and conservatives are getting wise to the nonsense, and working out how to combat it.

    People really are misconstruing the size and scope of this stuff. It’s not as widespread as it seems, with the inflated focus on it in some media.

  7. Tom G says:

    To turn things around will take school vouchers so normal parents have more choices to send their kids to more different local schools, including those with more Rep teachers.

    It will take more Reps, as individuals, willing to become teachers.

    It will take more gov’t action against US Universities who are secretly & dishonestly discriminating against Reps & Christians.

    It will take blacks and/or Hispanics in America to reduce their overwhelming support for Dem promises of free gov’t benefits.

    It will probably take more effort to demonstrate that normal economic buying and selling is a “win-win” positive sum thing, not a zero-sum where the poor get poorer.

  8. Matthew Young says:

    Elites protecting against deliberate government default by the next generation. All of these governments, except Turkey and Russia have impossible debt problem.

  9. foobarista says:

    Frankly, the world is in a period, like the early and mid 1930s, when the democracies look feckless and weak, while authoritarians, particularly China now under Xi Jinping (not Xinping) are seemingly able to Get Things Done, in much the same way that Mussolini and Stalin (in particular) seemed attractive at the time.

    California spends decibillions building tracks between Bakersfield and Fresno, while China seemingly snaps its fingers and builds 16,000 miles of high-speed rail in 10 years. But California stands with illegal immigrants! And against white privilege!

    I’m wondering how long it’ll be before we get a NYT columnist writing from Beijing saying “I’ve seen the future and it works!” Actually, I think Thomas Friedman already did that…

    I still have faith in democracies, but their leadership, both the “woke” bien-pensant types and the “authoritarian” types, aren’t looking so awesome at the moment.

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