You are not living under ‘liberalism.’ North Korea may be more severe in punishing dissent; the secret police throw thought criminals in labour camps. In the West journalists are usually content to let thought criminals off with mere loss of employment. But in sheer volume, North Korea can hold no candle to Western authoritarianism or ‘illiberalism.’
The Westerner is subjected to propaganda everytime he sees a television. Propaganda is not necessarily illiberal. Everything intended to propagate an idea is technically propaganda. But under our regime, legacy media is heavily consolidated and tightly controlled. The intention is not to shape or even dominate public discourse, but to prevent it.
When was the last time you saw a white couple in an advertisement? It isn’t because it sells. Interracial couples elicit more negative and fewer positive feelings towards brands that use them in advertising compared to monoracial couples among both black and white customers. Every film is a human zoo. One wonders if television casting agents are under the impression that they are picking out exotic phenotypes for an anthropological exhibition. Seldom is one’s search bar adorned by a simple logo; more often a hideous digital mural to a melanated mediocrity freshly exhumed and drafted for service as a historical relic in the diversity cult greets the netizen.
How many of your day to day interactions are in person as opposed to digital? All of the latter are spied upon by the NSA. Our modern public square, social media, is moderated for dissent. Every skinny-armed sadist too pathetic to realise his ignoble will in physical space is armed with a report button; a cyber-truncheon for every would-be Red Guard to pummel any independent thinker he can find. The only redeeming feature of this situation is that it is relegating more and more conservatives into the ghetto with us unapologetically independent minds.
In the schools everything other than propaganda is the object of suspicion. Math might be useful, but why has pi no comment on the importance of black trans lives amid that endless sequence of decimals? If that sounds like a joke, read some of the things truly written in American academia today.
North Korea tries its hardest to shroud the country from the outside world, but the success of their nuclear program tells the smart observer that North Korean education has little enough propaganda that there is still room in the syllabus for mathematics. Unlike in America, a North Korean teacher can explain multiplication without agonising that he dared to veer off into an objective topic instead of speaking only in praise of the official cult.
Ubiquitous as propaganda is in North Korea, the country lacks the money for Western-style brainwashing. Westerners can hardly look at a screen without it bombarding them. North Korea has not the wealth for everyone to have a phone. It has to rely on propaganda posters. Are those any more common on the streets of Pyongyang than diverse and inclusive advertisements are in America?
That is the carrot, so what of the stick? The North Korean stick might be far more horrible than the American, but it sees less use. If North Korean officials were executed at anywhere near the same rate as prominent Americans are canceled the regime would collapse. It would run out of capable administrators. North Korea is not so wealthy or developed that it can fill important positions with diversity hires and leave the rest to institutional inertia.
North Korea can afford to be more lax than the American regime. The North Korean government wants its people to have a strong sense of patriotism for the Korean minjok and to believe that they live in a great country that achieves great things under the leadership of a great man that cares deeply for them and their country. This most want to believe. Ingroup identity is hardwired. Men want whatever they are a part of to be great and important. Everyone wishes that their leaders be wise men with their best interests at heart. Propaganda tells North Koreans that things are as they instinctively want them to be. Combined with isolation from the outside world and the occasional one-way trip to a labour camp for a dissident, it works.
The American regime has set a far more difficult and expensive task than North Korea. It wants to convince Americans that they have a moral obligation to want their sons to undergo hormone replacement therapy and their daughters to birth mulattoes. Every psychologically healthy person instinctively knows that this is evil. Convincing them that it is their own hearts that are wicked and not the regime that promotes this costs more than a country like North Korea can afford. American-style Cultural Marxism is only possible in a prosperous country.
‘Liberalism’ is connected to Cultural Marxism through prosperity. All governments are as ‘illiberal’ as is needed to remain in power, or else they are replaced by governments that are. ‘Liberalism’ is when a society is high trust and law-abiding enough that only a bare minimum of ‘iliberalism’ is needed to keep order. High trust, low crime societies tend to be highly prosperous. There is some truth to ‘go woke, get broke,’ though loss of profit will not discourage where ideological control, not wealth, is the driving motive.
Authoritarianism of the North Korean sort, with a nationalistic personality cult, is relatively cheap and highly effective. North Korea has no means of spying on its citizens like the American surveillance state. It conscripts and arms the youth. It mostly turns a blind eye to the massive grey market. Yet it seems perfectly stable.
Woke authoritarianism is an expensive business. Despite all the money poured into it, the results are not impressive. Western electorates are not very keen on it. Western governments and leaders have far less popular legitimacy than Xi Jinping or Vladimir Putin, despite the historically and globally unparalleled level of propaganda that they browbeat their populations with. With so much discontent, even if Western societies use more lenient forms of censorship, and that is highly questionable, it is far more ubiquitous. ‘Cancel culture’ is more than a buzzword. As the positive values of our ‘Diversity, Inclusion and Equity’ state religion are far too unappealing to compete in a marketplace of ideas even with the benefit of omnipresent propaganda, censorship has become the central pillar of our political culture. We may deplore the personality cult of North Korea or the absolutism of Xi Jinping, but it is not so unappealing that it is maintained only by censorship. South Korean popular culture worked its way North through the grey market decades ago. The Chinese establishment may have no more respect for freedom of speech than the American, but as Xi Jinping enjoys popularity that Western leaders could only dream of, he has some positive appeal that our leaders lack.
The point is not that North Korea is an acceptable alternative to our current system, or that it is a free country, but that the total resources dedicated to repression are fewer.
If our misfortune is too much ‘liberalism,’ then it follows that political ‘liberalism’ should wax as our fortunes wane. Tolerance for dissent, the rule of law, governmental noninterference in personal and private affairs and freedom of conscience and expression all ought to grow as the ‘civil rights’ agenda that has dominated policy since at least the 1950s advances. The opposite has been the case. It began with the state ending freedom of association. Since its adoption as official doctrine the antidiscrimination ideology has been consistently illiberal. In the last decade the West has spiraled rapidly into authoritarianism. Job loss and censorship are giving way to imprisonment. Were ‘liberalism’ the problem, this emerging woke totalitarianism should be self-defeating. As the government is forced to adopt a more illiberal position to defend egalitarianism, it should begin to shed the woke ideology. The trend has been the opposite. The regime may only cynically uphold the diversity cult because it increases its power, though that is doubtful as it makes no effort to limit its self-destructive impulses, but it is ideology that has driven the transformation of our political culture, not the opposite.
The nature of our regime is not an academic question. Western governments ceased to claim legitimacy on national or democratic grounds, as the representatives of particular groups of people or τῶν δήμων when ‘civil rights’ became state ideology. They base their legitimacy upon the truth of, and their adherence to, official dogma. Like theocracies or the old Eastern Bloc Marxist-Leninism governments, they are ideocracies. A key premise of their ideology is that the state ought to exist primarily as a guarantor of universal rights. It has reimagined the politically ‘liberal’ norms peculiar to high trust, homogeneous, high IQ, highly functional societies as a universal right which every government must provide for all. Politics is a matter of ingroup and outgroup; of friend and enemy. A free or ‘liberal’ political culture is impossible in an ideocracy, for dissent necessarily excludes one from an ideologically defined ingroup. The totalitarian lurch of Western ‘liberal democracy’ shews that liberal universalism cannot overcome this. Only an ingroup based on innate, immutable characteristics leaves room for political pluralism. ‘Dissent is the highest form of patriotism.’ assumes that dissidents are patriae. In a proposition nation, they are not. There are no dissident Verfassungspatrioten. The very purpose of Verfassungspatriotismus is the substitution of ethno-racial identity and homogeneity with ideological obedience and conformity of thought.
The overuse of the word ‘liberalism’ in rightwing circles is rivaled only by the gaping void left behind by want of definition. Relevant here are not debates over the true meaning of ‘liberalism,’ but the regime’s usage of the concept when it claims to represent ‘liberalism’ or the ‘open society’ in opposition to ‘illiberalism’ or ‘authoritarianism.’ Though the regime has no real regard for the politically ‘liberal’ norms of political pluralism and freedom of expression and is driven by its ‘Civil Rights’ antidiscrimination ideology, when challenged it turns to ‘liberalism’ to justify its rule. It accuses its enemies of threatening ‘Our Democracy™’ or of opposing the ‘open society.’ It is a mistake for dissidents to respond in any way that accepts the regime’s framing of itself as ‘liberal’ and ‘democratic,’ regardless of how one feels about political liberalism or democracy; these are the grounds on which the enemy government rhetorically establishes its own legitimacy. If dissidents seek success, they must point out that we have no real democracy, let alone a ‘liberal’ one and that far from being open, censorship plays a more prominent role in our public discourse than was even possible in an offline society. The Freedom Convoy and other anti-corona restriction protests have been met with such a ferocious response, though vaccination is hardly an existential issue for the regime or its ideology, because they are challenging directly the regime on the grounds it claims its legitimacy.
We should thank the regime for rhetorically establishing that ‘threats’ to ‘democracy’ or the ‘open society’ are not a legitimate part of political discourse. If that is the case, our rulers not only have no legitimacy, they have not even any right to a seat at the political table. Feed them their own medicine. White nationalists are more than willing to participate in the ‘open society.’ We have not refused dialogue or discussion; we have only been excluded and censored. It would be foolish to think that the regime could be defeated only by holding it to its own rhetoric, but it can be backed into a corner.