Totalitarian liberalism

18 januari 2023 | Vincent Vos

Vincent Vos is an councillor for FVD and staff member of the Renaissance Institute. He will give a lecture on the psychology behind totalitarian liberalism on Friday 21 January. Get your ticket here.

Last week, Thierry Baudet’s door was again vandalised after Deputy Prime Minister Sigrid Kaag, a member of the social-liberal party D66, called in the media for more resistance to the ‘extreme right’ and ‘conspiracy theorists’. Increasingly, we see intolerance rising among people who have declared themselves to be tolerant. This raises the question: ‘Why are these self-proclaimed tolerant people so intolerant of dissenters?’

Recently, everyone has been able to see how quickly enlightened liberal man in the 21st century has gone from the Covid-hoax to the Ukraine-hoax. The speed at which media-narratives succeed each other is unprecedented. Whereas in recent years many people have turned away from the media, by far the majority of people still have great faith in them. All it takes is to turn on the television and we are bombarded with streams of information loaded with progressive-liberal content. Whether it is about LGBT hype, climate hype, unending immigration or globalisation; everything is framed to the citizen in a progressive-liberal way. We hear all the time slogans like 'Just be yourself,' 'It's our mission to save the world' and ‘We all have human rights.’

The fact that citizens swallow this propaganda so easily has mainly to do with the great trust that the average Westerner still has in its institutions. This trust is based on the story that everyone in the West is taught from childhood: the terrible oppressors of the past have been defeated and we are 'free.'

It is not only citizens who have taken this narrative for truth. Our leaders themselves have also come to believe in it. Certainly even at the geopolitical level, this agreement between Western leaders is clear. The war between Russia and the West is certainly not just about Ukraine. It is an ideological struggle between liberalism, which has achieved hegemony in the world through its institutions, and a coalition of illiberals who oppose it. Or, as the West frames it: moral enlightened humanity versus an evil relic of history. This has to do with a very important idea that emerged among political elites after the fall of the Berlin Wall.

This sentiment is reflected most clearly in Francis Fukuyama's famous essay, 'The End of History and the Last Man.' In this essay Fukuyama argues that liberalism and the resulting liberal democracy is the philosophical end point of humanity. The authoritarian ideologies (fascism and communism) of the 20th century have been defeated and a new era of peace and prosperity has begun. This thought is not limited to the idea that liberalism has beaten other ideologies only because of luck: it is said to be self-evident that liberalism’s victory was inevitable. It is said to be the natural progression of humanity that would allow no other path. Therefore, the future must and will mean the domination of liberalism on a global level. Only backward barbarians need to be educated a little more.

Whereas Fukuyama has partially revised his vision, this is not the case with our political leaders. The optimism which followed the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 is still baked into the brains of our elites. This can be seen by looking at the culture of governance in Western countries. Leaders do not govern as they used to. They merely follow what they see as the Zeitgeist. The Zeitgeist, according to the progressive-liberal, is a sort of magical force which always causes events to manifest themselves in this world in such a way as to ensure that ‘progress’ takes place. What ‘progress’ then means, however, they themselves have no idea. They do not even ask themselves this question. It has probably something to do with more progressive-liberalism.

However, this dream of ‘progression’ started to fracture when it turned out that both from home and abroad there was more rebellion against this dream than expected. The rise of what elites call populism, the wars against regimes in the Middle East and the proxy war with Russia threw a spanner in the works. These ‘illiberal’ actors therefore had to be ‘educated’ and every means was allowed to do this.

When a progressive-liberal is challenged on this intolerance of illiberalism, the argument they give is usually: 'We should not be tolerant of intolerance.' Justice Minister Dilan Yeşilgöz spoke exactly these words at a lecture when she fantasized that FVD should be dissolved.

This statement is known in political science as the tolerance paradox by the philosopher of science, Karl Popper. This paradox of tolerance comes from the book The Open Society and its Enemies. Popper is best known for his theory of falsification. This has become the benchmark of modern science. At first glance, this paradox seems logical. Tolerance can only exist if intolerance does not exist. Consequently, this is the explanation of liberals. However, the tolerance paradox only reveals the authoritarianism of liberals. In fact, the definition of tolerance is itself created by liberals: ‘to be tolerant, you must be liberal.’ The conclusion then becomes that in liberal-democratic society illiberalism must be repelled.

Liberalism can actually only allow liberalism. The interesting thing is that progressive-liberals are so blinded by their own arrogance that they do not see their authoritarianism. They even project their arrogance onto the masses. This is a very dangerous development. Tolerance and intolerance are interpreted precisely in such a way by politicians now that they call dissidents who go against their own agenda ‘a threat to democracy.’ By democracy here is meant liberal-democracy. The appropriation of the term ‘democracy’ is again a manifestation of authoritarianism, as Marco van den Boomgaard described well in his piece earlier this week on the website about the conflict between Hungary, European Union and George Soros (who called his NGO ‘The Open Society Foundation’ for good reason). 

Issues, such as climate change for example, are taken for granted by our elites. The people within a liberal democracy may then only vote for parties that actually think fundamentally the same about these issues and differ only in how they want to solve them technically. The choice between technical solution 1 and technical solution 2 is then the result. A debate about fundamentally different views is thus removed from politics. Democracy is gradually turning into technocracy. The increasing openness of clubs such as the World Economic Forum that want to ‘solve problems’ in this technical way shows the bankruptcy of the legitimacy of our ‘liberal democracy.’ The Western liberal political order has become so arrogant that they no longer see political debates on fundamentals as necessary. Dissenters who do not go along with the supposed obviousness of these topics are placed outside the consensus and portrayed as irrational or evil. 

This change has to do with the ideological arrogance of our administrators. Our elites are so sure of their own cosmopolitan vision of the world that other visions of life do not even exist for them. The future must and will lead to a progressive world government.

‘Democracy’ will then only have the function of rummaging around in the margins to sell international, progressive-liberal policies to the people. Fundamental debates about where we should go with each other as a society therefore no longer take place. 

This is best illustrated by the philosophical concept of the Panopticon by the French philosopher, Michel Foucault. Panopticon shows how discipline has evolved in today's society. Society is said to be like the architectural form of the Panopticon. The citizen conforms to the state, according to Foucault, because he feels that he can be watched at any moment. We see this in cameras on the street, monitoring behaviour. On the other hand, we also see that the introduction of the cell phone has given citizens the opportunity to also monitor each other and the government at lightning speed by filming each other and sharing it en masse on social media.

So it is not only the state which can do this monitoring directly. The interesting thing about the integration of social media into our lives is that we also send out what we are doing all day long, willingly. This in turn can be viewed by billions of other people in the world with an internet connection. Because the behaviour can be seen by all other people, the individual ‘voluntarily’ conforms to the idea of the progressive-liberal majority online. The ideas that everyone has already inherited from childhood only get elaborated online by the constant flow of new articles saying the same thing. This creates a similar situation to the Panopticon theory of state authority. The controlling mechanism that everyone conforms to is progressive liberalism. This can be called the democratisation of totalitarianism.

The combination of a liberal hegemony that does not want to lose its power; institutions designed in such a way that ‘progressive-liberalism’ is the only possible outcome; the ‘self-evidentism’ to which many citizens in the West and administrators have fallen prey, and the consequent self-control, mean that Western liberalism has become totalitarian. It is so totalitarian, indeed, that the population of the West forces itself to be liberal. Russia could learn a lot from that.


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