I want to thank and compliment those who left comments in response to “An Inauguration of Tyranny” (January 20) for their perceptive and concerned remarks. The essay certainly excited vigorous thought and argument, more than I had expected. What those comments are evidence of is the existence of rational minds at large, minds that will be needed if the suicidal course this country is on is ever to be grasped, communicated and corrected. Many respondents’ remarks were outstanding, deserving some annotation here.
One respondent suggested that definitions of the terms tyrant and dictator would be helpful in determining whether Barack Obama is one or the other. In history, tyrants usually seized power in contravention to an established political process, and seized it with popular support or with the connivance of politicians. Dictators usually came to power by means of a formal political process, also with popular support. But, in the end, such persons wielded the arbitrary and destructive powers of a tyrant. Technically, then, Obama is now an elective dictator (and what president over the last 150 years hasn‘t been one, exercising powers the Founders never intended the office to have over the economy, property, science, the arts, and health?), but together with an eagerly compliant Congress, he will be a tyrant, cashing in on the uncorrected trends in philosophy, in the culture, and in politics so aptly described by Ayn Rand and Leonard Peikoff.
However, not even the OED is helpful in distinguishing the fundamental difference between a tyrant and a dictator, except that its definition of tyrant stresses the cruelty of someone exercising absolute power.
One respondent remarked that Obama is the first “anti-American” president. True. Obama is a thorough-going collectivist committed to everything the Founders opposed, all his assurances to the contrary notwithstanding. Now that he is in office, he has become a statist. He is now sporting an American flag pin on the lapel of his suit jacket, as though that will deflect charges of his anti-Americanism.
Another respondent wrote: “Together with Obama’s claim that he is not an ideologue, what this statement sets up is the opportunity for him and his supporters to call those who disagree with him small minded, prejudiced and bigoted ideologues.” True. The irony is that Obama is what could be called an anti-intellectual ideologue, a person who, as a matter of conscious policy, dispenses with ideas and demands “action” without thought of the consequences, except for the wish (or hope, to borrow Obama’s term) that the action has the results he imagines and wants. The only people who could confound or delay the realization of those wishes, hopes and ends are identifiable “ideologues” who question the wisdom of the action on moral and/or practical grounds. These are the persons he and his allies in and out of Congress wish to silence or denigrate or so side-line that they are for all practical purposes unheard of and unheard.
Furthermore, the only ingredient left that would complete the picture of total control is blatant censorship (barring for the time being the incarceration and/or trial of political opponents, but the ”bailout” and “stimulus” packages are direct or indirect seizures or nationalizations of private property). Obama needn’t issue a directive that silences Rush Limbaugh or anyone else who disagrees with government policies and actions. He has the Federal Communications Commission and other government bodies with the power to permit free or controlled expression, in addition to that vampire, the “Fairness Doctrine,” ready to climb out of its coffin and sink its thought-numbing teeth into the minds of all Americans. He needn’t stick his neck out so obviously and leave himself open to the charge of censorship, a concept which, to him and its advocates, retains as much a superstitiously negative or unsavory connotation as does the term socialist. As many other commentators have noted, Obama et al. instead prefer to be called progressives.
As with the original Progressives, they do not want Americans to know what it is they are “progressing” to, which, in a word, whether they intend it or not, is to totalitarianism.
The established press and news media are already losing audiences to the Internet and are also in financial straits. Expect to hear louder calls in and out of Congress to regulate the Internet.
Another respondent observed that I did not call Obama a tyrant. This is correct. I called him a “horror.” It will be his administration that will have the trappings and characteristics of tyranny.
One respondent noted that “Obama himself is much less a harbinger of coming tyranny than are his followers.” This is true. For space and length reasons, I did not dwell on the potential danger of Obama’s supporters. If he succeeds in pushing through Congress his idea of a “civilian army” the coequal of the military, it will be largely composed of the “community thugs” identified by another respondent, the kind who made so much “change” in Obama’s old Chicago neighborhood in his pre-Illinois senate activist days. This “army” will be managed and directed by persons in business suits, but instead of Nazi brown or Fascist black shirts, their recruits will come knocking on your door in jeans, T-shirts and baseball caps or the equivalent. Without such an army of “enforcers” (a.k.a. “volunteers”) Obama could not hope to “persuade” the recalcitrant to become “public spirited” and sacrificially cooperative. Or to just shut up…or else.
Long live Lady Liberty!