The recently concluded Democracy Summit in Copenhagen brought together a number of Western leaders concerned with the promotion and preservation of “democracy.” The keynote speech was provided by our former vice president Joe Biden, who addressed the challenges facing democratic government in Europe and the United States. Apparently everywhere in what the Muslims would call the “kingdom of peace,” troublemakers are astir. These baddies usually go under the name “populists,” and they are assailing international bodies like the European Union that are intended to nurture democratic values, while mocking the democratic thinking and practice that the dignitaries in Copenhagen want to see universally inculcated.

Josh Rogin, a political analyst for CNN and Bloomberg View, praises the high-mindedness of these democracy crusaders, who are really establishment politicians from Western countries and Mexico, and stresses the daunting problems that confront them as they engage an “existentialist crisis.” Conscientious world leaders are trying to counter “the new authoritarianism in Hungary, Poland, Austria, Italy, and especially the United States,” Rogin writes, all countries that have begun to turn their backs on “democracy.” Rogin uses the “community of democracies” and “the West” interchangeably, thereby giving the impression that the fate of Western civilization is the hands of the elites that he favors.

This brings us to two divergent concepts of democracy, both of which now have their partisans but only one of which is acceptable to globalist leaders. One concept assumes that governments should be controlled by influential elites who make sure Western populations believe what they’re instructed to believe. These elites are connected to a global corporate economy that treats national borders as an archaic hindrance to “trade.” Also favored are the unencumbered movements of populations and goods—and any Western countries that don’t conform to their wishes are pushed around. This ruling class views elections not as a means to determine the popular will but as a ritual for confirming democratic centralist instructions. The Deep State in the United States backs this form of government in Europe because, as in the telling case of Merkel’s Germany, it usually causes foreign leaders to go along with our elites. Our media, meanwhile, fear the possibility that those who deviate from their preferred governmental model might tumble into right-wing authoritarianism.   

Allow me to criticize two aspects of this elitist model of democracy. One, it is meddlesome and imperialistic and treats the national sovereignty of countries that don’t fall into line as totally insignificant. It also attempts to impose what until recently were radical social projects advanced by the feminist and LGBT lobbies on those who cling to more traditional moral values. These are the views that were held by most Americans when I was growing up in the 1950s; they only started to change in the 1960s as the counterculture took root.

Two, one should be appalled by how self-righteous these democracy crusaders have become. I’m still reading about Tommy Robinson rotting in a dangerous English prison for daring to investigate a Pakistani gang raping English girls. One enthusiastically acclaimed speaker at the Democracy Summit, Tony Blair, inflicted on Britain reckless Third World immigration in what he later admitted was a social experiment. Blair also made sure to criminalize hate speech in a country that had once properly been viewed as a cradle of freedom. One might have also asked Stephen Harper and other Canadian attendees at the Summit when Western Trinity Law School will have its license restored, after that Christian institution was stripped of this operational requirement because it didn’t go far enough in accommodating gays and the transgendered. And when will Canadian courts stop bringing criminal charges against Christian ministers who dare to quote the Bible on sexually improper conduct?  

A recent amusing example of the hypocrisy of our “democratic” elites was found in the shrieks of rage from Western media and politicians when the Polish Diet earlier this year passed a law criminalizing Holocaust denial and trivialization. Poland attached to this law a prohibition of any “slanderous” attempt to blame the “Polish nation” for Nazi crimes, whereupon the charge was brought against Rogin’s “authoritarian” Poles that they were trampling on free speech and open discussion. This outcry persisted until a few days ago, when the Poles, under American pressure, modified the law.

Heather Nauert, a spokeswoman for the State Department, complimented the Poles for having restored free expression. On January 31, she had denounced the law because “we believe open debate, scholarship, and education are the best means of countering inaccurate and hurtful speech.” Neither the State Department nor the rest of our “democratic” elite bothers to notice that the criminalization of open discussion about the Holocaust and a variety of other subjects remains the rule across Western Europe. In “democratic” France, there is also criminalization of any explicit or implicit denial of the “Armenian genocide,” besides the usual garden-variety laws against supposed hate speech.

Of course, I’m not holding my breath for a “Democracy Summit” to address these illiberal measures in its own backyards.  After all, that’s not what Rogin’s “West” is about.

Paul Gottfried is Raffensperger Professor of Humanities Emeritus at Elizabethtown College, where he taught for 25 years. He is a Guggenheim recipient and a Yale Ph.D. He is the author of 13 books, most recently Fascism: Career of a Concept and Revisions and Dissents.