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The Total Surveillance State

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OQ5LnY21Hgc]

A friend who teaches international law put me onto this 8-minute documentary by the Wall Street Journal, taking a look at China’s surveillance state in restive Xinjiang province. I urge you to watch it. There is no reason, other than the will of the people, why this technology cannot be used in the US. Notice how the mobility and even the economic liberty of the people depends on whether or not their government-issued ID cards indicate that they are “safe” or not. Notice too how those deemed “unsafe” are sent away for political re-education.

Liberal readers are going to roll their eyes at this, but this is where Social Justice Warriors would take American society, in order to make the country a safe space. Take a look at law professor Josh Blackman’s account of student protesters at CUNY Law School protesting his lecture on free speech. This excerpt begins after Blackman, who prior to coming to campus had said that President Obama’s executive order on DREAMers was unconstitutional, told the protesters that he supported the DREAM Act:

There were audible gasps in the room. “This might surprise you. I think the DREAM Act is a good piece of legislation.” Someone yelled out “Gaslighting.” I continued: “Were I a member of Congress . . .” Someone interrupted me. I said, “Let me speak, please.” A number of students shouted out, “Nah.” I continued, “Were I a member of Congress, I would vote for the DREAM Act. My position is that the policy itself was not consistent with the rule of law. Which teaches a lesson.” Someone started snapping and booing. “The lesson is you can support something as a matter of policy.” Someone shouted, “What about human rights?” I continued, “but find that the law does not permit it. And then the answer is to change the law.”

A student shouted out “F*** the law.” This comment stunned me. I replied, “F*** the law? That’s a very odd thing. You are all in law school. And it is a bizarre thing to say f*** the law when you are in law school.” They all started to yell and shout over me.

F*** the law. From tomorrow’s lawyers and judges.

Watch that Wall Street Journal clip, then ask yourself: how would you practice your faith as an American if the government was hostile to it, and carried out total surveillance, as the Chinese do? If you were a Christian, would you say, “Well, they’ve made it too hard. Guess we can’t be Christian anymore”? Many will. But if you really believe, then you will have to find a way to hold on to the faith, and pass it on to your children, despite the totalitarian pressure.

This is why I talk about the Benedict Option. What China is going through may never come to us here — and we have to remain vigilant against that prospect, and fight for liberty. But we religious believers also have to prepare for the day that it might. Some Ben Op critics seem to believe that pointing out that a government that hates Christianity wouldn’t let us practice the faith anyway, therefore the Ben Op is pointless. Let’s leave aside the fact that the Ben Op is a way of being Christian in a post-Christian world in which religious liberty still basically exists — I mean, look, Christianity is not really persecuted now, but it’s unpopular, and people are falling away from the faith in large numbers. The greatest threat to the future of Christianity in America is not government persecution, not by a long shot, but by growing cultural hostility. However: looking beyond that, to a potential America where Christianity is actively persecuted, and done so in part by a total surveillance state, Christians then will have to figure out how to be a Christian in spite of that horrible fact. What do you think Christians in China are having to do today? What do you think Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang are having to do?

I urge my fellow orthodox Christians: use your imagination. It can happen here. The tools to put the total surveillance state into place already exist, and are at work in China. What is happening now, and will be happening in the years to come, is the manufacturing of popular consent. In China, it’s being forced on people. In America, I think it is about as likely that people will welcome it — especially those who are now young, and who have been conditioned by their childhoods and their college experiences to expect “safe spaces” everywhere. Look at those law students at CUNY: despising the law, and despising free speech, in the name of “safety”.

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. He has written and edited for the New York Post, The Dallas Morning News, National Review, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the Washington Times, and the Baton Rouge Advocate. Rod’s commentary has been published in The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, the Weekly Standard, Beliefnet, and Real Simple, among other publications, and he has appeared on NPR, ABC News, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and the BBC. He lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with his wife Julie and their three children. He has also written four books, The Little Way of Ruthie Leming, Crunchy Cons, How Dante Can Save Your Life, and The Benedict Option.

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