‘Live Not By Lies’ Is Here
Hello Tucker Carlson Tonight viewers. You might be wondering what Live Not By Lies is about. First, let me say you can order the book from a variety of sources, all linked here. And I hope you will, because the stories these brave resisters from Russia and the Soviet bloc have to tell us are vital to our American future.
Here’s an informational interview I did with myself to introduce people to the book’s concept:
You say that totalitarianism is a real threat to the US. Secret police, commissars, and gulags – can you be serious?
I am serious – in fact, the outlandishness of the claim is a big reason for our vulnerability. I didn’t take it seriously either when people who grew up under Soviet-style totalitarianism started explaining to me what they were seeing emerge here. I came to realize that they were our canaries in the coal mine. But no, I don’t foresee gulags and the usual apparatus of Stalinism coming for us. It will be softer and more subtle than that.
What’s the difference between soft and hard totalitarianism?
Let’s start with some basic definitions. Authoritarianism is when a non-democratic government has a monopoly on politics. Totalitarianism is when an authoritarian government expands its claim to power to cover every aspect of life – including the inner life of its citizens. Stalinism, or hard totalitarianism, achieved that through terror and pain. This kind of system is what every American high school student read about in Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four. I wouldn’t say it could never come here, but I don’t really think it will.
Instead, we are building a kinder, gentler version. What awakened the Soviet-bloc emigres is the way political correctness has jumped over the walls of the universities and is both intensifying and spreading through society’s institutions. The forms it takes, the language that it uses to justify itself, and the way that it tolerates absolutely no dissent – all of this is truly totalitarian.
What makes it soft? A couple of things. First, it is emerging within a democratic system, within the institutions of liberal democracy, without a state monopoly on power. Second, and more importantly, the emerging totalitarian system will not coerce compliance through pain and terror, but more from manipulating our comforts, including status. It will be more like the dystopia in Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. That’s more pleasant to live through than Nineteen Eighty-Four, but it’s still totalitarian, and it will still have major long-term effects.
Communism is the complete antithesis of capitalism, but you say there’s a role for capitalism in the coming soft totalitarianism. Explain.
This is the most fascinating aspect of the emerging system – and the one conservatives are least likely to understand, because they operate from an outdated model of “Big Business good, Big Government bad.” In the book, I write about “woke capitalism,” which is what you have when major corporations sign on to culturally progressive causes. In a capitalist society like ours, corporations have been much more important than the state in mainstreaming progressive values.
Plus, given the role that “data mining” – the harvesting of individual personal data from the Internet and smartphone apps – plays in the now-dominant economic model, the role woke companies will play in manufacturing consent for progressive values and policies will be paramount.
What are the signs of a pre-totalitarian society?
In 1951, the great political theorist Hannah Arendt published The Origins of Totalitarianism, the results of her investigation into how Nazism and Communism arose. Though the two ideologies were very different in most respects, they appealed to the same longings in the masses, who saw in them a solution to their grave problems. Reading Arendt in our time was shocking to me, because I realized that most of the signs of a pre-totalitarian society are flashing strongly in ours.
For example, Arendt said that loneliness was the greatest source of totalitarianism – that desperately lonely people were looking for meaning, purpose, and solidarity with others. They found it in totalitarian political ideology. Sociologists have been warning for years now that we have reached dangerously unhealthy levels of loneliness and atomization in our “Bowling Alone” society.
Also, the loss of respect for hierarchy, traditional authority, and the decline of the institutions of civil society, opened the door for totalitarianism. The desire to transgress – that is, to destroy things for the sake of destroying them – were key factors. Another: the willingness of the masses to believe things they knew were untrue, or probably untrue, but that made them feel good.
There are others. None of this means that totalitarianism is inevitable, but it means we are especially susceptible to it. Arendt said that liberal societies will always have to contend with an inner voice that says it can’t happen here, when the 20th century proves that yes, it actually can.
You are a conservative, but you don’t say “vote for Trump” or “vote for Republicans” to stop this soft totalitarianism. Why not?
Because I don’t think politics can do much to stop it at this point. In fact, believing that stopping it is simply a matter of voting Republican is one reason we conservatives have failed to see it coming. Don’t get me wrong – it does help to vote Republican, because we know with the Democrats, wokeness is going to be accelerated and imposed throughout the government. But we should not have false hope. As I explain in the book, the factors leading to soft totalitarianism are complex and vast. What’s coming cannot be stopped through politics alone. As I explain in the book, our culture has declined to the point where many people — especially those under 40 — actually want what soft totalitarians are offering, because it seems just to them.
Let’s talk about some of the things you suggest people can do to resist. What do you mean by “live not by lies”?
That was the title of the final essay the great Soviet dissident Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn distributed to the Russian people before he was sent into exile in 1974. In it, Solzhenitsyn acknowledged that ordinary people were powerless to change the situation under totalitarianism, but one thing they could all do is refuse to pretend like they didn’t see what was going on, or that they agreed with it. The whole system was a lie, and to the extent that they could, men and women of integrity should refuse to consent or cooperate.
For us, this means refusing whenever we can to bend our knees to what the so-called “social justice warriors” demand. Refuse to say that we believe something when we don’t. This is going to require us to be prepared to suffer for the truth – but what else can we do?
There are many other things people can do to resist, right?
Yes, and I talk about them at length in the book. All of these strategies came to me from the people who actually had to live under Communism. They tell me that we should start right now forming small groups of trusted people we can count on. We should begin educating ourselves about real history, real art, real literature – this, as opposed to the politically correct propaganda versions. Parents need to make sure their families are strong, and that they are teaching their children the importance of living in truth, not conforming to have an easy life.
Most of all, we need to learn how to suffer. Over and over again, in the testimonies of those who endured persecution, I learned that the ability to suffer for one’s faith, and for the truth, was the key factor in what got them through the terrible trial of totalitarianism. We middle-class American Christians have been raised in a shallow, feelgood form of the faith – and it will not be enough to sustain us when the persecution starts. I hope my Christian readers take this message very seriously.
The subtitle of your book is “A Manual For Dissident Christians.” Is there nothing here for people who aren’t Christians?
To the contrary, though I wrote Live Not By Lies as a Christian for my fellow Christians, there is a lot non-believers can learn from it. Christians were not the only dissidents from Soviet tyranny. Vaclav Havel, the imprisoned playwright and future president of post-communist Czechoslovakia, was an agnostic liberal, and is one of the heroes of my tale. Christians have particular strengths through their religious convictions that will help them build resistance, but the lessons in this book about solidarity, about preserving cultural memory, and about developing the capacity to suffer for the truth – these are universally valid.
In our own American situation, I look to non-Christians like James Lindsay, Helen Pluckrose, Bret Weinstein, Ben Shapiro, Heather Heying, and others as vital allies.
You dedicate Live Not By Lies to the memory of Father Tomislav Kolakovic. Who was he, and why does he matter to your story?
He was a Catholic priest who arrived in Slovakia in 1943, fleeing the Gestapo. He told students at the Catholic university that their country was going to fall to Communism after the war, and that as Christians, they needed to prepare themselves. The Communists were going to severely persecute the Church. Some bishops thought he was alarmist, but Father Kolakovic got busy organizing young people into cells for prayer and study – including studying the art of building a resistance.
In 1948, the Iron Curtain fell over their country. Everything Father Kolakovic predicted came true. But the network of faithful Christians he had built around Slovakia became the backbone of the underground church. I dedicate Live Not By Lies to him because I think it’s 1943 in America today, and we all need to look to his example for guidance and inspiration.
In fact, it’s strange how history moves. When I was in the Soviet bloc interviewing people who survived Communism, some of them talked about how grateful they were to Americans for standing with them during the Cold War, and offering them hope. Now, as a very different kind of totalitarianism threatens us in the West, they are in a position to return the gift of solidarity and hope. The stories these people trusted me with, and that I tell in the book, are going to be seen one day as a lifeline to truth, to sanity, and to hope.
The book is Live Not By Lies. Because of Covid, there won’t be a book tour, I’m sorry to say. If you’d like a signed copy, order it exclusively through this link at Eighth Day Books in Wichita.
UPDATE: This is the kind of thing I’m talking about. The person who tweeted with Shadi Hamid is Joe Biden’s deputy data director for Pennsylvania. She is young, well-educated (Mount Holyoke ’17), and … well, look:
The Biden staffer has protected her Twitter account now, as well she might. I don’t believe you can ascribe the views of a Biden campaign staffer to Joe Biden, any more than you could do the same for a Trump staffer at that level. That said, what this Biden worker wants to see happen — that orthodox Christian, Jewish, and Islamic belief about sexuality will become disqualifying for public positions — is exactly what progressives are working for. Note well: it’s not just that people like this 25-year-old Biden staffer opposes religious orthodoxy — that’s perfectly understandable — but that she considers that simply professing to believe these things ought to make you unfit for public service.
They are going to do their best to write this discrimination into law, as soon as they can. It may take time, but they have the elites already, especially the younger ones. How will you fight this? How will you and your family endure should these people come fully to power? That’s what Live Not By Lies is about.