The Clare Spark Blog

April 17, 2014


totalitarianism_01I started out today thinking about chastising the careless use of the term “tolitarianism” by both Left and Right—who generally accuse their opponents of the T word. It is rather like a Nazi sign or a Hitler moustache painted on the Enemy du jour. (For a fuller account, see

I was also going to mention that the T word, when picked at long enough, probably refers to the rule of money, which for Marx signified “Jewish” “hucksterism” from which communism would rescue the brainwashed masses. (see Mad Men, that plays on this latently antisemitic hatred of advertising and public relations).

Then I was going to write that the presence of free speech, a free press, and the internet made the US (and the West?) free of the total control imputed to the Fascist powers and to Hitler’s Nazism.

BUT then I thought of Herbert Marcuse’s notion of “repressive tolerance”—a concept only partly understood by rightists who attack “cultural Marxism.” (See One thing that Marcuse claimed was that the notion of toleration of dissent was a ruse of authoritarian forces who insisted that their critics accept their ruling definitions of reality and of the meaning of words. Most right-wing descriptions of “repressive tolerance” correctly state that Marcuse wanted to suppress all but left-wing speech. Marcuse’s 1965 claim was a slap against the marketplace of ideas, but I do agree with this sentence: “It is the people who tolerate the government, which in turn tolerates opposition within the framework determined by the constituted authorities.” (See

THEN I watched POTUS’s press conference, in which he inflicted the usual liberal double bind: the Affordable Care Act was a smashing success, if only the Republicans would stop bad mouthing it, and yet the President called for bipartisanship. Somewhere in there, he used the word “forcefully” and my adrenalin started flowing again, especially since the yearly meeting of the Organization of American Historians allied itself unambiguously with the police powers of the State (Leviathan). See

As if I were not anxious enough, I learned from Facebook that there is a little-publicized law afoot that would eliminate the Electoral College, institutionalizing a popular democracy and waving goodbye to the constitutional republic that our Founders established. Nine states have already said yes to our mass suicide, imposed by a tiny minority in charge of Leviathan. (See

In the past I have railed against the careless equation of fascism and communism. No more. It is not that I am wrong, but that we have a national emergency on our hands. The ongoing bad-mouthing of that non-observant person of Jewish descent, Herbert Marcuse, should stop. Start thinking of the meaning of words and who defines reality: citizens, POTUS, humanities professors, or mainstream media, including National Public Radio?



  1. Clare;

    You know I love you, but I fear you are beating a dead horse when you argue this point and the one about fascism. There’s an excellent summation of my point this morning at Sarah Hoyt’s blog:

    I am forced to remind you again that you are misunderstanding how languages work. How words are used is primary and absolute in a language. Their technical definitions, as written in the dictionary, might as well be scribed in sand for all they mean beyond those pages. This is why languages known only through their written form are classified dead. Just as people who argue that “irony” should only be used in the strict theatrical sense are wrong, you too are wrong. You are dooming yourself to perpetually confusing those you communicate with and weakening your own ability to argue points over semantic disagreements.

    A simple definition of fascism starts and ends with a partnership between industry and the state, such as Al Gore suggested when he proposed that the government should direct GM as to what cars to build and push on the public, without regard to the public’s wants, needs, and desires — pretty much what’s happening now. Totalitarianism means, to anyone who’s grown up since WWII total state control of a country, which implies control of capital, the markets, medicine, education, the military, the courts, and every aspect of people’s lives. Not “private lives,” for such do not exist in a totalitarian society.

    Comment by Mark Alger — July 18, 2014 @ 2:35 pm | Reply

  2. […] April 17, I wrote this popular blog: It got lots of views probably because it was not widely known at that time that there was a […]

    Pingback by ‘Totalitarianism’ (2) | YDS: The Clare Spark Blog — April 19, 2014 @ 10:40 pm | Reply

  3. The electoral system is already badly skewed in favor of money and the providers of money. Not too long ago, the political parties’ conventions were where the nominee was decided. Sometimes it too several days to find out who the front-runner would be. Now, the conventions are little more than victory parties, congratulating the guy who was already decided upon.

    That’s probably due to the change to “winner-takes-all” in primaries, where cities like Los Angeles and San Francisco, Chicago and New York decide for the rest of us.

    There were good reasons why the Founders set us up as a republic, not a pure democracy. A pure democracy means the Tyranny of the Majority (even if it’s 51%).

    On the other hand, we’re so close to that already that it might not make that much difference.

    Comment by lectorconstans — April 18, 2014 @ 10:18 pm | Reply

    • I am uncomfortable with your nailing the money power as the chief enemy to the republic. That is populism, and most populism is anti-Semitic, both latent and manifest. There are rich people funding both political parties.

      Comment by clarelspark — April 18, 2014 @ 10:21 pm | Reply

      • I missed the connection between populism and money power. As it is, these days, nobody gets in the winner’s circle unless he has significant funding – which comes from all sectors (but mostly rich people, like Soros on one side and the demonized Koch brothers on the other). I also miss the connection between populism and anti-Semitism. I hadn’t really heard much about populism since the 1890s, or when it somehow got taken up by the Nazis. As such, it’s not a failure of the notion of populism, but a success of a despotic government.

        I wouldn’t go so far as to say that money is the chief enemy of the republic, but is is the fuel that runs the machinery. And as you point out, there’s plenty on both sides.

        My main point is that I think we’re so far gone that a direct democracy (something that really does not scale up at all well) might not make that much of a difference. I just hope it never happens.

        Comment by lectorconstans — April 18, 2014 @ 10:40 pm

  4. Several decades ago I was initiated into an ongoing dialogue with some local college professors and other educational professionals. I was schooled in logic and rhetoric, and was surprised that these people almost never contested the structure of arguments. Instead, they spent their time contesting the meaning of terms. I learned that once the meaning of terms had been decided, the resulting argument was settled without a murmur seen as a fait accompli. We’re now seeing this played out on a national scale via the political left and an entrenched “social justice,” socialist/progressive media dedicated to their service. I hear the call. It is time for conservative scholars in the humanities to step forward as we are able.

    Comment by Terbreugghen — April 18, 2014 @ 1:48 am | Reply

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at

%d bloggers like this: