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The pulverized humanity
by Christiaan W.J.M. Alting
Endless lockdowns, police-enforced quarantines, travel restrictions, compulsory vaccinations, the suppression of scientific data and scientific debate, large-scale censorship, and the relentless withdrawal of platforms and public vilification of critical voices are consistently examples of dehumanizing measures.
The pulverized humanity
Hannah Arendt's research shows that totalitarianism always unfolds in five steps - Corona is no exception.
From Rubicon's World Editor

How does totalitarianism actually work? Basically, totalitarian systems always develop according to the same pattern. Little by little, people and what makes them human are pulverized in the process. It always begins with the generation of fear. Using it as a resource for domination, work is done in small but determined steps to exclude those who oppose the establishment of this system. First they are stigmatized, then their exclusion is underpinned with supposedly plausible arguments, before they are then excluded with all due force. The end result is sometimes existential annihilation, but at least social annihilation. This is a recurring pattern. But this vicious circle can be broken.

by Christiaan W.J.M. Alting von Geusau
[This article published on Dec 22, 2021 is translated from the German on the Internet, https://www.rubikon.news/artikel/die-zerriebene-menschlichkeit]

Hannah Arendt's seminal 1948 work "The Origins of Totalitarianism" (translator's note: the German title is Elemente und Ursprünge totaler Herrschaft) makes sobering reading in the world that is unfolding around us before our eyes in 2021. Indeed, we find ourselves in an impasse of epic proportions, with the essence of what it means to be human at stake.

"The totalitarian attempt at global conquest and total domination was the destructive way out of all impasses. Its victory may coincide with the destruction of humanity; wherever it has ruled, it has begun to destroy the essence of man."

- Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism, first published 1948 (translator's note: from the preface to the English-language first edition).

While it is hard to argue - at least in the West - that we are once again under the yoke of totalitarian regimes comparable to those we know all too well from the 20th century, there is no doubt that we are facing a global paradigm that is producing ever-expanding totalitarian tendencies, and these need not even be deliberate or maliciously planned.

As we will discuss later, the modern initiators of such totalitarian tendencies - supported by the masses - are largely convinced that they are doing the right thing because they claim to know what is best for people in an existential crisis. Totalitarianism is an ideology that spreads through society without the majority of the population noticing it at first, and before it is too late.

In her book, Hannah Arendt meticulously describes the genesis of the totalitarian movements that ultimately grew into the totalitarian regimes of Europe and Asia in the 20th century, as well as the acts of genocide beyond words and the crimes against humanity into which they eventually flowed.

As Arendt would certainly warn us, we should not be misled by the fact that in the West today we see none of the atrocities that were the hallmark of the regimes of communism under Stalin or Mao and Nazism under Hitler.

All these events were preceded by the gradual spread of a mass ideology and subsequent ideological campaigns and actions on the part of the state to promote seemingly "justifiable" and "scientifically proven" control measures and actions aimed at permanent surveillance and eventually a gradual exclusion of some people from (parts of) society because they posed "a risk" to others or dared to think outside the framework of what was considered acceptable thoughts.

In his book The Demon in Democracy - Totalitarian Temptations in Free Societies, Polish lawyer and European parliamentarian Ryszard Legutko leaves no doubt that there are disturbing similarities between many of the dynamics in totalitarian communist regimes and modern liberal democracies when he observes:

"Communism and liberal communist democracy proved to be all-unifying entities that dictated to their followers how to think, what to do, how to evaluate events, what to dream, and what language to use."

This is also the dynamic whose workings we see at many levels of globalized societies today. Every reader, but especially politicians and journalists who have an interest in human freedom, democracy, and the rule of law, should carefully read the 11th chapter on "The Totalitarian Movement" in Hannah Arendt's much-lauded book.

She explains how, long before totalitarian regimes actually seize power and establish complete control, their architects and enablers have already been patiently preparing society for the takeover - not necessarily in a coordinated way and with that end goal in mind.

The totalitarian movement itself is driven by the aggressive and sometimes violent promotion of a certain dominant ideology, by relentless propaganda, censorship, and groupthink. It always includes significant economic and financial interests.

Such a process then leads to an ever more omnipotent state, assisted by a bevy of unaccountable groups, (international) institutions and bodies that claim to have a patent on truth and speech, and on knowing what is good for their citizens and society as a whole.

Although there is of course a big difference between 21st century totalitarian communist regimes, as we see in China and North Korea, and liberal Western democracies with their growing totalitarian tendencies, the unifying element between the two systems today seems to be mind control and behavioral control of their populations.

This development has been massively exacerbated by something for which Harvard professor Shoshana Zuboff has coined the term "surveillance capitalism." Surveillance capitalism, Zuboff writes, is "(a) movement aimed at imposing a new collective order based on total certainty." It is also - and here she minces no words - "(an) expropriation of critical human rights that can best be described as a coup from above: an overthrow of popular sovereignty."

The modern state and its allies, be they communists, liberals or otherwise, have - because of the above and for other reasons - an insatiable desire to collect gigantic data files on citizens and customers and to use that data extensively to control and influence them.

On the commercial side, we have all the aspects of recording people's behavior and preferences on the Internet, brilliantly explained in the documentary The Social Dilemma, which confronts us with the reality that "never before has a handful of tech designers had such control over how billions of us think, act, and live our lives." At the same time, we see the "social credit" system launched by the Chinese Communist Party in action, using Big Data and permanent live CCTV coverage to manage people's behavior in public spaces through a system of awards and punishments.

The mandatory QR code, first introduced in China in 2020 and then in liberal democratic states around the world in 2021, to permanently record people's health status and as a condition for participation in society, is the latest and deeply disturbing phenomenon of this same surveillance capitalism. Here, the dividing line between mere technocracy and totalitarianism almost disappears under the guise of "protecting public health."

The currently sought colonization of the human body by the state and its business partners, who claim to have our best interests at heart, is part of this disturbing dynamic. Where has the progressive mantra of "my body, my choice" suddenly gone?

So what is totalitarianism? Is it a system of government, a totalitarian regime, or an otherwise implemented system of increasing control, a totalitarian movement, - that manifests itself in various forms and at various levels of society - that does not tolerate individual freedom and independent thought and that ultimately seeks to subjugate and direct all aspects of individual human life. In Dreher's words, totalitarianism is "a condition in which nothing is allowed to exist that contradicts the dominant ideology of a society."

In modern society, where we observe a very strong operation of this dynamic, the use of science and technology play a crucial role in allowing totalitarian tendencies to take root in ways that 20th century ideologues could only have dreamed of. Along with totalitarianism at whatever stage, institutionalized dehumanization also occurs and constitutes the process by which all or part of the population is subjected to policies and practices that consistently violate human dignity and fundamental rights and that could eventually lead to exclusion and social or, in the worst case, physical extermination.

In what follows, we will take a closer look at some of the basic principles of the totalitarian movement as described by Hannah Arendt and how these enable the dynamics of institutionalized dehumanization that we observe today. Finally, we will take a brief look at what history and human experience tell us about society's liberation from the yoke of totalitarianism and its dehumanizing politics.

In doing so, it is important for me to make clear that I am in no way comparing or equating the totalitarian regimes of the 20th century and their horrors with what I currently see as the growing totalitarian tendencies and the policies that flow from them. Instead, as befits the role of sound academic discourse, we will take a critical look at what is happening before our eyes in society today, and analyze relevant historical and political phenomena that may instruct us on how to better cope with the current sequence of events, which, if not corrected, does not bode well for a future of freedom and the rule of law.
The functioning of totalitarianism

When we speak of "totalitarianism," the word is used in this context to describe the whole of a political ideology that can present itself in various forms and stages, but always ultimately has the goal of total control over people and society. As described above, Hannah Arendt distinguishes within totalitarianism between the totalitarian movement and the totalitarian regime.

I add to this categorization what I consider to be an early phase of the totalitarian movement, what Ryszard Legutko calls "totalitarian tendencies," and what I call an ideological totalitarianism linked to current developments. For totalitarianism to have any chance of success, Hannah Arendt tells us, it requires three central and closely intertwined phenomena: the mass movement, the leadership role of elites in directing those masses, and the use of relentless propaganda.
The lonely masses

For its establishment and permanence, totalitarianism depends, as a first step, on mass support, which it obtains by fomenting a permanent mood of crisis and fear in society. This then feeds the masses' urge to have those in charge constantly take "action" and prove leadership quality in order to ward off the threat that has been identified as endangering society as a whole.

Those in charge can "remain in power only as long as they move and set everything around them in motion." The reason for this is that totalitarian movements build on the classic failure of societies throughout history to create and maintain a shared sense of community and meaning, rather than producing isolated people circling around themselves without a clear, overarching purpose in life.

The masses who follow the totalitarian movement are themselves lost and, as a result, in search of a clear identity and meaning in life that they cannot find in their momentary circumstances.

"Social atomization and extreme individualization preceded the mass movement (...). The main characteristics of mass man are not brutality and backwardness, but his isolation and lack of normal social relations."

How familiar this sounds to anyone who observes modern societies. In an age where social media and whatever else is presented on screens set the tone above all else, and where teenage girls are falling into depression and suicide attempts are on the rise because of a lack of "likes" on their Instagram account, we are indeed seeing a disturbing example of this lack of normal relationships. These should instead involve face-to-face encounters that lead to deep exchanges.

In communist societies, it is the party that sets out to destroy religious, social, and family ties to make way for a citizen who is completely submissive to the state and the dictates of the party, as we see in China and North Korea.

In hedonistic and materialistic Western societies, the same destruction is taking place by other means and under the neo-Marxist guise of unstoppable "progress," with technology and a false definition of the goal of science eroding the understanding of what it means to be human: "In fact," writes U.S. journalist Rod Dreher, "this technology and the culture that has emerged from it reproduce the atomization and radical loneliness to which totalitarian governments used to subject people at their mercy in order to control them more easily. "

Not only have smartphones and social media drastically reduced genuine human interaction, as any teacher or parent of a schoolchild can attest, but other significant recent shifts within society have further dramatically deteriorated the social environment.

The ever-increasing targeting of language, opinions, and scientific information in the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic by Big Tech and governments, flanked by levels of censorship not seen since World War II, have massively reduced and impoverished public discourse in science, politics, and society.

In 2020 and 2021, majority-well-intentioned, yet often based on bad advice, government-imposed Corona measures such as lockdowns, mandatory masking, restrictions on access to public facilities, and Corona vaccination requirements have further limited the unfettered human interaction that any society needs to maintain and strengthen its social fabric. All these externally imposed developments, coming from different directions, contribute to the fact that people, especially the young, are increasingly and more persistently deprived of those "normal social relations" of which Hannah Arendt speaks.

For lack of alternatives, this in turn seems to drive large segments of the population - most of whom don't even realize it - into the arms of totalitarian ideologies. These movements, however, in the words of Hannah Arendt, "demand for total, unrestricted, unconditional, and unalterable loyalty of the individual member (...) (since) their organization, once its time has come, will embrace the entire human race."

The ultimate goal of totalitarianism, she explains, is the permanent domination of the people from within themselves, which consequently includes every aspect of life, for which the masses are to be kept in constant motion, because "a political goal that would constitute the end of the movement simply does not exist."

Without in any way downplaying the weightiness and urgency of these matters in themselves, or the need for a society to devise ways to deal with existential threats arising from them, the political and media corona narratives are examples of such ideological totalitarianism, which seeks to completely control how people think, speak and act in this area of life by keeping them in perpetual fear through well-planned, regular, dramatic news updates.

One tool successfully used around the world for this purpose is the ongoing, well-rehearsed press conferences of weighty-serious looking ministers in suits behind plexiglass and flanked by experts and state flags. Added to this are instrumentalized heart-wrenching stories and calls for immediate action ("measures") about - perceived or real - new threats to their person, their cause, or society as a whole. Fear is the main driving force, of this enduring concern and activism.
The role of elites

Hannah Arendt then goes on to explain a disturbing phenomenon of totalitarian movements, the "terrifying list of distinguished men whom totalitarianism can count among its sympathizers, fellow travelers, and enrolled party members," with the enormous pull they have on elites. This elite believes that the total destruction, or at least the total reshaping, of all that has hitherto been considered common sense, logic, and accepted knowledge is necessary to solve the acute problems currently facing society.

In the case of the corona crisis, the well-known ability of the human body to develop natural immunity to most viruses it has already encountered is no longer considered in any way relevant by those imposing vaccination requirements, thereby rejecting fundamental principles of human biology and accepted medical knowledge.

In order to achieve this total general overhaul for the sake of perfect control, the elites are ready to cooperate with any person and any organization, including those persons whom Arendt calls "the mob" and whose characteristics are "failure in professional and social life, perversion and catastrophe in private life".

A good example of this is the Western treatment of the Chinese Communist Party. Although blatant corruption and human rights abuses-including the genocidal campaign against the Uighurs in Xinjiang-on the part of this institution of repression are well documented throughout its history to date, as is its role in covering up the 2019 SARS-CoV-2 virus outbreak in Wuhan, possibly as a result of a laboratory mishap, most of the world's countries have become so dependent on China that they are willing to look the other way and cooperate with a regime that is willing to trample on everything liberal democracy stands for.

Hannah Arendt describes another disturbing element that is part of what she calls the "temporary alliance between the mob and the elites," and that is the willingness of the elites to use lies to gain and maintain power because of "the possibility that huge lies and outrageous falsehoods can eventually be established as unquestioned facts." At this point, it is not a proven fact that governments and their allies lie about statistics and scientific data related to Covid-19; however, it is clear that there are numerous serious contradictions that go unnoticed or underreported.

Throughout the history of totalitarian movements and regimes, the perpetrators have been able to get away with much because they were very aware of what is the main concern of the common man or woman going about their daily business of providing a living for their families and others dependent on them, as Arendt masterfully put it:

"He (Goering) demonstrated his outstanding ability to organize the masses into total domination, assuming that most people were neither bohemians, fanatics, adventurers, sex addicts, madmen, nor social failures, but above all workers and good family men."

And, "Nothing proved easier to destroy than the privacy and private morality of people who thought of nothing but securing their private lives."

We all crave security and predictability, and consequently a crisis makes us look for ways to gain and maintain security, and most are willing to pay a high price for it if necessary, including giving up their freedoms and living with the thought that they may not be told the full truth about the crisis at hand. It should surprise no one, therefore, that given the potentially lethal effect the coronavirus can have on humans, our all-too-human fear of death has led most of us to part with the rights and freedoms our fathers and grandfathers fought so hard for without much of a fight.

Furthermore, as mandatory vaccinations have been imposed on workers in many industries and situations around the world, most are complying not because they themselves necessarily believe they need the covid vaccination, but only because they want their freedoms back and to keep their jobs so they can feed their families.

The political elites who impose these regulations know this, of course, and exploit it intelligently, often, believing that this is necessary to deal with the given crisis, even with the best of intentions.
Totalitarian propaganda

The most important and ultimate tool totalitarian movements use in non-totalitarian societies is to establish real control of the masses by overwhelming them through propaganda: "Only the mob and the elite can be attracted by the momentum of totalitarianism itself; the masses must be won over by propaganda." One uses, Hannah Arendt explains, both fear and science extensively to lubricate the propaganda machine. One always propagates fear as directed against someone or something external that poses a real or perceived danger to society or the individual.

But there is an even more sinister element that totalitarian propaganda historically uses to wheedle the masses into submitting to their leadership out of fear, and that is "the use of indirect, veiled, and threatening insinuations against all who do not follow their teachings (...)," while at the same time constantly emphasizing the scientific and public-spirited nature of the argument that these measures are necessary. Both the deliberate instrumentalization of fear and the constant reference to "follow the science" on the part of political actors and the mass media in the Corona crisis were extremely successful as propagandistic tools.

Hannah Arendt freely admits that the use of science as an effective political tool was generally widespread and not necessarily always in a bad sense. This is, of course, true in the case of the Corona Crisis. Nevertheless, she continues, an obsession with science has increasingly characterized the Western world since the 16th century. She sees the totalitarian use of science as a weapon, quoting the German philosopher Eric Voegelin, as the final phase of a social process in which "science (has become) an idol that will magically cure the evils of Dasein and transform the nature of man."

Science is used to provide justifying arguments for social anxiety and the reasonableness of the far-reaching measures taken to "address" and "eliminate" the external danger. Arendt: "The scientificity of totalitarian propaganda is characterized by its almost exclusive insistence on scientific prophecy (...)."

How many such prophecies have we not heard since the beginning of 2020, which then did not come true? It is not at all relevant, Arendt continues, whether these "prophecies" were based on good or bad science, since the leaders of the masses focus primarily on adapting reality to their own interpretations and, where this seems necessary, lies, their propaganda being "characterized by their extreme contempt for facts as such."

They do not believe in anything based on personal experience or that is visible, but only in what they imagine their own statistical models say and in the ideologically consistent system they have built around it. The totalitarian movement strives for organization and single-mindedness in order to gain full control, with the content of propaganda - whether fact or fiction or both - becoming an inviolable element of the movement and objective arguments, not to mention public discourse, no longer playing any role whatsoever.

To date, respectful public debate and robust scientific discourse with respect to how best to respond to the Corona pandemic have not been possible. The elites are highly aware, and are using this to advance their agenda, that in times of existential crisis, the masses rather crave radical consistency, so they give them (initially) a sense of security and predictability. But herein also lies the great weakness of totalitarian propaganda, which ultimately "(...) cannot fulfill this longing of the masses for a completely consistent, comprehensible and predictable world without seriously coming into conflict with common sense."

This presents itself to us today, as I mentioned above, exacerbated by a fundamental misconception and misuse of science on the part of those in power. Former Harvard Medical School professor Martin Kulldorff, a noted epidemiologist and biostatistician specializing in infectious disease outbreaks and vaccine safety, notes what would be the proper use of science and is missing from the current narrative: "Science is about rational disagreement, the questioning and testing of orthodoxy, and relentless search for truth."

We have moved far from this concept instantaneously with a public climate in which science has been politicized into a truth factory that tolerates no dissent, even if the alternative view only outlines the numerous contradictions and falsehoods that are part of the political and media narrative.

However, Arendt emphasizes, the moment this system becomes obvious to the members of the totalitarian system and defeat is imminent, they will abruptly cease to believe in its future and, from one day to the next, give up everything for which they were willing to give everything the day before.

A striking example of such an overnight abandonment of a totalitarian system is the way in which most apparatchiks in Eastern and Central Europe transformed themselves from dyed-in-the-wool career communists into enthusiastic liberal democrats between 1989 and 1991. They simply left the system to which they had so faithfully belonged for many years and found an alternative system whose circumstances they could now embrace. Therefore, as we know from the rubble heaps of history, every totalitarian effort has an expiration date. The current version will also fail.
Dehumanization in full swing

During the more than 30 years that I have been studying and teaching European history and the sources of law and justice, a pattern has emerged about which I published back in 2014 under the title "Human rights, history and anthropology: reorienting the debate." In that article, I described the process of a "dehumanization in 5 steps" and how these human rights violations are not generally committed by 'monsters' but to a large extent by ordinary men and women - with the help of the passive, ideologized masses - who are convinced that what they are doing or participating in is good and necessary or at least justified.

Since March 2020, we have witnessed the global unfolding of a serious health crisis that has led to unprecedented pressures exerted by governments, media, and societies on entire populations to agree to far-reaching and, in the majority, unconstitutional measures that restricted people's freedoms and, in many cases, violated their physical integrity through threats and undue pressure. During this time, it has become increasingly clear that today one can see certain tendencies that bear some similarities to the kind of dehumanizing measures that totalitarian movements and regimes regularly adopt.

Endless lockdowns, police-enforced quarantines, travel restrictions, compulsory vaccinations, the suppression of scientific data and scientific debate, large-scale censorship, and the relentless withdrawal of platforms and public vilification of critical voices are consistently examples of dehumanizing measures that should have no place in a democratic system based on the rule of law. We also see a process in which a certain segment of the population is increasingly relegated to the periphery and, because of the danger it poses to others, singled out as irresponsible and undesirable, resulting in gradual exclusion from society. The President of the United States pointedly expressed what this means in an important televised speech in September 2021:

"We have been patient, but our patience is running out. And your refusal has costs for all of us. So please, do the right thing. But don't listen to me; listen to the voices of unvaccinated Americans lying in hospital beds, taking their last breaths, saying, 'If only I had gotten vaccinated. If only I had'" - President Joe Biden, September 9, 2021.
The five steps

Those who peddle political rhetoric today, pitting the "vaccinated" against the "unvaccinated" or vice versa, are moving down the incendiary road of demagoguery, which has never ended well in history. Slavenka Drakulic, in her analysis of what led to the ethnic conflict in 1991-1999 in Yugoslavia, notes:

"(...) her analysis of what led to the 1991-1999 Yugoslav ethnic conflict, observes:' (...) over time these 'others' are stripped of all their individual traits. They are no longer acquaintances or professionals with a special name, special habits, special appearance and special traits; instead they are only members of the enemy group. When a person is reduced to an abstraction in this way, it is permissible to hate him, for the moral hurdle has already been removed."

If you look at the history of such regimes, which eventually turn into totalitarian regimes, and their campaigns of state-controlled persecution and segregation, this is exactly what happens.

The first step of dehumanization is the creation and political instrumentalization of fear and the resulting ongoing anxiety of the population: fear for one's own life and fear of a specific group in society that is considered a threat are constantly nurtured.

Fear for one's own life is, of course, an understandable and perfectly justified reaction to a potentially dangerous new virus. No one wants to get sick unnecessarily or die prematurely. We don't want to "catch" a nasty virus if it can be avoided. However, once fear is instrumentalized by state institutions and media companies to help them achieve certain goals, as the Austrian government admitted to having done in March 2020 when it tried to convince the population of the need for a lockdown, fear can become a powerful weapon.

Again, Hannah Arendt sharply analyzes when she observes:

"Totalitarianism is never satisfied with ruling through external means, namely through the state and a machinery of violence; thanks to its peculiar ideology and the role assigned to it in this coercive apparatus, totalitarianism has found a means of dominating and terrorizing people from within."

In his September 9, 2021 speech, President Joe Biden instrumentalized the normal human fear of the potentially deadly virus for political purposes, and went on to extend it to the fear of 'unvaccinated people' by suggesting that they were by definition responsible not only for their own deaths, but potentially for yours, as they "unnecessarily" "occupy" intensive care beds. In this way, a new suspicion and fear was established regarding a specific group of people within society because of what they might do to you or your group.

The creation of fear of this specific group then transforms them, regardless of any facts, into easily identifiable scapegoats for the particular problem that society is currently facing. An ideology of publicly justified discrimination is born, based on a feeling that occurs in individual people. This is exactly how the totalitarian movements that turned into totalitarian regimes in recent European history began.

Although this is not comparable to the totalitarian regimes of the 20th century in terms of the level of violence and exclusion, today we observe active fear-based government and media propaganda that justifies the exclusion of people. First the "asymptomatic," then the "maskless," and now the "unvaccinated" are presented and treated as a danger and burden to the rest of society. How many times have we not heard from political leaders over the course of the last few months that we are living through the "pandemic of the unvaccinated" and that the hospitals are full of them:

"Nearly 80 million Americans are unvaccinated. And in a country as big as ours, that's a 25 percent minority. That 25 percent can do a lot of damage - and they do. The unvaccinated are overcrowding our hospitals, flooding the emergency rooms and intensive care units, leaving no room for anyone with a heart attack, pancreatitis, or cancer."-President Joe Biden, September 9, 2021.

The second step of dehumanization is soft exclusion: the group you have chosen to scapegoat is excluded from some - though not all - parts. They are still considered part of society, but their status is downgraded. They are now only tolerated, while at the same time they are publicly berated for being or acting differently. Systems are installed that allow the authorities, and consequently the public at large, to easily identify who those 'others' are. The 'green pass' or QR code is appearing. In many Western countries, this finger-pointing is taking place instantaneously, especially to those not vaccinated against SARS-CoV-2, without regard to constitutionally protected considerations or medical reasons why individuals may choose not to receive this particular vaccination.

For example, on November 5, 2021, Austria became the first country in Europe to impose highly discriminatory restrictions on the "unvaccinated." These citizens were barred from participating in society; they can only go to work, the grocery store, church, or for a walk, or to take care of clearly defined "emergencies." New Zealand and Australia have enacted similar restrictions. There are numerous examples around the world where people lose their jobs without proof of corona vaccination and where they are denied access to a plethora of establishments, stores and even churches. There are also a growing number of countries that prevent people from boarding airplanes without a vaccination certificate, or even explicitly forbid them from inviting friends over for dinner, as in Australia:

"The message is that if you want to have dinner with friends and welcome people into your home, you need to get vaccinated."- Premier of New South Wales Gladys Berejiklian, Australia, September 27, 2021.

The third step of dehumanization, which usually occurs in parallel with the second, occurs through the documented justification of exclusion: academic research, expert opinion, and scientific studies widely disseminated through extensive media coverage are used to buttress, 'explain', and 'provide evidence' for the fear propaganda and exclusion of specific groups as to why exclusion is necessary for the 'good of society' and so that everyone is 'safe'. Hannah Arendt notes that "the strong emphasis on the 'scientific' nature of their claims on the part of totalitarian propaganda has been compared to certain advertising techniques that are also directed at masses. (...) Science, in the case of both commercial advertising and totalitarian propaganda, is obviously only a surrogate for power. The obsession of totalitarian movements with 'scientific' evidence ends as soon as they are in power."

The interesting caveat here is that science is, of course, often used in a biased manner where only those studies that fit the official narrative are presented, and not the at least equal number of studies, regardless of their authors' reputations, that offer alternative insights and conclusions that could contribute to constructive debate and better solutions. As noted earlier, science is being politicized here as a tool to support what the leaders of the totalitarian movement have decided must be the truth, and the measures and actions based on that version of the truth. Alternative viewpoints are simply censored, which YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and the like are doing on an unprecedented scale, as we can see.

Not since the end of World War II have so many notable and respected academics, scientists, and physicians, including Nobel laureates and Nobel Prize nominees been silenced, deprived of their publishing platforms, and dismissed from their positions simply for not taking the official or 'correct' line. They are simply asking for a robust public debate on how best to deal with the current problem situation, and consequently engaging in a common search for truth. This is the point at which, as we know from history, the ideology of the day is now formally entrenched and mainstream.

The fourth step of dehumanization consists of harsh exclusion: the group that is now 'proven' to be the cause of society's problems and the impasse in which it currently finds itself, is subsequently excluded from bourgeois society as a whole and becomes without rights. They no longer have a voice in society because they are no longer considered parts of it. In the extreme version, they are no longer entitled to the protection of their fundamental rights. In terms of the corona measures that have been imposed by governments around the world and to varying degrees, we are already seeing developments in some places that are moving toward this fourth phase.

Although these measures cannot be compared in scope and severity to those adopted by totalitarian regimes of the past and present, they show worrying totalitarian tendencies that, if left unchecked, could grow into something far worse.

In Melbourne, Australia, for example, a euphemistically named "Center for National Resilience" is nearing completion as one of several such centers that will function as a permanent facility where people are forcibly quarantined when they return from foreign travel, for example. The rules and regulations for life in such an existing detention facility in Australia's Northern Territory state are frighteningly reminiscent of reading George Orwell's "1984."

"Chief Health Officer Instruction 52 of 2021 sets out what a person must do when quarantined at the Centre for National Resilience and the Alice Springs Quarantine Facility. This instruction has the status of law - every person in quarantine must do what the instruction says. If a person doesn't follow the instruction, Northern Territory police can file a complaint and impose a fine."

The fifth and final step of dehumanization is social or physical extermination. The excluded group is forcibly expelled from society, either by making all participation in society impossible or by exiling them to camps, ghettos, prisons, and medical facilities.

In the most extreme forms of totalitarian regimes, as we have seen under Communism and Nazism, but also in the ethnic nationalism of the wars of the former Yugoslavia 1991 to 1999; this then leads to the physical extermination of these people, or at least treating them as those who are "no longer human". This becomes easy because no one speaks for them anymore, who have become invisible. They have lost their place in political society and thus any chance to claim their rights as human beings. From the point of view of the totalitarians, they have ceased to be a part of humanity.

In the West, we have not yet reached this final stage and the resulting dehumanization. Nevertheless, Hannah Arendt issues a strong warning that we should not count on democracy alone as a sufficient bulwark against reaching the fifth stage:

"A conception of law that identifies what is right with what is good for-for the individual or the family or the people or the greater number-will become inevitable once the absolute and transcendent standards of religion or the law of nature have lost their authority. And this dilemma is in no way solved if the entity to which the 'good for' is applied is as large as humanity itself. For it is easy to imagine, and is even within the realm of practical political possibility, that one fine day a highly organized and mechanized humanity will conclude quite democratically - namely, by majority vote - that it would be better for humanity as a whole to liquidate parts of itself."
How do we liberate ourselves?

History gives us powerful guidelines on how to throw off the yoke of totalitarianism, at whatever stage and in whatever form it may present itself - including the current ideological form, which most are not even capable of perceiving. We can indeed stop the retreat of freedom and the beginning of dehumanization. In the words of George Orwell:

"Freedom is the freedom to say that two and two is four. When that is assured, all the rest will follow."

We live in times when that very thing is severely threatened as a result of ideological totalitarianism, something I have tried to illustrate with how Western societies try to cope with the Corona Crisis, where facts too often don't seem to matter in favor of entrenching the latest ideological systemic orthodoxy. The best example of how freedom can be regained is the way the Eastern and Central European peoples ended the totalitarian rule of communism in their countries beginning in 1989.

It was their long process of rediscovering human dignity and their non-violent but persistent civil disobedience that brought down the regimes of the communist elites and their mob allies by dragging to light the untruthfulness of their propaganda and the injustice of their policies. They knew that truth is a goal to be achieved, not an object to be claimed, and that it consequently requires humility and respectful dialogue. They understood that a society can only be free, healthy and prosperous if no person is excluded and if there is always a genuine willingness and openness to robust public discourse, to hear and understand the other, no matter how different their opinions and attitudes toward life may be.

Finally, they took back full responsibility for their own lives and for those around them, overcoming their fear, passivity and victimhood, learning again to think for themselves and to stand up against a state assisted by its enablers who had forgotten its sole purpose: to serve and protect each and every citizen - and not just those it chooses.

All totalitarian efforts always end up on the rubble heap of history. These will be no exception.

Christiaan W. J. M. Alting von Geusau is a Dutch legal scholar. From 1997 to 2004 he was a lawyer in Amsterdam and Brussels. Since 2014, he has been Rector and Professor of Philosophy of Law and Christian Education at the ITI Catholic University in the Lower Austrian town of Trumau.

Editorial Note: This post first appeared under the title "Totalitarianism and the Five Stages of Dehumanization" at Brownstone. It was translated by the volunteer Rubicon translation team and proofread by the volunteer Rubicon proofreading team.
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