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Dealing with our new totalitarian reality, part I

There’s one thing you can say for totalitarianism: the coolest people will all be Outlaws.

They’ll import and export goods without government controls. They’ll provide free-market services. They’ll operate free communication networks. They’ll make unregulated products and sell them in unregulated ways. They’ll barter, use cash, use gold or silver, develop and use new forms of cryptocurrencies.

It’ll be just like Libertopia. Except, you know, with the ever-present threat of death or long, harsh imprisonment. But that’s what Outlaws are about.

Since totalitarianism is the direction we’re going, hey we might as well enjoy a few silver linings.


I say that’s the direction we’re going because everybody seems to have a slightly different definition of what totalitarianism encompasses and very few people would say that we are actually living in a totalitarian society right now.

After all, this is “the land of the free.” This is “the freest country on earth.” Totalitarian? Hey, we fought those guys — and we won!

But the truth is we are actually living in a totalitarian society right now. And we’d better recognize that so we can deal with reality.

Is it as fully developed as Nazi Germany, Stalin’s Soviet Union, or North Korea’s socialist paradise? Of course not. But do you have to wait for the day-long bread lines or the boxcars full of doomed Deplorables to recognize the nature of a thing? Most people probably will wait — until it’s too late. But Western society — led by the Five Eyes countries of the U.S., Canada, Britain, Australia, and New Zealand, and trailed faithfully by most of Europe — has already gone totalitarian with dizzying speed.

Totalitarianism is not “down the road.” It’s not merely in politicians’ dreams. It’s not merely something one administration wants that can be undone by v*ting in a different bunch of liars, thieves, con artists, and slave-masters. It’s not merely a temporary condition that will be lifted once the current crisis (whichever current crisis is being used as the excuse) has abated. It’s here. It’s the new nature of our society and the everyday practice of our ruling class.


The Encyclopedia Britannica (which I’m always surprised to find still exists) gives the cleanest, most straightforward definition of totalitarianism. It is a “form of government that theoretically permits no individual freedom and that seeks to subordinate all aspects of individual life to the authority of the state.”

Benito Mussolini invented the term in the early 1920s, and further defined it as “all within the state, none outside the state, none against the state.”

Read the whole Britannica entry. It’s short and very worthwhile. Its only great shortcoming (and it’s a doozy) is that it focuses solely on historic totalitarianisms. It doesn’t touch contemporary realities. It doesn’t address the role that technology plays in enabling total control.

Still, as quaintly old-fashioned as it is, I found only one aspect of its description of totalitarianism that doesn’t in some way apply to us. Says Britannica: “The totalitarian state pursues some special goal, such as industrialization or conquest, to the exclusion of all others. All resources are directed toward its attainment, regardless of the cost.”

I don’t see that in the U.S. or anywhere in the Five Eyes. On the contrary, any goals we have seem muddled. Or ephemeral. Today the state’s goal is “jabs for all.” Twenty years ago it was “fighting terrorism.” The state tries to rally us around “climate change” or “diversity” or “equity” or whatever its newest war in the Middle East is. We’ve been ludicrously asked by the state to “Whip Inflation Now (WIN)” and “Just say no.” But all this nonsense comes and goes. Yes, the state gains power with every one of these efforts (well, maybe not WIN which quickly got laughed off the national stage back in the day). But we certainly aren’t being driven toward one overriding goal like “New Soviet Man” or a workers paradise or “The Thousand-Year Reich” or building the master race.

In that way we differ from twentieth-century totalitarian states. But then, virtually every article on the subject carefully notes that every totalitarian state looks different but operates on similar principles.

Going through multiple sites’ definitions and my own knowledge of history, I come up with these bullet points for totalitarianism.

  • Strong central rule by a single interconnected cadre or class
  • An elite corps of managerial “experts” attemping to shape society
  • Extensive surveillance networks, both directly run by government and consisting of volunteers eager to report on neighbors, family members, co-workers, and strangers
  • An obsession with keeping the elite’s own secrets while taking away everyone else’s privacy
  • Sweeping away of legal, social, religious, and political traditions
  • Iron control over the economy; government either owns the major means of production is in clubby collaboration with those who do
  • Control over the means of communication; constant barrage of propaganda
  • Censorship of any dissenting views, even when such views are based on facts
  • Increasing misery for the people it claims to represent
  • Police using arbitrary violence and terror as a control tactic
  • The law is whatever those in charge say it is
  • Tragically laughable elections (if any) with unashamedly absurd outcomes
  • All dissent is branded evil and harshly punished
  • Dissenters are accused of being agents of foreign agitators or other mysterious malign forces
  • Goals can never be achieved because having the goal and not achieving it is the thing that holds public loyalty
  • Individualism is scorned, downplayed, and punished
  • The population is disarmed, except perhaps certain favored groups
  • Every aspect of life becomes political; personal choices are judged by how well they fit the state’s ideology
  • Large-scale violence by favored groups is first permissible, then necessary and encouraged
  • Those who align themselves with the state’s ideology are rewarded; those who fail to align themselves properly (even if they don’t intentionally oppose it) are made example of


One key aspect of totalitarianism is that “truth” is whatever the government says it is. Furthermore, “truth” that changes from day to day, week to week, and year to year is not a bug of the system. Ever-changing “truth” is a feature of totalitarianism — and a vital one for those keeping control.

Now, given the endless pronouncements and laughable mispronouncements we’ve seen from the likes of St. Fauci and other “experts” for the last 18 months, you might just think I made that up to fit our current circumstances. But in fact, keeping the populace constantly off-balance by promoting ever-changing “truths” is among the chief ways totalitarians maintain power. They keep people too terrified to form or state firm convictions. They make cognitive dissonance a permanent part of life, leading people to doubt their own perceptions. These confused and terrified people no longer think. They just go with the flow, wherever the flow carries them — and strike out furiously at others who don’t.

If Comrade So-and-So is a hero of the regime one day and a wrecker responsible for the failure of the latest five-year plan the next, then no one’s views are safe and the only alternative is to watch TPTB closely for instructions on what to believe. If masks are useless against the plague one day, mandatory the next, doubled up the next, not needed the next, optional for the vaccinated the next, then mandatory again for everybody the next, it’s simply easier to go along with the pronouncements rather than raise a fuss. If we have always been at war with Eurasia one day and have always been at war with Eastasia the next, they you know not to ask questions.

It’s easier, and safer, if you simply consume and regurgitate whatever the latest pronouncement is. The safest course of all is not merely to obey the latest nonsense, but to be the first and loudest to proclaim your loyalty to whatever the new “truth” is at the moment — as long as you stand ready to switch those loyalties and pronouncements on a dime.

(I’m beginning to feel as if I should just stop writing and conclude, “Go read Orwell.”)


It’s important to note that every totalitarian society is merely an attempt to control every aspect of life. None has ever been successful at complete control because society is too complicated and people are messy, uncontrollable creatures (even as the mass of them are wiling to be desperate conformists).

But totalitarianism is not, as Wikipedia mindbendingly styles it, “a proposed concept used in academia and in politics.”

It’s a reality that’s killed hundreds of millions of people, blighted billions of lives, and is currently building up all around us. Covid is the immediate excuse, but it’s been coming on for a long time.

Totalitarianism — unlike its lesser-evil cousins, mere authoritarianism, dictatorships, and police states — is only possible because of modern “scientific” management concepts and modern tech.

I absolutely grant that the totalitarianism of the U.S. and the rest of the Five Eyes isn’t yet as fully developed (and therefore not yet as brutally catastrophic) as previous totalitarianisms. Yet, because our technology is so much more sophisticated and all-pervasive than anything Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Mussolini, or Pol Pot could have dreamed, our totalitarianism is far more dangerous, because it’s not only capable of probing far deeper into our activities and our psyches than any past totalitarianism, but it has our full cooperation.

Our totalitarians haven’t had to impose spy tech on us. We’ve famously paid billions of dollars to put it in our own pockets and homes. Then we’ve stood by uncaringly as it’s been used to probe the most personal aspects of our lives. Unlike the unfortunate souls of the past who’ve tried to resist letting totalitarian control freaks know everything about them, we cheerfully report our location, our medical issues, our finances, our possessions, our purchases, our genetic makeup, our sexual kinks, our driving habits, our relationships, our thoughts, and virtually everything else about us to a network of governmental and pseudo-private interests who jointly use it to exploit us (a system Benito Mussolini would also recognize and proudly claim ownership of).

And they’re only getting started.

For instance: In a brilliant essay, Edward Snowden points out that Apple’s horrific new plan to treat every one of its customers as a suspected child pornster isn’t merely a disaster for all the standard reasons. That is, Apple’s plan to scan all our iPhones for child pornography isn’t merely bad because it creates a backdoor that can be exploited by hackers and governments. It isn’t merely bad because evil actors can fake the “hash” signatures of child porn images, thereby rendering the innocent guilty. It isn’t merely bad because Apple has surrendered its (marketing gimmick of pretending to respect) customers’ privacy. It isn’t merely bad because once you’ve introduced a backdoor to report one type of activity to the state, that backdoor can be used to report any other form of activity — political dissent, ownership of other forms of contraband, unvaccinated status, financial transactions, you name it.

It is bad — catastrophic, foul, outrageous, insane, cruel, stupid, police-statish, dangerous — for all those reasons.

But Snowden finds a deeper reason. Apple isn’t merely scanning their own cloud for child porn images some perv has been stupid enough to upload. It’s planning to implant scanning software directly to your device. So the device itself, by and of itself, now serves TPTB’s purposes, not ours. The ever-changing priorities of totalitarians are now in your pocket, and enforceable from your pocket. You can be reported directly to government, as a criminal, with the device you’ve bought, paid for, and use every day.

You may say, “So what? Our tech already betrays us every day.” True. Or, “If you don’t use iCloud to upload your photos, they won’t bother you.” True. Perhaps. For the moment. Or, “Get a different phone.” Got one in mind that’s ready for prime time and isn’t evil? Or even, “Just don’t own a smart phone,” (which unfortunately many of us find increasingly unrealistic).

But the reality is that this is yet another stunning advance into totalitarian control. It doesn’t even matter if Apple’s doing this on their own or (much more likely) they’ve been recruited into the evil by some federal agency. Do you really care whether the totalitarianism you live under is run by Joe Biden’s puppetmasters or Tim Cook? Nancy Pelosi’s embalmers or Mark Zuckerberg? The FBI or Jack Dorsey? The NSA or Bill Gates?

A commenter on Snowden’s article puts this in perspective: “[T]he pre-digital equivalent of Apple’s plan is this: a police officer enters your home every night, walks to the bookcase, pulls out your family photo albums, looks through page after page and runs comparisons with whatever he has in his database. These are your personal family photos: children playing, intimate moments with your significant other, embarrassing selfies, etc. The police officer keeps copies of all of the photos too. Forever.” Oh, and he doesn’t even have to have a warrant.

Even if the security community and efreedom advocates beat Apple’s perfidy back with a stick, even if some smartphone competitor like the Librem 5 eventually gets good enough to compete with Evil Government-Partnering Apple and Evil Government-Partnering Google, nothing changes.

And even though I’ve gone on rather long about this ONE act of evil, this is just one minor, and all-too-typical example.

We face — one after another, faster than we can keep track of them (especially since so many of them are kept secret from us) — advance after advance into totalitarianism.

And there is very little, almost nothing, we can do to stop the onrush. So the question is how do we live in, cope with, undermine, and ultimately bring down our New Totalitarianism?

Part II soon


  1. Granny
    Granny August 30, 2021 5:47 am

    Always keep writing… until the day they take away your pen and ink (the Internet). I recall that Solzhenitsyn kept writing. Although he had to flee to America in order to have a proper publisher. Something to be said here for a written record rather than a digital one, and copies kept in safe places with trusted people.

    My opinion is that we are already in a totalitarian situation. The difference between us and the Soviet dissidents, for instance, is that we are still armed – something like 440 million firearms (that they know about, so double or triple that number). And while the woke Military is purging the ranks, we are all too happy to have our sons and daughters come home to protect our communities.

    This week I’m picking up a large food order (shelf stable products). My goal is to have a year’s worth while I better develop the farm. But, history has taught me that they will attempt to confiscate the farm and all it can produce. I can but try. #history

    My bottom line, come what may, is to “cling to my Bible and guns”. And while it makes me sick at my stomach to contemplate where we’re headed if hundreds of millions of Americans don’t wake up and fight back, my heart is right with God. In the end, to me, that’s what matters most (and I’m not being sing-songy and fake about that). I think it’s really important to prepare the mind and heart for persecution so we don’t go into that blank, shocked, stare, and give it all up when threatened by our government. A lot has been written about how and why the German population fell for the compliance demands of the Nazi’s and willingly gave up their Jewish friends. I think it’s important to study the psychology of that and get it deep in our souls so that we can recognize the evil and fight it. It’s also important for us to study how so many people hid the Jews and transported their children to save havens at farms in the countryside. Just sayin’, we need to get educated and prepared so we have knowledge and tools.

    My two cents.

  2. Toirdhealbheach Beucail
    Toirdhealbheach Beucail August 30, 2021 6:03 am

    Claire – Our minds are running the same; I touched on this today and likely again this week as well.

    One of the hallmarks of any totalitarian regime, as you so rightly point out, is that they will not brook any disagreement or contrary opinion. The US currently is trying to be crafty in this (but visibly so) in that it proclaims freedom of the press and speech yet happily stands by as outlets and platforms act to curtail speech, effectively on their behalf. Opinions or policies not agreed to by the state are actively pursued in court by the Federal Government.

    If asked what “Freedom” means, I am uncertain that they – or most people – could actually discuss what they mean. There would be some vague sense of “Freedom to do things – as long as they are not hurtful or inconvenient (both the hurt and the inconvenience being left quite to the State or another individual to assign” and, as we see developing, much more of a sense of “Freedom From”, which comes to mean anything – housing, income, support, jobs – that the State can provide as both a sinecure and and means of binding individuals to it.

    I find it interesting in your linked definition that, as you say, there are only historical examples used. I also find it interesting that those examples are all ones that ended quite horribly.

    One wonders, if the question were directly provided to the State in a press conference, if representatives of the State could answer the question how they are not actively becoming totalitarian and how they are different from, say, North Korea or China?

    Ah, well. We shall all be outlaws in the end, then. Perhaps at least we can finally achieve noteworthy bandit names.

  3. Simon Templar
    Simon Templar August 30, 2021 7:15 am

    I’ll talk about the ‘cognitive dissonance’ mentioned in Claire’s post today. It is a term I have also used to describe the mental state of people who hold conflicting or contradictory beliefs. But the definitions of ‘cognitive dissonance’ all use one of these words (or similar) to describe what is felt by the people who hold the conflicting ideas:


    What worries me are the people who hold conflicting beliefs, whether they be TPTB or their minions, and do not feel any of those negative things. Or, and this is worse, I worry about the people who hold the conflicting beliefs and feel positive things as a result. Not being a psychiatrist or psychologist, I am not sure if there is a specific term for these people, but I think maybe ‘psychotic’ or ‘sociopathic’ might be close.

    I think that those who experience negative feelings as a result of their conflicting beliefs may be salvageable, that is they might be able to see and understand the cognitive conflict, and they might possibly rectify it, one way or the other. I think those who hold the conflicting beliefs but do not experience any negative feelings (or experience positive feelings) may not be salvageable, and are probably far more dangerous.

  4. sabasarge
    sabasarge August 30, 2021 7:45 am

    Nothing to add other than how this serves as yet one more reminder to keep ones’ powder dry.
    Keep up your good work.

  5. Sean
    Sean August 30, 2021 7:47 am

    There’s only one way to end Any totalitarian regime. First it starts with mass noncompliance and then the other one involves blood. It’s that simple and if you don’t do it you lose everything. Tyrants never quit on their own.

  6. Eric B Oppen
    Eric B Oppen August 30, 2021 8:53 am

    I don’t know if you got the news, but L. Neil Smith died last Friday.

  7. Claire
    Claire August 30, 2021 9:34 am

    Thank you for thinking to tell me, Eric. I did hear, but only about an hour ago. We’re discussing Neil’s death right now on the Living Freedom Forums.

  8. enn ess
    enn ess August 30, 2021 11:11 am

    Ahhh, outlaws, may they live long prosperous lives, and may they be in heaven long before comrade slo jo (and others) knows they’re dead. Always have been somewhat of an outlaw, always going my own way instead of the “acceptable” way. Hell, now I’m mainstream. YaaHoo! Response to tyranny with one simple phrase: The Monkey Wrench Gang.

  9. kentmcmanigal
    kentmcmanigal August 30, 2021 12:00 pm

    The totalitarian state pursues some special goal…“… like security? Security from a cold virus, from terrorists, from gun owners, from dangerous speech, from landlords, from responsibility.

  10. Comrade X
    Comrade X August 30, 2021 1:44 pm

    Did I hear silver linings?

    Here’s the big one; TPTB are forcing everyone to decide; be a slave or stand for liberty, there is no middle ground anymore, it isn’t even a left or right thing anymore, TPTB with their mandates are forcing everyone to decide which side of the line will you be on, you know the line in all of hearts that divides good and evil. Good like standing for freedom & free choice. Evil like submitting to slavery!

    They are taking your jobs, your families, your beliefs away, even your ability to feed those you love, it is a very black cloud but the most dangerous person in the world is someone who has nothing else to lose.

    TPTB are creating the very harbingers of their downfall with their actions.

    OK, that means bad stuff too; pain & suffering, chaos, etc but some more silver lining stuff is there can be a phoenix rising!

    First it is about local and survival, second it is about local and creating communities based on FREEDOM!

    From freedom based communities that phoenix can rise!

    TPTB have made it so simple for each of us; there are only two choices; submit or stand. We all will have to decide which side of that line we intend to live and die on, sooner or later but IMHO it gonna be a lot sooner than any of us want. It is what it is!

    As for me it’s liberty or death! How about you?

  11. E M Johnson
    E M Johnson August 30, 2021 3:40 pm

    oh my, this is lovely. Claire whips me into a frenzy with an on point analysis about how we are already “in it” just a matter of the ptb wratcheting up the clamps. Lovely… now I have to wait for the follow up post and hope I don’t explode

  12. Scot
    Scot August 30, 2021 7:37 pm

    > Something to be said here for a written record rather than a digital one, and copies kept in safe places with trusted people.

    On the other hand, digital samizdat is much more easily duplicated and distributed. Instead of running a mimeograph machine to produce books or cutting records out of old X-ray film, you just upload a file someplace (whether out in the open or on a “deep web” site) and people grab their own copies from there.

    I have copies of every ebook I’ve purchased (or otherwise obtained), with multiple backups. If Amazon decides to memory-hole one of the books I’ve bought from them (as they infamously did once with 1984, of all possible titles), I still have my copy, ready to view on my computer or load into a phone or ebook reader.

    On the third hand, digital vs. physical doesn’t necessarily have to mean exclusively one choice or the other. We can embrace the power of “and.” 🙂

  13. PrinterChick
    PrinterChick August 31, 2021 8:10 am

    Very well said, Claire! Can’t wait for part 2.

  14. The Freeholder
    The Freeholder August 31, 2021 10:24 am

    I think the reason so many don’t recognize our totalitarian state is because it’s an incompetent totalitarian state. At least Mussolini got the trains to run on time. They can’t even get *President Biden to a presser on time.

    Abrupt topic shift, I hadn’t heard about L Neil Smith. Big loss.

  15. Cube64
    Cube64 August 31, 2021 10:37 am

    Claire – another great blog post.

    Toirdhealbheach – I had never visited your blog before, but it was well-worth the visit. I loved your OPASB essay.

  16. James
    James August 31, 2021 10:43 am

    My word, Claire, that was twenty bullet points (unless I miscounted) and not a one of them outside the black. In fact, I can only distinguish a couple of discrete holes; most of your rounds collectively chewed the center out of the target. Nice shooting.

    Can it get “more totalitarian?” Sure. And it will, barring a Soviet-style soft and rotten collapse due to economic reality. That’s what I’ve got my fingers crossed for.

    And “v*ting” … I’d forgotten about that. I love it! I hope you don’t mind if I borrow it every once in a while.

  17. Toirdhealbheach Beucail
    Toirdhealbheach Beucail August 31, 2021 2:44 pm

    Cube64 – Not to derail a discussion and a post not mine, but thank you very much for your kind words. Our kind hostess was quite gracious in providing the link (as she always is).

  18. Totalitarianism is NOW
    Totalitarianism is NOW August 31, 2021 7:05 pm

    […] estimable, and in fact gifted Claire Wolf’s latest two-part opus, so I trust you’ll all click on over to read the whole thing. There is one more thing I just have to excerpt, however. Claire helpfully provides a quite copious […]

  19. John Wilder
    John Wilder August 31, 2021 8:37 pm

    Just excellent. Thank you.

  20. Realization | Dio's Workshop
    Realization | Dio's Workshop September 1, 2021 3:25 am

    […] Over at Claire’s in her article one Totalitarianism and how ‘we ARE there’ (and we are) one of the commentors states that we are at the point of ‘stand or submit’. Stand for freedom (against the state) or submit to the demands (become the slave) […]

  21. Noah Body
    Noah Body September 1, 2021 2:28 pm

    “Dissenters are accused of being agents of foreign agitators or other mysterious malign forces”

    And Terrorists! Apparently there were no protestors in D.C. on January 6, they were all TERRORISTS. Which is an emotionally loaded word, causing people to think of Osama bin Laden and the 9/11 attacks.

  22. larryarnold
    larryarnold September 5, 2021 4:02 pm

    I was actually becoming cautiously optimistic because many states were pushing back against some of the more draconian pronouncements coming out of D.C. Half-a-dozen states, including Texas, passed Constitutional carry. Several states (including Texas) passed or are working on v*ter integrity bills. Etc.

    Then Texas passed Senate Bill 8.

    I know Republicans are the “Right-to-Life” party, and have to go off on such. I figured the Legislature would try something like passing a bill outlawing abortion if SCOTUS overturns Roe, and so forth. (They did that, too.)

    SB 8, however, outlaws abortions past fetal heartbeat. But it doesn’t make performing them a criminal offense. That would be struck down rickey-tic. It actually prohibits the state from filing criminal charges.

    What it does instead is create civil liability. “Any person, other than an officer or employee of a state or local governmental entity in this state, may bring a civil action against any person who:” provide, aids, or such, an abortion. The civil penalty is $10,000 plus attorney fees and such.

    IOW they passed a right-to-life vigilante law.

    Who in their right mind would think this sets a good precedent?

    OT: Next Saturday is the 20th anniversary of 9-11. I’ll be teaching a Texas license to carry a handgun class. (It seemed appropriate.)

    Regardless, given recent events and the competence of the present administration in handling them, I would suggest not loitering near any venue that might be a potential target.

  23. George
    George September 6, 2021 8:06 am

    “….the only alternative is to watch TPTB closely for instructions on what to believe……it’s simply easier to go along with the pronouncements rather than raise a fuss.”

    There is another option…….

  24. Antibubba
    Antibubba September 8, 2021 1:00 pm

    If you are going to cite literary examples of totalitarianism, Claire, I think Brave New World needs to be added to 1984. We’ve successfully (socially) separated the intellectual white collar workers from the laborers, with each deriding the other, and with the opportunities to leave each class fewer and fewer. Our spy devices are also dopamine delivery devices, rewarding our inattention to the larger world, either by closing it out entirely, or by creating 24 hour channels to deliver our “two minutes of hate” (Twitter). And (here’s the big one) almost everybody is medicated. Not just those few who really need it–and for whom these drugs are a miracle–but everybody. These miracle drugs have subtle but significant side effects.
    And for those not prescribed something, cannabis is readily available, and legal in a lot of places. More power to the people who get to decide what substances they can use without fear of prison or violence; but I see the results of heavy, daily soma use. For some, cannabis is a miracle substance, and we still don’t know all its potential. But for most of them, it’s all about the buzz.

    The point is, there are A LOT of distracted citizens out there, and happily so. Because, lets face it, things are pretty awful, and it’s easier to fill up all our waking time with activity than to participate in the democratic process.

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