Seeds of Totalitarianism

It’s very easy to become a totalitarian pig. Most people carry the seed inside and have to make specific efforts not to let it grow.

Here’s an example. Yashar Ali, who used to be a real journalist and a serious person, spent the day trying to cancel a colleague for an ancient Halloween costume she had worn when she was a 23-year-old kid. She dressed as Amy Winehouse, and Ali dug out the photo on MySpace (remember MySpace?) and accused the colleague of cultural appropriation.

I’ll let everybody guess which culture he thought the Winehouse costume represented.

13 thoughts on “Seeds of Totalitarianism”

  1. Silly me…. I thought the controversy might be about how the costume glorified Winehouse (an Englishwoman who, like Adele, built a career out of appropriating the style of African American vocalists from the 1960s and 70s…).

    I wouldn’t have guessed the actual accusation in a million years….. just how stupid is this Yashar Ali?
    FWIW I always read Winehouse’s ‘look’ as a combination of 1960s English working class (with a bit of Dusty Springfield) and a couple of early 1980s English subculture looks that I don’t know the names for (the 1960s through the mid to late 1980s saw a lot of niche English subculture youth looks).


  2. In the last few days, I’ve see too much “cancelling” going on, and it’s often because of something someone said or did many years ago, instead of yesterday or last week. Now these relatively famous people, if they were cancelled and fired from their job, may be able to find another one soon, but this “cancel culture” does seem to be at odds with the “ban the box” movement supported by many liberals, myself included. This movement supports removing the box on job applications that ask if the applicant has ever committed a felony, a proposal which would help former felons–i.e., truly cancelled people–get a job and facilitate their reintegration into society.


    1. Speech crimes were considered immensely worse and were punished more severely than actual crimes in the USSR. In prison, it was a lot better to be a thief than somebody who didn’t clap long enough when hearing Stalin’s name.


    2. “This movement supports removing the box on job applications that ask if the applicant has ever committed a felony”

      I don’t get it. “Felonies are usually crimes that are viewed severely by society and include crimes such as murder, rape, burglary, kidnapping, or arson.” (

      On what planet is this information not highly relevant to a job application? An employer should be able to decide that it’s not relevant information if the applicant can establish that they have reformed. What’s next, not filling in the box for education and training? An employer can legitimately ask that an applicant prove their credentials – do we not want to live in a free society where the state doesn’t dictate who gets to work where?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. The only thing that should be relevant at hiring, in this worldview, is the list of immutable characteristics like race. Anything you have control over, like education, criminal history, qualifications, etc, shouldn’t be relevant.


        1. “Anything you have control over…”

          In most jurisdictions, felons convicted of non-serious crimes can apply to a government agency for expungement or pardon of their public record after establishing a period of good behaviour. So “ban the box” seeks to enable felons convicted of serious crimes to shield their past criminal behaviour without undergoing any kind of official vetting by a government agency.

          Why on earth would the “rights” of felons convicted of serious crimes trump the rights of potential employers, potential fellow employees, or potential clients/customers?

          Liked by 1 person

          1. “Why on earth would the “rights” of felons convicted of serious crimes trump the rights of ”

            Far be it from me to speak for those in favor of this idea, but reading lots of similar proposals I think I can safely predict their response to your entirely reasonable question….. SHUT UP, RACIST!!!


            1. “SHUT UP, RACIST!”

              Got it. Because Dumb Ideas Matter.

              But, seriously — dumbest, most indefensible idea I’ve seen in a week chock-full of dumb and indefensible ideas.


        2. This worldview is often popular with people who don’t have anything beyond characteristics like race or gender to distinguish themselves from other job applicants.


  3. Have you read about this case?

    // UCLA removes lecturer for questioning proposal to give black students preferential grading

    The student’s specific request does not appear to have been made public, not even in the petition calling for Klein’s firing. The newspaper reported Thursday that the student asked for “a no-harm and shortened final exam” and extended deadlines for final assignments and projects – but only for black students.

    I also liked a letter from Dreher’s reader comparing Trump on the Right and SJWs on the Left. The post’s title? “Trump ’16, SJWs ’20” 🙂

    // In 2016, I watched in confusion as Trump destroyed the GOP primary field. A friend of mine was ahead of the curve and explained what was going on. When Trump would make some “crazy” policy announcement about immigration, NATO, trade, etc., the rest of the GOP field would do what any American politician at the time would do: They would see that as a flawed policy proposal and try to take it down with a counter-policy.

    But here’s the thing: Trump wasn’t talking about policy. He was talking about a wholesale dissatisfaction with the system. He was communicating that he was willing to kill sacred cows, think differently, “drain the swamp,” etc. Here’s what the other candidates missed when they tried to show how one of Trump’s policies was wrong: It didn’t matter. Trump was operating on a different plane of understanding, so he ran circles around the others while they talked about the “text,” not the more meaningful “subtext.”

    I think we’re seeing a similar thing happening right now as it relates to SJW / Identity Politics and the past two weeks of unrest.


    1. I don’t see how Trump’s policies on immigration, NATO and trade were “crazy” and how they even remotely compare with the plan to disband police.

      Sorry, this is a false analogy.

      As for the UCLA lecturer, there are many more egregious stories. People are getting fired for not supporting BLM exuberantly enough. There are really sad cases.

      UCLA has been a dump for about 40 years but we are all going in that direction.


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