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White Horse Inn: Conversational Theology

The Cult of Soft Totalitarianism

Release date:

November 15, 2020



In his recent book Live Not by Lies, Rod Dreher tells the story of a Czech professor who began noticing a shift taking place in the States about a decade ago. “Friends would lower their voices and look over their shoulders when expressing conservative views. I grew up like this,” he said. According to Dreher, we’re witnessing the rise of a kind of “soft totalitarianism” that will, in his view, be closer to Huxley’s Brave New World than Orwell’s 1984. Shane Rosenthal talks with Rod Dreher about the thesis of his new book on this edition of White Horse Inn.

Show Quote:

America is a classically liberal country where we argue about ideas, but ultimately tolerate differing views. However, this new ideology doesn’t tolerate any dissent. People are beginning to lose their jobs for their beliefs; they are being muzzled in the public square and within institutions—universities, media, corporations—for holding beliefs that don’t comport with the new social justice ideology. Under communism, it started with people losing their jobs, but that is not where it stopped. Those who lived under communism are trying to raise an alarm for America, so that what happened to them doesn’t happen here. But, in America, we naively think that it can’t happen here. Yet, as Alexandr Solzhenitsyn said, “Alas, all the evil of the twentieth century is possible everywhere on earth.”

Rod Dreher


Live Not By Lies

Author: Rod Dreher

For years, émigrés from the former Soviet bloc have been telling Rod Dreher they see telltale signs of “soft” totalitarianism cropping up in America–something more Brave New World than Nineteen Eighty-Four. Identity politics are beginning to encroach on every aspect of life. Civil liberties are increasingly seen as a threat to “safety”. Progressives marginalize conservative, traditional Christians, and other dissenters. Technology and consumerism hasten the possibility of a corporate surveillance state. And the pandemic, having put millions out of work, leaves our country especially vulnerable to demagogic manipulation.

The Triumph of the Therapeutic

Author: Phillip Reiff

Since its publication in 1966, The Triumph of the Therapeutic has been hailed as a work of genuine brilliance, one of those books whose insights uncannily anticipate cultural developments and whose richness of argumentation reorients entire fields of inquiry. In her introduction to the book, Elisabeth Lasch-Quinn writes, “Rieff identifies a central irony: the therapeutic age, for all of its bluster about human potential and personal fulfillment, is inherently un-therapeutic and even, in some respects, antihuman.”

Amusing Ourselves to death

Author: Neil Postman

Originally published in 1985, Neil Postman’s groundbreaking polemic about the corrosive effects of television on our politics and public discourse has been hailed as a twenty-first-century book published in the twentieth century. Now, with television joined by more sophisticated electronic media—from the Internet to cell phones to DVDs—it has taken on even greater significance. Amusing Ourselves to Death is a prophetic look at what happens when politics, journalism, education, and even religion become subject to the demands of  entertainment. It is also a blueprint for regaining control of our media, so that they can serve our highest goals.