Amazon has sold out of Hannah Arendt’s The Origins of Totalitarianism, a work that engaged the question of why totalitarianism came into being. Speculation has it that the newfound interest in Arendt emanates from the rise of Donald Trump. If so, readers of The Origins are going to be sadly disappointed.
For the precious few who will attempt to wade through Arendt’s subtle and difficult concepts, not to mention sentences that seem to go on forever, it will become obvious that ground zero of totalitarianism’s resurgence is not the White House but the college campus.
Whereas the essence of democracy, as Tocqueville so brilliantly notes, is compromise and conciliation, the essence of totalitarianism is that truth is whatever the movement says it is. Different ideas are to be quashed.
The individual who believes that politics is a series of negotiations or deal making is hardly a totalitarian. By contrast, the diversity administrator who organizes a bunch of pubescent thugs who have been inculcated in the belief that truth is that which advances the interests of their identity and those who share it, is a totalitarian. He or she is no different from those who mobilized Hitler’s Brownshirts to shut down intellectuals whose ideas were not sanctioned by the Nazi movement.
As Nazism rose, Einstein’s theory of relativity became Jewish physics. Freud’s psychoanalysis became Jewish psychology. In 1933, when Hitler consolidated his power, Jews dominated classical music in both Germany and Austria. Yet, not only were Jewish conductors and musicians banned, so too were works written by Jews. The same censorship extended to art and literature.
This is the campus mentality that prevents conservative speakers from setting foot on campus and disrupts their speeches when they do. They have either the wrong identity or the wrong ideas and sometimes both.