I was Tortured and Killed for Wrong Think

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Well, not really, but I survived a totalitarian regime

If you listen to only one Joe Rogan Experience episode, make it episode 1639, Dave Smith. It came out last Friday. It’s three hours long. I’ve listened to 2.5 hours (out of three hours).

Smith is a comic and a libertarian. He also has a podcast (that, for some reason, I can’t warm up to).

But I definitely warmed up to this episode with Rogan. They covered an array of matters, with Dave Smith channeling Murray Rothbard, Tom Woods Scott Horton, and other alternative thinkers.

The COVID discussion was really good. At minute 33:48, Smith pointed out something I hadn’t thought of: We lived under totalitarianism in 2020, at least those of us who live in a blue state.

Now, it may have been good totalitarianism. It may have been necessary totalitarianism. It was “soft” totalitarianism (no one was arrested, tortured, and killed).

But it was totalitarianism: suspension of the Bill of Rights; governors ruling by fiat, often with apparent whimsy; rulers playing by a different set of rules; heavy propaganda, groupthink, and censorship (by private corporations with ties to government). Everything you’d expect from totalitarianism, we had here in 2020.

This doesn’t mean it was bad, incidentally. It simply means many of us lived under totalitarianism. The choices were (supposedly): die of COVID or live under totalitarianism. Okay. Given those options, I choose totalitarianism. Many of us did. Just because it was totalitarian doesn’t mean it was wrong. It just means it was bad, but not necessarily as bad as the alternative (dying of COVID).

Of course, we now know those weren’t really the only options (“false dichotomy”) and the COVID risk was way overblown, but still, reasonable people can disagree (though increasingly I’m abandoning that position, as the vaccine is now widely available). But in light of the scare that ripped through society in March 2020? Maybe a soft totalitarianism was wise. I thought it was (and held that position until late May, when it became obvious the goal of the totalitarianism (flatten the curve so we don’t run out of respirators and hospital space) had been met).

Basically, the acknowledgement that we lived under totalitarianism in 2020 doesn’t settle anything. It doesn’t mean the blues were wrong and the reds were correct. It’s just a tool for seeing more clearly. It’s like the minimum wage (in non-stimulus times): It causes unemployment. No minimum wage, no unemployment. The truth doesn’t make the minimum wage good or bad. It just provides clarity.

That’s exactly what David Smith’s observation does: it provides clarity. We lived under totalitarianism. It’s awful, yes, but that doesn’t make it wrong. Let’s admit it’s totalitarian, let’s admit it’s awful, and now we have a couple of blocks of agreement we can build on to discuss and debate.