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Trying to understand the idea of a totalitarian administration from the pages of history

Trying to understand the idea of a totalitarian administration from the pages of history



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I'm a student of science and new to History StackExchange. I'm trying to understand the idea and meaning of a totalitarian administration through historical examples.

Can someone provide me with some well-known instances and/or characters from history? The dictionary meaning doesn't help much unless it can be understood w.r.t some examples from history.

Apologies if the question is unsuitable for this site.


Wikipedia defines the term Totalitarianism

Totalitarianism is a political system in which the state recognizes no limits to its authority and strives to regulate every aspect of public and private life wherever feasible.[1] A distinctive feature of totalitarian governments is an "elaborate ideology, a set of ideas that gives meaning and direction to the whole society"

There were many characters and countries who used Totalitarian administration process. For instance

Joseph Stalin - In the Soviet Union, after the conclusion of Civil War, Stalin took over the country and began executing any people who were not in alignment with the goals of the state.

Benito Mussolini - Having seized power in Italy in 1922, Mussolini become the leader of the nation and immediately began to rule in a totalitarian manner.

Adolf Hitler - Notorious for his reign in German, Hitler employed totalitarianism as a means to attempt to achieve an obedient nation that was his personal vision for the country.

North Korea - North Korea has been ruled by the same family since 1948. The family has been running the country based on the concept of self-reliance. However, severe economic declines have contributed to the country's struggle to maintain totalitarianism.

Mao Zedong - From 1949, when he established the People's Republic of China, until his death in 1976, Chairman Mao lead China in a way in line with the concepts of totalitarianism.


Reagan refers to U.S.S.R. as “evil empire” again

Speaking to a convention of the National Association of Evangelicals in Florida on March 8, 1983, President Ronald Reagan publicly refers to the Soviet Union as an evil empire for the second time in his career. He had first used the phrase in a 1982 speech at the British House of Commons. Some considered Reagan’s use of the Star Wars film-inspired terminology to be brilliant democratic rhetoric. Others, including many within the international diplomatic community, denounced it as irresponsible bombast.

Reagan’s aggressive stance toward the Soviet Union became known as the Reagan Doctrine. He warned against what he and his supporters saw as the dangerous trend of tolerating the Soviets’ build-up of nuclear weapons and attempts to infiltrate Third World countries in order to spread communism. Advocating a peace through strength policy, Reagan declared that the Soviets "must be made to understand we will never compromise our principles and standards [nor] ignore the facts of history and the aggressive impulses of an evil empire. To do so would mean abandoning the struggle between right and wrong and good and evil."


Early Political Parties

Though America’s Founding Fathers distrusted political parties, it wasn’t long before divisions developed among them. Supporters of George Washington and Alexander Hamilton, who favored a strong central government and a national financial system, became known as Federalists.

By contrast, Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson favored a more limited government. His supporters called themselves Republicans, or Jeffersonian Republicans, but later became known as Democratic-Republicans.

The Federalist Party dissolved after the War of 1812, and by the 1830s the Democratic-Republicans had evolved into the Democratic Party (now the main rival to today’s Republicans), which initially rallied around President Andrew Jackson.

Opponents of Jackson’s policies formed their own party, the Whig Party, and by the 1840s Democrats and Whigs were the country’s two main political coalitions.


Autocracy: Rules for Survival

&ldquoThank you, my friends. Thank you. Thank you. We have lost. We have lost, and this is the last day of my political career, so I will say what must be said. We are standing at the edge of the abyss. Our political system, our society, our country itself are in greater danger than at any time in the last century and a half. The president-elect has made his intentions clear, and it would be immoral to pretend otherwise. We must band together right now to defend the laws, the institutions, and the ideals on which our country is based.&rdquo

That, or something like that, is what Hillary Clinton should have said on Wednesday. Instead, she said, resignedly,

We must accept this result and then look to the future. Donald Trump is going to be our president. We owe him an open mind and the chance to lead. Our constitutional democracy enshrines the peaceful transfer of power. We don&rsquot just respect that. We cherish it. It also enshrines the rule of law the principle [that] we are all equal in rights and dignity freedom of worship and expression. We respect and cherish these values, too, and we must defend them.

Hours later, President Barack Obama was even more conciliatory:

We are now all rooting for his success in uniting and leading the country. The peaceful transition of power is one of the hallmarks of our democracy. And over the next few months, we are going to show that to the world&hellip.We have to remember that we&rsquore actually all on one team.

The president added, &ldquoThe point, though, is that we all go forward with a presumption of good faith in our fellow citizens, because that presumption of good faith is essential to a vibrant and functioning democracy.&rdquo As if Donald Trump had not conned his way into hours of free press coverage, as though he had released (and paid) his taxes, or not brazenly denigrated our system of government, from the courts and Congress, to the election process itself&mdashas if, in other words, he had not won the election precisely by acting in bad faith.

Similar refrains were heard from various members of the liberal commentariat, with Tom Friedman vowing, &ldquoI am not going to try to make my president fail,&rdquo to Nick Kristof calling on &ldquothe approximately 52 percent majority of voters who supported someone other than Donald Trump&rdquo to &ldquogive president Trump a chance.&rdquo Even the politicians who have in the past appealed to the less-establishment part of the Democratic electorate sounded the conciliatory note. Senator Elizabeth Warren promised to &ldquoput aside our differences.&rdquo Senator Bernie Sanders was only slightly more cautious, vowing to try to find the good in Trump: &ldquoTo the degree that Mr. Trump is serious about pursuing policies that improve the lives of working families in this country, I and other progressives are prepared to work with him.&rdquo

However well-intentioned, this talk assumes that Trump is prepared to find common ground with his many opponents, respect the institutions of government, and repudiate almost everything he has stood for during the campaign. In short, it is treating him as a &ldquonormal&rdquo politician. There has until now been little evidence that he can be one.

More dangerously, Clinton&rsquos and Obama&rsquos very civil passages, which ended in applause lines, seemed to close off alternative responses to his minority victory. (It was hard not to be reminded of Neville Chamberlain&rsquos statement, that &ldquoWe should seek by all means in our power to avoid war, by analyzing possible causes, by trying to remove them, by discussion in a spirit of collaboration and good will.&rdquo) Both Clinton&rsquos and Obama&rsquos phrases about the peaceful transfer of power concealed the omission of a call to action. The protesters who took to the streets of New York, Los Angeles, and other American cities on Wednesday night did so not because of Clinton&rsquos speech but in spite of it. One of the falsehoods in the Clinton speech was the implied equivalency between civil resistance and insurgency. This is an autocrat&rsquos favorite con, the explanation for the violent suppression of peaceful protests the world over.

The second falsehood is the pretense that America is starting from scratch and its president-elect is a tabula rasa. Or we are: &ldquowe owe him an open mind.&rdquo It was as though Donald Trump had not, in the course of his campaign, promised to deport US citizens, promised to create a system of surveillance targeted specifically at Muslim Americans, promised to build a wall on the border with Mexico, advocated war crimes, endorsed torture, and repeatedly threatened to jail Hillary Clinton herself. It was as though those statements and many more could be written off as so much campaign hyperbole and now that the campaign was over, Trump would be eager to become a regular, rule-abiding politician of the pre-Trump era.

But Trump is anything but a regular politician and this has been anything but a regular election. Trump will be only the fourth candidate in history and the second in more than a century to win the presidency after losing the popular vote. He is also probably the first candidate in history to win the presidency despite having been shown repeatedly by the national media to be a chronic liar, sexual predator, serial tax-avoider, and race-baiter who has attracted the likes of the Ku Klux Klan. Most important, Trump is the first candidate in memory who ran not for president but for autocrat&mdashand won.

I have lived in autocracies most of my life, and have spent much of my career writing about Vladimir Putin&rsquos Russia. I have learned a few rules for surviving in an autocracy and salvaging your sanity and self-respect. It might be worth considering them now:

Rule #1: Believe the autocrat. He means what he says. Whenever you find yourself thinking, or hear others claiming, that he is exaggerating, that is our innate tendency to reach for a rationalization. This will happen often: humans seem to have evolved to practice denial when confronted publicly with the unacceptable. Back in the 1930s, The New York Times assured its readers that Hitler&rsquos anti-Semitism was all posture. More recently, the same newspaper made a telling choice between two statements made by Putin&rsquos press secretary Dmitry Peskov following a police crackdown on protesters in Moscow: &ldquoThe police acted mildly&mdashI would have liked them to act more harshly&rdquo rather than those protesters&rsquo &ldquoliver should have been spread all over the pavement.&rdquo Perhaps the journalists could not believe their ears. But they should&mdashboth in the Russian case, and in the American one. For all the admiration Trump has expressed for Putin, the two men are very different if anything, there is even more reason to listen to everything Trump has said. He has no political establishment into which to fold himself following the campaign, and therefore no reason to shed his campaign rhetoric. On the contrary: it is now the establishment that is rushing to accommodate him&mdashfrom the president, who met with him at the White House on Thursday, to the leaders of the Republican Party, who are discarding their long-held scruples to embrace his radical positions.

He has received the support he needed to win, and the adulation he craves, precisely because of his outrageous threats. Trump rally crowds have chanted &ldquoLock her up!&rdquo They, and he, meant every word. If Trump does not go after Hillary Clinton on his first day in office, if he instead focuses, as his acceptance speech indicated he might, on the unifying project of investing in infrastructure (which, not coincidentally, would provide an instant opportunity to reward his cronies and himself), it will be foolish to breathe a sigh of relief. Trump has made his plans clear, and he has made a compact with his voters to carry them out. These plans include not only dismantling legislation such as Obamacare but also doing away with judicial restraint&mdashand, yes, punishing opponents.

To begin jailing his political opponents, or just one opponent, Trump will begin by trying to capture members of the judicial system. Observers and even activists functioning in the normal-election mode are fixated on the Supreme Court as the site of the highest-risk impending Trump appointment. There is little doubt that Trump will appoint someone who will cause the Court to veer to the right there is also the risk that it might be someone who will wreak havoc with the very culture of the high court. And since Trump plans to use the judicial system to carry out his political vendettas, his pick for attorney general will be no less important. Imagine former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani or New Jersey Governor Chris Christie going after Hillary Clinton on orders from President Trump quite aside from their approach to issues such as the Geneva Conventions, the use of police powers, criminal justice reforms, and other urgent concerns.

Rule #2: Do not be taken in by small signs of normality. Consider the financial markets this week, which, having tanked overnight, rebounded following the Clinton and Obama speeches. Confronted with political volatility, the markets become suckers for calming rhetoric from authority figures. So do people. Panic can be neutralized by falsely reassuring words about how the world as we know it has not ended. It is a fact that the world did not end on November 8 nor at any previous time in history. Yet history has seen many catastrophes, and most of them unfolded over time. That time included periods of relative calm. One of my favorite thinkers, the Jewish historian Simon Dubnow, breathed a sigh of relief in early October 1939: he had moved from Berlin to Latvia, and he wrote to his friends that he was certain that the tiny country wedged between two tyrannies would retain its sovereignty and Dubnow himself would be safe. Shortly after that, Latvia was occupied by the Soviets, then by the Germans, then by the Soviets again&mdashbut by that time Dubnow had been killed. Dubnow was well aware that he was living through a catastrophic period in history&mdashit&rsquos just that he thought he had managed to find a pocket of normality within it.

Rule #3: Institutions will not save you. It took Putin a year to take over the Russian media and four years to dismantle its electoral system the judiciary collapsed unnoticed. The capture of institutions in Turkey has been carried out even faster, by a man once celebrated as the democrat to lead Turkey into the EU. Poland has in less than a year undone half of a quarter century&rsquos accomplishments in building a constitutional democracy.

Of course, the United States has much stronger institutions than Germany did in the 1930s, or Russia does today. Both Clinton and Obama in their speeches stressed the importance and strength of these institutions. The problem, however, is that many of these institutions are enshrined in political culture rather than in law, and all of them&mdashincluding the ones enshrined in law&mdashdepend on the good faith of all actors to fulfill their purpose and uphold the Constitution.

The national press is likely to be among the first institutional victims of Trumpism. There is no law that requires the presidential administration to hold daily briefings, none that guarantees media access to the White House. Many journalists may soon face a dilemma long familiar to those of us who have worked under autocracies: fall in line or forfeit access. There is no good solution (even if there is a right answer), for journalism is difficult and sometimes impossible without access to information.

The power of the investigative press&mdashwhose adherence to fact has already been severely challenged by the conspiracy-minded, lie-spinning Trump campaign&mdashwill grow weaker. The world will grow murkier. Even in the unlikely event that some mainstream media outlets decide to declare themselves in opposition to the current government, or even simply to report its abuses and failings, the president will get to frame many issues. Coverage, and thinking, will drift in a Trumpian direction, just as it did during the campaign&mdashwhen, for example, the candidates argued, in essence, whether Muslim Americans bear collective responsibility for acts of terrorism or can redeem themselves by becoming the &ldquoeyes and ears&rdquo of law enforcement. Thus was xenophobia further normalized, paving the way for Trump to make good on his promises to track American Muslims and ban Muslims from entering the United States.

Rule #4: Be outraged. If you follow Rule #1 and believe what the autocrat-elect is saying, you will not be surprised. But in the face of the impulse to normalize, it is essential to maintain one&rsquos capacity for shock. This will lead people to call you unreasonable and hysterical, and to accuse you of overreacting. It is no fun to be the only hysterical person in the room. Prepare yourself.

Despite losing the popular vote, Trump has secured as much power as any American leader in recent history. The Republican Party controls both houses of Congress. There is a vacancy on the Supreme Court. The country is at war abroad and has been in a state of mobilization for fifteen years. This means not only that Trump will be able to move fast but also that he will become accustomed to an unusually high level of political support. He will want to maintain and increase it&mdashhis ideal is the totalitarian-level popularity numbers of Vladimir Putin&mdashand the way to achieve that is through mobilization. There will be more wars, abroad and at home.

Rule #5: Don&rsquot make compromises. Like Ted Cruz, who made the journey from calling Trump &ldquoutterly amoral&rdquo and a &ldquopathological liar&rdquo to endorsing him in late September to praising his win as an &ldquoamazing victory for the American worker,&rdquo Republican politicians have fallen into line. Conservative pundits who broke ranks during the campaign will return to the fold. Democrats in Congress will begin to make the case for cooperation, for the sake of getting anything done&mdashor at least, they will say, minimizing the damage. Nongovernmental organizations, many of which are reeling at the moment, faced with a transition period in which there is no opening for their input, will grasp at chances to work with the new administration. This will be fruitless&mdashdamage cannot be minimized, much less reversed, when mobilization is the goal&mdashbut worse, it will be soul-destroying. In an autocracy, politics as the art of the possible is in fact utterly amoral. Those who argue for cooperation will make the case, much as President Obama did in his speech, that cooperation is essential for the future. They will be willfully ignoring the corrupting touch of autocracy, from which the future must be protected.

Rule #6: Remember the future. Nothing lasts forever. Donald Trump certainly will not, and Trumpism, to the extent that it is centered on Trump&rsquos persona, will not either. Failure to imagine the future may have lost the Democrats this election. They offered no vision of the future to counterbalance Trump&rsquos all-too-familiar white-populist vision of an imaginary past. They had also long ignored the strange and outdated institutions of American democracy that call out for reform&mdashlike the electoral college, which has now cost the Democratic Party two elections in which Republicans won with the minority of the popular vote. That should not be normal. But resistance&mdashstubborn, uncompromising, outraged&mdashshould be.

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Yes, the 1619 Project Actually Suggests That Year Was America's True Founding, and Nikole Hannah-Jones Admits It

The New York Times would like people to believe that one of the 1619 Project's more widely criticized claims—that we might consider 1619, the year African slaves first arrived in the British colonies, to be the true year of America's founding—was never actually put forth by the Pulitzer Prize-winning article series.

Editors recently removed (without explanation or acknowledgment) the provocative statement that the project "aim[s] to reframe the country's history, understanding 1619 as our true founding" from the article series' online introduction. Lead author Nikole Hannah-Jones has repeatedly claimed it is a myth that the project proposes 1619 rather than 1776 as the country's birth year: She blamed bad-faith critics on the right for tricking the media into believing otherwise.

"One thing in which the right has been tremendously successful is getting media to frame stories in their language and through their lens," wrote Hannah-Jones in a subsequently deleted tweet. "The #1619Project does not argue that 1619 is our true founding. We know this nation marks its founding at 1776."

Forget for a moment that Hannah-Jones' Twitter banner is a picture of 1776 crossed out and replaced with 1619. Forget that multiple progressive media outlets that were sympathetic to the project's aims used the 1619-as-true-founding summary in order to explain it. Forget that a year ago, after the articles were published, both Hannah-Jones and New York Times magazine editor Jake Silverstein described the project in exactly these terms: "We sort of proposed the idea in a variety of ways that if you consider 1619 as the foundational date of the country, rather than 1776, it just changes your understanding and we call that a reframing of American history." Just consider one last piece of evidence that Hannah-Jones is being deceptive about who invented the 1619-not-1776 framing.

In an interview with Tomiko Brown-Nagin, dean of Harvard University's Radcliffe Institute, Hannah-Jones stated explicitly that the 1619 Project makes evocative arguments such as, "What would it mean to consider 1619 our founding and not 1776?" Here is video of the conversation, which took place not a year ago, or even several months ago, but just last week: September 15, 2020.

I don't mean to belabor this point, or to reduce the 1619 Project—which includes a number of different essays advancing many different arguments—to just Hannah-Jones herself. Whether it specifically claims that 1619 should replace 1776 is not even the most salient controversy involving the project. The claim can be metaphoric rather than literal: an example of the kind of radical shift in perspective that Hannah-Jones and her cohorts think is so urgent.

But the claim is inarguably part of the 1619 Project, and it's absurd for Hannah-Jones to pretend it isn't—especially while she continues to describe the project in exactly these terms. To say that conservatives imagined or manufactured this is ridiculous. It's gaslighting—and it undercuts the credibility of the author and her work.

Robby Soave is a senior editor at Reason.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

Seriously, no one fucking cares about this.

I quit working at shoprite and now I make $65-85 per/h. How? I’m working online! My work didn’t exactly make me happy so I decided to take a chance on something new…FEd after 4 years it was so hard to quit my day job but now I couldn’t be happier.

Correction, no one should care about it, but it’s exactly the silliness that begins in obscure grievance studies departments that churn out indebted students with useless degrees who end up in your HR department.

You really demonstrated that by viewing and commenting on the article

Yours has always been the dumbest take on the internet. It doesn’t even make sense.

Yes, it is very apparent that you frequently have trouble making sense of things Tulpa

I’m sorry on his criticism of your post makes you so upset

I quit working at shoprite and now I make $65-85 per/h. How? I’m working online! My work didn’t exactly make me happy so I decided to take a chance on something new… after 4 years it was so hard to quit my day job but now I couldn’t be happier.

I seriously care about this. They are trying to teach this shit in school. The whole “ackshewly, our founding was 1619” serves dual purposes. The first, most obvious point is that it tries to reframe the entire country’s founding around race rather than the very many other ideas that were circulating at the time.

But the secondary point is the most nefarious- it is the one that history teachers have been promoting in schools for the last few decades- that the curriculum taught in our schools is a bunch of lies and propaganda. This sentiment- that until the early 2000, everyone was taught a false history- permiates everywhere. Even the guy who gave us the tour of the Capital building spent 90% of his time pointing out how the murals painted on the walls are all propaganda.

If you can get people to credibly deny that the founding of our nation was in 1776, then you can credibly deny any of our “official” history. Debates about our founding no longer require facts because YOUR facts are all lies and can be dismissed without consideration as the product of propaganda.

We didn’t care when marxists started taking care of obscure human studies departments, but just a decade or so later, they even have engineering departments. It is a severe problem that cannot be ignored.

I understand that point of view. But I also think people are a lot more resilient and intelligent than given credit for, and teaching such obviously bogus propaganda backfires when the students discover later they were fed a pack of lies. This has happened throughout history. How did the Protestant reformation start except from people who were disgusted by the claptrap they were fed? How do religious (including atheist) families have children who switch religion? Where do libertarians come from?

The more outrageous the propaganda, the more it backfires.

The dirty little secret is that 95% of the world doesn’t think critically. Their lizard brain makes an emotional judgement based on context and then figures out how to justify accepting or discarding that argument. Only the remaining 5% or so have the self awareness to recognize that they are reacting emotionally so as to

This is why the religious spent years just ruling certain subjects as sinful, and it is why the left spends so much time trying to link things like “School Choice” and “Voter ID” to Racism. It is to short circuit the entire discussion and get that emotional switch to flip right off.

Yes, sometimes people get that shocking moment where their world is rocked and they start to question things. But things like the 1619 project are designed to make that as difficult as possible.

“Only the remaining 5% or so have the self awareness to recognize that they are reacting emotionally so as to” challenge their emotional reaction.

“But things like the 1619 project are designed to make that as difficult as possible.”

I don’t believe it will work as they intended. I believe that it is such an obviously bogus fraudulent claim, independent of being outrageously insulting, that it will backfire more than most of their stupid claims.

Big lies may be more easily believed just for being so outrageously big, but they are more easily disproved also, and engender more backlash too.

Big lies may be more easily believed just for being so outrageously big, but they are more easily disproved also, and engender more backlash too.

If there’s one thing that everyone should have learned from the “Hand up, don’t shoot” narrative, it doesn’t matter if you disprove a lie after the lie has already been accepted by the general public.

“The dirty little secret is that 95% of the world doesn’t think critically”

DARE was just a program of “here’s what drugs look like and here’s how to use them”.

I have no idea how that program got approved.

Nancy consulted the finest astrologers in the country to get the necessary clout.

I see your point. I’d agree except for two things.
1. In the last decade or two, information sources for history have moved online. People are no longer exposed to the “other pages” in the history book or the history textbook that the class doesn’t cover, or the adjacent books on the library shelf. It’s very online, and they’re not always even given a book, it may just be (like it is right now for one of my kids) lectures and powerpoints presented through an online platform. There are no alternative sources. So the direction that technology is going is creating, for many students, a restriction of perspectives they are exposed to. It’s all and only whatever the official line is.
He had a project on Jamestown, VA a couple of years ago. They had to give a presentation at some point and one of the kids in the group added something about the Mexican-American experience at Jamestown. I don’t think he was corrected. That was a WTF moment for me. The Mexican-American experience is very important, and so is accuracy, and as far as I know, there were maybe zero Mexican-Americans in Jamestown in 1619, partly because those two countries weren’t founded yet. So yes, in support of inclusivity, some people are giving very shaky facts a pass. Kids are often very confused and teachers don’t want to make anyone mad.

2. The other thing is that memorizing facts is very unpopular. Kids are not being taught names and dates anymore. It’s a big wash of “critical thinking” which turns into the exact opposite. Some kids make it out ok, others only retain the overarching themes. It’s one thing for a grad student with significant knowledge of American history to say, yes, there was a lot of racism. It’s another thing for middle schoolers to soak in that it was all and only racism, beginning at racism and ending at racism, and nothing else. Without names, dates and ideas, that’s the takeaway.

So unless the non-school environment is very vigilant about the names and dates bit, the kids will grow up and not even realize something’s off.

Bourgeois humanism is one of the great gifts to humanity. It is the underpinning of the idea of human rights, which matters very much. It has echoes in many cultures, and the form that’s popular right now has strong roots in Europe. They could take all the energy spent shoveling dirt onto humanism and do some comparative history and comparative religion and look for that idea in other places, and talk about that. If there isn’t something about people that’s equal, however intangible it might be, the human rights framework falls apart and so does progressivism (so they should pay attention). Learning about the people who were dedicated to the idea, in all their complexity, is important. The presence of humanism doesn’t erase slavery and slavery doesn’t erase the presence of humanism. Hypocrisy is as old as the hills, people need to get over that and see the complexity.

The other problem is it’s not outrageous propaganda, it’s a presentation of some-not all-facts about American history, which are less well known. I don’t think there’s a curriculum yet that tells that story while also telling the humanist story. I think one side is waiting for the 1619 project to resurrect humanism and the other side can’t use the 1619 project to resurrect humanism because four legs bad. It’s all going over the falls in a barrel. It doesn’t have to, but some people want it to and I think right now they are stronger.


The Orwellian Dystopia of Robin DiAngelo’s PhD Dissertation

As I have written time and again, Robin DiAngelo’s theory of white fragility is defective on so many fronts that it is a wonder people take it seriously. But they do. The theory is so influential that Kelefa Sanneh of the New Yorker has described DiAngelo as “perhaps the country’s most visible expert in anti-bias training, a practice that is also an industry, and from all appearances a prospering one.” DiAngelo has written a bestselling book and was able to charge the University of Kentucky “$12,000, not counting travel expenses, housing accommodations, and meals, for a two-hour ‘Racial Justice Keynote and breakout session’ in March [2019].” A fter the horrific death of George Floyd, her book rocketed to the top of the Amazon and New York Times bestseller lists and at least one university department and perhaps m uch of corporate America organized a Zoom lunch discussion of DiAngelo’s book.

So what kind of bang for the buck does a two-hour “Racial Justice Keynote and breakout session” with Robin DiAngelo get you? What you get is an in-your-face lesson in Orwellian newspeak tailored for audiences eager to be indoctrinated into her gospel of “critical social justice” and her theory of white fragility. As Matt Taibbi writes,

DiAngelo’s writing style is pure pain … [with a] lexicon favored by intersectional theorists … built around the same principles as Orwell’s Newspeak: it banishes ambiguity, nuance and feeling and structures itself around sterile word pairs, like racist and antiracist, platform and deplatform, center and silence, that reduce all thinking to a series of binary choices.

Though DiAngelo’s mulish insularity is transparent in White Fragility, her totalitarian streak has been as consistent as it has been inflexible over the years, as the academic publications made available through links on her website demonstrate: including her seminal 2011 paper on white fragility. To get to the root of her thought, however, one should start with her PhD dissertation.

The dissertation runs to over two hundred pages, scrutinizing how thirteen people talk about race in four two-hour sessions of inter-racial dialogue. Parsing almost every word and phrase for evidence of racially problematic discourse, DiAngelo is astonishingly unequivocal in her embrace of a blunt illiberalism, which she promotes under the anti-racist guise of monitoring what she calls the discourses of whiteness.

Consider a discussion toward the end of chapter four, the second of two long chapters of “data analysis,” in which DiAngelo relentlessly and myopically interprets everything the white participants do and say as moves of whiteness. In a penultimate section entitled “White Fragility: I’m Leaving,” DiAngelo explains how “white fragility” is “propped up by white privilege” by describing an exchange which begins when a white woman named Courtney asks a woman of color named Malena “a rhetorical question.”

“Can I ask you something?” Courtney asks. “Do you want White people to progress in their ideas about how they are racist?” The ensuing exchange illustrates that a moment of tension was already in the works. Courtney claims to hear “contradicting things,” while Malena asks, “how am I contradicting that?” Courtney is reluctant to engage in a “personal argument,” but Malena insists that Courtney “go ahead.” Courtney decides “to pass.” A white woman called Becca then asks: “How do you think your social identity ties into the fact that, when things are getting really hot right here and you’re faced with the stuff you don’t want to look at, you want to leave?”

Is it the case that Courtney simply does not want to face the music about her “social identity”? Not necessarily. Courtney “had something really important to go to tonight that [she] missed to be here.” Thus, “part of what’s going through [Courtney’s] head” is the all too human impatience of someone who had to cancel other plans to keep her commitment to the session, which she did because she “felt bad about” missing a session the previous week, “so I, you know, missed the thing tonight to come here. So, that’s where I’m coming from right now.” Malena notes that Courtney could have left earlier, but only decided to leave once confronted with “this difficult conversation.” Courtney responds that she has wanted to leave the whole night. Knowing that she “can be a fiery person,” she fears that she is “going to say a lot of things that aren’t going to lead to really good discussions in this group,” and bows out before saying something rash.

Should we commend Courtney for attempting to check her anger? If so, we would be overlooking Courtney’s failure to check her white privilege, automatically making us complicit in Courtney’s problematic behavior. This exchange seems almost akin to a marital altercation gone badly awry: Courtney complains about having missed an important event, and Malena asks, “So, this isn’t important?” DiAngelo, however, observes “that a state of White fragility has been reached,” causing Courtney to retreat rather than “face a racial challenge.” As Courtney is about to exit the scene, a white woman called Becca attempts to intervene, recalling that “[o]ne of the things we talked about earlier was White people not calling other White people out.” Courtney’s response: “Yeah. Call me out. Anyone—before I leave, call me out.”

If it sounds as if Courtney is ready to storm out, DiAngelo hears otherwise: “[w]hen Becca appeals to the White participants to call [Courtney] out, Courtney agrees and asks to be called out,” seemingly receptive to appeals from white participants. A woman named Ruth “rises to this challenge, but … Ruth’s White social position has ill prepared her to articulate a coherent counter argument, and her attempt is futile.” Malena makes one final attempt to convince Courtney “to stay and to trust the facilitator’s decision that it is acceptable for them to work through this moment.” Courtney “overrules the facilitators by stating, ‘It’s not OK with me,’ and leaves.”

This whole scene allows for a variety of interpretations, but DiAngelo offers only one: Courtney held the cards the whole time because she is white, relented a little when another white person attempted to intervene, and then threw the book at everyone, storming out when a white woman was unable to persuade her to stay because the woman’s whiteness left her ill-prepared to succeed. In sum, whiteness raised its ugly head, pounded its gavel, clamped down on all confrontation, and left the scene.

Any white person should be motivated to build “racial stamina” and resist the kind of “white fragility” that was on display. We cannot safely forgive Courtney for her impertinence. To accommodate her frustrations would be to accommodate Courtney as an individual who is upset about her cancelled plans rather than as a white person resisting racial confrontation. In other words, we would be accommodating “individualism” as a discourse of whiteness, failing to see how “Courtney’s actions demonstrate both White privilege and White fragility.” We must learn to see Courtney as an embodiment of fragile whiteness, not as a “fiery person” hesitant about saying something rash and dismayed because she had to cancel other plans.

For DiAngelo, “White privilege is demonstrated in [Courtney’s] domination of the discussion, her direct challenge to the credibility of a woman of color in a leadership position, and her threat to leave if things don’t go her way.” Courtney “demonstrates White privilege through her lack of racial humility” and by “refusing to take direction from a woman of color who holds leadership in the group” and “her very literal exit in the face of racial discomfort is also an indicator of White privilege and a powerful message to the people of color in the group.”

Nothing can distract DiAngelo from filtering all experience through the lens of the whiteness paradigm.

The implication is that, if DiAngelo had her way, pedagogical techniques like “progressive stacking” and perhaps even “punishing white male college students for historical slavery by asking them to sit in silence in the floor in chains during class” would be far from unwelcome.

Orwellian Ambitions

In her dissertation, DiAngelo analyzes whiteness “as a set of racialized relations that are historically, socially, politically and culturally produced,” resulting “in White domination of people of color.” As a result, “whiteness is a function of racism, and refers to the dimensions of racism that serve to elevate Whites” through discourse: the ways in which white people talk, act and perform in their daily interactions with each other and with people of color. DiAngelo insists on whiteness as dominant discourse that “is dynamic, relational and operating at all times and on myriad levels.” Courtney lost patience not because missing an important event made her more sensitive than usual. It is because she had an interest, however unwittingly, in maintaining white supremacy.

DiAngelo’s dissertation is a study of whiteness, so she invariably arrives at her interpretations with an eye to discerning alleged manifestations of whiteness. As she states, “whiteness Studies begin with the premise that racism and white privilege exist in both traditional and modern forms, and rather than work to prove its existence, work to reveal it.” But the worrying thing is that, for DiAngelo, “The question is not Did racism take place? But rather How did racism manifest in that situation?”

This question is the foundation of white fragility theory and anti-racism and critical social justice more broadly. At its heart is a deep skepticism of what DiAngelo calls the “two master discourses of whiteness in practice: individualism and universalism.” For DiAngelo, “[i]ndividualism posits that Whites are first and foremost individuals who have earned their place in society on their own merit,” while “[u]niversalism posits that White interests and perspectives are objective and representative of all groups.”

We must regard any inclination to judge Courtney as an individual as also reinforcing white supremacy by succumbing to the discourse of individualism and universalism (objectivity). Moreover, these two “master discourses” tie in with other “white” discourses, such as the discourse of personal experience and the discourse of meritocracy.

All these discourses are problematic, according to DiAngelo, because they work “to deny that Whites benefit from their racial group memberships.” As she writes elsewhere, “[t]hose at the top are [seen as] merely a collection of individuals who rose under their own individual merits, and those at the bottom are there due to individual lack,” and therefore “[g]roup membership is thereby rendered inoperative and racial disparities are seen as essential, rather than structural.”

The punchline: “Thus the discourse of individuality is not only connected to the discourse of meritocracy, but also with the Darwinism of the ‘bell curve.’” One might raise an eyebrow at the suggestion that all white people are ardent libertarians. But, even granting this, does this equate to essentialism? Are a belief in individualism and a willingness to acknowledge structural impediments mutually exclusive? Does belief in individualism imply belief in group essentialism? Does seeing yourself as an individual mean that you see group disparities as a kind of natural order?

DiAngelo assumes that a belief in “individualism” is also a belief in a perfect meritocracy in which one “makes it” or does not “make it” purely as a function of one’s merits (rather than a spectrum where the circumstances determine the extent of meritocracy). Moreover, she does not appear to recognize that “individualism” means only that intra-group variation matters as much as inter-group variation, or even if intra-group variation matters less than inter-group variation, it still matters. Individualism does not imply essentialism.

For DiAngelo, these kinds of questions are incompatible with a commitment to anti-racism. In 1984, Orwell describes a concept called crimestop:

the faculty of stopping short, as though by instinct, at the threshold of any dangerous thought … the power of not grasping analogies, of failing to perceive logical errors, of misunderstanding the simplest arguments if they are inimical to Ingsoc, and of being bored or repelled by any train of thought which is capable of leading in a heretical direction.

Similarly, DiAngelo recommends not partaking in “danger discourse,” examples of which include “I grew up in a really sheltered neighborhood so I’m scared to do my placement there” and “Oh, I used to live in New Haven where I heard gunshots at the dance club, so Springfield doesn’t scare me.” These statements all have a racial undertone, she argues, “that specifically positions people of color as inherently dangerous, while simultaneously positioning whites as inherently innocent,” which “has material consequences in the larger society,” because “[h]ow we think and speak about people of color is a fundamental foundation for how we treat people of color.”

It is wrong to believe a casual statement about hearing gunshots in New Orleans is innocuous, DiAngelo insists. If you object and say, in DiAngelo’s words, “You mean I have to watch everything I say?,” you are “rejecting the politics of language” and failing to “consider our ability to adapt to changes in language as an indicator that we are growing in our critical social justice literacy.” Any mention of “political correctness,” or expression of frustration, such “people just need to light up” or “I didn’t mean it that way” is “invalidating claims of oppression as over-sensitivity.” Complaining about political correctness is one of the many masks of whiteness.

Similar warnings pop up all over her work. In Is Everyone Really Equal?, she discusses the “invisibility of oppression” in “discourses” of sexism in advertising, movies and music videos. Her recommendation:

Just as we might find ourselves laughing at a racist joke, we might find ourselves enjoying a film that reproduces sexism. Indeed, it’s likely that due to how normalized these narratives are, we won’t see them as sexist at all. Yet the more a narrative appeals to us (especially if we are women), the more important it is for us to be able to think critically about it so that we can resist its effects. Recall the concept of internalized oppression and that minoritized groups often collude with dominant ideology. Thus, no socially constructed text can or should be off-limits to a critical analysis, regardless of how popular or ‘enjoyable’ it is.

One wonders if we will ever be allowed to simply relax and enjoy a movie again. Sprinkled throughout Is Everyone Really Equal? are sidebars beginning with “STOP!” and directives on how to think about various issues of social justice. Examples include:

  • STOP: Remember that we are simultaneously members of multiple social groups. While in one domain we may be oppressed (e.g. as women), in another domain we may enact dominance (e.g. as White women). These identities don’t cancel each other out rather, they interact in complex ways.
  • STOP: When we use the term White supremacy, we are not referring to extreme hate groups or ‘bad racists.’ We use the term to capture the all-encompassing dimensions of White privilege, dominance, and assumed superiority in mainstream society.

The implication of these imperatives is: if you think otherwise, you are engaging in thought crime. If you grant that intersectionality provides important insights but do not acquiesce that the liberal individual must be abandoned as politically unhelpful if you think lived experience is more intricate and nuanced than an aggregated compilation of intersecting identities associated with various marginalized social groups if you believe in a universal human nature that transcends identity politics if the phrase “all-encompassing dimensions of White privilege, dominance, and assumed superiority in mainstream society” strikes you as vague: if any of these thought crimes cross your mind, you undermine social justice. At best, you should be ignored, at worst, cancelled. Nursing a capacity for crimestop is, then, the de facto goal of white fragility theory. Di Angelo’s corpus of work presents a dense minefield of white people tripping over their “fragility” when DiAngelo attempts to point out their penchant for thought crimes, euphemistically called “racially problematic” discourse.

As in 1984, crimestop is not enough. There is also doublethink. One of the staple tenets of DiAngelo’s work on white fragility and anti-racist activism is that “there is no objective, neutral reality.” The “white racial frame” cannot possibly be neutral or objective. As she states in White Fragility, this “deep and extensive” frame “views whites as superior in culture and achievement” while “people of color are seen as inferior to whites in the making and keeping of the nation.” Aside from conflating objectivity and neutrality, DiAngelo seems to hope we will fail to notice that asserting the impossibility of arriving at objective reality is the same thing as asserting that there is an objective reality. In other words, DiAngelo engages in Orwellian doublethink, demonstrating, in the words of George Orwell, “the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously and accepting both of them.”

DiAngelo’s disavowal of objectivity can be traced at least as far back as her dissertation, in which she analyzes whiteness “as a set of racialized relations that are historically, socially, politically and culturally produced,” resulting “in White domination of people of color.” As a result, “whiteness is a function of racism, and refers to the dimensions of racism that serve to elevate Whites.”

As defined by DiAngelo, whiteness is “a set of locations that are historically, socially, politically and culturally produced, and which are intrinsically linked to dynamic relations of domination.” In referring to a “set of locations,” DiAngelo is invoking Ruth Frankenberg’s 1993 book The Social Construction of Whiteness: White Women, Race Matters, in which Frankenberg defines whiteness as (1) “a location of structural advantage, of race privilege” (2) “a ‘standpoint,’ a place from which White people look at ourselves, at others, and at society” and (3) “a set of cultural practices that are usually unmarked and unnamed.” For DiAngelo and other whiteness scholars, then:

Whiteness is dynamic, relational, and operating at all times and on myriad levels. These processes and practices include basic rights, values, beliefs, perspectives and experiences purported to be commonly shared by all but which are actually only consistently afforded to white people. Whiteness Studies begin with the premise that racism and white privilege exist in both traditional and modern forms, and rather than work to prove its existence, work to reveal it.

In previous work, I have pointed out that, in beginning “with the premise that racism and white privilege exist in both traditional and modern forms, and rather than work[ing] to prove its existence, work[ing] to reveal it,” Whiteness Studies indulges in circular reasoning.

Logical validity, however, is not DiAngelo’s concern. What matters is identity politics. As DiAngelo writes, her bestselling book “is unapologetically rooted in identity politics.” For purposes of anti-racist activism, the book undertakes a “critical examination of white identity.” In “addressing [the] common white dynamic” of “white fragility,” DiAngelo is “writing to a white audience,” and, in using “the terms us and we, [she] is referring to the white collective.” DiAngelo urges white people to examine themselves not as individuals, but as a “racialized” group of people who share an interest, however unwittingly, in the preservation of power and privilege in a “white” society. As she writes in her dissertation, white people must see themselves as embodiments of whiteness, which “refers to the dimensions of racism that serve to elevate Whites.”

In practice, what this means is that a noble end justifies an insidious means. Namely, it means picking part the discourses by which white people keep whiteness in place as a centripetal force organizing all aspects of society around itself. For DiAngelo and other whiteness scholars, any approach that does not dismantle whiteness keeps marginalized groups on the margins and whites in the center. The key idea driving the pedagogical practices of anti-racist activism is that whiteness is a discourse that incessantly works to keep white supremacy alive.

DiAngelo conducts a “discourse analysis” that takes aim at how whites, always unwittingly, replicate the ideologies of whiteness, and thus white supremacy, by means of everyday language. The ways they talk, act and perform in social interactions give perpetual rebirth to the “constellation of processes and practices” as well as the “rights, values, beliefs, perspectives, and experiences” which undergird a culture of white supremacy. The only path to “equity” among groups is to dissect the “discourses” that perpetuate, deliberately or unwittingly, the marginalization of non-whites.

This approach is inspired by several strands of twentieth-century postmodern and poststructuralist thought that are centrally concerned with the power of language to create reality. There is merit in that tradition, but also peril, as anyone familiar with 1984 or Alice in Wonderland can appreciate. DiAngelo’s dissertation is a quintessential display of the kind of dystopian language policing against which such literary works warn.

The Whiteness Paradigm

DiAngelo begins her dissertation by describing whiteness broadly, capaciously and thus ambiguously as the “dimensions of racism that serve to elevate White people over people of color.” Her study “focuses on the White end of the hierarchy of racism,” using “the terms White and whiteness to describe a social process operating in U.S. society at large.” Whiteness, DiAngelo writes, “is both ‘empty,’ in that it is normalized and thus typically unmarked, and content laden or ‘full,’ in that it generates norms and reference points, ways of conceptualizing the world, and ways of thinking about oneself and others, regardless of where one is positioned relationally within it.”

Whiteness is thus a reification of social relations, in which “the interpretation and consequences of whiteness vary depending on who is interacting and in what context.” The upshot is that “whiteness can be conceptualized as the context that creates, authorizes, and maintains racist relations.” It “is a socially constructed and interactive process,” which “counters the representation of racism as isolated in discrete incidents in which some individuals may or may not perpetuate, and goes deeper than naming specific privileges.” White people “are actively shaped through their racialization, and their individual and collective consciousness are racially informed.”

This racialization into whiteness results in a “relationship of dominance between Whites and people of color,” which “is enacted moment by moment on individual, interpersonal, cultural, and institutional levels.” If only we could rely on “a relational definition of whiteness and racism, students and teachers [could] explore their own relationship to racism and [would be] less likely to focus on specific incidences, a focus that makes a personal, interpersonal, cultural, historical, and structural analysis difficult.”

“The ideology of whiteness,” then, “becomes actualized and normalized for White people to the point of invisibility by way of language, media, and schooling.” To interrupt whiteness, it is thus essential to “explicat[e] the operation of whiteness.” For white people to learn about racism, they must begin a process of “reeducation” that “force[s] them to examine White privilege and [plan] long-term learning experiences that anticipate the various strategies White people use to avoid and reinterpret education about race.” As she indicates in one paper, the consciousness-raising of whites is the aim.

For DiAngelo, whiteness is a complex, ever-evolving system of meanings, defined by the way in which white people discursively avoid responsibility for racism and keep white supremacy in place. Her dissertation is full of phrases like “variability of racial discourses,” “set of complex and changeable meanings” and “dynamic interconnections between representational practices and discourses of ‘race.’”

The point is that “[i]t isn’t enough for educators to be aware that whiteness does operate inter-relationally.” It is also necessary to “understand how it operates in ways that are familiar and recognizable.” This, DiAngelo writes, “is what I describe in this study.” She aims to “contribute to White teachers’ ability to bridge theory and practice by providing concrete and familiar examples of the ways that whiteness is enacted in social interaction.” Then, before “positioning” herself as a white person who is “also implicated in racist relations with people of color,” she runs through an explanation of terms used throughout the study, such as contest, discourse and feeling-states.

The key term, however, is move, defined as “a discursive (linguistic) strategy used to support or challenge current power relations.” Moves “can range from eye-rolling and interrupting a speaker, to silence, debate, or invoking dominant ideologies.” DiAngelo serves as the arbitrator who, in the course of four two-hour sessions on inter-racial dialogue, will interpret these “moves” (of whiteness) and determine how they “support or challenge current power relations.”

As arbitrator, DiAngelo’s interpretations are not entirely arbitrary. The compass that guides her is the thoroughly postmodern idea that knowledge is socially constructed. People do not discover knowledge, they create it, a distinction that is supposed to illuminate the ways in which knowledge is inseparable from how people experience oppression in the context of power relations between social groups. In other words, knowledge is never neutral or objective. Whiteness scholars thus “seek to unravel the racialized intersection between social position, knowledge construction, and power.”

It is not enough for white teachers to understand that marginalized students might be underprivileged. White teachers must also examine their own privilege and how it is inherently designed to isolate nonwhite others. Focusing on lack of privilege “reifies” privilege in a way that keeps racialized “others” on the margins. It is another way in which “whiteness draws much of its power from the absence” of discourse that seeks to break up “the un-naming of whiteness” that “serves to secure its privileged location.” This idea of othering is another core precept of whiteness Studies.

The aim of discourse analysis, then, is to figure out all the ways in which white people maintain the dominance of whiteness and the marginalization of nonwhite “others.” Discourse analysis, or what DiAngelo calls “the study of language and the making of meaning in action and in social contexts,” seeks to disrupt the language in which white people have been “socialized” to unwittingly believe in their own superiority, and then maintain that superiority as the norm by use of language.

This all might seem profound, but, as we have begun to see, it often simply reduces racism to a matter of hair-splitting semantics examined with such single-minded and peremptory discipline that DiAngelo ends up enforcing Orwellian doublethink whereby double standards for conduct by white people and people of color are not double standards because of purported power imbalances. DiAngelo’s dissertation proceeds from a view that racism is a discursive relation between dominant whites and marginalized non-whites. As DiAngelo writes, “in being a White U.S. student, one is positioned in relation to, not separate from, immigrants and students of color.”

Moreover, “because race is negotiated, rather than fixed, it is also unstable and susceptible to acts of resistance and contestation.” This makes the “over-arching goal” of DiAngelo’s dissertation “to surface and describe the processes by which White participants negotiated their racial positions in four, two-sessions of inter-racial dialogue among white and nonwhite participants.”

Confirmation, Not Falsification

For her dissertation, DiAngelo conducted four two-hour sessions on inter-racial dialogue with only thirteen participants—a very small sample from which to derive wide-ranging interpretations about things like whiteness and racism. But that is par for the course in fields like Whiteness Studies and Critical Race Theory. As one paper argues, “many critical race scholars are fundamentally skeptical of (if not simply opposed to) quantitative data and techniques to begin with.” For DiAngelo, “[l]ess than 10 participants would not have provided a wide enough range of discourses. More than 18 would have allowed too many participants to be inactive in the dialogue.” This is fair enough in terms of trying to have a manageable classroom, but, while in her book White Fragility she says that she is “quite comfortable generalizing,” in this case she excuses her study’s limitations with a reference to the literature that “recognize[s] that generalizability is never completely answerable and accept[s] the truism that generalization is never fully justified logically.”

Nonetheless, DiAngelo “support[s] the generalizability of [her] study by using the considerable literature on what constitutes White privilege across a range of settings.” She “use[s] that literature to develop a set of coding criteria” and “had others review these criteria” while remaining “open to emergent strategies that [she] had not included in [her] coding.” In effect, this means that her focus is on “discourse analysis.” In this framework, interpretation is guided by a monomaniacal focus on confirming the whiteness paradigm, rather than posing hypotheses that can be tested. Indeed, DiAngelo’s “primary measure of generalizability was [her] ability to tie the discourses documented in this study to the larger body of research in the whiteness literature.”

Alternatively, one might rely on signal detection theory to examine the extent to which DiAngelo sets such a low bar for designating behavior as a “move” of whiteness that a sizable number of these alleged “moves” of whiteness are false positives, rather than genuine strategic moves by white people to avoid coming to terms with their complicity in white supremacy. In other words, the whole point of white fragility theory is to confirm, not verify (i.e. withstand falsification). DiAngelo eschews the scientific method because the scientific method is supposedly regarded as infallible, rather than as a robust methodology designed to guard against any presumption of its own infallibility. “Generalizability,” she writes, “is not constituted in discourse analysis by arguing that an analysis reflects reality and therefore can be generalized.” Instead, “[d]iscourse analysts recognize that humans construct their social reality, although this construction interacts with and is constrained by physical reality.”

With this in mind, DiAngelo discusses how she “coded” the dialogue. She begins with “racial demographics,” coding “conversational patterns racially,” examining “the literature to identify how the racialized location of the speaker gives particular social meaning to what is said.” The point is that “what someone says has different social significance based on his or her racial identification.” Having “coded the self-identified race of all participants and facilitators,” DiAngelo “also noted when they spoke, for how long, how often, under what circumstances, and with what perceived emotional valence.”

Participants in the dialogues were thus monitored to determine who controlled the flow of the conversation, what topics were discussed, when the conversation was “White dominated,” when the conversation “was dominated by people of color,” and whether there were “particular moves that were more likely to elicit dominant discourses.” DiAngelo “observed the types of discourse strategies the participants of color used to center their interests and experiences, and/or to counter White strategies, and the responses of the White participants to these strategies.” In particular, she kept a keen eye on “non-verbal discursive practices, such as body positioning and eye contract,” as well as on “how silence was used, by whom, for how long, and under what conditions.”

She was “also interested in how agreement functioned because agreement is a significant strategy in discursive power negotiations.” Emotions also did not escape her attention, as “[d]iscourse analysis conceptualizes emotions as socially constructed and addresses how people talk about emotions, whether claiming or avowing their own or ascribing them to others, and how they use emotional categories in discourse.” These categories of emotion, DiAngelo claims, “are used in assigning causes and motives, including blaming, excusing, and accounting.” Moreover, “emotional work” is “often ‘assigned’ to marginalized rather than privileged groups,” and is thus “a site of struggle.”

The underlying aim, which connects her “proposed methodology to the wider body of post-structuralist research on whiteness,” is to comb through the dialogue for any hint of “whiteness” in action. This means analyzing every “move” of whiteness as a “move” that positions whites to maintain their dominance. This is reminiscent of the description of Winston standing in his flat in the first few pages of 1984:

Behind Winston’s back the voice from the telescreen was still babbling away about pig iron and the overfulfillment of the Ninth Three-Year Plan. The telescreen received and transmitted simultaneously. Any sound that Winston made, above the level of a very low whisper, would be picked up by it moreover, so long as he remained within the field of vision which the metal plaque commanded, he could be seen as well as heard. There was of course no way of knowing whether you were being watched at any given moment. How often, or on what system, the Thought Police plugged in on any individual wire was guesswork. It was even conceivable that they watched everybody all the time. But at any rate they could plug in your wire whenever they wanted to. You had to live—did live, from habit that became instinct—in the assumption that every sound you made was overheard, and, except in darkness, every movement scrutinized.

“Moves” of Whiteness

For DiAngelo, discursive analysis examines “moves” of whiteness in an attempt not to determine whether whiteness manifests in any given situation, but how it manifests. As she writes, her study set out “to test an already established hypothesis: that whiteness does manifest in this type of setting and to describe how it manifests.” This poses the implicitly oxymoronic claim that a hypothesis has already been established as a truth (an idea that also contradicts her claim that “there is no objective, neutral reality”). The central aim of Critical Race Theory and Whiteness Studies is not to determine whether racism is at work in a situation but how. They set out to fix the problem before attempting to identify it because, for whiteness scholars, racism is anywhere and everywhere.

If there is a disparity or tension of any kind, we must assume that it is a manifestation of racism and simply find out where the racism lurks in order to pluck it out. In her dissertation, DiAngelo attempts to do this by identifying and describing the “moves” of whiteness that allegedly keep white supremacy in place. Beginning in chapter three, DiAngelo “describes[s] key discourses obtained from the data and discuss[es] the meaning and implications of these discourses within the context of interrupting whiteness.” She “analyze[s] specific discursive moves used by participants in the dialogue and their impact in the immediate context.”

These moves are “acts of conversational performance that include the use of silence, statements of confusion, rebuttal, nodding in agreement, emotional affect, and invocation of rules.” The “moves draw from major discourses such as meritocracy, the universal human, and official knowledge.” She links these moves “to larger scholarly discussions of how whiteness functions.” Ironically enough for someone who claims to challenge oppression by speaking truth to power, this results in a transparent power play.

DiAngelo controls the interpretations of every “move” of whiteness. She states upfront she is deliberately interpreting “moves” through a specific theoretical lens, namely “group-as-a-whole theory” which “posits that group behavior is organic, with individual members taking up roles on behalf of the whole group.” In this framework, “individuals perform in microcosm the dynamics that operate in the macrocosm or larger society.”

DiAngelo intentionally “theorizes” the “performances” of individuals “as representative of common White enactments” rather than “as unique or individual personalities.” Individuals are thus conceptualized “as composite representatives of whiteness who are simply amplifying and making visible many common White moves.” Even individuals “who may seem less visible in the transcripts or analysis are conceptualized as simply acting out more submerged, but equally critical, performances of whiteness.” In other words, white people are embodiments of whiteness.

As I have written elsewhere, this is the reification fallacy in action. Reification is the idea that an abstraction like whiteness can take on material existence, in the form, for example, of white people strategically enacting “moves” of whiteness as a way of reinstating and reinforcing white supremacy. DiAngelo spends the rest of her dissertation interpreting such alleged “moves” of whiteness as:

  1. “I am not White” (failing to recognize whiteness as a social identity with harmful ramifications)
  2. “Meritocracy: They Worked Hard” (positing “that opportunity is equal in the United States, and that people achieve based solely on their own merit”)
  3. “That’s Just My Personal Experience” (which “posits the participant’s interpretations as the product of a discrete individual, outside of socialization factors, rather than the product of multidimensional social interaction,” as if she had a “‘private mind’ in the Cartesian sense”) and
  4. Rules of engagement, such as the expectation that, in a professional setting, one ought to act professionally.

Do white people actually not see themselves as white? Do white people actually believe they live in a perfect meritocracy? Do white people really confuse the Cartesian subject with solipsism?

For DiAngelo, asking such questions reflects a racist failure to adequately cultivate crimestop, or “stopping short, as though by instinct, at the threshold of any dangerous thought,” e.g. doubting that these “moves” of whiteness are, in fact, real-life enactments of whiteness weaving its thread through all dimensions of social life in ways that elevate whites at the expense of non-whites. As Orwell wrote, crimestop is the “power” of “failing to perceive logical errors.”

Here is one of the more egregious examples of how DiAngelo deals with “rules of engagement,” (I’ve written more about this here):

During a break, two white participants are having a conversation while a person of color gets a drink of water. The person of color notices that the cup sizes are small. She jokes, “Good thing I’m not thirsty.” The two white participants keep talking to each other, apparently failing to appreciate the joke. The person of color then cracks, “That’s just like white people to ignore a person of color.” One of the white participants hears this remark and chokes on her water, spitting it up, which prompts a reply from the person of color, “Now the white people are spitting on me.”

When everyone returns to the dialogue, the white participants express their dismay. The found these actions unfair and professional. DiAngelo interprets these remarks as “moves” of whiteness, which “position” whites as “professional” or which invoke “fair=same” discourse to obscure the power relations between whites and blacks. These moves “reestablish White dominance of the proceedings.” Examples abound throughout the dissertation of alleged “moves” of whiteness. In sum, dismantling “whiteness” means seeing racism in everything white people do and say, then rooting it out.

Failing to laugh at a joke and being perturbed at the insinuation that choking on water is the equivalent of spitting on a person of color are manifestations of white supremacy. Disagree? Then you are complicit in white supremacy because you fail to contextualize such interactions as indications of the social power with which white people are endowed, thereby further contributing to the reification of whiteness.

Sentence First, Verdict Afterwards

These discourses all tie into what DiAngelo considers the two “master discourses” of whiteness: individualism and universalism. At one point, in a dispute about whether racism is not as bad as it used to be because you don’t hear younger generations “openly talking about stereotypes,” Courtney objects to the idea that it is permissible for “someone coming from the outside and telling another White person, Well, you really—you shouldn’t feel that way, you know, it’s like what does that mean. Because my feelings are not about you.” In this case, Courtney has no right to resent being told that she should not be allowed to feel the way she feels, or that she “has the right to think and feel whatever she wants.” Because, according to DiAngelo, Courtney “draws not only on a Cartesian discourse but also a deeply individual one” which “presents her feelings as standing alone, or outside, social processes, rather than as the function of social processes,” which makes her feelings “independent of the social, political or historical context in which she is embedded.” As a result, Courtney positions “herself as an individual” and “closes her position off from others.” In conversation, “this is a blocking move that ends any challenge to her perceptions.” Because she “defends her position,” Courtney “negates Becca’s, and closes off further exploration” of “why Becca, as a White facilitator with experience in dialogues about race, feels frustrated that racism has been relegated to the past.”

It is not exactly clear that Courtney relegates racism to the past when she says that, in her own experience, race relations have improved. She explicitly says she “just want[s] to put that out there” and that there should be some “interplay” allowed whereby someone can express a view that racism is “generational” and that it is upsetting to hear someone suggest that this view is unfair. It seems that all Courtney wants to say is that she should be allowed her point of view. For DiAngelo, however, that would be a mistake.

The only point of view allowed is the point of view of whiteness scholars such as DiAngelo. They have it all figured out, and thus can be excused from the humility they urge the rest of us to embrace. All that stands in the way of truth and justice is the failure of white people to embrace anti-racism as articulated by the sermonizers of critical social justice. Sure, DiAngelo says, white people always have an opinion, but it is necessarily ill-informed, even it has come from a public school teacher with a master’s degree in multicultural education and years of experience in urban schools. White people need to accept their irredeemable complicity in a society fundamentally rooted in white supremacy. They must start learning to come to grips with it and make amends. “Sentence first, verdict afterwards,” as the Queen of Hearts says in Alice in Wonderland.


Trying to understand the idea of a totalitarian administration from the pages of history - History

Language as the “Ultimate Weapon” in Nineteen Eighty-Four

George Orwell, like many other literary scholars, is interested in the modern use of the English language and, in particular, the abuse and misuse of English. He realises that language has the power in politics to mask the truth and mislead the public, and he wishes to increase public awareness of this power. He accomplishes this by placing a great focus on Newspeak and the media in his novel Nineteen Eighty-Four . Demonstrating the repeated abuse of language by the government and by the media in his novel, Orwell shows how language can be used politically to deceive and manipulate people, leading to a society in which the people unquestioningly obey their government and mindlessly accept all propaganda as reality. Language becomes a mind-control tool, with the ultimate goal being the destruction of will and imagination. As John Wain says in his essay, “[Orwell’s] vision of 1984 does not include extinction weapons . . . He is not interested in extinction weapons because, fundamentally, they do not frighten him as much as spiritual ones” (343).

Paul Chilton suggests that the language theme in Orwell’s novel has its roots in the story of the Tower of Babel (2). When God destroys the Towel of Babel, the civilizations which have contributed to the construction of the Tower suffer ever-after from the Curse of Confusion. The Curse both makes languages “mutually unintelligible”, and alters their nature so that “they no longer lucidly [express] the nature of things, but rather [obscure] and [distort] them” (Chilton, 2). Orwell’s Newspeak , the ultra-political new language introduced in Nineteen Eighty-Four , does precisely that: it facilitates deception and manipulation, and its purpose is to restrict understanding of the real world. Chilton also suggests that a corollary to this is that “each post-Babel language [becomes] a closed system containing its own untranslatable view of the world” (2). Certainly, the ultimate aim of Newspeak is to enclose people in an orthodox pseudo-reality and isolate them from the real world.

Whereas people generally strive to expand their lexicon, the government in Nineteen Eighty-Four actually aims to cut back the Newspeak vocabulary. One of the Newspeak engineers says, “[we’re] cutting the language down to the bone . . . Newspeak is the only language in the world whose vocabulary gets smaller every year” (55). By manipulating the language, the government wishes to alter the public’s way of thinking. This can be done, psychologists theorise, because the words that are available for the purpose of communicating thought tend to influence the way people think. The linguist Benjamin Lee Whorf was a firm believer in this link between thought and language, and he theorised that “different languages impose different conceptions of reality” (Myers 352). So when words that describe a particular thought are completely absent from a language, that thought becomes more difficult to think of and communicate. For the Inner Party, the goal is to impose an orthodox reality and make heretical thought (‘thoughtcrime’) impossible. “In the end we shall make thoughtcrime literally impossible,” explains the Newspeak engineer, “because there will be no words in which to express it” (55).

By design, Newspeak narrows the range of thought and shortens people’s memories. It is therefore ideal for a totalitarian system, in which the government has to rely on a passive public which lacks independent thought and which has a great tolerance for mistakes, both past and present. “To expand language is to expand the ability to think,” says Myers (353). Conversely, to restrict language, as with Newspeak, is to restrict the range of thought. Chilton identifies the specific features of Newspeak that help restrict thought: “reduced complexity, few abstractions, and no self­reference” (37). Such narrowed public thought is what the Inner Party prefers, because a public that lacks the ability to think vividly poses less of a threat than one that can readily criticise the government and defend itself from harm.

However, an interesting consequence of this narrowed thought is that the public’s memory is also effectively shortened. “The Inner Party [deprives] people of their own words and in so doing, deprives them of memory” (Lewis and Moss 51). After O’Brien forces Winston to embrace Ingsoc, for instance, Winston’s imagination decays and he “[can] no longer fix his mind on any one subject for more than a few moments at a time” (301). Winston, like the majority of the public, suffers when he is robbed of his words and thoughts. Consequently, “memory, with its attendant richness and variety, atrophies” since “memories die when they go unrehearsed in words” (Lewis and Moss 51).

Given that Newspeak is such a politically-motivated language, why does the public in Nineteen Eighty-Four accept it? After all, the Party is undertaking a project of monumental proportions: they are trying to completely replace a common language (English, or “Oldspeak”), and one would expect great opposition to such a plan. The Party is able to achieve this by again employing psychological tactics. Instead of forcing the public to use Newspeak by law, the Party ensures that the public is immersed in the new language. Nobody is forced to read or write in Newspeak, but “its ubiquitous broadcast creates a pressure to employ it simply in order to communicate economically” (Chilton 37).

Orwell’s novel paints a nightmarish picture of a totalitarian system gone to the absolute extreme, but it is a novel that is fundamentally about psychological control of the public. Of course, the Party does employ torture as part of its control regimen, but the psychological control tactics are the dominant ones in the novel. While physical punishment is difficult to administer, psychological tactics (manipulation of people through language) can be continuously applied to the general public without raising great public opposition or fear — and that is where its strength lies. It is for this reason that “Newspeak rather than torture is planned as the way to erase thoughtcrime” (Stansky 88). However, while Newspeak is a very significant method of mind control through language, it is just a part of a greater Inner Party scheme. It is, in fact, the Party-controlled media in the novel that expertly uses Newspeak as well as other linguistic trickery to spread its propaganda and brainwash the public.

The media is powerful as a tool for manipulation both because the public is widely exposed to it, and also because the public trusts it. The telescreens continuously shout bursts of news and propaganda throughout the day, and the people listen intently and cheer at ‘good news’ (victories) and are driven to rage by ‘bad news’. The characters in Orwell’s novel are slaves of the media they revere it as an oracle. When the telescreens initiate the Two Minutes Hate, for instance, the people are roused to a frenzy: “People were leaping up and down in their places and shouting at the tops of their voices . . . [a girl] had begun crying out ‘Swine! Swine! Swine!’” (16).

Certainly, in Nineteen Eighty-Four , “[media information] does control some of the ways in which [people] think about and assess the world” (Lewis and Moss 47). The Party is interested in masking the truth, and so the media manipulates language to present a distorted reality. As Orwell says in his essay Politics and the English Language , “Political language . . . is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind” (150). In the novel, these lies are quite obvious. For example, the media (controlled by the Party, of course) continually refers to the Ministries of Truth, Peace, Love, and Plenty. In reality, however, the Ministry of Truth is concerned with the falsification of records, and the Ministry of Peace deals with warfare. The Ministry of Love is “the really frightening one” (6) as it is essentially a place for the questioning and torturing of suspected criminals. The Ministry of Plenty makes up economic figures to convince the public that the economy is in good shape, even though there are great shortages of all commodities due to the war. Although the irony in the titles is blatantly obvious, Orwell is making a point about how the media can use language to mask the truth.

The totalitarian state of Oceania is in a constant state of war, and part of the Party’s ongoing struggle is to keep the public satisfied with this warfare. If the public were dissatisfied, they would resent the shortage of food and other commodities and possibly rebel against the Party. The Party therefore has to distract the public’s attention away from the negative side of warfare, and they use the media to do this. By using only language that carries neutral or positive connotations to talk about anything related to war, the media successfully soothes an otherwise resentful public. For instance, the media never reports on the “twenty or thirty [rocket bombs] a week falling on London” (28), but rather inundates peoples’ lives with good news about victories. Winston’s telescreen announces, “Our forces in South India have won a glorious victory. I am authorised to say that the action we are now reporting may well bring the war within measurable distance of its end” (28). Similar reports follow throughout the entire novel, constantly celebrating the capture of enemies and the conquering of new territories, but never admitting any kind of defeat.

In many ways, the media is relying on the principle that a piece of information that is repeated often enough becomes accepted as truth. Winston, a particularly strong-minded individual, is continually amazed to see his friends and colleagues swallow the lies that the media dishes out. For this form of brainwashing (‘Duckspeak’) to be effective, “you just say things frequently and people eventually understand and say it themselves” (Chilton 27). This brainwashing is done through the words of the telescreens, newspapers and magazines.

The media is skilled at engineering ‘truth’ through language, and one of the most disturbing consequence of this developed in the novel is that the Party has ultimate control over history. After all, language is the link to history. Winston’s job in the Ministry of Truth is to modify news items and other documents that in one way or another make the Party look bad. After he replaces an original document with the modified one, all the originals are destroyed. Orwell describes the process:

Lewis and Moss believe that “the tactic is to obliterate history so that centres of opposition cannot grow” (51). Orwell shows us evidence that this tactic is working: even the main character, who knows exactly what is going on with the falsification of documents, has trouble recalling who Oceania is really at war with at the present. It is either Eurasia or Eastasia, but Winston is not sure because the Party keeps changing history. This nagging doubt eats away at Winston until he no longer knows what reality is by the end of the novel, he is willing to accept the Party’s reality.

Orwell’s novel asks the philosophical question: if all available evidence shows something to be true, is it not true? Winston struggles with this idea of “Reality control” (37) as he works at the Ministry of Truth. “The frightening thing,” Winston thinks to himself, “[is] that it might all be true. If the Party [can] thrust its hand into the past and say of this or that event, it never happened – that, surely, [is] more terrifying than mere torture and death” (36). One of Winston’s assignments is to invent a biography of a fictional soldier named Ogilvy, so that he can be honoured by Big Brother in a public address. After writing the description of Ogilvy’s life, Winston marvels at how “once the act of forgery [is] forgotten, [Ogilvy will] exist just as authentically, and upon the same evidence, as Charlemagne or Julius Caesar” (50).

As well as altering the past by manipulating written language, the Party has an ingenious plan to break the link with the real past by introducing a language barrier. When “all real knowledge of Oldspeak [disappears] . . . the whole literature of the past will have been destroyed” (56). After a few generations, when people are no longer capable of decoding information from the past, there will no longer even be a need to censor the history that has the potential for breeding unorthodox ideas — it will be completely out of the public’s reach. Thus, the manipulation of language and text not only effects the present, but also the past and future in more than one way. A Party slogan in the novel reads, “Who controls the past, controls the future: who controls the present controls the past” (37).

Orwell’s novel is extreme, but it is not necessarily a prediction of the future. Rahv believes that the book’s “importance is mainly in its powerful engagement with the present” (183). Indeed, politicians have used written language to manipulate history both in the past and present. There was much distortion of history during the Stalinist era, “when such standard works of misinformation as the Soviet Encyclopaedia changed constantly with the party line, so that in successive editions Trotsky was first the hero of the Civil War, then an agent of the Mensheviks, and the western powers” (Woodcock 177). Patrick Wright suggests that the issue is still very much alive in the late twentieth century, citing as an example “[the British Secretary for Education, who] refused a number of proposed syllabus systems for the teaching of history in schools, finding them insufficiently assiduous in their promotion of the mythical, rather than simply historical, values of national unity and pride” (111).

Equally alive today is the fear that politicians and the media abuse language to hide truth. Orwell gives examples of how politicians can twist words to deceive people in his essay Politics and the English Language : “Defenceless villages are bombarded from the air, the inhabitants driven out into the countryside . . . this is called pacification . Millions of peasants are robbed of their farms and sent trudging along the roads with no more than they can carry: this is called transfer of population or rectification of frontiers ” (148). Woodcock refers to the modern jargon-filled English used by “newspaper editors, bureaucrats, radio announcers, and parliamentary speakers” who have, just as Orwell feared, a heavy “reliance on ready-made phrases” (92). Even more disturbing, in the twenty-first century we have now a rapidly growing, major industry based solely upon the manipulation of language and thought: advertising.

Orwell’s novel carries a well-founded warning about the powers of language. It shows how language can shape people’s sense of reality, how it can be used to conceal truths, and even how it can be used to manipulate history. “Language is one of the key instruments of political dominations, the necessary and insidious means of the ‘totalitarian’ control of reality” (Rai, 122). While language in the traditional sense can expand horizons and improve our understanding of the world, Orwell’s novel demonstrates that language, when used in a maliciously political way, can just as easily become “a plot against human consciousness” (Rahv, 182).

Chilton, Paul. Orwellian Language and the Media . London: Pluto Press, 1988.

Lewis, Florence and Peter Moss. The Tyranny of Language in Nineteen Eighty-Four in 1984 . Aubrey, Crispin and Paul Chilton, eds. London: Comedia Publishing Group, 1983. 45-57.

Myers, David G. Psychology . 4 th ed. Holland: Worth Publishers, 1986.

Orwell, George. Nineteen Eighty-Four . London: Penguin Books, 1990.

- - - . Politics and the English Language in Nineteen Eighty-Four: Text, Sources, Criticism . Ed. Irving Howe. New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, Inc., 1963. 143-50.

Rahv, Philip. The Unfuture of Utopia in Nineteen Eighty-Four: Text, Sources, Criticism . 181-5.

Rai, Alok. Orwell and the politics of despair: A critical study of the writings of George Orwell . Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988.

Stansky, Peter, ed. On Nineteen Eighty-Four . New York: W. H. Freeman and Company, 1983.

Wain, John. Essays on Literature and Ideas - George Orwell (1) in Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism Vol. 6 . 343-4.

Woodcock, George. Orwell’s Message: 1984 and the Present . Madeira Park: Harbour Publishing Co. Ltd, 1984.

Wright, Patrick. The Conscription of History in Nineteen Eighty-Four in 1984 . 105-14.


Trying to understand the idea of a totalitarian administration from the pages of history - History

John Holdren, Obama's Science Czar, says: Forced abortions and mass sterilization needed to save the planet
Book he authored in 1977 advocates for extreme totalitarian measures to control the population

Forced abortions. Mass sterilization. A "Planetary Regime" with the power of life and death over American citizens.

The tyrannical fantasies of a madman? Or merely the opinions of the person now in control of science policy in the United States? Or both?

These ideas (among many other equally horrifying recommendations) were put forth by John Holdren, whom Barack Obama has recently appointed Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, Assistant to the President for Science and Technology, and Co-Chair of the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology -- informally known as the United States' Science Czar. In a book Holdren co-authored in 1977, the man now firmly in control of science policy in this country wrote that:

&bull Women could be forced to abort their pregnancies, whether they wanted to or not
&bull The population at large could be sterilized by infertility drugs intentionally put into the nation's drinking water or in food
&bull Single mothers and teen mothers should have their babies seized from them against their will and given away to other couples to raise
&bull People who "contribute to social deterioration" (i.e. undesirables) "can be required by law to exercise reproductive responsibility" -- in other words, be compelled to have abortions or be sterilized.
&bull A transnational "Planetary Regime" should assume control of the global economy and also dictate the most intimate details of Americans' lives -- using an armed international police force.

Impossible, you say? That must be an exaggeration or a hoax. No one in their right mind would say such things.

Well, I hate to break the news to you, but it is no hoax, no exaggeration. John Holdren really did say those things, and this report contains the proof. Below you will find photographs, scans, and transcriptions of pages in the book Ecoscience, co-authored in 1977 by John Holdren and his close colleagues Paul Ehrlich and Anne Ehrlich. The scans and photos are provided to supply conclusive evidence that the words attributed to Holdren are unaltered and accurately transcribed.

[UPDATE: Make sure to read the new statements issued by the White House and by John Holdren's office in response to the controversy raised by this essay -- you can see them below following the Ecoscience excerpts, or you can jump directly to the statements by clicking here.]

This report was originally inspired by this article in FrontPage magazine, which covers some of the same information given here. But that article, although it contained many shocking quotes from John Holdren, failed to make much of an impact on public opinion. Why not? Because, as I discovered when discussing the article with various friends, there was no proof that the quotes were accurate -- so most folks (even those opposed to Obama's policies) doubted their veracity, because the statements seemed too inflammatory to be true. In the modern era, it seems, journalists have lost all credibility, and so are presumed to be lying or exaggerating unless solid evidence is offered to back up the claims. Well, this report contains that evidence.

Of course, Holdren wrote these things in the framework of a book he co-authored about what he imagined at the time (late 1970s) was an apocalyptic crisis facing mankind: overpopulation. He felt extreme measures would be required to combat an extreme problem. Whether or not you think this provides him a valid "excuse" for having descended into a totalitarian fantasy is up to you: personally, I don't think it's a valid excuse at all, since the crisis he was in a panic over was mostly in his imagination. Totalitarian regimes and unhinged people almost always have what seems internally like a reasonable justification for actions which to the outside world seem incomprehensible.

Direct quotes from John Holdren's Ecoscience

Below you will find a series of ten short passages from Ecoscience. On the left in each case is a scanned image taken directly from the pages of the book itself on the right is an exact transcription of each passage, with noteworthy sections highlighted. Below each quote is a short analysis by me.

Following these short quotes, I take a "step back" and provide the full extended passages from which each of the shorter quotes were excerpted, to provide the full context.

And at the bottom of this report, I provide untouched scans (and photos) of the full pages from which all of these passages were taken, to quash any doubts anyone might have that these are absolutely real, and to forestall any claims that the quotes were taken "out of context."

Ready? Brace yourself. And prepare to be shocked.

Page 837 : Compulsory abortions would be legal

Indeed, it has been concluded that compulsory population-control laws, even including laws requiring compulsory abortion, could be sustained under the existing Constitution if the population crisis became sufficiently severe to endanger the society.
As noted in the FrontPage article cited above, Holdren "hides behind the passive voice" in this passage, by saying "it has been concluded." Really? By whom? By the authors of the book, that's whom. What Holdren's really saying here is, "I have determined that there's nothing unconstitutional about laws which would force women to abort their babies." And as we will see later, although Holdren bemoans the fact that most people think there's no need for such laws, he and his co-authors believe that the population crisis is so severe that the time has indeed come for "compulsory population-control laws." In fact, they spend the entire book arguing that "the population crisis" has already become "sufficiently severe to endanger the society."

Page 786 : Single mothers should have their babies taken away by the government or they could be forced to have abortions

One way to carry out this disapproval might be to insist that all illegitimate babies be put up for adoption&mdashespecially those born to minors, who generally are not capable of caring properly for a child alone. If a single mother really wished to keep her baby, she might be obliged to go through adoption proceedings and demonstrate her ability to support and care for it. Adoption proceedings probably should remain more difficult for single people than for married couples, in recognition of the relative difficulty of raising children alone. It would even be possible to require pregnant single women to marry or have abortions, perhaps as an alternative to placement for adoption, depending on the society.
Holdren and his co-authors once again speculate about unbelievably draconian solutions to what they feel is an overpopulation crisis. But what's especially disturbing is not that Holdren has merely made these proposals -- wrenching babies from their mothers' arms and giving them away compelling single mothers to prove in court that they would be good parents and forcing women to have abortions, whether they wanted to or not -- but that he does so in such a dispassionate, bureaucratic way. Don't be fooled by the innocuous and "level-headed" tone he takes: the proposals are nightmarish, however euphemistically they are expressed.

Holdren seems to have no grasp of the emotional bond between mother and child, and the soul-crushing trauma many women have felt throughout history when their babies were taken away from them involuntarily.

This kind of clinical, almost robotic discussion of laws that would affect millions of people at the most personal possible level is deeply unsettling, and the kind of attitude that gives scientists a bad name. I'm reminded of the phrase "banality of evil."

Not that it matters, but I myself am "pro-choice" -- i.e. I think that abortion should not be illegal. But that doesn't mean I'm pro-abortion -- I don't particularly like abortions, but I do believe women should be allowed the choice to have them. But John Holdren here proposes to take away that choice -- to force women to have abortions. One doesn't need to be a "pro-life" activist to see the horror of this proposal -- people on all sides of the political spectrum should be outraged. My objection to forced abortion is not so much to protect the embryo, but rather to protect the mother from undergoing a medical procedure against her will. And not just any medical procedure, but one which she herself (regardless of my views) may find particularly immoral or traumatic.

There's a bumper sticker that's popular in liberal areas which says: "Against abortion? Then don't have one." Well, John Holdren wants to MAKE you have one, whether you're against it or not.

Page 787-8 : Mass sterilization of humans though drugs in the water supply is OK as long as it doesn't harm livestock

Adding a sterilant to drinking water or staple foods is a suggestion that seems to horrify people more than most proposals for involuntary fertility control. Indeed, this would pose some very difficult political, legal, and social questions, to say nothing of the technical problems. No such sterilant exists today, nor does one appear to be under development. To be acceptable, such a substance would have to meet some rather stiff requirements: it must be uniformly effective, despite widely varying doses received by individuals, and despite varying degrees of fertility and sensitivity among individuals it must be free of dangerous or unpleasant side effects and it must have no effect on members of the opposite sex, children, old people, pets, or livestock.
OK, John, now you're really starting to scare me. Putting sterilants in the water supply? While you correctly surmise that this suggestion "seems to horrify people more than most proposals," you apparently are not among those people it horrifies. Because in your extensive list of problems with this possible scheme, there is no mention whatsoever of any ethical concerns or moral issues. In your view, the only impediment to involuntary mass sterlization of the population is that it ought to affect everyone equally and not have any unintended side effects or hurt animals. But hey, if we could sterilize all the humans safely without hurting the livestock, that'd be peachy! The fact that Holdren has no moral qualms about such a deeply invasive and unethical scheme (aside from the fact that it would be difficult to implement) is extremely unsettling and in a sane world all by itself would disqualify him from holding a position of power in the government.

Page 786-7 : The government could control women's reproduction by either sterilizing them or implanting mandatory long-term birth control

Involuntary fertility control
.
A program of sterilizing women after their second or third child, despite the relatively greater difficulty of the operation than vasectomy, might be easier to implement than trying to sterilize men.
.
The development of a long-term sterilizing capsule that could be implanted under the skin and removed when pregnancy is desired opens additional possibilities for coercive fertility control. The capsule could be implanted at puberty and might be removable, with official permission, for a limited number of births.
Note well the phrase "with official permission" in the above quote. Johh Holdren envisions a society in which the government implants a long-term sterilization capsule in all girls as soon as they reach puberty, who then must apply for official permission to temporarily remove the capsule and be allowed to get pregnant at some later date. Alternately, he wants a society that sterilizes all women once they have two children. Do you want to live in such a society? Because I sure as hell don't.

Page 838 : The kind of people who cause "social deterioration" can be compelled to not have children

If some individuals contribute to general social deterioration by overproducing children, and if the need is compelling, they can be required by law to exercise reproductive responsibility&mdashjust as they can be required to exercise responsibility in their resource-consumption patterns&mdashproviding they are not denied equal protection.
To me, this is in some ways the most horrifying sentence in the entire book -- and it had a lot of competition. Because here Holdren reveals that moral judgments would be involved in determining who gets sterilized or is forced to abort their babies. Proper, decent people will be left alone -- but those who "contribute to social deterioration" could be "forced to exercise reproductive responsibility" which could only mean one thing -- compulsory abortion or involuntary sterilization. What other alternative would there be to "force" people to not have children? Will government monitors be stationed in irresponsible people's bedrooms to ensure they use condoms? Will we bring back the chastity belt? No -- the only way to "force" people to not become or remain pregnant is to sterilize them or make them have abortions.

But what manner of insanity is this? "Social deterioration"? Is Holdren seriously suggesting that "some" people contribute to social deterioriation more than others, and thus should be sterilized or forced to have abortions, to prevent them from propagating their kind? Isn't that eugenics, plain and simple? And isn't eugenics universally condemned as a grotesquely evil practice?

We've already been down this road before. In one of the most shameful episodes in the history of U.S. jurisprudence, the Supreme Court ruled in the infamous 1927 Buck v. Bell case that the State of Virginia had had the right to sterilize a woman named Carrie Buck against her will, based solely on the (spurious) criteria that she was "feeble-minded" and promiscuous, with Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes concluding, "Three generations of imbeciles are enough." Nowadays, of course, we look back on that ruling in horror, as eugenics as a concept has been forever discredited. In fact, the United Nations now regards forced sterilization as a crime against humanity.

The italicized phrase at the end ("providing they are not denied equal protection"), which Holdren seems to think gets him off the eugenics hook, refers to the 14th Amendment (as you will see in the more complete version of this passage quoted below), meaning that the eugenics program wouldn't be racially based or discriminatory -- merely based on the whim and assessments of government bureaucrats deciding who and who is not an undesirable. If some civil servant in Holdren's America determines that you are "contributing to social deterioration" by being promiscuous or pregnant or both, will government agents break down your door and and haul you off kicking and screaming to the abortion clinic? In fact, the Supreme Court case Skinner v. Oklahoma already determined that the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment distinctly prohibits state-sanctioned sterilization being applied unequally to only certain types of people.

No no, you say, Holdren isn't claiming that some kind of people contribute to social deterioration more than others rather, he's stating that anyone who overproduces children thereby contributes to social deterioration and needs to be stopped from having more. If so -- how is that more palatable? It seems Holdren and his co-authors have not really thought this through, because what they are suggesting is a nightmarish totalitarian society. What does he envision: All women who commit the crime of having more than two children be dragged away by police to the government-run sterilization centers? Or -- most disturbingly of all -- perhaps Holdren has thought it through, and is perfectly OK with the kind of dystopian society he envisions in this book.

Sure, I could imagine a bunch of drunken guys sitting around shooting the breeze, expressing these kinds of forbidden thoughts who among us hasn't looked in exasperation at a harried mother buying candy bars and soda for her immense brood of unruly children and thought: Lady, why don't you just get your tubes tied already? But it's a different matter when the Science Czar of the United States suggests the very same thing officially in print. It ceases being a harmless fantasy, and suddenly the possibility looms that it could become government policy. And then it's not so funny anymore.

Page 838 : Nothing is wrong or illegal about the government dictating family size

In today's world, however, the number of children in a family is a matter of profound public concern. The law regulates other highly personal matters. For example, no one may lawfully have more than one spouse at a time. Why should the law not be able to prevent a person from having more than two children?
Why should the law not be able to prevent a person from having more than two children?

I'll tell you why, John. Because the the principle of habeas corpus upon which our nation rests automatically renders any compulsory abortion scheme to be unconstitutional, since it guarantees the freedom of each individual's body from detention or interference, until that person has been convicted of a crime. Or are you seriously suggesting that, should bureaucrats decide that the country is overpopulated, the mere act of pregnancy be made a crime?

I am no legal scholar, but it seems that John Holgren is even less of a legal scholar than I am. Many of the bizarre schemes suggested in Ecoscience rely on seriously flawed legal reasoning. The book is not so much about science, but instead is about reinterpreting the Constitution to allow totalitarian population-control measures.

The rest of this passage speaks for itself. Once you add up all the things the Planetary Regime (which has a nice science-fiction ring to it, doesn't it?) will control, it becomes quite clear that it will have total power over the global economy, since according to Holdren this Planetary Regime will control "all natural resources, renewable or nonrenewable" (which basically means all goods) as well as all food, and commerce on the oceans and any rivers "that discharge into the oceans" (i.e. 99% of all navigable rivers). What's left? Not much.

Page 917 : We will need to surrender national sovereignty to an armed international police force

If this could be accomplished, security might be provided by an armed international organization, a global analogue of a police force. Many people have recognized this as a goal, but the way to reach it remains obscure in a world where factionalism seems, if anything, to be increasing. The first step necessarily involves partial surrender of sovereignty to an international organization.
The other shoe drops. So: We are expected to voluntarily surrender national sovereignty to an international organization (the "Planetary Regime," presumably), which will be armed and have the ability to act as a police force. And we saw in the previous quote exactly which rules this armed international police force will be enforcing: compulsory birth control, and all economic activity.

It would be laughable if Holdren weren't so deadly serious. Do you want this man to be in charge of science and technology in the United States? Because he already is in charge.

Page 749 : Pro-family and pro-birth attitudes are caused by ethnic chauvinism

Another related issue that seems to encourage a pronatalist attitude in many people is the question of the differential reproduction of social or ethnic groups. Many people seem to be possessed by fear that their group may be outbred by other groups. White Americans and South Africans are worried there will be too many blacks, and vice versa. The Jews in Israel are disturbed by the high birth rates of Israeli Arabs, Protestants are worried about Catholics, and lbos about Hausas. Obviously, if everyone tries to outbreed everyone else, the result will be catastrophe for all. This is another case of the "tragedy of the commons," wherein the "commons" is the planet Earth. Fortunately, it appears that, at least in the DCs, virtually all groups are exercising reproductive restraint.
This passage is not particularly noteworthy except for the inclusion of the odd phrase "pronatalist attitude," which Holdren spends much of the book trying to undermine. And what exactly is a "pronatalist attitude"? Basically it means the urge to have children, and to like babies. If only we could suppress people's natural urge to want children and start families, we could solve all our problems!

What's disturbing to me is the incredibly patronizing and culturally imperialist attitude he displays here, basically acting like he has the right to tell every ethnic group in the world that they should allow themselves to go extinct or at least not increase their populations any more. How would we feel if Andaman Islanders showed up on the steps of the Capitol in Washington D.C. and announced that there were simply too many Americans, and we therefore are commanded to stop breeding immediately? One imagines that the attitude of every ethnic group in the world to John Holdren's proposal would be: Cram it, John. Stop telling us what to do.

Page 944 : As of 1977, we are facing a global overpopulation catastrophe that must be resolved at all costs by the year 2000

Humanity cannot afford to muddle through the rest of the twentieth century the risks are too great, and the stakes are too high. This may be the last opportunity to choose our own and our descendants' destiny. Failing to choose or making the wrong choices may lead to catastrophe. But it must never be forgotten that the right choices could lead to a much better world.
This is the final paragraph of the book, which I include here only to show how embarrassingly inaccurate his "scientific" projections were. In 1977, Holdren thought we were teetering on the brink of global catastrophe, and he proposed implementing fascistic rules and laws to stave off the impending disaster. Luckily, we ignored his warnings, yet the world managed to survive anyway without the need to punish ourselves with the oppressive society which Holdren proposed. Yes, there still is overpopulation, but the problems it causes are not as morally repugnant as the "solutions" which John Holdren wanted us to adopt.


I actually don't disagree with everything Holdren says. I agree with him that overpopulation is a problem, and that much of the environmental degradation that has happened is due in large part to overpopulation (mostly in the developing world). Where we disagree is in the solution. While Holdren does occasionally advocate for milder solutions elsewhere in the book, his basic premise is that the population explosion has gotten so out of control that only the most oppressive and totalitarian measures can possibly stop humanity from stripping the planet bare and causing a catastrophe beyond our imagining. Holdren has (apparently) no problem saying we should force people to not have children, by any means necessary. And that is where we part ways. I draw the line at even the hint of compulsory compliance to draconian laws about pregnancy and abortion Holdren does not hesitate to cross that line without a second thought.

My solution would be to adopt social policies that are known to lead to voluntary and non-coercive trends toward a lower birth rate: increased education for girls in poor countries, better access to (voluntarily adopted) birth control, higher standards of living. In fact, population trends since 1977 have started to level off in the crisis areas of Asia and Latin America, primarily due to better standards of living and better education, which are known to decrease population growth. These non-oppressive policies appear to be sufficient to control the population -- and Holdren's decades-long panic attack seems to be unfounded.

Now, consider all the recommendations by Holdren given above, and then note that at his Senate confirmation hearing he said he would "keep policy free from politics" if confirmed. In fact Holdren has repeatedly said that science should not be be tainted by politics, telling the BBC just a few days ago that "he wanted to take the politics out of scientific advice." But have you ever seen more politicized science-policy recommendations than those given in Ecoscience?


For the doubters and the naysayers.

There are five possible counter-claims which you might make against this report:

1. I'm lying, Holdren wrote no such thing, and this whole page is one big hoax.
2. He may have said those things, but I'm taking them out of context.
3. He was just the co-author -- he probably didn't write these particular passages, nor did he agree with them.
4. What he said really isn't that egregious: in fact, it seems pretty reasonable.
5. He wrote all this a long time ago -- he's probably changed his views by now.

1. I'm lying, Holdren wrote no such thing, and this whole page is one big hoax.
Scroll to the bottom of this page, and look at the photos of the book -- especially the last two photos, showing the book opened to pages quoted in this report. Then look at the full-page scans directly above those photos, showing each page mentioned here in full, unaltered. What more proof do you need? If you're still not convinced, go to any large library and check out the book yourself, and you'll see: everything I claim here is true.

If you don't have the patience to go to a library, you can always view the actual contents of the book online for free for a brief trial period.

2. He may have said those things, but I'm taking them out of context.
Some have argued that the FrontPage article "takes quotes out of context," which is the very reason why I went and investigated the original book itself. Turns out that not only are the quotes not out of context, but the additional paragraphs on either side of each passage only serve to make Holdren's ideas appear even more sinister. You want context? Be careful what you ask for, because the context makes things worse.

But yes, to satisfy the curious and the doubters, the "extended passages" and full-page scans given below provide more than sufficient context for the quotes.

In truth, I weary of the "context game" in which every controversial statement is always claimed to be "out of context," and no matter how much context is then given, it's never enough, until one must present every single word someone has ever written -- at which point the reader becomes overwhelmed and loses interest. Which is the whole point of the context game to begin with.

3. He was just the co-author -- he probably didn't write these particular passages, nor did he agree with them.
First of all: If you are a co-author of a book, you are signing your name to it, and you must take responsibility for everything that is in that book. This is true for John Holdren and every other author.

But there's plenty more evidence than that. Most significantly, Holdren has held similar views for years and frequently wrote about them under his own name. It's not like these quotes are unexpected and came out of the blue -- they fit into a pattern of other Holdren writings and viewpoints.

Lastly, below I present full-page scans of the "Acknowledgments" pages in Ecoscience, and in those Acknowledgments pages are dozens of thank-yous to people at U.C. Berkeley -- where Holdren was a professor at the time. In fact, there are more acknowledgments involving Berkeley than anywhere else, and since Holdren was the only one of the three authors with a connection to Berkeley, they must be his thank-yous -- indicating that he wrote a substantial portion of the book. Even his wife is thanked.

I have no way of knowing if Holdren himself typed the exact words quoted on this page, but he certainly at a minimum edited them and gave them his stamp of approval.

4. What he said really isn't that egregious: in fact, it seems pretty reasonable.
Well, if you believe that, then I guess this page holds no interest for you, and you are thereby free to ignore it. But I have a suspicion that the vast majority of Americans find the views expressed by Holdren to be alarming and abhorrent.

5. He wrote all this a long time ago -- he's probably changed his views by now.
You might argue that this book was written in a different era, during which time a certain clique of radical scientists (including Holdren) were in a frenzy over what they thought was a crisis so severe it threatened the whole planet: overpopulation. But, you could say, all that is in the past, an embarrassing episode which Holdren might wish everyone would now forget. I mean, people change their opinions all the time. Senator Robert Byrd was once in the KKK, after all, but by now he has renounced those views. Perhaps in a similar vein John Holdren no longer believes any of the things he wrote in Ecoscience, so we can't hold them against him any more.
.
The White House gets involved: Recent statements by Holdren and the Ehrlichs in response to this controversy

When I originally wrote and published this essay on July 10, I said:

"Unfortunately, as far as I've been able to discover, Holdren has never disavowed the views he held in the 1970s and spelled out in Ecoscience and other books."

However, that is no longer entirely true. On July 15, both the White House and John Holdren's office issued statements on this controversy after prodding from reporters at both the Washington Times and the Catholic News Agency.

According to this article by Amanda Carpenter in the Washington Times, Holdren and his co-authors have now distanced themselves from the words published in Ecoscience 32 years ago. From the article:

(The second quote above is from page 2 of the article.)

The Catholic News Agency also reported on July 15,

In Tuesday e-mails to CNA, Rick Weiss, the Office of Science and Technology Policy's Director of Strategic Communications, said the material at issue was from "a three-decade-old, three-author textbook used in colleges to teach energy policy."

He could "easily dismiss" fears that Dr. Holdren favors government control over population growth.

"He made that quite clear in his confirmation hearing," Weiss said.

He then quoted a section of the confirmation transcript in which Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) asked Holdren whether he thinks "determining optimal population is a proper role of government."

"No, Senator, I do not," was Holdren's reply, according to Weiss and a transcript of the proceedings.

In other remarks at the confirmation hearing, not cited by Weiss, Holdren told Sen. Vitter he no longer thinks it is "productive" to focus on the "optimum population" for the United States. "I don't think any of us know what the right answer is."

According to Weiss, Holdren "made clear that he did not believe in coercive means of population control" and is not an advocate for measures expressed in the book "and they are certainly not endorsed by this administration in any way."

Weiss also provided CNA with a statement from the book's other two authors, Paul and Anne Ehrlich.

The Ehrlichs said they had been "shocked" at what they called the "serious misrepresentation" of their and Holdren's views.

"We were not then, never have been, and are not now 'advocates' of the Draconian measures for population limitation described -- but not recommended -- in the book's 60-plus small-type pages cataloging the full spectrum of population policies that, at the time, had either been tried in some country or analyzed by some commentator."

Describing "Ecoscience" as a "textbook," they said its descriptions can be "misrepresented as endorsement."

In my original report, I challenged Holdren "to publicly renounce and disavow the opinions and recommendations he made in the book Ecoscience."

I ask my readers: Do you think these two articles count as the renunciation and disavowal I requested?

I'm not so sure. First of all, the disavowals were made by a spokesman and by his co-authors -- as of this writing, Holdren himself has never renounced and disavowed the contents of Ecoscience. Unless you want to count the one-sentence answer he gave during the confirmation hearing.

Under questioning from Senator David Vitter, Holdren did backpedal a bit concerning a different statement he made in the '70s about government-controlled population levels. Does this single sentence count as an across-the-board disavowal of every single specific recommendation he made in Ecoscience as well as in many other books and articles? My opinion is Not really, but as usual I'll provide the full evidence and the full context and I'll let you decide for yourself. You can view the video of the confirmation hearings here (introductory page here), but be warned that it is an extremely long streaming video that doesn't work in all browsers, and the answer in question doesn't come until the 120th minute.

Because most people won't or can't view the entire video, here's a transcript of the relevant part, and you can decide for yourself whether his statement counts as a disavowal of his quotes cited in this report:

Senator David Vitter: In 1973, you encouraged "a decline in fertility well below replacement" in the United States because "280 million in 2040 is likely to be too many." What would your number for the right population in the US be today?

John Holdren: I no longer think it's productive, Senator, to focus on the optimum population of the United States. I don't think any of us know what the right answer is. When I wrote those lines in 1973, uh, I was preoccupied with the fact that many problems the United States faced appeared to be being made more difficult by the greater population growth that then prevailed. I think everyone who studies these matters understands that population growth brings some benefits and some liabilities it's a tough question to determine which will prevail in a given time period.

Vitter then asked, "You think determining optimal population is a proper role of government?" To which Holdren replied, "No, Senator, I do not."

(If you want the full context of this exchange between Vitter and Holdren, a complete transcript of their entire question-and-answer session can be found posted here.)

I'm not sure just how seriously we should take a statement made by someone during what is essentially a job interview. A few words spent reassuring the interviewer that you don't really believe all those things you spent thirty years elaborating in detail -- what else should we expect? That Holdren would say, Yes, I think the government should lower the U.S. population down to 280 million? Of course he wouldn't say that during the interview, despite what he may or may not really believe internally.

But let's spend a moment looking at these answers more closely. Both of them referred to determining a specific number of people that should be allowed as the population of the United States. First he said it was "no longer productive" to set a hard-and-fast exact number for the population of the U.S., and then said he doesn't think we should "determine the optimal population." But that still leaves the door open for the notion that the population should be lowered by whatever means in general without a specific numerical goal in mind. Holdren still did not say that he's against population control as a concept -- only that he thinks we shouldn't set specific numeric targets.

And more importantly in the context of this essay, he did not disavow any of the specific proposals quoted here -- forced abortion, "Planetary Regime," etc.

Rather than a fairly vague blanket disavowal given in response to a question on a slightly different topic during the confirmation hearings, and rather than a statement given by someone in his office, and rather than a statement issued by his co-authors, I still would like to see a specific disavowal by Holdren himself. And so I repeat,

Columnist David Harsanyi, who received a similar semi-disavowal from Holdren's office, dismantles it quite effectively in an excellent piece he published on July 15 in the Denver Post, Reason Online and elsewhere.

And who wants to take up the challenge from the Ehrlichs issued by the White House to look into "some of the dozens of publications that we and he separately have produced in more recent times" to uncover "what we and/or Professor Holdren believe"? Seems like territory ripe for exploration. Post any research you uncover either here in the comments section at zomblog, or on your own blog. Anything that John Holdren or the Ehrlichs have written since 1977 is fair game -- according to the Ehrlichs themselves.

Before you read any further.

If you accept the self-evident veracity of these quotations, and are outraged enough already, then you can stop reading here. Very little new information is presented below.

(And if you'd like to comment on this report, you can do so HERE at zomblog.)

But if you still harbor doubts that the United States Science Czar could possibly harbor such views, and want more proof, then read on for longer and fuller citations, and full-page scans of the pages in the book, as well as photographs of the book itself. And if by chance you are a Holdren or Obama supporter, and want to falsely claim that I have taken Holdren's statements out of context, then you'd better stop reading here too, because if you go any further then you'll see that I have given full context for the quotes and conclusive evidence that they're Holdren's -- removing any basis by which you could have questioned this report.

More Context: Complete extended passages from which the quotes above were taken

For most of these, I will present the following extended passages without further commentary -- judge for yourself if you think the context mitigates Holdren's intent, or only worsens the impression that he's completely serious about all this.

Page 837 full-length extended quote:

To date, there has been no serious attempt in Western countries to use laws to control excessive population growth, although there exists ample authority under which population growth could be regulated. For example, under the United States Constitution, effective population-control programs could be enacted under the clauses that empower Congress to appropriate funds to provide for the general welfare and to regulate commerce, or under the equal-protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Such laws constitutionally could be very broad. Indeed, it has been concluded that compulsory population-control laws, even including laws requiring compulsory abortion, could be sustained under the existing Constitution if the population crisis became sufficiently severe to endanger the society. Few today consider the situation in the United States serious enough to justify compulsion, however.
Let it be noted that John Holdren himself is among the few who "consider the situation in the United States serious enough to justify compulsion" -- in fact, that's the entire thrust of Ecoscience, to convince everyone that overpopulation is a catastrophic crisis which requires immediate and extreme solutions. So although the final sentence of the extended passage seems at first to mollify the extreme nature of his speculation, in reality Holdren is only speaking of all the unaware masses who don't see things his way.

Although free and easy association of the sexes might be tolerated in such a society, responsible parenthood ought to be encouraged and illegitimate childbearing could be strongly discouraged. One way to carry out this disapproval might be to insist that all illegitimate babies be put up for adoption&mdashespecially those born to minors, who generally are not capable of caring properly for a child alone. If a single mother really wished to keep her baby, she might be obliged to go through adoption proceedings and demonstrate her ability to support and care for it. Adoption proceedings probably should remain more difficult for single people than for married couples, in recognition of the relative difficulty of raising children alone. It would even he possible to require pregnant single women to marry or have abortions, perhaps as an alternative to placement for adoption, depending on the society.

But to me, the most bizarre and disturbing aspect of the quote given here is that Holgren seems to think that economic disincentives to have large families are more repressive and extreme than taking away basic bodily rights. To Holdren, "removing dependency allowances from student grants" is more repressive than compelling women to have abortions against their will. A very peculiar and twisted view of the world, I must say.

Physiologist Melvin Ketchel, of the Tufts University School of Medicine, suggested that a sterilant could be developed that had a very specific action&mdashfor example, preventing implantation of the fertilized ovum. He proposed that it be used to reduce fertility levels by adjustable amounts, anywhere from five to 75 percent, rather than to sterilize the whole population completely. In this way, fertility could be adjusted from time to time to meet a society's changing needs, and there would be no need to provide an antidote. Contraceptives would still be needed for couples who were highly motivated to have small families. Subfertile and functionally sterile couples who strongly desired children would be medically assisted, as they are now, or encouraged to adopt. Again, there is no sign of such an agent on the horizon. And the risk of serious, unforeseen side effects would, in our opinion, militate against the use of any such agent, even though this plan has the advantage of avoiding the need for socioeconomic pressures that might tend to discriminate against particular groups or penalize children.

Most of the population control measures beyond family planning discussed above have never been tried. Some are as yet technically impossible and others are and probably will remain unacceptable to most societies (although, of course, the potential effectiveness of those least acceptable measures may be great).

The third approach to population limitation is that of involuntary fertility control. Several coercive proposals deserve discussion, mainly because some countries may ultimately have to resort to them unless current trends in birthrates are rapidly reversed by other means. Some involuntary measures could be less repressive or discriminatory, in fact, than some of the socioeconomic measure suggested.

A program of sterilizing women after their second or third child, despite the relatively greater difficulty of the operation than vasectomy, might be easier to implement than trying to sterilize men. This of course would be feasible only in countries where the majority of births are medically assisted. Unfortunately, such a program therefore is not practical for most less developed countries (although in China, mothers of three children are commonly "expected" to undergo sterilization).

The Planetary Regime might be given responsibility for determining the optimum population for the world and for each region and for arbitrating various countries' shares within their regional limits. Control of population size might remain the responsibility of each government, but the Regime should have some power to enforce the agreed limits. As with the Law of the Sea an other international agreements, all agreements for regulating population sizes, resource development, and pollution should be subject to revision and modification in accordance with changing conditions.

Page 917 full-length extended quote:

If this could be accomplished, security might be provided by an armed international organization, a global analogue of a police force. Many people have recognized this as a goal, but the way to reach it remains obscure in a world where factionalism seems, if anything, to be increasing. The first step necessarily involves partial surrender of sovereignty to an international organization. But it seems probable that, as long as most people fail to comprehend the magnitude of the danger, that step will be impossible.


Full Context: High-res scans of all pages cited in this report

Click on each of the images below to see the full-size scans of the pages mentioned in this report:

Front cover
Back cover
Title page

Page 749
Page 786
Page 787

Page 788
Page 789
Page 837

Page 838
Page 839
Page 917

Page 942
Page 943
Page 944

Page 1001
Page 1002
Page 1003


Photographs of Ecoscience, inside and out

Any finally, for the final proof that this is a real book co-authored by John Holdren -- and that these are real quotes from that book -- and not some elaborate hoax, here are some photographs (as opposed to scans) of the book itself:

If you'd like to comment on this report, you can do so HERE at zomblog.


Biden's tough new line against Beijing is a tribute to Donald Trump

Why is Joe Biden so warm toward China?

Last week, Biden raised eyebrows when he shrugged off concerns over the China threat. “Come on, man,” Biden said. “I mean, you know, they’re not bad folks, folks. But guess what, they’re not competition for us.”

Perhaps Biden’s insouciant attitude toward the Chinese government has to do with the fact that his family does not consider them competitors but business partners.

In 2013, then-Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden flew aboard Air Force Two to China. Less than two weeks later, Hunter Biden’s firm inked a $1 billion private equity deal with a subsidiary of the Chinese government’s Bank of China. The deal was later expanded to $1.5 billion. In short, the Chinese government funded a business that it co-owned along with the son of a sitting vice president.

If it sounds shocking that a vice president would shape US-China policy as his son — who has scant experience in private equity — clinched a coveted billion-dollar deal with an arm of the Chinese government, that’s because it is.

Until the publication of my book, “Secret Empires,” no one knew the deal took place. Indeed, it took me and a team of seasoned investigators nearly two years to unearth and report the facts.

Without the aid of subpoena power, here’s what we know. The businesses of Hunter Biden and his partners created a series of LLCs involved in multibillion-dollar private equity deals with companies owned by the Chinese government.

The centerpiece of these deals is Rosemont Seneca Partners, an investment firm controlled by Hunter Biden and his associates: Chris Heinz, who is John Kerry’s stepson, and Heinz’s longtime associate Devon Archer. The trio founded Rosemont Seneca in 2009 and quickly began making deals through a series of overlapping entities under the Rosemont name.

“Secret Empires: How the American Political Class Hides Corruption and Enriches Family and Friends Hardcover “

Less than a year after opening Rosemont Seneca’s doors, Hunter Biden and Archer were in China meeting with top Chinese officials. To assist in their new venture, they partnered with a Massachusetts-based consultancy called the Thornton Group, headed by James Bulger, son of former Massachusetts state Sen. Billy Bulger. James Bulger has the dubious honor of being named after his uncle, the notorious mob hitman James “Whitey” Bulger.

The Thornton Group’s account of the meeting on their Chinese-language Web site is telling: Chinese executives “extended their warm welcome” to the “Thornton Group, with its US partner Rosemont Seneca chairman Hunter Biden (second son of the now Vice President Joe Biden).”

The purpose of the meetings was to “explore the possibility of commercial cooperation and opportunity.” Curiously, details about the meeting did not appear on their English-language Web site.

The timing of this meeting was also notable. It occurred just hours before Hunter Biden’s father, the vice president, met with Chinese President Hu Jintao in Washington as part of the Nuclear Security Summit.

Twelve days after Hunter stepped off Air Force Two in Beijing, his company signed a historic deal with the Bank of China, the state-owned financial behemoth often used as a tool of the Chinese government. The Bank of China had created a first-of-its-kind investment fund called Bohai Harvest RST (BHR). According to BHR, one of its founding partners was none other than Rosemont Seneca Partners LLC.

It was an unprecedented arrangement: the government of one of America’s fiercest competitors going into business with the son of one of America’s most powerful decisionmakers.

Chris Heinz claims neither he nor Rosemont Seneca Partners, the firm he had part ownership of, had any role in the deal with Bohai Harvest. Nonetheless, Biden, Archer and the Rosemont name became increasingly involved with China. Archer became the vice chairman of Bohai Harvest, helping oversee some of the fund’s investments.

Troublingly, some of those investments had major implications for national security.

In December 2014, BHR became an “anchor investor” in the IPO of China General Nuclear Power Corp. (CGN), a state-owned energy company involved in the construction of nuclear reactors. In April 2016, the US Justice Department would charge CGN with stealing nuclear secrets from the United States — actions prosecutors said could cause “significant damage to our national security.”

Joe Biden meeting with then Ukrainian prime minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk during a meeting in Kiev in 2014. AP

Of particular interest to CGN were sensitive, American-made components that, according to experts, resembled components used by the US on its nuclear submarines.

That Hunter Biden had no experience in China, and little in private equity, didn’t dissuade the Chinese government from giving his company a business opportunity in place of established global financial brands like Morgan Stanley or Goldman Sachs. In fact, the Chinese government wasn’t done funding deals with Hunter Biden.

Also in December 2014, a Chinese state-backed conglomerate called Gemini Investments Limited was negotiating and sealing deals with Hunter Biden’s Rosemont on several fronts. That month, it made a $34 million investment into a fund managed by Rosemont.

The following August, Rosemont Realty, another sister company of Rosemont Seneca, announced that Gemini Investments was buying a 75 percent stake in the company. The terms of the deal included a $3 billion commitment from the Chinese, who were eager to purchase new US properties. Shortly after the sale, Rosemont Realty was rechristened Gemini Rosemont.

Chinese executives lauded the deal.

“Rosemont, with its comprehensive real-estate platform and superior performance history, was precisely the investment opportunity Gemini Investments was looking for in order to invest in the US real estate market,” declared Li Ming, Sino-Ocean Land Holdings Limited and Gemini Investments chairman. “We look forward to a strong and successful partnership.”

The plan was to use Chinese money to acquire more properties in the United States. “We see great opportunities to continue acquiring high-quality real estate in the US market,” one company executive said. “The possibilities for this venture are tremendous.”

See also

Joe Biden's China policy is stuck in the last century

Finally, in 2015, BHR joined forces with a subsidiary of Chinese state-owned military aviation contractor Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC) to buy American precision-parts manufacturer Henniges. Because Henniges manufactured technology with possible military applications, the transaction required approval by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States. CFIUS reviews are required for business transactions that have potential national security implications.

The Biden-Bank of China fact-pattern is arresting in its bravura and scale. Moreover, it turns out that the Biden dealings didn’t just take place in China, but in Ukraine, as well.

Consider the facts. On April 16, 2014, White House records show that Devon Archer, Hunter Biden’s business partner in the Rosemont Seneca deals, made a private visit to the White House for a meeting with Vice President Biden. Five days later, on April 21, Joe Biden landed in Kiev for a series of high-level meetings with Ukrainian officials. The vice president was bringing with him highly welcomed terms of a United States Agency for International Development program to assist the Ukrainian natural-gas industry and promises of more US financial assistance and loans. Soon the United States and the International Monetary Fund would be pumping more than $1 billion into the Ukrainian economy.

The next day, there was a public announcement that Archer had been asked to join the board of Burisma, a Ukrainian natural-gas company. Three weeks after that, on May 13, it was announced that Hunter Biden would join, too. Neither Biden nor Archer had any background or experience in the energy sector.

The younger Biden, for his part, tried to put the best possible face on the deal. He claimed that by joining the board of the natural-gas producer, he would “contribute to the economy and benefit the people of Ukraine.”

The choice of Hunter Biden to handle transparency and corporate governance for Burisma is curious, because Biden had little if any experience in Ukrainian law, or professional legal counsel, period. But that didn’t stop Burisma from paying the younger Biden what The New York Times has reported was as much as $50,000 a month while the company was under investigation by officials in both Ukraine and abroad.

Joe Biden’s trip to Kiev in March 2016, and his threats to withhold $1 billion in foreign aid if Ukrainian officials didn’t dismiss the country’s top prosecutor, Victor Shokin, take on added meaning when you consider that Shokin’s office had been leading an investigation into Burisma’s owner.

According to a recent New York Times report, Biden helped recruit an American consulting firm as well as former Deputy Attorney General John Buretta to help Burisma fight corruption charges. In an interview with the Kyiv Post, Buretta described his negotiations with Yuriy Lutsenko. Lutsenko became Ukraine’s general prosecutor after Joe Biden had lobbied for his predecessor’s removal. Apparently, the negotiations worked as the case was dismissed in the fall of 2016.

Joe Biden later bragged about his efforts to get Shokin removed, though he claims Shokin’s removal was needed due to his mishandling of a number of cases in Ukraine. Hunter Biden insists he never spoke to his father about the investigation into Burisma.

Will the Senate investigate Joe and Hunter Biden’s actions in China and Ukraine? We don’t know, but they should. If a two-year investigation of President Trump, Russia and the Trump family was justified to ensure the president isn’t compromised, an investigation into Joe Biden, China, Ukraine and the Biden family is imperative.

Peter Schweizer is the author of “Secret Empires: How the American Political Class Hides Corruption and Enriches Family and Friends” (Harper). His newest project is The Drill Down, an investigative video project dedicated to exposing cronyism and corruption.


Statement of Seven Republican Senators 3

  1. We are Republicans. But we are Americans first. It is as Americans that we express our concern with the growing confusion that threatens the security and stability of our country. Democrats and Republicans alike have contributed to that confusion.
  2. The Democratic administration has initially created the confusion by its lack of effective leadership, by its contradictory grave warnings and optimistic assurances, by its complacency to the threat of communism here at home, by its oversensitiveness to rightful criticism, by its petty bitterness against its critics.
  3. Certain elements of the Republican party have materially added to this confusion in the hopes of riding the Republican party to victory through the selfish political exploitation of fear, bigotry, ignorance, and intolerance. There are enough mistakes of the Democrats for Republicans to criticize constructively without resorting to political smears.
  4. To this extent, Democrats and Republicans alike have unwittingly, but undeniably, played directly into the Communist design of “confuse, divide, and conquer.”
  5. It is high time that we stopped thinking politically as Republicans and Democrats about elections and started thinking patriotically as Americans about national security based on individual freedom. It is high time that we all stopped being tools and victims of totalitarian techniques – techniques that, if continued here unchecked, will surely end what we have come to cherish as the American way of life.

Study Questions

A. Why does Smith believe she needs to speak out? What are the “basic principles of Americanism”? What criticisms does Chase make of the Truman administration and the Democratic Party? Why is Chase also critical of her own party, the Republicans? What challenges does the Republican Party face? What is the Declaration of Conscience?

B. In what ways does this speech criticize the tone and content of Document 5? How is the definition of Americanism in this document similar to the American Way defined in Document 6? In what ways are this speech and Document 15 similar?


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