Salvatore Babiones’ 2018 book ‘The New Authoritarianism’ is an exposition on how tyranny and fascism are spawned by the exaltation of civil rights over against civil liberties.
Babones first unpacks populism’s role as an often one-off ‘positive alternative’ wave which breaks society free from ‘the tyranny of the expert class’ (p.xiii), giving constitutional democracy back its buoyancy.
The ‘populist revolt’, if coming against anti-classical liberal authoritarianism, is like a fresh wind filling dead sails, and righting the ship.
Babones helps us understand that the election of Donald Trump personified a classical liberal revolt against the modern liberal (radical leftist) ‘expert class.’
Many of who hold the view that ‘“positive” rights’ trump ‘“negative” freedoms.’
As Babones writes, the ‘philosophy of safeguarding freedoms has evolved into the philosophy of demanding rights.’ (pp.7-8)
The demand that modern liberal authority be recognised and obeyed, without question, has created ‘a tyranny of experts.’ (p.11)
For Babones this ‘New Authoritarianism’ is observable in the increase of restrictions on civil liberties. One example is in how the elevating of civil rights over against civil liberties is creating a protected class of minorities who are given such status by an ‘expert class’ – even if minority groups within society haven’t asked for it, or perhaps even want it.
Minority groups are informed through a variety of deceit filled propaganda campaigns that demand compliance under the expert class-knows-best imperative “it’s for your own good.”
The majority are also bonded to the same cloud of deceit through simple slogans full of falsehoods or half-truths.
This cements a greater reflex in the masses, by which, so Jaques Ellul pointed out, the masses act without thinking and are happy to do so, producing in some an unquestioning fanaticism that will always buy whatever the ‘expert class’ sells them.
Consider the principle of the führerprinzip in 1930s Germany where the word of the ‘expert class’ was to be taken as the Word of God.
No one can dissent. “You are what the expert class says you are. You will do think and work as the expert class tells you to, or else!”
This is propelled forward through sleight of hand political manoeuvring in the halls of power, right down to peer pressure, that is designed by the ‘expert class’ to solidify the loyalties of an entitled ‘protected class’, and forge greater ownership of the masses.
Note Gene Veith’s excellent analysis in ‘Modern Fascism’ about the ‘Nazifying of the Universities.’ Hitler’s elites were in large part University educated.
“Contrary to the myth that the Nazis were uneducated brutes, most of the killers of the death squads had college degrees, including some with Ph. D.s in philosophy, literature, and even theology[.…]‘one study of a local Nazi party organization shows that 43.3 percent were university students […]”
It’s not just Nazism that illustrates the ultimate manifestation of this ‘expert class.’ Communism and Nazism are two wings on the same vicious bird, and as such Communists, despite their counter-claims, share the same tyranny of the elite, bourgeois characteristics.
Babones’ scrutiny joins up with that of Elull, Elshtain and Veith, in urging extreme caution with who those in a society trusts, and in whom society puts its trust in.
Taking into account the Social Darwinian views of the German elite, I would argue that the ideas which led to Auschwitz were the direct consequence of an elevation of civil rights over against civil liberties.
Civil liberties were thrown to the ground, and in the name of social justice, the persecution of the Germans at Versailles manifested into the persecution of the Jews.
This is why civil liberties need a revival. Civil liberties allow for civil rights.
Any dispelling of this necessary order (or sequence) creates disorder.
What remains is a dysfunctional paradigm from which (as the historical record of the 20th century attests) Hell-on-earth is sure to follow.
The dehumanisation and mistreatment of the Jews was justified* by the ‘expert class’ as the addressing of “a great social evil” – the depression, war reparations, etc.
By which the ‘expert class’ pushed a victimhood narrative. This is the very same approach used by cultural Marxists – Radical Leftist Jihadists – who’ve weaponized “civil rights” legislation under the broad, poorly defined umbrella of “social justice.” It’s an eery fit.
Call it designed or the law of unintended consequences, either way, what people need to understand is that the exaltation of civil rights over against civil liberties will eventually negate civil rights.
This is why Classical liberal civil liberties – freedom of speech, freedom of religion and the like – should be protected against the lawfare of modern liberalism’s cultural Marxists. Such as arbitrary “hate speech” and “anti-conversion” laws which are ambiguous and open to misinterpretation and abuse.
In conclusion, Babones’ brief treatise on ‘The New Authoritarianism’ is reminiscent, though not equal to, Jacques Ellul and Jean Bethke Elshtain’s criticisms of modern liberalism and the danger it poses to Western constitutional democracies.
They all direct attention to the fact that constitutional democracies will not survive the replacement of Biblical Christian Classical Liberalism, with the god-of-self, Christless, modern liberal trojan horse.
The ejection of these former foundations in favour of a subjective, thoughtless rush into social justice legislation which exalts civil rights, will mean slavery to, and fanatic devotion of an ‘expert class.’
Constitutional democracies will survive this ‘tyranny of experts’ if civil liberties are protected and guided by authentic Biblical Christian objective morality.
Civil liberties and civil rights share the same platform and stem from the same place – such as the Imago Dei, the Divine command and the Divine order: “Let us make man in Our image…” (Genesis 1:26) – but civil liberties and civil rights are not the same thing.
As Babones pointed out, ‘China’s people don’t lack liberal rights like paid maternity leave. What they lack are basic freedoms – and, of course, democracy.’ (p.54)
The protection of civil liberties and therefore also the protection of civil rights may require a reawakening to the importance of civil liberties; and renewed awareness of how national sovereignty, an embrace of multi-ethnic nationalism, as well as faith-based reasoning, and steely-ANZAC determination, has, up until the past two decades preserved them.
What many good little secular humanists concerned about the loss of civil liberties fail to understand is that Classical liberal freedoms only work within the boundary of Biblical Christianity.
The secular humanist rejection of God who is free [vi], and from whom all freedoms flow, inadvertently advocate for the removal of these freedoms by ejecting Jesus Christ.
The result being the enthronement of an anti-christ who rules against freedom in favour of “new social justice moral codes” designated as “civil rights”.
Where civil rights are asserted over and against civil liberties, hell on earth is sure to follow.
[i] Babones, S. 2018. The New Authoritarianism: Trump, Populism, and the Tyranny of Experts, Polity Press.
[ii] Veith, G.E. 1993. Modern Fascism: The Threat to the Judeo-Christian Worldview, Concordia Publishing House
[iii] Elull, J. 1965. Propaganda: The Formation of Men’s Minds, Vintage Books
[iv] Elshtain, J.B. 1995. Democracy on Trial, Basic Books
[v] Elshtain, J.B. 2008. Sovereignty, God, State and Self: Gifford Lectures, Basic Books
[vi] See Karl Barth CD.II:1:328-350
*I’m saying it was justified, it wasn’t. I’m expressing how it was viewed as “just.”