By Tom Nichols. This article was originally posted at The Federalist. It gives clarity to what we’re witnessing in America.
Totalitarians want their rule, and their belief system, to be accepted and self-sustaining—even if it takes bludgeoning every last citizen who disagrees.
There’s a basic difference in the traditions of political science between “authoritarians” and “totalitaritarians.” People throw both of these words around, but as is so often the case, they’re using words they may not always understand. They have real meaning, however, and the difference between them is important.
Simply put, authoritarians merely want obedience, while totalitarians, whose rule is rooted in an ideology, want obedience and conversion. Authoritarians are a dime a dozen; totalitarians are rare. The authoritarians are the guys in charge who want to stay in charge, and don’t much care about you, or what you’re doing, so long as you stay out of their way. They are the jefe and his thugs in a brutal regime that want you to shut up, go to work, and look the other way when your loudmouthed neighbor gets his lights punched out by goons in black jackets. Live or die. It’s all the same to the regime.
Totalitarians are a different breed. These are the people who have a plan, who think they see the future more clearly than you or who are convinced they grasp reality in a way that you do not. They don’t serve themselves—or, they don’t serve themselves exclusively—they serve History, or The People, or The Idea, or some other ideological totem that justifies their actions.
Read more at The Federalist.