September 20, 2021

The Kids Want Socialism (Even If They Don’t Know What It Is)

Democratic_Socialists_Occupy_Wall_Street_2011_ShankboneFreedom-lovers across America are alarmed at how well socialism polls among young people and at how well an avowed socialist, Bernie Sanders, is doing in the presidential race. A recent video (watch below) is a clever piece of propaganda designed to give you the warm & fuzzies about “democratic socialism”. The only problem is, just about everything in the video is wrong. [Warning: the auto-launch audio might startle you. If it doesn’t, the content will.]

At the outset, it’s worth noting that you can’t easily find out who made this video or why. That’s a hallmark of the hard Left and should tell you something.

Much of the video is premised on a deliberate confusion between “democratic socialism” and “social democracy”. You don’t have to look any further than Wikipedia to disentangle the resulting mess. “Democratic socialism” is the “combination of political democracy with social ownership of the means of production.” “Social democracy”, on the other hand, refers to a capitalist economy with a welfare state, as in Europe. “[D]emocratic socialism is committed to systemic transformation of the economy while social democracy is not.” Democratic socialists “believe [in] … superseding private ownership with some form of social ownership.” Democratic socialists, therefore, seek to replace capitalism with socialism, either incrementally or by revolution, while social democrats do not.

This deliberate confusion allows the video to get away with claiming that a free market can exist under democratic socialism and, further, that democratic socialism does not do away with private business or freedom. The Wikipedia discussion above clearly shows these claims are flat-out false, which the video-makers surely know. The video also claims that Medicare and Social Security are examples of democratic socialist programs. To the contrary, social spending is a feature of European-style social democracy (which inspired American social spending). Finally on this point, the video claims that democratic socialist countries have a higher standard of living, but the narrator is undoubtedly referring to such countries as Denmark and Sweden which are social democracies, not democratic socialist states.

So, it turns out, the ‘democratic socialists’ are just ‘socialists’ after all. Why the subterfuge? Why is the word ‘democratic’ thrown in there? Because it sells. And because it confuses people. Confusion is a weapon commonly employed by the hard Left. Americans love democracy, no question about it. You don’t need a focus group to figure that out. Tacking ‘democratic’ onto ‘socialism’ makes it easier to swallow. This is just marketing shtick – New & Improved! – not serious political philosophy.

Next, the video draws a false equivalence between democratic socialism and ordinary functions of government. Did you know the reason we have a military and a national park system is because of democratic socialism? That will come as a shock to George Washington and Teddy Roosevelt. Ditto for roads, police and fire departments, courts, prisons, education, public transportation, and border protection – all attributable to democratic socialism, don’t you know. The people who pick up our garbage are – you guessed it – democratic socialists! Why, we can’t even have sanitation without democratic socialism – Bernie, Save Our Toilets! The false equivalence is just too preposterous for words.

Ted Cruz believes in a military. Does that make him a democratic socialist? Obviously not.

There are other astounding claims made in the video:

  • Democratic socialism does not take people’s freedom away – References to economic egalitarianism and redistribution of wealth are threaded throughout the video in almost subliminal fashion (a friend of mine missed them entirely). But there is no way to guarantee everybody an equal paycheck without coercion, i.e. taking everybody’s freedom away. People will not ‘work as equals for the common good’ unless you force it on them. Government can’t supply the euphemistically called ‘foundations of society so people can live a happy and healthy life’ without coercion. You can’t have equal distribution of wealth without looting the people you don’t like to give ‘free stuff’ to the people you do. That’s not freedom; it’s tyranny. The video-makers know this, but they can’t tell you straight out; they have to slip it in sideways or the jig will be up. The video admits that confiscatory taxation will be necessary to pay for #FeelTheBern programs like universal healthcare and free college tuition. There’s an obvious contradiction between redistribution and freedom, a contradiction the video fails to mention and does not explore.
  • Democratic socialism means that people should run a country – Last I heard, popular sovereignty was called a republic, not democratic socialism. We already have a republic. What do we need you for?
  • Democratic socialism is socialism through the ballot box and fair elections – Well, what red-blooded American could be against fair elections? Don’t you think we should have police and fire departments? A military? Prisons? Of course you do. This is a propaganda technique to get you nodding your head ‘yes’ several times in a row to soften you up to accept the ultimate conclusion, which is presented as merely an extension of things you already believe. If you love our national parks, redistribution of income is just a short jump away. If we should have sanitation, we should have socialism, right? One follows the other, as night follows day. So focus on individual policies, the video exhorts, not the word “socialism” which the mean old ‘conservative party’, whatever that is, has so unfairly stigmatized.

Sorry, but the Left is going to have to do a lot better than that. The exact same technique was used in a 2006 documentary called “Mirrors of Privilege: Making Whiteness Visible” by Shakti Butler. Obvious injustices from the 1960s civil rights era were paraded in front of your eyes to soften you up for accepting the film-maker’s entire ‘white privilege’ trip, which is a different kettle of fish entirely. Memo to the Left: time to get a new playbook.

The democratic socialism video manages to deploy a whole compendium of propaganda techniques in its scant three and a half minutes. It redefines terms – attempting to pass off democratic socialism as social democracy. It panders to prejudices and populist notions (e.g., railing against the Big Bad Banks and the Evil Corporations – like the Clinton Foundation, maybe?). It pirouettes on false equivalence – if you love your toilet, you’re gonna love redistribution of wealth! Spread the … never mind.

The false equivalence of sanitation and socialism may seem preposterous to you as an educated person, but think how it will strike a young person who doesn’t know anything about any of this. No wonder so many get sucked in. Whatever sells. I’m a sucker for socialism! P.T. Barnum would be proud (‘there’s a sucker born every minute’). But isn’t there something wrong when they have to slip in what they really mean through the side door?

So to the video-makers I say: You don’t have to hide. You don’t have to lie. Come out of the shadows. We like you just the way you are, you jack-booted thugs.

If these ideas are attractive to you, please understand they’re not new and they’ve never worked anywhere, ever. You’re playing with fire and it will burn your house down.