Apparently, only old men recall anything about the Cold War. During the Olympics, commentators on NBC were calling the Soviet Union a pivotal experiment in human affairs. In fairness, they don’t hire smart people with work these things. They hire people with high verbal dexterity, able to sound natural while getting instructions from producers and directors. They are actors more than anything else.
Even so, the bad old days of Soviet communism have receded so far into the past, they exist only in the imaginary space. The people directing the commentators have only an academic understanding of the Cold War. Since NBC only hired far left-wing people, that means they only have an academic understanding for why they are supposed to defend communism. They don’t know why they believe these things, they just know they are supposed to so they cook up weird language to describe Bolshevism.
The real horror of the Soviet Union was not the gulags or the dreary aesthetic. The part that made American’s skin crawl was the idea of having to get permission from the state bureaucracy for everything. If you wanted to travel to another part of the country, you needed permission. If you wanted a car, you needed permission. Bureaucrats being what they are the answer was either going to be “no” or “yes but” and what followed was a nightmare. American’s like to believe they have free will and freedom.
The image of going down to the DMV to get permission for every decision in your life is still frightening to most Americans, despite the reality on the ground.. That’s what the average American could relate to and found monstrous. Decades after the Soviets are gone, many of the same people who were proud Cold Warriors now defend nonsense like this. Andrew McCarthy, a regular at Buckley’s old haunt, defends the surveillance state with the enthusiasm of a fanatic.
After seven years of litigation, two trips to a federal appeals court and $3.8 million worth of lawyer time, the public has finally learned why a wheelchair-bound Stanford University scholar was cuffed, detained and denied a flight from San Francisco to Hawaii: FBI human error.
FBI agent Kevin Kelley was investigating Muslims in the San Francisco Bay Area in 2004 when he checked the wrong box on a terrorism form, erroneously placing Rahinah Ibrahim on the no-fly list.
In a free country, the government is not ticking off many boxes. When they do make a mistake, it is easily found and corrected. It most likely has little or no impact on the citizen, more of a nuisance than a real inconvenience. The government is simply not doing enough to cast much of a shadow over the land. That was the state of things in America until fairly recent. That started changing after the war and has slowly crept us up to a place where most things require permission from the state.
In the permission state, the smallest mistake can take years and millions to correct. The lives of vast numbers of people can be thrown into turmoil. The state becomes a vast machine, in side which turn massive gears connected to other massive gears. Inside those gears lie smaller gears. It is how the state thinks it is good idea allow anyone other than diplomats to travel to the United States from Malaysia. It is how normal people end up on no-fly lists needing years to rectify.
Another feature of the permission state is the people working inside it, those wheels and gears, are immune from punishment for mistakes. Everyone inside feels a need to protect everyone inside, so they close ranks anytime there is public scrutiny of the system. As a result, any effort to fix problems because an Alice in Wonderland adventure into the bureaucracy. They also lie about what they are doing. In the late empire phase of America, a defining feature is non-stop perjury from government.
Welcome to the permission state.