Why American Totalitarianism Is Totally Possible

Conspiracy theories, stupid mobs, demagogues, where do you think this all leads?



In her book Totalitarianism, Hannah Arendt described what I call the four horsemen of a totalitarian apocalypse.

  1. Conspiracy theories
  2. ‘Stupid’ people, well-organized
  3. Wishful thinking
  4. Loneliness

America today has all four, galloping apace.

60% of the population believes in some sort of conspiracy theory. A major political party is taken over by the ‘stupid’ mob. And people are not taking it seriously. They’re not learning from history, not believing what their enemies say, refusing to consider where this all leads.

Americans simply think totalitarianism isn’t possible for them, but this is wishful thinking. People died for the information that everything is possible. As David Rousset wrote, after his experiences in a concentration camp:

This is the epigraph of Arendt’s book. Everything is possible. Conspiracy theories can become policy. Stupid mobs can take over countries. Complacent elites can be forced to flee. Saying that this isn’t realistic misses the point. Totalitarianism makes its own reality.

As Arendt said, “The reason why the totalitarian regimes can get so far toward realizing a fictitious, topsy-turvy world is that the outside nontotalitarian world, which always comprises a great part of the population of the totalitarian country itself, indulges also in wishful thinking and shirks reality in the face of real insanity.”

Look at the insanity around you and ask, what’s realistic? Believing that the people attacking the Capitol won’t come back? Believing that people calling for mass executions don’t mean it? This is just delusional. It’s shirking reality. This is exactly how totalitarian regimes get so far. In the shadows of our disbelief.

So believe in the impossible, if you want to keep it that way. Take your enemies at their word. Learn historical lessons written in blood. You can’t just leave out milk and cookies for the four horsemen of the apocalypse and hope they go away. You have to man the barricades and not just…




Indrajit (Indi) Samarajiva is a Sri Lankan writer. Follow me at www.indi.ca, or just email me at indi@indi.ca.