The other day a close friend asked me to comment on the similarities between the Soviet Union of my youth and the Britain of my old age.
These are less numerous than the differences, but it’s not the number but the relative weight that matters. And one similarity is beginning to outweigh the differences.
Over 20 years ago I wrote my book How the West Was Lost, in which I commented on ‘glossocracy’, the use of language as a mechanism of tyrannical power. In the West it’s the dominant mechanism, in the Soviet Union it was supported by physical coercion, but that’s a matter of technicalities.
The glossocratic mechanism can be activated in any number of ways, both proscriptive and prescriptive. The former is telling people what they can’t say. The latter is telling them what they must say.
A push for glossocratic tyranny tends to start out as proscriptive, but once all resistance has been overcome, the diktat will ineluctably become prescriptive. Both the USSR circa 1972 and the UK circa 2022 vindicate this observation, with Britain still lagging somewhat behind but closing the gap fast.
In the Moscow of my youth, any number of functionaries, all linked with the KGB at least tangentially, practised the art of asking a pointed glossocratic question. That wasn’t a request for information, but a trap. One such question was asked by KGB officers recruiting potential snitches: “Do you consider yourself a Soviet man?”
That was a yes or no question, or rather a ‘damned if you do, damned if you don’t’ one. If you said no, not really, you weren’t a free man claiming a divergent political allegiance. You were an enemy, to be dealt with in any number of ways, all detrimental to your physical wellbeing.
In my parents’ generation a no answer to that question spelled a death sentence, executed either immediately or over a few agonising years in a concentration camp. When I became a sentient, if not yet sapient, being in the ‘60s, such an outcome was unlikely, though not impossible. But in any case you could forget about ever having a fulfilling professional life.
If you said yes, the trap slammed shut: “In that case, don’t you want to help us, the embodiment of Sovietism?” Anyone answering yes would gain some physical benefits, but lose for ever any right to self-respect and the respect of his friends. I knew several men who made that Faustian transaction, and they were all sullen pariahs.
What I’ve described was an extreme situation, but a Soviet man had to field hundreds of related questions every day of his life. Most didn’t have the guts for defiance. They’d offer the desired answers on cue and eventually proceed to volunteer variations on the same theme.
Anyone who ever lived in a permanent state of nausea induced by glossocratic emetics ends up developing a well-honed diagnostic ability to detect the early danger signs. In today’s Britain, and the West in general, these aren’t even particularly early any longer.
For illustration, I suggest you watch tonight’s TV debate among the candidates for Tory leadership and therefore Number 10. The aspiring PMs won’t be answering genuine questions designed to clarify their stand on important issues. They’ll be trying to sidestep glossocratic traps.
“Can you define a woman, minister?” will be one such. The answer will have to come from the available menu: Item A: “A woman is somebody born as one or made into one artificially.” Item B: “A woman is anyone who identifies as such.” Item C: “A woman is a person born as one biologically.”
The reply C is correct factually but not politically. Any candidate offering it will step into the trap and have his political ankle crushed.
You don’t need my prompting to imagine the fetid storm sweeping the next day’s papers. The culprit denies trans rights, which has to mean he is a homophobe, misogynist, fascist, racist, reactionary, colonialist… Let’s just say it won’t be only mud that the papers will be slinging.
The actual arguments pro or con won’t come into play at all. This isn’t about debate aimed at establishing, God forbid, the truth of the matter. It’s about pushing the button to activate the glossocratic mechanism of tyranny.
Someone opting for A or B won’t be out of the woods either. He’ll be surely if incongruously accused by woke hacks of being woke, and probably not sincere enough in his wokery. The hypocritical populist is trying to appeal to the left fringe of the Tory Party, promising to do their bidding if elected… and so forth, you know the drill.
Hence ‘debate’ is a misnomer. Grown men and women won’t be trying to elucidate Britain’s future under their stewardship. They’ll be hopping, jumping, veering, bending themselves into contortionist shapes whenever they detect a glossocratic trap, be it trans rights, economy, defence, taxation, climate, the NHS, you name it.
No one laying those traps will really care what those sweaty people on the podium think. The trap-layers will be merely asserting their glossocratic power, secure in the knowledge they’ll win in any case, however their questions are answered.
Similarly, KGB officers asking a poor wretch whether he considered himself a true-red Soviet man knew perfectly well he didn’t. If he did, they wouldn’t have had to ask.
They were implicitly saying that yes, we know you hate us, but we don’t give a damn. We are after an exercise of our power to make you say – and eventually do – what we want. As long as you play the game by our rules, you can go on indulging your onanistic dissent in private, see if we care.
This is an exact parallel of what happened to Penny ‘Thunder Thighs’ Mordaunt when she faced the fashionable trans trap, lurking in the question of what made a woman. Penny knew it’s impossible to change one’s sex, her interrogator knew it, Penny knew the interrogator knew and so on.
Yet they both also knew that wasn’t the real question. The real question was: “Are you ready to submit to glossocratic power?” Penny answered in the affirmative: “Absolutely.” Her actual words were “A trans woman is a woman, and a trans man is a man”, but what she really meant was that she was happy to become a slave to glossocratic masters.
A real debate about real issues is no longer possible in any public space, not just in a political beauty pageant in front of TV cameras. Even the university, an institution specifically created as a vehicle to be driven towards the truth, has been reduced to an instrument of glossocratic tyranny.
A scientist who produces research proving the strictly biological basis of womanhood would be ‘cancelled’, possibly sacked. A climatologist proving, facts in hand, that global warming is a subversive, unscientific hoax, will be boycotted. An economist unfolding spreadsheets showing that ‘renewable’ energy can’t power a modern economy, will have to retrain as a supermarket manager.
Science doesn’t matter. Truth doesn’t matter. Only glossocracy does – as it did in the Soviet Union, albeit in a more virulent form.
The object of terror is to terrorise, wrote Lenin. By the same token, the object of tyranny is to tyrannise. When a political or ideological objective takes precedence, it will ride roughshod over everything real: truth, honesty, integrity, beauty, morality.
Thus glossocratic tyranny is by its nature nihilistic. For all its sanctimonious virtue-signalling, it’s out to destroy everything seen as a potential obstacle to its triumph, including the genuine creative impulse that needs freedom to survive.
Creativity is like a poppy – when taken out of its natural habitat, it dies. If we allow glossocracy to thrive, Britain (and the West in general) will become bone-crushingly dull first, beggared second, downright evil third. The Soviet Union became all those things, if not necessarily in that order.
A message to Penny Mordaunt: If you are unsure what a woman is, dear, look in the mirror. That’s what the female secondary sex characteristics look like, and they are produced by the primary ones – not by a consumer choice.