President Ahmadinejad, unlike Rafsanjani, is no moderate. How can sanctions frighten him if he is not afraid of exposing Iran to nuclear retaliation? Like Hitler, Ahmadinejad doesn’t care how much damage he will do to his own people if that’s the price he has to pay to act out his insanely murderous plans.
Hitler, as we have seen, eliminated Jewish musicians and music by composers of Jewish ancestry, but he did not hate music per se. Stalin attacked Prokofiev, Shostakovich, and Khachaturian for composing music that was bourgeois—whatever that means—but he did not hate music per se. On the other hand, as Glazov informs us, “The Taliban illegalized music completely in Afghanistan, and Ayatollah Khomeini banned most music from Iranian radio and television.”10 Lenin did not ban music, but he wouldn’t listen to it. “It makes you want to say stupid, nice things and stroke the heads of people who could create such beauty while living in this vile hell.”11 During Chairman Mao’s Cultural Revolution, the only musical works that could be performed were eight revolutionary operas selected by Mao’s wife, Jiang Qing. The idea of limiting and censoring music is at least as old as the 4th century B.C.E., when Plato wrote that in the Republic he envisioned, the flute and other instruments “capable of modulation into all the modes” would be banned.12 We don’t think of Plato as a totalitarian, but he shared the totalitarian rulers’ fear of the power of music to unleash the human spirit.
Plato expressed an idea that is related to thought control: he called for the Noble Lie, a contradiction in terms if ever there was one. In particular, he said that the people should be taught that Rulers were made with gold, Auxiliaries with silver, and craftsmen with iron and brass.13 Chairman Mao also divided people into three categories. The first was Mao himself; the second was the Party; the third was the laobaixing, the ordinary people (literally the “old 100 surnames”). When I was teaching in China in 1989, during Beijing Spring, passers-by approached me and asked questions, often in Chinese. One man asked me whether, if Plato were alive today, he would consider Chairman Mao an example of the Philosopher King. My Chinese is not very good, but the man was very patient and made sure that I understood his question. Since I disapprove of the politics of both Plato and Chairman Mao, I said yes. The question led me to understand that it was no accident that Mao and Plato both wanted to ban certain kinds of music.
Plato said that literature should be altered so that people should not fear death: “The poets must be told to speak well of that other world. The gloomy descriptions they now give must be forbidden, not only as untrue, but as injurious to our future warriors.”14 We are reminded of the perpetrators of 9/11, who willingly died so that they could kill, even though their dramatic and well-coordinated plan could not in any conceivable way have helped the cause of Islam. And as Glazov writes, “Palestinian children blew themselves into smithereens while their parents celebrated, proud that their offspring had become shahid (martyrs).”15 Totalitarians love death, unlike Jews, which may be another factor in explaining why totalitarians are so anti-Semitic. “Two of the most outstanding Jewish characteristics are the love of life and the enduring struggle to survive. For Islamists, as for Nazis and communists, this is an egregious transgression against their faith.”16
Genocide was Hitler’s primary goal. Stalin engineered a famine in his war against the kulaks that killed millions. Mao caused the greatest famine in all human history. Pol Pot killed about a third of his own people. The Kim Dynasty has caused years and years of starvation in North Korea. Ahmadinejad is looking forward to fighting a nuclear war against Israel. Totalitarianism is about death. Life is about learning more every day. Those who fear learning also hate life. As Glazov shows us, that is why totalitarians are united in hate.
1. Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism, New York: Harcourt, 1951.
2. Glazov, p. 209.
3. Ibid., p. 214.
4. “Nasrallah’s Nonsense,” editorial, The New York Sun, March 11, 2005.
5. Glazov, p. 211.
6. “Johannesburg Journal: A Vibrant Battler of Apartheid Keeps her Vibrancy,”
The New York Times, May 10, 2002.
7. Glazov, p. 65.
8. Ibid., p. 79.
9. MEMRI Special Dispatch 325.
10. Glazov, p. 141.
11. Ibid., p. 18.
12. Plato, Republic, Book III: 398-400.
13. Ibid., Book III: 414.
14. Ibid., Book II: 383-387.
15. Glazov, p. 106.
16. Ibid., p. 105.
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