The Authoritarian Moment: How the Left Weaponized America’s Institutions Against Dissent is a title that leaves little to the imagination. Ben Shapiro elegantly presents facts, data, and a systematic analysis of our current culture, something his supporters and critics expect. When you read Shapiro’s book, you’ll leave more informed about the diagnosis of the country, but that doesn’t mean you will agree with Shapiro’s prescription.
For those who follow Shapiro’s work, you will find that much of the content is a written form of his podcast and his commentating. Still, the Daily Wire groupies will find many facts-don’t-care-about-your-feelings moments, many cited from left-wing outlets, to educate or re-educate themselves and their communities about the current authoritarianism America is facing. If you are left-leaning or don’t find yourself watching “Shapiro Destroys” videos, you might find yourself frustrated with his rhetoric, but sympathizing with his position. Regardless of where you fall on the spectrum, this book will provide you with a starting point to dialog with your conservative friends.
Unfortunately, Shapiro’s solution to authoritarianism lands flat and leaves the reader disappointed. One of his biggest deficiencies lies in his disregard for the role religious institutions play in combating authoritarianism — a major blind spot considering the role religious communities have played throughout history in combating authoritarian regimes (e.g. William Wilberforce, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, add your own in the comments, etc). Furthermore, the religious institute, while flirting with leftist Marxist ideas, is a significant institution that the left has yet to completely infiltrate.
Spoiler Alert: Shapiro’s Solutions and Their Shortcomings
The final chapter of the book is titled The Choice Before Us. To summarize, there are three major strategies Shapiro puts forward:
- Our Refusal is a Weapon – Speak the truth and know that speech is not violence.
- Renormalize Our Institution – Set up immoveable groups of colleagues within the institutions (Businesses, Universities, Entertainment, etc.).
- Prying Open the Institutions – Take legal action for the freedoms that you value with the goal of getting constitutional protection against political discrimination.
There are two major problems with these solutions. 1) While practical, they lack any description of how to execute them. Shapiro emulates a classic arm-chair quarterback. It’s unclear whether he is talking to the common man working from home or the closet conservative in Hollywood (#GinaCarano). 2) It completely ignores the fact that the entire world’s work culture has seen a radical change in the last year and a half. So much so, that many of the strategies that Shapiro recommends are already outdated!
Organic social interactions in today’s work force are non-existent. Every message, email, and meeting are based solely around your work — meaning it is difficult to get to know someone at work through Slack, TEAMs, Skype, or email. It is difficult to build friendships in this environment, let alone trust. At a large company, it is not unusual to have worked with coworkers for several months, and never have seen the faces of your colleagues (try hosting an “Ugly-Christmas-Sweater” party on Zoom — it’s an awful experience). Throw into the mix that we conservatives are isolated within an authoritarian corporate structure, where your company has the ability to monitor your message history, via API connections and database queries, and it would be difficult for any movement to get off the ground. In order to organize in the way Shapiro describes, shared experiences are required to determine those within in your circle that are likeminded. But if you never get any experiences with your employees where you can exercise discernment, how are you to form any substantive “intransigent minority” – a group of rights activists – within your organization? Shapiro fails to give any practical advice on how you would organize in these institutions which are now very “dystopian” in their environment.
The strategies that Shapiro puts forward are disappointing. Essentially, they amount to speak your mind, find some friends, and sue for political protection. But he gives no content on practically doing this sort of thing. The biggest blind spot was Shapiro’s lack of discussion around religious institutions. This is surprising because religious institutions still hold conservative institutional power. Furthermore, Authoritarianism attacks “eternal truths”, and thus requires a spiritual defense. But the political options that Shapiro puts forward will involve many more employees losing their jobs, or worse, employees doing nothing and rationalizing the metaphorical boot on their neck. Regardless, Shapiro missed a major opportunity to encourage Christians to be a shining light on a hill in a dark authoritarian moment.
If you know me, you know that I enjoy Ben Shapiro. So, this review might be a bit more scathing than my friends or family would expect from me. But it is still a good book and needs to be read by many far and wide. He gives everyone an opportunity to wrestle over the data and dialog with their communities about the freedoms we are taking for granted. But most importantly, the religious communities, Christian, Jewish, Islamic etc. need to read this book. Religious communities play a significant role in the support of each other and the politically oppressed. Look no further than Dietrich Bonhoeffer who was inspired by the black American churches and their faith, and willfully went back to Germany to stand against tyranny and support his Christian community and political allies.
In summary, The Authoritarian Moment can be read quickly and its content, we all should hope, is literally only for a moment. But this moment and the solutions we all decide for ourselves will have a defining and lasting impact on who we are and the life and legacy we leave for generations to come.
If you read Ben’s new book, post in the comments your own thoughts. Do you agree with me, or not? Post below.
The Missing Solutions for the Authoritarian Moment
If you’re interested in learning the top 3 solutions I see to combatting authoritarianism, check out these other articles from Solomon’s Corner.
Solution 2: Protect the Conscience