We hear a lot of people angrily describing the United States as a totalitarian society. Sometimes, they even compare it to Stalinist Russia.
It’s occasionally helpful, when evaluating the relative merits of such remarks, to consider what a totalitarian society actually looks like.
To wit, the case of Irina Gen.
On March 18, this 55-year-old English and German language teacher in the Russian city of Penza, told the 13- and 14-year olds in her class why Russian athletes were banned from international competitions.
“Until Russia starts to behave in a civilized manner, the non-admission of Russian athletes to competitions will continue forever … I think that is correct,” Gen said in the audio, which was recorded by one of the students, send to the authorities, and shared by state-linked TV channels. “Russia wanted to reach Kyiv and overthrow the government! Ukraine is, in fact, a sovereign state, there is a sovereign government … We are living in a totalitarian regime. Any dissent is considered a crime.”
She went on to criticize the way Russian-state media had covered the bombing of a maternity hospital in Mariupol, Ukraine.
Five days later she got a call “from the local FSB branch,” according to the The Guardian, informing her that security agencies had the recording. “I was shocked,” she said. “I had no idea I was being recorded.”
She’s not allowed to leave the country, and her lawyer says she faces up to 10 years in prison.
So the next time you’re mad because you wanted to say something unpopular but you didn’t because everybody’s all politically correct these days—I’m not saying you’re wrong to be annoyed. There really are a lot of tin-eared social media scolds and bullies posing as bleeding hearts these days. I can’t stand ’em, either, even when I agree with the thrust of their views.
But before you go on to compare contemporary American society to Stalinist Russia, you should think of the sorry case of Irina Gen (whose own family was punished through a “denunciation campaign” during actual Stalinist Russia).
Just to see how the two situations compare.