American freedom is no longer what is once was, producer and author Dinesh D’Souza said as he compared the U.S. to other countries.
When asked about cancel culture, D’Souza told the John Solomon Reports podcast, “it suddenly occurred to me that we’re really no longer living, at least in terms of some of our basic civil liberties, in a free country.”
“This is a startling thing for someone like me as an immigrant to say,” D’Souza added. “But it suddenly dawned on me that, you know, we always think of America as like, the freest country in the world. And it occurs to me that when we objectively look at it now, we’d have to say that we’re kind of in the middle. There are many, many countries much freer than we are. Now, there are countries that are less free than we are, as well. But the very fact that we are in the middle hits me with a kind of a shock, and trying to make sense of it.”
D’Souza explained why he thought America has reached this low point in defending civil liberties.
“Is it the case, one possibility, is that the people who are supposed to be liberal have all turned out to be illiberal? In other words, we thought that they were liberals in the sense that they vote – wanted higher taxes, and they wanted a big welfare state,” D’Souza said.
“But we assumed that there was an element of classical liberalism in them and that they still believed in things like your right to disagree, this is America, so you can say whatever you want. And you’re – you know, you have a right to your opinion, I may not agree with you, but I defend it – all you know, all of this stuff, this civics book America, that we realize is not the America we live in now. I wonder if the reason for it is this, that these people were never liberals in the first place, but they were held in check by the fact that while they had the majority of the culture, Republicans still had a very strong hold on political power.”
D’Souza elaborated on the idea of the left controlling both culture and politics.
“These people have never had political power and the culture both. Now they had it in brief snapshots under Obama, for example. But of course, Obama faced a massive backlash in the midterms that took away those majorities. So now suddenly, they are empowered by the fact that they feel like we got the three branches of government, even if kind of narrowly, and we have a strong monopoly on the culture, let’s bring those two things together and crush our opposition once and for all. So this is a very – this is a frightening kind of prospect, because ultimately, it is the job of majorities in a democratic society to make the minority feel safe. And they’re certainly not doing that,” D’Souza said.
According to D’Souza, this illiberal society began in the universities.
“I think it happened in stages. You know, I saw this, actually, 30 years ago on the campus. And my first book, which was ‘Illiberal Education,’ a kind of exposé of political correctness on the campus, I began to realize the vulnerability of the students because they were at the mercy of their professors and the administrators. But the campus to me, at that time, I saw it as kind of an asylum, a lunatic asylum. And not only me, everybody else thought that way,” D’Souza said.
“When C. Vann Woodward, the Yale historian, wrote a favorable review of my book in ‘The New York Review of Books,’ the predominant response from liberals was, ‘No, no, no, no, no, this can’t be going on. It’s too insane. Dinesh is just exaggerating the situation,’ and so on. But I thought that this was an anomaly of campus subculture. I think the significant development of our time has been the kind of metastasization of campus culture into American culture.”
D’Souza continued, “So now the media plays the role of the professors. And you know, and the political establishment plays the role of the deans. And digital media, of course, is the equivalent of the old campus speech code. And so suddenly, we’re living in an America that has become an asylum in which intolerance is now the order of the day. So I think that’s been brewing for some time, now, but what was once in confined enclaves has now become the state of our society.”
The illiberalism in universities originated in a debate on Marxism a hundred years ago, D’Souza said.
“It was a plan in this sense, that there were intellectuals going back to, not only the 1960s, but I would even say the 1920s and ’30s, who recognized that they would have to take the culture. This came out of the so-called ‘crisis of Marxism’ debate of about a century ago, when the left was basically wondering, like, ‘why did Marxist predictions not come true?’ And their answer was because the working class is subjected to what they called ‘bourgeois culture,’ the working-class guy’s a patriot, the working-class guy goes to church, he loves his family. So he’s not just thinking about his, you know, his union membership or any kind of proletarian revolution, because he’s got all these other concerns that are shaping his personality and his allegiances,” D’Souza explained.
“‘So,’ says the left, ‘we need to take over those things. We need to take over the schools, we need to take over the universities, we need to undermine the churches, we need to, you know, weaken the power of the patriarchal family. And by doing this, essentially, we create a leftist culture that runs alongside leftist economics.’ And so the left has put a lot of effort, a lot of investment in this, and I think they started off in the campus. And then what happened is that they were able to cultivate a generation of intolerant just little savages, and unleash them on the society at large. And that’s what happened. They didn’t have to plan it because, by creating these apostles and sending them out into the world, they were able to achieve their purpose that way.”