When Regimes Reach Insanity

On August 25, 1914, in a spate of disorder, shots rang out from the Belgian town of Louvain, instigating its German occupiers to launch a frenzy of looting and destruction. Crazed soldiers butchered civilians, ransacked buildings, and finally burned the town to the ground, including its magnificent and irreplaceable library. The Kaiser’s truculent commanders were convinced that Belgian citizens had been ordered to resist by those “above” them; that is, by a malevolent cabal of government officials, local burgomasters, and priests, all devoted to a bloodthirsty campaign of resistance. In Barbara Tuchman’s words, “that people could be animated to stop the invader without an order from ‘above’ was inconceivable.” Further, “the Germans saw these orders everywhere. [General] von Kluck claimed that the Belgian government’s posters warning its citizens against hostile acts were actually ‘incitements to the civil population to fire on the enemy.’” The plain meaning of such words was irrelevant, which meant that Belgian citizens were perfidious murderers acting on their superiors’ orders to kill Germans.

This is the perspective of a regime that had gone insane, one whose theory of terror in warfare had clearly put it outside the community of civilized nations. Indeed, Germany’s depredations during its second effort to dominate Eurasia instigated war crimes trials against its leaders. A special irony is that during the first half of the twentieth century, Germans were among the most highly educated, culturally sophisticated, and technologically advanced people on earth. Didn’t matter. Kaiser Wilhelm’s Empire and the Third Reich both perpetrated acts of unspeakable insanity.

The relevance of Germany’s experience to contemporary politics perhaps becomes clearer with an understanding of what a regime is. A regime is a complex of institutions, personnel, and practices committed to the preservation of a ruling ideology. A regime comprises the commanding heights of a political and social system, including public and private bureaucracies, major media outlets, and the academic establishment—all of whose members understand one another, defer to sympathizers’ needs, and devote their professional lives to self-aggrandizement and ideological conquest.

Naturally, not all regimes are alike and therefore do not go insane in the same way. Has the American regime—i.e., our governing political order—gone insane? Some may think the matter is debatable, but I think we may be taking the first steps on the pathway to political insanity.

For instance, the way regime officials and sympathizers have treated Tea Party people is nothing short of despicable, a mere hair’s breadth this side of insanity. Tea Party supporters have been characterized as racists, radicals, fascists, and traitors, none of which of course applies to them, but some of which are fair characterizations of some of those making such accusations. The liberal-progressive regime that has dominated America for the past generation or so cannot fathom a genuinely popular uprising. Regime adherents are cynically familiar with all sorts of fraudulent demonstrations, from their college days to union organizing, and can manage no better response to the Tea Partiers than to project their own race-class-gender-political identity bigotry onto their challengers. This rube-like narrowness of intellect would be amusing if it were not so mean-spirited.

Other growing manifestations of regime insanity are counterintuitive and often grotesque. For instance, would a sane regime member compare American soldiers to death-camp guards or terrorists—“Nazis, Soviets in their gulags, or some other mad regime”—as did Senator Dick Durbin (D-Ill)? Would its minions enact policies whose inevitable trajectory is to bankrupt the country within a decade? Would a sane regime delegate authority to a government agency to regulate practically every puddle of water?

The list of questions goes on, much longer, from immigration to recent defense policy, the latter of which has been characterized by Charles Krauthammer as “incomprehensible.”

And if this isn’t quite at the stage of insanity, it is at least very bad policy.

The question is, what can citizens do about it? Here’s where I’m concerned, because the answer is: probably not much. Unless, that is, citizens reconstruct those institutions and fill their posts with fresh recruits from the ranks of civil society. That would mean ending the tenure of incumbents throughout the regime, in government, media, and academia, which is a tall order, one whose magnitude is likely not fully understood by Tea Party enthusiasts and their supporters. But absent a thorough changing of the guard, the liberal-progressive regime’s walk on the path to political insanity will continue.

Dr. Marvin Folkertsma


Dr. Marvin Folkertsma is a professor of political science and fellow for American studies with The Center for Vision & Values at Grove City College. The author of several books, his latest release is a high-energy novel titled “The Thirteenth Commandment.”

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  • Cooky642

    Dr. Folkertsma, yes, many of us do indeed understand the “tall order” required to reconstruct our formerly civil society. That understanding is exactly why we do what we do. What other choice do we have? Are we to sit idly by and allow our society, our culture, our civilization to descend into the kind of madness described in your beginning paragraph? That paragraph epitomizes the thinking of the Progressive-Left toward the Tea Partiers, and it cannot be permitted. It MUST be fought, to the death if necessary, to avoid leaving to our posterity the kind of world insanity that was World War I and World War II. We will fight peacefully for as long as we can, but fight we will. We have no choice.

  • Joe DeVet

    What’s a nice hair-raising political commentary like this doing in a place like this–a Catholic blog?

    Well, it’s in the right spot. The primary insanity of this “regime” is the denial of God’s sovereignty. The de facto established religion of this regime is atheism. I’m not talking just of government or the media, but of the culture at large. We must resist the continued creep of atheism into all our institutions. Chesterton said it–when good religion is abandoned, then bad religion takes its place.

    And so each of us should ask ourselves how we’re doing on the virtue of Faith. Are we willing to stand up, as our new members did a few weeks ago, and declare, “I believe and profess all the Catholic Church believes, teaches, and proclaims to be revealed by God”? And then strive to live by that?

    We might then campaign in some way against secularization. I suggest starting close to home. We could insist that our USCCB stop viewing itself as the “biggest and baddest” political lobbying group, and actually preach real charity, justice, and peace to its faithful and the culture at large.

    Political lobbying is easy. Restoring their collective credibility on matters of faith and morals, for the sake of millions of Catholics, present and future–now there’s a real challenge, worthy of the successors of the apostles, whose Acts we have been reviewing these several weeks.

  • goral

    Grove City College comes through again. Thank you Dr. Marvin for your keenly insightful article. We do have a regime in power in a country that has more information on its citizens and more ways to control its citizens than any other nation in history.
    All of our institutions are directed toward butressing the regime, even mainstream Mahoney has joined the ranks. The display of any opposition on the right is smeared and labeled. This is all taken right out of Beria’s handbook.

    As Cooky says: all of this MUST be faught and exposed. We have the internet and local gatherings to do this.

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  • Warren Jewell

    What the good doctor may see as insanity, I see as surrender to evil in unmitigated pride. Such extreme measures and practices as despots take are driven by laughing at both God and Satan, ridiculing both grace and sin. It certainly may entail insanity in one and another followers of the despot. But, it is evil that marks all of them.

    And history has taught us, most unfortunately, that one side with God or the other side with evil must come to crushing the opposite side. One would think that evil despots would by this time see God’s graces providing just enough edge to His people. But, no, they have to try to stand on the necks of those who will not do things the despot’s way. The people find no alternative to rising and fighting, and inevitably the despot falls.

    About current problems, think: when has this deposition of the despots been a peaceful, bloodless revolution? In our case, the ballot box is a dubious ally when half the population is ‘entitled’ and dependent. Moreover, the bulk of political leaders are elitist know-betters. And ,yes, it seems that at times Sarah Palin has more in common with, say, Joe Biden than with us ‘commoners’.

    I am getting old and tired. When things should be better for me just imagining the better for my daughter and her children and their children, I see a gray dread. And, such dread exhausts my remaining resources so that I have but God and Church to fall back upon. And, as goral points pout, there I have to encounter the likes of a Mahony who I personally think is too ignorant ever to have heard of Lavrenty Beria. In fact, if the cardinal has learned much from history, he has largely forgotten it, and/or ignores it.