Brownstone » Brownstone Journal » Defining Dictator Down Won’t Make Us Free

Defining Dictator Down Won’t Make Us Free


For 27 seconds on Tuesday night, Fox News posted a chyiron beneath a video of President Biden: “Wannabe dictator speaks at the White House after having his political rival arrested.” That sparked a media uproar over what was portrayed as the biggest breach of decorum since the 1865 assassination of President Lincoln at Ford’s Theater.

The Washington Post howled that Fox News “shocks with ‘wannabe dictator’ graphic.” A Daily Beast columnist shrieked that the chyron “spreads dangerous lies.” Liberal zealots called for completely shutting down Fox News – as if the network had committed a sin that could never be expunged.

But rather than razing a network headquarters, Americans must recognize the disputed terminology that spurred this fracas. 

Biden’s critics are using an archaic definition of dictatorship, one that focuses myopically on whether a president obeys the law and the Constitution. Under the new definition, “dictatorship” only refers to rulers who do bad things to good people. (Maybe the National Security Agency can automatically “correct” all dictionaries on the Internet.)

As Biden explained last year, Republicans are guilty of “semi-fascism.” So, nothing Biden does to his political opponents can be “dictatorial” because they deserve whatever the feds inflict. 

It is true that Biden dictated that 84 million Americans working for large companies must get injected with the Covid vaccine. But that wasn’t dictatorial because, as Biden explained, vaccine skeptics were murderers who only wanted “the freedom to kill you” with Covid. (The Supreme Court nullified that dictate early last year.) 

It is true that the Biden White House dictated that social media companies suppress billions of posts, including true information from critics of the administration’s Covid policies. But that didn’t count because, as top Biden advisor Andrew Slavitt declared, “People with murderously selfish ideas— driven by an unwillingness to sacrifice & wrapped in phony intellectualism— entered” the debate over Covid policies. (A federal appeals court is exposing the vast sweep of Biden’s Covid censorship.)

It is true that Biden issued a dictate extending the national moratorium on evictions of deadbeat renters. The Supreme Court torpedoed Biden’s policy. But he was blameless because the Court decision relied on an archaic standard: “Our system does not permit agencies to act unlawfully even in pursuit of desirable ends.”

It is true that Biden appointees dictated that two-year-old children in Head Start must wear masks all day. But that wasn’t dictatorial because children were permitted to briefly remove the masks when they ate meals. (A federal judge torpedoed that mandate in late 2022.)

It is true that Biden revived dictatorial policies that entitled federal bureaucrats to ban landowners from farming or building on any land with puddles, ditches, or other purported wet spots. But Biden had no choice but to take drastic action to rescue his environmentalist supporters from hopeless depressions. (The Supreme Court nullified Biden’s wetlands policies last month). 

It is true that Biden dictated that taxpayers must shoulder the cost of $300+ billion in federal student loans that he canceled to buy political support. But that didn’t count because God wanted Democratic candidates to do well in last November’s midterm election. (The Supreme Court is expected to nullify Biden’s student loan forgiveness scheme in the coming weeks.)

It is true that the Biden White House dictated that the FBI target and investigate parents who protested at school board meetings. But the feds were justified in classifying mothers and fathers as terrorist threats because they committed verbal micro-aggressions against liberal sacred cows including the teachers’ union. 

It is true that Biden appointees are arbitrarily dictating sweeping prohibitions of firearms parts that could turn tens of millions of peaceful gun owners into federal felons. But that is not dictatorial because “C’mon, man!” Or maybe, “Why’d you ask such a dumb question?”

It is true that Biden dictated… actually, we probably have not heard or seen his most arbitrary or dangerous dictates. The Biden administration is stonewalling congressional investigations and dropping a cloak of secrecy around its most controversial policies. But this is not a dictatorial abuse because Biden needs a second term to “literally redeem the soul of America” (as he promised on Wednesday). 

The hypersensitivity over tagging Uncle Joe with the D-word is ludicrous after activists spent four years howling that Donald Trump was literally Hitler, or maybe only Stalin. Many protestors who vehemently denounced Trump were not opposed to dictators per se; they simply wanted different dictates. Now that Biden is dictating at full speed, Biden’s allies seek to rewrite the English language. As usual, the Washington media devotes far more attention to political labels than to the realities of government power. 

Perhaps Biden could satisfy his gender-fluid supporters by coming out publicly and personally identifying as “non-dictator.” But other Americans will continue wryly watching the political rascality, laughing at the media’s snit-fits, and awaiting the next judicial demolition of Biden’s decrees. 

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  • James Bovard

    James Bovard, 2023 Brownstone Fellow, is author and lecturer whose commentary targets examples of waste, failures, corruption, cronyism and abuses of power in government. He is a USA Today columnist and is a frequent contributor to The Hill. He is the author of ten books, including Last Rights: The Death of American Liberty.

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