A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from November 03, 2011
Soft Tyranny

The term “soft tyranny” was popularized by conservative radio talk show host Mark Levin, author of the best-selling book Liberty and Tyranny: A Conservative Manifesto (2009). A “hard tyranny” is life under a totalitarian regime. In a democracy, the majority can install “big government” and create a “nanny state” of dependency, or “soft tyranny.”

The origin of “soft tyranny” is often credited to the book Democracy in America (1835) by Alexis-Charles-Henri Clérel de Tocqueville (1805-1859), but the term never appears in the book. One section is titled “Tyranny of the Majority” and Tocqueville did write that “the will of man is not shattered, but softened, bent, and guided” by a powerful government. Tocqueville’s work has been associated with “soft tyranny” since at least 1989. Tocqueville is also incorrectly given credit for coining/using the term “soft despotism.”

A novel from 1754 described “soft tyranny of tender and innocent affection” and novelist Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley wrote in 1830 of “the soft tyranny of Katherine’s looks.” Newspaper columnist William S. White wrote of the “soft tyranny of too much” in 1973, but “soft tyranny” would become popular in 2009 along with the “tea party” movement.


Wikipedia: Tyranny of the majority
The phrase “tyranny of the majority” (or “tyranny of the masses"), used in discussing systems of democracy and majority rule, is a criticism of the scenario in which decisions made by a majority under that system would place that majority’s interests so far above a dissenting individual’s interest that the individual would be actively oppressed, just like the oppression by tyrants and despots.

Limits on the decisions that can be made by such majorities, such as constitutional limits on the powers of parliament and use of a bill of rights in a parliamentary system, are common ways of reducing the perceived problem. Separation of powers is also implemented to prevent such an event from happening internally in the government.

Term
The term used in Classical and Hellenistic Greece for corrupted democracy was ochlocracy ("mob rule"), while tyranny meant simply an absolute monarchy.

The phrase “tyranny of the majority” originates with Alexis de Tocqueville in his Democracy in America, where it is the name of an entire section (1835, 1840) and was further popularised by John Stuart Mill, who cites de Tocqueville, in On Liberty (1859); the Federalist Papers frequently refer to the concept, though usually under the name of “the violence of majority faction,” particularly in Federalist 10.

Wikipedia: Soft tyranny
Soft tyranny is an idea first coined by Alexis de Tocqueville in his 1835 work entitled Democracy in America. In effect, soft tyranny occurs whenever the social conditions of a particular community hinder any prospect of hope among its members. For Tocqueville, hope is the driving force behind all democratic institutions. As such, whenever this all-encompassing hope is taken away from the people, liberal democracy fails.

Google Books
The sisters; or the history of Lucy and Caroline Sanson, entrusted to a false friend
By William Dodd
London: Printed for T. Waller
1754
Pg. 217:
In short, they both grew insensibly fond of each other, and, without their perceiving it, slid smooth, gliding without step into the soft tyranny of tender and innocent affection.

Google Books
The Fortunes of Perkin Warbeck
Volume 3
By Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley
London: Colburn and Bentley
1830
Pg. 257:
Henry, in his angry fear on his escape, in his exultation at his re-capture, forgot the soft tyranny of Katherine’s looks; or rather he despised himself for the obedience he had yielded to them; ...

Google Books
Shirley: a tale
By Charlotte Brontë
London: Smith, Elder and Co.
1849
Pg. 121:
I have known the moment when I seemed about to forget it; when Confusion and Submission seemed about to crush me with their soft tyranny; ...

Google News Archive
12 December 1973, Spartanburg (SC) Herald, pg. A4, col. 4:
WILLIAM S. WHITE
Soft Tyranny Of Too Much
WASHINGTON --Without mounting a pulpit as an unlicensed parson, it is fair to say that the soft tyranny of too much is about as bad as is the harsh deprivation of too little.

Google Books
Forging Unity Out of Diversity:
The approaches of 8 nations

By Robert A. Goldwin
Washington, DC: American Enterprise Inst. for Public Policy Research
1989
Pg. 95:
The classic analyst of this frighteningly homogenizing force in liberal democratic society is of course Alexis de Tocqueville, who discovered and described how the soft tyranny of leveling egalitarianism corrodes the very soul of the atomistic and highly conformist individual who inhabits the new mass liberal democracy.

Google Books
Community and Tradition:
Conservative perspectives on the American experience

By George Wescott Carey and Bruce Frohnen
Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers
1998
Pg. 12:
In this “nanny state,” we find a “soft” tyranny, or what Tocqueville so dramatically pictures as a “species of oppression” unique to democratic nations. Tocqueville writes of “an immense and tutelary power” hovering over the citizens, “which takes upon itself alone to secure their gratification and to watch over their fate.”

Google Groups: alt.toys.gi-joe
Newsgroups: alt.toys.gi-joe
From: “BAM”
Date: Sun, 08 Apr 2001 04:47:05 GMT
Local: Sat, Apr 7 2001 11:47 pm
Subject: Karma Kontest

In one sentence, explain what Alexis de Tocqueville meant by “soft tyranny”.

Google Groups: alt.fan.rawlison
Newsgroups: alt.fan.rawilson
From: (RMJon23)
Date: 24 Jun 2003 06:10:40 GMT
Local: Tues, Jun 24 2003 1:10 am
Subject: 3 reviews of Jacob Sullum’s _Saying Yes: In Defense of Drug Use_

National Review, June 30, 2003 v55 i12 pNA
Everybody Must Get Stoned? (Saying Yes: In Defense of Drug Use)(Book Review)_(book review) Andrew Stuttaford.
Saying Yes: In Defense of Drug Use, by Jacob Sullum (J. P. Tarcher, 352 pp., $25.95)
(...)
It’s unnecessary for him to add that the abolition of prohibition would imply a relearning of the virtue of self-control, a quality long imperiled by the soft tyranny of the nanny state.

Google Books
Neoconservatism:
Why we need it

By Douglas Murray
New York, NY: Encounter Books
2006
Pg. 19:
With the ever-present threat of democracy’s decline from mass rule to mass culture, Strauss was, like Alexis de Tocqueville before him, alert to the apparently soft “tyranny of the majority.”

Google Groups: misc.news.internet.discuss
Newsgroups: misc.news.internet.discuss
From: trudogg
Date: Sat, 10 Mar 2007 08:23:41 -0500
Local: Sat, Mar 10 2007 8:23 am
Subject: A Democratic Life

If George W Bush has benefited from the “soft bigotry of low expectations” in his rise, the thesis of Conason’s book is that America now suffers from the soft tyranny of a low fever of authoritarian – not merely leadership, but culture – the worship, not of a heroic leadership, nor of leadership itself, but of a kind of opaque paternalism of “Father knows best”.

LewRockwell.com
October 13, 2007
Ron Paul Tzu
by Joshua Snyder
(...)
The only difference between our Republic’s transformation to Empire and that of ancient China is that ours has been more subtle. (Ours is the “soft tyranny” spoken of by Alexis de Tocqueville.)

Google Books
Liberty and Tyranny:
A Conservative Manifesto

By Mark R. Levin
New York, NY: Simon & Schuster
2009
Pg. 4:
In this, Modern Liberalism promotes what French historian Alexis de Tocqueville described as a soft tyranny, which becomes increasingly more oppressive, potentially leading to a hard tyranny (some form of totalitarianism).

Irregular Times
Soft Tyranny: Anything That Drives Republicans Crazy
jclifford 3/25/2009
soft tyranny, noun: Anything the government does that irritates Republicans.
(...)
That’s because “soft tyranny” appears to be a particularly right wing catch phrase.
(...)
Actually, I can’t find any evidence that Alexis de Tocqueville ever used the phrase “soft tyranny”. I searched through Democracy in America, but couldn’t find the phrase once. It seems to be the interpreters of Alexis de Tocqueville, and not de Tocqueville himself, who really invented the phrase and developed the idea.

Dave Chandler, Citizen of Colorado
April 18, 2009
Soft Tyranny in America
The quotation below from Alexis de Tocqueville expresses one of my great concerns about what is going on in our nation—and my belief that we are not nearly as free as we (or others) would like us to think we are.

It has been my notion that tyranny in the U.S. will not have the look of uniformed, armed police on every corner, with a ‘big brother’ character overtly watching over your shoulder and then telling you what to do ... and you doing it out of fear of being suddenly hauled away to a re-education camp.
(...)
Tocqueville in the words here describes the situation—what we do about it is the point of most of my posts and commentaries.

After having thus successively taken each member of the community in its powerful grasp and fashioned him at will, the government then extends its arm over the whole community. It covers the surface of society with a network of small, complicated rules, minute and uniform, through which the most original minds and the most energetic characters cannot penetrate, to rise above the crowd. The will of man is not shattered, but softened, bent, and guided; men are seldom forced by it to act, but they are constantly restrained from acting. Such a power does not destroy, but it prevents existence: it does not tyrannize, but it compresses, enervates, extinguishes, and stupefies a people, till each nation is reduced to nothing better than a flock of timid and industrious animals, of which the government is the shepherd.
Alexis de Tocqueville - Democracy in America, Volume II (1840); Book Four, Chapter VI

Free Republic
Click it or Ticket is “Soft Tyranny” and “Nanny State-ism”
Townhall.com ^ | September 10, 2003 | Walter E Williams
Posted on Monday, June 01, 2009 5:15:15 PM by GraceG
Imagine you’re having a backyard barbeque. A cop walks in and announces, “This is a random health and safety check to see whether you’ve removed the skin from the chicken before you served it.” Though delicious in taste, we all know that chicken skin contains considerable unhealthy fat. If you’re caught serving chicken skin, the cop gets your ID and issues you a $50 ticket.

World Net Daily
WHISTLEBLOWER MAGAZINE
SOFT TYRANNY
Behind the captivating rhetoric, a revolutionary agenda unfolds

Posted: July 06, 2009
9:14 pm Eastern
First it was the bank takeover, then astronomical deficit spending in the “stimulus” and “omnibus” bills, then nationalizing the auto industry. Now it’s the largest tax increase in history ("cap and trade"), socialized health care and the end of “don’t-ask-don’t-tell.” Then comes socialized energy and education – on and on it goes.

YouTube
MARK LEVIN obama & the"soft tyranny”
Uploaded by theMETALDOVE on Mar 7, 2010

Atlanta (GA) Journal-Constitution
2:21 p.m. Friday, May 14, 2010
Washington Watch: Rep. Price says Obama, Democrats rolling out ‘tide of soft tyranny’
By Bob Keefe
WASHINGTON—Republican Rep. Tom Price of Roswell rarely minces words about his feelings toward President Barack Obama or Democratic leaders in Congress.
(...)
“The tide of soft tyranny must be turned back if we hope to remain both the land of the free and a land of opportunity,” Price said in the statement announcing a new “10th Amendment Task Force” in his committee. (The Constitution’s 10th Amendment established that powers not delegated to the federal government are reserved for the states.)

I later asked Price if he really thought Obama and Democratic leaders in Congress were tyrants who stole their powers. He responded by paraphrasing Alexis de Tocqueville, the renowned French observer of American democracy, saying that it is “the tyranny of the majority that could ruin this country.”

YouTube
Mark Levin “We are living in a soft tyranny.” 2/24/2011.
Uploaded by loveconstitution on Feb 25, 2011

Fayetteville (NC) Observer
Published: 12:00 AM, Fri Jul 15, 2011
Wadford: Another dim-bulb idea from government
By Bill Wadford
(...)
Radio host Mark Levin calls this soft tyranny; others call it the Nanny State or Big Government Paternalism.

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityGovernment/Law/Politics/Military • (0) Comments • Thursday, November 03, 2011 • Permalink