The power/economic elite want to know the mood and movements of society just as meteorologists want to examine the measurements of weather systems. But rather than preparing for a tornado or hurricane, the elite wish to prepare for and prevent challenges to their impunity. Massive surveillance is their primary method of prediction. Together with privatized and militarized police forces and a propaganda-spouting media, the elite’s surveillance regimen constitutes a three-headed hydra that acts to keep the masses firmly in place and under control.
The power/economic elite have always had one great fear, just as slave holders of the past, that the oppressed, who greatly outnumber the elite, and upon whose labor and control the elite’s impunity depends, will discover the ultimate power of the multitude. This is primarily the power to withhold their labor and sycophancy.
Massive surveillance, which is growing ever more invasive by the day, is best explained as a tool for modeling social movements rather than identifying individual dangers. Indeed, so-called terrorist events do not disturb the wealth and power of the oligarchs, but actually enhance them.
If social movements can be modeled well enough, “dangers” like the civil rights movement can be nipped in the bud before they become society changing. The Occupy Movement, for all its failings of internal organization, was actually put out the way brush fires are fought, with back-fires, strategic dousing and removal of fuel.
The basic facts are these: (1) Surveillance systems (government and corporate) have cost many billions of dollars and more billions are in the pipeline for planned development, as well as many more billions for future expansion of existing systems. (2) The explanations for this “investment” in surveillance infrastructure is “to keep us safe from terrorism,” on the one hand, and to “increase the quality and safety of our consuming experience,” on the other. These explanations are lies.
We are supposed to believe that there are many dangerous people who, in the way of a rabid animal, wish to harm us—the unquestioned assumption being that only the most penetrating surveillance regimen, enforced by a militarized and/or privatized police force, and promoted by a sycophantic media, can discover the bad guys and keep us safe.
The reality is, however, that what are being called terrorists are not very numerous and of two sorts: one is the ordinary criminal/pirate who has always been with us in varying numbers and forms (depending on the opportunities afforded by or denied by economic structures); second, the politically motivated driven by imbalances of power. The second are not terrorists—unless you’re a member of the elite.
And it’s the second group the elite is most worried about. It’s simple, really–when you oppress and endanger people, some will find ways to fight back. Great imbalances of power require, like the concentration of air in a high-pressure cylinder, powerful forces to create and maintain such imbalances. The discovery of “leaks” before they become catastrophic is essential. Spying by infiltration and by information collection has always been a tool of the powerful. New forms of communication and the technological capacities to collect, store and analyze them have simply added new tools the elite can use for prediction and control.
Our digital communications are easily collected–we send almost all of them to and through centralized processing systems, where collecting and analyzing them is only a function of processing power and speed (and the easily manipulated laws that are supposed to protect privacy). While there are commercial motivations and legitimate law enforcement motivations for some data collection and analysis, these are insufficient to account for the hundreds of billions of dollars and the force of political will being applied to the exponential expansion of surveillance.
To defeat the surveillance hydra, we have to look beyond its publicly presented justification, which amounts to disinformation spread by the elite. Surveillance is not about keeping the commoners safe from terrorists: it’s about keeping the elite safe and on top while the commoners remain supine.
To defeat the surveillance and control hydra will require a herculean effort. Seeing its true purpose is the first step in escaping its stranglehold.
James Keye is the nom de plume of a biologist and psychologist who after discovering a mismatch between academe and himself went into private business for many years. His whole post-pubescent life has been focused on understanding at both the intellectual and personal levels what it is to be of the human species; he claims some success.
28 thoughts on “The Real Reason for America’s Massive Surveillance Program”
Certainly, “disinformation” is a big problem. It shouldn’t be…we should be a society that values intellectual honesty, education, and free-flowing discussion of thought & opinion. But to my dismay, it can be readily observed that a significant portion of the populace desires nothing more than the comforts of simplicity and being “safe” and/or “superior”, So the manipulation of mass “opinion” is readily accomplished.
The real danger I see with mass surveillance is the possibility of its being used to label (what I might deem valid, just, and ethically-required) dissent in some sort of criminal fashion. Also, it is important that we, as a society, firmly reestablish habeas corpus, the freedom of assembly, and the free and fair (in this case I should say “establish” rather than reestablish) running of elections and vote counts.
Why do all of our contributors dance around identifying the USA today as a militaristic, fascist state. Don’t all of the boxes check out?.
Aren’t we trying to rule the world with force while gaining access to the valuable resources of those whom we rule? Aren’t we a ‘corporatist state where the Krupps ( oops excuse me) the Koch’s ,Chevron, and Banks holding sway over the political process? Do we not continue to torture and kill wantonly like the SS did in my war? Isn’t it ‘spying’ on our own citizens like the Gestapo did, rather than the more civilized “surveillance” we call it?
The German fascists called it Jews and Bolsheviks , and we call it Islam and “terrorism” to frighten our citizens.The
German’s used the “Stuka” dive bomber to spread terror to those they attacked. We are more efficient.. We use pilot less drones to spread our terror.
It is time for those who wish to alert our citizenry to understand how far we have sunk from our Constitution and the rule of law to the real entity we have become.
When people think of fascism, they think of Nazi Germany or Mussolini’s Italy. The USA doesn’t fit that model, so people reject the comparison.
When people think of militarism, they think of jack-booting troops dominating society. And that doesn’t really fit the USA.
Our militarism is more subtle. Our military doesn’t dominate society. Rather, society is being indoctrinated on the idea of supporting “our” troops, while trusting them implicitly and explicitly “to keep us safe.” It’s more that we’ve given free rein to the national security state in the name of “patriotism” and “safety,” even as that military becomes less of the people and for the people, due to its ongoing privatization as well as professionalization.
Curiously, we both exalt the military and ignore it. It’s a uniquely American form of militarism in which we’ve come to see national “defense” spending as an “investment” rather than as costly and debilitating use of public wealth.
Too many people fail to see the way wanton spending on national defense and homeland security is making us less safe, even as it weakens our national health.
I’m trying to operate on the assumption that full-blown fascism can be avoided…but yes, the merger of state & corporate interests is evident. Other hallmarks of fascism are in play. Not trying to skirt the issue.
“Why do all of our contributors dance around identifying the USA today as a militaristic, fascist state. Don’t all of the boxes check out?”
An excellent question. One can also ask why contributors dance around identifying the Conquering Zionist Entity (or, Tenth Crusade) in Palestine as an obvious Apartheid regime.
The answer, of course, has to do with verbal taboo and whether or not one will willingly consent to have one’s thoughts and opinions dictated by self-serving parties through the choice of language that they insist on formulating and forcing upon others. As George Orwell said in his famous essay, Politics and the English Language, one should first determine what one wishes to say and then search out the choice of language that will best convey one’s meaning. Whether others can abide hearing what one thinks ought to have no bearing on whether or not one says what one means to say in the way that one wishes to say it. So, certainly, if one sees Fascism and/or Apartheid in the actions of the United States of Amnesia and The Zionist Crusade in Palestine (not to mention the middle east, generally) then one ought to first make clear what one means by those terms and then use those terms consistently in what one wishes to say. But under no circumstances, Orwell advised, should one passively accept the commonly received terminology or nomenclature, since these words and phrases have overt and implicit connotations deliberately designed by others to make independent critical thought on certain subjects impossible. So, by all means, use the terms “Fascism” and “Apartheid” if you know what you mean by these words and wish to use them effectively. This brings us to the point about “checking off the boxes,” which I take to mean, taking account of the various defining characteristics of militaristic, racist, totalitarian systems for organizing societies.
For example, consider Eternal Fascism: Fourteen Ways of Looking at a Blackshirt, by Umberto Eco. I won’t bother listing all fourteen “boxes” to check off, since interested readers can do that for themselves, but I will note that Chris Hedges included these fourteen characteristics of “Ur-“, or “Eternal” Fascism as the preface to his book American Fascists: the Christian Right and the War on America. Not to put too fine a point on it, but the two most notorious examples of twentieth century Fascism, Hitler’s Germany and Mussolini’s Italy, hardly exhaust the historical examples, which include Franco’s Fascist Spain or Pinochet’s Fascist Chile, both of which Fascist regimes the United States warmly welcomed as “anti-communist” brothers. Fascism lives and seethes to some degree or other in many societies today — see George Orwell’s book The Road to Wigan Pier for the “ready made Fascist Party” — and one should properly speak of its extent and the euphemistic Newspeak employed to camoflage it, not merely the obvious fact of its existence.
As for the obviously Apartheid nature of what I choose to call the Tenth Crusade in Palestine — I refuse to employ the mythologically loaded biblical “I-word” misnomer — one can easily locate any number of articles and essays which “check off the boxes” characterizing this type of racist, oppressive regime. Just to take a few examples:
“Israel’s Legal Apartheid and the Global BDS Movement” (Counterpuch)
“Apartheid is the Path Israeli Voters have Chosen” (Huffington Post)
“Istrael chooses the path to Apartheid” (Haaretz)
“Yes, There is Apartheid in Israel” (Counterpunch)
“Netanyahu Tactics Anger Many U.S. Jews, Deepening a Divide” (New York Times)
Apartheid Forever: Israel’s Netanyahu rules out Palestinian Citizenship Rights” (Informed Comment)
Under Israeli Apartheid, Palestinians Cannot Ride Israeli Buses (Counterpunch)
And so on and so forth …
To recapitulate: Fascism and Apartheid continue to exist to some degree in many societies and to a defining extent in others. No one should feel the slightest hesitation in forthrightly addressing and condemning these known and easily recognizable symptoms of ugly, bigoted “humanity.” Call it as you see it. As Umberto Eco wrote:
“Ur-Fascism is still around us, sometimes in plainclothes. It would be so much easier for us if there appeared on the world scene somebody saying, “I want to reopen Auschwitz, I want the Blackshirts to parade again in the Italian squares.” Life is not that simple. Ur-Fascism can come back under the most innocent of disguises. Our duty is to uncover it and to point our finger at any of its new instances — every day, in every part of the world. Franklin Roosevelt’s words of November 4, 1938, are worth recalling: “If American democracy ceases to move forward as a living force, seeking day and night by peaceful means to better the lot of our citizens, fascism will grow in strength in our land.” Freedom and liberation are an unending task.”
Ditto for Apartheid. wherever one finds it.
With each passing day it becomes harder to resist “WW II Veteran”‘s conclusion. The menace to what remains of our civil liberties rises daily while we debate whether “fascist” is the proper term to apply at this precise moment in history. (Ah yes, the old “frog in the pot of water being ever so gradually warmed until the little guy is boiled alive” analogy.) At this point, can we deny that the Constitution has been essentially gutted on Mr. Soft-Spoken Constitutional Law Professor’s watch?? And now the elite want us to accept their “Trans-Pacific Pact” that, it has been alleged–since the actual language is Top Secret, it’s hard to say for certain!–will allow corporations to dictate to governments how they may “regulate” their businesses. (“Down with regulation!”–the cry of the “Libertarian,” gaining increasing traction in US politics.)
Is anyone “planning” an act of terrorism on US soil “on behalf of Islamic State” who has NOT been tricked, maneuvered and manipulated into it by FBI informants/handlers? The arrests of these poor saps is coming multiple times a week now. The Reichstag fire that was 9/11 paved the way for our incredibly stupid Congress to sign off on “The Patriot Act.” The Constitution has not been the same since.
Anyone posting dissenting opinions in this and similar forums should expect to be under surveillance to one degree or another. Hell, my FBI file from 1969 indicated I was being watched for “seeking redress of grievances”! Yeah, remember that Constitutional right? The question is: will we be intimidated and eventually silenced by these government tactics? Will YOU?
Reblogged this on The Secular Jurist and commented:
From the essay:
“The power/economic elite have always had one great fear, just as slave holders of the past, that the oppressed, who greatly outnumber the elite, and upon whose labor and control the elite’s impunity depends, will discover the ultimate power of the multitude. This is primarily the power to withhold their labor and sycophancy.”
“If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, believe me it is a duck.
Prof. Astore, it’s called “a very American coup”. that has brought us fascism in a form that is uniquely American but just as virulent as Italy’s Fascism and, unless you are a villager in Waziristan, not quite as lethal as Germany’s.
Have a little patience and you will hear the “quack”. Our Black citizens are already hearing the distinctive “quack” from the militarized police of this country. First they came for the blacks than they will come for you.
I agree with the author’s contention that an authoritarian state power culture exists on both the federal and state level, it is being steadily augmented materially, and the mental process which creates and promotes this sort of paranoid control structure is self-replicating, self-corrupting, and surprising if its pernicious effects upon institutional mindset does not steadily increase to unsustainable levels.
From the author’s piece: ‘The reality is, however, that what are being called terrorists are not very numerous and of two sorts: one is the ordinary criminal/pirate who has always been with us in varying numbers and forms (depending on the opportunities afforded by or denied by economic structures); second, the politically motivated driven by imbalances of power. The second are not terrorists—unless you’re a member of the elite.’
On the matter of the danger posed by terrorists described in the paragraph I quote above, I am not so sanguine about the statement regarding the politically motivated, whether members of groups or unaffiliated individuals, foreign or domestic.
I do suggest, though, that so-called enhanced domestic security, the supposed outcome of overly intrusive privacy invasion technology and militarized police agencies, remains vulnerable to WMD type events, from Boston Marathon-type devices all the way up to dirty nukes and pathogens.
And those who might succeed in carrying out such attacks are at least as likely to be domestic bad actors hostile to this country as anyone with some sort of Muslim motivation, and that this group increased in number significantly following the 2008 election cycle and continues to grow. And get increasingly angry. A growing bubble looking to pop.
No doubt this conclusion comes readily to my mind as a result of finishing, just this morning on the Sunday edition of the Kansas City Star, the second of a two part feature series on the present status of American right wing extremist movement(s), written by Judy Thomas and others.
[A closing personal aside about terrorism prevention: The notion that boots on the ground in Iraq or anywhere outside CONUS results in us vs them “over there” instead of here in the states, a rallying cry for military adventurism since nine-eleven, has from its origin instant been a ludicrously ridiculous assertion utilized as a cynical motivational tool and believed only by the ignorant. There is and never has been any existing threat to the United States by an invasion force from an Islamic country, let alone a non-state terrorist organization.
Not only that, the number of American military personnel stationed on foreign soil has absolutely jack-all to do with the ability to prevent a terrorist attack within the USA by any person, cell, or larger group. One to one hundred million, numbers of personnel stationed some “there” matters not. And of course, the author makes no such claim. I write this paragraph to vent about US foreign policy, then, and not as an argument against any point made in this opinion piece. But the piece is about tactics useful in preventing terrorist attack, and so my opportunity to complain.]
P.S. As to America’s resemblance to 1930’s fascist states, I wish I could recall the title of a recently published book which describes the process from the Weimar republic to a totalitarian state 1929 – 1937 in Germany. The parallels with post-WWII America, particularly since 1980, are beyond eerie. Particularly regarding how the populations of both countries acquiescently accept the steady encroachment of authoritarianism, a steady diminishment of individual liberty and worth and spirit, the erosion of equal justice under law or any expectation of it. Obedience, in time, becomes the norm, the expectation, and finally the requirement.
Just hitting the notify button.
American Fascism: Accurate or Misleading? I wrote an article on this for Huff Post in 2013. Here’s what I wrote back then. I still think it’s accurate — but then again, I would, seeing that I wrote it:
A recent article by John Pilger in the British Guardian speaks of a silent military coup that has effectively gained control of American policymaking. It features the following alarmist passage:
“In 2008, while his liberal devotees dried their eyes, Obama accepted the entire Pentagon of his predecessor, George Bush: its wars and war crimes. As the constitution is replaced by an emerging police state, those who destroyed Iraq with shock and awe, piled up the rubble in Afghanistan and reduced Libya to a Hobbesian nightmare, are ascendant across the US administration … The historian Norman Pollack calls this “liberal fascism”: “For goose-steppers substitute the seemingly more innocuous militarisation of the total culture. And for the bombastic leader, we have the reformer manqué, blithely at work, planning and executing assassination, smiling all the while.” Every Tuesday the “humanitarian” Obama personally oversees a worldwide terror network of drones that “bugsplat” people, their rescuers and mourners. In the west’s comfort zones, the first black leader of the land of slavery still feels good, as if his very existence represents a social advance, regardless of his trail of blood. This obeisance to a symbol has all but destroyed the US anti-war movement — Obama’s singular achievement.”
Strong words. Is America the land of “liberal fascism”?
Certainly, since the attacks of 9/11 the U.S. has become more authoritarian, more militarized, and less free (witness the Patriot Act, NSA spying, and the assassination of American citizens overseas by drones). The U.S. Supreme Court has empowered corporations and the government at the expense of individual citizens. Powerful banks and corporations reap the benefits of American productivity and of special tax breaks and incentives available only to them, even as average American citizens struggle desperately to keep their heads above water.
But to describe this as “fascism” is misleading. It’s also debilitating and demoralizing.
It’s misleading because fascism has a specific historical meaning. The best definition I’ve seen is from the historian Robert Paxton’s The Anatomy of Fascism
For Paxton, fascism is:
“A form of political behavior marked by obsessive preoccupation with community decline, humiliation or victimhood and by compensatory cults of unity, energy and purity, in which a mass-based party of committed nationalist militants, working in uneasy but effective collaboration with traditional elites, abandons democratic liberties and pursues with redemptive violence and without ethical or legal restraints goals of internal cleansing and external expansion.”
In formulating this definition, Paxton had Hitler’s Germany and Mussolini’s Italy in mind, but his definition is an excellent starting point in thinking about fascism.
What about it? Is the U.S. fascistic? Plainly, no. We don’t have a messiah-like dictator. Our justice system still works, however imperfectly. Our votes still count, even if our political speech often gets drowned out by moneyed interests.
It’s true that, in the name of “support our troops,” we grant the Pentagon brass and defense contractors too much leeway, and allow our Department of Defense to seek “global power” without reflecting that such ambitions are the stuff of totalitarian states. But let’s also recall that our troops (as well as our representatives) still swear an oath to the Constitution, not to a dictator or party.
It’s also true that, as a society, we are too violent, too attracted to violence (think of our TV/Cable shows, our video games, and our sports), and too willing to relinquish individual liberties in the name of protecting us from that violence and the fear generated by it. Yet Americans are also increasingly weary and skeptical of the use of military force, as recent events involving Syria have shown.
The point is not to despair, not to surrender to the demoralizing idea that American politics is an exercise in liberal fascism. No — the point is to exercise our rights, because that is the best way to retain them.
Authority always wants more authority. But as political actors, we deny by our actions the very idea of fascism. For in fascist societies, people are merely subjects, merely tools, in the service of the state.
Don’t be a tool. Be an actor. Speak up. Get involved. Work to make your imperfect republic a little more representative of the better angels of our nature. Because it’ll be your deeds that keep our country from falling prey to fear and violence and the authoritarian mindset they breed.
The following headline is present on CNN Homepage at 11:15 PM Eastern US Time Zone, 26 April 2015: “Cruz on Dems: ‘Liberal Fascism.'” No indication of what the wonderful Senator from Texas wishes us to call HIS brand of fascism! The rhetoric of scapegoating members of minority groups as the cause of all this country’s economic and social ills has filled radio airwaves for decades now. There are numerous armed extreme-right/racist groups afoot in the land; probably petty jealousies over who should be the real messiah have kept them from uniting. But the greatest menace by far comes from government, where your local police have laid in stocks of military gear and demonstrate regularly their willingness, nay eagerness, to use it on you. This was going on all the while you allowed yourself to be distracted by the usual drivel in the mainstream media. Resistance to this massive firepower will be very difficult, indeed. So who needs an official “Duce” strutting about so we can say “Oh, NOW we get it–it’s fascism!” The job has been done by the smooth-talking crowd in the Armani suits and the uniforms of the official military and its now local subordinate police units.
Cruz’s phrase is typical. “Fascism” has become a word in America that simply means “I don’t like you or your policies, so I’ll call you a fascist and your policies fascistic.”
Regarding those “troops” of ours whom you claim “still swear an oath to the Constitution, not a a dictator or party,” I suggest you read Sheldon Wolin’s seminal book Democracy, Inc.: Managed Democracy and the Specter of Inverted Totalitarianism, wherein you will encounter on the very first page a direct comparison of Leni Riefenstahl’s masterful propaganda film The Triumph of the Will (glorifying Adolph Hitler and the Nazi Party at Nuremberg in 1934) with an event which took place on an American aircraft carrier on May 1, 2003 “in another tightly orchestrated ‘documentary’ [wherein] television viewers were given an American version of stern resolve and its embodiment in a leader.” Specifically:
“A military plane swoops from the sky and lands on an aircraft carrier. The camera creates the illusion of a warship at sea, symbolizing power unconfined to its native land and able to project itself anywhere in the world. The leader emerges, not as a plain and democratic officeholder, but as one whose symbolic authority is antidemocratic. He strides resolutely, flight helmet tucked under his arm, outfitted in the gear of a military pilot. Above, the banner “Mission Accomplished.” He salutes a prearranged crowd of uniformed miltiary personnel. Shortly thereafter, swaggering, he reemerges in civilian garb but without discarding the aura of anti-civilian authority. He speaks majesterially from the flight deck of the carrier Abraham Lincoln, now cleared with the military carefully ringed about him. He stands alone in the ritual circle expressive of a sacrament of leadership and obedience. They cheer and clap on cue. He invokes a higher power. He, too, has promised a triumph of the will.”
Now, about that Constitution which prohibits the U.S. military from propagandizing the American citizenry? I certainly did not see any sign of it when I watched that juvenile propaganda stunt on television. I nearly puked when I watched pundit commentators like David Broder virtually swooning with Military Idolatry, raving: “This president has just learned to move in ways that inspire confidence!” As a U.S. Navy veteran, I never felt more ashamed of my former service than at that moment. In my opinion, the captain of that ship deserved a keelhauling, demotion in rank, and forced retirement at reduced pay and benefits for allowing a shallow political hack like Deputy Dubya Bush to exploit his ship and crew for such a cheap, Nazi-inspired propaganda spectacle. For as I understood it, that ship had just returned from blowing the living shit out of Bagdhad, Iraq — its “Mission.” None of the officers and crew aboard that ship seemed the least concerned that they had killed, maimed, and made homeless uncounted numbers of innocent persons whose identity they would never know, much less give a rat’s ass about. Some “accomplishment.” Some “oath.”
So you will pardon me for not buying that “oath to defend the Constitution,” inanely mouthed by amoral mercenaries — both uniformed and non-uniformed — whose only loyalty lies to the lying officers and political figureheads whom they in fact thoughtlessly obey, if not worship. Just the other day on this website I saw yet another picture of yet another American aircraft carrier steaming towards Yemen, the poorest Arab country in the middle east, with the avowed “mission” of assisting the richest Arab country in the middle east — the despicable medieval House of Saud — in raining more death and destruction upon impoverished persons who simply want to govern their own country as they see fit. So, again, I do not buy for one second that pious bullshit about the American government and its corporate military masters caring a fig about anything but their own venal self-aggrandizement. Anyone can mouth meaningless oaths, but until the day that the oath-babblers actually live according to those promises by refusing to kill or propagandize both foreigners and their fellow U.S. citizens, I won’t grant them one minute’s worth of credulity. Despicable actions speak louder than self-righteous words.
This is unfair to most of the officers and enlisted with whom I served. We did (and do) take the oath of office seriously. This blanket indictment against our military is invective of the worst sort.
That said, the military, like any institution, has its careerists, its opportunists, its sycophants, and so on. The military is also a reflection of the society from which it is drawn. As our society is debased, so too will our military be debased.
99.99% of US military personnel would follow the most anti-Constitutional orders their commanders could muster, I’m sure. The concept of the “citizen-soldier” was long ago laid to rest. Someone sound “Taps” over it, please.
US Army 1967-71
Identifying our nation as a very American fascist state is not a surrender. It is a call to action for its citizens. We elect an educated man as President and we get a carbon copy of an ignoramus who ran the country off the track of constitutionality. How can anyone fool them selves into believing that our “two party system” will in any way deliver change from the fascist model when the corporate financed candidates of both parties will lie just like the supposed liberal Obama did about “hope and Change”. There will be no change and hope will be the far off clarion call.
The authoritarian state’s control over our citizens has only increased month after month by relying on a system that has been totally gamed by those in power. The uniqueness of the American coup has been that we don’t need a Hitler just two families that have the same corporate backers to give the appearance that change is possible. We don’t need a “messiah” just Clintons or Bushs who have enough corporate money to flood the media with BS that they belive in a better life for our citizens when they are only seeking a better life for their oligarchy.
Our current political theater is a “Kabuki” theater. It is Plato’s citizens looking at the shadows om the wall in front of them not turning around to see the real people who cast the shadows. .
America — love it or leave it. Or change it. We need to act to change it. We in America are still citizens who have rights. In a fascist state, there are no citizens — only subjects. You have no opportunity to exercise rights; your job is simply to obey.
Do you really believe we are subjects of a fascist state? With no rights except the “freedom” to obey?
Yes, we have the right to be so deluded as to believe our vote at the polls every two or four years might actually make a difference in the course the nation pursues! (Personally, I have renounced this delusion.) We still have a right to initiate a civil lawsuit, but good luck taking on corporate interests that way. Among the rights we clearly NO LONGER HAVE are minor matters like: 1.) to be secure in our domiciles against massive armed assault by government agents, with or without a warrant; 2.) habeas corpus or a speedy trial, or a trial at all when the magic words “suspected terrorist” are placed on our case files; 3.) a right to NOT be tortured by said government agents. Just little stuff, you know. Must we continue to debate how many angels can dance on the head of a pin? We are already living in A POLICE STATE whether you agree to call it “fascist” or no.
Prof. Astore the clear answer is yes to your question. Sinclair Lewis almost a hundred years ago wrote a book called ‘It Can Happen Here’ about exactly what has happened here to our democracy today.
Your generation has had the luxury of only reading about fascism and oppression not suffering from it. I am sure you have read Marine General Smedley Butler’s book. Did that not convince you that the forces of corporate fascism exited 75 years ago in this country? Now, today, the Koch bothers and their corporate supporters have shown you their face and their money.
They have succeeded in limiting the “freedom” of collective bargaining,the freedom to have an abortion, limited the freedom of African Americans to vote through various legal devices like ID laws and taking away the freedom of incarcerated citizens to vote, etc. Exactly what freedoms are you talking about that we may have left that they haven’t gotten around to yet?
Just before we entered WWII the forces that Butler was talking about touted Charles Lindbergh for president. Why? He was a great friend of Hitler and German Fascism and had fathered a child with a woman there. ‘The Plot Against America’ is a novel written by Phillip Roth about this incident.
Before you were born there were open fascists wearing “jack boots” and brown shirts marching in many urban centers in this country calling for a US Fascist government. I saw this. There were Blacks being lynched in the South and the Ku Klux Klan operated in my home state of Indiana. I have the experiences of 91 years living in this world and this country to say we have all the laws and attitudes in place that would define us as a fascist state.
To change things we must admit this and start to act to bring back the country we once knew.
My father, born in 1917 and living through the depths of the Great Depression as a young man, once prophesied to me: “I had it tough in the beginning but easy in the end. You had it easy in the beginning but will have it tough in the end.”
If your words prove correct, so too will the prophecy of my father. And that’s bad news for all those who are much younger than us.
Not long after I voted the first time I was of legal age I still had hope the Civil Right Act would hasten the end of a society rife with racial animus; I was elated by the prospect of responsible family planning via the Pill and PP and Roe v. Wad (I was maybe a little bit more elated over the sexual pleasure opportunities I perceived as a result of the Pill than all the rest of it, i confess, by an order of magnitude or so); I was ecstatic that a mad Presidential power grab was thwarted, and succeeding legislation created in me an expectation for an almost unlimited future of governmental transparency/accountability; and I was confident that a relatively egalitarian America was now set, a done deal at last, power to the people.
Now, from a perspective almost six decades on, I see that high-water mark as a blip on history’s radar. For maybe just over 40 years (1933-1975) American culture managed to differ from a 5,000 year historical norm (and the ~200,000 years prior to that) of hierarchical authoritarianism, where a tiny, tiny fraction of the total population is able to appropriate nearly all of resource allocation for its own use and only crumbs for almost all the rest. I can’t help but think gene expression explains a great deal of this, although it is no excuse for the failure of the masses to figure out how to avoid this fate at the hands of a very few who are humans just like us.
Thanks for this comment and for all your comments at this site.
Apropos of the subject of Mass Survelllance, consider another useful term (from Wikipedia):
“The Panopticon is a type of institutional building designed by the English philosopher and social theorist Jeremy Bentham in the late 18th century. The concept of the design is to allow a single watchman to observe (-opticon) all (pan-) inmates of an institution without the inmates being able to tell whether or not they are being watched. Although it is physically impossible for the single watchman to observe all cells at once, the fact that the inmates cannot know when they are being watched means that all inmates must act as though they are watched at all times, effectively controlling their own behaviour constantly. The name is also a reference to Panoptes from Greek mythology; he was a giant with a hundred eyes and thus was known to be a very effective watchman.
“The design consists of a circular structure with an “inspection house” at its centre, from which the manager or staff of the institution are able to watch the inmates, who are stationed around the perimeter. Bentham conceived the basic plan as being equally applicable to hospitals, schools, sanatoriums, daycares, and asylums, but he devoted most of his efforts to developing a design for a Panopticon prison, and it is his prison which is most widely understood by the term.
“Bentham himself described the Panopticon as “a new mode of obtaining power of mind over mind, in a quantity hitherto without example.” Elsewhere, in a letter, he described the Panopticon prison as “a mill for grinding rogues honest.”
George Orwell, in his famous dystopian novel 1984, took Bentham’s notion of a Panopticon to new extremes, and American administrations from Woodrow Wilson to the present occupant of the White House have sought to make those totalitarian extremes a practical reality. Bentham and Orwell would recognize today’s browbeaten and befuddled America without an iota of difficulty. The inmates of the American asylum have now realized — subliminally (for they must never be permitted to achieve conscious self-awareness) — that they must control not just their actions, but their own thoughts as well. It doesn’t even matter if Big Br’er Be Watchin’ as long as the easily frightened br’er wabbits fear that he does. Hence, as George Orwell put it in 1984:
“The first and simplest stage in the discipline, which can be taught even to young children, is called, in Newspeak, crimestop. Crimestop means the faculty of stopping short, as though by instinct, at the threshold of any dangerous thought. It includes the power of not grasping analogies, of failing to perceive logical errors, of misunderstanding the simplest arguments if they are inimical to [CorpSoc], and of being bored or repelled by any train of thought which is capable of leading in a heretical direction. Crimestop, in short, means protective stupidity.”
Orwell had an amazingly keen eye. Is there a writer who’s more needed today than Orwell? I can’t think of one. Everyone should be required to read Orwell. I had my students read “Animal Farm” for what it revealed about human nature and the corruptions of power, and most of them recognized its truths..
Prof. Astore.. Your father was wise to prophesy that. My children all think I am a pessimist. I have been telling them that I could die at any time since they were old enough to handle the concept of dying.Since I am still alive at 91 they think I will live forever. When I tell them now, as your father did ,that times will get worse for them they do not believe me.
I am not happy about that but it does not show resignation that I will not die without continuing to fight for a better world and country for them.
. . . The voice of the people expresses the mind of the people, and that mind is made up for it by the group leaders in whom it believes and by those persons who understand the manipulation of public opinion. It is composed of inherited prejudices and symbols and clichés and verbal formulas supplied to them by the leaders. (Edward Bernays)
The ‘masses’ (formerly known as the ‘mob’ or ‘rabble’) can be ruled via propaganda, as Bernays describes…the surveillance state is only needed to deal with those who dare to think for themselves and question … we are the real targets … most likely easily marginalized or liquidated.