This is a continuation of Part 1
, an article dealing with the alleged rise of Fascism in America. If you have any comments and opinions as to whether this article is accurate or on point, I ask that you state them in the comments section. I am very interested in knowing what you, the readers, think about the issues that I have presented in this two-piece editorial. Thank you. Freedom or security?
In the words of Benjamin Franklin, “They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither.” He makes an excellent point with this statement. It would appear that, historically speaking, the two don't go well together, if they need to be fulfilled under a government or authority figure. There is a very clear mechanism for promoting security, which is the main interest of people in powerful positions. As the old saying goes, power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. It has become clear throughout history that people in charge tend to devise means of remaining in charge for as long as possible. This can be achieved through responsible policies that win the support of the population, but that is rather difficult, and requires actual leaders.
More often, it is done subversively, by enacting measures that chip away slowly but surely at individual and group freedoms, while at the same time getting people to go along. You become a master at manipulation when you do not impose regulations that are detrimental to the people, but make the people ask for these regulations themselves. Who would have imagined ten years ago, in 2000, that the US would look and feel as it does today? If you had told the people of the time that they would have their houses searched and their conversations recorded arbitrarily, that they would be kept in arrest without charges or lawyers, and that they would be considered domestic terrorists if they protested, they wouldn't have believed a word of it.
However, history has a way of erasing principles and opinions, especially if change comes progressively. With all my sympathies to the innocent people lost on 9/11, I have to say this. Their deaths offered the US government an excellent opportunity to implement a set of measures with far-reaching implications. Even at the time, at the end of 2001 and the beginning of 2002, many analysts said that we were witnessing a paradigm shift in the way governments acted and exercised their power. Many people expected change to come to America, but no one (other than politicians) was ready for what actually came, and continues to come periodically.
In this line of policy, one can easily identify point three from the Fascist agenda, the unification of the people in the face of a single threat, and a single enemy. In addition to bringing justification for the government's actions, this also allows authorities to enjoy a massive popularity capital, and the public approval in implementing policies to eliminate the threat. But this avenue is very dangerous, as it opens the way for considerable abuse.
In many ways, this was the case with the Patriot Act, and the Homeland Security Act. They were advertised to the population as a means of boosting inter-agency cooperation, and as a way of increasing the public security. But they also offered a path to increase the number of things falling under the umbrella of patriotism and national security, allowing more actions by the government to be kept from the public. Transparency went down the drain, as new legislation bared certain subjects from being debated in a court of law, attended by witnesses and a jury.
But, in their bid to enhance security, the two Acts, intentionally or not, managed to chip away considerably at the freedoms the US Constitution guaranteed, such as the freedoms of expression, of assembly, of protest, of free speech, of dissent, of privacy, and so on. As the government gets more and more involved in its citizens’ daily lives, the line between the US and the famous Big Brother government in Orwell's book 1984 gets thinner and thinner. Rather than turning to authorities for explanations, a large number of Americans prefer calling themselves patriots, and oppress those who have the spirit to ask questions.
Also, there is a sociological factor to the names Patriot Act and Homeland Security Act. Even unconsciously, they hint at the fact that anyone who opposes them is unpatriotic and against the country. I know there are many people who doubt that these documents are legal and constitutional, and who at the same time love their country as much as the “patriots” do, It is precisely because of this that they tend to ask the questions in the first place.
It could be argued that they identify themselves more with the nation itself, whereas the patriots identify themselves with their leaders, which is a spectacular mistake. This sets the scene for violent confrontations, which a Fascist government would consider as opportunities. I hope that this will not be the case in the US, but, if things degenerate, the possibility of clashes between the two factions is fairly high. If we take history as an indicator, then any self-respecting Fascist authority would use these incidents as a pretext to put more police on the streets, and to tighten regulations even further. Remember the Oxford definition: “the inhabitants of a police state experience restrictions on their mobility, […] which are subject to police monitoring or enforcement.” Black, white, gray, it's still propaganda
Undoubtedly, the most invaluable tool that any government in the world, regardless of orientation, has is the media, or what has been termed the modern propaganda machine. What makes propaganda in the United States so dangerous is the fact that the information being presented is treated just like a Public Relations (PR) company would treat a product it needs to create an ad for. What they do in these instances is put a “spin” on it, as in present it from a certain point of view. Absolutely all forms of media (articles, editorials, TV shows, news programs, radio programs, newspapers, and so on), including this very piece, abide by this rule.
The problems occur when the government gives the “spin,” and when it sets it against the public interest. However, it is very difficult to figure out when this happens, or what the underlying interests are. Most people, when hearing these words, “underlying interest,” start thinking of conspiracy theories, but only because they have been conditioned to do so automatically, by being constantly bombarded with propaganda against independent news sources. It is childish and ignorant of anyone to think that the stories being presented on any news outlet are unbiased, and that they serve the public good.
This is almost never true, and is especially false in the case of major media corporations, such as the ones in the United States, which have been proven time and time again to follow political agendas. Another issue is that no one can honestly ask people to search for all angles on a news story upon hearing it. This is tremendous work, and involves scanning the Internet for alternative sources and information, and then sorting them out for the propaganda contained within, and eliminating it. This takes a lot of time and energy to do, and, most of the time, people just want to see what happened in their country, or in the world, while they were at work.
In the US, the propaganda machine is terribly effective at what it does for the simple reason that it does not go about its business in a very obvious way. This is partially because the machine has been doing it for a long time, and has a lot of experience in this field. As opposed to the poorly constructed propaganda in the Soviet Union and the former Communist Block (of which my country was also a part, so I am in the know), where terms such as “Capitalist pigs” automatically tell you that everything served is propaganda, in the US things are a lot smoother.
The fact that the “spin” is promoted covertly is the real danger. Having studied propaganda in World War II, I can tell you that those in charge of it today know very well what they are doing. They have recorded significant progress in constructing speeches, and in including the information they wish to pass on as the truth in a very innocuous way. Also, they mastered the technique of repetition, which proves to be extremely efficient at getting the point across.
This was most obvious after 9/11, when all major news outlets entered a frenzy. The words terrorist, terrorism and national security were on everybody's lips, politicians and media alike. This means that the public, wherever it turned, heard these words, which even unwillingly sunk in their consciousness. Now, because of this conditioning, every time a politician says one of these “catch phrases,” people remember automatically the disaster that was 9/11. This makes it easier for authorities to again rally support for various policies, creating a vicious circle of sorts. All these types of manipulation are thoroughly described in psychology books, but people are unfamiliar with them, so they fall for them.
The key to successful propaganda is instilling emotions in the hearts of those it's aimed at. Good propaganda doesn't appeal to reason, logic or the conscious mind, but to naked, unadulterated emotions. This is well-known in ad agencies, whose employees often say that the keys to selling products are the seven capital sins – sloth, anger, greed, lust, gluttony, envy and pride. But the top of them all, the emotion that leads people in blind submission, and begging for protection, is the fear.
Fear, in the hands of those who know how to use it, is the most powerful weapon in the world. There are many who say that words are the most powerful, but that is not entirely accurate. When words are used to create fear, then no other words can extinguish it. By appealing to people's most basic fears, those behind such efforts can control the masses. As Fulton Oursler puts it, “Many of us crucify ourselves between two thieves - regret for the past and fear of the future.” Looking back on how the US government treated the post-9/11 period, it begins to become clear that they were aiming at people's fear of the future with their propaganda.
To draw a parallel to Hitler's reign again, the most important tool that the Nazis had was not the Wehrmacht, or the feared SS, or the paramilitary SA, but its tremendously effective propaganda machine. All of it fell under the rule of one man, and that was the Fuhrer's close companion and long-time friend Joseph Goebbels. He was so good at what he did that all of Germany, except for the Communists, were ecstatic when they heard the country declared war to Poland. Goebbels was also the only one of Hitler's staff to commit suicide with the Nazi leader, when the war was lost.
The same technique applied by Hitler in the case of Poland was applied by Bush in the case of the American invasion in Afghanistan and Iraq. There was, Bush said at the time, an imperative for the US to invade these countries. The reasons were to annihilate a dictatorship, to free the people there, to kill off the terrorists, disarm the weapons of mass destruction Saddam had, and install peace in the region. However, the US failed miserably. The “terrorists” are still there, the two countries are still in disarray, no WMD were found, but Saddam was killed and the oil reserves are now under US control.
In the process, American corporations made billions in government contracts. Historically, wars are known for being the most profitable times for a country, except if the nation is on the losing side. The economy is boosted to unprecedented heights. In the case of the US however, not everyone benefits from the wealth, outside of the few corporations with the right connections. In addition, wars also justify the passing of emergency, executive powers to the leadership, in an attempt to facilitate the decision-making process. In doing so, the democratic process is also bypassed, and the foundations for other, more authoritarian forms of government are set. In the end
As I promised, I will not attempt to make you change your mind about anything you know, or suspect to be true. I simply find these issues interesting, and believe they are of great importance, both for the future of the United States, and for that of the entire world. I will leave you with a few quotes that I believe express what should be done better than I ever could.
“The illusion of freedom will continue as long as it's profitable to continue the illusion. At the point where the illusion becomes too expensive to maintain, they will just take down the scenery, pull back the curtains, and you will see the brick wall at the back of the theater.” (Frank Zappa)
“I did not like fascists when I fought them as a diplomat for 23 years and I don't like them now in my own country.” (Joe Wilson, retired American diplomat)
“Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves.” (Abraham Lincoln)
“In the truest sense, freedom cannot be bestowed; it must be achieved.” (Franklin D. Roosevelt)
“Liberty has never come from the government. Liberty has always come from the subjects of it. The history of liberty is a history of resistance.” (Woodrow Wilson)
“We have enjoyed so much freedom for so long that we are perhaps in danger of forgetting how much blood it cost to establish the Bill of Rights.” (Felix Frankfurter)
“Fascism is Capitalism in decay.” (Vladimir Lenin)
"The soldier does not wish to appear a coward, disloyal, or un-American. The situation has been so defined that he can see himself as patriotic, courageous, and manly only through compliance." (Stanley Milgram)
The 14 Traits of Fascism.
The Patriot Act.
The K Street Project.
Here is a link to Part 1
of this article.