July 5, 2004
"Restrictions on personal liberty, on the right of free expression of opinion, including freedom of the press; on the rights of assembly and association; and violations of the privacy of postal, telegraphic, and telephonic communications and warrants for house searches, orders for confiscations as well as restrictions on property, are also permissible beyond the legal limits otherwise prescribed."
(Swans - July 5, 2004) We live in very perilous times. The country is polarized, reason has given way to belief and threats to the republic are rife. The threats to our way of life are not only from abroad, but sit on the seats of power within our own country. Using fear, our leaders have overridden questions of legitimacy, cowed the populace and viciously attacked those who dare to question their vision. Using the big lie, repeated over and over again, they have questioned the patriotism of their critics and created confusion within the body politic. This has happened before, most notably within twentieth-century totalitarian regimes.
"The rank and file are usually more primitive than we imagine, Propaganda must therefore always be essentially simple and repetitious. . .The most brilliant propaganda technique will yield no success unless one fundamental principle is borne in mind constantly. . . It must confine itself to a few points and repeat them over and over."
—Paul Josef Goebbels, Nazi Minister of Propaganda, (1933)
The propaganda assault on our liberties is now being carried out here. We are told that we must temporarily surrender some of our civil liberties in order to defeat terrorism. From our Administration and their functionaries we get a constant stream of something like this: "Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden were working together. Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction. Al Qaida is operating in Iraq! Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden had a relationship. Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction. Al Qaida is operating in Iraq! Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden were working together. Al Qaida is operating in Iraq!" And on and on and on and on, over and over again.
Jim Lobe of Inter Press Service comments:
"This is what logicians call a tautology, or a 'useless repetition,' as the dictionary defines it, but it is also an indication of how the Bush administration is defending itself against a growing number of scandals and deceptions in which it finds itself enmeshed. Repetition and blaming the media, an old standby, of which Vice President Dick Cheney and Pentagon chief Donald Rumsfeld are particularly fond dating back to their service under Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford 30 years ago, are back in vogue." (2)
I suppose the point is obvious. In spite of all inquiries into the 9-11 tragedy, there has been absolutely no evidence of cooperation between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden. (3) Nonetheless, you hear the contrary being repeated over and over again by Vice President Cheney and seconded by the President. Although George W. Bush admitted previously that there was no connection between Hussein and Al Qaida, he has now changed his tune. With the election in doubt, the big lie has been trotted out and is being repeated. Is this an accident? What do you think? I think the Republican strategists have read their Goebbels.
Al Gore thinks so, too:
"The administration works closely with a network of 'rapid response digital Brown Shirts' who work to pressure reporters and their editors for undermining support for our troops." (4)
But the danger does not end there. Beyond our own "Enabling Act" (The PATRIOT Act) and an ongoing propaganda war aimed at American citizens, lie an amorphous group of self-styled patriots, who are willing to intimidate, slander and use violence against political opponents. They take aim at those who criticize the neo-conservative agenda and the blatant falsehoods of the Bush II administration.
This can be seen in recent attempts to censor (or ban) a current film by Michael Moore: "Fahrenheit 9/11." Moore's film, received the coveted Palme d'Or at the 2004 Cannes Film Festival and was widely acclaimed around the world. Yet, Republican pressure groups have tried to ban the film from being showed in the United States. (5) In spite of these attempts, they have failed. In the first week of its showing, Fahrenheit 9/11 garnered $21.96 million dollar -- a record for documentary films. (6)
When my wife and I attended the film no packages (including food) were allowed past the ticket counter. Upon entry, purses were searched by the theater staff. "Why?" I asked. The answer: "Because we have received anonymous threats of violence." The theater staff did not elaborate further.
Indeed! To steal a line from Fred Reed: "There must be a lot of disgruntled Norwegians out there."
It seems that there are those who sometimes step out of the shadows and exhibit goon squad tactics. These may be either anonymous threats, or frontal intimidation, such as those used in Florida during the 2000 Presidential Election.
Maureen Farrell, in a recent article on BuzzFlash.com, "Hunter S. Thompson, George W. Bush and the Free Republic," discussed the methods of those known colloquially as "Freepers." "Freepers are the denizens of "FreeRepublic.com," a website dedicated to right-wing activism. It is this group who organized protests against the voting recount in Florida during the 2000 election. Not willing to limit their protest to mere picketing, in several instances they stormed buildings where recounts were in progress and threatened the poll workers. Too often their tactics of intimidation worked, taking the poll workers by surprise and disrupting the recount. (7)
Goon squad tactics are not to be taken lightly. Today's anonymous threats may become tomorrow's "Kristallnacht." (8) The actors are in place. All it takes is a little organization and prompting to fulfill a "higher purpose." What higher purpose? It is usually couched in vague terms, but blessed by the Almighty, Himself.
"May God Almighty give our work His blessing, strengthen our purpose, and endow us with wisdom and the trust of our people, for we are fighting not for ourselves but for Germany."
—Adolf Hitler, February 1, 1933
How about a little comparison?
"We do not claim to know all the ways of Providence, yet we can trust in them, placing our confidence in the loving God behind all of life, and all of history. May He guide us now. And may God continue to bless the United States of America."
—George W. Bush, January 28, 2003
It's a pretty neat trick to start a war on crafted lies and then call yourself a "war president," placing yourself and your cronies beyond the laws, treaties and judgment of the world. It is a further act of hubris to attempt to gut the constitution of a "free" country and then claim it is being done to further "freedom" and "democracy." All of this and the enlistment of God in your quest.
Curious, isn't it?
On the other hand, maybe not. Hannah Arendt notes:
"Although tyranny, because it needs no consent, may successfully rule over foreign peoples, it can stay in power only if it destroys first all the national institutions of its own people."
—Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism (1951)
Has the Rubicon been crossed? It has, but maybe the usurpers can be expelled from the city. I use the word "maybe," because the major opposition party -- the so-called "Democrats" -- have exhibited something less than courage, of late, and many of them are intermingled with the usurpers. It's going to be a tough go.
· · · · · ·
Notes and Resources
1. Cloughley, Brian. "Taking a closer look at the Patriot Act," CounterPunch, May 17, 2004. (back)
2. Lobe, Jim, InterPress Service, quoted by Tom Englehardt, TomDispatch, June 21, 2004. (back)
3. "Show Us The Proof," Editorial, The New York Times, June 19, 2004. (back)
4. Gore, Albert. "The Perils of the Presidency," Speech given at Georgetown Law School, Georgetown, Washington D.C., June 24, 2004 (back)
5. "Fahrenheit rising: hawks feel heat as movie's release nears," Sidney Morning Herald, June 23, 2004. (back)
6. "Fahrenheit 9/11 Tops North America Box Office," Reuters, June 27, 2004. (back)
7. Farrell, Maureen, "Hunter S. Thompson, George W. Bush and the Free Republic," BuzzFlash.com June 16, 2004 (back)
8. "On the night of November 9-10, 1938, Germans in cities and towns, and villages across the country were awakened to the sounds of shattering glass, the light and smell of burning synagogues, and the cries of agony emitted by Jews whom their countrymen were beating to a pulp. . .The perpetrators, principally SA men ["Brown Shirts"], killed approximately one thousand Jews and hauled off thirty thousand more to concentration camps. They burned down and demolished hundreds of synagogues. . . They shattered the shop front glass of about 7,500 Jewish stores and businesses, hence the appellation Kristallnacht (Crystal Night)." Text from Hitler's Willing Executioners, by D. J. Goldhagen, Knopf, 1996. (back)
America the 'beautiful' on Swans
Richard Macintosh on Swans (with bio).
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