7. Target key individuals
Threaten civil servants, artists and academics
with job loss if they don’t toe the line. Mussolini went after
the rectors of state universities who did not conform to the fascist line; so
did Joseph Goebbels, who purged academics who were not pro-Nazi; so did Chile’s
Augusto Pinochet; so does the Chinese communist Politburo in punishing
pro-democracy students and professors.
Academe is a tinderbox of activism, so those
seeking a fascist shift punish academics and students with professional loss if
they do not "coordinate", in Goebbels’ term, ideologically.
Since civil servants are the sector of society most vulnerable to being fired
by a given regime, they are also a group that fascists typically
"coordinate" early on: the Reich Law for the Re-establishment of a
Professional Civil Service was passed on April
Bush supporters in state legislatures in
several states put pressure on regents at state universities to penalise or
fire academics who have been critical of the administration. As
for civil servants, the Bush administration has derailed the career of one
military lawyer who spoke up for fair trials for detainees, while an
administration official publicly intimidated the law firms that represent
detainees pro bono by threatening to call for their major corporate clients to
Elsewhere, a CIA contract worker
who said in a closed blog that "waterboarding is torture" was
stripped of the security clearance she needed in order to do her job.
Most recently, the administration purged eight
US attorneys for what
looks like insufficient political loyalty. When Goebbels purged the civil service
in April 1933, attorneys were "coordinated" too, a step that eased
the way of the increasingly brutal laws to follow.
8. Control the press
in the 1920s, Germany
in the 30s, East Germany
in the 50s, Czechoslovakia
in the 60s, the Latin American dictatorships in the 70s, China
in the 80s and 90s – all dictatorships and would-be dictators target newspapers
and journalists. They threaten and harass them in more open societies that they
are seeking to close, and they arrest them and worse in societies that have
been closed already.
Committee to Protect Journalists says arrests of US journalists are at an
all-time high: Josh Wolf (no relation), a blogger in San Francisco, has been
put in jail for a year for refusing to turn over video of an anti-war
demonstration; Homeland Security brought a criminal complaint against reporter
Greg Palast, claiming he threatened "critical infrastructure" when he
and a TV producer were filming victims of Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana.
Palast had written a bestseller critical of the Bush administration[i].
Other reporters and writers have
been punished in other ways. Joseph C Wilson accused Bush, in a New York Times
op-ed, of leading the country to war on the basis of a false charge that Saddam
Hussein had acquired yellowcake uranium in Niger.
His wife, Valerie Plame, was outed as a CIA spy – a form of retaliation that
ended her career.
Prosecution and job loss are nothing, though,
compared with how the US is treating
journalists seeking to cover the conflict in Iraq in an unbiased way[ii].
The Committee to Protect Journalists has documented multiple
accounts of the US military in Iraq firing upon or threatening to fire upon
unembedded (meaning independent) reporters and camera operators from
organisations ranging from al-Jazeera to the BBC. While westerners may question
the accounts by al-Jazeera, they should pay attention to the accounts of
reporters such as the BBC’s Kate Adie. In some cases reporters have been wounded or killed,
including ITN’s Terry Lloyd in 2003. Both CBS and the Associated
Press in Iraq
had staff members seized by the US
military and taken to violent prisons; the news organisations were unable to
see the evidence against their staffers.
Over time in closing societies, real news is
supplanted by fake news and false documents. Pinochet showed Chilean citizens
falsified documents to back up his claim that terrorists had been about to
attack the nation. The yellowcake charge, too, was based on forged papers[iii].
You won’t have a shutdown of news
in modern America
– it is not possible. But you can have, as Frank Rich and Sidney Blumenthal
have pointed out, a steady stream of lies polluting the news well. What you already have is a
White House directing a stream of false information that is so relentless that
it is increasingly hard to sort out truth from untruth. In a fascist system,
it’s not the lies that count but the muddying. When citizens can’t tell real
news from fake, they give up their demands for accountability bit by bit.
9. Dissent equals treason
Cast dissent as "treason" and
criticism as "espionage’. Every closing society does this, just as it
elaborates laws that increasingly criminalise certain kinds of speech and
expand the definition of "spy" and "traitor"[iv].
When Bill Keller, the publisher of the New York Times, ran the Lichtblau/Risen
stories, Bush called the Times’ leaking of classified information
"disgraceful", while Republicans in Congress called for Keller to be
charged with treason, and rightwing commentators and news outlets kept up the
"treason" drumbeat. Some commentators, as Conason noted, reminded
readers smugly that one penalty for violating the Espionage Act is execution.
Conason is right to note how
serious a threat that attack represented. It is also important to recall that
the 1938 Moscow show trial accused
the editor of Izvestia, Nikolai Bukharin, of treason; Bukharin was, in fact,
executed. And it is important to remind Americans that when the 1917 Espionage Act was last widely
invoked, during the infamous 1919 Palmer Raids, leftist activists were arrested
without warrants in sweeping roundups, kept in jail for up to five months, and
"beaten, starved, suffocated, tortured and threatened with death",
according to the historian Myra MacPherson. After that, dissent was muted in America for a decade.
In Stalin’s Soviet
Union, dissidents were "enemies of the people". National
Socialists called those who supported Weimar
democracy "November traitors".
And here is where the circle
closes: most Americans
do not realise that since September of last year – when Congress wrongly,
foolishly, passed the Military Commissions Act of 2006 – the president has the
power to call any US citizen an "enemy
combatant". He has the power to define what "enemy combatant"
means. The president can also delegate to anyone he chooses in the executive
branch the right to define "enemy combatant" any way he or she wants
and then seize Americans accordingly.
Even if you or I are American
citizens, even if we turn out to be completely innocent of what he has accused
us of doing, he has
the power to have us seized as we are changing planes at Newark tomorrow, or
have us taken with a knock on the door; ship you or me to a navy brig; and keep
you or me in isolation, possibly for months, while awaiting trial. (Prolonged
isolation, as psychiatrists know, triggers psychosis in otherwise mentally
healthy prisoners. That is why Stalin’s gulag had an isolation
cell, like Guantánamo’s, in every satellite prison. Camp 6, the newest, most
brutal facility at Guantánamo, is all isolation cells.)
citizens will get a trial eventually – for now. But legal rights activists at
the Center for Constitutional Rights say that the Bush administration is trying
increasingly aggressively to find ways to get around giving even US citizens
fair trials. "Enemy combatant" is a status offence – it is not even
something you have to have done. "We have absolutely moved over into a preventive
detention model – you look like you could do something bad, you might do
something bad, so we’re going to hold you," says a
spokeswoman of the CCR.
Most Americans surely do not get
this yet. No wonder: it is hard to believe, even though it is true. In every closing
society, at a certain point there are some high-profile arrests – usually of
opposition leaders, clergy and journalists. Then everything goes quiet.
After those arrests, there are still newspapers, courts, TV and radio, and the
facades of a civil society. There just isn’t real dissent. There just isn’t
freedom. If you look at history, just before those arrests is where we are now.
10. Suspend the rule of law
The John Warner Defense
Authorization Act of 2007 gave the president new powers over the national
guard. This means that in a national emergency – which the president now has enhanced
powers to declare – he can send Michigan‘s militia to enforce a
state of emergency that he has declared in Oregon, over the objections
of the state’s governor and its citizens.
Even as Americans were focused on
Britney Spears’s meltdown and the question of who fathered Anna Nicole’s baby,
the New York Times editorialised about this shift: "A disturbing recent phenomenon in
Washington is that laws that strike to the heart of American democracy have
been passed in the dead of night … Beyond actual insurrection, the president
may now use military troops as a domestic police force in response to a natural
disaster, a disease outbreak, terrorist attack or any ‘other condition’."
Critics see this as a clear violation of
the Posse Comitatus Act – which was meant to restrain the federal government
from using the military for domestic law enforcement. The Democratic senator
Patrick Leahy says the bill encourages a president to declare federal martial
law. It also violates
the very reason the founders set up our system of government as they did:
having seen citizens bullied by a monarch’s soldiers, the founders were
terrified of exactly this kind of concentration of militias’ power over
American people in the hands of an oppressive executive or faction.
Of course, the United States
is not vulnerable to the violent, total closing-down of the system that
followed Mussolini’s march on Rome
or Hitler’s roundup of political prisoners. Our democratic habits are too
resilient, and our military and judiciary too independent, for any kind of
scenario like that.
Rather, as other critics are
noting, our experiment
in democracy could be closed down by a process of erosion.
It is a mistake to think that
early in a fascist shift you see the profile of barbed wire against the sky. In the early days, things look normal on the surface;
peasants were celebrating harvest festivals in Calabria
in 1922; people were shopping and going to the movies in Berlin
in 1931. Early on, as WH Auden put it, the horror is always elsewhere – while
someone is being tortured, children are skating, ships are sailing: "dogs go on with
their doggy life … How everything turns away/ Quite leisurely
from the disaster."
As Americans turn away quite
leisurely, keeping tuned to internet shopping and American Idol, the
foundations of democracy are being fatally corroded. Something has changed
profoundly that weakens us unprecedentedly: our democratic traditions, independent judiciary
and free press do their work today in a context in which we are "at war"
in a "long war" – a war without end, on a battlefield described as
the globe, in a context that gives the president – without US citizens
realising it yet – the power over US citizens of freedom or long solitary
incarceration, on his say-so alone.
That means a hollowness has been
expanding under the foundation of all these still- free-looking institutions –
and this foundation can give way under certain kinds of pressure. To prevent
such an outcome, we have to think about the "what ifs".
What if, in a year and a half, there is
another attack – say, God forbid, a dirty bomb? The executive can declare a
state of emergency. History shows that any leader, of any party, will be
tempted to maintain emergency powers after the crisis has passed.
With the gutting of traditional checks and balances, we are no less endangered
by a President Hillary than by a President Giuliani – because any executive
will be tempted to enforce his or her will through edict rather than the
arduous, uncertain process of democratic negotiation and compromise.
What if the publisher of a major US
newspaper were charged with treason or espionage, as a rightwing effort seemed
to threaten Keller with last year? What if he or she got 10 years in jail? What
would the newspapers look like the next day? Judging from history, they would
not cease publishing; but they would suddenly be very polite.
Right now, only a handful of patriots are
trying to hold back the tide of tyranny for the rest of us – staff at the
Center for Constitutional Rights, who faced death threats for representing the
detainees yet persisted all the way to the Supreme Court; activists at the
American Civil Liberties Union; and prominent conservatives trying to roll back
the corrosive new laws, under the banner of a new group called the American
Freedom Agenda. This small, disparate collection of people needs everybody’s
help, including that of Europeans and others internationally who are willing to
put pressure on the administration because they can see what a US unrestrained by
real democracy at home can mean for the rest of the world.
We need to look at history and
face the "what ifs". For if we keep going down this road, the
"end of America" could come for each of us in a different way, at a
different moment; each of us might have a different moment when we feel forced
to look back and think: that is how it was before – and this is the way it is
"The accumulation of all powers,
legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands … is the definition
of tyranny," wrote James Madison. We still have the choice to stop going
down this road; we can stand our ground and fight for our nation, and take up
the banner the founders asked us to carry.
· Naomi Wolf’s The End of America: A Letter of Warning
to a Young Patriot will be published by Chelsea Green in September.
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
Norwich, G(ulag) B(ebé)
P.D.Poética. ¿Quién necesita el futuro?
P.D.Fisgona. "…every MOVE you make…I’ll be WATCHING
you…" – Every Breath you take (The POLICE).
P.D.Tapatía. "…que se CAE/que se CAE/que se
CAAAEEE…" – El CHIVO ciclista. (Crí Crí).
P.D.Unplugged. "…imagine heart, I DISAPPEAR…" –
This time IMPERFECT ( A F I ).
P.D.Rogona. “…I’m praying to GOD/you give me one more chance,
GIRL …” – I’ll be there for YOU (Bon Jovi).
‘Little girl Rambo’ decries US propaganda
Tuesday April 24, 2007
Unas GLORIAS, las grutas de
García, el parque fundidora, la Gran (Macro) Plaza, Chipinque, San Pedro, El
Hospital Muguerza, Apodaca, La Fe, avenida Constitución, El Rey del Cabrito,
Gonzalitos, el Hospital Universitario, El Volcán, los Industriales, el
Observatorio en San Nicolás, Un pozolito en Escobedo, unos tacos BAÑADOS, el
Matehuala, una silla de montar, un beisbolito de compromiso, un Canadiense
experto en informática, un Hindú de la OMM, una chaparrita acomedida, un
compañero fallecido, unos expedientes del FONDEN incompletos, la red automática
del BRAVO, el acuerdo hidráulico de 1944, un flash-flood, tacos de canasta cada
cumpleaños, GRRB, la central camionera en ’93, el tec, Schlumberger, San
Agustín, tacos al carbón, una camioneta oficial, dos vochos, un
"sobrino", El Gran Pastor, la pulga río, una guía roji extraviada,
unas cheves en la feria, “el yogui”, unos federales de caminos, una lámpara de
faro, una labradora preciosa, un nytol, varias “comisiones” al DF, la
Cuauhtémoc, un cluster de cerveza, una final de fut, un colchón inflable, una
grabadora Phillips, unas primas hermanas, un tianguis de autos, la Huasteca,
Presa “La Boca”, … no mucho que decir.
… Es la ECONOMíA, Comp@s.
Greg Palast on His New Book “Armed Madhouse …”
Wounded Spanish Journalist Olga Rodriguez Describes the
U.S. Attack on
the Palestine Hotel That Killed Two of Her Colleagues
"Patrullaje normal", reporta Pemex
Sobre las rodillas, reforman en el Senado 12 leyes; inútil
oposición del sol azteca
Aprueban paquete antiterrorista que criminaliza la
VICTOR BALLINAS , ANDREA BECERRIL