Fascist America – Reflections on Orwell

Fascist America – Reflections on Orwell

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Fascist America: Reflections on Orwell
By T. M. Hoy
Today we live in a nation where government operatives can secretly abduct you, break you mentally
and physically, then dispose of your body, and it’s perfectly legal, respectable even. How many people
has the government caused to disappear? How many people does the government kidnap, torture, and
murder each year? No one knows, and the numbers the government provides(claiming captives in the
low hundreds, while watchdog agencies like Amnesty International suggest the number may be five or
10 times as high) are an obvious lie. All we can be certain of is that there is nothing the government
cannot do; no act from which is prohibited. Government power is absolute once it invokes “national
security”, and legally we are at their mercy.
George Orwell(pen name of Eric Blair[1903-1950]), one of the more prescient thinkers of the 20th
century, saw this coming and did his best to avert it. In works such as 1984 and Animal Farm he laid
bare the stratagems and methodology of fascist states, and painted a terrifying picture that closely
resembles many aspects of the modern US and UK.
Orwell’s vision was of a government intruding into every niche and crevice of private life, invading
one’s thoughts as aggressively as it does to one’s physical space. In 1984’s dystopian hell(so similar to
the reality we inhabit), the government manipulates the media and other forms of communication,
changing the past to suit present political needs, and shamelessly distorting the way the present is per
trade to gain its ends. “Big Brother” reaches into every home through a TV like device, which
brainwashes citizens with its messages as it spies on them. Frighteningly, technology has made decision
possible, and government powers are expanding to embrace it.
In Orwell’s novel, the population is encouraged to hate and fear the ever shifting “enemy”, and the
government strives to keep them in a constant state of anxiety and uncertainty. The supposed everpresent
danger of enemy attacks is used to justify the disappearances, the torture, the grim
claustrophobic stranglehold of the police state.
In essence, Orwell saw governments dominating their people through the use of fear. Convincing
people they will suffer terrible harm unless they give up their freedom and obey the government”for
their own protection”, is an ancient trick. It is a simple thing, as Orwell put it, to”neutralize popular
discontent by changing it into war hysteria”. This use of hysteria to control the masses was a device of
stat well-known to civilizations of antiquity, and present-day governments have not been shy about
using it, especially the United States.
The cynical use of fear and hysteria by the state is not an oddity or an aberration. Rather it is part and
parcel of a much broader phenomenon – the fact that governments reserve the right to use force to
themselves. Threatening and coercing people into obedience is a normal part of the business of
government.
Coercion and the use of force to maintain society’s rules have become so ingrained into the social fabric
they are no longer recognized as impositions. Such as the incredible amount of coercion required by the
13 year(K – 12) training regimen called the education system, in which children are indoctrinated to sit
down, shut up, and obey at the command of”authority”. Or the so-called”justice system”, awash in
methods of physical torment and restraint, from iron locks and bars to chains and handcuffs, imposing
its will through the guns and Billy clubs warn by its agents, announcing that you will be shot or beaten,
and possibly killed if you disobey. The same coerciveness dominates every aspect of society. Every
human relationship in the West is viewed through this badly skewed lens of control and power.
The never-ending litany of government demands for obedience, enforced by threats and violence,
inevitably generates a backlash. People react violently when they are coerced and abused, and when
freed of government oppression(or when pushed beyond their ability to cope) take revenge anyway
they can.
One of Orwell’s profound insights was that society exists only because of coercion. The only difference
between societies, as far as Orwell was concerned, was the degree of violence used by states against
their own populations.
A moment of reflection is sufficient to show the truth of Orwell’s insight. A few minutes without
electricity at night in an average US city is enough to spark looting and riots; the absence of law
enforcement in urban area, if advertised as in a police strike, quickly devolves into incidents of
violence and mayhem, and sadly the threat and use of force by the authorities is the only thing
restraining the mass robbery and theft of property(and even so, robbery and theft are exceedingly
common).
Not only does the social contract evaporate at the first sign of disorder, but society itself has grown
incredibly violent and unstable, becoming deformed under the pressure of intense coercion felt in every
realm of human interaction. Delays in traffic are sufficient to ignite homicidal rages and attacks on
other drivers; mass murders, typically massacres at workplaces, schools and malls, and serial killings
have become very ordinary throughout the US, and hundreds of thousands of people are wounded and
killed annually by guns in the US. These are symptoms of the society convulsed by violence, reacting
violently to all the coercion from which people suffer, and maintained only by the threat of more
violence still.
The culture is a crazy quilt of patterns of dominance and aggression, and the government reflects this
by carrying the cultural sickness to its logical end. Consider the powers the government has arrogated
to itself which have transformed the US into a virtual police state.
The government currently sets up and runs secret prisons where it tortures and kills people. The US
also makes a habit of kidnapping people it doesn’t like in foreign countries, and dragging them off to
dungeons in “friendly”nations where they are tortured and made to”disappear”. The US openly
assassinates people using Predator drones without apology, often killing innocents along with the
targets(when the targets are even present, a matter of some doubt), and murders countless civilians – it
doesn’t even bother to keep track of the numbers, as part of”normal”military operations. This is just the
tip of the iceberg; far more nefarious activities are taking place that the government keeps secret.
Domestically the US now claims the right to hold people as prisoners indefinitely, without legal process
or recourse. The government has given itself the power to secretly search citizens homes and
businesses; decides who can and can’t travel by air, bus, or train; seizes property and assets from people
on mere suspicion (and returns them only after costly, hard-fought lawsuits, if at all), and strips people
of their citizenship at will. The court system, in a mockery of justice, has consistently upheld these
hideous abuses of power as legal.
All of this takes place at the behest of an unknown, secret bureaucracy whose decisions can be
challenged, acts without evidence, and operates without real oversight. The US has become a
totalitarian state through its laws, though an illusion of freedom is maintained because the majority of
the middle class is not severely affected, where is the poor(who are) have long become accustomed to
fascist oppression and no longer consider it remarkable.
The social climate is likewise that of a minimum security prison. School children are treated like
felons, with metal detectors placed at school entrances, searches of students by police with drug
sniffing dogs, and regular “lockdowns”where students are confined to rooms on one pretext or another,
good training for life in a penal colony. At work, drug tests by urinalysis have become a humiliating
norm, polygraphs are frequently used at hiring interviews, and background checks are standard.
Cameras are everywhere in public and private, and spyware is routinely installed on computers to
monitor workers activities.
Police have morphed into paramilitary units, carrying assault rifles and brutally invading people’s
homes, well SWAT teams are called out on the slightest excuse. Life sentences are routinely handed out
for minor crimes like shoplifting if a person has a felony record, and the prisons are bursting with
parole violators who’ve only broken petty rules, not laws, such as getting a traffic ticket, or being
caught drinking a beer. Society is intent on ratcheting up the violence against the poor and any who
defy the rules.
This totalitarian nightmare has been imposed on the population, then sold to them as waging a “War on
Drugs”, and more recently, a “War on Terror”. What everyone knows or suspects about these excuses
for fascism, the unspoken “truths” no one wants to face, can be plainly seen regardless of the relentless
media campaign trying to convince people otherwise.
Truths such as the fact that declaring war on drugs has resulted in epic levels of violence and corruption
in the US, and has spawned a plethora of evils in law, politics, and tens of millions of people’s lives.
Equally stupid and futile is the war on terror. Attacking a strategy is the act of a fool, were that its true
purpose. Strategies such as terrorism are a standard part of asymmetric warfare (where one side is
vastly stronger than the other, and the weaker uses means designed to nullify that advantage). Attack
one strategy, and enemy will just shift to another.
Further a war on terror ignores the obvious truth that the US is itself a rogue state, either supporting
those who use terrorism as a weapon, such as Israel and Indonesia, or directly engaging in terrorist
attacks itself, as with the many unprovoked wars it has pursued in South and Central America, in Asia,
and in the Middle East. There are few countries around the world that have avoided serious destruction
and military bullying by the US at one time or another. That the US government has the gall to declare
war on terrorism would be comic, if it weren’t so loathsome and hypocritical.
Another unwelcome but widely recognized truth is how malleable the definition of “terrorist” tends to
be. On the one hand, old CIA terrorism, like the assassination of Salvador Allende in Chile in 1973, or
the atrocities committed by CIA trained, armed and sponsored troops in the civil wars in El Salvador
and Guatemala, are not considered terrorism at all by the US, and those committing war crimes are
safely shielded from ever facing justice in foreign tribunals.
Conversely, activities that are a “normal”part of warfare when committed by US enemies are seized
upon as outrages, such as in the never-ending tit-for-tat viciousness in the Israeli – Palestinian conflict.
The atrocities perpetrated by Israel, condemned around the world, torture in its prisons, assassinations
abroad and in the Occupied Territories, murderous attacks on civilians, etc., are never criticized and are
often justified by the US government, whereas Palestinian military actions – bombings and
kidnappings, are always “terrorism” that must be punished.
Domestically anyone daring to dissent against US corporate/government policies may be labeled a
terrorist. This includes those merely defending their land against invading FBI or ATF agents, such as
the American Indian movement in the 1970s, or the attack on the Dravidians at Waco, on to animal
rights advocates and environmental activists today, so-called “ecoterrorists”(despite the fact that these
eco-movements have never killed, and very rarely harmed anyone, except corporate property and
profits).
It is also well known and taken for granted by the majority that the war on terror and the war on drugs,
are thinly veiled justifications for government racism, xenophobia, and attacks on those the elite deem
a threat. In general this includes blacks, Latinos, the poor of every ethnicity, and anyone opposed to
corporations and their proxies.
Civil disobedience, like poverty, has been criminalized, and challenging corporate control of the
government or the right of the military-industrial complex to hog the nation’s resources is grounds for
immediate violent retaliation by government agents.
Civil liberties have been crushed, the Bill of Rights swept away as an archaic irrelevancy, as
corporations and governments have conspired to create a surveillance state. The entire life of today’s
citizen is laid bare, utterly exposed to the merciless stare of the state, and subject to immediate arrest if
deviant behavior is detected.
Control is imposed by marshaling near inconceivable amounts of information, which are now routinely
collected and scanned for their resemblance to various patterns. From common patterns of consumer
purchases and preferences targeted by advertisers, to patterns of financial transactions that implicate
drug dealers and criminals, to patterns of fund transfers that suggest terrorist financing.
These patterns have proven adept at predicting behavior, and knowing the intimate details of a person’s
life is tantamount to knowing a person’s thoughts, beliefs, and activities. Corporations in the US are
freely able to collect and manipulate veritable mountains of personal data, and transform that data into
predictions of the consumers behavior with manic enthusiasm. Bank cards, credit and debit cards,
shopper loyalty cards, RFID tags(radiofrequency identification microchips) embedded in a host of
products, all yield an ocean of information. Time and type of purchase, amounts spent, your location at
a particular time and place, your patterns of shopping, all this and more becomes a corporate dossier or
on every consumer. This is then matched up with other records gathered either openly or
surreptitiously. Credit history, medical and dental records, property ownership, insurance records, auto
registration and driver’s records, court records or criminal history, utility usage and payments, travel
records, book purchases and library selections, and many more types of information are compiled and
collated for easy scanning and use.
These dossiers are purchased by the US government, and their combined with a massive database of
info gathered by the NSA(National Security Agency). This is a staggeringly large horde of data, the
raw product of every phone conversation, every e-mail, all Internet searches, and a significant portion
of all online activity, hundreds of billions of messages and exchanges daily. A software program called
Echelon is known to perform this amazing(and monstrous) feat. The data is then sifted and important
bits plucked out for the attention of higher ups in the NSA.
The resulting super dossier is enhanced with yet more data; a person’s movements in real time, culled
from tracking cell phone GPS monitors in cars (such as the”On-Star” tracking “service”), RFID chip
data, public and private surveillance cameras, and so on.
All this information provides a detailed profile of your life history, your preferences, likes and dislikes,
habits, relationships, and the minutiae of daily life. This is scanned and analyzed by “intelligent
agents”, also called ‘bots’, software programs that imitate brain activity. They are able to learn from
experience, and constantly search for patterns that are abnormal or revealed deviance. Bots have long
been used by insurance companies to sniff out fraud and by investment banks searching for market
patterns. Most are familiar with bots through services like Jeeves, the track every online purchase and
notify you when an item you favor goes on sale, or services that customize searches for information.
Whatever patterns these bots discover are added to your digital dossier, from a tendency towards
overextending your credit, to sexual deviancy, to radical leanings in politics, all is revealed.
As if this weren’t enough, the US government is envious of the “Ring of Steel” the British government
has in place in London; over a million virtually indestructible cameras surveilling over 98% of public
spaces, networked together and monitored from a central facility. The images are tracked from camera
to camera, and are matched with software for facial recognition, gait recognition, thermal imaging, and
other technologies to recognize individuals, in turn linked with databases of images of known persons.
Hundreds of or thousands of people new to the system are added daily. Michael Bloomberg, Mayor of
New York City, has announced his intention to build a similar ring of steel in New York after the Times
Square bomb attempt provided a likely excuse. As is generally the case with repressive measures, other
major US cities will soon follow in installing networks of cameras in public places to track their
populations.
The US government already uses satellites and software programs similar to Google Earth(available to
the public, where one is able to zoom in on any spot on the planet, and see what’s happening in that
neighborhood), to track and observe people all over the world, limited only by the time it takes to sift
through the immense volume of information it collects.
This is not a nightmarish fantasy or some sci-fi vision of the future. This is the current, normal level of
surveillance applied to US citizens and residents. A huge dossier or in cyberspace follows a person’s
every purchase and activity, exposing one’s hopes, dreams, aspirations, one’s weaknesses, and one’s
intimate relations with others.
Should you become an object of suspicion, however, a whole new level of intrusive surveillance can be
put in place with ease. This includes such devices as x-ray scatter machines which enable one to see
through walls and other solid obstacles; instruments that can listen in on conversations in rooms from
miles away by converting the vibrations in window glass into sound; the use of cell phones, which can
be activated surreptitiously and remotely, both for eavesdropping and for covert viewing, if the cell
phone has a built in camera, as the majority now do. There are hundreds, possibly thousands of other
such devices of this nature, designed to enable government agents whether in intelligence agencies,
police, or the alphabet soup of law enforcement agencies, to secretly hear, see, and follow a person at a
distance without that person ever suspecting they are being observed.
And just what is the point of it all? Certain programs hint at it, like the Total Information Awareness
System (after a public outcry, it was renamed the Terrorism Information Awareness System, but was
otherwise unchanged), whose goa is to track and hopefully predict the actions of anyone deemed
suspicious by the US government. The secret, ultimate purpose of the whole scheme is to control every
person on the planet, and to manipulate them in ways favorable to US government policy. Failing that,
the minimum goal endlessly striven for, is to continue the pattern of US exploitation of the world’s
natural resources; maintain the grossly unequal distribution of wealth, keep the poor powerless to affect
any meaningful change, all for the benefit of the elite owning both US corporations and
government(insofar as there is any difference between the two).
The elite themselves are not a monolithic group, of course, and many within it desire a fairer and more
decent world, and the end of totalitarian government control. But the majority of the elite support the
US government and its policies, and actively aided and abetted in its many crimes.
400 families in the US on assets equal to the combined assets of the bottom 20 million. 49,000 people
in the US on assets worth more than $100 million. Within this select minority are those who effectively
own the state. Add to these perhaps another 50,000 crucial functionaries – CEOs and CFOs of
corporations, top managers and those in key executive positions within government bureaucracies,
including members of Congress and Senate, their staffers, top military brass, and those in crucial posts
in academia, the media, and so forth, and you have the core of those who direct the activities of the US
government.
They maintain their control and a myriad of ways; a complex system of rewards and punishments that
enmesh the entire world. Abroad, the US imposes its will directly to the threat or use of force, relying
on its gargantuan military machine, with Army bases around the world, a vast naval force patrolling the
seas, and an Air Force controlling the skies – all the trappings of Empire, without the name. It’s on a
permanent war footing, forever fighting a war against weaker states on one pretense or another, in order
to frighten other nations into compliance with US interests. The US furthers its foreign ambitions
indirectly through financial and military aid as a form of bribery, and manipulation of the agendas of
international agencies such as the WTO, the UN, the IMF, and the World Bank(to name a few) as a
more subtle method of coercion.
At home, the US government rules directly with the threat and use of force via the machinery of state
repression – what might be termed the prison industrial complex; courts, law enforcement agencies,
and the swollen American version of the gulag archipelago. The state rules indirectly through kind of
bribery of the populace – the beguiling carrot of comfort and convenience, and through mind control by
the media with all its tricks, distortions, and power to influence and persuade.
Thus the US uses means both obvious and subtle to perpetuate its dominance. Those who obey and
help the US are rewarded with money, goods and services, weaponry, praise, and – for a privileged few,
fame and fortune. Those who disobey or threaten the US are punished whenever possible with all the
horrors of war(violence, torture, and death), with misery and imprisonment, poverty and outcast status,
every effort being made to keep these dissenters voiceless and powerless.
As Stanley Diamond put it, conquest abroad and repression at home. Fear and greed, the two forces
driving capitalist markets, are also the tools used by the state to rule. Threaten the world with violence,
frighten and coerce them into doing your will. Where this is impractical or prohibitively expensive,
entice them into compliance with the offer of gain, appealing to their materialistic urges.
Second only to the brute power of military might, the propaganda/media organs are the decisive factor
in the machinery of power. The media help implant beliefs and repetitively reinforce them. Owned by
the same corporations that dominate the government, their interests neatly coincide. Nine vast, bloated
corporations control over 85% of the US media markets(and over 60% of foreign English-speaking
media markets), including the content providers, distributors, and producers of television, movies,
radio, music, publishing and book stores, magazines and newspapers.
This incredible concentration of power to shape the opinions and thoughts of the population is put to
uses as simple as they are insidious. First and foremost, the media work constantly to betray US
corporations and government as benign entities, generous, well-meaning, promoting “progress” and
higher standards of living in the US and around the world. The fact that this is a mirage, proven daily
by events to be a lie, matters not at all. The destruction of nature, atrocities and war crimes against
innocent peoples, corporate robbery and corruption, government viciousness and incompetence, are
whitewashed as excusable “mistakes” and “accidents”; one-off errors that won’t be repeated, despite the
glaringly obvious truth that these crimes are typical behavior, not isolated instances of wrongdoing.
Corporations may regularly cheat, abuse, even maim and kill their customers and employees; they may
rape and poison the natural world; may act like psychopaths in pursuit of profit and power, but these
activities are treated as “un-newsworthy”. Where corporate sponsored disasters and criminal acts are so
terrible they can be ignored, they are downplayed, and reports are kept focused solely on the immediate
problem. Well the culprits of the moment may be condemned, the system itself is never questioned.
Likewise, government atrocities and evils are ignored for as long as possible, and when the cries of
outrage become deafening, are treated as minor errors that “inevitably”occur as the US brings
“democracy and freedom”to every corner of the world. Orwell’s brilliant coining of the term
“doublethink”(where people are trained to believe two diametrically opposed things at the same time,
though only one can be true), is here demonstrated. For example, the US may attack a neutral country,
murdered tens or hundreds of thousands of civilians, destroy the nation’s infrastructure, wipe out the
military and police, create chaos and misery for millions, and then make the patently absurd claim it
does so on behalf of the people it maims and murders!
The actual reason for the attack may be to gain control of some natural resource it wants to plunder,
such as oil, or it may be to eliminate some threat to US corporate interests, such as an indigenous
freedom movement proposing nationalization of minds or utility companies. The intervention, however
vicious it may be, is always painted as an attempt to make the world “freer”, better, more peaceful. This
is classic doublethink, with Americans trained to believe the government’s intentions are good, while
simultaneously knowing the government’s actions are evil.
The media must therefore work overtime to promote the false belief that capitalism is fair, that
corporations can be trusted, and that government intervention – domestic and foreign, is a positive
force.
The medias second and equally important function is to instill the belief that materialism is the key to
happiness. Again, the fact that this is demonstrably false is irrelevant. Though everyone knows
subconsciously that human relationships are the source of happiness – love and friendship, sharing,
creativity and connection, the media does its best to manipulate and distort this fact so as to support
consumption.
The message is repeated so often and in so many ways the indisputable truth that the message is a lie is
papered over and forgotten. If you buy this, you’ll be loved! If you buy that, you’ll be treated as
someone special. Buy things, and you’ll be happy. The media betrays relationships as depending on
things, with giftgiving an essential element, where his real relationships flourish with intimacy and
attention, gifts that cannot be bought. The media mantra of endless shopping and buying is a recipe for
indebtedness and alienation.
The astounding size of the budgets devoted to advertising by corporations and government make plain
how crucial – and difficult – this brainwashing process is. Consumers are harmless, they are the ideal
citizens, obeying the authorities, numbly laboring for wages which are then spent with corporations for
goods and services(often unnecessary and superfluous ones), busy pursuing an advertiser’s vision of
paradise. It keeps people focused on apolitical activities that benefit corporations, and is an effective
strategy for creating a pliable, distracted population. That it also creates a spiritually empty life, devoid
of meaning, absent of the relationships they can bring true happiness, is conveniently ignored.
A third and vital function of the media is to distract people from the crises which surround them. There
are so many evils and perversities bred by the system known as industrial capitalism it’s difficult to list
them all. Some of the worst include government oppression of the poor and minorities, and the
criminalization of poverty; the government crushing of civil liberties; corporations squandering the
Earth’s resources and poisoning the world with chemical toxins and pesticides; the diversion of the
nations wealth away from the needs of the people and into the coffers of the military-industrial and
prison industrial complexes, and many more.
These evils have terrible effects on the vast majority of the population. These include a tragic and
enormous (and entirely avoidable) increase in cancers, birth defects, and other diseases due to
environmental pollutants; tens of millions of broken lives filled with anguish and despair due to
needless poverty; the mass extinction of plant and animal species as rapidly shrinking wilderness is
made barren of life, and so on.
Innumerable problems crying out for solutions are ignored by the news media, or are given a brief,
sensationalist glance, and are then dismissed with the unspoken assumption that there’s nothing to be
done, that change is impossible or impractical, and that corporations and government must be allowed
to have their way regardless of the consequences.
The crises the news media are willing to examine in detail are ones that don’t have any relevance or
impact on the status quo. Plane crashes, train wrecks, auto accidents, murders, celebrity scandals,
anything that doesn’t question the system, or at worst suggests that bits and pieces need fixing but that
the whole is solid. Attention is rigidly concentrated on immediate dangers and problems, deliberately
excluding any analysis of long-term effects.
A celebrity dying of cancer will receive attention; the cluster of cancers in the celebrity’s neighborhood
due to a nearby toxic waste site will not. A politician caught taking bribes will receive attention; the
corrupt process of lobbying and the trade-off between politicians and corporate campaign donors will
not. The mass firing of teachers due to cuts in education budgets will receive attention; the
governments starving of educational budgets so as to expand the military, the cops, courts and prisons
will not. Examples of this kind of selective vision could be multiplied endlessly, the common
denominator is the media’s refusal to examine causes, and its insistence on viewing effects as isolated
cases unrelated to a larger picture.
There are many other types of subterfuge the media uses to keep the masses in their place, but all these
are the ruses of the news media, a narrow specialty designed to confuse and fool people able to think
independently. The rest of the media – the majority of it, is one in nor must sales tool, dedicated to
celebrating consumerism and the worship of youth and beauty. Its purpose is to distract the general
public from “serious” issues, keep them amused and fascinated by spectacles and bizarre ephemera.
Sports, celebrities, and sexual titillation, these are the mainstays of the media’s campaign of diversion
serving corporate interests by promoting materialism, and an obsession with self-image.
By such stratagems the population is pacified and tamed. For most, trapped by debt and lifestyle into
wage slavery, struggling to pay for the plethora of things they’ve been convinced they “need”, co-opted
by the system of rewards and punishments imposed on them by corporations and government, there is
no visible means of escape. The masses may dream of liberation, may even dally with it, as do the poor
through drugs and the middle class through cyberspace, but in their hearts they know that they are at
the mercy of the machine. Worse, most understand that political solutions are no solution at all against
the system that offers only false choices, forever yielding more of the same. The fascist status quo wins
by inertia and overwhelming force, and by relentlessly destroying any alternative to its plans for power.
Those who seek a different way of life, anticorporate activists, dissenters and dreamers of all kinds are
harassed, marginalized, and ostracized by the powers that be, or are co-opted and used as symbols of
the states ability to change and embrace new ideas. Dissenters are hunted and persecuted, with the hope
they will give up and assimilate into the totalitarian mainstream.
So what is to be done? How can one live with integrity, and overcome the fascist nightmare into which
the US has dissented as ethics and morality demand?
These questions will be addressed in part two fascist America the path to freedom.

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