I am starting my new series on a topic that for some reason, or reasons, has been designated as another of those ‘no no’ subjects. Even the mentioning of this topic is enough to get one labeled as an extremist, radical, nutty, kooky…Why do most people react this way? As with other issues here too we are looking at multiple factors.
For the government, the establishment, side of it, the reasons are obvious, and fit any government that is, has been, or was ever considered a police state. Have you ever come across a police state that actually considered itself to be a ‘police state’? Exactly, I didn’t think so. The governing/ruling powers of police states always seek to legitimize their police measures; whether made necessary by external threats, domestic threats, economic threats, security or terrorism threats…there is always a big threat(s) they point to and base their justification upon, and they always, and I mean always, claim that their measures are for the good of the public, for the security of their people, for the protection of their constituents. They portray their dissenters as collaborators in whatever ‘threat’ they claim they are fighting against, and silence their critics either with extreme authoritarian measures, or, if they are able to, by simply labeling them as radical, nutty, and kooky, enough to marginalize them and neutralize their potential effect.
The same holds true for the media side of this phenomena. After all, one of the major characteristics of a police state is social control and indoctrination through control of the media. These states utilize the media to spread their propaganda, to manufacture consent, to evilize chosen enemies, to paint dissent as unpatriotic, the dissenters as the enemies of the state, and of course the critics as the radical and nutty minority.
Now how about the people? Why are the majority of our people so quick to write off even the possibility of us becoming a police state, and do so in a similar manner as the government and media as described above? Aside from being indoctrinated by the establishment’s calculative presentations, most people seem to be guided by their own biased beliefs and misplaced values. It may be from misdirected patriotism, when their love of our nation subconsciously is coupled with the love of whoever may be ruling it. It may be the simple act of denial; just as parents blinded by their parental love and pride refuse to see and acknowledge the negative realities in their children, there are those who willingly put on blinders before their eyes just so that they don’t see the ugly realities inflicting the country they love and value. Maybe it is a case of extreme pride being misdirected towards those misperceived…
Whatever the reasons, the almost uniform response to those who even attempt to raise the police state question seems to be the same. Perhaps this is the reason why the very few outspoken legal experts, historians, and civil liberties activists, carefully, almost timidly, choose their words when it comes to the question of a police state in the USA. What I hear, what I read is usually along the following lines:
We may be moving toward a police state.
At this rate we may become a police state.
Are we on our way to become a police state?
These people talk about a ‘police state’ as if there is this exactly defined state with even more exactly defined prerequisites, so that when this state is reached it can be uniformly declared by all as a police state at the exact same time. However, most of these same people, when I talk with them privately, in a hushed voice tell me that they actually think we are there, or almost there. They are so afraid to come out and say it. They are terrified at the prospect of being attacked, labeled, and marginalized. So this is why you get the careful phrasing, and when you get close, the hushed voices.
Anyhow, I am not known to shy away too much from being labeled, attacked, and/or ostracized. I have serious concerns for my country, where it is today, and where it’s headed. I have questions that I’ve been seeking answers for, which I want to share and discuss with you, openly and loudly, not in whispers. My main question pertaining to a police state is ‘aren’t we there?’ rather than ‘are we there?’ I keep scrutinizing the broad definitions and characteristics of a police state in every encyclopedia and other source I can get my hands on, then I check and compare those aspects with what we have today as a national security state, and every time I do this my checkmark list tells me we seem to be ‘there’ already:
On Invoking, Creating and Maintaining Perpetual Wars:
Our ambigious unending War on Terror, Wars in Afghanistan and Iraq
On Control and Monitoring Mass Communication:
NSA’s domestic spying on US Citizens are made legal & advocated as necessary
On Search & Seizures with No Probable Cause or Judicial Oversight:
FBI’s National Security Letters to be used on American Citizens with its Gag Order Provision
On Controlling & Restricting Citizens’ Mobility:
TSA’s ever expanding secretive No Fly List with the ‘known’ inclusion of One Million Americans
On Government Operating in Extreme Secrecy:
Government expenditures of nearly $10 BILLION to maintain tens of millions of secret documents and operations, and unconstitutional uses of Executive Privileges such as State Secrets Privilege
On Control and Usage of Media as Government’s Own Propaganda Machine:
The American Mainstream Media today is an extension and mouthpiece of the Federal Government
On Silencing & Persecution of Dissent:
Our government’s well-established record of its treatment of whistleblowers and critics, whether by gag orders or other overt and covert measures
On General Disregard for Human Rights and Related International Laws:
Our Government’s documented record on Rendition and Torture
I can easily go on and list more items, and justify every single one of them with supporting documents, cases, and reports, but for now the above criteria should suffice for our upcoming discussions and analyses. While I am at it I want to preempt one expected argument I have heard more than once:
‘Of course we are not a police state, since you and others can write and talk about these issues without getting arrested or executed. Just look at all these bloggers and independent media…’
First, that’s confusing a totalitarian government with a police state. You don’t have to be a totalitarian state in order to be a police state. In fact police states can and do emerge in democratic countries – with the consent and acceptance of the populace. Totalitarianism is simply an extreme version.
Next, not being ‘there’ yet in this regard does not mean we don’t fulfill most if not all other criteria to be considered a police state. Nations gradually creep towards becoming a police state, in various stages and by various degrees.
Finally, this aspect may actually be an indicator of an even more pathetic situation. Meaning, by having complete control over the mass media and utilizing successful propaganda and indoctrination the government doesn’t even feel the need to go after the irate vigilant minority. They let their PR machine marginalize these voices and ensure their exclusion from the broad medium of communication channels.
Okay, now it is your turn. Don’t be shy, and please don’t censure yourself. Where do you see us as a nation? How do you define a police state? Do you think we are already there?
And take a few seconds to participate in our survey on the left column.