Sunday, January 27, 2008

Cognitive dissonance: It's not just for breakfast anymore.

This is a reply to a post on Democratic Underground that asked: "Do you realize that you are living in a Fascist Country?"

I responded:

New, improved: It's fascism with a smirk

BushCo and various compliant congresses, with both R and D majorities, have signed off on an ever-expanding list of repressive legislation, executive orders and presidential directives; massive federal invasions of privacy regarding medical and financial records; monitoring US citizens' electronic communications; re-targeting spy satellites for domestic surveillance; the TSA cavity search specialists (for attractive young women only; the rest are presumed to pose no threat to the state); no-fly and terrorist watch lists; Halliburton/KBR's detention camps; RFIDs in all new passports and the new national ID cards scheduled to be issued later this year; new TSA "behavior detection officers" to spot those who don't "look quite right;" all this wonderful new stuff from the DHS; private armies featuring mercenaries from companies like Blackwater and SAIC springing up like mushrooms after a light rain... All that and the Patriot Act, the Military Commissions Act, extraordinary rendition (whatever the hell that means) and torture, too. (Note: the torture link is graphic and disgusting, as it should be.)

But most people would call you insane if you tried to connect these dots in a way that pointed toward governmental malevolence. Can't happen here, they say.

And because another poster in the same thread vehemently denied any hint of fascism in the current version of America, I couldn't keep my mouth (or keyboard) shut:

Cognitive dissonance: It's not just for breakfast anymore

Odd that you'd cite media obsession with the upcoming elections as evidence that we're just rolling in personal freedom. I'd argue that watching the media's evolving role in campaign and election coverage, and transcending neutrality by actually influencing the outcome, provides ample evidence of just the opposite. In maybe 50 years, they've completed the transition from reporters of objective fact to gatekeepers and promoters of official orthodoxy.

But even that wasn't enough to justify the huge sums of money corporate America has spent since 1996 to buy its own alternative universe. So in 2000 and 2004, they assumed a new activist role in determining the eventual "winner" by proclaiming a Bush victory out front; containing, suppressing or ridiculing all contrary information; then forcing the Gore camp to make its case with its credibility already undermined by the "infallibility" the public ascribes to the mighty media Wurlitzer. Goebbels and Bernays couldn't have done it any better.

The role of the "free press" as a check on the excesses of the rich and powerful -- which is what the founders had in mind when they ratified the First Amendment -- no longer exists except in small, local, independent papers, radio stations and community access TV.

Now, in its new role as champion of the status quo, PR firm for the aristocracy and official ministry of propaganda for the unholy marriage of right wing politicians and their corporate love-children, the "free press" is there at the outset of all major election campaigns to weed out any hint of progressive ideology, keep progressives muzzled and off camera and actively promote only the most vanilla, corporate-approved, useless degenerates of the bunch.

As you note, "In fascism, there is no debate about who the next leader will be." In sharp contrast, I suppose, to our free and open system in which all candidates enjoy public funding and equal media access and where mass media respects and accurately reports on every candidate's views on the issues.

One way to pick leaders in a fascist society is to physically, psychologically and spiritually intimidate people into accepting anyone who's shoved down their throats. Another is to limit their options to the finalists who represent the two factions of the Business Party. Just as in the other method, this keeps the status quo safe for another four years, this time by making sure there's only a superficial difference between the choices mass media has shoved down their throats. The outcome is the same; the second method is just slicker, less obviously totalitarian and doesn't tend to make people crazy, unproductive and useless as drones and debt slaves.

And if you actually believe that there's a lick of difference between Ms. Clinton and Mr. McCain or Mr. Romney when it comes to their unwavering commitment to corporate values and steadfast opposition to anything that might benefit actual humans at the expense of corporate profits, then I've got to assume that history and cognition aren't your strong suits. You might care to have a look at opensecrets.org and follow the dollars for a while. Better yet, have a look at Hillary's idea of health care reform.

Like it or not, we no longer live in a democratic republic based on Constitutional law, the will of the people and 220 years of legal precedent. There is no due process; there is no habeas; there is no right to counsel; there is no right to privacy; there is no right to speak your mind; there is no prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment; there is no right to a speedy trial by jury.

This is the reality of America v2.0. Just because the enforcers aren't wearing black uniforms decorated with swastikas and lightening bolts and goose-stepping down the Unter den Linden; just because Leni Reifenstahl's granddaughter isn't filming the sequel to "Triumph of the Will" and the boxcars are still carrying freight; just because oppression is still partly concealed under a peeling veneer of liberty while most people flatly refuse to pay any fucking attention at all... Just because the jackboot has yet to kick in my door, I'm not naive enough to believe that it can't happen here.

I look at the massive power the executive branch has accumulated since 2001 -- with the complete complicity of congress and an uncritical mass media -- and I can only draw one conclusion: all the pieces are in place to lock down this country like a time vault. They're just not fully operational yet.

Maybe they never will be, although the overlords have gone through a hell of a lot of trouble to build a legal and physical infrastructure that can really serve only one purpose. The Cheneys of the world don't strike me as the type to do stuff like this just for fun.



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