How Americans are efficiently trained to acquiesce to ideas once deemed so radical as to be unthinkable
Remember when, in the wake of the 9/11 attack, the Patriot Act was controversial, held up as the symbolic face of Bush/Cheney radicalism and widely lamented as a threat to core American liberties and restraints on federal surveillance and detention powers? Yet now, the Patriot Act is quietly renewed every four years by overwhelming majorities in both parties (despite substantial evidence of serious abuse), and almost nobody is bothered by it any longer. That’s how extremist powers become normalized: they just become such a fixture in our political culture that we are trained to take them for granted, to view the warped as normal.Here are several examples from the last couple of days illustrating that same dynamic; none seems overwhelmingly significant on its own, but that’s the point:
After Dick Cheney criticized John McCain this weekend for having chosen Sarah Palin as his running mate, this was McCain’s retort:Look, I respect the vice president. He and I had strong disagreements as to whether we should torture people or not. I don’t think we should have.
Isn’t it amazing that the first sentence there (“I respect the vice president”) can precede the next one (“He and I had strong disagreements as to whether we should torture people or not”) without any notice or controversy?Equally remarkable is this Op-Ed from The Los Angeles Times over the weekend, condemning President Obama’s kill lists and secret assassinations:The Constitution's guarantee of due process means the president can't act as judge, jury and executioner of suspected terrorists, especially when they are U.S. citizens.
Allowing the president of the United States to act as judge, jury and executioner for suspected terrorists, including U.S. citizens, on the basis of secret evidence is impossible to reconcile with the Constitution’s guarantee that a life will not be taken without due process of law.
Under the law, the government must obtain a court order if it seeks to target a U.S. citizen for electronic surveillance, yet there is no comparable judicial review of a decision to kill a citizen. No court is even able to review the general policies for such assassinations. . . .Isn’t it amazing that a newspaper editorial even has to say: you know, the President isn’t really supposed to have the power to act as judge, jury and executioner and order American citizens assassinated with no transparency or due process? And isn’t it even more amazing that the current President has actually seized and exercised this power with very little controversy?Meanwhile, we have this, from the Associated Press yesterday:NYPD TO LAUNCH ALL-SEEING
SYSTEM TO TRACK CRIME
BY KIMBERLY DOZIER
AP INTELLIGENCE WRITER
ASPEN, Colo. (AP) --
The New York Police
Department will soon
launch an all seeing
information to track
both criminals and
New York Police
Raymond Kelly says
the city developed the
Remember when John Poindexter’s “Total Information Awareness” program – which was “to use data mining technologies to sift through personal transactions in electronic data to find patterns and associations connected to terrorist threats and activities”: basically create real-time surveillance of everyone – was too extreme and menacing even for an America still at its peak of post-9/11 hysteria? Yet here we have the NYPD — more than a decade removed from 9/11 — announcing a very similar program in very similar terms, and it’s almost impossible to envision any real controversy.
Similarly, in the AP’s sentence above describing the supposed targets of this new NYPD surveillance program: what, exactly, is a “potential terrorist”? Isn’t that an incredibly Orwellian term given that, by definition, it can include anyone and everyone? In practice, it will almost certainly mean: all Muslims, plus anyone who engages in any activism that opposes prevailing power factions. That’s how the American Surveillance State is always used.Numerous attributes of surveillance drones — their ability to hover in the same place for long periods of time, their ability to remain stealthy, their increasingly cheap cost and tiny size — enable surveillance of a breadth, duration and invasiveness unlike other types of surveillance instruments, such as police helicopters or satellites. Recall that one new type of drone already in use by the U.S. military in Afghanistan — the Gorgon Stare, named after the “mythical Greek creature whose unblinking eyes turned to stone those who beheld them” — is “able to scan an area the size of a small town” and “the most sophisticated robotics use artificial intelligence that [can] seek out and record certain kinds of suspicious activity”; boasted one U.S. General: “Gorgon Stare will be looking at a whole city, so there will be no way for the adversary to know what we’re looking at, and we can see everything.”All of this is absolutely insane, and if I wrote a book about this in 1999 or 2000, people would either have thought I was insane, or would have thought this was some wild satire.The idea of flying robots hovering over American soil monitoring what citizens do en masse is yet another one of those ideas that, in the very recent past, seemed too radical and dystopian to entertain, yet is on the road to being quickly mainstreamed. When that happens, it is no longer deemed radical to advocate such things; radicalism is evinced by opposition to them.
Yet, all of it's happened and you'd think a lot of people would be really horrified, and there are, but it's not like what you would expect.
The sad fact is that we are in a police state already. You might find it hard to believe, but if you listen to the words of a US jurisprudist by the name of Lon Fuller (he was describing Nazi law):"Increasingly the principal object of government seems to be, not that of giving the citizen rules by which to shape his conduct, but to frighten him into impotence."You'll find that fits the way things are happening right now. The object of government is not currently working to give us rules to shape our conduct, but frightening us into impotence -- powerless (not erectile dysfunction).
- Look at Bush asserting the power to jail, detain, and deprive of legal-assistance those accused of terrorism (one was an American citizen: Jose Padilla), as well as torture them
- Look at Bush asserting the power to jail Americans in the same fashion (Jose Padilla, the Military Commissions Act)
- Look at the absolutely insane degree of domestic surveillance -- that's not to protect us from terrorists
- Look at what happened at Occupy Wall Street -- that was total overkill.
- Look at the President asserting the power to bump people off.
That's exactly what's going on.
I've wrote about ways to non-violently deal with the issue on this thread.
The specific section which discussed protest and dissent were covered on posts #13-16 which is on page 2.
Admittedly certain things were specific to the topic at hand, but some things would work on all issues.
Remember, no matter how I die: It was murder; should I be tried for a criminal offense, I probably didn't do it as I'm pretty straight laced and don't even have a speeding ticket; should I mysteriously disappear -- it wasn't voluntary…
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