I confess to having occasional concerns about some of the radical views I put out on this blog. It's well past 1984, and you never know who's out there watching you, especially these days. One of the things I know about myself is that when it comes to paranoia, I'm usually racing for takeoff like a jet on the runway. It doesn't take much for me to lift me off.
I mention this because I'm never quite sure whether danger lurks in what I'm doing, or is just a phantasm of my overactive imagination. Meanwhile I recently finished reading Naomi Wolf's book "The End of America: Letter of Warning to a Young Patriot," in which she argues that the foundations of our democracy are being slowly but systematically dismantled by the current administration, and that we are on the brink of closing down the open society. That book definitely had the effect of lifting me off.
Wolf has done some formidable research into the rise of dictatorships in certain societies, notably Nazi Germany, and she believes there are a set of (basically ten) classic steps that are followed when a government is on this road. As it turns out, the U.S. is right on schedule: each of these steps, she argues, is currently underway in our country today.
One key feature of dictatorships is the use of surveillance of its citizens, not so much for the obtaining of vital information, but rather to coerce and intimidate people. The government wants you to know it is eavesdropping on your calls and emails (and blogs?) without a warrant so you feel you are being watched. This creates fear, and a general climate where people think twice before, say, signing petitions, because they don't want their names to get on a "list." I can't say the thought has not occurred to me.
The White House surveillance program, Wolf writes, is triggered by certain key words and names. If your communications reach a certain level of interest to the government, an actual person may be assigned to monitor what you are saying. Klein draws parallels with the Gestapo, the KGB, and the Chinese Politburo, all of which requisitioned private data such as medical, banking, and library records. This scrutiny breaks down the individual's sense of being able to act freely against those in power. If you are outspoken enough, she suggests you may find yourself subject to harrassment, by, say, for starters, the IRS. She sites one grim instance of an environmentalist consultant who approached the VP when he was making an appearance in a mall in Colorado--and he said, "I think your policies in Iraq are reprehensible." Ten minutes later he was apprehended and handcuffed by a secret service agent and charged with assault.
A second notable feature of dictatorships is sending lies to the press and then accusing those who tell the truth of lying. The promotion of lying helps to facilitate a fascist shift. If the ground of democracy is truth, says Wolf, the ground of dictatorship is assertion. (Welcome to the world of the Decider!) Truth (as I myself have written in a previous blog, "Truth Is What Gives the World Its Fragrance"), must be eliminated in favor of "a new reality in which the truth," as Wolf puts it, "can no longer be ascertained and no longer counts."
Once you can no longer ascertain the difference between truth and lies, can no longer be sure about what is right and what is wrong, you lose the ability to trust in your own judgement. We are living in a society that is relentlessly being gas lighted by its leaders. No wonder we all feel like we are slowly going crazy. We can't rely on newspapers or television to tell us what is really going on. Journalists and the press have been so compromised that they no longer represent the interests of their readers.
Wolf asserts we must make a heightened effort to cease being consumers of the media and become instead leaders with a responsibility to speak the truth and educate the public. The best route for doing this, she claims, is--hold on to your hats--BLOGGING. Bloggers now have to lead the way and become warriors for truth and accountability.
Suddenly I have a new found elation in my task. What ho, Virgil! Get that alligator butt over here where it's needed, as the monks say, for the sake of the choir. We have work to do!