MEDIA ROOTS– In George Orwell’s 1984, Britain is depicted as a totalitarian police state that is ruled by the Party, or Big Brother– an enigmatic, ubiquitous elite that controls society through heavy surveillance, nationalist propaganda and historical revisionism. The concept seems like a far-fetched portrayal of a Democratic nation’s demise into totalitarianism, but in America’s “post 9/11” climate of fear, the United States government has been building a comprehensive grid of surveillance and control that bears frightening similarities to Orwell’s fictional narrative.
The glaring difference between the two is that Orwell’s dystopian society is overtly totalitarian. America, conversely, operates under a “soft fascism” – an insidious, systematic method of preventative action and corporate top-down control over society’s media, economy and politics – while maintaining the necessary illusion of personal choice and freedom. A populous with little to no concept of their subjugation makes them the perfect subjects to rule.
Many Americans might not feel the government’s hand or Big Brother’s watchful eye directly in their lives. However, with the use of GPS, cell phones and the Internet, every move we make can be tracked, cataloged and divied into demographics that are used to increase corporate advertising efficiency and to create a “chilling effect” throughout our culture, stifling dissent and diminishing activism.
During times of war, governments are notorious for capitalizing on their ability to suppress dissent and manipulate the masses. In the wake of 9/11 hysteria, the Bush administration enacted several controversial pieces of legislation that severely curtailed Americans’ freedoms under the pretext of “security” and “protection”. With the help of a consistently compliant and unquestioning media, his administration also instituted a legal framework to circumvent citizens’ civil liberties and target their free speech. Bush’s cabinet adopted Orwellian rhetoric and Nazi style propaganda to litigate sweeping measures that further eradicated liberty: The Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act’s (USA Patriot Act) warrantless domestic wiretapping, and the Homegrown Terrorism Act & Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act’s criminalization of thought and peaceful activism.
Nine years after 9/11 and two years into Obama’s reign, the vague threat of terrorism still hangs in perpetual balance as the justifying cliché for the administration’s continuation of such Bush-era policies. Obama has followed the same Bush trends of illegal detention, rendition, wiretapping, spying, state secrets, demonization, persecution and fear mongering against the population. Obama has aggressively cracked down on whistleblowers exposing military corruption as well as given a green light to assassinate US citizens abroad without due process of law. One of the most disturbing trends in the ever-expanding police state are the new Z Backscatter vans, vehicles that are giant X ray machines, designed to discreetly scan through people’s houses and cars without their knowledge – a surveillance tool that blatantly violates fourth amendment rights.
Like Orwell’s portrayal, the US government’s expanding power structure relies on nationalist propaganda to manufacture and cultivate the fear of an enemy. Although the War on Terrorism has consumed the political climate for almost a decade, the chances of actually dying in a terrorist attack in the United States are statistically insignificant. This little mentioned fact undermines the current administration’s justification for their extension of state powers and secrecy in order to protect the country’s “national security”.
It’s critically important to create dialogue about America’s covert slide to fascism. Absolute power corrupts absolutely– our politicians and their corporate puppeteers will continue their greedy power grabs unabated unless our society starts speaking out against the dehumanization and the unconstitutionality of the emerging police state.
Writing and Photography by Abby Martin