Fear is possibly the most powerful human emotion. It causes decent human beings to do things they would not normally do.
I had been thinking about this post all day, and idly this evening I began watching The End of America. When she began listing off the steps required to “close an open society”, I got chills. I realized this was exactly what I had been planning as a blog post, a satirical list of things one would need to do to became a dictator of a powerful nation and possibly conquer the world. Then I would go on to take a few jabs at the Bush administration and probably the Obama administration as well for failing to fix the damage. You should watch this movie. It’s creepy to review what happened in hindsight and realize how the path we were on from 2001-2008 paralleled Nazi Germany. I mean eerie. And it may not be over. Obama has not walked us back from the brink, and in some cases has consciously decided to continue Bush policies we explicitly elected him to repeal.
- Invoke An Internal and External Threat
The obvious threat here is terrorism. On September 11, 2001 terrorists destroyed the World Trade Center. We were shocked, we were hurt, and we were angry. And most of all, we were afraid. After an attack in Germany, they passed a law that allowed the government to invade citizens privacy in the name of national security. In America, we called it the Patriot Act.
- Secret Prisons where Torture takes place.
These places always operate outside the law. They are unaccountable. People designated enemies disappear to these places and may or may not be heard from again. Duration and sentence is discretionary. There is no appeal. Torture always occurs. Germany called them concentration camps. In America, we called it Guantanamo Bay. In Germany they used what they called “Versharfte Vernehmung”, which translates to Enhanced Interrogation.
- Develop a Paramilitary Force
Germany: The Brownshirts
- Surveil Ordinary Citizens
Closing societies keep lists of potential enemies for quick round-up. Germany had a list of Jews. America has a high-security risk list (the no-fly list). Take Drew Griffin, CNN journalist, who did an investigative report on the TSA only to find himself on the no-fly list.
- Infiltrate Citizens’ Groups
- Detain and Release Ordinary Citizens
In America James Yee. Maher Arar. Countless Others.
- Target Key Individuals
The Dixie Chicks. Dan Rather. Valerie Plame.
- Restrict the Press
N.Y. Times. Izvestia. Wikileaks. Josh Wolf.
- Recast Criticism as Espionage and Dissent as Treason
- Subvert the Rule of Law.
Civil Liberties are a special commodity, and once lost, they are difficult to get back.
A patriot must be ready to defend his country against his government.
If this were a dictatorship it would be a heck of a lot easier… just so long as I’m the dictator
–George W. Bush
Watch this movie, or read the book. It’s frightening to realize that what happened in Germany in the 1930s could so easily happen here. It still could. The laws passed by the Bush administration which enable these abuses have not been repealed. Perhaps we can trust Obama not to abuse them, perhaps not. Can we trust the next guy? Or the next? It’s time to undo the damage.