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The Deeper Meaning of Mass Spying in America

By James Petras | June 14, 2013

The exposure of the Obama regime’s use of the National Security Agency to secretly spy on the communications of hundreds of millions of US and overseas citizens has provoked world-wide denunciations. In the United States, despite widespread mass media coverage and the opposition of civil liberties organizations, there has not been any mass protest. Congressional leaders from both the Republican and Democratic Parties, as well as top judges, approved of the unprecedented domestic spy program. Even worse, when the pervasive spy operations were revealed, top Senate and Congressional leaders repeated their endorsement of each and every intrusion into all electronic and written communication involving American citizens. President Obama and his Attorney General Holder openly and forcefully defended the NSA’s the universal spy operations.

The issues raised by this vast secret police apparatus and its penetration into and control over civil society, infringing on the citizens freedom of expression, go far beyond mere ‘violations of privacy’, as raised by many legal experts.

Most civil libertarians focus on the violations of individual rights, constitutional guarantees and the citizen’s privacy rights. These are important legal issues and the critics are right in raising them. However, these constitutional–legal critiques do not go far enough; they fail to raise even more fundamental issues; they avoid basic political questions.

Why has such a massive police-state apparatus and universal spying become so central to the ruling regime? Why has the entire executive, legislative and judicial leadership come out in public for such a blatant repudiation of all constitutional guarantees? Why do elected leaders defend universal political espionage against the citizenry? What kind of politics requires a police state? What kind of long-term, large scale domestic and foreign policies are illegal and unconstitutional as to require the building of a vast network of domestic spies and a hundred billion dollar corporate-state techno-espionage infrastructure in a time of budget ‘austerity’ with the slashing of social programs?

The second set of questions arises from the use of the espionage data. So far most critics have questioned the existence of massive state espionage but have avoided the vital issue of what measures are taken by the spymasters once they target individuals, groups, movements? The essential question is: What reprisals and sanctions follow from the ‘information’ that is collected, classified and made operational by these massive domestic spy networks? Now that the ‘secret’ of all-encompassing, state political spying has entered public discussion, the next step should be to reveal the secret operations that follow against those targeted by the spymasters as a ‘risk to national security’.

The Politics behind the Police State

The fundamental reason for the conversion of the state into a gigantic spy apparatus is the nature of deeply destructive domestic and foreign policies which the government has so forcefully pursued. The vast expansion of the police state apparatus is not a response to the terror attack of 9/11. The geometrical growth of spies, secret police budgets, and the vast intrusion into all citizen communications coincides with the wars across the globe. The decisions to militarize US global policy requires vast budgetary re-allocation , slashing social spending to fund empire-building; shredding public health and social security to bailout Wall Street. These are policies which greatly enhance profits for bankers and corporations while imposing regressive taxes on wage and salaried workers

Prolonged and extended wars abroad have been funded at the expense of citizens’ welfare at home. This policy had led to declining living standards for many tens of millions of citizens and rising dissatisfaction. The potential of social resistance as evidenced by the brief “Occupy Wall Street” movement which was endorsed by over 80% of the population. The positive response alarmed the state and led to an escalation of police state measures. Mass spying is designed to identify the citizens who oppose both imperial wars and the destruction of domestic welfare; labeling them as ‘security threats’ is a means of controlling them through the use of arbitrary police powers. The expansion of the President’s war powers has been accompanied by the growth and scope of the state spy apparatus: the more the President orders overseas drone attacks, the greater the number of his military interventions, the greater the need for the political elite surrounding the President to increase its policing of citizens in anticipation of a popular backlash. In this context, the policy of mass spying is taken as ‘pre-emptive action’. The greater the police state operations, the greater the fear and insecurity among dissident citizens and activists.

The assault on the living standards of working and middle class Americans in order to fund the endless series of wars, and not the so-called ‘war on terror’, is the reason the state has developed massive cyber warfare against the US citizenry. The issue is not only a question of a violation of individual privacy: it is fundamentally an issue of state infringement of the collective rights of organized citizens to freely engage in public opposition to regressive socio-economic policies and question the empire. The proliferation of permanent bureaucratic institutions, with over a million security ‘data collectors’, is accompanied by tens of thousands of ‘field operators’, analysts and inquisitors acting arbitrarily to designate dissident citizens as ‘security risks’ and imposing reprisals according to the political needs of their ruling political bosses. The police state apparatus has its own rules of self-protection and self-perpetuation; it has its own linkages and may occasionally compete with the Pentagon. The police state links up with and protects the masters of Wall Street and the propagandists of the mass media – even as it (must) spy on them!

The police state is an instrument of the Executive Branch acting as a vehicle for its arbitrary prerogative powers. However on administrative matters, it possesses a degree of ‘autonomy’ to target dissident behavior. What is clear is the high degree of cohesion, vertical discipline and mutual defense, up and down the hierarchy. The fact that one whistle-blower, Edward Snowden, emerged from the hundreds of thousands of citizen spies is the exception, the lone whistle blower, which proves the rule: There are fewer defectors to be found among the million-member US spy network than in all the Mafia families in Europe and North America.

The domestic spy apparatus operates with impunity because of its network of powerful domestic and overseas allies. The entire bi-partisan Congressional leadership is privy to and complicit with its operations. Related branches of government, like the Internal Revenue Service, cooperate in providing information and pursuing targeted political groups and individuals. Israel is a key overseas ally of the National Security Agency, as has been documented in the Israeli press (Haaretz, June 8, 2013). Two Israeli high tech firms (Verint and Narus) with ties to the Israeli secret police (MOSSAD), have provided the spy software for the NSA and this, of course, has opened a window for Israeli spying in the US against Americans opposed to the Zionist state. The writer and critic, Steve Lendman points out that Israeli spymasters via their software “front companies” have long had the ability to ‘steal proprietary commercial and industrial data” with impunity. Because of the power and influence of the Presidents of the 52 Major American Jewish organizations, Justice Department officials have ordered dozens of Israeli espionage cases to be dropped. The tight Israeli ties to the US spy apparatus serves to prevent deeper scrutiny into its operation and political goals — at a very high price in terms of the security of US citizens. In recent years two incidents stand out: Israeli security ‘experts’ were contracted to advise the Pennsylvania Department of Homeland Security in their investigation and ‘Stasi-like’ repression of government critics and environmental activists (compared to ‘al Queda terrorists’ by the Israelis) – the discovery of which forced the resignation of OHS Director James Powers in 2010. In 2003, New Jersey governor, Jim McGreevy appointed his lover, an Israeli government operative and former IDF officer, to head that state’s ‘Homeland Security Department and later resigned, denouncing the Israeli, Golan Cipel, for blackmail in late 2004. These examples are a small sample illustrating the depth and scope of Israeli police state tactics intersecting in US domestic repression.

The Political and Economic Consequences of the Spy State

The denunciations of the mass spy operations are a positive step, as far as they go. But equally important is the question of what follows from the act of spying? We now know that hundreds of millions of Americans are being spied on by the state. We know that mass spying is official policy of the Executive and is approved by Congressional leaders. But we have only fragmented information on the repressive measures resulting from the investigations of “suspect individuals”. We can assume that there is a division of labor among data collectors, data analysts and field operatives following up “risky individuals and groups”, based on the internal criteria known only to the secret police. The key spy operatives are those who devise and apply the criteria for designating someone as a “security risk”. Individuals and groups who express critical views of domestic and foreign policy are “a risk”; those who act to protest are a “higher risk”; those who travel to conflict regions are presumed to be in the “highest risk” category, even if they have violated no law. The question of the lawfulness of a citizen’s views and actions does not enter into the spymasters’ equation; nor do any questions regarding the lawfulness of the acts committed by the spies against citizens. The criteria defining a security risk supersede any constitutional considerations and safeguards.

We know from a large number of published cases that lawful critics, illegally spied upon, have subsequently been arrested, tried and jailed – their lives and those of their friends and family members shattered. We know that hundreds of homes, workplaces and offices of suspects have been raided in ‘fishing expeditions’. We know that family members, associates, neighbors, clients, and employers of “suspects” have been interrogated, pressured and intimidated. Above all, we know that tens of millions of law abiding citizens, critical of domestic economic and overseas war policies, have been censored by the very real fear of the massive operations carried out by the police state. In this atmosphere of intimidation, any critical conversation or word spoken in any context or relayed via the media can be interpreted by nameless, faceless spies as a “security threat” – and one’s name can enter into the ever growing secret lists of “potential terrorists”. The very presence and dimensions of the police state is intimidating. There are citizens who would claim that the police state is necessary to protect them from terrorists – but how many others feel compelled to embrace their state terrorists just to fend off any suspicion, hoping to stay off the growing lists? How many critical-minded Americans now fear the state and will never voice in public what they whisper at home?

The bigger the secret police, the greater its operations. The more regressive domestic economic policy, the greater the fear and loathing of the political elite.

Even as President Obama and his Democratic and Republican partners boast and bluster about their police state and its effective “security function”, the vast majority of Americans are becoming aware that fear instilled at home serves the interest of waging imperial wars abroad; that cowardice in the face of police state threats only encourages further cuts in their living standards. When will they learn that exposing spying is only the beginning of a solution? When will they recognize that ending the police state is essential to dismantling the costly empire and creating a safe, secure and prosperous America?

June 15, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance, Militarism, Solidarity and Activism | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Where’s the Outrage: Nobody Seems to Care as America Becomes a Police State

By Dave Lindorff | This Can’t Be Happening | July 31, 2012

Back in 1976, I co-founded, with some Los Angeles colleagues, a feisty little alternative weekly called the L.A. Vanguard. About two months after we launched it, I got tipped off about a program by the local phone companies, Pacific Telephone and GTE, in which they had so-called “Security Departments,” composed of banks of operators, whose sole job was to provide unlisted phone numbers to inquiring government agencies, all without a warrant. As I delved into this story I learned more: these special operators (led in each case by retired FBI officials) were also providing credit information on phone customers on request, and the agencies who had instant access to all this data ranged from local police to the public library.

When we broke the story, it exploded on the Los Angeles media scene. There was a banner headline across the whole top of the Los Angeles Times front page screaming “Unlisted Numbers Given Out.” We at the L.A. Vanguard, to promote our little paper and being guerrilla journalists, announced that we were holding a protest and press conference on the sidewalk in front of the main entrance of the Pacific Telephone building in L.A., at which we’d be handing out copies of our newspaper. We were mobbed by reporters and camera crews from every media organization in the city. It was huge. Pacific Tel’s PR people realized they had to respond and invited everyone inside for an impromptu news conference at which they tried to quell the furor, but they only made it worse by having to admit the scale of the program.

Now I understand that Los Angeles, which is home to more celebrities per square foot than any other place in the world, has a thing about privacy, but this story even went national. It was simply shocking at the time to learn that the phone company would provide police and other government agencies — even the over-due books department of the library! — information about a customer’s sacred unlisted number without even requiring that they first obtain a warrant from a judge.

My investigative exposé led to hearings by the California Public Utilities Commission (PUC), at which the various government agencies were compelled to explain how they used the information they were obtaining from the phone companies and to justify their need for it, and the phone companies were forced to explain why they were so casually releasing the information, and why they were using ratepayers’ money to pay for a special group of operators to provide it. In the end there were restrictions placed by the PUC on the companies and on the number of agencies able to get access to unlisted numbers.

Today, such a story would be seen as quaint. It probably would not even be published in a major newspaper, and I doubt it would even make the first page of the Hollywood Reporter, trade publication for the film industry. Certainly no regulatory agency like the state PUC would bother to hold hearings on it.

The May 29, 1976 front page of the LA Times, picking up a scoop from a local leftist weekly

The May 29, 1976 front page of the LA Times, picking up a scoop from a local leftist weekly

America has been so degraded as a free society that such intrusive violations of our privacy by a police agency or a librarian are now accepted by most people as normal and to be expected. (Actually, in fairness to librarians, they have emerged lately as some of the last remaining defenders of privacy, often refusing to let nosy police find out what books and videos patrons have been checking out unless served with a warrant.)

I was driving home to Philadelphia from the Catskills yesterday, on I-476, the northern leg of the Pennsylvania Turnpike, and saw a sign warning that speeders were being monitored from the air, and I immediately thought about drones. When I saw such signs in the past on a highway, I would immediately look up at the sky to see if it was cloudy or clear. If it was blue sky, I’d look for a spotter plane, which you could sometimes find. Cloudy meant that the police would not be up there, as they wouldn’t be able to see us drivers. Today it could easily be a small drone that I wouldn’t even notice doing the monitoring, and it would be using radar to tag speeders, so you’d be vulnerable day or night, rain or shine.

 Police spy drones

Coming to your neighborhood soon: Police spy drones

In fact, I’ve noticed that on the 10-mile southernmost stretch of Rt. 309, a local controlled-access highway that runs from past my house and on down to the outskirts of Philadelphia, the state has installed video cams and radar devices that film and monitor the speed of all traffic going into and out of the city on a round-the-clock basis. We are being monitored at all times. So far the state cops or Department of Transportation have not been issuing speeding tickets with these cameras, but it’s only a matter of time. They already have cameras at major intersections all over Philadelphia and are mailing out automated $100 tickets to people alleged to have run red lights.

How far away are we from the day that local authorities in suburbia will be flying drones around the neighborhood tallying up the number of dandelions in people’s yards, and issuing warnings that they need to apply toxic herbicides to kill them or face a fine? You’re laughing? There are already laws in many communities that can compel people to mow their lawns or to clear out their dandelions or face a stiff fine. What they don’t have yet is a cheap way of monitoring people’s lawn-care proclivities. But it’s coming.

What strikes me as I think back to my big scoop about the California phone companies’ unlisted numbers racket (for which I won a major award from the Los Angeles Press Club!), is how much American citizens, over the intervening 36 years, have come to accept all this spying and invasion of privacy as normal, and perhaps even as desirable.

Of course 9-11 is a big part of this. The trumped up “War” on Terror launched in September 2001 has become a justification for all kinds of spying and other police activity, and not just by federal agencies. Even my little town of Upper Dublin has now has got its own SWAT van stuffed with Pentagon-provided military gear; there’s also a “major incident response unit” van, even bigger, which is also stuffed with military weaponry. Meanwhile, every police car in the village is equipped with an M-16, and we have 40 cops to police a quiet town of 26,000. That’s one cop for each 650 people in a town that hasn’t had a homicide in at least five years, that averages three robberies, 400 property offenses, one arson and 90 “alcohol offenses” a year! I don’t know how much surveillance and monitoring our local police do, but I do know that just driving and walking around town here, I see local cops on patrol more often than I used to when I lived in China, a certified police state.

Last fall, during the height of the Occupy Movement, I spent a little time at the Zuccotti Park encampment in lower Manhattan’s financial district. There were more police there than there were demonstrators on two of my visits. That’s how it looked too in the videos and news reports I saw of some of the OWS street actions. That should be as much of a scandal as was the brutish behavior of those cops, with their clubs, their pepper spray, and their other weapons, all deployed against avowedly non-violent political protesters.

But where is the public outrage at all of this?

I’ll admit that our corporate media have really given up being real sources of news. (Just consider that the lead story on the front page of the Philadelphia Inquirer on Monday was “Romney Strongly Defends Israel,” which surely ranks right up there as the ultimate example of dog-bites-man non-news one can imagine! With that sorry level of news judgement it’s no wonder important stories are going unreported) But how can there have been such public and media outrage back in 1976 simply over a news report that the phone company was providing unlisted number information to police on request, and then today, there is almost no concern even at the prospect of police spy drones hovering over our neighborhoods 24/7 taking photos of our every move, and at reports from agency whistleblowers that the National Security Agency is already monitoring the electronic communications of all Americans?

What has happened to the “Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave”?

August 1, 2012 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular | , | 1 Comment

The Rise of the Police State and the Absence of Mass Opposition

By James Petras and Robin Eastman Abaya :: 07.25.2012

One of the most significant political developments in recent US history has been the virtually unchallenged rise of the police state. Despite the vast expansion of the police powers of the Executive Branch of government, the extraordinary growth of an entire panoply of repressive agencies, with hundreds of thousands of personnel, and enormous public and secret budgets and the vast scope of police state surveillance, including the acknowledged monitoring of over 40 million US citizens and residents, no mass pro-democracy movement has emerged to confront the powers and prerogatives or even protest the investigations of the police state.

In the early fifties, when the McCarthyite purges were accompanied by restrictions on free speech, compulsory loyalty oaths and congressional ‘witch hunt’ investigations of public officials, cultural figures, intellectuals, academics and trade unionists, such police state measures provoked widespread public debate and protests and even institutional resistance. By the end of the 1950’s, mass demonstrations were held at the sites of the public hearings of the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) in San Francisco (1960) and elsewhere and major civil rights movements arose to challenge the racially segregated South, the compliant Federal government and the terrorist racist death squads of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK). The Free Speech Movement in Berkeley (1964) ignited nationwide mass demonstrations against the authoritarian-style of university governance.

The police state incubated during the first years of the Cold War was challenged by mass movements pledged to retain or regain democratic freedoms and civil rights.

Key to understanding the rise of mass movements for democratic freedoms was their fusion with broader social and cultural movements: democratic freedoms were linked to the struggle for racial equality; free speech was necessary in order to organize a mass movement against the imperial US Indo-Chinese wars and widespread racial segregation; the shutting down of Congressional ‘witch hunts’ and purges opened up the cultural sphere to new and critical voices and revitalized the trade unions and professional associations. All were seen as critical to protecting hard-won workers’ rights and social advances.

In the face of mass opposition, many of the overt police state tactics of the 1950’s went ‘underground’ and were replaced by covert operations; selective state violence against individuals replaced mass purges. The popular pro-democracy movements strengthened civil society and public hearings exposed and weakened the police state apparatus, but it did not go away. However, from the early 1980’s to the present, especially over the past 20 years, the police state has expanded dramatically, penetrating all aspects of civil society while arousing no sustained or even sporadic mass opposition.

The question is why has the police state grown and even exceeded the boundaries of previous periods of repression and yet not provoked any sustained mass opposition? This is in contrast to the broad-based pro-democracy movements of the mid to late 20th century. That a massive and growing police state apparatus exists is beyond doubt: one simply has to look up the published records of personnel (both public agents and private contractors), the huge budgets and scores of agencies involved in internal spying on tens of millions of American citizens and residents. The scope and depth of arbitrary police state measures taken include arbitrary detention and interrogations, entrapment and the blacklisting of hundreds of thousands of US citizens. Presidential fiats have established the framework for the assassination of US citizens and residents, military tribunals, detention camps and the seizure of private property.

Yet as these gross violations of the constitutional order have taken place and as each police state agency has further eroded our democratic freedoms, there have been no massive “anti-Homeland Security” movements, no campus ‘Free Speech movements’. There are only the isolated and courageous voices of specialized ‘civil liberties’ and constitutional freedoms activists and organizations, which speak out and raise legal challenges to the abuse, but have virtually no mass base and no objective coverage in the mass media.

To address this issue of mass inactivity before the rise of the police state, we will approach the topic from two angles.

We will describe how the organizers and operatives have structured the police state and how that has neutralized mass responses.

We will then discuss the ‘meaning’ of non-activity, setting out several hypotheses about the underlying motives and behavior of the ‘passive mass’ of citizens.

The Concentric Circles of the Police State

While the potential reach of the police state agencies covers the entire US population, in fact, it operates on the basis of ‘concentric circles’. The police state is perceived and experienced by the US population according to the degree of their involvement in critical opposition to state policies. While the police state theoretically affects ‘everyone’, in practice it operates through a series of concentric circles. The ‘inner core’, of approximately several million citizens, is the sector of the population experiencing the brunt of the police state persecution. They include the most critical, active citizens, especially those identified by the police state as sharing religious and ethnic identities with declared foreign enemies, critics or alleged ‘terrorists’. These include immigrants and citizens of Arab, Persian, Pakistani, Afghan and Somali descent, as well as American converts to Islam.

Ethnic and religious “profiling” is rife in all transport centers (airports, bus and train stations and on the highways). Mosques, Islamic charities and foundations are under constant surveillance and subject to raids, entrapment, arrests, and even Israeli-style ‘targeted’ assassinations.

The second core group, targeted by the police state, includes African Americans, Hispanics and immigration rights activists (numbering in the millions). They are subject to massive arbitrary sweeps, round-ups and unlimited detention without trial as well as mass indiscriminate deportations.

After the ‘core groups’ is the ‘inner circle’ which includes millions of US citizens and residents, who have written or spoken critically of US and Israeli policy in the Middle East, expressed solidarity with the suffering of the Palestinian people, opposed US invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan or have visited countries or regions opposed to US empire building (Venezuela, Iran, South Lebanon, Syria, the West Bank and Gaza, etc.). Hundreds of thousands of these citizens have their telephone, e-mail and internet communications under surveillance; they have been targeted in airports, denied passports, subject to ‘visits’ and to covert and overt blacklisting at their schools and workplaces.

Activists engaged in civil liberties groups, lawyers, and professionals, leftists engaged in anti-Imperialist, pro-democracy and anti-police state activities and their publications are on ‘file’ in the massive police state labyrinth of data collecting on ‘political terrorists’. Environmental movements and their activists have been treated as potential terrorists – with their own family members subjected to police harassment and ominous ‘visits’.

The ‘outer circle’ includes, community, civic, religious and trade union leaders and activists who, in the course of their activity interact with or even express support for core and inner circle critics and victims of police state violations of due process . The ‘outer circle’ numbering a few million citizens are ‘on file’ as ‘persons of interest’, which may involve monitoring their e-mail and periodic ‘checks’ on their petition signing and defense appeals. These ‘three circles’ are the central targets of the police state, numbering upward of 40 million US citizens and immigrants – who have not committed any crime. For having exercised their constitutional rights, they have been subjected to various degrees of police state repression and harassment.

The police state, however, has ‘fluid boundaries’ about whom to spy on, whom to arrest and when – depending on whatever arouses the apparatchiks ‘suspicion’ or desire to exercise power or please their superiors at any given moment. The key to the police state operations of the US in the 21st century is to repress pro-democracy citizens and pre-empt any mass movement without undermining the electoral system, which provides political theater and legitimacy. A police state ‘boundary’ is constructed to ensure that citizens will have little option but to vote for the two pro-police state parties, legislatures and executives without reference to the conduct, conditions and demands of the core, inner and outer circle of victims, critics and activists. Frequent raids, harsh public ‘exemplary’ punishment and mass media stigmatization transmit a message to the passive mass of voters and non-voters that the victims of repression ‘must have been doing something wrong’ or else they would not be under police state repression.

The key to the police state strategy is to not allow its critics to gain a mass base, popular legitimacy or public acceptance. The state and the media constantly drum the message that the activists’ ‘causes’ are not our (American, patriotic) ‘causes’; that ‘their’ pro-democracy activities impede ‘our’ electoral activities; their lives, wisdom and experiences do not touch our workplaces, neighborhoods, sports, religious and civic associations. To the degree that the police-state has ‘fenced in’ the inner circles of the pro-democracy activists, they have attained a free hand and uncontested reach in deepening and extending the boundaries of the authoritarian state. To the degree that the police state rationale or presence has penetrated the consciousness of the mass of the US population, it has created a mighty barrier to the linking of private discontent with public action.

Hypothesis on Mass Complicity and Acquiescence with the Police State

If the police-state is now the dominant reality of US political life, why isn’t it at the center of citizen concern? Why are there no pro-democracy popular movements? How has the police state been so successful in ‘fencing off’ the activists from the vast majority of US citizens? After all, other countries at other times have faced even more repressive regimes and yet the citizens rebelled. In the past, despite the so-called ‘Soviet threat’, pro-democracy movements emerged in the US and even rolled back a burgeoning police state. Why does the evocation of an outside ‘Islamic terrorist threat’ seem to incapacitate our citizens today? Or does it?

There is no simple, single explanation for the passivity of the US citizens faced with a rising omnipotent police state. Their motives are complex and changing and it is best to examine them in some detail.

One explanation for passivity is that precisely the power and pervasiveness of the police state has created deep fear, especially among people with family obligations, vulnerable employment and with moderate commitments to democratic freedoms. This group of citizens is aware of cases where police powers have affected other citizens who were involved in critical activities, causing job loss and broad suffering and are not willing to sacrifice their security and the welfare of their families for what they believe is a ‘losing cause’ – a movement lacking a strong popular base and with little institutional support. Only when the protest against the Wall Street bailout and the ‘ Occupy Wall Street ’ movements against the ‘1%’ gained momentum, did this sector express transitory support. But as the Office of the President consummated the bailout and the police-state crushed the ‘Occupy’ encampments, fear and caution led many sympathizers to withdraw timidly back into passivity.

The second motive for ‘acquiescence’ among a substantial part of the public is because that they tend to support the police state, based on their acceptance of the anti-terror ideology and its virulent anti-Muslim-anti-Arab racism, driven in large part by influential sectors of pro-Israel opinion makers. The fear and loathing of Muslims, cultivated by the police state and mass media, was central to the post-9/11 build-up of Homeland Security and the serial wars against Israel ’s adversaries, including Iraq , Lebanon , Libya and now Syria with plans for Iran. Active support for the police state peaked during the first 5 years post- 9/11 and subsequently ebbed as the Wall Street-induced economic crisis, loss of employment and the failures of government policy propelled concerns about the economy far ahead of support for the police state. Nevertheless, at least one-third of the electorate still supports the police state, ‘right or wrong’. They firmly believe that the police state protects their ‘security’; that suspects, arrestees, and others under watch ‘must have been doing something illegal’. The most ardent backers of the police state are found among the rabid anti-immigrant groups who support arbitrary round-ups, mass deportations and the expansion of police powers at the expense of constitutional guarantees.

The third possible motive for acquiescence in the police state is ignorance: those millions of US citizens who are not aware of the size, scope and activities of the police state. Their practical behavior speaks to the notion that ‘since I am not directly affected it must not exist’. Embedded in everyday life, making a living, enjoying leisure time, entertainment, sports, family, neighborhoods and concerned only about household budgets … This mass is so embedded in their personal ‘micro-world’ that it considers the macro-economic and political issues raised by the police state as ‘distant’, outside of their experience or interest: ‘I don’t have time’, ‘I don’t know enough’, ‘It’s all ‘politics’ … The widespread apoliticism of the US public plays into its ignoring the monster that has grown in its midst.

Paradoxically as some peoples’ concerns and passive discontent over the economy has grown, it has lessened support for the police state as well as having lessened opposition to it. In other words the police state flourishes while public discontent is focused more on the economic institutions of the state and society. Few, if any, contemporary political leaders educate their constituency by connecting the rise of the police state, imperial wars and Wall Street to the everyday economic issues concerning most US citizens. The fragmentation of issues, the separation of the economic from the political and the divorce of political concerns from individual ones, allow the police state to stand ‘above and outside’ of the popular consciousness , concerns and activities.

State-sponsored fear mongering on behalf of the police state is amplified and popularized by the mass media on a daily basis via propagandistic-‘news’, ‘anti-terrorist’ detective programs, Hollywood’s decades of crass anti-Arab, Islamophobic films. The mass media portrayal of the police state’s naked violations of democratic rights as normal and necessary in a milieu infiltrated by ‘Muslim terrorists’, where feckless ‘liberals’ (defenders of due process and the Bill of Rights) threaten national security, has been effective.

Ideologically, the police state depends on identifying the expansion of police powers with ‘national security’ of the passive ‘silent’ majority, even as it creates profound insecurity for an active, critical minority. The self-serving identification of the ‘nation’ and the ‘flag’ with the police state apparatus is especially prominent during ‘mass spectacles’ where ‘rock’, schlock and ‘sports’ infuse mass entertainment with solemn Pledges of Allegiance to uphold and respect the police state and busty be-wigged young women wail nasally versions of the national anthem to thunderous applause. Wounded ‘warriors’ are trotted out and soldiers rigid in their dress uniforms salute enormous flags, while the message transmitted is that police state at home works hand in hand with our ‘men and women in uniform’ abroad. The police state is presented as a patriotic extension of the wars abroad and as such both impose ‘necessary’ constraints on citizen opposition, public criticism and any real forthright defense of freedom.

Conclusion: What is to be done?

The ascendancy of the police state has benefited enormously from the phony bi-partisan de-politicization of repressive legislation, and the fragmentation of socio-economic struggles from democratic dissent. The mass anti-war movements of the early 1990’s and 2001-2003 were undermined (sold-out) by the defection of its leaders to the Democratic Party machine and its electoral agenda. The massive popular immigration movement was taken over by Mexican-American political opportunists from the Democratic Party and decimated while the same Democratic Party, under President Barack Obama, has escalated police state repression against immigrants, expelling millions of Latino immigrant workers and their families.

Historical experience teaches us that a successful struggle against an emerging police state depends on the linking of the socio-economic struggles that engage the attention of the masses of citizens with the pro-democracy, pro-civil liberty, ‘free speech’ movements of the middle classes. The deepening economic crisis, the savage cuts in living standards and working conditions and the fight to save ‘sacred’ social programs (like Social Security and Medicare) have to be tied in with the expansion of the police state. A mass social justice movement, which brings together thousands of anti-Wall Streeters, millions of pro-Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid recipients with hundreds of thousands of immigrant workers will inevitably clash with the bloated police-state apparatus. Freedom is essential to the struggle for social justice and the mass struggle for social justice is the only basis for rolling back the police state. The hope is that mass economic pain will ignite mass activity, which, in turn, will make people aware of the dangerous growth of the police state. A mass understanding of this link will be essential to any advance in the movement for democracy and people’s welfare at home and peace abroad.

July 26, 2012 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Islamophobia, Solidarity and Activism, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , | 2 Comments