What do history's most notorious despots have in common with many of the flag-waving, patriotic politicians of our day? Both groups rise to power through the exploitation of fear, which has become a societal plague. There have been widespread casualties. We need an antidote. Feardom offers its readers a much-needed immunization.
I finished reading 1984 a couple weeks ago. All I have to say is: wow! It’s astounding how closely it resembles our society today, despite being written 57 years ago. Indeed, some might call it prophetic in nature.
“Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country.”
—Nazi Reich Marshal Hermann Göring.
Initially doubting the legitimacy of this quote, I googled it to find out from Snopes’ Urband Legends site that it is indeed accurate. It’s frightening that a tactic used by the Nazis seems to work equally as well in our country today. Whether or not you like to admit it, President Bush and his administration repeatedly reference the attacks of 9/11 to justify their positions and strategies. This fearmongering allows the government to get away with more and more.
The deplorable thing is when these positions and strategies encroach on people’s liberties and freedoms. Benjamin Franklin wisely said that people who are willing to give up their liberties for temporary security deserve neither. And that’s what we have today. People are admonished to give up certain freedoms for alleged protection. But when a judge rules such tactics are unconstitutional, the government asks the court to participate in its lawlessness. Those who dissent are labeled as unpatriotic, as Göring describes. An example:
“To those who pit Americans against immigrants, citizens against non-citizens, to those who scare peace-loving people with phantoms of lost liberty, my message is this: Your tactics only aid terrorists for they erode our national unity and diminish our resolve. They give ammunition to America’s enemies and pause to America’s friends. They encourage people of good will to remain silent in the face of evil.”
—Attorney General John Ashcroft, December 2001
How’s that for some doublethink? Then we have another (from a myriad) example of the government polarizing the issue (“if you’re not with us, you’re with the terrorists”):
Cheney said the suggestion Bush or any member of the administration misled Americans before the war “is one of the most dishonest and reprehensible charges ever aired in this city.”
—Vice President Dick Cheney, November 2005
Or how about Donald Rumsfeld, during his recent visit to Salt Lake City, likening war critics to Nazi appeasers? (be sure to watch Olbermann’s review of Rumsfeld’s comments) For those that watch the news, it is no surprise to learn that Bush’s team denounces dissenters to the “War on Terror” as unpatriotic. This politicking makes them look bad in the media. The dissenters don’t want be the bad guy or appear unpatriotic—they want to be elected when their term is up. And so, Bush is able to get away with whatever he wants (Patriot Act, Unitary Executive Theory, Model Health Emergency Health Powers Act, Security and Prosperity Partnership… to name a few), decrying his opposers as aides to the enemy.
And when the proles (I mean, the public) start to disbelieve and lose faith in “the cause”, you again “tell them they are being attacked”. You fabricate an opportunity to bolster your cause. You create another 9/11. And then you point out that it is a “stark reminder” that we live in “a dangerous world”, where we need protection from “the enemy”. Fearmongering, ladies and gents.
So what is the True State of the Union? Read 1984 to find out.
Sidenote: There are two websites related to 1984 worth checking out. First is Orwell Today, where the author attempts to document modern examples of each portion of 1984. The second (hat tip to my co-worker for pointing it out) is Students for an Orwellian Society, a satirical site documenting modern examples of Ingsoc and Big Brother’s domination.