Thursday, April 26, 2007

How do you create an authoritarian state out of a democracy? Easy. Ten steps.

Naomi Wolf discusses what is required to take down a democracy and replace it with an authoritarian government in the Guardian.
If you look at history, you can see that there is essentially a blueprint for turning an open society into a dictatorship. That blueprint has been used again and again in more and less bloody, more and less terrifying ways. But it is always effective. It is very difficult and arduous to create and sustain a democracy - but history shows that closing one down is much simpler. You simply have to be willing to take the 10 steps.

As difficult as this is to contemplate, it is clear, if you are willing to look, that each of these 10 steps has already been initiated today in the United States by the Bush administration. [Snip]

It is my argument that, beneath our very noses, George Bush and his administration are using time-tested tactics to close down an open society. It is time for us to be willing to think the unthinkable - as the author and political journalist Joe Conason, has put it, that it can happen here. And that we are further along than we realise.
Let me provide just an overview of her excellent article:
  1. Invoke a terrifying internal and external enemy - "war footing"; a "global war" against a "global caliphate" intending to "wipe out civilisation"; terrorists. (But terrorism is a technique of fighting, not an identifiable enemy.)

  2. Create a gulag - Guantánamo Bay; The CIA's secret gulag. Prison camps in isolated locations for "illegal immigrants."

  3. Develop a thug caste - Blackwater and other security firms deployed in New Orleans. Privately run and staffed prisons. The Republican thugs who shut down the vote recount in Miami in 2000.

  4. Set up an internal surveillance system - The secret program to wiretap citizens' phones, read their emails and follow international financial transactions; Uncontrolled National Security Letters that include a total gag order on the people who have to turn over the documents, like librarians, booksellers, income tax preparers, etc.

  5. Harass citizens' groups - Infiltrate and investigate organizations like Churches and Environmental organizations. IRS investigations to remove tax exempt status of churches that oppose Bush while giving funding to those churches that support Bush.

  6. Engage in arbitrary detention and release - The ways to get on the No-Fly list are completely arbitrary, while there are no known ways to get off. Any citizen or other person in the U.S. can be arrested, declared an “enemy combatant” and refused all access to an attorney, the courts, or habeas corpus. The federal government is not even required to tell people who inquire if you have been detains, or if so, where. This is outside the law, by definition it is arbitrary at the whim of the individual who decided to detain you.

  7. Target key individuals - The U.S. Attorneys fired in the Pearl Harbor Day Massacre are an example.

  8. Control the press - See Moyers delivers the goods. The Washington Press corps should wear hoods and sunglasses and Glenn Greenwald dissects the Bill Moyers PBS report.

  9. Dissent equals treason - "Cast dissent as "treason" and criticism as "espionage". Every closing society does this, just as it elaborates laws that increasingly criminalise certain kinds of speech and expand the definition of "spy" and "traitor"." [*]

    Just listen to Rush Limbaugh, Bill O'Reilly, Michael Savage, Ann Coulter, Michelle Malkin, and the commenters on Little Green Footballs.

  10. Suspend the rule of law - "The John Warner Defense Authorization Act of 2007 gave the president new powers over the national guard. This means that in a national emergency - which the president now has enhanced powers to declare - he can send Michigan's militia to enforce a state of emergency that he has declared in Oregon, over the objections of the state's governor and its citizens." [*]
[*] Quote from Naomi Wolf

This process of creating an authoritarian state is not a new one. It hasn't been done here in the U.S. before, but we are further down the process than we have ever been before.

The really scary part if that people just don't want to hear or to believe this is possible.

And don't bug me about the difference between an authoritarian government and "Fascism," the term used by the headline writer in the Guardian. There is no distinction that matters. None at all.

Addendum 8:37PM
Consider the above post with the summary of techniques listed above with those Bill Moyers illuminated last night in his PBS show last night and which are summarized at FireDogLake. A lot of overlap there. Why did Bush and the NeoCons really want to attack Iraq?

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