Recent riots in Britain were officially labeled criminal acts of retaliation for the police shooting of a young black man in Tottenham, a poorer area of London. But such a dramatic, countrywide response across numerous cities in England and Wales (made viral by the Internet) with participants from various social classes involved, was most certainly triggered not by that isolated event, but by growing social and economic inequities fueled further by the initiation of austerity measures (specifically, education cuts) that had already incited student and union protests from Oxford to London in the later months of 2010. On the heels of these latest riots, the UK Interior Minister met with social networking portal executives to consider measures to forestall future network-enabled ‘criminal’ acts. No sooner did the minister’s office make its recommendations in Parliament to block access to social networking sites by “perpetrators of disorder or other criminal actions,” than England received congratulations from both China and Iran, two global poster children for freedom of speech and assembly.
Back in April of this year, I referenced Chris Hedges’ use of the concept of “inverted totalitarianism” as a way of understanding the heavy but nearly invisible hand of imperial, neo-liberal democracies working quietly through a gentler language of high minded ideals, slogans, and other forms of propaganda and subtle coercion in order to still the voices of potential revolt, until (of course) it becomes necessary to act more directly, more forcefully. Then, the gloves come off, and the gentle empire will show its ugly fangs, forcibly taking control in order to maintain its hegemony (code word: “civil order”). Are we not already seeing indications of this in both the UK and the US, those models of neo-liberal democracy – the ‘once’ and the ‘current’ empire – (although Britain still sports its monarchy for effect)?
Indeed, the Obama administration, along with its policy strategist in this domain, has already signaled its first move toward Internet censorship. As I discussed in my book, Apocalypse Of The Barbarians: Inquisitions On Empire, Cass Sunstein (a.k.a. Dr. Sunny or Papa Cass), Obama’s Director of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, has already suggested infiltration and covert federal monitoring of social networking sites and other blogs that seem to present a problem, or run counter to the official, State-sponsored narrative. Sunstein dismissively calls them (or is it us) “conspiracy theorists,” as if those of us who have an alternative view of current policies as well as their prospective and most likely imminent effects – politically, economically, and ecologically – are somehow dangerously nutty kooks who need to be silenced before we can infect or incite the rest of the population. I have got news for Dr. Sunny; we are not the dangerous ones.
But, I guess we now know what Papa Cass’ “regulatory policies” are meant to regulate and police – our speech. It seems in a capitalist system, where money also is speech, it alone has the privilege of being unregulated as we recently found out. In any event, Dr. Sunny’s regulatory recommendations are not unlike the Bush policy of a “preemptive strike” against an apparent enemy (read: terrorist). These new policies represent nothing less than a preemptive strike against freedom of speech in the Homeland, practices ratcheted up a notch from the more traditional ploys – the gentler nationalistic propaganda and marketing narratives about American exceptionalism, “land of the free, home of the brave.” And what are the core tools of a totalitarian regime? They are propaganda, censorship and terror. Well, ok! Maybe we haven’t got to terror yet. But perhaps we can speak of the propaganda of terrorism, and the terror of censorship!
As the wheels continue to come off the space-shuttle of Western civilization, a.k.a. neo-liberal democratic, industrial-strength, rocket-fuel capitalism, with significant pieces of the European Union, England, and even Israel, now showing signs of falling behind in extreme discomfort and unrest, if not with early indications of social and political disintegration; and if we view these events in the light cast by revolutions and the overthrow of dictators across the Middle East and Northern Africa who have been propped up by the Western hegemony for decades, we no doubt will begin to better understand the actions we saw earlier this year in Wisconsin and elsewhere in the Homeland. And it was the students and labor unions who were again on the front lines there. Look, as well, at the arrests in DC last week over a peaceable – almost Gandhian – assembly in front of the White House, protesting an ecological nightmare, the tar-sands pipeline from Alberta Canada to Texas. Over seventy people arrested on the first day of the non-violent sit-in clearly represents a ratcheting up of control to silence and suppress free speech and assembly of the people. We will most likely see more protests and arrests in this country in the coming year, and stronger police tactics as well, particularly against our young and our restless. After all, it is they who have seen the underbelly of the beast — this enlightened worldview of ours. And it is not pretty.
Even our newly democratized neighbors to the south in Chile have been out in the streets for months now with reform demands. And less than two years into his administration, the Chilean President, Sebastián Piñera, (himself a billionaire businessman) agreed Friday to negotiate on more state funding for education and profound changes in his government. Even high school students had been making demands there as early as 2006 with the former President. When will we in the Homeland step up to the plate?
Meanwhile, what is the HuffPo talking about? Of course, they are discussing Michele Bachmann’s makeup and wardrobe. Is this what’s important to the body politic here, the appearance of things and not their substance? That is how we got stuck with Barack Obama; and that is why many, if not most here in the Homeland, continue to swallow the marketing propaganda and other lofty sounding phrases about our greatness, our Manifest Destiny, as if they meant something. It is why we continue to believe that our engineers, our bankers, and our politicians are working diligently to keep the American Dream alive, guaranteeing our future and our legacy.
Windmill farms, solar panels, clean coal, bio-fuels, deep-water drilling, nuclear, and fracking the life out of mother earth will only serve to extend the trajectory of our demise, ensuring further degradation of the planet and its natural resources in the process. But the silencing of dissent regarding the trajectory of this empire will work only if the stories are still believable by the masses. And believing that a new boss will be different than the old boss, is an ancient fairy tale that we should have overcome back in the early 70’s, if I remember correctly. The politician is not the real problem. It is the worldview and the institutions which represent its curriculum that are the problem; the legislator or President is just a symptom of its systemic disease. What an ironic joke is being played on us, folks! Good morning America. Wake up! I don’t think there is a silver lining to this cloud.