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The Noir Side
An unconscious people, an indoctrinated people, a people fed only on
partisan information and opinion that confirm their own bias, a people
morbidly obese in mind and spirit by the junk food of propaganda, is less
to put up a fight, to ask questions and be skeptical. That kind of
can kill a democracy – or worse. -Bill
Moyers, Closing address, National
Conference on Media Reform, St. Louis, Missouri, May 15, 2005
A New Way: To solve a problem one must be able to
clearly recognize it-
to see beyond the facade. American democracy has been one big
experiment in the progressive loss of freedom. People must be
empowered and entrusted to take back control over their lives.-
The American fascists are most easily recognized by
their deliberate perversion of truth
and fact. Their newspapers and propaganda carefully cultivate every
fissure of disunity,
every crack in the common front against fascism. They use every
impugn democracy. They use isolationism as a slogan to conceal their own
They cultivate hate and distrust of both Britain and Russia. They claim
to be super-patriots,
but they would destroy every liberty guaranteed by the Constitution.
They demand free
enterprise, but are the spokesmen for monopoly and vested interest.
Their final objective
toward which all their deceit is directed is to capture political power
so that, using the power
of the state and the power of the market simultaneously, they may keep
man in eternal subjection.- from
Henry A. Wallace, The Danger of American Fascism
One hundred and seventy one years ago Alexis DeTocqueville
came to America to learn more about the implications to
mankind of the democratic revolution. He wrote:
"I have undertaken, not to see
differently from others, but to look further than others, and
whilst they are busied for the morning, I have turned my
thoughts to the whole future."
One must go to the second to last
chapter of his great political commentary
America" to understand DeTocqueville's greatest warning to the
new age. The chapter is entitled,
"What Sort of Despotism
Nations Have to Fear."
What I will do here is excerpt passages from this chapter and
compare it to the age we live in and the age that is yet to
come. I will complete, if you will, his vision with things he
did not quite foresee and will show, quite simply that we have
more to fear than even DeTocqueville could imagine.
"Democracy in America," 1831
I think, then, that the species of
oppression by which democratic nations are menaced is unlike anything which ever existed
in the world: our contemporaries will find no prototype of it in their memories. I seek in
vain for an expression which will accurately convey the whole idea I have formed of it;
the old words despotism and tyranny are inappropriate: the thing itself is new, and since
I cannot name, I must attempt to define it.
I will name it after a
171 years. The word
unnamed is totalitarianism. Americans live in an unjust society. A society
that tramples on individual rights, ignores its collective
responsibility to the environment and pursues an aggressive foreign
and economic policy that has earned the fear and loathing of the
world. Democracy is not a tyranny of the majority. It is the
protection of the rights of the minority and a mechanism for peaceful
change. It must be practiced every day. We cannot rely on politicians
to make meaningful societal change- we must create it ourselves.
political and economic discourse in North America since the 1970s
leads to an inescapable conclusion: The vast bulk of legislative
activity favours the interests of large commercial enterprises. Big
business is very well off, and successive Canadian and U.S.
governments, of whatever political stripe, have made this their
primary objective for at least the past 25 years.
Digging deeper into 20th century history, one finds the exaltation of
big business at the expense of the citizen was a central
characteristic of government policy in Germany and Italy in the years
before those countries were chewed to bits and spat out by fascism.
Fascist dictatorships were borne to power in each of these countries
by big business, and they served the interests of big business with
Paul Bigioni, Fascism then. Fascism now?, Toronto Star.
The first thing that strikes the
observation is an innumerable multitude of men, all alike and equal, incessantly
endeavoring to produce the petty and paltry pleasures with which they glut their lives.
Each of them, living apart, is a stranger to the fate of all the rest,- his children and
his private friends constitute to him the whole of mankind; as for the rest of his
fellow-citizens, he is close to them, but he sees them not; he touches them, but he feels
them not; he exists but in himself and for himself alone; and if his kindred still remain
to him, he may be said at any rate to have lost his country.
"Wonder each morning how youre going to hold on till evening, each Monday how
youll make it to Saturday. Reach home without the strength to do anything but watch
TV, telling yourself youll surely die an idiot... Long to smash everything... once a
day, feel sick... because youve traded your life for a living; fear that the rage
mounting within you will die down in the end, that in the final analysis people are right
when they say: ...you can get used to anything."
this way he describes the plight of many and fulfills DeTocqueville's vision.
Above this race of men stands an immense
and tutelary power, which takes upon itself alone to secure their gratifications, and to
watch over their fate. That power is absolute, minute, regular, provident and mild. It
would be like the authority of a parent, if, like that authority, its object was to
prepare men for manhood; but it seeks, on the contrary, to keep them in perpetual
childhood: it is well content that the people should rejoice, provided they think nothing
but rejoicing. For their happiness such a government willingly labors, but it chooses to
be the sole agent and the only arbiter of that happiness; it provides for their security,
foresees and supplies their necessities, facilitates their pleasures, manages their
principle concerns, directs their industry, regulates the descent of property, and
subdivides their inheritances: what remains but to spare them all care of thinking and all
trouble of living.
Technology, including telecommunications and vast computer
networks and storage databases, all intertwined and instantly accessible to the government
and large corporations only extend the reach of the masters over their children slaves and
make individual expression and freedom more difficult by infinite degrees. Add to this,
encryption and surveillance technology such that the government has, quite literally, all
the keys. Hence any threat to the dominant power can be "neutralized"
before it achieves real power and influence. What's left?
do not forget how readily this "government" will squash individual dissent that
threatens it's true owner- the wealthy and powerful. What after all is one man alone-
a pitiful, tired creature withering on the vine- defeated and doomed to death- unable to
change a thing- a voice in the wilderness- seldom believed and often ridiculed.
They combine the principle of centralization and that
of popular sovereignty; this gives them a respite: they console themselves for being in
tutelage by the reflection that they have chosen their own guardians. Every man allows
himself to be put in leading-strings, because he sees that it is not a person or a class
of persons but the people at large, who hold the end of his chain. By this system, the
people shake off their state of dependence just long enough to select their master, and
then relapse into it again. A great many persons at the present day are quite contented
with this sort of compromise between administrative despotism and the sovereignty of the
people... This does not satisfy me: the nature of him I am to obey signifies less to me than
the fact of extorted obedience.
It is, indeed,
difficult to conceive how men who have entirely given up the habit of self-government
should succeed in making a proper choice of those by whom they are to be governed; and no
one will ever believe that a liberal, wise, and energetic government can spring from the
suffrages of a subservient people.
democracy is but a name. We vote? What does that mean? It means that we choose between two
bodies of real, though not avowed autocrats. We choose between Tweedledum and Tweedledee.
However, can we choose at all? See
the web site, Real People
for Real Change, and review the sections on Al
Gore & George
W. Bush Jr., candidates for the year 2000 Presidential
This being an election year, wonderful people,
fine tax payers...God Bless America."
for more George W. Bush Jr. quotations.
The following is attributed to
"America is great because America is good, and if America ever ceases to be good,
she will cease to be great."
I know of at least two individuals that have so "quoted" him. One is
"Christian nation" propagandist Dave Martin in his 1992 creed, "Myth of
Separation" and the other is Bill Clinton, delivering a pre-Democratic convention
speech/ video talk.
DeTocqueville NEVER WROTE THIS! And if by some remote
chance he did write this, he would never want it used out of context as a "paean to
America" or a call to religious hegemony and intolerance.
"One thing politicians do understand is rejection. When voters are
deciding how they wish to use their vote, they should ask themselves how best to send a
clear message. The Greens and other progressives are in the early building stages of a
people-first, democratic political movement for future years. They deserve our attention
because they are centering on the basic issues of representative government, one of whose
purposes is to strengthen the usable tools of democracy; the other, in Thomas Jefferson's
prophetic words, is "to curb the excesses of the monied interests."
Ralph Nader,"The Nation", July 8, 1996
I believe that it is easier to establish and absolute
and despotic government amongst a people in which conditions of society are equal, than
amongst any other; and I think that, if such a government were once established amongst
such a people, it would not only oppress men, but would eventually strip them of several
of the highest qualities of humanity. .. I should have loved freedom, I believe, at all
times, but in the time in which we live I am ready to worship it.
Why, in a period of great prosperity and economic
opportunity are men so debased in their public and private morality? From what springs
their violence, their lack of compassion, their blindness.
this, you foolish and senseless people, who have eyes but do not see, who have ears but do
Jeremiah 5:21 (English-NIV)
At the present time, an oppressed member of the
community has therefore only one method of self defense,- he may appeal to the whole
nation; and if the whole nation is deaf to his compliant, he may appeal to mankind: the
only means he has of making this appeal is by the press. Thus the liberty of the press is
infinitely more valuable amongst democratic nations than amongst all others; it is the
only cure for the evils which equality may produce.
Something analogous may be said of the judicial power. It is a part of the essence of
judicial power to attend to private interests, and to fix itself with predilection on
minute objects submitted to observation: another essential quality of judicial power is
never to volunteer its assistance to the oppressed, but always be at the disposal of the
humblest of those who solicit it; their compliant, however feeble they may themselves be,
will force itself upon the ear of justice and claim redress, for this is inherent in the
very constitution of the courts of justice.
Its crucial to keep all forms of communications free, open
and able to withstand the assaults of large corporations, special interest groups and big
government. Did Tocqueville foresee how the courts would become politicized? Did he see
the death of newspapers and the ownership of those that remain by large conglomerates
beholden more to protecting the interests of their stockholders and the current economic
regime then to printing the truth?
"Our history will be what we make it. And
if there are any historians about fifty or a hundred years
from now, and there should be preserved the kinescopes for
one week of all three networks, they will there find
recorded in black and white, or color, evidence of
decadence, escapism and insulation from the realities of
the world in which we live."-
Edward R Murrow, RTNDA Convention, Chicago, 10/15/1958
understood that the power of the federal government would be increased during threats
(real or perceived) to national security. He probably did not foresee the Cold War
or the "War on Terror" and its
knack for keeping the nation in a continual state of threat and hence allow the government
to grow even more powerful. However he understood the dangers of a protracted revolution-
a condition not entirely different from the half century Cold War. See:
Vision, Noam Chomsky, Z Magazine, December 1993
A further example of federal
usurpation of power during a national emergency is
evidenced by the passage of the
Patriot Act (USAPA) on 10/26/01 and related executive
branch actions to curtail civil liberties. See:
Liberties at Stake." Often these "emergency"
measures continue well beyond any actual and/or
"American militarism is putting an end
to the age of globalization and bankrupting the United
States, even as it creates the conditions for a new
century of virulent blowback. The Sorrows of Empire
suggests that the former American republic has already
crossed its Rubicon--with the Pentagon leading the
Sorrows of Empire: Militarism, Secrecy, and the End of
the Republic by Chalmers Johnson, Henry Holt & Company,
4/2005- From the Publisher
DeTocqueville did not totally
foresee the rise of powerful multi-national corporations
or the military-industrial complex. He could not
conceive of the destructive depths of technology-
mankind's god like power to destroy the Earth and all
"In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of
unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The
potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. We must
never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes.
We should take nothing for granted." - Farewell address by former U.S. President
(and General) Dwight Eisenhower, January 17, 1961.
did not foresee the growth of mindless and insidious
communication technologies like television. Technologies
used to infiltrate the mind and reinforce conformity and
the "natural' acceptance of false, me-to "universal"
values. Nor did he foresee mind
Manchurian Candidates and illegal
He understood that higher education would be more universal while
critical thinking and powers of observation would become rarer.
It was easy to foresee how the public imagination would be diverted to
fantasy and escapism, since it is the exercise of personal fantasy that at least provides
the illusion of power.
Did DeTocqueville predict the "shadow" government, the influence
of special interest groups and corporations that have a stranglehold on elected officials?
Elected officials who run for reelection the very day they are elected and yet remain out
of touch with their constituents. "Professional" politicians who vote
legislation based on public opinion polls. Politicians who are so cowardly they must hire
Madison Avenue to deliver their distorted, often mean-spirited message. Corporations and
wealthy individuals that peddle their influence in Washington like prostitutes. And
finally a voting populace where less than 50% vote?
Perhaps the shadow government
extends not only in the political, but also the military
a shadowy Government with its own Air Force, its own
Navy, its own fundraising mechanism, and the ability to
pursue its own ideas of national interest, free from all
checks and balances, and free from the law itself."
- Senator Daniel K. Inouye
Letter from Lincoln to (Col.) William F. Elkins, Nov. 21,
"I see in the near future a crisis
approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for
the safety of my country. As a result of the war,
corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption
in high places will follow, and the money power of the
country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon
the prejudices of the people until all wealth is
aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed. I
feel at this moment more anxiety for the safety of my
country than ever before, even in the midst of war. God
grant that my suspicions may prove groundless."
"Best Democracy Money Can Buy: An Investigative Reporter
Exposes the Truth about Globalization, Corporate Cons, and
High Finance Fraudsters," by Greg Palast
The rights of private persons amongst democratic
nations are commonly of small importance, of recent growth, and extremely precarious; the
consequence is, that they are often sacrificed without regret, and almost always without
...It is therefore most especially in
the present democratic times, that the true friends of the liberty and greatness of man
ought constantly to be on the alert, to prevent the power of government from lightly
sacrificing the private rights of individuals to the general execution of its designs. At
such times, no citizen is so obscure that it is not very dangerous to allow him to be
oppressed; no private rights are so unimportant that they can be surrendered with impunity
to the caprices of a government....To violate a right at the present day is deeply to
corrupt the manners of the nation, and to put the whole community in jeopardy, because the
very notion of this kind of right constantly tends amongst us to be impaired and lost.
of Speech on the Internet
"As the most participatory form of mass speech yet developed, the
Internet deserves the highest protection from government intrusion." Just as the
strength of the Internet is chaos, so the strength of our liberty depends upon the chaos
and cacophony of the unfettered speech the First Amendment protects."
Three judge Federal panel in Philadelphia
while considering challenges to the Communications Decency Act (CDA)
The Center for Study of Responsive Law
When Democracy Failed: The Warnings
The political world is metamorphosed: new remedies
must henceforth be sought for new disorders. To lay down extensive but distinct and
settled limits to the action of government; to confer certain rights on private persons,
and to secure them the undisputed enjoyment of those rights; to enable individual man to
maintain whatever independence, strength, and original power he still possesses; to raise
him by the society at large, and uphold him in that position,- these appear to me the main
objects of legislators in the ages upon which we are entering.
would seem as if the rulers of our time sought only to use men in order to make things
great; I wish they would try a little more to make great men; that they would set less
value on work and more upon the workman that they would never forget that a nation cannot
long remain strong when every man belonging to it is individually weak; and that no form
or combination of social polity has yet been devised to make an energetic people out of a
community of pusillanimous and enfeebled citizens.
The men who live in the democratic ages upon which we are entering
have naturally a taste for independence; they are naturally impatient of regulation, and
they are wearied by the permanence even of the condition they themselves prefer. They are
fond of power, but are prone to despise and hate those who wield it, and they easily elude
its grasp by their own mobility and insignificance.
These propensities will always manifest themselves, because they
originate in the groundwork of society, which will undergo no change: for a time they will prevent the establishment of any despotism,
and they will furnish fresh weapons to each succeeding generation which shall struggle in
favor of the liberty of the individual. Let us, then, look forward to the future with that
salutary fear which makes men keep watch and ward for freedom, not with that faint and
idle terror which depresses and enervates the heart.
The above quotations are from
"Democracy in America", by Alexis
Specially Edited and Abridged for the Modern Reader by Richard D. Heffner, published by
the New American Library, New York and Toronto, 1956.
No Longer for
"One hundred years from now, historians will have no documentation of the initial
boom that launched online media as a fundamental form of human communication."
"...This instrument can teach, it can
illuminate; yes, and it can even inspire. But it
can do so only to the extent that humans are
determined to use it to those ends. Otherwise it
is merely wires and lights in a box. There is a
great and perhaps decisive battle to be fought
against ignorance, intolerance and indifference.
This weapon of television could be useful."
Edward R Murrow, RTNDA Convention, Chicago,
Solution: We should freeze the World Wide Web on January 1, 1996, back it up, and bury the
hard disk. We should also transmit a copy of the electronic archive to the nearest solar
system that might have intelligent life."
"Bury the Web"
"Civilization is the progress toward a society of privacy. The
savage's whole existence is public, ruled by the laws of his tribe. Civilization is the
process of setting man free from men."
Ayn Rand - The
"How far can this go? Will it really be possible to construct an
international society on something like the Third World model, with islands of great
privilege in a sea of misery -- fairly large islands, in the richer countries -- and
controls of a totalitarian nature within democratic forms that increasingly become a
facade? Or will popular resistance, which must itself become internationalized to succeed,
be able to dismantle these evolving structures of violence and domination, and carry forth
the centuries-old process of expansion of freedom, justice, and democracy that is now
being aborted, even reversed? These are the large questions for the future."
Chomsky, Oct. 28, 1993