Monday, July 03, 2006

Just say no to totalitarianism

Guest post by Betty Cracker

As George Orwell foretold, aspiring totalitarians need endless war to justify their hold on power. In Orwell's prescient novel, 1984, Big Brother relentlessly promotes this motto: War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength.

Bush, somewhat more subtle, enjoins us to wage war to spread democracy since "democracies don’t attack their neighbors" (while simultaneously proving that premise false). He asks us to surrender liberties for the sake of freedom. He excoriates the New York Times for reporting on domestic surveillance and snooping on bank records because, after all, ignorance (ours) gives us strength to fight the terrorists.

We have to trust Big Brother, you see, because we’re in mortal peril from Islamofascists every second of our lives, and only Big Brother can protect us. And if you don’t have anything to hide, why would you worry about Big Brother listening in on your phone calls, perusing your banking transactions and reading your emails?

Flip that coin over, remove the subtlety and add an even bigger heaping helping of godbaggery, and you have bin Laden. Another pious aspiring totalitarian who claims the mantle of freedom fighter, bin Laden enabled and participated in the Talibanization of Afghanistan and called the sterile, oppressive result an ideal society. With bin Laden’s avid encouragement and approval, the rulers of this ideal society replaced women with furtive lumps of cloth, outlawed music and beardlessness and the belief in anything other than a fanatical interpretation of Islam.

Big Brother bin Laden tells the Islamic world that they have to trust him because they’re in mortal peril from the forces of godlessness and Crusaders. He tells them that war is peace (god grants martyrs eternal serenity – and virgins to boot!), freedom is slavery (to a medieval ideology), and ignorance is strength (girls don’t need to know how to read; it might make them get uppity with their husbands with disastrous consequences for society).

Bush and bin Laden need each other, just as surely as Orwell’s Oceania and Eurasia/Eastasia needed each other. It’s no coincidence that bin Laden pipes up when Bush’s hold on power is imperiled. It’s no coincidence that Bush & Co. inflate the credentials of bin Laden’s minor representatives in whichever theater of war we’re currently engaged (see Zubaydah and Zarqawi). Bin Laden’s latest missives seemed designed to bolster the Bushrovian "cut and run" meme, and Bush’s words and deeds vis-a-vis the War on Terra give the imprimatur of truth to bin Laden’s lies.

So given the success of the aspirants to totalitarianism to date, are we doomed, like Orwell's luckless characters, to endless war with shifting alliances and enemies? Perhaps not. Bush and bin Laden are both tanking in the polls. There seems to be an unprecedented air of introspection in the Muslim world – a new willingness to see that despite the very real wrongs they suffered at the hands of colonizers, there are problems in their own societies that are holding them back. There appears to be a dawning realization in the US that the atrocities committed against innocent civilians on 9/11 don’t justify open-ended conflict and unchecked executive power.

Tomorrow is Independence Day. How fitting it would be if this Fourth of July heralded a new rejection of tyranny for freedom. How magnificent it would be if both sides in the trumped up Clash of Civilizations rejected the Orwellian machinations of the power grabbers and said enough is enough. How appropriate if Americans reconnected with the true tenets of liberty we once espoused and aspired again to be a beacon of freedom to banish totalitarian darkness. Just say no to totalitarianism. It's the patriotic thing to do.


Blogger Dale said...

Beautifully said, Betty, and a spirit-lifter for me as the Fourth looms.

Do I recall seeing your name on a Firedoglake comment thread recently, or was it someplace else?

>>Dale in Alabama

12:19 PM  
Anonymous Betty Cracker said...

Thanks, Dale. It probably was me. I read FDL a lot and comment occasionally.

12:35 PM  
Anonymous david said...

If you want a good scare, read Orwell's essay Second Thoughts on James Burnham. Burnham was a Trotskyite, Nazi, Stalinist, and finally neo-conservative. He was eventually awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Ronald Reagan.

And how did such a screwed up political nutbar end up being a hero to the Right? Well, he wrote the definitive attack on Liberalism that caught the eye of those disgruntled Republicans. Of course, they wouldn't want you to know how much Burnham admired Hitler, Tojo, and Stalin.

James Burnham wrote two books reviewed by George Orwell that can be seen as the inspiration for 1984. The first was The Managerial Revolution in which Burnham foresees a truly scary world run by a managerial class for a managerial class. The second book was The Machiavellians: Defenders of Freedom. If you really want to see how evil the neo-con movement is, read this book!

The truth is out there. It's just hidden by the newspeak and the doublethink of the spin doctors, MSM, and the Republican bagmen. But the skeleton in the neo-con closet is James Burnham. Check out the Orwell essay too.

5:37 PM  
Anonymous everyman said...

There is nothing to object to in your post and yet I have a sense of uneasiness in contrasting and comparing UBL and President Bush.

There appear to be three factions that are the dominating voices in support of the Adminstration:
1. Islamophobes who see this conflation as the war between Christians and Muslims allegedly foretold in Revelations.
2. Nationalists who possess an US vs THEM perspective. 'Everyone who does not support the President is a traitor' is their mantra.
3. Right wing pundits who are largely supporting the Conservative agenda. They feel obliged to support the President, and condemn the liberal, as often as possible.

President Bush and Vice President Cheney took America to war with Iraq to: 1. settle old scores 2.establish a permanent American presence in the Middle East. 3. lay claim to the largest and easiest to obtain oil reserves in the world. and 4. prevent Saddam Hussein from threatening Israel.

This War on Iraq/Terror required them to: establish a coalition of supporters in the US, prepare America for casualties on US soil, create a 'defendable' reason for war, and surveill those who would oppose their policy/actions.

I do not defend the decisions this Administration makes. I am pointing out that the measures they took in support of these decisions does not qualify as totalitarianism. Certainly stern, harsh even, but not in the same league as the Soviet Union, China, and North Korea.

There are sound reasons to be concerned about civil liberties in this age of electronic snooping. There are sound reasons to be concerned about Congress giving the President more and more power. There are sound reasons to fear the coalition of police forces in the United Sates with Federal control.

These are dangerous times for the Republic and American Democracy. However, I still do not see the rise of Totalitarianism. Perhaps I see Nationalism and Corporatism on the horizon, but it is in the distance yet.

4:27 AM  
Anonymous Betty Cracker said...

I'll check Burnham out. I'm not familiar with him or Orwell's essay on him. Thanks!

4:28 AM  
Anonymous Betty Cracker said...

Hey, Everyman. I understand what you're saying, and I didn't mean to suggest that GWB and OBL are totalitarians of the exact same magnitude. OBL achieved a level of individual control in Talibanized Afghanistan that aspiring totalitarians here can only dream of.

However, I do think we've seen creeping totalitarianism here. If you believe that elections have been stolen, basic liberties have been undermined, propaganda has been passed off as news, people have been "disappeared" and foreign policies were formulated on the basis of lies, it's hard to characterize it any other way.

Activities like these form the basis of totalitarianism and allow those in control to slowly strip away our freedom. It's not a fait accompli yet, and I hope it won't become so. But I believe the danger is there.

5:12 AM  
Anonymous everyman said...

We agree on the danger to the Republic. Today I will go the parade and honor the birth of this nation. May it live many more years despite its weakened condition.

5:38 AM  
Anonymous Noemie Maxwell said...

Thank you for hopeful words!

Let's not forget Sandra Day O'Connor's forecast of dictatorship

8:23 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would think that if one sees Nationalism and Corporatism on the horizon, even if in the distance, that should be quite alarming. That combo pretty much defines Totalitarianism. The only thing preventing such a disaster is the checks and balances that are part of our government. Is there any doubt that Bush and Cheney et-al have been trying to tip the balance completely to the executive branch? For what reason except complete control of the functions of government? To get what they want. Just because they have not completely accomplished this yet, does not mean it is not part of their agenda. The war in Iraq is only part of this equation. And a dead Bin Laden is of no long-term use to Bush/Cheney. For all I know BL is dead, but he remains quite useful to both sides no matter what the state of his de-composure.

9:07 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jihad suicide bombers do get 72 virgins in the afterlife. It works like this: in the afterlife everyone retains their physical self in spiritual form coexisting in a spiritual plane alongside reality on earth. When we die, we stay here, invisibly, able to move about, but without hunger, thirst, pain. Because none deserve wings, for long distance travel, we hop trains, planes and automobiles. We may drink water. We appropriate clothing at Good Will.

Anyway, the suicide bomber awakes to a bloody tragedy, realizes its horror and wrong, and not being able to live with the guilt may
apply for reincarnation as a chance to start over. The 72 virgins, who by the way have no sexual attraction, bid the repentent soul off. Hey, it's as likely a story as any other. Maybe God came to me in a dream or a bran muffin.

My 4th didn't start out too well. Hearing a radio spot proclaiming everlasting gratitude to our troops for their willing sacrifice to defend freedom, I wonder, are US troops actually defending freedom or imperialism? Has the interest of the military/industrial complex in the Middle East or Central America or Southeast Asia, Kansas, Kentucky or anywhere, ever been anything other than resource extraction and exploitation of cheap labor?

11:24 AM  
Anonymous david said...

Perhaps Americans can't see themselves, being within the belly of the whale, but the USA has already become a totalitarian state. Nationalism & Corporatism have combined to end democracy and freedom.

When Justice Day O'Connor warned of dictatorship she meant it was here now. There are no checks & balances. Elections are rigged; the president has qualified his support of over 700 laws he has signed; he thinks he can "interpret" the decisions of the Supreme Court when they rebuke him. If the opinion of the people, the courts, and the legislature mean nothing to this president, he is unchecked and most certainly unbalanced.

8:10 PM  
Anonymous everyman said...

I don't know what to say to those who think the current state is totalitarianism.
You are wishing for your darkest fears to be true because it certainly is not here.
The NYT is villified one year by the Left and the next year by the Right.
The President is pandering to his base, not driving their agendas.
You have totalitarianism all mangled.
The President has had his recent wants thwarted by Congress. Heck, even Hastert stood up for the first time and spoke. He is the longest running Speaker of the House and nobody even knows his name.
Even the right wing pundits are taking shots at Bush over immigration.
Not even close to totalitarianism.

Perhaps Theocracy. That is more likely than anything else.

7:26 PM  

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