Archive for November, 2016

We Americans are the ultimate innocents. We are forever desperate to believe that this time the government is telling us the truth.”—Former New York Times reporter Sydney Schanberg

Let’s talk about fake news stories, shall we?

There’s the garden variety fake news that is not really “news” so much as it is titillating, tabloid-worthy material peddled by anyone with a Twitter account, a Facebook page and an active imagination. These stories run the gamut from the ridiculous and the obviously click-baity to the satirical and politically manipulative.

Anyone with an ounce of sense and access to the Internet should be able to ferret out the truth and lies in these stories with some basic research. That these stories flourish is largely owing to the general gullibility, laziness and media illiteracy of the general public, which through its learned compliance rarely questions, challenges or confronts.

Then there’s the more devious kind of news stories circulated by one of the biggest propagators of fake news: the U.S. government.

In the midst of the media’s sudden headline-blaring apoplexy over fake news, you won’t hear much about the government’s role in producing, planting and peddling propaganda-driven fake news—often with the help of the corporate news media—because that’s not how the game works.

Why?

Because the powers-that-be don’t want us skeptical of the government’s message or its corporate accomplices in the mainstream media. They don’t want us to be more discerning when it comes to what information we digest online. They just want us to be leery of independent or alternative news sources while trusting them—and their corporate colleagues—to vet the news for us.

Indeed, the New York Times has suggested that Facebook and Google appoint themselves the arbiters of truth on the internet in order to screen out what is blatantly false, spam or click-baity.

Not only would this establish a dangerous precedent for all-out censorship by corporate entities known for colluding with the government but it’s also a slick sleight-of-hand maneuver that diverts attention from what we should really be talking about: the fact that the government has grown dangerously out-of-control, all the while the so-called mainstream news media, which is supposed to act as a bulwark against government propaganda, has instead become the mouthpiece of the world’s largest corporation—the U.S. government.

As veteran journalist Carl Bernstein, who along with Bob Woodward blew the lid off the Watergate scandal, reported in his expansive 1977 Rolling Stone piece, “The CIA and the Media”:

“More than 400 American journalists … in the past twenty‑five years have secretly carried out assignments for the Central Intelligence Agency… There was cooperation, accommodation and overlap. Journalists provided a full range of clandestine services… Reporters shared their notebooks with the CIA. Editors shared their staffs. Some of the journalists were Pulitzer Prize winners, distinguished reporters… In many instances, CIA documents show, journalists were engaged to perform tasks for the CIA with the consent of the managements of America’s leading news organizations.”

Bernstein is referring to Operation Mockingbird, a CIA campaign started in the 1950s to plant intelligence reports among reporters at more than 25 major newspapers and wire agencies, who would then regurgitate them for a public oblivious to the fact that they were being fed government propaganda.

In some instances, as Bernstein shows, members of the media also served as extensions of the surveillance state, with reporters actually carrying out assignments for the CIA.

Executives with CBS, the New York Times and Time magazine also worked closely with the CIA to vet the news. Bernstein writes: “Other organizations which cooperated with the CIA include the American Broadcasting Company, the National Broadcasting Company, the Associated Press, United Press International, Reuters, Hearst Newspapers, Scripps‑Howard, Newsweek magazine, the Mutual Broadcasting System, the Miami Herald and the old Saturday Evening Post and New York HeraldTribune.”

For example, in August 1964, the nation’s leading newspapers—including the Washington Post and New York Times—echoed Lyndon Johnson’s claim that North Vietnam had launched a second round of attacks against American destroyers in the Gulf of Tonkin. No such attacks had taken place, and yet the damage was done. As Jeff Cohen and Norman Solomon report for Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, “By reporting official claims as absolute truths, American journalism opened the floodgates for the bloody Vietnam War.”

Fast forward to the early post-9/11 years when, despite a lack of any credible data supporting the existence of weapons of mass destruction, the mainstream media jumped on the bandwagon to sound the war drums against Iraq. As Los Angeles Times columnist Robin Abcarian put it, “our government … used its immense bully pulpit to steamroll the watchdogs… Many were gulled by access to administration insiders, or susceptible to the drumbeat of the government’s coordinated rhetoric.”

John Walcott, Washington bureau chief for Knight-Ridder, one of the only news agencies to challenge the government’s rationale for invading Iraq, suggests that the reason for the media’s easy acceptance is that “too many journalists, including some very famous ones, have surrendered their independence in order to become part of the ruling class. Journalism is, as the motto goes, speaking truth to power, not wielding it.”

If it was happening then, you can bet it’s still happening today, only it’s been reclassified, renamed and hidden behind layers of government secrecy, obfuscation and spin.

In its article, “How the American government is trying to control what you think,” the Washington Post points out, “Government agencies historically have made a habit of crossing the blurry line between informing the public and propagandizing.”

Thus, whether you’re talking about the Cold War, the Vietnam War, the Gulf War, the government’s invasion of Iraq based upon absolute fabrications, or the government’s so-called war on terror, privacy and whistleblowers, it’s being driven by propaganda churned out by one corporate machine (the corporate-controlled government) and fed to the American people by way of yet another corporate machine (the corporate-controlled media).

“For the first time in human history, there is a concerted strategy to manipulate global perception. And the mass media are operating as its compliant assistants, failing both to resist it and to expose it,” writes investigative journalist Nick Davies. “The sheer ease with which this machinery has been able to do its work reflects a creeping structural weakness which now afflicts the production of our news.”

But wait.

If the mass media—aka the mainstream media or the corporate or establishment media—is merely repeating what is being fed to it, who are the masterminds within the government responsible for this propaganda?

Davies explains:

The Pentagon has now designated “information operations” as its fifth “core competency” alongside land, sea, air and special forces. Since October 2006, every brigade, division and corps in the US military has had its own “psyop” element producing output for local media. This military activity is linked to the State Department’s campaign of “public diplomacy” which includes funding radio stations and news websites.

This use of propaganda disguised as journalism is what journalist John Pilger refers to as “invisible government… the true ruling power of our country.”

Battlefield_Cover_300As I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, we no longer have a Fourth Estate.

Not when the “news” we receive is routinely manufactured, manipulated and made-to-order by government agents. Not when six corporations control 90% of the media in America. And not when, as Davies laments, “news organizations which might otherwise have exposed the truth were themselves part of the abuse, and so they kept silent, indulging in a comic parody of misreporting, hiding the emerging scandal from their readers like a Victorian nanny covering the children’s eyes from an accident in the street.”

So let’s have no more of this handwringing, heart-wrenching, morally offended talk about fake news by media outlets that have become propagandists for the false reality created by the American government.

After all, as Glenn Greenwald points out, “The term propaganda rings melodramatic and exaggerated, but a press that—whether from fear, careerism, or conviction—uncritically recites false government claims and reports them as fact, or treats elected officials with a reverence reserved for royalty, cannot be accurately described as engaged in any other function.”

So where does that leave us?

What should—or can—we do?

I’ll close with John Pilger’s words of warning and advice:

Real information, subversive information, remains the most potent power of all — and I believe that we must not fall into the trap of believing that the media speaks for the public. That wasn’t true in Stalinist Czechoslovakia and it isn’t true of the United States. In all the years I’ve been a journalist, I’ve never known public consciousness to have risen as fast as it’s rising today…yet this growing critical public awareness is all the more remarkable when you consider the sheer scale of indoctrination, the mythology of a superior way of life, and the current manufactured state of fear.

[The public] need[s] truth, and journalists ought to be agents of truth, not the courtiers of power. I believe a fifth estate is possible, the product of a people’s movement, that monitors, deconstructs, and counters the corporate media. In every university, in every media college, in every news room, teachers of journalism, journalists themselves need to ask themselves about the part they now play in the bloodshed in the name of a bogus objectivity. Such a movement within the media could herald a perestroika of a kind that we have never known. This is all possible. Silences can be broken… In the United States wonderfully free rebellious spirits populate the web… The best reporting … appears on the web … and citizen reporters.

The challenge for the rest of us is to lift this subjugated knowledge from out of the underground and take it to ordinary people. We need to make haste. Liberal Democracy is moving toward a form of corporate dictatorship. This is an historic shift, and the media must not be allowed to be its façade, but itself made into a popular, burning issue, and subjected to direct action. That great whistleblower Tom Paine warned that if the majority of the people were denied the truth and the ideas of truth, it was time to storm what he called the Bastille of words. That time is now.

WC: 1722

Support the work of The Rutherford Institute with a tax-deductible donation today.

Support the work of The Rutherford Institute with a tax-deductible donation today.

ABOUT JOHN W. WHITEHEAD

Constitutional attorney and author John W. Whitehead is founder and president of The Rutherford Institute. His new book Battlefield America: The War on the American People (SelectBooks, 2015) is available online at http://www.amazon.com. Whitehead can be contacted at johnw@rutherford.org.

PUBLICATION GUIDELINES / REPRINT PERMISSION

John W. Whitehead’s weekly commentaries are available for publication to newspapers and web publications at no charge. Please contact staff@rutherford.org to obtain reprint permission.

Advertisements

“We must, indeed, all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.”— Benjamin Franklin, as quoted in The Works of Benjamin Franklin

Divide and conquer.

It’s one of the oldest military strategies in the books, and it’s proven to be the police state’s most effective weapon for maintaining the status quo.

How do you conquer a nation?

Distract them with football games, political circuses and Black Friday sales. Keep them focused on their differences—economic, religious, environmental, political, racial—so they can never agree on anything. And then, when they’re so divided that they are incapable of joining forces against a common threat, start picking them off one by one.

What we’re witnessing at Standing Rock, where activists have gathered to protest the Dakota Access Pipeline construction on Native American land, is just the latest incarnation of the government’s battle plan for stamping out any sparks of resistance and keeping the populace under control: battlefield tactics, military weaponry and a complete suspension of the Constitution.

Militarized police. Riot and camouflage gear. Armored vehicles. Mass arrests. Pepper spray. Tear gas. Batons. Strip searches. Drones. Less-than-lethal weapons unleashed with deadly force. Rubber bullets. Water cannons. Concussion grenades. Arrests of journalists. Intimidation tactics. Brute force.

This is what martial law looks like, when a government disregards constitutional freedoms and imposes its will through military force.

Only this is martial law without any government body having to declare it.

This is martial law packaged as law and order and sold to the public as necessary for keeping the peace.

These overreaching, heavy-handed lessons in how to rule by force have become standard operating procedure for a government that communicates with its citizenry primarily through the language of brutality, intimidation and fear.

What Americans have failed to comprehend is that the police state doesn’t differentiate.

In the eyes of the government—whether that government is helmed by Barack Obama or Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton—there is no difference between Republicans and Democrats, between blacks and whites and every shade in the middle, between Native Americans and a nation of immigrants (no matter how long we’ve been here), between the lower class and the middle and upper classes, between religious and non-religious Americans, between those who march in lockstep with the police state and those who oppose its tactics.

This is all part and parcel of the government’s plan for dealing with widespread domestic unrest, no matter the source.

2008 Army War College report revealed that “widespread civil violence inside the United States would force the defense establishment to reorient priorities in extremis to defend basic domestic order and human security.” The 44-page report goes on to warn that potential causes for such civil unrest could include another terrorist attack, “unforeseen economic collapse, loss of functioning political and legal order, purposeful domestic resistance or insurgency, pervasive public health emergencies, and catastrophic natural and human disasters.”

Subsequent reports by the Department of Homeland Security call on the government to identify, monitor and label right-wing and left-wing activists, military veterans and sovereign citizens as extremists (the words extremist and terrorist are used interchangeably in the reports).

These reports indicate that for the government, anyone seen as opposing the government—whether they’re Left, Right or somewhere in between—is labeled an extremist.

Divide and conquer.

What the government has figured out is that as long as its oppression is focused on one particular group at a time—inner city blacks, gun-toting ranchers, environmental activists, etc.—there will be no outcry from the public at large.

The liberal left will not speak up for the conservative right.

The rightwing will not speak up for the leftwing.

The economic elite will not speak up for the economically disadvantaged and vice versa.

The ranchers will not speak up for the environmentalists, and the environmentalists will not speak up for the ranchers.

The Democrats will not criticize endless wars, drone killings, militarized police, private prisons, etc., when sanctioned by their candidate. Same goes for the Republicans.

Are you starting to get the picture?

What we’re dealing with is a full-blown case of national hypocrisy.

For too long now, the American people have allowed their personal prejudices and politics to cloud their judgment and render them incapable of seeing that the treatment being doled out by the government’s lethal enforcers has remained consistent, no matter the threat.

The government’s oppressive tactics have not changed.

The same martial law maneuvers and intimidation tactics used to put down protests and muzzle journalists two years ago in Ferguson and Baltimore are being used to flat-line protesters and journalists at Standing Rock this year.

The same infiltration and surveillance of ranch activists opposing the Bureau of Land Management in Oregon and Nevada over the past several years were used against nonviolent anti-war protesters more than a decade ago. That same mindset was embodied in the use of surveillance against those who gathered for Barack Obama’s inauguration eight years ago.

The same brutality that was in full force 20-plus years ago when the government raided the Branch Davidian religious compound near Waco, Texas—targeting residents with loud music, bright lights, bulldozers, flash-bang grenades, tear gas, tanks and gunfire, and leaving 80 individuals, including two dozen children, dead—were on full display more than 50 years ago when government agents unleashed fire hoses and police dogs on civil rights protesters, children included.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

The sticking point is not whether Americans must see eye-to-eye on these varied issues but whether they can agree that no one should be treated in such a fashion by their own government.

Our greatest defense against home-grown tyranny has always been our strength in numbers as a citizenry.

America’s founders hinted at it again and again. The Declaration of Independence refers to “one people.” The preamble to the Constitution opens with those three powerful words: “We the People.” Years later, the Gettysburg Address declared that we are a “government of the people, by the people, for the people.”

Despite these stark reminders that the government exists for our benefit and was intended to serve our needs, “We the People” have yet to marshal our greatest weapon against oppression: our strength lies in our numbers.

Had 318 million Americans taken to the streets to protest the government’s SWAT team raids that left innocent children like Aiyana Jones or Baby Bou Bou dead or scarred, there would be no 80,000 SWAT team raids a year.

Had 318 million Americans raised their voices against police shootings of unarmed citizens such as Alton Sterling and Walter Scott, there would be far less use of excessive force by the police.

Had 318 million Americans stood shoulder-to-shoulder and rejected the ruling oligarchy, pork barrel legislation, profit-driven prisons, endless wars and asset forfeiture schemes, government corruption would be the exception rather than the rule.

Had 318 million Americans told the government to stop drilling through sacred Native American lands, stop spraying protesters with water cannons in below-freezing temperatures, stop using its military might to intimidate and shut down First Amendment activity, and to stop allowing Corporate America to dictate how the battle lines are drawn, there would be no Standing Rock.

Unfortunately, 318 million Americans have yet to agree on anything, especially the source of their oppression.

This is how tyrants come to power and stay in power.

Authoritarian regimes begin with incremental steps. Overcriminalization, surveillance of innocent citizens, imprisonment for nonviolent—victimless—crimes, etc. Slowly, bit by bit, the citizenry finds its freedoms being curtailed and undermined for the sake of national security.

No one speaks up for those being targeted. No one resists these minor acts of oppression. No one recognizes the indoctrination into tyranny for what it is.

Battlefield_Cover_300As I point out in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, historically this failure to speak truth to power has resulted in whole populations being conditioned to tolerate unspoken cruelty toward their fellow human beings, a bystander syndrome in which people remain silent and disengaged—mere onlookers—in the face of abject horrors and injustice.

Time has insulated us from the violence perpetrated by past regimes in their pursuit of power: the crucifixion and slaughter of innocents by the Romans, the torture of the Inquisition, the atrocities of the Nazis, the butchery of the Fascists, the bloodshed by the Communists, and the cold-blooded war machines run by the military industrial complex.

We can disassociate from such violence. We can convince ourselves that we are somehow different from the victims of government abuse. We can treat news coverage of protests such as Standing Rock and the like as just another channel to flip in our search for better entertainment. We can continue to spout empty campaign rhetoric about how great America is, despite the evidence to the contrary. We can avoid responsibility for holding the government accountable. We can zip our lips and bind our hands and shut our eyes.

In other words, we can continue to exist in a state of denial.

Whatever we do or don’t do, it won’t change the facts: the police state is here.

“There comes a time,” concluded Martin Luther King Jr., “when silence is betrayal.”

The people of Nazi Germany learned this lesson the hard way.

A German pastor who openly opposed Hitler and spent the last seven years of Nazi rule in a concentration camp, Martin Niemoller warned:

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Socialist. Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Trade Unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

The people of the American Police State will never have any hope of fighting government tyranny if we’re busy fighting each other.

When all is said and done, the only thing we really need to agree on is that we are all Americans.

So if this isn’t your fight—if you believe that authority is more important than liberty—if you don’t agree with a particular group’s position on an issue and by your silence tacitly support the treatment meted out to them—if you think you’re a better citizen or a more patriotic American—if you want to play it safe—and if don’t want to risk getting shot, tased, pepper-sprayed, struck with a baton, thrown to the ground, arrested and/or labeled an extremist—then by all means, remain silent. Stand down. Cower in the face of the police. Turn your eyes away from injustice. Find any excuse to suggest that the so-called victims of the police state deserved what they got.

But remember, when that rifle (or taser, or water cannon, or bully stick) finally gets pointed in your direction—and it will—when there’s no one left to stand up for you or speak up for you, remember that you were warned.

WC: 1845

Support the work of The Rutherford Institute with a tax-deductible donation today.

Support the work of The Rutherford Institute with a tax-deductible donation today.

ABOUT JOHN W. WHITEHEAD

Constitutional attorney and author John W. Whitehead is founder and president of The Rutherford Institute. His new book Battlefield America: The War on the American People (SelectBooks, 2015) is available online at http://www.amazon.com. Whitehead can be contacted at johnw@rutherford.org.

PUBLICATION GUIDELINES / REPRINT PERMISSION

John W. Whitehead’s weekly commentaries are available for publication to newspapers and web publications at no charge. Please contact staff@rutherford.org to obtain reprint permission.

 

“Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”—Philosopher George Santayana

Stay alert, America.

This is not the time to drop our guards, even for a moment.

Nothing has changed since the election to alter the immediate and very real dangers of roadside strip searches, government surveillance, biometric databases, citizens being treated like terrorists, imprisonments for criticizing the government, national ID cards, SWAT team raids, censorship, forcible blood draws and DNA extractions, private prisons, weaponized drones, red light cameras, tasers, active shooter drills, police misconduct and government corruption.

Time alone will tell whether those who put their hopes in a political savior will find that trust rewarded or betrayed.

Personally, I’m not holding my breath.

I’ve been down this road before.

I’ve studied history.

I know what comes next.

It’s early days yet, but President-elect Trump—like his predecessors—has already begun to dial back many of the campaign promises that pledged to reform a broken system of government.

The candidate who railed against big government and vowed to “drain the swamp” of lobbyists and special interest donors has already given lobbyists, corporate donors and members of the governmental elite starring roles in his new administration.

America, you’ve been played.

This is what happens when you play politics with matters of life, death and liberty.

You lose every time.

Unfortunately, in this instance, we all lose because of the deluded hypocrisy of the Left and the Right, both of which sanctioned the expansion of the police state as long as it was their party at the helm.

For the past eight years, the Left—stridently outspoken and adversarial while George W. Bush was president—has been unusually quiet about things like torture, endless wars, drone strikes, executive orders, government overreach and fascism.

As Glenn Greenwald points out for The Washington Post:

Beginning in his first month in office and continuing through today, Obama not only continued many of the most extreme executive-power policies he once condemned, but in many cases strengthened and extended them. His administration detained terrorism suspects without due process, proposed new frameworks to keep them locked up without trial, targeted thousands of individuals (including a U.S. citizen) for execution by drone, invoked secrecy doctrines to shield torture and eavesdropping programs from judicial review, and covertly expanded the nation’s mass electronic surveillance…

Liberals vehemently denounced these abuses during the Bush presidency… But after Obama took office, many liberals often tolerated — and even praised — his aggressive assertions of executive authority. It is hard to overstate how complete the Democrats’ about-face on these questions was once their own leader controlled the levers of power… After just three years of the Obama presidency, liberals sanctioned a system that allowed the president to imprison people without any trial or an ounce of due process.

Suddenly, with Trump in the White House for the next four years, it’s all fair game again.

As The Federalist declares with a tongue-in-cheek approach, “Dissent, executive restraint, gridlock, you name it. Now that Donald Trump will be president, stuff that used to be treason is suddenly cool again.”

Yet as Greenwald makes clear, if Trump is about to inherit vast presidential powers, he has the Democrats to thank for them.

A military empire that polices the globe. Secret courts, secret wars and secret budgets. Unconstitutional mass surveillance. Unchecked presidential power. Indefinite detention. Executive signing statements.

These are just a small sampling of the abusive powers that have been used liberally by Obama and will be used again and again by future presidents.

After all, presidents are just puppets on a string, made to dance to the tune of the powers-that-be. And the powers-that-be want war. They want totalitarianism. They want a monied oligarchy to run the show. They want bureaucracy and sprawl and government leaders that march in lockstep with their dictates. Most of all, they want a gullible, distracted, easily led populace that can be manipulated, maneuvered and made to fear whatever phantom menace the government chooses to make the bogeyman of the month.

Unless Trump does another about-face, rest assured that the policies of a Trump Administration will be no different from an Obama Administration or a Bush Administration, at least not where it really counts.

For that matter, a Clinton Administration would have been no different.

In other words, Democrats by any other name would be Republicans, and vice versa.

This is the terrible power of the shadow government: to maintain the status quo, no matter which candidate gets elected.

War will continue. Surveillance will continue. Drone killings will continue. Police shootings will continue. Highway robbery meted out by government officials will continue. Corrupt government will continue. Profit-driven prisons will continue. Censorship and persecution of anyone who criticizes the government will continue. The militarization of the police will continue. The government’s efforts to label dissidents as extremists and terrorists will continue.

In such a climate, the police state will thrive.

The more things change, the more they will stay the same.

We’ve been stuck in this political Groundhog’s Day for so long that minor deviations appear to be major developments while obscuring the fact that we’re stuck on repeat, unable to see the forest for the trees.

This is what is referred to as creeping normality, or a death by a thousand cuts.

It’s a concept invoked by Pulitzer Prize-winning scientist Jared Diamond to describe how major changes, if implemented slowly in small stages over time, can be accepted as normal without the shock and resistance that might greet a sudden upheaval.

Diamond’s concerns are environmental in nature, but they are no less relevant to our understanding of how a once-free nation could willingly bind itself with the chains of dictatorship.

Writing about Easter Island’s now-vanished civilization and the societal decline and environmental degradation that contributed to it, Diamond explains, “In just a few centuries, the people of Easter Island wiped out their forest, drove their plants and animals to extinction, and saw their complex society spiral into chaos and cannibalism… Why didn’t they look around, realize what they were doing, and stop before it was too late? What were they thinking when they cut down the last palm tree?”

His answer: “I suspect that the disaster happened not with a bang but with a whimper.”

Support the work of The Rutherford Institute with a tax-deductible donation today.

Support the work of The Rutherford Institute with a tax-deductible donation today.

Much like America’s own colonists, Easter Island’s early colonists discovered a new world—“a pristine paradise”—teeming with life. Almost 2000 years after its first settlers arrived, Easter Island was reduced to a barren graveyard by a populace so focused on their immediate needs that they failed to preserve paradise for future generations.

To quote Joni Mitchell, they paved over paradise to put up a parking lot.

In Easter Island’s case, as Diamond speculates:

The forest…vanished slowly, over decades. Perhaps war interrupted the moving teams; perhaps by the time the carvers had finished their work, the last rope snapped. In the meantime, any islander who tried to warn about the dangers of progressive deforestation would have been overridden by vested interests of carvers, bureaucrats, and chiefs, whose jobs depended on continued deforestation… The changes in forest cover from year to year would have been hard to detect… Only older people, recollecting their childhoods decades earlier, could have recognized a difference.

Sound painfully familiar yet?

Substitute Easter Island’s trees for America’s republic and the trees being decimated for our freedoms, and the arrow hits the mark.

Diamond observes, “Gradually trees became fewer, smaller, and less important. By the time the last fruit-bearing adult palm tree was cut, palms had long since ceased to be of economic significance. That left only smaller and smaller palm saplings to clear each year, along with other bushes and treelets. No one would have noticed the felling of the last small palm.

We’ve already torn down the rich forest of liberties established by our founders. They don’t teach freedom in the schools. Few Americans know their history. And even fewer seem to care that their fellow Americans are being jailed, muzzled, shot, tasered, and treated as if they have no rights at all. They don’t care, that is, until it happens to them—at which point it’s almost too late.

This is how the police state wins. This is how tyranny rises. This is how freedom falls.

A thousand cuts, each one justified or ignored or shrugged over as inconsequential enough by itself to bother. But they add up.

Battlefield_Cover_300As I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, each cut, each attempt to undermine our freedoms, each loss of some critical right—to think freely, to assemble, to speak without fear of being shamed or censored, to raise our children as we see fit, to worship or not worship as our conscience dictates, to eat what we want and love who we want, to live as we want—they add up to an immeasurable failure on the part of each and every one of us to stop the descent down that slippery slope.

It’s taken us 200 short years to destroy the freedoms our founders worked so hard to secure, and it’s happened with barely a whimper of protest from “we the people.”

So when I read about demonstrations breaking out in cities across the country and thousands taking to the streets to protest the threat of fascism from a Trump presidency, I have to wonder where were the concerns when access to Obama came easily to any special interest groups and donors willing and able to pay the admissions price?

When I see celebrities threatening to leave the country in droves, I have to ask myself, where was the outcry when the government’s efforts to transform local police into extensions of the military went into overdrive under the Obama administration?

When my newsfeed is overflowing with people wishing they could keep the Obamas in office because they are so cool, I shake my head in disgust over this “cool” president’s use of targeted drone strikes to assassinate American citizens without any due process.

When legal think tanks are threatening lawsuits over the possibility of Trump muzzling free expression, I can’t help but wonder where the outrage was over the Obama administration’s demonizing and criminalization of those who criticized the government.

And when commentators who previously dismissed as fear-mongering and hateful any comparison of the government’s tactics to Nazi Germany are suddenly comparing Trump to Hitler, I have to wonder if perhaps we’ve been living in different countries all along, because none of this is new.

Indeed, if we’re repeating history, the worst is yet to come.


About John W. Whitehead: Constitutional attorney and author John W. Whitehead is founder and president of The Rutherford Institute. His new book Battlefield America: The War on the American People (SelectBooks, 2015) is available online at http://www.amazon.com. Whitehead can be contacted at johnw@rutherford.org.

Publication Guidelines / Reprint Permission: John W. Whitehead’s weekly commentaries are available for publication to newspapers and web publications at no charge. Please contact staff@rutherford.org to obtain reprint permission.