Posts Tagged ‘Donald Trump’

“There are two ways by which the spirit of a culture may be shriveled. In the first—the Orwellian—culture becomes a prison. In the second—the Huxleyan—culture becomes a burlesque. No one needs to be reminded that our world is now marred by many prison-cultures…. it makes little difference if our wardens are inspired by right- or left-wing ideologies. The gates of the prison are equally impenetrable, surveillance equally rigorous, icon-worship pervasive…. Big Brother does not watch us, by his choice. We watch him, by ours…. When a population becomes distracted by trivia, when cultural life is redefined as a perpetual round of entertainments, when serious public conversation becomes a form of baby-talk, when, in short, a people become an audience, and their public business a vaudeville act, then a nation finds itself at risk; culture-death is a clear possibility.”— Professor Neil Postman

Donald Trump no longer needs to launch Trump TV.

He’s already the star of his own political reality show.

Americans have a voracious appetite for TV entertainment, and the Trump reality show—guest starring outraged Democrats with a newly awakened conscience for immigrants and the poor, power-hungry Republicans eager to take advantage of their return to power, and a hodgepodge of other special interest groups with dubious motives—feeds that appetite for titillating, soap opera drama.

After all, who needs the insults, narcissism and power plays that are hallmarks of reality shows such as Celebrity Apprentice or Keeping Up with the Kardashians when you can have all that and more delivered up by the likes of Donald Trump and his cohorts?

Yet as John Lennon reminds us, “nothing is real,” especially not in the world of politics.

Much like the fabricated universe in Peter Weir’s 1998 film The Truman Show, in which a man’s life is the basis for an elaborately staged television show aimed at selling products and procuring ratings, the political scene in the United States has devolved over the years into a carefully calibrated exercise in how to manipulate, polarize, propagandize and control a population.

Indeed, Donald Trump may be the smartest move yet by the powers-that-be to keep the citizenry divided and at each other’s throats, because as long as we’re busy fighting each other, we’ll never manage to present a unified front against tyranny in any form.

This is the magic of the reality TV programming that passes for politics today.

It allows us to be distracted, entertained, occasionally a little bit outraged but overall largely uninvolved, content to remain in the viewer’s seat.

The more that is beamed at us, the more inclined we are to settle back in our comfy recliners and become passive viewers rather than active participants as unsettling, frightening events unfold.

Reality and fiction merge as everything around us becomes entertainment fodder.

We don’t even have to change the channel when the subject matter becomes too monotonous. That’s taken care of for us by the programmers (the corporate media).

For instance, before we could get too worked up over government surveillance, the programmers changed the channels on us and switched us over to breaking news about militarized police. Before our outrage could be transformed into action over police misconduct, they changed the channel once again to reports of ISIS beheadings and terrorist shootings. Before we had a chance to challenge what was staged or real, the programming switched to the 2016 presidential election.

“Living is easy with eyes closed,” says Lennon, and that’s exactly what reality TV that masquerades as American politics programs the citizenry to do: navigate the world with their eyes shut.

As long as we’re viewers, we’ll never be doers.

Studies suggest that the more reality TV people watch—and I would posit that it’s all reality TV—the more difficult it becomes to distinguish between what is real and what is carefully crafted farce.

“We the people” are watching a lot of TV.

On average, Americans spend five hours a day watching television. By the time we reach age 65, we’re watching more than 50 hours of television a week, and that number increases as we get older. And reality TV programming consistently captures the largest percentage of TV watchers every season by an almost 2-1 ratio.

This doesn’t bode well for a citizenry able to sift through masterfully-produced propaganda in order to think critically about the issues of the day, whether it’s fake news peddled by government agencies or foreign entities.

Those who watch reality shows tend to view what they see as the “norm.” Thus, those who watch shows characterized by lying, aggression and meanness not only come to see such behavior as acceptable and entertaining but also mimic the medium.

This holds true whether the reality programming is about the antics of celebrities in the White House, in the board room, or in the bedroom.

It’s a phenomenon called “humilitainment.”

A term coined by media scholars Brad Waite and Sara Booker, “humilitainment” refers to the tendency for viewers to take pleasure in someone else’s humiliation, suffering and pain.

Humilitainment” largely explains not only why American TV watchers are so fixated on reality TV programming but how American citizens, largely insulated from what is really happening in the world around them by layers of technology, entertainment, and other distractions, are being programmed to accept the brutality, surveillance and dehumanizing treatment of the American police state as things happening to other people.

The ramifications for the future of civic engagement, political discourse and self-government are incredibly depressing and demoralizing.

This not only explains how a candidate like Donald Trump with a reputation for being rude, egotistical and narcissistic could get elected, but it also says a lot about how a politician like Barack Obama—whose tenure in the White House was characterized by drone killings, a weakening of the Constitution at the expense of Americans’ civil liberties, and an expansion of the police state—could be hailed as “one of the greatest presidents of all times.”

This is what happens when an entire nation—bombarded by reality TV programming, government propaganda and entertainment news—becomes systematically desensitized and acclimated to the trappings of a government that operates by fiat and speaks in a language of force.

Battlefield_Cover_300Ultimately, as I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, the reality shows, the entertainment news, the surveillance society, the militarized police, and the political spectacles have one common objective: to keep us divided, distracted, imprisoned, and incapable of taking an active role in the business of self-government.

If “we the people” feel powerless and apathetic, it is only because we have allowed ourselves to be convinced that the duties of citizenship begin and end at the ballot box.

Marching and protests have certainly been used with great success by past movements to foment real change, but if those marches and protests are merely outpourings of discontent because a particular politician won or lost with no solid plan of action or follow-through, then what’s the point?

Martin Luther King Jr. understood that politics could never be the answer to what ailed the country. That’s why he spearheaded a movement of mass-action strategy that employed boycotts, sit-ins and marches. Yet King didn’t march against a particular politician or merely to express discontent. He marched against injustice, government corruption, war, and inequality, and he leveraged discontent with the status quo into an activist movement that transformed the face of America.

When all is said and done, it won’t matter who you voted for in the presidential election. What will matter is where you stand in the face of the injustices that continue to ravage our nation: the endless wars, the police shootings, the overcriminalization, the corruption, the graft, the roadside strip searches, the private prisons, the surveillance state, etc.

Will you tune out the reality TV show and join with your fellow citizens to push back against the real menace of the police state, or will you merely sit back and lose yourself in the political programming aimed at keeping you imprisoned in the police state?

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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.

 

“This light of history is pitiless; it has a strange and divine quality that, luminous as it is, and precisely because it is luminous, often casts a shadow just where we saw a radiance; out of the same man it makes two different phantoms, and the one attacks and punishes the other, the darkness of the despot struggles with the splendor of the captain. Hence a truer measure in the final judgment of the nations. Babylon violated diminishes Alexander; Rome enslaved diminishes Caesar; massacred Jerusalem diminishes Titus. Tyranny follows the tyrant. Woe to the man who leaves behind a shadow that bears his form.” ― Victor Hugo, Les Misérables

Let’s talk about President Obama’s legacy, shall we?

This was a candidate who was ushered into office promising hope and change, pledging to put an end to the endless wars that were bankrupting the country (he was actually awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in anticipation of his efforts to bring about world peace), and vowing to put an end of the corporate revolving door that had turned our republic into an oligarchy.

After eight years in office, Barack Obama leaves our nation with a weakened Constitution that has been dealt one crippling blow after another by court rulings and government overreach, with more militarized police empowered to shoot first and ask questions later, with more SWAT team raids, with more government corruption, with more debt than ever before ($19 trillion and rising), with more racial tensions bubbling over into confrontations, with even greater surveillance intruding into the privacy of the citizenry, with less tolerance for free speech and thought, with taxpayers groaning under the weight of even more taxes disguised as fines and fees, with a more “imperial” president empowered to act unilaterally through the use of signing statements and executive orders, with a greater risk of blowback from military occupations, drone strikes and endless wars abroad, and with a citizenry more broken and oppressed than ever.

In other words, Obama leaves our nation worse off than when he took office.

You won’t hear any of this from Obama, who believes he would have been re-elected had he been permitted to run for a third term. Nor will you hear it from the celebrities who are quick to sing Obama’s praises, while likening Donald Trump to Hitler. And you certainly won’t hear it from those who are staging sit-ins, marches and acts of civil disobedience to protest Trump’s election, while having failed to voice even a whisper of protest over Obama’s long list of civil liberties abuses.

Yet the reality we must contend with is that the world is a far more dangerous place today than it was eight years ago, and Obama must shoulder some of the blame for that. As President Harry S. Truman recognized, “The buck stops here.”

How did we come to this?

How did a politician who showed such potential and managed to ignite such positive feelings among the citizenry, young and old alike, go from being a poster child for hope and change to being the smiling face of a government that is blind, deaf and dumb to the needs of its citizens?

Let me answer my own question in a roundabout way by quoting something Meryl Streep said recently in her recent Golden Globe acceptance speech.

Ostensibly taking aim at Trump for imitating a disabled reporter, Streep declared: “This instinct to humiliate, when it’s modeled by someone in the public platform, by someone powerful, it filters down into everybody’s life, because it kind of gives permission for other people to do the same thing. Disrespect invites disrespect. Violence incites violence. And when the powerful use their position to bully others, we all lose.”

Streep is right in one sense.

We all lose when the powerful inflict violence, humiliation, disrespect on others.

However, where Streep goes wrong is in failing to recognize that “we the people” have been on the losing end of this relationship long before Trump’s name was even being batted about as a possible candidate for the White House.

Indeed, the agents of the Obama administration—many of whom belong to that permanent government bureaucracy that is unaltered by elections and flows in a continuous line from one president to another—have been consistently and persistently inflicting violence, humiliation and disrespect on the citizenry for the past eight years.

Every time a SWAT team funded by government grants crashes through a door, that’s an infliction of violence. Every drone strike that kills innocent civilians is inflicting violence on the less powerful. Every roadside stop that ends with an unwarranted strip search is inflicting humiliation on the less powerful. Every law that criminalizes the speech or activities of those whose views may not jibe with the mainstream is tantamount to government-sanctioned bullying.

So for those lamenting the perils of a Trump presidency, who have been quick to blame racism, sexism and even the Russians for Trump’s electoral victory, you might want to consider the old Native American proverb that says “every time you point a finger in scorn—there are three remaining fingers pointing right back at you.”

As civil rights activist Cornel West concluded, “The reign of Obama did not produce the nightmare of Donald Trump – but it did contribute to it. And those Obama cheerleaders who refused to make him accountable bear some responsibility.”

West goes on to document the many missteps that contributed to Obama’s failed legacy: his allegiance to Wall Street, the drone strikes that have killed innocent civilians, the demonization of whistleblowers, the killing of U.S. citizens without due process, and his refusal to hold police accountable for excessive force and civil rights violations among others.

As West writes for The Guardian:

“[T]he mainstream media and academia failed to highlight these painful truths linked to Obama. Instead, most well-paid pundits on TV and radio celebrated the Obama brand. And most black spokespeople shamelessly defended Obama’s silences and crimes in the name of racial symbolism and their own careerism. How hypocritical to see them now speak truth to white power when most went mute in the face of black power. Their moral authority is weak and their newfound militancy is shallow.”Battlefield_Cover_300

Let me also say that this is not only an indictment of all that Obama has failed to do in the past eight years. It is also an indictment of those administrations prior to Obama, Democrat and Republican alike, which have contributed to our present sorry state of affairs. And it is a warning to Trump as he begins to carve out a path for his own administration.

Every time I write one of these diatribes about the government, I’m always asked “what can I do to push back against the government?”

My answer, which I flesh out in greater detail in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, is always the same: When all is said and done, politicians are only as effective, trustworthy and accountable as they are made to be. And they are only made to be effective, trustworthy and accountable when the citizenry stays engaged, informed and active in the workings of government.

One of the best models I know for a citizen who took the duties of citizenship to heart every moment of the day was my good friend, mentor and hero Nat Hentoff—one of the nation’s most respected, controversial and uncompromising writers and a lifelong champion of the First Amendment—who passed away on Saturday, January 7, 2017, at the age of 91.

Nat was a radical in the best sense of the word, a feisty, fiercely loyal, inveterate freedom fighter and warrior journalist with a deep-seated intolerance of injustice and a love of America that weathered the best and worst this nation has had to offer.

Nat didn’t live to see the last days of Obama’s reign, but he saw enough to describe the nation’s 44th president as “possibly the most dangerous and destructive president we have ever had.” A few years back, I asked Nat how he maintains his optimism in the face of the constant barrage of discouraging news about government corruption, civil liberties abuses, war, etc.

I’ll end with Nat’s answer as he inscribed it in the foreword to my book A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State:

Government officials like to claim that everything they are doing is for security, to keep America safe in the so-called war against terrorism. What they are really effectuating is a weakening of why we are Americans. A lot of Americans today have a very limited idea as to why they are Americans, let alone why we have a First Amendment or a Bill of Rights. People are becoming accustomed or conditioned to what’s going on now with the raping of the Fourth Amendment, for example. Too many Americans appear unconcerned about the loss of fundamental individual liberties—such as due process, the right to confront their government accusers in a courtroom, and the presumption of innocence—that are vital to being an American.  Yet the reason we are vulnerable to being manipulated by the government out of fear is that most of us do not know and understand our liberties and how difficult it was to obtain them and how hard it is to keep them.

I have spent a lot of time studying our Founders and people like Samuel Adams. What Adams and the Sons of Liberty did in Boston was spread the word about the abuses of the British. They had Committees of Correspondence that got the word out to the colonies. We need Committees of Correspondence now. The danger we now face is admittedly greater than any we have had before. If I were to judge what I do and write on the basis of optimism, I would probably go back to writing novels, but I figure you have to do what you feel you have to do and just keep hoping and trying to get people to understand why we are Americans and what we are fighting to preserve.

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

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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.

“I have all the characteristics of a human being: blood, flesh, skin, hair; but not a single, clear, identifiable emotion, except for greed and disgust. Something horrible is happening inside of me and I don’t know why. My nightly bloodlust has overflown into my days. I feel lethal, on the verge of frenzy. I think my mask of sanity is about to slip.”—Patrick Bateman in American Psycho

When it comes to sexual predators, there should be no political bright line test to determine who gets a free pass and who goes to jail based on which candidate is better suited for office.

Yet almost 20 years after Bill Clinton became the first and only sitting president to be sued for sexual harassment and impeached for lying under oath about his sexual escapades while in office, the Left and the Right are still playing politics with women’s rights.

I should know.

As one of Paula Jones’ lawyers in her sexual harassment lawsuit against Bill Clinton (Hillary Clinton infamously and erroneously accused me of being part of a “vast right-wing conspiracy”), I saw first-hand how quickly Hillary Clinton and the nation’s leading women’s rights groups demonized any woman who dared to accuse Bill Clinton of sexual misconduct while turning a blind eye to a long list of incidents involving groping, propositioning, and pressuring women for sexual favors.

Trust me, it was a very long list.

As journalist Marjorie Williams documented in “Clinton and Women” for Vanity Fair:

“The man in question [Bill Clinton] has been sued for sexual harassment over an episode that allegedly included dropping his trousers to waggle his erect penis at a woman who held a $6.35-an-hour clerical job in the state government over which he presided. Another woman has charged that when she asked him for a job he invited her into his private office, fondled her breasts, and placed her hand on his crotch. A third woman confided to friends that when she was a 21-year-old intern she began an affair with the man… Actually, it was less an affair than a service contract, in which she allegedly dashed into his office, when summoned, to perform oral sex on him… Let us not even mention the former lover who was steered to a state job; or the law-enforcement officers who say the man used them to solicit sexual partners for him; or his routine use of staff members, lawyers, and private investigators to tar the reputation of any woman who tries to call him to account for his actions.”

I also witnessed first-hand the hypocrisy of the Religious Right, which was eager to stand in judgment over Clinton for his marital infidelity, while at the same time turning a blind eye to the indiscretions of other conservative politicians in their midst.

Fast forward 20 years, and the women’s rights groups that were silent when Bill Clinton was being outed as a sexual predator have suddenly found their voice and their outrage in the face of accusations that Donald Trump groped and kissed women without their consent. Likewise, the religious groups that were aghast over Clinton’s sexual immorality have somehow created a sliding scale of sin that allows them to absolve Trump of his own indiscretions.

It’s like being in the Twilight Zone.

Only instead of Rod Serling’s imaginary “land of both shadow and substance, of things and ideas,” we’re trapped in an all-too-real land of politics and lies, where freedom and integrity play second fiddle to ambition and greed.

Nothing is real.

This year’s presidential contest and its candidates have, through their double-talking and lies, pulled back the curtain to reveal that what we see is all part of an elaborate hoax, a cruel game where “we the people” are just pawns to be used, abused, discarded and demonized when convenient.

Consider if you will: Bill Clinton was accused of using various and sundry women for sex. For years, he lied about his affairs and accused his accusers of smear campaigns. Only when caught red-handed, did he finally admit—sort of—to having sexual relations with certain women. At no time did he ever apologize for abusing his authority and disrespecting women.

Trump not only is accused of making sexual advances on various women, but he also used Clinton’s sexual victims to score points off Hillary.

And Hillary, in turn, has used and abused both Clinton and Trump’s sexual victims in order to advance her own political ambitions.

As Melinda Henneberger and Dahlia Lithwick wrote for Slate back in 2008:

Hillary Clinton the candidate has largely benefited from her husband’s extracurricular activities… Sure, her husband’s behavior has humiliated her. But she has also helped him humiliate the women he’s been involved with… One of the most troubling things about Hillary Clinton is that she is never above cashing in on [the politics of victimization].

Are you starting to get it yet?

All this talk about sexual predators is just so much political maneuvering to score points off one another. Neither Hillary Clinton nor Donald Trump care one whit about the victims of sexual harassment.

Frankly, they don’t seem to care much about the rest of the populace, either.

For all intents and purposes, we’re all victims of a perverse, perverted, psychotic mindset that views the citizenry as lesser beings: lacking in value, unworthy of respect, and completely undeserving of the legal rights and protections that should be afforded to all Americans.

In the eyes of Bill, Hillary, Donald and the powers-that-be, we’re all little more than “bimbos,” “trailer trash,” “nuts and sluts,” “loony toons,” “fat pigs, dogs, slobs and disgusting animals.”

In other words, we’re all Paula Jones. And Gennifer Flowers. And Juanita Broaddrick.  And Kathleen Willey. And Eileen Wellstone. And Cristy Zercher. And Connie Hamzy. And Monica Lewinsky. For that matter, we’re all Jill Harth. AndCassandra Searles. And Jessica Leeds. And Kristin Anderson, too

This is what happens when politics is allowed to trump principle: “we the people” lose.

The women’s movement lost when it chose politics over principle, then and now.

Women have been suffering because of that choice ever since. As feminist Jessica Valenti acknowledged in theWashington Post, “For women in America, equality is still an illusion. We’re basking in a ‘girl power’ moment that doesn’t exist—it’s a mirage of equality that we’ve been duped into believing is the real thing. Because despite the indisputable gains over the years, women are still being raped, trafficked, violated and discriminated against—not just in the rest of the world, but here in the United States… It’s time to stop fooling ourselves. For all our ‘empowered’ rhetoric, women in this country aren’t doing nearly as well as we’d like to think.”

The Religious Right lost when it chose politics over principle, then and now.

By compromising their values, they have made themselves completely irrelevant in matters of public policy. “As an organized and potent force in national politics, the Christian right has faded into nothingness,” policy analyst Paul Waldman concluded for the Washington Post. “It now exists for nothing more than to be patted on the head and sent on its way with an encouragement to vote in November.”

The media—through its careful crafting of news stories to advance one politician over another—chose politics over principle, then and now. Barring a few exceptions, they have become little more than mouthpieces for the corporate elite.

The citizenry is faced with a choice right now: to be distracted by mudslinging and circus politics or to forge a new path for the nation that rejects politics in favor of locally-based, transformative grassroots activism.

“Perhaps you think that by voting at least you’re doing your small part, making your small contribution. But contributing toward what?” asks commentator Dan Sanchez.

Sanchez continues:

Candidates are package deals. Any candidate will violate the rights of some, even if they respect or defend the rights of others. Objectors say it’s about going in the general right direction, making choices out of which the good outweighs the bad, that do a net amount of good, that is good “on balance.” But that is collectivist speak. There is no “good on balance” for the people whose lives are run over by the candidate you empowered: for the child who is bombed by Hillary’s foreign policy, for the man who is shot by Trump’s police state, or the people Gary Johnson and Bill Weld kept in cages when they were governors.

Sanchez is right: the act of voting is indeed futile.

Voting in this political climate merely advances the agenda of the police state and affirms the government’s pillaging, raping, killing, bombing, stealing, shooting and many acts of tyranny and injustice.

Mark my words: no matter who wins this election, the predators of the police state will continue to wreak havoc on our freedoms, our communities, and our lives.

After all, police officers are still shooting unarmed citizens. Government agents—including local police—are still being armed to the teeth and encouraged to act like soldiers on a battlefield. Bloated government agencies are still fleecing taxpayers. Government technicians are still spying on our emails and phone calls. And government contractors are still making a killing by jailing Americans for profit and waging endless wars abroad.

Are any of these issues being discussed right now? Not a single one.

It boggles the mind.

How is it possible that out of 318 million Americans in this country, we have been saddled with two candidates whose personal baggage and troubled histories make them utterly unfit for office anywhere but in the American police state?

We need to stop being victimized by these political predators.

Battlefield_Cover_300As I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, I’m not just talking about the ones running for office, but the ones who are running the show behind the scenes—the shadow government—comprised of unelected government bureaucrats whose powers are unaffected by elections, unaltered by populist movements, and beyond the reach of the law.

Stop voting for their puppet candidates. Stop tolerating their long list of abuses. Stop making excuses for a system that long ago ceased to be legitimate. Most of all, stop playing by their rules and make them start playing by ours.

My fear is that we are nearing the point of no return.

“We the people”—men and women alike— have been victims of the police state for so long that not many Americans even remember what it is to be truly free anymore. Worse, few want to shoulder the responsibility that goes along with maintaining freedom.

Yet as John Adams warned, “A government once changed from Freedom, can never be restored. Liberty, once lost, is lost forever.

There is no way to erase the scars left by the government’s greed for money and power, its disregard for human life, its corruption and graft, its pollution of the environment, its reliance on excessive force in order to ensure compliance, its covert activities, its illegal surveillance, and its blatant disdain for the rule of law.

Still, we can forge a new path.

There is so much work to be done in order to right what is wrong with our nation, and there is so little time to fix what has been broken.

Let’s not waste any more time on predator politics. Let’s get to work.

“The people who cast the votes decide nothing. The people who count the votes decide everything.”—Joseph Stalin, dictator of the Soviet Union

No, America, you don’t have to vote.

In fact, vote or don’t vote, the police state will continue to trample us underfoot.

Devil or deliverer, the candidate who wins the White House has already made a Faustian bargain to keep the police state in power. It’s no longer a question of which party will usher in totalitarianism but when the final hammer will fall.

Sure we’re being given choices, but the differences between the candidates are purely cosmetic ones, lacking any real nutritional value for the nation. We’re being served a poisoned feast whose aftereffects will leave us in turmoil for years to come.

We’ve been here before.

Remember Barack Obama, the young candidate who campaigned on a message of hope, change and transparency, and promised an end to war and surveillance?

Look how well that turned out.

Under Obama, government whistleblowers are routinely prosecuted, U.S. arms sales have skyrocketed, police militarization has accelerated, and surveillance has become widespread. The U.S. government is literally arming the world, while bombing the heck out of the planet. And while they’re at it, the government is bringing the wars abroad home, transforming American communities into shell-shocked battlefields where the Constitution provides little in the way of protection.

Yes, we’re worse off now than we were eight years ago.

We’re being subjected to more government surveillance, more police abuse, more SWAT team raids, more roadside strip searches, more censorship, more prison time, more egregious laws, more endless wars, more invasive technology, more militarization, more injustice, more corruption, more cronyism, more graft, more lies, and more of everything that has turned the American dream into the American nightmare.

What we’re not getting more of: elected officials who actually represent us.

The American people are being guilted, bullied, pressured, cajoled, intimidated, terrorized and browbeaten into voting. We’re constantly told to vote because it’s your so-called civic duty, because you have no right to complain about the government unless you vote, because every vote counts, because we must present a unified front, because the future of the nation depends on it, because God compels us to do so, because by not voting you are in fact voting, because the “other” candidate must be defeated at all costs, or because the future of the Supreme Court rests in the balance.

Nothing in the Constitution requires that you vote.

You are under no moral obligation to vote for the lesser of two evils. Indeed, voting for a lesser evil is still voting for evil.

Whether or not you cast your vote in this year’s presidential election, you have every right to kvetch, complain and criticize the government when it falls short of your expectations. After all, you are overtaxed so the government can continue to operate corruptly.

If you want to boo, boycott, picket, protest and altogether reject a corrupt political system that has failed you abysmally, more power to you. I’ll take an irate, engaged, informed, outraged American any day over an apathetic, constitutionally illiterate citizenry that is content to be diverted, distracted and directed.

Whether you vote or don’t vote doesn’t really matter.

What matters is what else you’re doing to push back against government incompetence, abuse, corruption, graft, fraud and cronyism.

Don’t be fooled into thinking that the only road to reform is through the ballot box.

After all, there is more to citizenship than the act of casting a ballot for someone who, once elected, will march in lockstep with the dictates of the powers-that-be. Yet as long as Americans are content to let politicians, war hawks and Corporate America run the country, the police state will prevail, no matter which candidate wins on Election Day.

In other words, it doesn’t matter who sits in the White House, who controls the two houses of Congress, or who gets appointed to the Supreme Court: only those who are prepared to cozy up to the powers-that-be will have any real impact.

As Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Chris Hedges points out:

The predatory financial institutions on Wall Street will trash the economy and loot the U.S. Treasury on the way to another economic collapse whether Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton is president. Poor, unarmed people of color will be gunned down in the streets of our cities whether Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton is president. The system of neoslavery in our prisons, where we keep poor men and poor women of color in cages because we have taken from them the possibility of employment, education and dignity, will be maintained whether Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton is president. Millions of undocumented people will be deported whether Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton is president. Austerity programs will cut or abolish public services, further decay the infrastructure and curtail social programs whether Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton is president. Money will replace the vote whether Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton is president. And half the country, which now lives in poverty, will remain in misery whether Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton becomes president. This is not speculation. We know this because there has been total continuity on every issue, from trade agreements to war to mass deportations, between the Bush administration and the administration of Barack Obama.

In other words, voting is not the answer.

Battlefield_Cover_300As I document in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, the nation is firmly under the control of a monied oligarchy guarded by a standing army (a.k.a., militarized police. It is an invisible dictatorship, of sorts, one that is unaffected by the vagaries of party politics and which cannot be overthrown by way of the ballot box.

Total continuity” is how Hedges refers to the manner in which the government’s agenda remains unchanged no matter who occupies the Executive Branch. “Continuity of government” (COG) is the phrase policy wonks use to refer to the unelected individuals who have been appointed to run the government in the event of a “catastrophe.” You can also refer to it as a shadow government, or the Deep State, which is comprised of unelected government bureaucrats, corporations, contractors, paper-pushers, and button-pushers who actually call the shots behind the scenes.

Whatever term you use, the upshot remains the same: on the national level, we’re up against an immoveable, intractable, entrenched force that is greater than any one politician or party, whose tentacles reach deep into every sector imaginable, from Wall Street, the military and the courts to the technology giants, entertainment, healthcare and the media.

This is no Goliath to be felled by a simple stone.

This is a Leviathan disguised as a political savior.

So how do we prevail against the tyrant who says all the right things and does none of them? How do we overcome the despot whose promises fade with the spotlights? How do we conquer the dictator whose benevolence is all for show?

We get organized. We get educated. We get active.

If you feel led to vote, fine, but if all you do is vote, “we the people” are going to lose.

If you abstain from voting and still do nothing, “we the people” are going to lose.

If you give your proxy to some third-party individual or group to fix what’s wrong with the country and that’s all you do, then “we the people” are going to lose.

If, however, you’re prepared to shake off the doldrums, wipe the sleep out of your eyes, turn off the television, tune out the talking heads, untether yourself from whatever piece of technology you’re affixed to, wean yourself off the teat of the nanny state, and start flexing those unused civic muscles, then there might be hope for us all.

For starters, get back to basics. Get to know your neighbors, your community, and your local officials. This is the first line of defense when it comes to securing your base: fortifying your immediate lines.

Second, understand your rights. Know how your local government is structured. Who serves on your city council and school boards? Who runs your local jail: has it been coopted by private contractors? What recourse does the community have to voice concerns about local problems or disagree with decisions by government officials?

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

Third, know the people you’re entrusting with your local government. Are your police chiefs being promoted from within your community? Are your locally elected officials accessible and, equally important, are they open to what you have to say? Who runs your local media? Does your newspaper report on local events? Who are your judges? Are their judgments fair and impartial? How are prisoners being treated in your local jails?

Finally, don’t get so trusting and comfortable that you stop doing the hard work of holding your government accountable. We’ve drifted a long way from the local government structures that provided the basis for freedom described by Alexis de Tocqueville in Democracy in America, but we are not so far gone that we can’t reclaim some of its vital components.

As an article in The Federalist points out:

Local government is fundamental not so much because it’s a “laboratory” of democracy but because it’s a school of democracy. Through such accountable and democratic government, Americans learn to be democratic citizens. They learn to be involved in the common good. They learn to take charge of their own affairs, as a community. Tocqueville writes that it’s because of local democracy that Americans can make state and Federal democracy work—by learning, in their bones, to expect and demand accountability from public officials and to be involved in public issues.

To put it another way, think nationally but act locally.

There is still a lot Americans can do to topple the police state tyrants, but any revolution that has any hope of succeeding needs to be prepared to reform the system from the bottom up. And that will mean re-learning step by painful step what it actually means to be a government of the people, by the people and for the people.

“We’ve got to face it. Politics have entered a new stage, the television stage. Instead of long-winded public debates, the people want capsule slogans—‘Time for a change’—‘The mess in Washington’—‘More bang for a buck’—punch lines and glamour.”— A Face in the Crowd (1957)

Politics is entertainment.

It is a heavily scripted, tightly choreographed, star-studded, ratings-driven, mass-marketed, costly exercise in how to sell a product—in this case, a presidential candidate—to dazzled consumers who will choose image over substance almost every time.

This year’s presidential election, much like every other election in recent years, is what historian Daniel Boorstin referred to as a “pseudo-event”: manufactured, contrived, confected and devoid of any intrinsic value save the value of being advertised. It is the end result of a culture that is moving away from substance toward sensationalism in an era of mass media.

As author Noam Chomsky rightly observed, “It is important to bear in mind that political campaigns are designed by the same people who sell toothpaste and cars.” In other words, we’re being sold a carefully crafted product by a monied elite who are masters in the art of making the public believe that they need exactly what is being sold to them, whether it’s the latest high-tech gadget, the hottest toy, or the most charismatic politician.

Tune into a political convention and you will find yourself being sucked into an alternate reality so glossy, star-studded, emotionally charged and entertaining as to make you forget that you live in a police state. The elaborate stage show, the costumes, the actors, the screenplay, the lighting, the music, the drama: all carefully calibrated to appeal to the public’s need for bread and circuses, diversion and entertainment, and pomp and circumstance.

Politics is a reality show, America’s favorite form of entertainment, dominated by money and profit, imagery and spin, hype and personality and guaranteed to ensure that nothing in the way of real truth reaches the populace.

After all, who cares about police shootings, drone killings, SWAT team raids, asset forfeiture schemes, private prisons, school-to-prison pipelines, overcriminalization, censorship or any of the other evils that plague our nation when you can listen to the croonings of Paul Simon, laugh along with Sarah Silverman, and get misty-eyed over the First Lady’s vision of progress in America.

But make no mistake: Americans only think they’re choosing the next president.

In truth, however, they’re engaging in the illusion of participation culminating in the reassurance ritual of voting. It’s just another Blue Pill, a manufactured reality conjured up by the matrix in order to keep the populace compliant and convinced that their vote counts and that they still have some influence over the political process.

Stop drinking the Kool-Aid, America.

The nation is drowning in debt, crippled by a slowing economy, overrun by militarized police, swarming with surveillance, besieged by endless wars and a military industrial complex intent on starting new ones, and riddled with corrupt politicians at every level of government. All the while, we’re arguing over which corporate puppet will be given the honor of stealing our money, invading our privacy, abusing our trust, undermining our freedoms, and shackling us with debt and misery for years to come.

Nothing taking place on Election Day will alleviate the suffering of the American people.

The government as we have come to know it—corrupt, bloated and controlled by big-money corporations, lobbyists and special interest groups—will remain unchanged. And “we the people”—overtaxed, overpoliced, overburdened by big government, underrepresented by those who should speak for us and blissfully ignorant of the prison walls closing in on us—will continue to trudge along a path of misery.

With roughly 22 lobbyists per Congressman, corporate greed will continue to call the shots in the nation’s capital, while our elected representatives will grow richer and the people poorer. And elections will continue to be driven by war chests and corporate benefactors rather than such values as honesty, integrity and public service. Just consider: it’s estimated that more than $5 billion will be spent on the elections this year, yet not a dime of that money will actually help the average American in their day-to-day struggles to just get by.

And the military industrial complex will continue to bleed us dry. Since 2001 Americans have spent $10.5 million every hour for numerous foreign military occupations, including in Iraq and Afghanistan. There’s also the $2.2 million spent every hour on maintaining the United States’ nuclear stockpile, and the $35,000 spent every hour to produce and maintain our collection of Tomahawk missiles. And then there’s the money the government exports to other countries to support their arsenals, at the cost of $1.61 million every hour for the American taxpayers.

Then again, when faced with the grim, seemingly hopeless reality of the American police state, it’s understandable why Americans might opt for escapism. “Humankind cannot bear too much reality,” T. S. Eliot once said. Perhaps that is one reason we are so drawn to the unreality of the American political experience: it is spectacle and fiction and farce all rolled up into one glossy dose of escapism.

Frankly, escapism or not, Americans should be mad as hell.

Many of our politicians live like kings. Chauffeured around in limousines, flying in private jets and eating gourmet meals, all paid for by the American taxpayer, they are far removed from those they represent. Such a luxurious lifestyle makes it difficult to identify with the “little guy”—the roofers, plumbers and blue-collar workers who live from paycheck to paycheck and keep the country running with their hard-earned dollars and the sweat of their brows.

Conveniently, politicians only seem to remember their constituents in the months leading up to an election, and yet “we the people” continue to take the abuse, the neglect, the corruption and the lies. We make excuses for the shoddy treatment, we cover up for them when they cheat on us, and we keep hoping that if we just stick with them long enough, eventually they’ll treat us right.

People get the government they deserve.

No matter who wins the presidential election come November, it’s a sure bet that the losers will be the American people.

As political science professor Gene Sharp notes in starker terms, “Dictators are not in the business of allowing elections that could remove them from their thrones.” As I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, the Establishment—the shadow government and its corporate partners that really run the show, pull the strings and dictate the policies, no matter who occupies the Oval Office—are not going to allow anyone to take office who will unravel their power structures. Those who have attempted to do so in the past have been effectively put out of commission.

So what is the solution to this blatant display of imperial elitism disguising itself as a populist exercise in representative government?

Stop playing the game. Stop supporting the system. Stop defending the insanity. Just stop.

Washington thrives on money, so stop giving them your money. Stop throwing your hard-earned dollars away on politicians and Super PACs who view you as nothing more than a means to an end. There are countless worthy grassroots organizations and nonprofits working in your community to address real needs like injustice, poverty, homelessness, etc. Support them and you’ll see change you really can believe in in your own backyard.

Battlefield_Cover_300Politicians depend on votes, so stop giving them your vote unless they have a proven track record of listening to their constituents, abiding by their wishes and working hard to earn and keep their trust.

Stop buying into the lie that your vote matters. Your vote doesn’t elect a president. Despite the fact that there are 218 million eligible voters in this country (only half of whom actually vote), it is the electoral college, made up of 538 individuals handpicked by the candidates’ respective parties, that actually selects the next president. The only thing you’re accomplishing by taking part in the “reassurance ritual” of voting is sustaining the illusion that we have a democratic republic. What we have is a dictatorship, or as political scientists Martin Gilens and Benjamin Page more accurately term it, we are suffering from an “economic élite domination.”

A healthy, representative government is hard work. It takes a citizenry that is informed about the issues, educated about how the government operates, and willing to make the sacrifices necessary to stay involved, whether that means forgoing Monday night football in order to attend a city council meeting or risking arrest by picketing in front of a politician’s office.

It takes a citizenry willing to do more than grouse and complain. We must act—and act responsibly—keeping in mind that the duties of citizenship extend beyond the act of voting.

Most of all, it takes a citizenry that cares enough to get mad and get active. As Howard Beale declares in the 1976 film Network:

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

“I want you to get up right now, sit up, go to your windows, open them and stick your head out and yell, ‘I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore.’ Things have got to change. But first, you’ve gotta get mad!…You’ve got to say, ‘I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!’ Then we’ll figure out what to do about the depression and the inflation and the oil crisis. But first get up out of your chairs, open the window, stick your head out, and yell, and say it.”

This commentary originally appeared on The Rutherford Institute’s website.

nsa

“If we define an American fascist as one who in case of conflict puts money and power ahead of human beings, then there are undoubtedly several million fascists in the United States.” ― Henry A. Wallace, 33rd Vice President of the United States

This is an indictment of every politician who has ever sold us out for the sake of money and power, it is a condemnation of every politician who has ever lied to us in order to advance their careers, and it is a denunciation of every political shill who has sacrificed our freedoms on the altar of Corporate America.

They’re all fascists.

If Donald Trump is a fascist—as nearly half of Americans surveyed believe—then so is every other politician in office or running for office in America who has ever prioritized money and power over human beings.

Truly, apart from Trump’s virulently bombastic comments and his metaphorical willingness to spit in the wind in order to garner media coverage and notoriety, how is he any more of a fascist than Hillary Clinton and the millions she has amassed from the financial sector?

How is Trump any more of a fascist than Barack Obama, whose willingness to march in lockstep with the military industrial complex has resulted in endless wars, covert drone strikes that have killed hundreds of civilians abroad, andmilitarized police who have killed thousands of American citizens here at home?

3495557274_77e3a2bcd1How is Trump any more of a fascist than Congress, the majority of whom are millionaires and who are more inclined to do the bidding of their corporate sponsors and benefactors, all the while remaining deaf to their less affluent constituents?

For that matter, how is Trump any more of a fascist than the Supreme Court whose decisions in recent years have beencharacterized most often by an abject deference to government authority, military and corporate interests?

Writing for the New York Times in 1944, Vice President Henry A. Wallace noted that “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 opportunity to impugn democracy. They use isolationism as a slogan to conceal their own selfish imperialism. They cultivate hate and distrust…”

As Wallace concluded, American fascists are not pro-Constitution:

“They are patriotic in time of war because it is to their interest to be so, but in time of peace they follow power and the dollar wherever they may lead… 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 the common man in eternal subjection.

We are being played for fools. Again.

The United States of America, that dream of what a democratic republic ought to be, has become the Fascist States of America. We have moved beyond the era of representative government and entered a new age. You can call it the age of authoritarianism. Or fascism. Or oligarchy. Or the American police state.

Whatever label you want to put on it, the end result is the same.

Driven by our fears, we have entered into a corporate-controlled, militaristic state where all citizens are suspects, security trumps freedom, and the U.S. government does not represent the majority of American citizens but instead is ruled by the rich and powerful.

fascismAny semblance of constitutional government that we might still enjoy today is a mere shadow, a mockery of what the founders envisioned. Constitutional government today—much like the farcical circus that purports to be the presidential election—is a sham, a hoax, an elaborate ruse maintained by the powers-that-be to mollify us into believing that we still have a say in the workings of our government. We do not.

Shortly after World War II, historian William L. Shirer predicted that America may be the first country in which fascism comes to power through democratic elections.
Former presidential advisor Bertram Gross also warned that we would not recognize fascism when it took over:

Anyone looking for black shirts, mass parties, or men on horseback will miss the telltale clues of creeping fascism… In America, it would be supermodern and multi-ethnic—as American as Madison Avenue, executive luncheons, credit cards, and apple pie. It would be fascism with a smile. As a warning against its cosmetic facade, subtle manipulation, and velvet gloves, I call it friendly fascism. What scares me most is its subtle appeal.

They were both right.

Battlefield_Cover_300However, what we failed to realize is that the fascist coup took place long ago. It was that subtle and that incremental.

We are now ruled by the velvet-gloved, technologically savvy, militarized iron fist of what Gross termed “friendly fascism” or fascism with a smile. Having studied Shirer and Gross, tracked the rise of fascism in past regimes, and assimilated the necessary ingredients for a fascist state, I can attest to the fact—as I document in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People—that the parallels to modern America are impossible to ignore.

Under fascism, the government:

  • is managed by a powerful leader (even if he or she assumes office by way of the electoral process)
  • assumes it is not restrained in its power (this is authoritarianism, which eventually evolves into totalitarianism)
  • ostensibly operates under a capitalist system while being undergirded by an immense bureaucracy
  • emits powerful and continuing expressions of nationalism through its politicians
  • has an obsession with national security while constantly invoking terrifying internal and external enemies
  • establishes a domestic and invasive surveillance system and develops a paramilitary force that is not answerable to the citizenry
  • and its various agencies (federal, state, and local) develop an obsession with crime and punishment (this is overcriminalization)
  • becomes increasingly centralized while aligning closely with corporate powers to control all aspects of the country’s social, economic, military, and governmental structures
  • uses militarism as a center point of its economic and taxing structure
  • and is increasingly imperialistic in order to maintain the military-industrial corporate forces.

donatenow-samCompare that to America today where, as economist Jeffrey Tucker rightly observes, “every industry is regulated. Every profession is classified and organized. Every good or service is taxed. Endless debt accumulation is preserved. Immense doesn’t begin to describe the bureaucracy. Military preparedness never stops, and war with some evil foreign foe, remains a daily prospect.”

Fascism thrives by hiding behind the entertainment spectacle that is partisan politics. As Tucker points out, “It’s incorrect to call fascism either right wing or left wing. It is both and neither… fascism does not seek to overthrow institutions like commercial establishments, family, religious centers, and civic traditions. It seeks to control them… it preserves most of what people hold dear but promises to improve economic, social, and cultural life through unifying their operations under government control.”

In this way, American-style fascism is deceptively appealing.

It appears friendly.

The news media covers the entertainment and political trivia. The basic forms of government remain intact. The legislators remain in session. There are elections.

Consent of the governed, however, no longer applies. Actual control has finally passed to the oligarchic elite controlling the government behind the scenes.

obama_fear-cartoon-by-john-coleYet the most crucial ingredient for fascism to succeed in America is that the majority of the people would have to agree that it’s not only expedient but necessary for the government to assume greater powers in order to keep them safe and secure, whether it’s by militarizing the police, stripping them of basic constitutional rights, criminalizing virtually every form of behavior, or spying on their communications, movements and transactions.

Sound familiar?

When you really drill down to what the various presidential candidates believe about the issues that will impact the future of our freedoms long-term—war, surveillance, civil liberties—you’ll find that most of them support the government’s position, which conveniently enough, profits the corporate sector.

This is not freedom.

It is despotism, which Gross refers to as “faceless oligarchs [who] sit at command posts of a corporate-government complex that has been slowly evolving over many decades.” Gross explains:

In efforts to enlarge their own powers and privileges, they are willing to have others suffer the intended or unintended consequences of their institutional or personal greed. For Americans, these consequences include chronic inflation, recurring recession, open and hidden unemployment, the poisoning of air, water, soil and bodies, and, more important, the subversion of our constitution. More broadly, consequences include widespread intervention in international politics through economic manipulation, covert action, or military invasion…

It is, in Gross’ words, “pretended patriots who desecrate the American flag by waving it while waiving the law”:

I see at present members of the Establishment or people on its fringes who, in the name of Americanism,betray the interests of most Americans by fomenting militarism, applauding rat-race individualism, protecting undeserved privilege, or stirring up nationalistic and ethnic hatreds.

It is, concludes Gross, Big Business and Big Government in bed together:

In this present, many highly intelligent people look with but one eye and see only one part of the emerging Leviathan. From the right, we are warned against the danger of state capitalism or state socialism, in which Big Business is dominated by Big Government. From the left, we hear that the future danger (or present reality) is monopoly capitalism, with finance capitalists dominating the state. I am prepared to offer a cheer and a half for each view; together, they make enough sense for a full three cheers. Big Business and Big Government have been learning how to live in bed together and despite arguments between them, enjoy the cohabitation. Who may be on top at any particular moment is a minor matter-and in any case can be determined only by those with privileged access to a well-positioned keyhole.

When the votes have all been counted, “we the people” will be the losers.

The joke will be on us. Whether we ever realize it not, the enemy is not across party lines, as they would have us believe. It has us surrounded on all sides.

Even so, we’re not yet defeated.

marche_selWe could still overcome our oppressors if we cared enough to join forces and launch a militant nonviolent revolution—a people’s revolution that starts locally and trickles upwards—but that will take some doing.

It will mean turning our backs on the political jousting contests taking place on the national stage and rejecting their appointed jesters as false prophets. It will mean not allowing ourselves to be corralled like cattle and branded with political labels that have no meaning anymore. It will mean recognizing that all the evils that surround us today—endless wars, drone strikes, invasive surveillance, militarized police, poverty, asset forfeiture schemes, overcriminalization, etc.—were not of our making but came about as a way to control and profit from us.

e3279-mlk_arrested2It will mean “voting with our feet” through sustained, mass civil disobedience. As journalist Chris Hedges points out, “There were once radicals in America, people who held fast to moral imperatives. They fought for the oppressed because it was right, not because it was easy or practical. They were willing to accept the state persecution that comes with open defiance. They had the courage of their convictions. They were not afraid.”

Ultimately, it will mean refusing to be divided, one against each other, as Democrats versus Republicans, and instead uniting behind the only distinction that has ever mattered: “we the people” against tyranny.

Published originally at www.rutherford.org.

 

 

cucart

“That’s the way the ruling class operates in any society. They keep the lower and the middle classes fighting with each other… Anything different—that’s what they’re gonna talk about—race, religion, ethnic and national background, jobs, income, education, social status, sexuality, anything they can do to keep us fighting with each other, so that they can keep going to the bank!”—Comedian George Carlin

“We the people” have been utterly and completely betrayed.

The politicians “we the people” most trusted to look out for our best interests, protect our rights, and ensure that the nation does not slip into tyranny have cheated on us, lied to us, swindled us, deceived us, double-crossed us, and sold us to the highest bidder.

Time and again, they have shown in word and deed that their priorities lay elsewhere, that they care nothing about our plight, that they owe us no allegiance, that they are motivated by power and money rather than principle, that they are deaf to our entreaties, that they are part of an elite ruling class that views us as mere cattle, that their partisan bickering is part of an elaborate ruse to keep us divided and distracted, and that their oaths of office to uphold the Constitution mean nothing.

Incredibly, even in the face of their treachery and lies, the great majority of Americans persist in believing that the politicians have the people’s best interests at heart.

Despite the fact that we’ve been burned before, most Americans continue to allow themselves to be bamboozled into casting their votes for one candidate or another, believing that this time they mean what they say, this time they really care about the citizenry, this time will be different.

Of course, they rarely ever mean what they say, they care about their constituents only to the extent that it advances their political careers, and it never turns out differently. We are as easily discarded the day after the elections as we were wantonly wooed in the months leading up to the big day. Those same politicians who were once so eager to pose for our pictures, smile at our jokes, and glad-hand us for our votes will, upon being elected, retreat behind a massive, impenetrable wall that ensures we are not seen or heard from again—at least, until the next election.

The joke is on us.

Battlefield_Cover_300As I point out in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, all of the caucuses, primaries, nominating conventions, town hall meetings, rallies, meet and greets, delegates and super-delegates are sophisticated schemes aimed at advancing the illusion of participation culminating in the reassurance ritual of voting.

It’s not about Red Republicans or Blue Democrats. It’s about Green Donors—i.e, those with money who can afford to pay for access.

Votes might elect politicians, but as a 2014 field experiment by political scientists at Yale University and the University of California, Berkeley, makes clear, it’s money that talks.

The experiment went something like this: members of Congress were contacted by constituents requesting meetings about pending public policy issues. As the Washington Post reports, “When the attendees were revealed to be ‘local campaign donors,’ they often gained access to Members of Congress, Legislative Directors, and Chiefs of Staff. But when the attendees were described as only ‘local constituents,’ they almost never gained this level of access.”

Conclusion: money buys access to politicians who are otherwise deaf, dumb and blind to the entreaties of their constituents.

It works the same with every politician and every party.

Indeed, the First Amendment’s assurance of a right to petition the government for a redress of grievances has become predicated on how much money you’re willing to shell out in order to gain access to your elected and appointed officials.

Then again, money has always played a starring role in American politics.

lincoln-bedroom-2007-seThe spoils system reared its greedy head under Andrew Jackson, who traded jobs in his administration in exchange for campaign contributions. For $1 million, donors could take part in Warren Harding’s poker parties and enjoy a sleepover at the White House. Lyndon Johnson had a President’s Club that cost donors $1000 a year. Nixon was prepared to sell ambassadorships for $250,000. And Bill Clinton famously allowed top-dollar donors to spend a night in the Lincoln Bedroom at the White House in exchange for roughly $5.4 million in donations to the Democratic National Committee.

Fast forward to the present day, and a $500,000 donation might get you invited to a quarterly meeting with Barack Obama. For a mere $5,000 donation, lobbyists are being given exclusive invitations to join Congressmen and senators for weekend getaways that include wine tastings, fly fishing, skiing, golfing, hunting, spas, seaside cocktail parties and more.

If you’re just a lowly citizen with limited cash, however, you’re out of luck.

Try contacting your so-called representatives without paying for the privilege, and see how far that gets you. I can assure you that you won’t be given the kinds of access that lobbyists, special interest groups and top donors enjoy.

Having been saddled with a pay-to-play system that provides access only to those with enough cash to grease the wheels of the political machine, average Americans have little to no say in the workings of their government and even less access to their so-called representatives.

trump-clinton-weddingDonald Trump, as he has boasted, might be able to buy and sell politicians of all stripes (including Hillary Clinton), but the average American would be hard-pressed to get the kind of access enjoyed by corporate executives, lobbyists and other members of the moneyed elite.

Indeed, members of Congress have to work hard to keep their constituents at a distanceminimizing town-hall meetings, making minimal public appearances while at home in their districts, only appearing at events in controlled settings where they’re the only ones talking, and if they must interact with constituents, doing so via telephone town meetings or impromptu visits to local businesses where the chances of being accosted by angry voters are greatly minimized.

And under the Trespass Bill, passed by Congress in 2012 and signed into law by President Obama, if you dare to exercise your First Amendment right to speak freely to a politician, assemble in public near a politician, or petition a government official for a redress of grievances, you risk a fine or a lengthy stay in prison.

Talk about self-serving.

Under the guise of protecting government officials from physical attacks, the Trespass Bill, a.k.a. “the Federal Restricted Buildings and Grounds Improvement Act,” criminalizes First Amendment activity by making it a federal offense, punishable by up to 10 years in prison, to protest anywhere the Secret Service might be guarding someone.

Mind you, the Secret Service not only protects the president but all past sitting presidents, members of Congress, foreign dignitaries, presidential candidates, and anyone whom the president determines needs protection, but is also in charge of securing National Special Security Events, which include events such as the G8 and NATO summits, the National Conventions of both major parties, and even the Super Bowl.

The law essentially creates a roving bubble zone where the First Amendment is effectively off-limits, thereby putting an end to free speech, political protest and the right to peaceably assemble in all areas where government officials happen to be present. Thus, simply walking by one of these events could make you subject to arrest.

31bc75e000000578-0-image-a-2_1456850087032“What that means in practice,” as The Intercept rightly points out, “is that campaign rallies for Donald Trump, who was granted Secret Service protection in November, and Hillary Clinton, who will be guarded for life as a former first lady, arethe very opposite of free speech zones under federal law. (The restrictions also apply to all appearances by former presidents and first ladies, as well as those of two other candidates, Bernie Sanders and Ben Carson, who are currently protected by the service.)”

Consider yourself warned: If you do dare to show up to a Trump or Clinton rally and even appear to be the kind of person who might engage in any kind of protest, lawful or otherwise, you could find yourself quickly dispatched to a “free speech zone” out of sight and sound of the candidates. (“Free speech zones” are government-sanctioned areas located far away from government officials, into which activists and citizens are herded at political rallies and events.) In fact, that’s exactly what happened to a group of black students at a recent Trump rally in Georgia. They were escorted by police to “‘free speech zones’ in a field shielded from the venue by a set of tennis courts, or outside a church about a quarter of a mile away.”

The message is clear: in an age of robber barons, “we the people” are expected to just shut up and vote.

The powers-that-be want us to be censored, silenced, muzzled, gagged, zoned out, caged in and shut down. They want our speech and activities monitored for any sign of “extremist” activity. They want us to be estranged from each other and kept at a distance from those who are supposed to represent us. They want taxation without representation. They want a government without the consent of the governed.

They want the police state.

free20speechThe system has been so corrupted and compromised that there are few left in the halls of government who hear or speak for us.

Congress does not represent us. The courts do not advocate for us. The president does not listen to us. And the First Amendment’s assurance of the right to speak freely and petition our government for a redress of grievance no longer applies to us.

So if representative government has become an exercise in futility, where does that leave us?

One of the key ingredients in maintaining democratic government is the right of citizens to freely speak their minds to those who represent them. In fact, it is one of the few effective tools we have left to combat government corruption and demand accountability.

If there is to be any hope of righting the wrongs that are being perpetrated against the American people, we must make them—our elected officials—hear us.

But where to begin?

Start by opening up a dialogue within your own community about what’s wrong with this country. Stop focusing on the issues that divide, and find common ground with your fellow citizens about issues on which you can agree. Focus less on politics and more on principles. Stop buying into the false and divisive narratives that are being promulgated by political windbags and start thinking and speaking for yourselves.

los_angeles_people-300x204Once you’ve found that common ground, whatever it might be, make enough noise at the local level—at your city council meetings, in your local paper, at your school board meetings, in front of your courthouses and police stations—and the message will trickle up. Those in power may not like what they hear, but they will hear you.

Remember, there is power in numbers.

There are 319 million of us in this country. Imagine what we could accomplish if we actually worked together, presented a united front, and spoke with one voice?

The police state wouldn’t stand a chance.