"How far does a man have to go to be thought so dangerous that he needs to be locked away, physically separated from the rest of the world, behind stone walls and iron bars? Clearly, it is a last resort."--Joe, Land of the Blind
Wachowskis' iconic 1999 film, The Matrix ,
the protagonist Neo is wakened from a lifelong slumber by Morpheus, a freedom
fighter seeking to liberate humans from virtual slavery--a lifelong hibernation
state--imposed by hyper-advanced artificial intelligence machines. With their
minds plugged into a perfectly crafted virtual reality, few humans ever realize
they are living in a dream world to such an extent that most are willing to give
their lives in order to preserve the system that enslaves them.
familiar? It should, because as I make clear in my new book, A
Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State (available on
Amazon.com and in stores), we too are living in a fantasy world carefully
crafted to resemble a representative democracy, while in reality we are little
more than slaves in thrall to an authoritarian regime, with its constant
surveillance, manufactured media spectacles, secret courts, inverted justice, and
violent repression of dissent. And for the few who dare to challenge the status
quo such as Edward Snowden, they are assured of being branded either as
conspiratorialists, alarmists, lunatics or outright traitors.
how quickly the government's attack dogs went from defending the NSA's
warrantless mass surveillance of Americans' phone calls to targeting and
punishing any and all parties involved in the "leak" of sensitive information, including
labeling Snowden a traitor, charging him with espionage and warning foreign
governments against giving him refuge. Adding to the surreal drama, President
Obama has begun preaching about the need for Americans to "trust" their
government, insisting that the NSA's surveillance is perfectly legal with no
acknowledgment of the fact that the information leaked by Snowden shed
much-needed light on government corruption, illicit programs and treachery on
the part of our so-called representatives.
well-oiled and interconnected are the cogs, wheels and gear shifts in our
government machinery that it can be near to impossible to decipher where the
fault lies when something goes awry. What some are slowly coming to realize,
however, is that the mechanism itself has changed. Its purpose is no longer to
keep our republic running smoothly. To the contrary, this particular
contraption's purpose is to keep the corporate police state in power. Thus,
when hiccups, belches, whinges and jams arise, they are not being caused by the
mechanism itself becoming faulty--its various parts are already a corrupt part
of the whole. Rather, that's the sound of someone jamming the mechanism and
interrupting the smooth flow of the corporate state.
consider how insidious and incestuous the various "parts" of the mechanism have
Congress. Perhaps the most notorious offenders
and most obvious culprits in the creation of the corporate-state, Congress has
proven itself to be both inept and avaricious, oblivious champions of an
authoritarian system that is systematically dismantling their constituents'
fundamental rights. Congress' most grievous behavior, however, is its failure
to bring the president to task, who for all intents and purposes now operates
above the law. The precedent set during the Bush administration of Congressmen
going along with senseless and illegal White House policies has turned the
office of the president into an untouchable, unstoppable force.
The President. Despite having
ridden into office on a wave of optimism and the promise of a new America free
of civil liberties abuses, President Obama has proven to be a more effective
manipulator of the American people than his predecessors. His presidency has
been defined by "kill lists," the murder of civilians in secret drone strikes,
the assassination of American citizens, the continued operation of Guantanamo
Bay, the championing of warrantless surveillance of American citizens, and most
recently, the funneling of arms to al-Qaeda backed rebels in Syria.
The Supreme Court. The U.S. Supreme
Court--once the last refuge of justice, the one governmental body really capable
of rolling back the slowly emerging tyranny enveloping America--has instead
become the champion of the American police state, absolving government and
corporate officials of their crimes while relentlessly punishing the average
American for exercising his or her rights. Consider that in the past month
alone, the justices have determined that criminal suspects, who are supposed to
be treated as innocent until proven guilty, may have their DNA forcibly
extracted from them by police. They have decided that staying silent while the
police question you may be considered evidence of guilt, despite the Fifth
Amendment's protection against self-incrimination and the well-established
"right to remain silent." Finally, the Court has decided that it operates in a
zone in which First Amendment protections cease to exist, as they have
unilaterally barred protests outside the Supreme Court building, countering a
federal court decision that determined that activities on the Supreme Court
grounds are protected by the First Amendment. These are just three examples of
a Court that, like the rest of the government, places profit, security, and
convenience above our basic rights.
The Media. Of course, this triumvirate of total
control would be completely ineffective without a propaganda machine provided
by the world's largest corporations. Besides shoving drivel down our throats at
every possible moment, the so-called news agencies which are supposed to act as
bulwarks against government propaganda have instead become the mouthpieces of the
state. One need only look at the
media's behavior post-9/11 to understand what I mean. From championing the
invasion of Iraq based upon absolute fabrications, to the fanatic support of
all surveillance state policies and the demonization of whistle blowers like
Edward Snowden and Bradley Manning, the pundits which pollute our airwaves are
at best court jesters and at worst propagandists for the false reality created
by the American government.
The American People. Of course, the most
superior engine in the world still requires some form of energy to bring it to
life and maintain it, and in this particular mechanism, "we the people" serve
that vital function. We are the petrol that powers the motor, for good or bad.
We now belong to a permanent underclass in America. It doesn't matter what you
call us--chattel, slaves, worker bees, drones, it's all the same--what matters is
that we are expected to march in lockstep with and submit to the will of the
state in all matters, public and private.
our complicity in matters large and small, we have allowed an out-of-control
corporate-state apparatus to take over every element of American society. Our
failure to remain informed about what is taking place in our government, to
know and exercise our rights, to vocally protest, to demand accountability on
the part of our government representatives, and at a minimum to care about the plight of our fellow
Americans has been our downfall. Having allowed ourselves to descend into
darkness, refusing to see what is really happening, happily trading the truth
for false promises of security and freedom, we have allowed the police state to
emerge and to flourish.
started with The Matrix, allow me to
conclude with a woefully overlooked film, Land
of the Blind (2006), a dark political satire in which tyrannical rulers are
overthrown by new leaders who prove to be just as bad, if not worse. In the
film, citizens perceived as questioning the state are sent to "re-education
camps" where the state's concept of reality is drummed into their heads. Joe, a
prison guard, is so impressed with a political prisoner Thorne that he
eventually joins a coup to unseat the present dictator and replace him with
Thorne. Before long, however, Joe becomes the target of the new government and
comes to realize that the old boss is the same as the new boss.
age of governmental doublespeak, media obfuscation, and insidious subterfuge on
all sides, it can, at times, be hard to know who is working for whom, and which
side the "good guys," if there are any, are really on. When in doubt, just
remember what Orwell had to say about the matter in Animal Farm : "Four legs good, two legs bad."