Challenging my work: A hard but necessary task.

17 Mar

It is important to engage in self-reflection on my ideas which I have written in articles. The first of these articles that I am deeply questioning is one I wrote about NSA surveillance for Global Research Centre, which I now know is a cespool of pseudo-intellectualism.[1]

The parts of the article in regards to expansiveness of NSA and government surveillance still seems sound to me in every way.[2] However, some of what I wrote I am deeply questioning now:

“The current American empire, with state capitalism, is not simply a police state, a surveillance state but is rather a national security state with mass surveillance and police repression…More frighteningly, we have approached the world George Orwell wrote about in 1984 or mass surveillance as envisioned in the movie, The Truman Show…[there is a] American national security state…People of the US, let us unite against this fascistic American imperial-national security state which has grown out of control!”

I still hold the belief that the US is a worldwide empire. But, I also know that there are a number of other imperial powers in the world like Russia, and China, but in the words of section 12 of the 9/11 Commission report, in speaking about terrorism against the United States, “the American homeland is the planet.” I do not think this view is ideal or good for those in the world, but it wouldn’t be better for the homeland of Russia or China to include the whole planet either. Rather, all imperial powers should be opposed. Imperialism is imperialism, no matter what flag is flying.

There is something in this quote is deeply troubling. The way its written, it makes the US seem like some evil terror state where no one has the right of free speech, freedom of press, assembly or other civil rights and liberties. While it is true these civil rights and civil liberties have been degraded and that the constitution is only a “parchment barrier,” I do not recognize in this article well enough, the ‘state-corporate nexis of power’ as Noam Chomsky has spoke about, or the full power of ‘private tyrannies’ which is how Chomsky describes corporations in the same video. I guess the point I’m trying to make is that I feel like I exaggerated the power of mass surveillance in the US. Yes, a plutocratic republic, if one calls it that, exists in the United States, with those with the biggest gobs of money call the shots. Yes, there is mass surveillance and police crackdowns on protest movements. A literal police state which consists of police as a force for social control, as Dead Prez sings about in their song, Police State, is present in America. The idea that there is “police repression” is not completely right, as it should more likely be called police brutality, which is continually directed at poor, minority, and disadvantaged people, not necessarily the whole population. However, I’m not sure that the United States is a country where “the activities of the people are strictly controlled by the government with the help of a police force” as Merriam-Webster defines it. Such a definition wreaks of totalitarianism, which is not in place in the US since all voices of dissent have not been silenced. There is still some space for discussion even if it heavily marginalized. Still, some say that the US has inverted totalitarianism, which is “a system where corporations have corrupted and subverted democracy and where economics trumps politics,” and a place of ‘illiberal democracy.’

There is something more in what I said that exaggerates the horrid and brutal nature of the mass surveillance and terror complex: that the US is becoming close to a 1984 world or like the Truman Show. Both of these scenarios are based in mass surveillance. While there is  a large amount government surveillance by the NSA, CIA, FBI, and others, one cannot say that the US is at a 1984-style state, but rather that the measures currently in place could get us to such a state. The same with the Truman Show which getting closer to the intrusive surveillance by the US government. This does not mean there is not surveillance by local and state governments as well, but the original article was really only touching on the surveillance by the US government.

Now, I still stand by the claim that there is a national security state. This state which began in 1947 with the National Security Act, still seems in place, it is has just changed form. I claim at the end of the article that the people of the United States should ally against a “fascistic American imperial-national security state.” I can say it is also true that the US state has imperial qualities as well. However, to say it is ‘fascistic’ is a bit too far. While definitions like those of FDR, John T. Flynn, and John Weiss seem to fit the US model, these definitions are too narrow and don’t fully define the word. Wikipedia says that it is:

One common definition of fascism focuses on three concepts: the fascist negations of anti-liberalism, anti-communism and anti-conservatism; nationalist authoritarian goals of creating a regulated economic structure to transform social relations within a modern, self-determined culture; and a political aesthetic of romantic symbolism, mass mobilization, a positive view of violence, and promotion of masculinity, youth and charismatic leadership.

While some could argue that some of these elements are in place in the US, it is absurd to say that this applies to the US (see the other definitions of the word as well). It also seems currently, that those in the top of the elite wouldn’t want to get to such a system anyway, as they like it the way it is. However, one can still speak about ‘creeping fascism’ as Cornel West has called it in the past.

There is one characterization of the US terror complex and national security state that seems to have more appeal. That is the idea of the ‘deep state.’ A former congressional Republican aide, Mike Lofgren described the ‘deep state’ as follows:

The Deep State does not consist of the entire government. It is a hybrid of national security and law enforcement agencies: the Department of Defense, the Department of State, the Department of Homeland Security, the Central Intelligence Agency and the Justice Department. I also include the Department of the Treasury because of its jurisdiction over financial flows, its enforcement of international sanctions and its organic symbiosis with Wall Street. All these agencies are coordinated by the Executive Office of the President via the National Security Council. Certain key areas of the judiciary belong to the Deep State, such as the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, whose actions are mysterious even to most members of Congress. Also included are a handful of vital federal trial courts, such as the Eastern District of Virginia and the Southern District of Manhattan, where sensitive proceedings in national security cases are conducted. The final government component (and possibly last in precedence among the formal branches of government established by the Constitution) is a kind of rump Congress consisting of the congressional leadership and some (but not all) of the members of the defense and intelligence committees. The rest of Congress, normally so fractious and partisan, is mostly only intermittently aware of the Deep State and when required usually submits to a few well-chosen words from the State’s emissaries.

This description seems to fit with the idea of what Washington Post writers Dana Priest and William Arkin called ‘Top Secret America’ which was a series on the newspaper, a book, and a PBS series. It also fits with the idea of a ‘Secret Government,’ ‘Shadow Government’ or a ‘double state’ where “institutions like the National Security Council and the CIA running the show, while the ‘dignified’ institutions—the courts, congress, and the elected members of the executive branch—play a supporting, public relations role” as noted by Privacy SOS. Lofgren’s point was expanded on by Robert Hunziker in CounterPunch, a user on the blogging site, Firedoglake, which had a video of Lofgren being interviewed by Bill Moyers, and Bob Burnett writing on the Huffington Post.I want to be clear that I’m not trying to be hard on myself, but rather critique my own work, and change my ideas. It is natural for anyone to change their views from time to time, from year to year, and no one should be ashamed of it, or chastise someone for it. Once you are informed, it makes it that much easier.

Notes

[1] On June 10th, the second article I would write for Global Research Centre was published about NSA surveillance. In an earlier article, the first for the site, I wrote how the Socialist Party USA candidate Stewart Alexander was a better choice than Obama or Romney. Later, I would write another article about the French war in Central African Republic for this ‘alternative news outlet.’ After finding this article on a white nationalist forum after I had been pushing the editors of the site to publish the whole article, not just the edits, I decided that that Global Research Centre was a cespool that really had no intellectual value. After all, this ‘news outlet’ is concerned about a ‘New World Order,’ a word that in conspiracy lingo means a ‘one-world government’ which is not what the word means in reality, absurdist conspiracy theories, and criticism of US foreign policy but never anything criticizing China or Russia’s aggressive actions as well. As a result, I published a longer version of the article I had published on Global Research Centre, this version titled ‘Stabilizing Central Africa for Big Business‘ on a Norwegian site called State of Globe. While the site also publishes conspiracy theories, it is better than publishing elsewhere, as I can easily go in and re-edit the piece if need be.

[2] The article’s detail is still very important, with link after link to support my case. There’s even a few links which don’t work because I linked them incorrectly (see here, and here). I think that I cited Russia Today too many times as well. I also think I made Intellistreets sound like some horrid Orwellian program, which really is still very bad and violates people’s privacy, but I believe that I overstated its effect by citing articles from places like Russia Today, the Examiner, and the Daily Mail, which should be read critically with an eye for spinning things out of proportion. I also think ideas like having another Russ Feingold would be a good idea which I’m not sure about now.

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