"There is every reason today to refer the negative utopia of George Orwell to the only remaining superpower - the America of George W. Bush. This is true for that schizophrenic form of mental indoctrination called `double think' which in the novel runs through the members of the `inner party'. `Double think' enables them to believe and integrate in their consciousness two contradictory truths." Translated fr German
US: "Thought Police" in the Land of Unlimited Possibilities
By Michael Schneider
[This article originally published August 1, 2003 in: Freitag 32 is translated from the German on the World Wide Web, http://www.freitag.de/2003/32/03320601.php.]
George Orwell's famous novel "1984" describes the horrific picture of a totalitarian state leading to the total surveillance and ultimately extinguishing of the individual. For a long time we were accustomed to read Orwell's depressing story and the fate of his main figure Winston Smith who submitted to a systematic brain-washing as a diatribe against Stalinist totalitarianism. "Big Brother" had unmistakable features of the Soviet dictator.
There is every reason today to refer the negative utopia of George Orwell to the only remaining superpower - the America of George W. Bush. This is true for that schizophrenic form of mental indoctrination called "double think" which in the novel runs through the members of the "inner party". "Double think" enables them to believe and integrate in their consciousness two contradictory truths. "Double think" is manifest in the three paradoxical party slogans "war is peace", "freedom is slavery" and "ignorance is strength". The same process underlies the relations of the three super-ministries that rule all things in Orwell's Oceania.
The "ministry for peace" wages permanent war - like the US Defense Department with its temporally and spatially unlimited "war against terror". According to the logic of "double think", the Pentagon describes the conquest of Iraq and the neocolonial occupation regime as a "democratic liberating action". Orwell's "ministry for truth" systematically spreads lies - like the US propaganda departments deceiving the American and world public with intentional disinformation about the supposed connection of Iraq with Al Qaeda and presumed Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. Finally the "ministry for love" watches the citizens, explores their privacy and arbitrarily puts them in prison - like the US Department of Justice under John Ashcroft who annulled by decree the heart of the American administration of justice, legal confidentiality. Since then communication between lawyers and their clients in telephone calls and e-mails can be recorded.
Already I hear the objection: an Orwellian scenario will never be possible in the oldest and most stable democracy of the world with its liberal constitution and its famous "checks and balances" system that firmly institutionalizes the balance of power between the constituted authorities. The US society has always shown its capacity for democratic self-correction. Remember Watergate! Can we really be so sure?
The New Business Face
To so-called sovereign, the American people, doesn't have the least influence on the decisions of the White House or the Pentagon. Half of the citizens entitled to vote practice chronic voting abstinence. "If one wants to build a real democratic political system in this country", Noam Chomsky explained in a Freitag interview, "one must begin at the beginning."
The military-industrial complex with the Pentagon as the organizing center providing 30,000 firms with contracts has led its own hardly controllable life for a long time. The pentagon with its 40 secret services has become a state in the state. In the New York Times (October 14, 2002), Leslie Wayne described how a very old war praxis is revived in the pentagon with the war against terror: the hiring of mercenaries. Today they are called "private military contractors". Some of these mercenary firms are sub-contractors of corporations from the Fortune 500 list (the 500 largest in assets). "The Pentagon cannot wage war without them... Private military contractors are the new business face of war." These agencies have their people in Bosnia, Nigeria, Macedonia, Colombia and elsewhere. MPRI, one of the leading military firms, boasts of "more generals per square foot than the Pentagon". In peace times, they can carry out secret missions with the exclusion of the public. Without any chain of command, they are not accountable to the US Congress, only to their clients, the Pentagon or the State Department.
In America, George W. Bush trivializes main items of the American constitution, freedom of speech, information and the press. For a long time, the mammoth US media belonging to or sponsored by big corporations have changed to the government's course. This course is now de facto synchronized or enforced political conformity. Critical broadcasts are regarded as "unpatriotic" and fall victim to self-censorship and enormous conformity pressure. During the Iraq war, youths were punished in their schools for T-shirt texts like "Give Peace a Chance" and ordered to stay away from shopping centers.
The average American is poorly informed politically. He seems to have long ago internalized "ignorance is strength" in Orwell's novel. 44 million Americans are unable to read and write texts at a fourth-grade level. In other words, they are functionally illiterates. The average citizen spends 99 hours a year reading books and 1460 hours before the television set. Only eleven percent of Americans regularly read a daily newspaper.
A population that gains its worldview almost only through the television can be easily manipulated, indoctrinated and haunted by fears.
During the buildup of US troops at the Gulf, Condoleeza Rice, the security advisor of the president, even saw a mushroom cloud over New York if Saddam Hussein was not finally stopped. Right before the beginning of the Iraq war on March 19, citizens were urged in countless TV- and ;radio spots of the Homeland Security department to guard their homes against possible biological and chemical attacks. Families should gather in a fixed place of the house and make their doors and windows draft-proof with duct tape and heavy plastic.
In May the greatest terror practice exercise in the history of the US was staged in an industrial area of Seattle. In the fictional scenario, terrorists named "Glodo" explode a "dirty bomb" enriched with radioactive material. 150 persons are killed or seriously injured. Radioactive clouds draw over the city for miles. A second nuclear bomb is detonated 65 miles from Tacoma. One terrorist forced his way into a university building and took hostages. Hundreds of firefighters, police and members of rescue services joined in the five-day exercise. The manoever called Topoff 2 was staged as realistically as possible. A false news team searched for pictures of burning cars and rescuers with gas masks. Doubles of Bush and Cheney were provided.
To secure its domestic- and foreign policy objectives, the Bush administration systematically foments fear and hysteria in the American population. This can be learned from the "Capitol Hill Bill" which quoted statements from members of the FBI and the CIA. The constant warnings of terrorist attacks in the US were concocted by the White House without any reference to facts only to maintain the feeling of permanent threat in the population and assure high approval ratings for the policy of the "strong and resolute president".
A new surveillance system of the research division of the US Department of Defense - the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) - shows that Orwell's "thought police" could make its arrival in the "land of unlimited possibilities". The team of ex-admiral John Poindexter learned from George Orwell the importance of a friendly name (for Orwell the "mini-defense"). After the US Congress stopped the legal draft of the Total Information Awareness project following massive protests of civil rights activists in February 2003, the Bush administration made a second attempt under the new more innocuous description Terrorist Information Awareness (TIA). The Pentagon earmarks $9.2 million this year for the project. The sum will increase to $20 million in 2004 and $25 million in 2005.
The core of the planned Big Brother initiative is a data bank containing public and private information about citizens. Models of terrorist intrigues, Internet traffic, commercial and state data banks of financial institutes, travel companies and health and transportation information are included. Since the Patriot Act, libraries and book stores must hand over data on reading habits to state investigators.
This is not everything that alarms civil rights activists. The DARPA now admits following a project called Lifelog identifying everything about a person that can be recorded and evaluated electronically, every e-mail, every website, every telephone conversation, every television broadcast, every newspaper and every book. Nothing escapes the eye of Big Brother any more. In addition, biometrics could help track people. Even the gait of every individual should be identifiable. Radar rays survey the movements and identify a pattern as unique as a fingerprint, a technically sophisticated snooper program that makes Orwell's "thought police" seem outdated.
If the other liberal and pacifist America that took to the streets in hundreds of thousands before the Iraq war doesn't resist this development, an Orwellian police- and surveillance state will soon appear in which the "internal (business) party" keeps the manipulated masses in a permanent state of patriotic combat readiness and sends its armed forces into war against ever new phantom enemies.
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