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Commentary: Civil & Human Rights
An Age of Acrimonious Acronyms
by Patrick Sumner
Email: patrick (at) trozzolo.com (unverified!)
Current rating: 2
17 Feb 2003
We are in an age of acrimonious acronyms, a PR period of tongue terror where the CIA and the NSA combine with the DOD to rid the world of the ABM treaty, and the FBI will protect the WTO. New PC terms like "Homeland Security" -- meant to come on thick and syrupy like a commercial for an Omaha-based insurance company -- carry a faint resonance of Duetschland uber alles.
It's America's first true all PR culture war, where the "American Way" and its band of superheroes battle evildoers worldwide. Soon corporate America will buy the naming rights to bombs, or even whole airstrikes! This is really it, the first global international corporate anti-terror war on terror fair. With "partners" like we've got, we know Freedom will prevail. Now that America has the corporate backing it so needs to prosecute injustice, we can take a load off. And here are the reasons why:
Corporate culture is the anti-thesis of democracy in that it annihilates the individual, severly restricts open speech, and tightly controls communications through constant recourse to hierarchy.
The hierarchy of corporate control seldom manifests itself in respect of talent, merit, or achievement; but subsumes those qualities of individuals to strict controls of a system that shelters the mundane and quickens the status of those willing to forget.
Corporate culture cannot tolerate the prerogatives of public truth telling or the delicious variants of subjective perception. Instead its pulse is deadened under the weight of half-truths and its continuance necessitates the final erasure of any past event that focuses a simple voice of dissent regarding its practices.
The victory of managerialism over collegiality gave rise to a professional class distanced from the heartening pleasure of craft and emboldened by the quest for profits without recourse to remembering the needs of people. The American system -- once the "we the people" vehicle for diversity of views -- has been subsumed under the weight of the insidious controls of corporatism. Now war can be proclaimed without recourse to the due process of constitutional checks and balances. Free enterprise Keynesians revive military industries through ever pressing demands of computerized forms of mass destruction. A war for "freedom" waged by a government manipulated at the highest levels by profit-motivated corporatists. A war against "terror" where thousands of miles from American shores, and safely veiled from the prying eyes of the press, we drop bombs with "surgical precision" and civilian casualties are dismissed as simple "collateral damage." The losses and erased framework of cultural comparison, the wearing weight of American material prosperity and age old recourse to anti-intellectualism, are symptoms of free society in decline. While those who rush to war and bomb sovereign nations without declaration are portrayed as steady heroes, those individuals who give voice to dissent are castigated as traitors.
The United States was formulated in dissent against tyranny and nurtured by vital discourse; now free speech -- specifically enunciated as a great responsibility of "we the people" government -- is obscured in the long shadows cast by corporatist influence. The war of words and struggle of ideas that has waged for a century is now back to full swing. For while they call their affront to the first amendment PATRIOT (Provide Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism), and name weapons of mass destruction peacekeepers, those small and scattered voices of domestic opposition, those brave enough to enact the most sacred principles of American democratic traditions face social and political vilification.
The real war we fight abroad is nothing but the bullying onslaught of a society bent on possession of resources necessary to its bloated consumer-driven lifestyle. The corporatists who master our national government wage this war on two fronts. For while Afghanis dig in against senseless American bombs and look to the sky with the fear and loathing that accompanies the desperation of the dispossessed, at home they edged us ever closer to mass acceptance of the brutal power of a police state. Now we've become accustomed to armed Guardsmen patrolling the corridors of airports, the round-hatted silhouette of state troopers at every turnstile. We're told our municipal, county, state, and federal policing agencies have been on the "highest level of alert." "A Nation on Alert," says Bush. The fact that this level of immediate security cooperativeness is possible demonstrates that these exigencies have been long planned by such governmental agencies as FEMA. Policies foreseen and fomented by think tanks who anticipated Third World resentment and its backlash against American elitism and smug international arrogance. The attacks of September 11th targeted the chief symbols of American economic and military might; yet it was the recognition of the humanity of our domestic "collateral damage" that registered in the mass psyche. A catharsis shattering for a few weeks the stultifying isolation of a nation of alienated individuals who collectively sought to "make sense of the madness."
The brutalizing numbness that is manifested by an "American Public" requiring blood revenge is just the most recent manifestation of a society whose mass communications and entertainment are drenched in gory spectacle. A necrophilous and violence-obsessed culture with a population whose glaring lack of global cultural awareness weakens any recourse to comparison, compassion, or compromise. The sterile and insulated nature of aerial warfare has protected two or more generations from the galling spectacle that was the ground war in Vietnam. Indeed one of the chief lessons learned by the government from that "police action" is that the control of the press and the silencing of the free flow of information are necessary for "strategic and tactical" success. Thus the term "military intelligence" -- considered an oxymoron by critics -- has succeeded in this arena. Thus conglomerate-owned network news is manipulated as part and particle of the national pro-war marketing campaign influencing an American public hooked on the simplicity of headline news and whose appetite for information rarely surpasses the 10-second soundbite. Thus "America attacked" was quickly converted to "America attacks." All the while major news sources quizzically poll for answers to the conundrum represented by the onslaught, and our "leaders" tell us "our enemies" hate liberty. That reduction of historical consequences to kindergarten-level sloganeering should be taken as insult to the intelligence of the average American. That blithe ignorance is a reasonable consequence of the fact that while the U.S. has the earth's largest GNP, we fall behind other industrialized nations in expenditures on education. "The land of the free" becomes the world's leader in incarcerated inmates and prison-related profiteering.
That the numeric majority of Americans have been sent begging during the last round of vital economic activity signals a new level of cross-class apathy, the level to which the corporate-made myth has come to overshadow our public life. A society with gross disparities of racial bias that plague its justice system, one more area in which President Bush appears blatantly hypocritical when he declares that America stands for justice worldwide.
When people refer to the government, they speak with detachment about the bureaucracy and forget the spirit that animated the generation of the framers. When they say that dissenters have failed to stand behind the government, they've forgotten the meaning inherent in the phrase "government by the people." That the militarists will lie, the corporatists will obscure, and the bureaucrats will grasp for power is to state the obvious.
We are as a nation caught in the spellbinding light of great lies. This is a time when we seem bound to exacerbate the very conflicts that began the unraveling of our domestic tranquillity. The violent culture that sees no solace in peace, no logic in discourse or détente. A decade after we sent Patriots to shame the Scuds of "Sodom Insane," we continue to accelerate the global hatreds incited by our avaricious lust for the meal tickets of the Middle East and Central Asia. We fund dictatorships in the name of freedom, all really in the simple quest of maintaining the supremacy of the SUV-ridden segments of our society.
It's time we drop the delusion that we are the torchbearer of freedom and see simply that we have become a nation of bullies whose insatiable drive for consumable resources has overshadowed all other aims, smothered all other ideals.
We live in a society where it takes millions to be elected to Congress. A society whose wide gulf of power-sharing between rich and poor is extreme, but where nearly all are carried by the index of consumer confidence. An age of alienation where spiritually devoid practitioners of Americanisms can no longer calculate an ounce of compassion for the silent victims of "smart bombs" (and Donald Rumsfled drunk with denials).