Friday, June 14, 2013

We Have Not Driven Off Despotism Cliff (Yet)

"You say America is fully despotic?
Please. Don't make me laugh."
June 14, 2013 - A friend on Facebook, who I know to be a true patriot, wrote today that America has become "fully despotic." I disagree with that. Some of will disagree with me, of course. What I mean to say in this post is that, although the U.S. certainly moves toward despotism, it has not yet become "fully despotic." It is leaning in the general direction of despotism, but there is still time enough to halt the tilt and eventually even to reverse it. Hope remains, but not if you listen to some of the more hysteria-prone conservatives. I say this as a conservative myself.

My main point here is that it's dangerous for to insist that the U.S. has become "fully despotic." If it was, we would not be allowed to have this discussion. I could not publish this blog.

Synonyms for "despotism" include dictatorship, absolutism, authoritarianism, Caesarism, monocracy, one-man rule, shogunate, Stalinism, totalitarianism, tyranny, autocracy, autarchy.

Oxford Dictionary
    the exercise of absolute power, especially in a cruel and oppressive way;
        the King’s arbitrary despotism;
             a country or political system where the ruler holds absolute power.

Another definition (Infoplease): 
    form of government in which the ruler is an absolute dictator 
    (not restricted by a constitution or laws or opposition etc.)

"America is fully despotic you say?
Ach, you don't know real despotism."
If our country was fully despotic, there would be no discussion of gun control -- all the guns would have been confiscated already. In a fully despotic America, open discussion -- not to mention investigation -- of the IRS scandal, the Benghazi scandal, the Solyndra scandal, the PRISM/NSA scandal, the Fast and Furious gun running scandal and so much more would not not be allowed. If the United States was fully despotic, Trey Gowdy, Darrell Issa, Sarah Palin, Ralph Nader and Noam Chomsky would be in prison for their harsh public criticism of Obama and his administration. As far as I know, they are still free.

Not only does this spread untruth, it has the unintentional effect, I believe, of psychological propaganda that works against conservatives. It does so, in effect, by conveying the false message that the Obama Administration as already achieved total tyranny.

To do so is like a general publicly saying that the enemy has already won. What effect do you think that would have on that general's troops? Put another way, imagine a squadron of cheerleaders chanting that the opposing football team is all-powerful and has already won.

Some politicians, mostly Democrats, disdain the Constitution and try to do end runs around it, the government is still bound by it. Imperfectly, yes, but my point is that the government is still, for the most part, restricted by the Constitution. "Full despotism" cannot happen, by definition, until no part  of the Constitution is honored. Barack Obama is not Adolf Hitler, and although much of his behavior is disturbingly Hitlerian, it is still too early say that he is exactly like Hitler. It's as inaccurate as the Leftists calling G.W. Bush a Nazi. Even with one foot across the threshold, the U.S. has not yet stepped fully into some version of an American Reich. We are still in the late stages of Wiemar Republic.

"One need not destroy one's enemy. One need only destroy his willingness to engage," said Sun Tzu in "Art of War." Repeatedly pounding it into conservative's heads that the whole of the U.S. government is "fully despotic" is damaging. Some, although not all, conservatives lose their willingness to engage, to give up the fight. Why fight on, after all, if the Left has already won?

Sun Tzu also said, "You have to believe in yourself." But for some, that belief in themselves -- and in the cause of freedom -- is diminished when they are made to believe that the Left has succeeded in making the government "fully despotic" to their own advantage.

Many people accuse Obama of being an absolute dictator. He might wish that he had absolute power, but if he did, he would not be constantly frustrated by Republicans and even by some of his fellow Democrats. This not a defense of Obama. It is a statement of truth.

The United States has no "ruler." We have no king, no shah, no pharaoh, no czar. We have nobody who holds absolute power. The U.S. Constitution set the stage for Congress to check the President. Thanks to the inherent rivalry in our two-party political system, nobody will have absolute power in the U.S. without first staging a successful coup d'etat. Unless I missed that headline, it hasn't happened. If this nation was "fully despotic," you would not be reading this blog post because I would not have been able to write it from the prison camp that I would have been sent to for being a harsh critic of the Obama Administration.

"PSYOPS takes many shapes and forms," wrote Lisa A. Burns for AllPsych Online. "It can be used at a national or regional level or down to a small group or personal level. The purpose is always to promote the objectives of the originator and diminish the will of the opponent to resist or fight. Most conventional methods require some degree of trust or belief by the opponent in the originator's message. Some unconventional methods work when no trust or connection exists. As shown in the Viet Nam example, the originator can unwittingly self-inflict PSYOPS against itself."

Burns makes three important points:
  1. The purpose of psyops, she said, "is always to promote the objectives of the originator and diminish the will of the opponent to resist or fight." When conservatives scream that the government has already gone "fully despotic," and publish stories about FEMA death camps, they are not diminishing the will of the opponent (the Obama Administration), but are surely diminishing the will of some fellow conservatives to resist or fight. 
  2. "Most conventional methods require some degree of trust or belief by the opponent in the originator's message," said Burns. Sadly, those who cry out that the U.S. government is completely under the thumb of a fully despotic regime are trusted by many gullible conservatives. 
  3. Burns's statement that "the Viet Nam example" showed us that "the originator" of propaganda "can unwittingly self-inflict psyops against itself" supports my main point.
All too often, on Facebook, Twitter and conservative blogs, we see frightening images and plenty of exaggerated reports that are intended to make us believe that the United States is a prison nation. It's all very depressing, and to some people it can be disheartening. It is, as Burns wrote, self-inflicted psyops.

But those are untruths and exaggerations. I hesitate to call them lies because that implies intentionally telling an untruth.

Instead, the spreading of these panicked untruths can be attributed to ignorance, intellectual laziness, a desire to shock others, gullibility and a lack of critical thinking. (Those of you who are guilty of those, by the way, will simply not understand what I just said. In fact, you probably have even read this far, have thrown up your hands, assumed I am a commie, and proven that you are ignorant, intellectually lazy, gullible and lack the ability of critical thinking.)

This image above, from a film production of George Orwell's "1984," falsely says that the only thing Orwell got wrong "was the year." To anybody who has read 1984, or seen the movie, and understood it, that's nonsense. 1984 depicted a completely totalitarian ("fully despotic") society. It was a cautionary tale of what could be, not a prediction of what would be. Did George Orwell, in his novel "1984," really get everything right? America in 2013 is not the hellish dysytopia Orwell imagined. Stalin was a lightweight compared to "Big Brother" of "1984."

There is danger in publishing such images and stories. It is untruth, which Orwell himself warned against. It is exactly the same kind of overblown hysteria that we conservatives mocked when the Left did it during the George W. Bush years.

The image above presents its message without humor. It is intended to be taken literally. Compare that to the image below, which uses humor to mock Obama. No reasonable person would take it to mean that Obama is actually a dictator.

Obama as dictator, by Tom Mannis for Chicago News Bench
Satirical images, like this one by T.H. Mannis for Chicago
News Bench, mock Obama's despotic tendencies.
The greatest danger, I believe, is that such exaggerations of "complete despotism" have a demoralizing effect on many conservatives and our fellow Americans. It's a hope killer. For some, it kills motivation by instilling a sense of defeat. Fear mongers do us no good service by presenting exaggerations. Exaggerations, after all, are untruths.

The truth, it is said, shall set you free. Exaggerations only mislead and cause you to spend energy where it is not needed, diverting you from actual problems that require your attention.

The Left itself could not wish for a better propaganda campaign designed to drag down the Right's enthusiasm to keep fighting. In wartime, the best kind of propaganda is that which drills into the enemy's head a sense of despair.

Unwittingly, many conservatives are acting as de facto propagandists for the Left. It is comparable to a general repeatedly telling his own troops that the enemy is stronger than it actually is. Many of the soldier's under that general's command would feel that there was no use in pushing on. Some might desert, others would fight less enthusiastically with an attitude of hopelessness.

Conservatives must stop passing around exaggerated reports of the U.S. becoming "just like the Third Reich." Everything from over regulation to NSA domestic spying abuses to out-of-control political correctness have us rightly angered. Even so, there is still hope, and that hope is possible because this nation has not yet become a fully despotic, tyrannical dictatorship. And, while we've not yet gone over that cliff, we still have ample opportunity to avoid that final fall into Orwell's Canyon.

"Whatever crushes individuality is despotism," said John Stuart Mill. As far as I can tell, my individuality has not yet been crushed. Is there evidence that the government is attempting to crush individuality? Yes, but they have not succeeded. Not yet, anyway.

But what about "soft despotism?" Author Paul A. Rahe, who is also a professor of history and political science at Hillsdale College. In his book "Soft Despotism, Democracy's Drift - Montesquieu, Rousseau, Tocqueville, and the Modern Prospect" (2009) he says that those great thinkers actually anticipated the "modern liberal republic's propensity" to drift in the direction of "soft despotism," which Rahe says is "a condition that arises within a democracy when paternalistic state power expands and gradually undermines the spirit of self-government. Such an eventuality, feared by Tocqueville in the nineteenth century, has now become a reality throughout the European Union, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the United States. So Rahe asserts, and he explains what must be done to reverse this unfortunate trend." (Watch: Video interview with Paul Rahe.)

Rahe's words only support my contention that we have not yet gone completely despotic. Don't get me wrong. The federal has become despotic in many ways. Many state governments have their own despotic tendencies. But while the government is in some ways despotic, it has not gone fully despotic. To say it has is to admit that you really do not know what despotism is.

If you think America is "fully" despotic, try talking to anybody who lived through Hitler's Third Reich. Talk to anyone who lived in the Soviet Union before 1989. Try reading a history book.

I do agree with my friend that we need to "kick some ass" and push back against the dangerous trend toward despotism. We're well on the way, yes, but it is far from complete. Let's all step back a bit. By convincing ourselves that the US has gone fully Third Reich (or USSR, depending upon your preference), we actually harm the morale of many of our fellow conservatives. The global warming alarmists have caused unneeded fear and stress among many; children, it's been shown, have nightmares about a flooded planet.

Propaganda from North Korea. Except for being funnier, 
this is not much different from reports of "full despotism"
by some hysterical American conservatives.
Alarmism about American already being into a complete despotic oligarchy undoubtedly has the same effect on many people, and I'd guess it might actually cause some to give up hope. We must not do that. We must try to educate our fellow conservatives and keep morale up, so that they keep the hope of preventing the country from really and truly going "fully despotic."

Look around you, folks. Do you see people being swept off the streets? Have any of your conservative neighbors been dragged out of their homes at 3:00 in the morning and thrown into an unmarked van? Are we still allowed to post anti-government statements such as this one? Can you or I still go to an airport and fly anywhere we want, or drive anywhere we want, read whatever we want? Because of the NSA PRISM news, sales of Orwell's 1984 spiked. Consider this: If the U.S. was "fully despotic," 1984 and other anti-authoritarian books would be banned.

If the fundamental transformation of America into a despotic oligarchy was actually complete, none of us would be reading this because the Internet here, as in China, would be heavily censored. It the transformation was really complete, hope would be lost. We must not lose hope. We must not fool ourselves into hopelessness.

"How close are we to living in a totalitarian dictatorship?" asks Duane V. Grassell at Patriot Post. "How close are we to Soviet Russia or Nazi Germany? Can the Socialists of the Democrat party pull off in the Republic of the United States what the Communists pulled off in Russia and what the Fascists pulled off in Germany? To see if this is possible, we should look to recent history and compare it to what we are experiencing today. To pull off a dictatorship the government in power needs three key ingredients."

The three ingredients that Grasell lists are: (1) an army of devout followers who are willing to go to any length to advance the party's agenda; (2) a weak or unwilling opposition; (3) a large portion of the population that is either apathetic or blissfully ignorant of how their government tramples on their rights.

Grassell ends his post with this: "I write this in the hope of awakening a once great nation before it's too late." I was glad to see him write that, for it goes to my point that it is not yet too late. We have not yet gone "fully despotic." Let's not say that a garage fire means the house is "fully engulfed in flames."

We have not driven off Despotism Cliff - yet. We can see the cliff ahead. It's not too late to steer away from it, or to put on the brakes. But if you believe that it's too late, if you are fooled into falsely believing that you already fell into the canyon, then all hope is lost. Don't underestimate your enemy, I say, but don't exaggerate him into something bigger than he is. Keep hope, and let's kick some ass.