Democracy in America-Not
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An unconscious people, an indoctrinated people, a people fed only on partisan information and opinion that confirm their own bias, a people made morbidly obese in mind and spirit by the junk food of propaganda, is less inclined to put up a fight, to ask questions and be skeptical. That kind of orthodoxy can kill a democracy – or worse. -Bill Moyers, Closing address, National Conference on Media Reform, St. Louis, Missouri, May 15, 2005

A New Way: To solve a problem one must be able to clearly recognize it- to see beyond the facade. American democracy has been one big experiment in the progressive loss of freedom. People must be empowered and entrusted to take back control over their lives.- Lowell Greenberg

The American fascists are most easily recognized by their deliberate perversion of truth and fact. Their newspapers and propaganda carefully cultivate every fissure of disunity, every crack in the common front against fascism. They use every opportunity to impugn democracy. They use isolationism as a slogan to conceal their own selfish imperialism. They cultivate hate and distrust of both Britain and Russia. They claim to be super-patriots, but they would destroy every liberty guaranteed by the Constitution. They demand free enterprise, but are the spokesmen for monopoly and vested interest. Their final objective toward which all their deceit is directed is to capture political power so that, using the power of the state and the power of the market simultaneously, they may keep the common man in eternal subjection.- from Henry A. Wallace, The Danger of American Fascism

One hundred and seventy one years ago Alexis DeTocqueville came to America to learn more about the implications to mankind of the democratic revolution. He wrote:

"I have undertaken, not to see differently from others, but to look further than others, and whilst they are busied for the morning, I have turned my thoughts to the whole future."

One must go to the second to last chapter of his great political commentary "Democracy in America" to understand DeTocqueville's greatest warning to the new age. The chapter is entitled, "What Sort of Despotism Nations Have to Fear."

What I will do here is excerpt passages from this chapter and compare it to the age we live in and the age that is yet to come. I will complete, if you will, his vision with things he did not quite foresee and will show, quite simply that we have more to fear than even DeTocqueville could imagine.
 

Alexis DeTocqueville, "Democracy in America," 1831 Commentary
I think, then, that the species of oppression by which democratic nations are menaced is unlike anything which ever existed in the world: our contemporaries will find no prototype of it in their memories. I seek in vain for an expression which will accurately convey the whole idea I have formed of it; the old words despotism and tyranny are inappropriate: the thing itself is new, and since I cannot name, I must attempt to define it. I will name it after a 171 years. The word unnamed is totalitarianism. Americans live in an unjust society. A society that tramples on individual rights, ignores its collective responsibility to the environment and pursues an aggressive foreign and economic policy that has earned the fear and loathing of the world. Democracy is not a tyranny of the majority. It is the protection of the rights of the minority and a mechanism for peaceful change. It must be practiced every day. We cannot rely on politicians to make meaningful societal change- we must create it ourselves.

"Observing political and economic discourse in North America since the 1970s leads to an inescapable conclusion: The vast bulk of legislative activity favours the interests of large commercial enterprises. Big business is very well off, and successive Canadian and U.S. governments, of whatever political stripe, have made this their primary objective for at least the past 25 years.

Digging deeper into 20th century history, one finds the exaltation of big business at the expense of the citizen was a central characteristic of government policy in Germany and Italy in the years before those countries were chewed to bits and spat out by fascism. Fascist dictatorships were borne to power in each of these countries by big business, and they served the interests of big business with remarkable ferocity."-  Paul Bigioni, Fascism then. Fascism now?, Toronto Star.

The first thing that strikes the observation is an innumerable multitude of men, all alike and equal, incessantly endeavoring to produce the petty and paltry pleasures with which they glut their lives. Each of them, living apart, is a stranger to the fate of all the rest,- his children and his private friends constitute to him the whole of mankind; as for the rest of his fellow-citizens, he is close to them, but he sees them not; he touches them, but he feels them not; he exists but in himself and for himself alone; and if his kindred still remain to him, he may be said at any rate to have lost his country. Andre Gorz
"Wonder each morning how you’re going to hold on till evening, each Monday how you’ll make it to Saturday. Reach home without the strength to do anything but watch TV, telling yourself you’ll surely die an idiot... Long to smash everything... once a day, feel sick... because you’ve traded your life for a living; fear that the rage mounting within you will die down in the end, that in the final analysis people are right when they say: ...you can get used to anything."

In this way he describes the plight of many and fulfills DeTocqueville's vision.

Above this race of men stands an immense and tutelary power, which takes upon itself alone to secure their gratifications, and to watch over their fate. That power is absolute, minute, regular, provident and mild. It would be like the authority of a parent, if, like that authority, its object was to prepare men for manhood; but it seeks, on the contrary, to keep them in perpetual childhood: it is well content that the people should rejoice, provided they think nothing but rejoicing. For their happiness such a government willingly labors, but it chooses to be the sole agent and the only arbiter of that happiness; it provides for their security, foresees and supplies their necessities, facilitates their pleasures, manages their principle concerns, directs their industry, regulates the descent of property, and subdivides their inheritances: what remains but to spare them all care of thinking and all trouble of living. Technology, including telecommunications and vast computer networks and storage databases, all intertwined and instantly accessible to the government and large corporations only extend the reach of the masters over their children slaves and make individual expression and freedom more difficult by infinite degrees. Add to this, encryption and surveillance technology such that the government has, quite literally, all the keys.  Hence any threat to the dominant power can be "neutralized" before it achieves real power and influence. What's left?

Also, do not forget how readily this "government" will squash individual dissent that threatens it's true owner- the wealthy and powerful. What after all is one man alone- a pitiful, tired creature withering on the vine- defeated and doomed to death- unable to change a thing- a voice in the wilderness- seldom believed and often ridiculed.

They combine the principle of centralization and that of popular sovereignty; this gives them a respite: they console themselves for being in tutelage by the reflection that they have chosen their own guardians. Every man allows himself to be put in leading-strings, because he sees that it is not a person or a class of persons but the people at large, who hold the end of his chain. By this system, the people shake off their state of dependence just long enough to select their master, and then relapse into it again. A great many persons at the present day are quite contented with this sort of compromise between administrative despotism and the sovereignty of the people... This does not satisfy me: the nature of him I am to obey signifies less to me than the fact of extorted obedience.

It is, indeed, difficult to conceive how men who have entirely given up the habit of self-government should succeed in making a proper choice of those by whom they are to be governed; and no one will ever believe that a liberal, wise, and energetic government can spring from the suffrages of a subservient people.

Helen Keller
"Our democracy is but a name. We vote? What does that mean? It means that we choose between two bodies of real, though not avowed autocrats. We choose between Tweedledum and Tweedledee. "

However, can we choose at all? See the web site, Real People for Real Change, and review the sections on Al Gore & George W. Bush Jr., candidates for the year 2000 Presidential election.  

 
"God Bless America...
This being an election year, wonderful people, fine tax payers...God Bless America."

See DrPolitics.com for more George W. Bush Jr. quotations.

The following is attributed to DeTocqueville:

"America is great because America is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, she will cease to be great."

I know of at least two individuals that have so "quoted" him. One is "Christian nation" propagandist Dave Martin in his 1992 creed, "Myth of Separation" and the other is Bill Clinton, delivering a pre-Democratic convention speech/ video talk.

DeTocqueville NEVER WROTE THIS! And if by some remote chance he did write this, he would never want it used out of context as a "paean to America" or a call to religious hegemony and intolerance.

"One thing politicians do understand is rejection. When voters are deciding how they wish to use their vote, they should ask themselves how best to send a clear message. The Greens and other progressives are in the early building stages of a people-first, democratic political movement for future years. They deserve our attention because they are centering on the basic issues of representative government, one of whose purposes is to strengthen the usable tools of democracy; the other, in Thomas Jefferson's prophetic words, is "to curb the excesses of the monied interests."
Ralph Nader,"The Nation", July 8, 1996

I believe that it is easier to establish and absolute and despotic government amongst a people in which conditions of society are equal, than amongst any other; and I think that, if such a government were once established amongst such a people, it would not only oppress men, but would eventually strip them of several of the highest qualities of humanity. .. I should have loved freedom, I believe, at all times, but in the time in which we live I am ready to worship it. Why, in a period of great prosperity and economic opportunity are men so debased in their public and private morality? From what springs their violence, their lack of compassion, their blindness.

"Hear this, you foolish and senseless people, who have eyes but do not see, who have ears but do not hear:"
Jeremiah 5:21 (English-NIV)

At the present time, an oppressed member of the community has therefore only one method of self defense,- he may appeal to the whole nation; and if the whole nation is deaf to his compliant, he may appeal to mankind: the only means he has of making this appeal is by the press. Thus the liberty of the press is infinitely more valuable amongst democratic nations than amongst all others; it is the only cure for the evils which equality may produce.

... Something analogous may be said of the judicial power. It is a part of the essence of judicial power to attend to private interests, and to fix itself with predilection on minute objects submitted to observation: another essential quality of judicial power is never to volunteer its assistance to the oppressed, but always be at the disposal of the humblest of those who solicit it; their compliant, however feeble they may themselves be, will force itself upon the ear of justice and claim redress, for this is inherent in the very constitution of the courts of justice.

Its crucial to keep all forms of communications free, open and able to withstand the assaults of large corporations, special interest groups and big government. Did Tocqueville foresee how the courts would become politicized? Did he see the death of newspapers and the ownership of those that remain by large conglomerates beholden more to protecting the interests of their stockholders and the current economic regime then to printing the truth?

"Our history will be what we make it. And if there are any historians about fifty or a hundred years from now, and there should be preserved the kinescopes for one week of all three networks, they will there find recorded in black and white, or color, evidence of decadence, escapism and insulation from the realities of the world in which we live."- Edward R Murrow, RTNDA Convention, Chicago, 10/15/1958

Tocqueville understood that the power of the federal government would be increased during threats (real or perceived) to national security. He probably did not foresee the Cold War or the "War on Terror" and its knack for keeping the nation in a continual state of threat and hence allow the government to grow even more powerful. However he understood the dangers of a protracted revolution- a condition not entirely different from the half century Cold War. See: The Clinton Vision, Noam Chomsky, Z Magazine, December 1993

A further example of federal usurpation of power during a national emergency is evidenced by the passage of the USA Patriot Act (USAPA) on 10/26/01 and related executive branch actions to curtail civil liberties. See: "Civil Liberties at Stake." Often these "emergency" measures continue well beyond any actual and/or perceived threat.

"American militarism is putting an end to the age of globalization and bankrupting the United States, even as it creates the conditions for a new century of virulent blowback. The Sorrows of Empire suggests that the former American republic has already crossed its Rubicon--with the Pentagon leading the way."- Sorrows of Empire: Militarism, Secrecy, and the End of the Republic by Chalmers Johnson, Henry Holt & Company, 4/2005- From the Publisher

DeTocqueville did not totally foresee the rise of powerful multi-national corporations or the military-industrial complex. He could not conceive of the destructive depths of technology- mankind's god like power to destroy the Earth and all Earthly creation.

"In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted." - Farewell address by former U.S. President (and General) Dwight Eisenhower, January 17, 1961.

He did not foresee the growth of mindless and insidious communication technologies like television. Technologies used to infiltrate the mind and reinforce conformity and the "natural' acceptance of false, me-to "universal" values. Nor did he foresee mind control technologies, Manchurian Candidates and illegal medical experimentation.

He understood that higher education would be more universal while critical thinking and powers of observation would become rarer.

It was easy to foresee how the public imagination would be diverted to fantasy and escapism, since it is the exercise of personal fantasy that at least provides the illusion of power.

Did DeTocqueville predict the "shadow" government, the influence of special interest groups and corporations that have a stranglehold on elected officials? Elected officials who run for reelection the very day they are elected and yet remain out of touch with their constituents. "Professional" politicians who vote legislation based on public opinion polls. Politicians who are so cowardly they must hire Madison Avenue to deliver their distorted, often mean-spirited message. Corporations and wealthy individuals that peddle their influence in Washington like prostitutes. And finally a voting populace where less than 50% vote?

Perhaps the shadow government extends not only in the political, but also the military sphere:

"There exists a shadowy Government with its own Air Force, its own Navy, its own fundraising mechanism, and the ability to pursue its own ideas of national interest, free from all checks and balances, and free from the law itself." - Senator Daniel K. Inouye

Abraham Lincoln:
Letter from Lincoln to (Col.) William F. Elkins, Nov. 21, 1864

"I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country. As a result of the war, corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until all wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed. I feel at this moment more anxiety for the safety of my country than ever before, even in the midst of war. God grant that my suspicions may prove groundless."

See Also: "Best Democracy Money Can Buy: An Investigative Reporter Exposes the Truth about Globalization, Corporate Cons, and High Finance Fraudsters," by Greg Palast

The rights of private persons amongst democratic nations are commonly of small importance, of recent growth, and extremely precarious; the consequence is, that they are often sacrificed without regret, and almost always without remorse.

...It is therefore most especially in the present democratic times, that the true friends of the liberty and greatness of man ought constantly to be on the alert, to prevent the power of government from lightly sacrificing the private rights of individuals to the general execution of its designs. At such times, no citizen is so obscure that it is not very dangerous to allow him to be oppressed; no private rights are so unimportant that they can be surrendered with impunity to the caprices of a government....To violate a right at the present day is deeply to corrupt the manners of the nation, and to put the whole community in jeopardy, because the very notion of this kind of right constantly tends amongst us to be impaired and lost.

Freedom of Speech on the Internet

"As the most participatory form of mass speech yet developed, the Internet deserves the highest protection from government intrusion." Just as the strength of the Internet is chaos, so the strength of our liberty depends upon the chaos and cacophony of the unfettered speech the First Amendment protects."

Three judge Federal panel in Philadelphia while considering challenges to the Communications Decency Act (CDA)

Envirolink

 Essential Information

The Center for Study of Responsive Law

The Nation

When Democracy Failed: The Warnings

The political world is metamorphosed: new remedies must henceforth be sought for new disorders. To lay down extensive but distinct and settled limits to the action of government; to confer certain rights on private persons, and to secure them the undisputed enjoyment of those rights; to enable individual man to maintain whatever independence, strength, and original power he still possesses; to raise him by the society at large, and uphold him in that position,- these appear to me the main objects of legislators in the ages upon which we are entering.

It would seem as if the rulers of our time sought only to use men in order to make things great; I wish they would try a little more to make great men; that they would set less value on work and more upon the workman that they would never forget that a nation cannot long remain strong when every man belonging to it is individually weak; and that no form or combination of social polity has yet been devised to make an energetic people out of a community of pusillanimous and enfeebled citizens.

The men who live in the democratic ages upon which we are entering have naturally a taste for independence; they are naturally impatient of regulation, and they are wearied by the permanence even of the condition they themselves prefer. They are fond of power, but are prone to despise and hate those who wield it, and they easily elude its grasp by their own mobility and insignificance.

These propensities will always manifest themselves, because they originate in the groundwork of society, which will undergo no change: for a time they will prevent the establishment of any despotism, and they will furnish fresh weapons to each succeeding generation which shall struggle in favor of the liberty of the individual. Let us, then, look forward to the future with that salutary fear which makes men keep watch and ward for freedom, not with that faint and idle terror which depresses and enervates the heart.

The above quotations are from "Democracy in America", by Alexis DeTocqueville, Specially Edited and Abridged for the Modern Reader by Richard D. Heffner, published by the New American Library, New York and Toronto, 1956.

No Longer for a Time

"One hundred years from now, historians will have no documentation of the initial boom that launched online media as a fundamental form of human communication."
Internet Archive


"...This instrument can teach, it can illuminate; yes, and it can even inspire. But it can do so only to the extent that humans are determined to use it to those ends. Otherwise it is merely wires and lights in a box. There is a great and perhaps decisive battle to be fought against ignorance, intolerance and indifference. This weapon of television could be useful."
Edward R Murrow, RTNDA Convention, Chicago, 10/15/1958


Solution: We should freeze the World Wide Web on January 1, 1996, back it up, and bury the hard disk. We should also transmit a copy of the electronic archive to the nearest solar system that might have intelligent life."

Dave Winer, "Bury the Web"


"Civilization is the progress toward a society of privacy. The savage's whole existence is public, ruled by the laws of his tribe. Civilization is the process of setting man free from men."
Ayn Rand - The Fountainhead (1943)


"How far can this go? Will it really be possible to construct an international society on something like the Third World model, with islands of great privilege in a sea of misery -- fairly large islands, in the richer countries -- and with controls of a totalitarian nature within democratic forms that increasingly become a facade? Or will popular resistance, which must itself become internationalized to succeed, be able to dismantle these evolving structures of violence and domination, and carry forth the centuries-old process of expansion of freedom, justice, and democracy that is now being aborted, even reversed? These are the large questions for the future."
Noam Chomsky, Oct. 28, 1993

 

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