“World’s Oldest Democracy”: The Myth & The Reality

Part 4

U.S. Imperialism

The covert and overt interventionist actions of the U.S. to overthrow democratically elected governments, to crush national liberation struggles, and to prop-up brutal despotic regimes across the world exposes the complete bankruptcy of the U.S. claim that it is an ardent champion of “freedom” and “democracy”. The U.S. exploits in this regard have been well documented by veteran journalist William Blum in his books titled Killing Hope: US Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II and Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower (Common Courage Press, Monroe, USA, 2003 & 2005). Allusions to “freedom” and “democracy” provide a convenient cover for vested interests in the U.S. to corner USA’s national wealth and for advancing the imperialistic goals of the same sections abroad!

Since WW-II alone, the U.S. has time and again covertly or militarily intervened and unlawfully overthrown democratically elected governments in Iran (1953); Guatemala (1954, 1963 and 1968); Congo (1960); Dominican Republic (1965); Indonesia (1965); Ghana (1966); Chile (1973); Granada (1983); and in Haiti (2004). The U.S. (with or without its British/Zionist ally) has also time and again attempted to crush national liberation struggles and progressive movements in Greece (1947-49), Palestine (1948-2009), Philippines (1948-54), Malaysia (1948-55), Puerto Rico (1950), Korea (1950-53), Kenya (1952-59), Egypt (1956 and 1967), Lebanon (1958, 1982 and 2006), Vietnam (1960-75), Cuba (1961), Cambodia (1969-75), Laos (1971-73), Angola (1976-92), Afghanistan (1978-1990), Nicaragua (1981-90), Venezuela (2004), and in several other countries at various times.

Furthermore, the US has consistently backed and aided the world’s most brutal dictatorships: Gen. Trujillo in the Dominican Republic (1930-61), Salazar in Portugal (1932-68), the monarchy in Saudi Arabia (1932-2009), Gen. Franco in Spain (1936-75), the Samozas in Nicaragua (1937-79), the racists in South Africa (1948-1990), the Zionists in Israel (1948-2009), the junta in South Korea (1948-87), Gen. Batista in Cuba (1952-1959), the Shah in Iran (1953-79), Gen. Rojas Pinilla in Colombia (1954-58), Gen. Stroessner in Paraguay (1954-1989), the junta in South Vietnam (1954-75), the Duvaliers in Haiti (1957-86), Gen. Suharto in Indonesia (1965-1998), Marcos in the Philippines (1966-86), the junta in Greece (1967-1973), Gen. Pinochet in Chile (1973-1990), and several other despotic regimes.

The defeat suffered by the U.S. military in Vietnam in 1975 and the collapse of Portuguese imperialism the same year, drove the U.S. to complete desperation; they could not conceive of anything else but of adopting terror as a strategy to contain national liberation movements. This strategy for furthering U.S. imperialist interests, which did not entail loss of American lives, has been well described by Prof. Mahmood Mamdani of Columbia University, New York, in his book titled Good Muslim, Bad Muslim: America, the Cold War, and the Roots of Terror (Pantheon, New York, 2004). Summarising the points he has made in his book, Prof. Mamdani in an interview to New York based e-journal AsiaSource on 05 May 2004 stated as follows:

Terror emerges as a strategy of the US after defeat in Vietnam, when it is on the verge of losing the Cold War. The strategy comes to a head with the Reagan administration, which throws overboard the language of “peaceful coexistence”, now demanding an agenda to “rollback” the Soviet Union…. Ronald Reagan ideologized proxy war in a religious idiom. Reagan ideologized the Cold War as a war against “evil”, against the “Evil Empire.”…. you cannot convert evil, you have to eliminate evil. In that titanic battle, any alliance is justified…. It was under the American protective umbrella that apartheid South Africa created Africa’s first genuine terrorist movement: Renamo in Mozambique, which was genuinely terrorist in the sense that it was not interested in fighting the military, its focus was on targeting civilians as a way of demonstrating that an independent African government was incapable of protecting its citizens.

The U.S. adopted the same strategy in Nicaragua and Afghanistan. According to Prof. Mamdani:

Whereas the US was an understudy in Mozambique, its embrace of terror became direct and brazen after the Sandinista Revolution of 1979. In Nicaragua, the US created a terrorist movement called Contras, more or less as apartheid South Africa had created Renamo in Mozambique, also from scratch. The lessons it learnt from southern Africa and Central America were put into practice in Afghanistan in the concluding phase of the Cold War.

There was also a direct link between undeclared/proxy wars and the drug trade. As Prof. Mamdani puts it:

The reason was simple: if you don’t declare war, you don’t have access to public funds to wage it. The search for funds to wage an undeclared war time and again led the CIA into an embrace of the underworld, particularly the drug lords. The Afghan war exemplified the extreme development of two tendencies: one, the ideologization of war in a religious idiom, and two, its privatization.

As a result, as Prof. Mamdani points out:

The war in Afghanistan was justified as a global jihad. To wage it, the CIA recruited volunteers globally; Muslims everywhere, in the US, in Britain, all over the world, were invited to participate in this global war. The CIA was busy creating cells everywhere, the nuclei of the same cells they are busy trying to smash today as a network of terror…. The Islamist network was both global and private. What we are reaping today is the whirlwind.1

Under the guise of spreading “freedom” and “democracy,” the U.S. establishment consciously chose to arm and fund in Afghanistan the most anti-democratic, anti-women, and ultra-conservative elements of society, who were projected as “jihadies” fighting for a just cause, in order to contain what the U.S. called “Soviet expansionism.” With the demise of the Soviet Union, which committed hara-kiri, the U.S. establishment has found a readymade “enemy” in the “jihadies” who have now chosen to bite the hand that fed them. Thus, the very forces, which are instrumental in aiding and abetting terrorism the world over, are today purportedly waging war against those very same terrorist networks. It is so obvious that without an omnipresent and everlasting “enemy”, the U.S. leadership will be hard put to divert attention away from the social crises at home and to justify the existence of a huge military establishment with its worldwide network of military bases and a questionable military alliance in the form of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO). Curiously enough, while seemingly waging the never-ending war against terror abroad, there has been a concurrent curtailment of “freedom” and “democratic rights” at home.

Onslaught on Civil Rights

When universal suffrage was beginning to become a reality and the moment it appeared that all hindrances to the exercise of democratic rights by all U.S. citizens were being practically removed, the 9/11 attack and its aftermath provided the requisite justification for enacting the USA PATRIOT Act. The “Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001″ is anything but a “patriotic” initiative as it was being made out. Incidentally, the PATRIOT Act was already in the pipeline before 9/11, which raises questions regarding the real motives behind its enactment!

The adverse impact of the PATRIOT Act across the U.S. has been well documented and analysed by Dr. Walter M. Brasch, professor of journalism at Bloomsburg University, Pennsylvania, in his book titled America’s Unpatriotic Acts: The Federal Government’s Violation Of Constitutional And Civil Rights. In the preface to the book, Dr. Brasch points out that:

In the Bush–Cheney era, dissent is not tolerated; jingoism is encouraged…. In Columbia, South Carolina, a fifty-four-year-old man was arrested for carrying a sign, “No More War for Oil”…. On Independence Day, 2004, at an official presidential appearance, two people were arrested when they refused to turn their T-shirts inside out so an anti-Bush message didn’t appear. In Scranton, Pennsylvania, a woman was ordered to remove a small metal peace button from her lapel. In Hamilton, New Jersey, where Laura Bush was rallying the faithful to support the war in Iraq, a mother whose son was killed in Iraq was escorted out because she wore a T-shirt that declared, “President Bush You Killed My Son,” and had the audacity to ask what the Republicans believed was a hostile question. Outside the auditorium, while talking with a reporter, she was ordered to leave, didn’t do so, and then was handcuffed and arrested on defiant trespass charges. In Medford, Oregon, three peaceful women were thrown out of a campaign rally, and then threatened with arrests. Their offense? They wore T-shirts that said, “Protect Our Civil Liberties.” Their cases are just a few of thousands throughout the country.

Furthermore, according to Dr. Brasch:

Throughout the country, libraries have put up signs warning that the FBI, under authority of the PATRIOT Act, may seize library records to determine reading habits of patrons. The congressional authority extends to bookstores, physicians’ offices, grocery stores, Internet service providers, and virtually any business or organization that has personal data of customers.

Essentially, what this meant was that:

Enforcement of the PATRIOT Act butts against the protections of six amendments to the Constitution: the First (freedom of religion, speech, press, and assembly, and the right to petition the government for a redress of grievances), Fourth (freedom from unreasonable searches), Fifth (right against self-incrimination and due process), Sixth (due process, the right to counsel, a speedy trial, and the right to a fair and public trial by an impartial jury), Eighth (reasonable bail and freedom from cruel and unusual punishment), and Fourteenth (equal protection guarantee for both citizens and non-citizens).2

Later, in an interview to Monthly Review on 22 July 2005, Dr. Brasch stated that:

…this administration has repeatedly used 9/11 to justify even greater restrictions upon Constitutional rights, while making it appear it is doing its best to protect Americans from terrorists…. Under the way the current administration can enforce the PATRIOT Act, Americans are all considered guilty until proven innocent.

According to Dr. Brasch, among dozens of national organizations that uncover abuses and fight for the preservation of U.S. constitutional and civil rights are the following: American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression; American Civil Liberties Union; American Library Association; Bill of Rights Defense Committee; Center for Constitutional Rights; Center for Democracy and Technology; Electronic Frontier Foundation; Electronic Privacy Information Center; Free Congress Foundation; Free Expression Policy Project; National Coalition to Repeal the Patriot Act; Open the Government, and People for the American Way; all of which have challenged how the PATRIOT Act is being enforced.

Immediately after the enactment of the PATRIOT Act, President Bush, on 13 November 2001, issued what is known as Military Order No.1. In response to this Order, Michael Ratner, a human rights attorney and the President of the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) in an article titled “November 13, 2001: Coup D’etat in America” stated that:

…it is a day, as they say, that should live in infamy. On that date in 2001, two months after 9/11, President Bush issued Military Order Number 1. … the President claimed the authority to capture, kidnap or otherwise arrest any non-citizen (it was later extended to citizens) anywhere in the world including the United States whom the President believed was involved in international terrorism and hold them forever without any charges, proceedings or trial…. This order embodies within it the violations of fundamental rights we are facing today: indefinite detention without trial, Guantanamo, secret sites, special trials and disappearances…. Let’s also repeat: this was a military order in a society and country that was still or purported to be under civilian rule. This order more then any other single document embodies our lost liberties.3

Gregory T. Nojeim, a Senior Counsel at the Center for Democracy & Technology (Washington D.C.) brought these disturbing developments to the notice of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on the Constitution on 01 October 2008. In a deposition titled “Restoring the Rule of Law”, he expressed his concern that:

Privacy, one of our most fundamental rights, recently has been dramatically eroded as a result not only of policy failures stemming from the response to September 11, but also because our privacy laws and policies have not kept pace with advances in technology…. In the wake of the 9/11 attacks, laws and policies have been adopted that unnecessarily weaken privacy rights and other constitutional liberties. The government has adopted data mining techniques, expanded electronic surveillance, and launched new identification programs without adequate safeguards for the rights of Americans.

Towards a Police State

Already several concerned individuals have been expressing the fear that attempts were being made to slowly turn the U.S. into a police state. Certain foreign observers too have commented on the unexpected turn of events. One of the first foreigners to make an adverse comment about the disturbing development that was taking place in the U.S. was a German diplomat, Jürgen Chrobog, who was the German Ambassador to the U.S. from 1995 to 2001 and later State Secretary in the Federal Foreign Office. According to a news report titled “Envoy dubs US a police state,” which was published in The Times (London) on 06 May 2003, Mr. Chrobog “was reported to have told Foreign Ministry colleagues that America was turning into a ‘police state.’”

Among the first in the U.S. to raise the question “Is America Becoming a Police State?” was Ron Paul a conservative Congressman from Texas, who later became the fourth placed candidate in the 2008 Republican presidential primaries. In his column “Texas Straight Talk” on 20 December 2004, Mr. Paul pointed out that:

The question is no longer rhetorical. We are not yet living in a total police state, but it is fast approaching…. The atmosphere since 2001 has permitted Congress to create whole new departments and agencies that purport to make us safer – always at the expense of our liberty…. Unfortunately, the new intelligence bill passed by Congress two weeks ago moves us closer to an encroaching police state…. Those who believe a police state can’t happen here are poor students of history.

An overview of the major legislations that have been enacted post 9/11 and which impinge on the democratic rights of U.S. citizens was brought out in 2007 in an article by Stephen Lendman titled “Police State America.” According to Lendman, a research associate at the Centre for Research on Globalization (Montreal):

’Police state America’ has been in the works a long time, and it now may be near the boiling point…. The nation is at war and laws are in place that end constitutional protections, militarize the country, repress dissent, and our government is empowered to crush freedom and defend privilege from beneficial social change it won’t tolerate. It’s the price of imperial arrogance we the people are paying, and that won’t end until the spirit of resistance gets aroused enough to stop it in our own self-defense.

While few articles of this kind ever get published in the mainstream print media or are referred to in the audio-visual media, a whole lot of such articles are circulating over the Internet. Numerous books have also been written regarding the unprecedented growth of authoritarianism under the Bush Administration. These include the following:

Elaine Cassel, (Lawrence Hill Books, Chicago, 2004). It has been reviewed as follows: “Offering sharp critiques of the Patriot and Homeland Security Acts, Cassel argues that Bush and Ashcroft have dangerously curtailed Americans’ freedom of speech and religion, their right to a fair trial, and their protection from torture and unreasonable search and seizure. She astutely criticizes the “continued expansion of the word terrorism,” which now encompasses, she says, “any opponent of government policy.” –Publishers Weekly, New York.

C. William Michaels, No Greater Threat: America After September 11 and the Rise of a National Security State (Algora, New York, 2005), which has been reviewed as follows: “In this very important study, C. W. Michaels gives us a unique guide and commentary, based on meticulous research, to the ominous growth of the national security state. His analysis of the USA PATRIOT Act is immensely useful and a wake up call for all Americans concerned with defending our civil liberties.” –Howard Zinn, author, A People’s History of the United States.

Joe Conason, It Can Happen Here: Authoritarian Peril in the Age of Bush (Thomas Dunne Books, New York, 2007), which has been reviewed as follows: according to Conason: “…fascism can indeed take root and blossom in the U.S. if Americans aren’t more vigilant about freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Although we are not facing full-blown fascism, Conason sees a “gradual and insidious turn toward authoritarian rule” for the first time since the Nixon administration. He explores how and why… an increasingly secretive Bush administration usurp the power of the legislature and disregard provisions of the Constitution by stoking fear of terrorism.” –BOOKLIST, the review journal of the American Library Association.

Naomi Wolf, The End of America: Letter of Warning to a Young Patriot (Chelsea Green Publishing, Vermont, USA, 2007), which has been reviewed as follows: “You will be shocked and disturbed by this book. Most Americans reject outright any comparison of post 9/11 America with the fascism and totalitarianism of Nazi Germany or Pinochet’s Chile. Sadly, the parallels and similarities, what Wolf calls the ‘echoes’ between those societies and America today, are all too compelling.” –Michael Ratner, Center for Constitutional Rights, New York.

Naomi Wolf is a noted feminist writer and lately a supporter of President Barak Obama. In an article titled “Fascist America, in 10 easy steps,” which was published in the Guardian (London) on 24 April 2007, Naomi Wolf wrote:

It is my argument that, beneath our very noses, George Bush and his administration are using time-tested tactics to close down an open society. It is time for us to be willing to think the unthinkable – as the author and political journalist Joe Conason, has put it, that it can happen here. And that we are further along than we realise. Conason eloquently warned of the danger of American authoritarianism. I am arguing that we need also to look at the lessons of European and other kinds of fascism to understand the potential seriousness of the events we see unfolding in the US.

These ominous changes have taken place in the U.S., especially in the last eight years. At the beginning of this essay, a reference was made to the unsavoury incident that Bela Malik et al. had to endure. However, it is now evident that the manner in which pressure was brought to bear on Bela Malik and her friends on 02 March 2006 in New Delhi in order to prevent them from expressing their anger at the ongoing war in Iraq during the visit of Laura Bush to a South Delhi Orphanage was nothing unique. Ever since 9/11, Bela Malik’s counterparts in the U.S. have had to endure far worse abuses due to the enactment of a series of legislations, which intrude into privacy in an unprecedented manner and thereby considerably interfere with exercise of constitutional rights. In the light of the realities of the situation as explained above, tall claims of the U.S. being the “world’s oldest democracy” and about its purported commitment to promotion of “freedom” and “human rights” are not only rather farfetched but also are an indication of the extent to which the Bush Administration had indulged in doublespeak. However, the myths created by the establishment tended to get credence because the mainstream print and audio-visual media, which are controlled by a few media conglomerates, widely propagate such myths as truths.

Media and Democracy

Largely due to the self-cultivated image, there is a popular misconception that news and views purveyed by the mass media is based on independent, objective and enlightened reportage. As one journalist recalls:

For more than a century, objectivity has been the dominant professional norm of the news media. It has at its heart the noble aim of presenting indisputable facts upon which everyone in society can agree, and build upon towards the goal of a better society… The uncorrupted ideal of objectivity, in the sense of reporters driving to dig out verified facts and present them fully and fairly, is indispensable in journalism…. During the 20th century, the ideal of objectivity in news coverage went from strength to strength… We think of objectivity as meaning neutral. But also balanced. Impartial. Non-partisan. Neutral. Accurate. Verified. Fair. Factual. Unemotional. Detached. Scientific. Reasoned. Unbiased.4

With such an exalted image of the media, at least at subconscious level, many people often form their opinions based on reports that appear in the print and audio-visual media. However, in reality, many a time the mainstream media tends to peddle partial truths, or even outright falsehood, as the whole truth – especially such news and views that are politically and socially sensitive. This is primarily because, as the saying goes, ‘he who pays the piper calls the tune’! The fact is that a handful of media conglomerates control much of the global mass media; the exercise of monopoly control in the U.S. is even greater. The media oligarchs, who in turn hold definite political and social biases, invariably decide the content and form of the news and views that are broadcast. Propagation of politically and socially biased news and views, thus, have adverse impact on the collective consciousness.

Strong reaction against this negative trend arose in the 1970s. As Ulla Carlsson, Director, NORDICOM (The Nordic Information Centre for Media and Communication Research, Göteborg University, Sweden) has pointed out:

Global flows of news and information were the subject of intense debate in international fora in the 1970s. News gathering and reporting has been controversial, both within nations and between nations…. The United Nations, and UNESCO in particular, were the prime arenas where these issues were thrashed out…. The issue of a new international information order is bound up with ideas about the role of communication in the development of societies, on the one hand, and the relations between developed and developing countries, on the other.5

Therefore, acceding to the demand of the non-aligned countries for a new international information order, UNESCO appointed a commission known as The International Commission for the Study of Communication Problems in 1977 to study all manner of problems of communication in the world. Sean MacBride, former Minister for External Affairs of Ireland and the then Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations, officiated as Chair of the 16-member Commission. The Commission’s final report titled “Many Voices, One World. Communication and Society, Today and Tomorrow. Towards a New, More Just and More Efficient World Information and Communication Order,” was submitted to UNESCO in 1980. The Report is popularly known as the MacBride Report.

According to Dr. Carlsson:

The Commission report stresses that it is not only about developing countries, but about the whole of humanity, because unless the necessary changes are made in all parts of the world, it will not be possible to attain freedom, reciprocity or independence in the exchange of information worldwide. The Commission confirmed the persistence of imbalances in news and information flows between countries and marked inequalities in the distribution of communication resources…. For the first time ever, a UNESCO document plainly stated that a few transnational companies controlled the international information system and that their control posed a threat to the cultural integrity and national independence of many countries.

Dr. Carlsson further added that:

The commercialization of information is harshly criticized, as is the expansion of advertising markets. The Commission stressed the importance of the social function of information. An important theme in the report throughout is, for that matter, an emphasis on the societal roles of information and the need for democratization of communication flows…. These demands [for the 4 Ds – Development, Democratization, Decolonization and Demonopolization] call for measures not only in the developing countries but, perhaps even more so, in the developed countries…. A lot of emphasis is put on the right to communicate, defined as ‘the right to be informed, the right to inform, the right to privacy, the right to participate in public communication’ at all levels – ‘international, national, local and individual’…. There was also a hint of the idea that the causes of underdevelopment might be found in the developed and the developing countries alike.5

The governments of USA and UK were furious with the MacBride Report. This was because the attack on media monopoly was construed as a direct attack on the interests of the wealthy classes.

One of the first to expose the extent of corporate control over the mass media in the U.S. was Ben Haig Bagdikian, who taught journalism and subsequently served as Dean of the Graduate School of Journalism at the University of California at Berkeley. His book titled The Media Monopoly (Beacon Press, Boston, 1983) warned about the adverse effects of corporate ownership in the media. The work has been updated six times (through 2000) before being rewritten and renamed The New Media Monopoly in 2004. During this period, according to the publishers, “the number of corporations controlling most of America’s daily newspapers, magazines, radio and television stations, book publishers, and movie companies has dwindled from fifty to ten to five.”

In Ben Bagdikian’s analysis:

It is a handful of large media conglomerates that create the daily and nightly news world for a majority of Americans…. Our picture of reality does not burst upon us in one splendid revelation. It accumulates day by day and year by year in mostly unspectacular fragments from the world scene, produced mainly by the mass media. Our view of the real world is dynamic, cumulative, and self-correcting as long as there is a pattern of even-handedness in deciding which fragments are important. But when one important category of the fragments is filtered out, or included only vaguely, our view of the social-political world is deficient.

Another important publication on the subject was by Edward S. Herman (Professor Emeritus of Finance, Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania) & Noam Chomsky (Professor, Department of Linguistics & Philosophy, Massachusetts Institute of Technology) titled Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media (Pantheon Books, New York, 1988). This seminal work is an attempt to show that:

contrary to the usual image of the news media as cantankerous, obstinate, and ubiquitous in their search for truth and defense of justice, in their actual practice they defend the economic, social, and political agendas of the privileged groups that dominate domestic society, the state, and the global order…. What emerges from this work is a powerful assessment of how propagandistic the U.S. mass media are, how they systematically fail to live up to their self-image as providers of the kind of information that people need to make sense of the world, and how we can understand their function in a radically new way.

Prof. Noam Chomsky followed it up with a work titled Media Control: The Spectacular Achievements of Propaganda (Seven Stories Press, New York, 1997 & 2003). In this book, Prof. Chomsky

…reveals how falsification of history, suppression of information, and the promotion of vapid, empty concepts have become standard operating procedure for the leaders of the United States–both Democrats and Republicans–in their efforts to prevent citizens from raising awkward questions about U.S. policy.

Robert W. McChesney (Professor in the Department of Communication at the University of Illinois) is also a major contributor to the debate with his work titled Corporate Media and the Threat to Democracy (Seven Stories Press, New York, 1997). As Prof. McChesney points out:

… private control over media and communication is not a neutral or necessarily a benevolent proposition. The commercial basis of U.S. media has negative implications for the exercise of political democracy: it encourages a weak political culture that makes depoliticization, apathy and selfishness rational choices for the citizenry, and it permits the business and commercial interests that actually rule U.S. society to have inordinate influence over media content…. The right-wing assault on journalism and public broadcasting is not an isolated or exceptional phenomenon. It is part and parcel of a wholesale attack on all those institutions that possess some autonomy from the market and the rule of capital.

Thus, according to Prof. McChesney:

… so long as the media are in corporate hands, the task of social change will be vastly more difficult, if not impossible, across the board. The biggest problem facing all who challenge the prerogatives of corporate rule is that the overwhelming majority of Americans are never exposed to anything remotely close to a reasoned, coherent, consistent, democratic socialist, pro-labor, or even old-fashioned New Deal Democratic perspective. This is why, in the end, media reform is inexorably intertwined with broader social and political reform. They rise or fall together.

The present challenges facing the media were discussed at the third National Media Reform Conference in Minneapolis during 06-08 June 2008, “an event that brought together thousands of people dedicated to making America’s media system more democratic, diverse and accountable”. One of the keynote addresses were delivered by veteran journalist, Bill Moyers, a former White House Press Secretary in the Johnson Administration from 1965-67, a recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Emmy Award in 2006, and currently the host of a weekly public affairs series entitled Bill Moyers Journal on Public Broadcasting Service (PBS). In a scathing attack on corporate media he noted that:

…our dominant media are ultimately accountable only to corporate boards whose mission is not “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” for the whole body of our republic, but the aggrandizement of corporate executives and shareholders…

Referring to the war in Iraq he said:

…this Administration – with the complicity of the dominant media – conducted a political propaganda campaign, using erroneous and misleading intelligence to deceive Americans into supporting an unprovoked attack on another country… Sadly, the Fourth Estate became the Fifth Column of democracy, colluding with the powers-that-be in a “culture of deception”… that subverts the thing most necessary to freedom – the truth.

Moyers was equally appalled by the continued existence of poverty in the midst of plenty in the U.S. Expressing his concern in this regard, he said:

Extremes of wealth and poverty cannot be reconciled with a truly just society. Capitalism will breed great inequality that is destructive unless tempered by an intuition for equality which is the heart of democracy. When the state becomes the guardian of power and privilege to the neglect of justice for the people who have neither power nor privilege, you can no longer claim to have a representative government.

In Moyers view, many such critical issues escape the attention of the larger public because of media consolidation. According to him:

As conglomerates swallow up newspapers, magazines, publishing houses, and broadcast outlets, news organizations are folded into entertainment divisions. The “news hole” in the print media shrinks to make room for ads, celebrities, nonsense, and propaganda, and the news we need to know slips from sight.

In short, the powerful role being played by the media in shaping public opinion cannot be overstated; the more and more it goes under monopoly control, the public is likely to have less and less access to the truth!

Conclusion

The analysis of the claim that the U.S. is the “world’s oldest democracy” has necessitated examination of various historical aspects from the formation of USA to the role of slavery, to the fate of American Indians, to the abolition movement, to the expansion of franchise, to the disenfranchising laws, to the civil rights movement, and to the voting rights act. It also necessitated analyses of the nature of the U.S. Constitution, the iniquitous development, the role of U.S. imperialism, the onslaught on civil rights, the threat of emergence of a police state, and the nature & role of the media in the U.S. All the evidences from the analyses negate the dubious claims of the U.S. establishment regarding its commitment to “freedom” and “democracy.”

As far as the current state of electoral laws and processes are concerned, the inferences drawn by Alexander Keysser from his analysis of the history of voting rights in the U.S. are especially noteworthy. According to him:

At the opening of the twenty-first century (and the new millennium), nearly all adult citizens of the United States are legally entitled to vote…. That it took so long for universal suffrage to be achieved reflects elements of our history that fit uneasily into the official portrait of the United States as the standard bearer of democracy and representative institutions. One such element…is that the right to vote has never been formally enshrined in our nation’s constitutional order.6

The range of choices offered to the public has been kept narrow, in part through the increasing institutionalization of the two-party system: rules governing ballot access limit the ability of dissident parties to mount national campaigns…. As a result, the voices of the more privileged are heard more loudly in the halls of governance, and the ideal of democracy – that all voices be heard equally – is consistently undermined.7

In addition, the role of money in elections is enormous. Campaigns, waged largely on television, have become extraordinarily expensive, and candidates who cannot raise larger war chests are doomed to failure…. Indeed, if current trends continue, the actual casting of ballots may be in danger of becoming a pro forma ritual designed to ratify the selection of candidates who have already won the fund raising contests…. No political system can claim to be democratic without universal suffrage, but a broad franchise alone cannot guarantee to each citizen an equal voice in politics and governance. The arrangements and institutions that surround the conduct of election… all can promote or vitiate the equality of political rights…. The current debate over campaign financing and the use of soft money can be viewed as the latest battle in the two-centuries war over the democratization of politics in the United States; at the movement, antidemocratic forces are winning that battle, and in so doing, are undercutting the achievements of universal suffrage.8

Keyssar’s warning eight years ago, that “antidemocratic forces are … undercutting the achievements of universal suffrage,” appears to be almost prophetic! Ever since the ascendancy of George W. Bush as the U.S. President in January 2001, through the highly disputed and controversial presidential election of 2000,9 there has been systematic erosion of civil rights in the U.S. The concerted attempt to curtail civil rights of U.S. citizens is an indication of the panic reaction from the side of the U.S. establishment, which is scared of the broadening of franchise and of the likely increased participation of the citizens at large in the decision-making processes. The spectre of “terrorism” is a convenient excuse to clampdown on all anti-establishment protests and to ensure that the restrictions neatly remain in place throughout the never-ending war against “terror”! At the same time, the U.S. establishment is compelled to repeatedly proclaim its adherence to laudatory precepts of “freedom” and “democracy” in order to conceal not only its authoritarian pursuits but also the fact about the widening economic disparities between the elite and the mass of U.S. citizens. There was also a forlorn hope that the self-proclamation of being the “world’s oldest democracy” would somehow cover-up the sins the U.S. committed in the past and is committing in the present both at home and abroad.

The real nature of democracy in the U.S. cannot be understood without reference to the observations made by those like:

(a) Prof. Charles Beard regarding the elitist nature of the U.S. Constitution;
(b) Prof. Alexander Keyssar regarding the history of the right to vote;
(c) Prof. Henry Call, Prof. Gar Alperovitz, and the Working Group on Extreme Inequality regarding the iniquitous economic system;
(d) Journalist William Blum and Prof. Mahmood Mamdani, who have documented the misdeeds of U.S. imperialism and debunked the U.S. claim of spreading “freedom” and “democracy” abroad;
(e) Dr.Gordon Lafer regarding absence of democratic rights for nearly 88 per cent of the 138 million workforce at their work place;
(f) Prof. Walter M. Brasch and attorneys Michael Ratner & Gregory T. Nojeim, who have raised concerns about erosion of civil rights;
(g) Congressman Ron Paul, researcher Stephen Lendman, Prof. Elaine Cassel, attorney C. William Michaels, journalist Joe Conason, and writer Naomi Wolf, who had raised alarm about the dangerous drift towards a police state; and
(h) Journalist Ben Bagdikian, Prof. Edward S. Herman, Prof. Noam Chomsky, Prof. Robert W. McChesney, and journalist Bill Moyers, who have exposed the disastrous effects of media monopoly that has resulted in the discarding of objectivity, accuracy and fairness in the dissemination of information.

It is a disturbing sign that despite the Bush Administration’s frightening legacy, nearly 60 million voters, or over 45 per cent of those who cast their ballot in the 2008 U.S. presidential election, voted for the Republican Party! While the bulk of the 69 million voters, or nearly 53 per cent, who voted for Barak Obama may have cast their ballots with the ardent hope that President Bush’s authoritarian legacy would be dismantled, it is not very clear whether the Democratic Party is predisposed towards fulfilling that earnest expectation. It also remains to be seen whether Barak Obama, in his new role as President of the U.S., has the will to uphold the cause of civil rights (to which he was purportedly committed) and world peace or he would succumb to pressure and end up remaining a prisoner of his circumstances.

Hopefully, the various democratic institutions that were arduously built with determination to seek justice for all – during the long period of the abolitionist movement, the suffragette movement, the working-class movement and the civil rights movement – should be able to withstand the onslaught and succeed in dismantling the authoritarian and iniquitous structures erected before and during the hideous Bush era. Democratic right is not merely a right to vote once every few years. Fair access to nation’s material wealth; right to education, information, communication and association (including at the work place); and non-discrimination of any kind – by way of creed, language, colour, caste, region, ethnicity or gender – are all integral for nurturing a democratic society and in giving meaning to the notion of freedom.

  • Read Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.
    1. Also see: The Politics of Heroin: CIA Complicity in the Global Drug Trade by Alfred W. McCoy, Professor of History, University of Wisconsin-Madison, (Lawrence Hill Books, New York, 2003); & Cocaine Politics: Drugs, Armies, and the CIA in Central America by Peter Dale Scott, Professor of English, University of California, & Jonathan Marshall, Economics Editor of the San Francisco Chronicle, (University of California Press, Berkeley, 1991). []
    2. Walter M. Brasch, America’s Unpatriotic Acts: The Federal Government’s Violation Of Constitutional And Civil Rights (Peter Lang Publishing, New York, 2005). []
    3. 13 November 2007 [CCR is the lead attorneys for those imprisoned without rights at Guantánamo for the last seven years.] []
    4. Doug McGill, “The Fading Mystique of An Objective Press,” The McGill Report, 24 October 2004. []
    5. Ulla Carlsson, “The Rise and Fall of NWICO [New World Information and Communication Order] – and Then?” EURICOM Colloquium, Venice, 5-7 May 2003. [] []
    6. Alexander Keysser, The Right to Vote – The Contested History of Democracy in the United States, Basic Books, New York, 2000, p. 316-317. []
    7. Keyssar, p. 320-322. []
    8. Keyssar, p. 322-323. []
    9. The 2004 presidential election too was disputed; in fact, there have been outright accusations of electoral fraud both during the 2000 as well as the 2004 elections. Mark Crispin Miller (Professor of Media, Culture and Communication at New York University), in his books titled Fooled Again: How the Right Stole the 2004 Election (Basic Books, New York, 2005) and Loser Take All: Election Fraud and The Subversion of Democracy, 2000-2008 (Ig Publishing, Brooklyn, 2008), has analysed the issue in detail. Despite attempts by sections of the judiciary, the Democratic Party and as well as the mainstream print and audio-visual media to underplay the magnitude and ramifications of the electoral fraud committed by the Republican Party, concerned citizens have tried to expose the fraud through other available means. [The need for reforms in electoral laws and electoral processes are concerns, which are still hotly debated in the U.S. One such issue is the disenfranchisement of detainees awaiting trial and ex-felons. This problem has both racial and class dimensions as well since those in the said categories are disproportionately non-whites and from the working class and the poor. The magnitude of the problem is huge considering that there are over 2 million ex-felons and nearly 1.5 felons on probation, apart from another 2 million, who are currently in prisons and jails.] []

    N.D. Jayaprakash is the Joint Secretary of the Delhi Science Forum & National Coordination Committee (NCC) Member of the Coalition for Nuclear Disarmament and Peace (CNDP), India. He can be reached at: jaypdsf@gmail.com. Read other articles by N.D..

    21 comments on this article so far ...

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    1. Brian said on March 21st, 2009 at 9:37am #

      Nicely reasoned.

      However, you can forget about Obama doing anything about rights or empire.

      The man is a certifiable Harvard lawyer, right? Well, why hasn’t he arrested Bush and Cheney. Their crimes are transparent. Anyone with a sophomore government class background can see they’ve violated massive numbers of laws.

      In order for our American ideal to have ANY credibility these two should be put on trial, or the law has no meaning.

      The man’s been in office what, 60 days? It shouldn’t have taken him more than 60 minutes to get it done. In fact, right after he flubbed up the oath of office he could have had Mr. Bush taken into custody.

      But no, we have to let an ignoramus wreck a country full of people, damage our national guard and armed forces, with responsibility for countless lives lost because to actually enforce the law would be…divisive.

    2. bozh said on March 21st, 2009 at 9:59am #

      establishing THE democracy for humans is an illusion. democracy is for birds.
      a flock of birds such as finches, sparrows, doves, swans is quite democratic. what a beautiful sight it is to watch a bunch of birds land on my tree and cohabit in perfect harmony.

      another good thing about birds is that they never take a vote; each bird appears be able to read each other bird’s brain waves.
      so, why has ‘god’ or nature punished us so? are we destined ‘forever’ to argue with another? and with rancour?

      are we going to vote forever? for oneparty system? is it a ‘god’ or nature who is mean to us or is it some of us who are mean to most others by making us vote, listen to lies, and ‘pomises’? tnx

    3. Michael Kenny said on March 21st, 2009 at 10:46am #

      Good lord! Just about everything that has happened since the fall of the Roman Empire seems to have been masterminded by the US! Or did Mr. Jayaprakash simply forget the Romans?

      Reality check: the Congo in 1960 was a Belgian operation. Malaya (Malaysia didn’t exist until 1963!) and Kenya were purely British operations. The Malaya insurgency failed because it was run by the Chinese minority, who were disliked by the Malay majority. Egypt in 1956 was a French/British/Israeli operation which failed precisely because the US OPPOSED it! Afghanistan was US support for a guerilla movement fighting a foreign invasion of their country (does Mr Jayaprakash deny the right of the Afghans to resist foreign invasion?)

      Finally, trying to hijack the Greek civil war as a “national liberation struggle” does a disservice to all the genuine national liberation struggles around the world. The Greek communists tried to seize power by force, something they would have felt no need to do if they believed that they could win a free and fair election. The Greek people, naturally, resisted them. The British helped. The cold war broke out. A deal was done with Stalin, who called off his dogs in return for being let keep what he had already taken. Free elections were held. The communists got quite a respectable share of the vote, which they lost only after communism was discredited in the 1990s. In other words, if British aim in supporting Greek democracy was to drive the communists out of public life, they failed miserably!

      The absurdity in all this is that there is so much undeniable evidence of US wrongdoing in a whole series of countries, there is absolutely no need to fabricate further evidence or distort facts! By foaming and frothing his way through every political event he can remember and attributing it to “America’s bloody footprint”, Mr Jayaprakash is being, well … bloody silly!

    4. N.D.Jayaprakash said on March 21st, 2009 at 11:13am #

      “President ‘ordered murder’ of Congo leader

      Martin Kettle in Washington
      Guardian

      Thursday August 10, 2000

      Forty years after the murder of the Congolese independence leader Patrice Lumumba, evidence has emerged in Washington that President Dwight Eisenhower directly ordered the CIA to “eliminate” him.

      The evidence comes in a previously unpublished 1975 interview with the minute-taker at an August 1960 White House meeting of Eisenhower and his national security advisers on the Congo crisis.

      The minute-taker, Robert Johnson, said in the interview that he vividly recalled the president turning to Allen Dulles, director of the CIA, “in the full hearing of all those in attendance, and saying something to the effect that Lumumba should be eliminated”.

      http://www.guardian.co.uk/Archive/Article/0,4273,4049783,00.html

    5. Shabnam said on March 21st, 2009 at 11:45am #

      People from American military personnel who reside on one of US basis in Europe or somewhere else are reminding us that the US is not the dominant power since World War II. Isn’t it? We saw the French/British/Israeli operation in 1956 did not work because of US dominant position, thus the US did not find the operation in the interest of the United States and had to intervene. These US military personnel from one of American basis in Europe do not view US support of Afghan Mujahedin as US INTEREST and repeat the rubbish that US was supporting ‘freedom fighters’ who were turned ‘enemies’ over night after they kicked out Russian from Afghanistan with over one million deaths where to be occupied soon by the axis of evil, the US to kill Afghani every day from the sky. But these military personnel view Iranian support of Hezbollah an act of terrorism and try to punish both Iran and Lebanon through stringent sanction where have passed to punish and kill both population of Iran, Lebanon with the support of their western allies and the fools in the US and in the western countries such as Canada, France, Germany, Britain, Australia, ………

    6. Shabnam said on March 21st, 2009 at 11:47am #

      American bases not basis

    7. Tennessee-Chavizta said on March 21st, 2009 at 2:10pm #

      bozh:

      “establishing THE democracy for humans is an illusion. democracy is for birds.” Not really, Venezuela has the closest thing to a democracy right now, so establishing a democracy is possible

    8. kalidas said on March 21st, 2009 at 3:18pm #

      “A democracy is nothing more than mob rule, where fifty-one percent of the people may take away the rights of the other forty-nine.”

      Thomas Jefferson

      “Democracy means simply the bludgeoning of the people by the people for the people.”

      Oscar Wilde

      “Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want and deserve to get it good and hard.”

      Henry Louis Mencken

    9. Magarulian said on March 21st, 2009 at 3:29pm #

      Once again, a “liberal-leftist-progressive” has done some research and has gathered together the information that ‘we in the minority’ have already seen and read many times before. More articles, books, analyses, reflections, viewpoints, lawmaker contacts, votings, marches, feeble protests (i.e., tea parties) and minor rants and ravings have proven that they accomplish NOTHING.

      The information we all need is already out there. It’s been out there for years. Very little new information has been introduced to us. The majority of information has simply been repackaged over and over and over again.

      Here’s the problem:
      “…nearly 60 million voters, or over 45 per cent of those who cast their ballot in the 2008 U.S. presidential election, voted for the Republican Party! While the bulk of the 69 million voters, or nearly 53 per cent, …voted for Barak Obama (and expected change).”
      That’s the problem!

      Only about 3% of us really understand what’s going on. The rest are so dumbed-down, living in a state of denial, or otherwise so brainwashed by high-tech toys and religious affiliations that they are unable to “see.” That’s the problem!

      The American Empire, and all that it entails, will exist and continue to exist as long as 97% of its citizens support it. That’s the problem!

      Our efforts should be focused on the ways we can reach these people. Nothing else matters as much.

    10. N.D.Jayaprakash said on March 22nd, 2009 at 7:36am #

      Dear Mr.Kenny,
      As I have already pointed out in my earlier note, CIA’s direct involvement in the overthrow of Patrice Lumumba in Congo in 1960 (and his subsequent assassination in 1961) can hardly be disputed. In Malaya and Kenya, certainly it was USA’s close ally, Britain, which was directly involved.

      With regard to USA’s involvement in Egypt, may I please draw Mr.Kenny’s attention to the publication titled “The United States, Great Britain, and Egypt, 1945-1956: Strategy and Diplomacy in the Early Cold War” by Peter L. Hahn, University of North Carolina Press (April 1991). Kindly look for information on the “OMEGA initiative”, especially, as to why the U.S. reneged from its commitment to fund the Aswan Dam, which precipitated the Suez crisis.

      I certainly do not deny the right of the Afghans to resist foreign invasion. The USSR should not have invaded Afghanistan. It committed a strategic blunder by doing so despite its claim that it was trying to support the progressive sections of the Afghan population. Whereas the United States knew from day one that it was extending support to the most retrograde, ultra-conservative and anti-women forces in Afghanistan. There was not even a pretense that the U.S. was then trying to support the “pro-democracy” forces in Afghanistan. Today, the U.S. is reaping the whirlwind and the “pro-democratic” forces in Afghanistan and elsewhere are forced to pay dearly for the mindless manner in which the U.S. establishment chose to arm and fund the progenitors of the Taliban. How is it that the Taliban has access to an inexhaustible supply of sophisticated arms even now?

      The civil war in Greece was provoked through British and U.S. intervention. They had entered the scene after the anti-fascist national liberation struggle led by the Greek People’s Liberation Army (ELAS), had practically liberated most parts of Greece by March 1944. The Nazis were forced to withdraw from Greece by October 1944. Instead of supporting ELAS, Britain and USA decided to support the pro-fascist “Royalists” in Greece immediately after WW-II, which led to the outbreak of civil war in December 1944. As to who had instigated the civil war is evident from the memoirs of one of the members of USA’s Special Reconnaissance Battalion, also known as the “Greek / American Operational Group”, which was in Greece from 23 April to 20 November 1944, who could not but admit to the following:

      “Greeks who waited out the war in the safe sanctuaries of Egypt, the United States of America, and the United Kingdom, along with some who had remained in Greece and collaborated with the Nazi occupation were recruited by the British to form the new government of Greece, while the brave EAM/ELAS were left out of the loop. I have often wondered if the British had allowed the EAM/ELAS to participate in forming the new Greek government, could the civil war in Greece have been averted?” – Andrew S. Mousalimas “Greek / American Operational Group Office of Strategic Services (OSS) Memoirs of World War 2”, Part 6, Greece: Drama [Preservation of American Hellenic History – http://www.pahh.com/oss/pt6/p53.html

      Please also refer to “NATO’s Secret Armies: Operation Gladio and Terrorism in Western Europe” by Daniele Ganser, Routledge, New York, 2005, which further sheds light on the U.S. establishment’s questionable role in Europe.
      See: http://books.google.com/books?id=VAbkogswOmEC&pg=RA1-PR3&lpg=RA1-PR3&dq=%E2%80%9CNATO%27s+Secret+Armies:+Operation+Gladio+and+Terrorism+in+Western+Europe%E2%80%9D+by+Daniele+Ganser,+Routledge,+New+York,+2005&source=bl&ots=cLynvx3NwU&sig=cb7rhwAY6dkuZJn5_Byz2CWQv7w

    11. rosemarie jackowski said on March 22nd, 2009 at 12:06pm #

      Magarulian…I agree. With 97 or 98% voting for a dem and expecting change – well what can be said. The information is out there. Unfortunately, the misinformation is also out there. Too many are more interested in basketball scores and/or NASCAR than US foreign policy.
      The people always get the government they deserve – and then they get voters remorse as with the AIG bailouts.

    12. Juergen Chrobog said on March 23rd, 2009 at 3:26am #

      I never made a statement that the US is turning into a police state and I never believed that that might happen. The articles you refer to were bases on one totally fabricated and false quote which was immediately denied by me and all participatnts ot that meeting.
      Juergen Chrobog
      Former German Ambassador to the United States

    13. Tennessee-Chavizta said on March 23rd, 2009 at 7:29am #

      Magarulian: Hi, how are you? I think that the real cause of why like you said only 3% to 5% in USA are awake and about 95% (According to scientific-polls) keep voting for the traditional political parties, is that life in USA is too exhausting, too physically tasking. If you think about it, most US citizens have 2 jobs (regular jobs and domestic chores) which leads to a state of physical and emotional fatigue, preventing Americans from spending some emotional energies in being more curious and less apathetic.

      And indeed, the US cities are so irrational, so badly planned that every thing in America is real far, some people have to drive like 1 hour a day just to get to their exhausting wage-slavery jobs. And the excessive driving in the USA, along with the ugliness of most US cities, and environment in this prison like country, leads people to a state of total denial.

      I am not a psychologist, but i think that, the lack of fun, lack of variety, and excess of chores and work is what leads US citizens to a state of desesentization, tiredness and boredom

      ,

    14. bozh said on March 23rd, 2009 at 8:31am #

      tennesse,
      a small correction ab. THE democracy being illusory. it is possible to achieve it.
      in venezuella, with ab. 30% lethal enemies of greater equality for all people is, in fact, 30% fascist, supported by at least 2bn fanatics.

      i also aver that we may never eliminate classes of people; i.e, clergy wld still avoid to be with/of people. doctors may hobnob only or mostly with doctors. and so on.

      having that in mind, i said that THE democracy is an illusion.
      and we need also sanitize the language in daily use.
      how to properly use laguage is sine qua non for achieving a democracy.

      when i am talking ab. using language correctly, i do not have in mind grammar, spelling, or even syntax but whether transferred meanning was received and whether a fact is evaluated as fact or nonfact, etcetc.

      and we shld use more english and less latin, even in law. what does it mean to my wife [and by inference other wives and husbands] de facto, de jure, ephemeral, eristic, corrollary, postulate, derivatives, and bagful and bagful of non-english?

      i don’t think that more than 10% of people know what these words mean. but ?all people in US know well english. let’s use english only or mostly.
      yet, in my opinion, any colloquial languge wld do to understand everything except quatum physics, etc. tnx

    15. N.D.Jayaprakash said on March 23rd, 2009 at 10:21am #

      Dear Ambassador Chrobog,

      Since you have stated that you have not made any such statement, I shall request the editor of Dissidentvoice to include your denial alongside your purported statement, which I have quoted from The Times.

      Kindly note that I had used a source, which is usually considered reliable at least as far as information pertaining to Western nations are concerned. I also wish to draw your attention to the fact that the statement attributed to you is still at the same website http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/iraq/article879788.ece. It is indeed very surprising that The Times has not bothered to publish your denial because of which this alleged misinformation has been circulating in the Internet for the last six years. Or is it because, The Times is insisting on sticking to the story? Once The Times publishes your denial, the issue would stand resolved.

      Jayaprakash

    16. mary said on March 23rd, 2009 at 11:20am #

      Regardless of whether Chrobog has been quoted correctly (and the Times link seems to confirm it) , this author is convinced that the US is already a police state and provides the evidence.

      “To answer the question posited in the title of this article: my conclusion is that—considering the developments reviewed in this article—yes, America is already a police state. For now, it remains one that prefers to pacify the population through the use of coerced consent and propaganda, but it will remain so only so long as the populous allows themselves to continue to be enslaved and exploited, their land bases destroyed for the profit of the few. In the end, they will resort to killing us. Mark my words. They have done it in the past, and they continue to do it elsewhere today. Soon, they will do it in America.

      As the global resistance continues to unfold, so will the repressive responses of the State apparatus. We can expect escalated attacks against our communities of resistance as we escalate our revolt against this culture of death and destruction.

      We must develop relationships based upon affinity and communities capable of withstanding the onslaught of the repressive mechanisms of the State and transnational capital. We must develop the networks and connections necessary to survive the endgame of the elite’s psychotic obsession with total authority, power, and control. We must free ourselves from the mechanisms of dependency that keep us suckling at the teat of systemic global ecocide. We must establish autonomous communities of active resistance and stand in firm defiance against the destruction of our world and the precariousness of our lives. The best time was yesterday. The second best time is now.”

      Nathan Coe – Is America Already a Police State?
      http://www.guerrillanews.com/articles/3964/Is_America_Already_a_Police_State

      Similar signs are evident in the UK, e.g. thousands more tasers have just been ordered for use by the police forces.

    17. Magarulian said on March 23rd, 2009 at 11:45am #

      Tennessee,
      “physical and emotional fatigue” does contribute to the reasons why most Americans are desensitized and apathetic. But why make excuses for them? Even in this so-called recession, Americans are still consuming beyond what is rational for the planet’s sustainability. The American Way of Life still dominates most lifestyles.

      “most US citizens have 2 jobs (regular jobs and domestic chores)” because they have been trained to “need” stuff. Hopefully, as the economy gets worse, folks will wake up and realize that much of the consumption they’ve been doing over the years has actually been detrimental to their well-being.

      If people only comprehended that watching TV is an incredible waste of time, they could retrain themselves and family members to interact and have fun – and to relate with our natural world. And at that point, they would know what corporate control means.

    18. Tennessee-Chavizta said on March 23rd, 2009 at 11:47am #

      bozh: Venezuela is the most democratic nation of this world. Read this article about the meaning of 21st Century socialism in Venezuela:

      VENEZUELA IS THE BEST DEMOCRACY OF ALL THE HISTORY OF MANKIND. AND HUGO CHAVEZ IS THE MOST DEMOCRATIC AND HUMANIST PRESIDENT OF ALL HISTORY OF MANKIND

      http://www.vheadline.com/readnews.asp?id=76024

      VHeadline commentarist Carlos M. Pietri writes: Oil Wars Blogspot’s article If that’s the case is “participatory democracy” really anything meaningful? seeks to convey to us that participatory democracy is just a bunch of theoretical mumbo-jumbo just because President Chavez did not consult the people before taking an executive decision related to an energy saving strategy here in Venezuela.

      I won’t try to defend the Chavez decision in this regard but, please, only imagine if he referred every single thing he must decide to the Venezuelan people’s consultation.

      Personally, I believe that we elected him to take decisions…

      My intention, here, is to share with you some concepts on: Democracy, Dictatorship and Socialism.

      Representative Democracy:
      The Bourgeoisie fiction

      In the bourgeois states, the only democratic participation that the citizen has is at certain intervals to choose candidates for the Presidency and/or Parliament … this is about as far as democracy gets us if we talk about our rights, since we’re up to our necks in ‘obligations.’

      Elections take on a spontaneous face and fiction at the same time … they seem spontaneous when candidates are presented from the body of society as an authentic expression of most people’s interests and as fiction when offering as solutions to problems

      The myth of advancement is where candidates represent the dominant class and strictly obey their interests and so advancement is nothing more than a change of appearance since the practice of bourgeois politics — independently of candidate or government — will always respond to the interests of capital and the bourgeoisie.

      Dictatorship:
      An unmasked bourgeoisie government.

      A practical description of Dictatorship is the imposition of economic, political and ideological conditions of one class on the rest of the society using State resources. It doesn’t matter the regime’s appearance — Military, Monarchist or Parliamentarian — the conditions of development and mobilization within society will define the form; but it will always remain an economic and political imposition. A dictatorship will be more cruel if movements exists within society that look to modify existing conditions or more benign if the movements are reduced and integrated into domination.

      In other words, dictatorship is the other face of the same currency of bourgeois operation and domination. If domination is effective, representative democracy is the form that it adopts … if on the contrary, capital and the bourgeoisie see their interests affected, the benevolent face is removed and the capitalist operation and domination is exerted with crudity through dictatorship.

      Capitalism, dictatorship and representative democracy are the practical expression of class domination over workers exploitation to maintain economic conditions intact.

      Participatory Democracy:
      Socialism, government of the majority

      We say that the State is a machine in the service of a class. Within Capitalism it serves to suppress and create the most favorable conditions for exploitation, however when workers transform the State into a true participative democracy it us empowered by the people.

      In the socialist scenario, the State is transformed into a social state where the preeminence of its performance is centered on the resolution of problems inherited from the old regime, instead to take care of the human being, in its material and spiritual development.

      In Venezuela, our Bolivarian process began with the repayment of IV Republic social debts and with the incorporation of the population to benefits generated from industries administrated by the State.
      The exercise of government is directly transferred from the political elites to the people who exert it for the benefit of all of the population. Democracy, at this stage of development in the Bolivarian process, is acquiring a more general and true character … not only where election is recognized as a right, but where we now can decide on the revocation of elected officials who do not suitably respond to the people’s necessities.

      Participatory Democracy (Socialism) is demonstrated when people begin to take on their own projects, financial and material resources to attend to problems in our communities and communes, granting decisive capacity in things such as the approval and reform of our constitution; popular consultations on the elaboration of the National Police Law; recognition of our Magna Carta of popular power through diverse organizations constituted to take care of different problems inherited from the old way of State administration.

      Socialism is true participatory democracy because it incorporates the workers … who really are the majority … in government and social control, which directly aims to eradicate the inherent vices of the capitalism. The decision to appoint, reelect or to revoke an elected representative for public position is the essential condition of true democracy.

      Only the majority can (and must) resolve the conduct of the country, its resources and social relations and of production that must reside within our society.

      Since the majority … the working class … must define if the revolutionary project begun in Venezuela will continue or not, re-election means socialism, participative democracy.

      A greater degree of decision and consultation has never been seen before within our mother country…

      We will not allow the bourgeoisie to take it away from us…

      Carlos M. Pietri
      moc.enildaehvnull@solrac

    19. bozh said on March 23rd, 2009 at 12:22pm #

      tennesse,
      i love chavez and venezuellan system of governance. and we may consider its sytem or regime as democratic.
      still, the system is a process. thus changing; hopefully for better and to keep changing till it is perfected.

      with use of computers, it wldn’t be that much difficult to consult with people on all major issues.
      but now, consulting people on each important issue may be cumbersome and uneeded.
      which is what you say as well. tnx for your comments and the explanation of what democracies are.

    20. Callum said on October 17th, 2009 at 10:51pm #

      Why did it say that the USA was the worlds oldest democracy…. THAT’S A LOAD OF BS… Iceland started the first democratic government and other nations copied the Icelanders, and now say that they were the first democracy… America takes credit for too many things…

    21. B99 said on October 18th, 2009 at 6:56am #

      Maybe we could consider ancient Iceland a democracy, but it’s a stretch. A brief bit of time in which Iceland had a parliament of sorts. It devolved into blood feuds and Iceland was soon under the thumb of the Norwegian crown.