The Road Grows Shorter [to Fascism]
by Sam Smith
Progressive Review online, http://emporium.turnpike.net/P/ProRev/
It is not easy to recognize fascism if
you haven't been there before. Our eyesight is blurred by everything
from cultural optimism to psychic denial. But news of the NSA's
mass spying on American's phone records - in number of victims,
at least, perhaps the most broadly illegal and unconstitutional
act in our history - makes it all simpler. There is not an ounce
of hyperbole in calling the NSA's action those of a fascist regime
and not of a democratic state. NSA has not only violated the law,
it even refuses to allow the Justice Department to investigate
its violation. This is the behavior of a dictatorship, not of
Sadly, even more telling that NSA's action
- in determining how far down the road to fascism we have traveled,
is the response to it by the public, the press and the law. In
a real democracy, citizens, media and their attorneys stand up
against such abuse; in this case there is a truly frightening
ambivalence and apathy.
According to the Washington Post, nearly
two thirds of Americans support the NSA in its actions - 44% strongly.
This may not be so surprising when one considers how little time
and space the media has permitted for arguments that paranoia
is a poor way to protect oneself or that a regime that will trash
its laws and constitution rather than adopt a more reasonable
foreign policy is not to be trusted to be either fair or safe.
On a regular basis the press reinforces the idea that "national
security" is inherently at odds with democracy and decency,
repeatedly nudging the citizen towards the former even if it is,
as it so often is, a phantom refuge.
Further, many lawyers - and the commentators
who quote them - foster such trends by the mythology that justice
is best served by following precedents or case law. This bias
is based on the cheerful presumption that progress in the law
as elsewhere is inevitable. On a number of occasions, however,
I have asked extremely intelligent lawyers what does one do in
a society where the legal precedents are becoming worse - as they
are in a country dismantling two centuries of ideals? Not one
has given a coherent answer.
One can not tell how much longer America
has before it gives up on democracy completely. What we can say,
however, is that the road has just gotten much shorter.
What happened was the gradual habituation
of the people, little by little, to be governed by surprise, to
receiving decisions deliberated in secret; to believe that the
situation was so complicated that the government had to act on
information which the people could not understand, or so dangerous
that, even if people could understand it, it could not be released
because of national security. . . To live in the process is absolutely
not to notice it -- please try to believe me -- unless one has
a much greater degree of political awareness, acuity, than most
of us ever had occasion to develop.
Each step was so small, so inconsequential,
so well explained or, on occasion, 'regretted.' . . . Believe
me this is true. Each act, each occasion is worse than the last,
but only a little worse. You wait for the next and the next. You
wait for one shocking occasion, thinking that others, when such
a shock comes, will join you in resisting somehow. . . Suddenly
it all comes down, all at once. . . You remember everything now,
and your heart breaks. Too late. You are compromised beyond repair.
German professor describing the arrival
of Nazism to American journalist Milton Mayer
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