Saturday, July 10, 2010

Fascism in 10 easy steps

This was originally written by Naomi Wolf about the US, but I think in light of recent events we can see how well our glorious leader has been taking notes and rolling out the program. The original article appeared in the Guardian in April 2007. We're a lot closer to the endgame now.

The G20 was merely a test.

1. Invoke a terrifying internal and external enemy.
"After we were hit on September 11 2001, we were in a state of national shock. Less than six weeks later, on October 26 2001, the USA Patriot Act was passed by a Congress that had little chance to debate it; many said that they scarcely had time to read it. We were told we were now on a 'war footing''. 

The US Patriot Act was a massive attack on civil rights, especially the right to privacy. In Canada, the response to 9/11 was not nearly as extreme as in the US. Here, the general consensus seemed to be that America was overreacting, that it couldn't happen here, and that we didn't need any special build-up of security forces. Of course, Chretien was PM then, and he had a certain disdain for Republican fear-mongering in general, and Bush in particular.

Harper, however is quite happy to follow the Republican playbook. So, enter the so-called Black Bloc, who if they didn't exist would have to be invented as I argued in this post. Naturally they were given free rein to demonstrate how dangerous they are. Otherwise there is nothing to be afraid of is there?

2. Create a gulag
"Once you have got everyone scared, the next step is to create a prison system outside the rule of law (as Bush put it, he wanted the American detention centre at Guantánamo Bay to be situated in legal "outer space") - where torture takes place."

The temporary detention center was built to house arrestee's from the G20. It was put in a large warehouse type building that lacked running water. It also lacked medical facilities, adequate food, and was kept very cold, while detainees were stripped of all but a single layer of clothing. While detained in the cages, people were deprived of basic human rights, taunted by police, threatened with rape, deprived of water for up to 12 hours, phone calls, and the reason for their detention. Yes, this was a facility outside the rule of law. Inmates in maximum security have it better than those who were detained in Torontonamo.

We also know that Stephen Harper is building prisons. Why, you ask when crime is at a 30-year low?

3. Develop a thug caste
"When leaders who seek what I call a "fascist shift" want to close down an open society, they send paramilitary groups of scary young men out to terrorise citizens. The Blackshirts roamed the Italian countryside beating up communists; the Brownshirts staged violent rallies throughout Germany. This paramilitary force is especially important in a democracy: you need citizens to fear thug violence and so you need thugs who are free from prosecution."

Like riot cops operating outside the law, or under a law which turns out never existed.

4. Set up an internal surveillance system
"In Mussolini's Italy, in Nazi Germany, in communist East Germany, in communist China - in every closed society - secret police spy on ordinary people and encourage neighbours to spy on neighbours. The Stasi needed to keep only a minority of East Germans under surveillance to convince a majority that they themselves were being watched."

We know that police were monitoring Facebook and other social media before and during the G20. It's no secret, they even bragged about it. Thus, our ease of communication is a double edged sword. Both the US and Chinese governments have an internet "kill switch." I've often thought of late that an alternative net of some sort is needed to circumvent government surveillance, but what do you bet that anyone who tried to start one would find themselves in contravention of "national security"?

5. Harass citizen's groups
"...the American Civil Liberties Union reports that thousands of ordinary American anti-war, environmental and other groups have been infiltrated by agents: a secret Pentagon database includes more than four dozen peaceful anti-war meetings, rallies or marches by American citizens"

Sadly, this is nothing new. During the 70's I shared a house with 3 other women, one of whom belonged to a feminist group called Wages for Housework. There were perhaps 10 members, and they were pretty harmless and ineffectual. The house was in a kind of rough neighbourhood and our neighbour's place was broken into twice, each time stealing his stereo and tv. Our house was broken into once, but the only thing taken was the Wages for Housework files.

Before the G20 there were numerous reports from activists of harassment from police at their homes and workplaces. Additionally there were arrests just prior to the summit of leaders of several groups.

6. Engage in arbitrary detention and release
No explanation needed here I think, we've all seen it for ourselves by now.

7. Target key individuals
"Threaten civil servants, artists and academics with job loss if they don't toe the line. Mussolini went after the rectors of state universities who did not conform to the fascist line; so did Joseph Goebbels, who purged academics who were not pro-Nazi; so did Chile's Augusto Pinochet; so does the Chinese communist Politburo in punishing pro-democracy students and professors."
Richard Colvin, Linda Keen, for just two examples.

8. Control the press
"The Committee to Protect Journalists says arrests of US journalists are at an all-time high: Josh Wolf, a blogger in San Francisco, has been put in jail for a year for refusing to turn over video of an anti-war demonstration; Homeland Security brought a criminal complaint against reporter Greg Palast, claiming he threatened "critical infrastructure" when he and a TV producer were filming victims of Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana. Palast had written a bestseller critical of the Bush administration."
So, we're not just talking about corporate ownership and control of the media, we're talking about the actual criminalization of journalists. I wondered why the police were targeting journalists during the G20.... now I get it.

9. Dissent equals treason
"...most Americans do not realise that since September of last year - when Congress wrongly, foolishly, passed the Military Commissions Act of 2006 - the president has the power to call any US citizen an "enemy combatant". He has the power to define what "enemy combatant" means. The president can also delegate to anyone he chooses in the executive branch the right to define "enemy combatant" any way he or she wants and then seize Americans accordingly."

Thank god we're not there yet, but stay tuned. This has got to be on our glorious leader's agenda. And let's not forget all those comments in the HoC equating criticism of the handling of Afghan detainees with support for the Taliban. Yes, it seems like overblown rhetoric right now, but someday soon, it may be taken quite literally.

10. Suspend the rule of law
"...the United States is not vulnerable to the violent, total closing-down of the system that followed Mussolini's march on Rome or Hitler's roundup of political prisoners. Our democratic habits are too resilient, and our military and judiciary too independent, for any kind of scenario like that.

Rather, as other critics are noting, our experiment in democracy could be closed down by a process of erosion.

It is a mistake to think that early in a fascist shift you see the profile of barbed wire against the sky. [unless of course you were in Toronto in June 2010]

In the early days, things look normal on the surface; peasants were celebrating harvest festivals in Calabria in 1922; people were shopping and going to the movies in Berlin in 1931. Early on, as WH Auden put it, the horror is always elsewhere - while someone is being tortured, children are skating, ships are sailing..."
 ... Canada Day is being celebrated, people are watching the FIFA World Cup.

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