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The Specter of Terror and Other Means of Government Control
Fear and "Terrorism"
Precisely because we live in a relatively open, comparatively free society here in the West, controlling the population through overt despotic force is a non-starter, but the minds and actions of the, "vulgar masses," must be manipulated and molded to fit the," national interest," somehow. This is accomplished, rather brilliantly, through mechanisms of fear and misinformation. These methods had there genesis, at least as a Bona fide and singular goal of a single discrete industry, with the advent of public relations in the early 20th century
In popular discourse it might be useful to put a definition to the increasingly nebulous word, "terrorism." The standard definition from Political Philosophy and Political Science for terrorism is, "the use of and/or the threat of violence in the pursuit of a political objective." There was a time when this word was applied sparingly to describe only the most atrocious acts of violence most closely linked to very concrete political goals. The IRA killing police in Dublin as part as a systematic guerrilla campaign against British rule in 1919 is a good example of terrorism that falls under the scope of this definition.
More recently the word has been expanded to describe nearly any action that is subversive to the, "national interest." What we must ask at this point in such a discussion is, "what is the national interest and who determines it?" The national interest is certainly not the interest of the U.S. populous, nor is this interest, as it actually stands, articulated in the Republic's founding document. Environment, Ethical, Judicial, and Humanitarian interest do not even appear on the Venn diagram representing the actual national interest. These interests are only the interests of the private corporate sector, the same lilliputian fraction of individuals that also own the vast majority of the assets and resources in the United States. In a sense it is not even accurate to say that the executive of these financial juggernauts are benefactors of the self-promulgated fiction called the, "national interest," because though they benefit financially as individuals in the short-term, it is the bylaws and tacit injunctions of the corporate entity itself, in all it's artificial autonomy and well-fabricated intelligence that truly is responsible for the financial, environmental, and moral catastrophe that unbridled capitalism eventually reaps. This reaping will eventually be visited upon us all regardless of our nation, socioeconomic status, or creed in the form of catastrophic climate change or thermonuclear war.
Returning to the point, if the country at large, and by this I mean the actual denizens of the country, are to be hoodwinked into aligning their interests with the interests of these corporate monoliths, it can only be accomplished in a free country through the use of ingenious and deceptive public relations campaigns. The use of fear, which is our collective and genetic Achilles heel, is wielded with masterful precision to this end. It is the fear of Al-qaeda sleeper cells that allowed the NSA to abolish the 4th amendment. The fear of some vague, ubiquitous threat against, "national security," which made terrorists of Julian Assange and Edward Snowden The same general foreboding has abolished the concept of habeus corpus, and allowed for the creation of torture chambers on American military bases.
Anything that threatens the, "National Interest," which we've already established as actually being a euphemism for corporate interest can be immediately abrogated using rhetoric that states it is in someway an immediate threat to national security. So when the scope of the U.S. spying endeavors upon it's own citizens is brought to light, we are assured this was only done in the name of national security. When the EPA is emasculated to the point of impotency, ensuring further catastrophic, irreversible climate change, we are assured that such government oversight would have only further enervated already sluggish national employment interests.
Fear of economic vulnerability and the threat of terrorist activities against the national interest as narrated to us by corporate owned media conglomerates have subsumed the reason of the populous. Such pernicious and persistent false beliefs as, "government oversight on things like carbon emissions and water pollution will cause my personal unemployment," or, "legal pillars that permeate political philosophy are justifiably dispensed with by the mere invocation of a terrorist threat," are handy psychological weapons for use in the mugging of the populous' civil liberties and best interests.
Misinformation and the 24 Hour News Cycle
Of course propaganda works especially well when it is not labeled as such. Free markets and democracy in general depend upon informed participants making reasonably, self-interested choices. The, "national interest," is encumbered by markets that are actually free and U.S. politics do not resemble anything like a democratic process if one looks only a millimeter below the surface. The delivery system for the systematic undermining of the populous' understanding of these things has now taken the form of the 24 hour news network.
The problem endemic to trying to fill 24 hours with news is that the news of the day can be adequately presented in far less time. This leaves an exorbitant amount of time for fear-mongering, repetition, malinger, and other such nonsense. Upon the opening of this floodgate news has quickly morphed into a few sensationalists networks competing for our attention through news as entertainment. Since the best entertainment lies in hyperbole, vitriol, and high drama the resulting product that we today call news is actually a well-crafted narrative meant to draw on our pathos as it implants within us a narrative that conforms to that thing we call the, "national interest."
Networks presenting binary narratives poke fun at and caricature each other leaving us polarized, incapable of compromise, and docilely accepting of an inactive congress. But why should we expect anything else? The narrative we accept as news is crafted by the same conglomerate corporate interests that shape a working concept of the, "national interest." As such it is perfectly understandable that this narrative would misinform and obfuscate. That it should make every effort to bend the public will into supporting the national interest is the logical end product of such thinly veiled collusion between the government and the corporate sector. Since, "citizens united," let loose the flood of corporate political endorsement the sphere of public legislation and the sphere of corporate interest now lie directly on top of each other. That the interests of the poorest and largest sectors of citizens should align with the interests of the smallest and the richest is a masterful trick of ideological confusion and cognitive misdirection.
Until the public can reclaim information dissemination, in a real way, beyond repeating the established a priori narrative in online echo-chambers hosted by digital conclaves, they are doomed to very limited access to the untainted information that will most effect them. Until this reclamation occurs we are doomed to more opinion than fact, more spin than information, and more distraction than elucidation.