PETRAS ESSAYS IN ENGLISH


November 27, 2001



A NATION OF INFORMERS: THE FRIENDLY FACE OF FASCISM



James Petras



Years ago, a well known author, Bertram Gross, wrote that fascism would come to the US with a friendly face: not with massive Nuremburg rallies, or doctrines of racial superiority, without formally banning parties, abrogating the Constitution or eliminating the three branches of government, but with the same nationalist fervor, arbitrary dictatorial laws and violent military conquests.
In the US, signs of a police state are evident everywhere. The country has become a nation of informers. Tens of thousands of US citizens of Middle Eastern descent have been arrested without charges, and the exercise of their right to criticize US policy in the Middle East has been branded as support of terrorism. This pogrom has been encouraged and incited by government officials, especially by the police, both local and federal, and by assorted veterans' groups and demagogic politicians. The President has decreed dictatorial powers, setting up anonymous military tribunals to try suspicious immigrants and overseas "suspects" who can be kidnapped and tried in the US. Habeas corpus has been suspended. School children have been forced to sing quasi-religious anthems and pledge allegiance to the flag. Employees who voice criticism of the war, or criticize US support of Israel or denounce Israeli massacres of Palestinians are suspended or fired. All communication, letters, e-mail, phone calls are subject to control without any judicial review. The mass media spews government propaganda, churns out chauvinist stories, and is silent on overseas massacres and domestic repression.

A NATION OF INFORMERS

One of the hallmarks of a totalitarian regime is the creation of a state of mutual suspician, in which civil society is turned into a network of secret police informers. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) soon after September 11 exhorted every US citizen to report any suspicious behavior by friends, neighbors, relatives, acquaintances and strangers. Between September and the end of November almost 700,000 denunciations were registered. Thousands of Middle Eastern neighbors, local shop owners and employees were denounced, as were numerous other US citizens. None of these denunciations led to any arrests or even information related to September 11. Yet hundreds and thousands of innocent persons were investigated and harassed by the federal police.

Tens of millions of Americans have become paranoid - fearing "terrorism" in their everyday work, shopping and leisure activities. People refrain from the mildest criticism of the war or even the government for fear they will be labeled terrorist sympathizers, reported to the government, investigated and lose their job.



MASS ARRESTS,INTIMIDATION AND SCAPEGOATING OF "ARABS"

All totalitarian dictatorships " scapegoat " minorities in order to mobilize the majority to approve its dictatorial powers. Friendly fascism scapegoats Arabs - arresting, investigating, accusing, targeting - while its public discourse proclaims the virtues of tolerance and pluralism. Racial doctrines are not in evidence, but racial profiling of " Middle-Eastern " people is an established and accepted operating procedure of federal, state and local police. Large concentrations of Arabs communities, such as in Dearborn, Michigan, feel like they are living in a ghetto, waiting for a pogrom to happen. The head of the FBI considers all Arab civic, charity and other associations suspect of aiding terrorism and subject to investigation and its members targets for arrest. The massive " razzias ", police sweeps into houses, stores, offices of civic groups has created a siege mentality. The police campaign have aroused the racist instincts always latent in the mass of Americans and fomented a rash of civilian insults and hostility.




EXECUTIVE DICTATORIAL POWERS: THE END OF THE CONSTITUTIONAL ORDER

In totalitarian states, the supreme leader seizes dictatorial powers, suspends constitutional guarantees (citing " emergency powers " ) empowers the secret police, and handpicks tribunals to arbitrarily arrest, judge and condemn the accused to prison or to execution.
On November 13, President Bush took the fatal step toward assuming dictatorial powers. Without consulting Congress, Bush decreed an emergency order. The order permits the government to arrest non-citizens, whom they have "reason to believe" are terrorists to be tried by military tribunal. The trials are secret and the prosecutors do not have to present evidence if it is " in the interests of national security ". The condemned can be executed even if one third of the military judges disagree. Dictatorial powers to jail or execute suspects without due process is the essence of totalitarian rulers.

Dictatorships arrest suspects and "disappear them". In mid-November, the Department of Justice, refused to disclose the identities and status of more than 1100 persons arrested since September 11. As in totalitarian regimes, political prisoners are constantly interrogated without lawyers and without charges by the FBI in the hope of forcing confessions.

On October 26 the Supreme Leader signed the USA/Patriot act which vastly strengthened the powers of the police over civil society. Secret police with unlimited powers is a hallmark of past totalitarian states. Under our friendly fascist regime, the extension of secret police powers was approved almost unanimously by Congress (most of whose members never read the law ). Every clause of this law violated the US Constitution. Under this law: (a) any federal law enforcement agency may secretly enter any home or business, collect evidence, not inform the citizen of the entry and then use the evidence (seized of 'planted); to convict the occupant of a crime; (b) any police agency has the power to monitor all internet traffic and e-mails, intercept cell phones without warrant of millions of "suspects"; (c) any Federal police agency can invade any business premises and seize all records, on the basis that it is "connected" with a terrorist investigation. Citizens who publicly protest these arbitrary, invasive police actions can be arrested.

The secret police of totalitarian regimes recognize no boundaries between overseas and domestic espionage. The Patriot Act legalizes CIA operations against citizens within the US.
The US/Patriot Act, like its totalitarian counterparts, has a vague, loose definition of "terrorism" which allows it to repress any dissident organization and protest activity. According to section 802 of the Act, terrorism is defined as "activities that involve acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States(and) appear to be intended to intimidate or coerce a civilian population..(or)..to influence the policy of the government by intimidation or coercion." Any anti-globalization protest such as recently occurred in Seattle or Ottawa can now be labeled "terrorist", its leaders and participants arrested, their homes and offices searched, documents seized, and if they are not citizens shipped to military tribunals. These "emergency" decrees and laws are not "temporary"; they are in place until 2005 and beyond if the investigations began prior to the terminal year.



CONCLUSION:

Perhaps, many years from now when the country has been re-democratized and the chauvinist fever has ebbed and a fair and pluralistic media has replaced the current state propaganda machines, we may discover harsh truths. When the secret police files are opened we may discover that many honorable and respectable people denounced their neighbors and friends because of personal vendettas; that professionals secretly informed on their colleagues who were critical of Israel; that the FBI spied on millions of law-abiding progressive American citizens because right wing ideologues sought to eliminate them. In studying the recordings, transcripts and videos of the messages of the mass media, we will be able to see how easily, quickly and completely they became propaganda arms of the friendly fascist state. Researchers will marvel or be shocked by the corruption of political language: massive bombings of large cities in the name of "anti-terrorism"; the euphemisms to justify massacres; the mass killings of prisoners of war described as "killed during a prisoner revolt". Historians will also note the absent voices of critics; the absence of any reports of civilian casualties. Future scholars watching videos of Defense Secretary Rumsfeld's jocular pronouncements to "kill all terrorists", will not join the laughing audience of journalists, remembering the mountains of corpses, executed in cold blood by Rumsfeld's surrogate mercenaries.

Historians will debate whether the mass acquiescence by the US public of the massive bombings and executions was a reflection of the incessant and all-encompassing propanganda or whether they were willing accomplices of the slaughter. The philosophers and psychologists will debate whether the flag waving celebrants of the New World Order were motivated by the smiling faces and bellicose rhetoric of their leaders or embraced friendly fascism because of their paranoia, fear and anxiety induced by the voices of authority and amplified by the media.


This view from the future however presumes that critical voices will survive the current period of friendly fascism and build a movement to challenge its power. One can hope and believe it will happen because, otherwise, the lies and murders of the present will go unanswered.