What Kind Of State Do Americans Live In?

I’ve been thinking about that question in light of recent events. Is America a…

  1. Surveillance State?
  2. Police State?
  3. Fascist State?
  4. All of the above?

I think I’d have to go with D.

Surveillance state? Ever since we discovered that AT&T and other companies assisted the NSA in warrantless surveillance of our international phone calls… or maybe since the FBI started attaching GPS devices secretly to people’s cars without bothering to obtain a warrant first… or maybe from the time the FBI (again) started hammering librarians for individual users’ circulation records… aw, hell, pick any one, or two, or three… we’ve been a surveillance state at least since then.

Police state? I suppose that’s been brewing for a while, but it has become far more visible in incidents of police violence against the Occupy movement… yet another bit of knowledge provided to us by Occupy members at great personal cost to themselves.

Fascist state? Face it: since the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, corporations own the whole damn place… bye-bye democracy.

Well, at least now you know: We live in a surveillance-supported police-controlled fascist/corporatist state.

Have a nice day! [/snark]

ASIDE: DO NOT use the same Google search window for more than one query! Google tracks the previous question as well as the one you asked this time. Yes, I can see the reason they may want to do that: people tend to enter a succession of related questions, and the prior-question information doubtless helps their search engine learn what kinds of things to prefetch. But do you really want that kind of info being accumulated somewhere? Even if you trust Google, what if, say, a US House committee chaired by say, P. King or D. Issa subpoenaed all of Google’s search records? It’s worth the trouble: close the browser window and open another one before you do another search. This is particularly important when you are constructing a search URL to use in your blog. For example, hover over the link “police violence against the Occupy movement” above and notice that the search string pertains to that and only that. Believe me, when I first did it, the string was much, much longer and included at least one of my prior search strings.

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  • MandT  On Monday January 30, 2012 at 8:03 pm

    We need extra strength tinfoil hats! 🙂

    • Steve  On Monday January 30, 2012 at 8:32 pm

      MandT, it’s good to hear from you… when you were away from the blogs for a few days, I started to worry.

      Extra-strength-tinfoil hats 🙂 … Librarians (and believe me, librarians are, as a group, a bunch of people you don’t want on your case; I’ve worked for and with a lot of ’em over the years) came up with their own tinfoil hat of sorts: many libraries now delete all circulation records older than a few days, keeping only statistics about how many times each book was checked out… but not by whom. It galls me when intervention by hyperinflated federal agents interferes with scholars’ and librarians’ ability to do their jobs. But we live in parlous times, and the dangers are by no means all from terrorists.

  • c  On Tuesday January 31, 2012 at 10:07 am

    Very “The Hadmaid’s Tale”. Remember that book/movie, Steve? A book in which some nuclear catastrophe has made much of the population sterile and the US government has become a cross between a military dictatorship and fundamentalist christianity gone wild. The main character, after many adventures some of which are very nasty, finally escapes over the border into Canada where everything is perfect and lovely. Obviously written by a Canadian (Margaret Atwood), one has to wonder what it was she knew back in 1985 . . .

    • Steve  On Tuesday January 31, 2012 at 3:08 pm

      Yes, c, I have read The Handmaid’s Tale. It was a powerful book, but I never knew quite what to think of the society Atwood depicts: is it a logical extension of today’s America? When I read it perhaps 12 years ago, I thought not, because I could not see enough invasion of the law by a religious hierarchy, even after the sterilizing catastrophe. America has a history of coming through all sorts of disasters, wars and such with its values and legal systems (more or less) intact, and only recently have a pair of presidents… Bush 43 and Obama… seen fit premeditatedly to upset the constitutional balance of powers, allegedly to cope with another “catastrophe” which was, in reality, a gigantic crime, a multiple murder. The crime has been used as an excuse by Bush and Obama to do things once thought unjustifiable in America… and some of us still think those things are unconscionable.

  • upyernoz  On Tuesday January 31, 2012 at 1:07 pm

    as i see it, it’s just A.

    yes, the police have been violent against several groups of occupy protests, but that doesn’t make the country a police state. and having corporate funded campaigns, while corrupt, is setting a pretty low bar for fascism.

    i dunno, maybe because i have spent my vacation time in places like uzbekistan, (pre-revolution) tunisia, (ditto) egypt and vietnam, and then lived much of 2010 in kazakhstan, i have different standard for when a society counts as a police state or fascist.

    • Steve  On Tuesday January 31, 2012 at 2:56 pm

      ‘noz, I didn’t discuss it in this post (see earlier), but what is your assessment of the joint exercises between the LAPD and the US Army? Is that benign as well? IMHO one characteristic of a police state is that there is no real differentiation of function between police and military. YMMV.

      And what about the repeated arrests (and sometimes worse) of reporters bearing press credentials, at literally a dozen or more Occupy encampments? Still no “police state” there?

      I’m not saying America is a full-blown police state… yet… but from what i can see, the early signs are there, and it’s going to take some resistance to prevent an executive-only government, as presidents seize more and more authority without any substantive challenge from Congress or the courts. For example, consider Obama’s orders to kill an American citizen without any kind of due process. Every big-name presidential candidate… Republicans too, as much as they detest Obama… praised him for that assassination, thought it was just fine. (OBL was different: he freely admitted committing acts of war, and Pakistan was a de facto battleground.) Should we let all of this go by, just because the “hit” targeted someone we didn’t like? Just how king-like should we make our president?

      I can’t compare with your list of countries visited and lived in. I’ve been in Canada twice, and lived for two months in Austria once (33 years ago… let me tell you, Austria had some unreconstructed Nazis among its elderly back then, and they wanted to tell this young American all about it), and I changed planes once in London and once in (don’t laugh… OK, laugh) Gander, Newfoundland. That’s it. Compared to you, I have a limited selection of countries to compare the US with. But I still worry. Are you really OK with corporations being able to buy elections now?

      • upyernoz  On Wednesday February 1, 2012 at 8:19 am

        what is your assessment of the joint exercises between the LAPD and the US Army? Is that benign as well?

        i wouldn’t call any of this stuff benign.all i’m saying is that for all the police abuses we face here, it doesn’t rise to the level of a police state. (at least for an anglo like me. i do think that arizona and alabama probably are police states for their immigrant population). it’s quite likely that i will go through my day today and not encounter the police at all. in fact, it’s been months since i have spoken to a police officer for any reason (other than TSA airport security people). in a police state, the police are everywhere and must constantly be dealt with. in central asia (both kazakhstan and uzbekistan) i was accosted for my papers numerous times, which is why i kept my passport with me at all times even though that was a risk because an american passport is quite valuable. in kazakhstan, they filled out a police report and took a copy of my passport when i bought a 1GB flash drive at a computer store. they also did it when i bought an electric fan. i watched locals go through the same bureaucracy. it wasn’t because i was a foreigner, it’s because the police control and are involved with everything.

        on the other hand, you did say “I’m not saying America is a full-blown police state… yet” so maybe we agree after all.

        • Steve  On Wednesday February 1, 2012 at 3:36 pm

          ‘noz, if our difference is just one of degree… and it sounds as if it is… I suppose we mostly do agree. I don’t yet expect Gestapo-like raids on my house in the middle of the night; I just find the frequency and vehemence of current police actions against First Amendment activities very troubling. Time will tell where this will lead. I hope it’s to something better, but right now I just don’t know.

    • Steve  On Tuesday January 31, 2012 at 3:14 pm

      I meant to mention that the incidents of police violence against Occupy encampments are by no means the first such police behavior in the US. Seattle at the G-8? A Republican national convention a few years ago (I don’t remember where)? And each time, we find the police equipped more and more like a military. I know they have to deal with the black bloc somehow, but for Occupy itself, deploying police wearing full riot armor, equipped with batons, pepper spray, flash-bang grenates, LRADs, tasers and rubber bullets against a virtually nonviolent protest group is… to use another old Vietnam War term… overkill.

      (Edited for initially scrambled grammar.)

  • L'Enfant de la Haute Mer  On Saturday February 4, 2012 at 7:24 am

    • Steve  On Saturday February 4, 2012 at 7:46 am

      Enfant, I was astonished by the “damnation” theme of the comment thread on that video! I’ve known about RFID chips for a while, and in general opposed them, but I didn’t know that fundamentalist evangelicals have a religious position on them! Thanks for the link. (BTW, embedding is disabled on that video; one can watch it only from YouTube directly.)

      • L'Enfant de la Haute Mer  On Saturday February 4, 2012 at 8:13 am

        Thank you for reacting so fast!
        My subscription problems continue, that’s why I have almost given up!
        I cannot run after each and every WP post to find out if there has been any follow up comments!
        Thanks again!

        • Steve  On Saturday February 4, 2012 at 10:07 pm

          Enfant – how frustrating! I must admit I finally solved the email problem, back in my working days, by paying a commercial email host (everyone.net) a fair amount of money every year for service that has been, as the saying goes, rock-solid. Before that, my email was first at AT&T (because they are my Internet service provider), and I was losing important messages from clients. (Stella still has their email, and I often cannot send her mail, despite repeated attempts.) Then I had a local provider with my former web host, which has been bought out; they were no better, and my email still went astray as often as not. Finally I realized that I was literally losing money in time spent dealing with email when I could have been working for my client. I have used everyone.net for about four years now, and in that time they have had only one glitch for a couple of days. So I smile and pay their fee for a “business” level account. They do offer a more economical account.

          I can’t help wondering if the problem is somehow related to international mail. The spook agencies (CIA, NSA, etc.) tamper with Americans’ outgoing international email all the time; it’s not even a secret. I would probably be acting overly paranoid to assume they were blocking WordPress email notices to you, but the whole system, over the years, has become more and more compromised. I just don’t know what is wrong. You have my sympathy; that and $4.25 plus tax will get you a Starbucks frappuccino.

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