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The Death of American Democracy

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Wednesday marks the anniversary of the first democratic election in America, held in 1789.

Over the past half century, America has descended from a popular democracy into an inverted fascist democracy. An inverted fascist democracy is the new American system, because its self-proclaimed ideologies directly oppose its actual policies. The United States’ government may claim liberty and justice for all; however, in practice, it exhibits all four major characteristics of a fascist state: a one party government, extravagant economic inequality, a totalitarian police state at home and militarism abroad, and a strong reliance on propaganda.

Political philosopher, Sheldon Wolin, has provided a devastating critique on how America is increasingly becoming a totalitarian state. The U.S. operates via the impression of a multi-party state. Nobody should have any illusions. The United States essentially has a one-party system; and the ruling party is the corporate party.
Elections present the population with two variants of a pre-designed policy: free-market, neoliberal capitalism. This benefits the elite at the expense of the majority by promoting privatization of public services, frozen wages, job losses, and reduced social benefits.
America’s inverted fascist system has evolved without the need for traditional hard power tactics, such as ballot-rigging, coercion and force; it is based on soft power policies and the illusion of choice.

The nation requires its citizens to make a choice between personalities, rather than genuine political alternatives. For instance, the top three candidates for President have all inherited their political status through family: Jeb Bush, Rand Paul and Hillary Clinton.

The Bush-Clinton families may potentially occupy the White House for a staggering 28 out of 36 years. The narrowing ideological gap between the policies of major political parties reflects the decay of the nation’s democratic system.

From Spain under Franco, to Italy under Mussolini, the economics of fascism have always centered on Statism; whereby, the state exerts strong influence over corporations for the benefit of a wealthy minority.

In America, corporations exert strong influence over the state for the benefit of a wealthy minority. In fact, over the last few years, the top thirty American companies spent more money on lobbying politicians than they paid in federal taxes, according to a report from the non-partisan reform group, called Public Campaign. This is a key pillar of an inverted fascist democracy: coercive hard power tactics have given way to soft power corporate coup’s of American politics.

The richest 400 Americans own more wealth than the majority of 150 million Americans combined. Truth is, America has shown that free markets and free elections simply cannot co-exist. Corporate campaign contributions become votes; thus, the poor are politically marginalized. Money becomes speech, muzzling the poor. How can capitalism and democracy co-exist, if one concentrates wealth and power in the hands of few, and the other seeks to spread power and wealth among many? Organized greed always defeats disorganized democracy.

Twentieth century fascism approached human relations from the point of view of Social Darwinism. The idea was to elevate supposedly superior individuals and systematically weed out the weak. Historian, William L. Shirer, has explained how Hitler outlawed trade unions, the right to strike, and collective bargaining. The German worker in the Third Reich became an industrial serf, bound to his master, the employer, much like medieval peasants to their lord.

Both the Republican and Democratic factions of America’s ruling corporate party have destroyed trade unions, while “democratically” promoting corporate welfare. Under an inverted fascist democracy, the richest man in America, Warren Buffet, pays a lower effective tax rate than his secretary. As with all fascist regimes in history, profit in America is private and individual, whereas loss is public and social.

Domestic economic policy in fascist Spain, Italy and Germany revolved around the nationalization of the means of production, in order to benefit the interests of the wealthy and political elite. The economic process by which the politically wealthy benefit in America is inverted, through privatization. Private jets, private health care, elite private schools, and private security. It is little wonder why elite American politicians, whether Democrat or Republican, choose austerity and privatization as their flagship economic polices.

One aspect of foreign economic policy where there is no inversion whatsoever between American and historic fascist regimes is their enormous military budget. In 1933, Nazi Germany’s military spending was 2 percent of their national income; by 1940, it was 44 percent.

Today, America spends more on her military than the rest of the world combined. America has expanded its military into having 662 foreign military bases, according to the Department of Defense’s 2010 Base Structure Report.

America uses self-defense as a justification for military expansion; conversely, the Third Reich used military expansion as a justification for defending its racial supremacy. Defense by way of expansion, or expansion by way of defense; the result is the same: a bloated military that kills hundreds of thousands abroad and bankrupts the nation by costing billions at home.

Twentieth century fascism’s weapons of war were deliberately loud and overt: from the public executions under Franco to the gulags in Mussolini’s Italy.

In 1945, President Truman issued an order for American bombers to drop “Fat Man” and “Little Boy” on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, killing 140,000 people instantly. The gruesome images that emerged from the rubble broadcasted into American homes, creating unprecedented political backlash. Burned flesh and decimated Japanese families forced U.S. policy makers to devise a subtler weapon of mass destruction–sanctions.

Nowadays, American’s weapons of war have evolved and inverted; they are silent and subtle, but no less deadly, ranging from economic sanctions to drones.

Most Americans believe that drones and sanctions are targeted and humane. Nothing could be further from the truth. By all accounts, drones have killed more children than terrorists. Furthermore, the United Nations estimates that half a million Iraqi children lost their lives due to Bill Clinton’s sanctions.

American sanctions have killed more innocent people than all of the nuclear, biological and chemical weapons ever used in the history of mankind.

Closer to home, Americans face another increasingly militarized threat in the form of growing police violence. The hallmark of fascism was state oppression of non-privileged groups and people of color. Today, Muslims are bearing the brunt of America’s police state.

Contrary to popular knowledge, since 9/11, terrorists affiliated with far-right wing ideologies, including white supremacists and Jewish extremists, have killed far more people in the United States than persons motivated by Muslim extremist ideologies.

According to the FBI, Muslims have committed only six percent of terror attacks on U.S. soil in recent decades. Since 9/11, the threat of homegrown Islamic terrorism has been manufactured to propagate the War on Terror. The result: the multi-billion dollar, corporate-sponsored militarism abroad and the erosion of two hundred-year-old civil liberties at home.

Muslims in America are unquestionably experiencing a fascist system of surveillance, operating at the same level that East Germans faced under the Stasi spy agency. Researcher, Arun Kundnani, has shown how the FBI has one counterterrorism spy for every 94 Muslims in the U.S., which approaches Stasi’s ratio of one spy for every 66 citizens.

In East Germany, the Stasi wanted its citizens to understand the oppressive level of surveillance, because this fear sustained its political power. In America, the fascist inversion of this tactic is the suppression of public awareness of widespread surveillance. With the thin veil of civil liberties at stake, the U.S. government understands the potential backlash it would face against its abuses of power, so it is deliberately kept under the radar.

By rapidly increasing both government policies of secrecy and surveillance, Mr. Obama’s government is increasing its power to watch its citizens, while diminishing its citizens’ power to watch their government.

Integral to the rise of America’s inverted fascist democracy is propaganda. Sheldon Wolin has poignantly pointed out that, whereas the production of propaganda was crudely centralized in Nazi Germany, in the United States, it is left to highly concentrated media corporations, thus maintaining the illusion of a “free press”.

The American propaganda machine is highly sophisticated. It does not rely upon the radio addresses, speeches, and leaflets disseminated by the Nazi Ministry of Propaganda and Public Enlightenment, nor does it rely on the crude censorship or harassment of free press ordered by a Politburo. The propaganda of America’s “one percent” is subtle yet pervasive; it relies not only on government diktats but on pop culture, Hollywood, art, and of course, the mass media.

The media determines our language, our language shapes our thoughts, and our thoughts determine our actions. Language is the fulcrum of a society’s perception. Whosoever controls the public’s language, controls the public’s perception.

The corporate elites who sit on media editorial boards control said language. In 1983, fifty companies owned ninety percent of U.S. media. Today, only six media giants control a staggering ninety percent of what the American public listens to, reads, and watches.

Inverted fascist democracy is where you have freedom of speech but the administration doesn’t listen. “Think of the press as a great keyboard on which the government can play,” once remarked Joseph Goebbels, Nazi Germany’s Minister of Propaganda.

In the Soviet Union, citizens were aware that by reading Pravda, they were being fed government propaganda, so they learned to tune it out. Many Americans believe that the WSJ-New York Times-CNN outlets are credible, despite ample evidence to the contrary. How can we forget the media reports of non-existent weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, the undivided support for the catastrophic failure of the intervention in Libya, and the arming of rebels in Syria, who turned out to be ISIS, to name but a few?

The beauty of the U.S. propaganda system is that it creates the semblance of impartiality by offering diversity only on non-core issues. When it comes to core issues affecting the privileged corporate class, such as inequitable tax regimes and for-profit wars, the media sings in unison. By indoctrinating “Socialism”, “Marxism” and “Communism” as taboo subjects, the ruling class has effectively outlawed any discussion on class reform and democratic choice.

In inverted fascist terms, corporations are people. Drones are Unmanned Aerial Vehicles. Torture is Enhanced Interrogation. Occupation is liberation.

Unlike traditional fascism, the American system of control is not to mobilize the populace, but to distract it. As Noam Chomsky pointed out, American propaganda works by indoctrination that is so profound, it is completely internalized and never perceived. Life, as lived, moment to moment, in the inverted fascist state, consists of alternating states of tedium, stress and acute consumer distraction. Americans are increasingly immersing themselves in reality T.V. and touch screen technology, only to lose touch with reality.

More Americans voted in the American Idol finale than have ever cast their vote for a presidential candidate in a U.S. election. Increasingly, the distraction is becoming the reality. History has shown that voting in a corrupt electoral system cannot produce a result that is otherwise. Two hundred and twenty six years since the first democratic election in America and true democracy is all but dead and inverted fascism has taken its place.

Garikai Chengu is a research scholar at Harvard University. Contact him on garikai.chengu@gmail.com

 

 

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Garikai Chengu is a scholar at Harvard University. Contact him on garikai.chengu@gmail.com.

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