Caught up in the spectacle of the forthcoming 2016 presidential elections, Americans (never very good when it comes to long-term memory) have not only largely forgotten last year’s hullabaloo over militarized police, police shootings of unarmed citizens, asset forfeiture schemes and government surveillance but are also generally foggy about everything that has happened since.
Then again, so much is happening on a daily basis that it’s understandable if the average American has a hard time keeping up with and remembering all of the “events” — manufactured or otherwise — that occur like clockwork and keep us distracted, deluded, amused and insulated from reality while the government continues to amass more power and authority over the citizenry.
In fact, when we’re being bombarded with wall-to-wall news coverage and news cycles that change every few days, it’s difficult to stay focused on one thing — namely, holding the government accountable to abiding by the rule of law — and the powers-that-be understand this.
Consider the regularly scheduled trivia and/or distractions in the past year alone that have kept us tuned in to the various breaking news headlines and entertainment spectacles and tuned out to the government’s steady encroachments on our freedoms:
York County Police ride on an armored vehicle on their way to the scene of standoff in Hanover, Pennsylvania. (AP Photo/York Daily Record, Jason Plotkin)
Americans were riveted when the Republican presidential contenders went head-to-head for the second time in a three-hour debate; scientists announced the discovery of what they believed to be a new pre-human species, Homo naledi, that existed 2.8 million years ago; and President Obama and Facebook mogul Mark Zuckerberg tweeted their support for a Texas student arrested for bringing a homemade clock to school.
That was preceded by an immigration crisis in Europe and three Americans being hailed as heroes for thwarting a train attack in France; the removal of the Confederate flag from the South Carolina statehouse; shootings at a military recruiting center in Tennessee and a movie theater in Louisiana; the Boy Scouts’ decision to end its ban on gay adult leaders; and the victory over Japan of the U.S. in the Women’s World Cup soccer finals.
Before that, there was a shooting at a Charleston, S.C., church; the trial and sentencing of Boston Marathon bomber suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev; the U.S. Supreme Court’s affirmation of same-sex marriage, Obamacare, lethal injection drugs and government censorship of Confederate flag license plates; and an Amtrak train crash in Philadelphia that left more than 200 injured and eight dead.
Also included in the mix of distressing news coverage was the death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray while in police custody; the ongoing saga of Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email account; the crash of a German jetliner in the French Alps; a measles outbreak in Disneyland; a terror attack at the Paris office of "Charlie Hebdo"; the disappearance of an AirAsia flight over the Java Sea; an Ebola outbreak; and the reported beheading of American journalist Steven Sotloff by ISIS.
That doesn’t even begin to touch on the spate of entertainment news that tends to win the battle for Americans’ attention: Bruce Jenner’s transgender transformation to Caitlyn Jenner; Kim Kardashian’s “break the internet” nude derriere photo; sexual assault allegations against Bill Cosby; cancellation of the comedy "The Interview" in movie theaters after alleged terror hack threats; the wedding of George Clooney to Amal Alamuddin; the wedding of Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt; the ALS ice bucket challenge; and the birth of a baby girl to Prince William and Kate.
As I point out in my book "Battlefield America: The War on the American People," these sleight-of-hand distractions, diversions and news spectacles are how the corporate elite controls a population by entrapping them in the “crisis of the NOW,” either inadvertently or intentionally, advancing their agenda without much opposition from the citizenry.
But what exactly has the government — aided and abetted by the mainstream media — been doing while we’ve been so cooperatively fixated on whatever current sensation happens to be monopolizing the so-called “news” shows?
If properly disclosed, consistently reported on and properly digested by the citizenry, the sheer volume of the government’s activities, which undermine the Constitution and in many instances are outright illegal, would inevitably give rise to a sea change in how business is conducted in our seats of power.
Surely Americans would be concerned about the Obama administration’s plans to use behavioral science tactics to “nudge” citizens to comply with the government’s public policy and program initiatives? There would be no end to the uproar if Americans understood the ramifications of the government’s plan to train non-medical personnel — teachers, counselors and other lay people — in “mental first aid” in order to train them to screen, identify and report individuals suspected of suffering from mental illness. The problem, of course, arises when these very same mental health screeners misdiagnose opinions or behavior involving lawful First Amendment activities as a mental illness, resulting in involuntary detentions in psychiatric wards for the unfortunate victims.
Image source: Allison Shelley/Getty Images
Parents would be livid if they had any inkling about the school-to-prison pipeline, namely, how the public schools are being transformed from institutions of learning to prison-like factories, complete with armed police and surveillance cameras, aimed at churning out compliant test-takers rather than independent-minded citizens. And once those same young people reach college, they will be indoctrinated into believing that they have a “right” to be free from acts and expressions of intolerance with which they might disagree.
Concerned citizens should be up in arms over the government’s end-run tactics to avoid abiding by the rule of law, whether by outsourcing illegal surveillance activities to defense contractors, outsourcing inhumane torture to foreign countries, causing American citizens to disappear into secret interrogation facilities or establishing policies that would allow the military to indefinitely detain any citizen — including journalists — considered a belligerent or an enemy.
And one would hope American citizens would be incensed about being treated like prisoners in an electronic concentration camp, their every movement monitored, tracked and recorded by a growing government surveillance network that runs the gamut from traffic cameras and police body cameras to facial recognition software. Or outraged that we will be forced to fund a $93 billion drone industry that will be used to spy on our movements and activities, not to mention the fact that private prisons are getting rich (on our taxpayer dollars) by locking up infants, toddlers, children and pregnant women?
Unfortunately, while 71 percent of American voters are “dissatisfied” with the way things are going in the United States, that discontent has yet to bring about any significant changes in the government, nor has it caused the citizenry to get any more involved in their government beyond the ritualistic Election Day vote.
Professor Morris Berman suggests that the problems plaguing us as a nation — particularly as they relate to the government — have less to do with our inattention to corruption than our sanctioning, tacit or not, of such activities. “It seems to me,” writes Berman, “that the people do get the government they deserve, and even beyond that, the government who they are, so to speak.”
In other words, if we end up with a militarized police state, it will largely be because we welcomed it with open arms. In fact, according to a recent poll, almost a third of Americans would support a military coup “to take control from a civilian government which is beginning to violate the constitution.”
So where does that leave us?
As legendary television journalist Edward R. Murrow warned, “Unless we get up off our fat surpluses and recognize that television in the main is being used to distract, delude, amuse and insulate us, then television and those who finance it, those who look at it, and those who work at it, may see a totally different picture too late.”
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