by John W. Whitehead
"No one can terrorize a whole nation,
unless we are all his accomplices."
Edward R. Murrow,
America is in the midst of an epidemic of historic proportions.
The contagion being spread like wildfire is turning communities into battlegrounds and setting Americans one against the other.
Normally mild-mannered individuals caught up in the throes of this disease have been transformed into belligerent zealots, while others inclined to pacifism have taken to stockpiling weapons and practicing defensive drills.
This plague on our nation - one that has been spreading like wildfire - is a potent mix of fear coupled with unhealthy doses of paranoia and intolerance, tragic hallmarks of the post-9/11 America in which we live.
Everywhere you turn, those on both the left- and right-wing are fomenting distrust and division. You can't escape it.
We're being fed a constant diet of fear: fear of terrorists, fear of illegal immigrants, fear of people who are too religious, fear of people who are not religious enough, fear of Muslims, fear of extremists, fear of the government, fear of those who fear the government. The list goes on and on.
The strategy is simple yet effective: the best way to control a populace is through fear and discord.
Fear makes people stupid...
Confound them, distract them with mindless news chatter and entertainment, pit them against one another by turning minor disagreements into major skirmishes, and tie them up in knots over matters lacking in national significance.
Most importantly, divide the people into factions, persuade them to see each other as the enemy and keep them screaming at each other so that they drown out all other sounds. In this way, they will never reach consensus about anything and will be too distracted to notice the police state closing in on them until the final crushing curtain falls.
This is how free people enslave themselves and allow tyrants to prevail.
This Machiavellian scheme has so ensnared the nation that few Americans even realize they are being manipulated into adopting an "us" against "them" mindset.
Instead, fueled with fear and loathing for phantom opponents, they agree to pour millions of dollars and resources into political elections, militarized police, spy technology and endless wars, hoping for a guarantee of safety that never comes.
All the while, those in power - bought and paid for by lobbyists and corporations - move their costly agendas forward, and "we the suckers" get saddled with the tax bills and subjected to pat downs, police raids and round-the-clock surveillance.
Turn on the TV or flip open the newspaper on any given day, and you will find yourself accosted by reports of government corruption, corporate malfeasance, militarized police and marauding SWAT teams.
America has already entered a new phase, one in which,
These threats are not to be underestimated.
Yet even more dangerous than these violations of our basic rights is the language in which they are couched: the language of fear. It is a language spoken effectively by politicians on both sides of the aisle, shouted by media pundits from their cable TV pulpits, marketed by corporations, and codified into bureaucratic laws that do little to make our lives safer or more secure.
Fear, as history shows, is the method most often used by politicians to increase the power of government.
Even while President Obama insists that "freedom is more powerful than fear," the tactics of his administration continue to rely on fear of another terrorist attack in order to further advance the agenda of the military/security industrial complex.
An atmosphere of fear permeates modern America. However, with crime at a 40-year low, is such fear of terrorism rational?
Even in the wake of the shootings in San Bernardino and Paris, statistics show that,
(Also look at Just How Dangerous is Terrorism, Really?)
You are 11,000 times more likely to die from an airplane accident than from a terrorist plot involving an airplane. You are 1,048 times more likely to die from a car accident than a terrorist attack.
You are 404 times more likely to die in a fall than from a terrorist attack. You are 12 times more likely to die from accidental suffocating in bed than from a terrorist attack. And you are 9 more times likely to choke to death in your own vomit than die in a terrorist attack.
Indeed, those living in the American police state are 8 times more likely to be killed by a police officer than by a terrorist.
Thus, the government's endless jabbering about terrorism amounts to little more than propaganda - the propaganda of fear - a tactic used to terrorize, cower and control the population.
So far, these tactics are working.
As history makes clear, fear leads to fascistic, totalitarian regimes.
It's a simple enough formula. National crises, reported terrorist attacks, and sporadic shootings leave us in a constant state of fear. Fear prevents us from thinking.
The emotional panic that accompanies fear actually shuts down the prefrontal cortex or the rational thinking part of our brains. In other words, when we are consumed by fear, we stop thinking.
A populace that stops thinking for themselves is a populace that is easily led, easily manipulated and easily controlled.
As I document in my book Battlefield America - The War on the American People, the following are a few of the necessary ingredients for a fascist state:
The parallels to modern America are impossible to ignore.
For the final hammer of fascism to fall, it will require the most crucial ingredient: the majority of the people will have to agree that it's not only expedient but necessary.
In times of "crisis," expediency is upheld as the central principle - that is, in order to keep us safe and secure, the government must militarize the police, strip us of basic constitutional rights and criminalize virtually every form of behavior.
Not only does fear grease the wheels of the transition to fascism by cultivating fearful, controlled, pacified, cowed citizens, but it also embeds itself in our very DNA so that we pass on our fear and compliance to our offspring.
It's called epigenetic inheritance, the transmission through DNA of traumatic experiences.
For example, neuroscientists observed how quickly fear can travel through generations of mice DNA.
As The Washington Post reports:
Now consider the ramifications of inherited generations of fears and experiences on human beings.
As the Post reports,
In other words,
...can be passed down through the generations.
Fear has been a critical tool in past fascistic regimes, and it now operates in our contemporary world - all of which raises fundamental questions about us as human beings and what we will give up in order to perpetuate the illusions of safety and security.
In the words of psychologist Erich Fromm:
We are at a critical crossroads in history, and we have a choice:
Let's hope the people make the right choice while we still have the freedom to choose...