-- George W. Bush commenting on the enemy, yet also most applicable to his own policies
"The people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country."
--Hermann Goering, at the Nuremberg trials
"The only thing we have to fear is fear itself."
-- Franklin D. Roosevelt
"It's second nature for any system of power to try and inspire fear…Bush's managers realize they only have one card to play. Would you direct him to focus the attention of the population on tax cuts or other gifts for the rich? Or on the Enron scandal, or the deliberate destruction of a decent environment for our grandchildren? Or would it be preferable to construct the image of a noble hero driving evil from the world while the population huddles in fear of monsters from whom our dauntless savior will rescue us? No choice…It is a frightened country and it is easy to conjure up an imminent threat…They have a card that they can play ... terrify the population with some invented threat, and that is not very hard to do."
"The Bush administration has presented Americans with a false dichotomy that we must choose between being safe or free."
--Emily Whitfield, ACLU national spokeswoman
[The lives and sacrifices
of 3000 men and women should not be taken for granted. The deadly attacks of
9/11 should not be diminished. This article does neither. Threats do exist
and concerns do arise, yet what we are experiencing today is much, much more
than the government protecting us. It is manipulation, the greatest form of
propaganda that is abusing our emotions and fears for political and
It is that time of the year again when the nation erupts in an assortment of colors marking the holiday season. Green, red and white, Christmas colors are upon us. Colors of cheer and joy, of Christmas past and present. A new color, however, seems to have made its most unwelcome way into the cocktail of delight and merriment, once again attaching itself to the nation’s pulse at a time of supposed warmth and happiness. The most un-Christmas-like color has infiltrated itself into our collective holiday cheer, creating with its presence a most frightful time of year. Like a most unwelcome neighbor or relative, orange has crept inside our homes and communities, making its annual appearance just in time to spoil our most cherished and comforting holiday.
Like a bad flu, Fear Factor Orange has returned, after its prerequisite six month absence, just in time to instill fear into our Christmas cheer. Thanks to Tom Ridge and his Department of Homeland Insecurity we must face yet another season under cover of orange gloom. It is the Fear Factor, the instrument used by this administration that conditions us all to the coming usurpation of rights, freedoms and democracy and the introduction of the police state. It is the tool by which Bush inculcates his perceived leadership into our delirious brains, thereby assuring himself of our unwillingness to abandon the President-hero, the fighter of all evil, our Crusading Commander.
Fear Factor Orange assures Bush that every three to six months the American public’s never healing scars of 9/11 will re-open, pussing out once again our still fragile memories of the horrific tragedy that the administration never fails to conjure up. With the wave of the propaganda wand, Bush and his megalomaniac marketers make out of the President a fusion of Santa Claus, George Washington, Napoleon, Gandhi and the Almighty itself, reincarnated out of thin air to save the nation from imminent peril. It is the perfect public relations gimmick to help assure Bush a second term in office. And fear not, those who have grown dependent on Fear Factor Orange, it will return once or twice more before November 2004.
Fear Factor Orange places in front of the masses the all too real and damaging emotions that we as a nation suffered on that most horrendous of days, where our innocence and perceived sense of infallibility were erased from the face of the earth. The construction of fear into our psyches places inside us our wanting for protection and salvation from those invisible yet perilous dangers of terrorism. It matters not that we cannot see the enemy, Fear Factor Orange conjures them up in our minds, full of bombs and bullets, hiding in every corner, ready to destroy us. In our search for self-preservation, therefore, we place our complete trust on the government to become the father figure we so desperately crave. The unthinking populace thus places into the hands of Bush the means to control and empower us. Through the use of fear Bush manipulates our behaviors, making us decapitated drones signing away our souls.
Our animal emotions are resurrected every time ominous Fear Factor Orange glows from our television monitors. The rational, human brain is replaced by our primitive, older one that places the primordial necessity and interest of self-preservation ahead of the analytical, abstract-thinking side that makes us question authority and its sinister intentions. Our ability to weight complexities is forgotten, threats are too much to handle; we refuse to believe the reality of the absurdity and refuse to listen to the absurdity of the fantasy. This enables Bush and company to further induce cooperation and acquiescence to each and every mandate they enact from average Americans who do not realize, to their great detriment, the continued erosion of their once sacrosanct freedoms, rights and democratic institutions.
Since 9/11, we have been told that in order to be made safe, in order to live in tranquility, we must place our undying trust in Bush and our government. In Bush We Trust. We must do as our government dictates for only it knows what is good for us. Fed insecurity and fear on an almost constant basis, either through government or corporate media propaganda, we are systemically brainwashed into believing that nobody is safe, that our nation is being attacked and that the future of our children is in peril. Forces of evil greater than anything we have ever faced are said to be invisibly flying throughout the nation, like winds carrying a deadly virus or toxin intent on destroying our way of life from within. Only by following the dictates of Bush, only by ignorantly and blindly obeying his commands will salvation be in our grasp. Only then will we be delivered from evil into the valley of heavenly safety.
In order to achieve that which cannot be reached, we are told to sacrifice our freedoms, rights and liberties so we can be made safe. In truth, we are setting free onto the world and surrendering over to the authorities that control us the powers inherent in the people, those democratic principles passed down through generations of struggle and sacrifice that have for centuries saved us from the growing threat of autocracy we now face. That we continue to blindly relinquish the remaining freedoms that have not already been taken from us in the name of security and safety should only add to our growing concern at the direction this nation is heading in.
Like drooling Pavlovian dogs, we are hypnotically following the glimmer of Fear Factor Orange down the road to fascism. Fear has been used wisely by this administration to rob us of the ingredients necessary to prevent and fight totalitarian governance from ever rising out of the fires of Hades. Like a flaming phoenix, however, this form of power is quickly rising, fed by our irrational give-away of that which we hold most dearly. Into the skies the phoenix flies, gorging on America’s remaining ways of life. Smelling a most frightened nation on its journey from coast to coast, like a wild animal it grows ever more powerful, brave and confident, ready to attack our collective jugular and enjoy the tasty morsels and blood of a most satisfying kill.
Our construct of reality has vanished in a haze of fog called fear. We are scared for the present, future, our children and ourselves. Anxiety runs in our blood, filling our veins and minds. The buttons of fright and terror being pushed by Bush drive us from normalcy to panic in a cruel game of tug-of-war whose only end result is the political manipulation towards re-election and psychological domination by exploitation. The takeover of the American mind, designed to make subservient slaves without thinking brains out of all of us, is gaining momentum, cruising like a monstrous freight train in its sojourn through the country, robbing and raping all who appear in its wake, infecting us with the fantasies of fear and insecurity that are slowly digging our graves.
Through the abuse and manipulation of fear, domestic and foreign policy are being concocted to suit conservative ideology. Social programs and services are being imploded by those who have for years wished them away. A police state is emerging that is subverting freedoms once deemed inalienable. Police officers now punish with impunity those who dare protest the evils of the elite. Patriot Act I, and now II, are giving the government powers once thought unimaginable, the stuff of Orwellian fiction. Government secrecy is now the norm, accountability is a thing of the past. Detentions, surveillance, intrusions and privacy annihilation, is this the America of yesteryear? Are we approaching 2004, or 1984?
Dissent and opposition are being curtailed, the nation is being wrapped around the flag. To support the pillage of our rights is to be patriotic, to fight the oligarchy is to cavort with the enemy. Our wages and soldiers are being sacrificed for the sake of the Leviathan, education is but a hollow dream that is leaving all children behind. Fascism is spreading like an epidemic, imperialism is rising its tentacles and the basic tenets of American life are being gobbled up by the corporate Leviathan. Meanwhile, Fear Factor Orange glows in the night sky, warning us all to be vigilant spies, untrusting of neighbors, aloof in our ways, living life paranoid at best and scared shitless at worst.
Catatonic we have become in our understanding of the war on terror. Fear Factor Orange, that color signifying a high threat of terrorist attack, spooks and terrorizes, creating a belief that “evil” people want to kill us. That the threat is even more remote than being struck by lightning does not matter to a citizenry that still suffers the post-traumatic fatigue of 9/11. Not to minimize the atrocities by any means, but it must be mentioned that only a minute part of Manhattan was struck, only a small side of the Pentagon was attacked. Those 3000 we will never forget, heroes to all, symbols of what makes this country great. Yet we are 285 million strong, spread over vast terrains. We must realize that the 3000 men and women are being politicized for cynical purposes, to use fear as a political tool in the game of power and control. Do not forget that.
Terrorists are not nation-states, their resources are finite, their numbers small. We are told to be vigilant, to be on the lookout for suspicious activity. This, consequently, places the eyes of hundreds of millions of citizens squarely, consciously or not, on the millions of Arab men and women who live in this country as Americans. Fear Factor Orange and paranoia combine to make of these citizens walking, breathing targets of unfair stereotypes, real or imagined, that fester in the American consciousness. Profiling and labeling thus combine to segregate moral, law abiding citizens. For them, Fear Factor Orange is indeed a time to fear and grow anxious.
Bush should not be allowed to control our lives or our destinies. Ashcroft and Ridge should not dictate our stresses and concerns. Our government should not shamelessly insert fear into our already hectic lives. The threat of attack will always linger, a strike is most likely inevitable thanks to our foreign policy and arrogance, but to constantly alter our way of being, to give up our freedoms for our security, to create a world in which our children will never breathe the same rights we once had, is to acknowledge that the terrorist elements have already won. They have succeeded in terrorizing, in instilling fear, in having our government change the basic structure of our democracy. We must fight Bush’s attempts to bankrupt us of all we cherish. We must keep living our dreams, keep pursuing our goals and we must never allow our democratic principles to dissipate like stone eroded by the sands of time. Our children must live in freedom, they must savor their rights. They must enjoy the fruits of the labors and sacrifices of descendents long gone and those built by our hands and minds because if forced to live in a world devoid of freedoms, they will never know what their parents once had, and you cannot miss something you never had. Thus, they will never fight and sacrifice for that which they never knew existed.
If an attack manifests itself, whether it is today or ten years from now, we must simply rise like we always do, united as one, standing proud and strong, ready to mourn, pick up and keep on living. This is America, after all, the land of the free and the home of the brave. Suffering and mourning is the story of man, whether in World War I and II Europe or Civil War America, in hundreds of revolutions, battles or fights for freedom, to honor a people’s way of life is to sacrifice and mourn, to evolve and stand strong. It is what determines the character of a people, the strength of a nation. Ask the world, nothing comes easy.
We cannot allow those who would do us harm to triumph in altering our way of life, and we cannot allow Bush and company to assist in this endeavor. Our security is important, but not at the expense of our freedoms, rights, liberties and democracy. It is not at the expense of creating a police state where we are all potential suspects and victims. The loss of our freedoms and rights should not come at the expense of the rise of a fascist state under the guise of comfort and refuge. For if we allow this to happen, we will have neither and the great reality that is the United States will fade away into dusty memories of oblivion. In the long history of mankind our era will be but a small blur buried and forgotten by the sands of time. Don’t let Bush succeed. Decry fearmongering. Remember, what does not kill you makes you stronger. Fear not, for life is all about conquering that which we most fear.
Manuel Valenzuela is an attorney, consultant, freelance writer and author of Echoes in the Wind, a novel that will be published in 2004. He lives in Madison, Wisconsin and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Evisceration of Democracy