Without an unfettered press, without liberty of speech, all of the outward forms and structures of free institutions are a sham, a pretense – the sheerest mockery. If the press is not free; if speech is not independent and untrammeled; if the mind is shackled or made impotent through fear, it makes no difference under what form of government you live, you are a subject and not a citizen.
– William Edgar Borah
Agitators are a set of interfering, meddling people, who come down to some perfectly contented class of the community and sow the seeds of discontent amongst them. That is the reason why agitators are so absolutely necessary. Without them, in our incomplete state, there would be no advance towards civilization.
– Oscar Wilde
The glimpse of Julian Assange being dragged from the Ecuadorean embassy in London is an emblem of the times. Might against right. Muscle against the law. Indecency against courage. Six policemen manhandled a sick journalist.
– John Pilger: Assange Arrest a Warning from History
I was born 80 years ago in a country called the United States of America, and now I live in a Homeland — an expression we haven’t heard since Hitler.
– Gore Vidal
The only thing I’ve been able to think about for the last few days is the mugging of Julian Assange at the Ecuadorian embassy in London. This post could go in many different directions, but given all the excellent articles already written on the topic, what seems most necessary is an explanation of what this means in the big picture of freedom in the Western world and civilization in general.
Assange’s apprehension on April 11, 2019 and the related indictment and extradition request by the U.S., has led to a level of concern and anger similar to how I felt during the financial crisis and banker bailouts a decade ago. This may seem hyperbolic, but allow me to explain.
As long-time readers know, the financial crisis and subsequent bailouts, including the failure to prosecute bank executives for extreme fraud, was the most formative event of my life. The whole grotesque charade forced me to confront the reality of the sort of country and economy I was living in, and what I saw horrified and disgusted me.
Although rich and powerful people have always been able to get away with stuff the poor and disenfranchised never could, this reality was shoved far more undeniably in your face during and after the financial crisis. The bankers who committed fraud that crashed the world economy didn’t just hurt a few people, they created a systemic catastrophe that in one way or another impacted and touched the entire planet. The public was then told it needed to rescue these institutions for their own good, but after that had been done, not a single major bank executive went to jail or was even put on trial.
Terms like “Too Big to Jail” emerged to describe the unconscionable practice by which the Department of Justice deemed big banks and their executives untouchable. The most society-destabilizing aspect of the period wasn’t the financial crisis itself, but the response to it.
This is when many people, myself included, began to recognize that there’s a class of people who can do whatever they want without consequence. Such people can set the global economy on fire, or as a different class of elites had done years earlier, can destroy entire countries based on fake news inspired wars, only to end up promoted and celebrated down the road as if nothing ever happened.
Whistleblowers and real journalists are imprisoned, while war criminals and fraud producing bankers are celebrated, promoted and bailed out.— Michael Krieger (@LibertyBlitz) April 11, 2019
This is the world we live in.#Assange
Americans are being taught, by repeated example, that there exists two main classes of people in this country. Those aligned with — in one way or another — the national security state, and those who are not. If you’re aligned with the interests of empire and are somewhat prominent, you will never suffer consequences for any of your actions.
Your career will flourish irrespective of how wrong you are, how many countries you destroy, how many civilians you murder, or how many lives you ruin with fraud and corruption. You are for all intents and purposes a member of the imperial royalty, and as such, completely and totally above the law. This isn’t speculation or exaggeration, it’s demonstrably provable reality. We’re being gradually conditioned to accept a society comprised of rulers and the ruled, of masters and servants. There’s no place in such a construct for self-government. You are a subject not a citizen.
Within the other, much larger class of people, there exist several types. There are many people who just go along to get along. Even if they know what’s happening in their name and with their tax money, they don’t care much for liberty and are certainly not willing to do anything to prevent its demise. Then there’s the multitude that have absolutely no idea what’s going on to any reasonable degree. Chomsky noted:
The general population doesn’t know what’s happening, and it doesn’t even know that it doesn’t know.
These people are perfect subjects, and pose no concern or problem to the protected national security state class. In contrast, there’s a small percentage of the population that understand how evil, secretive and corrupt it all is and simply cannot stay silent. These people are problematic, but the most troublesome ones, the ones who must be dealt with harshly and made an example of, are those willing to risk their lives and liberty to expose the crimes of government to the masses of people who, generally speaking, don’t even seem to care. Three of the most prominent of these types are Chelsea Manning, Edward Snowden and Julian Assange. It should come as no surprise that one is exiled in Russia, while the other two are in prison.
No man escapes
When freedom fails,
The best men rot in filthy jails;
And they who cried: “Appease, Appease!”
Are hanged by men they tried to please.
– Hiram Mann
Without any public debate, we’re being actively conditioned and forced to accept a role as powerless servants to the national security state apparatus. The American empire has a ruling class comprised of CEOs of large corporations, Wall Street, the Federal Reserve, billionaires, the mass media, intelligence agencies, the regulatory bodies, think tanks, etc. These people run the show and are above the law. Everyone else must listen and accept orders, and if you dare step out of line and expose the unconstitutional secret actions and corruption of the ruling class, you’ll be hunted down like a dog and your head placed on a spike. That’s why they’re going after Assange so hard ten years later. It’s a message, a warning, and a pretty explicit threat. There’s no liberty or self-government going on here. There are rulers and the ruled. Accept it or suffer the consequences.
Similar to how Alex Jones was used as the perfect villain to condition the public to accept more rampant and subjective online social media censorship since he’s such a polarizing figure, Julian Assange is being used to drag various normal practices of investigative journalism into the mud (see Glenn Greenwald’s excellent piece) because he’s also polarizing. Sadly, a huge number of “resistance” Democrats are cheering on his incarceration mainly because they believe Wikileaks’ revelations about Hillary Clinton and the DNC cost her the throne.
A tweet from authoritarian Democratic Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer last week tells you all you need to know about these people.
Now that Julian Assange has been arrested, I hope he will soon be held to account for his meddling in our elections on behalf of Putin and the Russian government.— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) April 11, 2019
These people are thuggish, short-sighted and dangerous, but this comment represents a prevailing sentiment amongst many of our fellow subjects, I mean citizens, and it’s why a guy like Julian Assange is being used to make the practice of investigative journalism appear criminal and dirty.
In the really big picture, the Assange affair is terrifying because it’s being used to further public acceptance that the unwashed masses are merely servants of ruling class masters. That exposing the crimes of our deranged elites is the only punishable offense, not the criminal acts themselves. Unfortunately, many people cheer this on because they want to avenge Hillary’s loss, or are just rabid authoritarians who care nothing for liberty or our constitution to begin with.
The reason I’m writing this post and consider it one of the most important things I’ve ever written, is because we can go in two main directions from here as a country.
We can accept our degraded and impotent role as meaningless subjects in a vast, corrupt and vicious empire, ...
or we can prioritize freedom, self-government and civil liberties to build a halfway decent civilization. In other words, we can blindly march forward into another dark age, or we can create a new renaissance.
How this will turn out is anyone’s guess, I just know we’re at a crucial crossroads and can only hope these words will inspire some of you to snap out of it, find a little courage and follow your better nature. If not, we will slowly at first, and very quickly later, lose whatever freedoms we have left.
Finally, I want to wrap up by sharing an extremely informative speech given by the late Gore Vidal in 1998 about the origins of the national security state, which is quite fitting since Assange himself was seen holding a copy of, Gore Vidal History of The National Security State, as he was snatched from the Ecuadorian embassy.
As he so eloquently states:
There comes a moment where empires cease to exert energy and become symbolic, or existential, as we used to say back in the 40s. The current wrangling over NATO demonstrates what a quandary a symbolic empire is in when it wants to maintain its view of itself at home and abroad, and yet lacks the mind, much less the resources to impose its hegemony upon its former client states.
Happily, in the absence of money and common will, nothing much will probably happen. Meanwhile there is a new and better world ready to be born, the optimum economic unit in the world is now the city-state.
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