1) At a certain point, shouldn't we begin asking wholesale, publicly, openly what it is exactly we would like as a society? A more specific way of putting this in the present context is to ask what the limits are in the "war on terror." We know now that, unjustifiably (other than parroting the "war on terror" mantra) there are few limits internationally. The US will torture and then quibble legalistically over the language, pushing the burden of proof onto the Spanish Inquisition to defend its historical self against benign modern American interrogation practices. Is the Spanish Inquisition the limit?
And, domestically, are prostrate probes, chip implants? Isn't there a point at which Americans look at themselves and don't know or recognize what they see? Isn't there a point at which we're not "Nazis" or "fascists," but some new brand of execrableness that requires a new language to describe its offense to basic norms of decency? Shouldn't we begin to formulate the language that truly describes that new brand, rather than relying upon older tropes for pathological human-political behavior?
Complicity is not far-removed from direct participation. We look at populations that have ignored their nation's crimes and which have tolerated incremental domestic abuses as citizens who are complicit in the crimes themselves, even when the government of that nation is authoritarian. We use a language that summarizes an entire population under the rubric of its administration or of particular groups. No longer individualized, a people becomes simply the group that commits the evils. What of a democracy in which we have ostensive free speech, freedom of the press, and universal suffrage? This seems to me to raise the stakes on responsibility. At what point do the citizens of a democratic country take on responsibility for the abuses of their leadership? At the point at which they're no longer a democracy?
Again, what does the so-called war on terror justify? Every conceivable abuse? What does it justify and what does it not justify? Then, I hope we ask, why? Of course, to answer this question we should keep in mind that the "war on terror" is now at least as much a creation of this administration as it is of 9-11 if not more so.
2) The NSA compiles data on Americans via their phone records and emails giving the explicit lie to statements to the contrary by the president and his cronies. These are more clear lies. The language of "misleading" is no longer simply misleading but a lie itself. Then they say, "trust us." Is there a point at which Americans are no longer so gullible as to continue to trust this administration? Has this administration given any reason to trust them, whatever one's political persuasion? Recall even prior to the Iraq War - apart from the lies repeatedly made to US citizens and the global audience - the forgotten fact that the US demanded of Iraq that it reduce its conventional missile weaponry. Iraq did so. Then the US invaded. That's a cowardly bully's move. One might say that Saddam Hussein was gullible, and paid the price for it. One might also say that this administration has no integrity whatsoever in laying down limits to its bullying.
3) The telecommunication companies, for which I have little sympathy, give up phone records to the NSA in a climate of domestic terror by the administration, feared consequences for being uncooperative, and concomitant willful complicity. This administration's NSA uses the records to mine data on American citizens. Tonight I'm hearing the administration's new, yet old, argument that the telecoms may face charges for giving up customers' private information.
First, we should recoil in disgust at the administration's granting of greater rights to "customers" than to citizens. Second, recall this same technique, used elsewhere over and over by the administration. Cow potential critics or at least those disinclined to cooperate with questionable policies into cooperation through a series of threats and disincentives/incentives. Then, if one's machinations are discovered, blame those groups or individuals who were coerced into action by the very fact that they undertook the action under a state of coercion. Rove's and Bush's art is then to go one further and mock the bastard. This is cowardice at its worst - a cowardice that will sacrifice the next stupid sycophant that comes along to eternal damnation in the service of its own self-centered needs.
Rather pitifully as a sign of protest, I will be changing my telecom service and I hope that the telecoms involved in this case suffer. Their executives can rot in hell. At the same time, however, in this case the crime is again principally on the administration's side.
Steve G had a nice post today on the rhetoric of fascism. I agree with him that calling a government fascistic is an easy out for what should otherwise be real, concrete criticism. But, if so, let's find another term to apply to the present case because this administration continues to commit crimes and create a facilitating climate of terror within its own citizenry. "Fascism" may actually be too kind.