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Dystopia Disguised as Democracy: All the Ways in Which Freedom Is an Illusion

John W. Whitehead & Nisha Whitehead wrote . . . . . . . . .

“The illusion of freedom will continue as long as it’s profitable to continue the illusion. At the point where the illusion becomes too expensive to maintain, they will just take down the scenery, they will pull back the curtains, they will move the tables and chairs out of the way and you will see the brick wall at the back of the theater.”—Frank Zappa

We are no longer free.

We are living in a world carefully crafted to resemble a representative democracy, but it’s an illusion.

We think we have the freedom to elect our leaders, but we’re only allowed to participate in the reassurance ritual of voting. There can be no true electoral choice or real representation when we’re limited in our options to one of two candidates culled from two parties that both march in lockstep with the Deep State and answer to an oligarchic elite.

We think we have freedom of speech, but we’re only as free to speak as the government and its corporate partners allow.

We think we have the right to freely exercise our religious beliefs, but those rights are quickly overruled if and when they conflict with the government’s priorities, whether it’s COVID-19 mandates or societal values about gender equality, sex and marriage.

We think we have the freedom to go where we want and move about freely, but at every turn, we’re hemmed in by laws, fines and penalties that regulate and restrict our autonomy, and surveillance cameras that monitor our movements. Punitive programs strip citizens of their passports and right to travel over unpaid taxes.

We think we have property interests in our homes and our bodies, but there can be no such freedom when the government can seize your property, raid your home, and dictate what you do with your bodies.

We think we have the freedom to defend ourselves against outside threats, but there is no right to self-defense against militarized police who are authorized to probe, poke, pinch, taser, search, seize, strip and generally manhandle anyone they see fit in almost any circumstance, and granted immunity from accountability with the general blessing of the courts. Certainly, there can be no right to gun ownership in the face of red flag gun laws which allow the police to remove guns from people merely suspected of being threats.

We think we have the right to an assumption of innocence until we are proven guilty, but that burden of proof has been turned on its head by a surveillance state that renders us all suspects and overcriminalization which renders us all lawbreakers. Police-run facial recognition software that mistakenly labels law-abiding citizens as criminals. A social credit system (similar to China’s) that rewards behavior deemed “acceptable” and punishes behavior the government and its corporate allies find offensive, illegal or inappropriate.

We think we have the right to due process, but that assurance of justice has been stripped of its power by a judicial system hardwired to act as judge, jury and jailer, leaving us with little recourse for appeal. A perfect example of this rush to judgment can be found in the proliferation of profit-driven speed and red light cameras that do little for safety while padding the pockets of government agencies.

We have been saddled with a government that pays lip service to the nation’s freedom principles while working overtime to shred the Constitution.

By gradually whittling away at our freedoms—free speech, assembly, due process, privacy, etc.—the government has, in effect, liberated itself from its contractual agreement to respect the constitutional rights of the citizenry while resetting the calendar back to a time when we had no Bill of Rights to protect us from the long arm of the government.

Aided and abetted by the legislatures, the courts and Corporate America, the government has been busily rewriting the contract (a.k.a. the Constitution) that establishes the citizenry as the masters and agents of the government as the servants.

We are now only as good as we are useful, and our usefulness is calculated on an economic scale by how much we are worth—in terms of profit and resale value—to our “owners.”

Under the new terms of this revised, one-sided agreement, the government and its many operatives have all the privileges and rights and “we the people” have none.

Only in our case, sold on the idea that safety, security and material comforts are preferable to freedom, we’ve allowed the government to pave over the Constitution in order to erect a concentration camp.

The problem with these devil’s bargains, however, is that there is always a catch, always a price to pay for whatever it is we valued so highly as to barter away our most precious possessions.

We’ve bartered away our right to self-governance, self-defense, privacy, autonomy and that most important right of all: the right to tell the government to “leave me the hell alone.” In exchange for the promise of safe streets, safe schools, blight-free neighborhoods, lower taxes, lower crime rates, and readily accessible technology, health care, water, food and power, we’ve opened the door to militarized police, government surveillance, asset forfeiture, school zero tolerance policies, license plate readers, red light cameras, SWAT team raids, health care mandates, overcriminalization and government corruption.

In the end, such bargains always turn sour.

We asked our lawmakers to be tough on crime, and we’ve been saddled with an abundance of laws that criminalize almost every aspect of our lives. So far, we’re up to 4500 criminal laws and 300,000 criminal regulations that result in average Americans unknowingly engaging in criminal acts at least three times a day. For instance, the family of an 11-year-old girl was issued a $535 fine for violating the Federal Migratory Bird Act after the young girl rescued a baby woodpecker from predatory cats.

We wanted criminals taken off the streets, and we didn’t want to have to pay for their incarceration. What we’ve gotten is a nation that boasts the highest incarceration rate in the world, with more than 2.3 million people locked up, many of them doing time for relatively minor, nonviolent crimes, and a private prison industry fueling the drive for more inmates, who are forced to provide corporations with cheap labor.

We wanted law enforcement agencies to have the necessary resources to fight the nation’s wars on terror, crime and drugs. What we got instead were militarized police decked out with M-16 rifles, grenade launchers, silencers, battle tanks and hollow point bullets—gear designed for the battlefield, more than 80,000 SWAT team raids carried out every year (many for routine police tasks, resulting in losses of life and property), and profit-driven schemes that add to the government’s largesse such as asset forfeiture, where police seize property from “suspected criminals.”

We fell for the government’s promise of safer roads, only to find ourselves caught in a tangle of profit-driven red-light cameras, which ticket unsuspecting drivers in the so-called name of road safety while ostensibly fattening the coffers of local and state governments. Despite widespread public opposition, corruption and systemic malfunctions, these cameras are particularly popular with municipalities, which look to them as an easy means of extra cash. Building on the profit-incentive schemes, the cameras’ manufacturers are also pushing speed cameras and school bus cameras, both of which result in hefty fines for violators who speed or try to go around school buses.

We’re being subjected to the oldest con game in the books, the magician’s sleight of hand that keeps you focused on the shell game in front of you while your wallet is being picked clean by ruffians in your midst.

This is how tyranny rises and freedom falls.

With every new law enacted by federal and state legislatures, every new ruling handed down by government courts, and every new military weapon, invasive tactic and egregious protocol employed by government agents, “we the people” are being reminded that we possess no rights except for that which the government grants on an as-needed basis.

Indeed, there are chilling parallels between the authoritarian prison that is life in the American police state and The Prisoner, a dystopian television series that first broadcast in Great Britain more than 50 years ago.

The series centers around a British secret agent (played by Patrick McGoohan) who finds himself imprisoned, monitored by militarized drones, and interrogated in a mysterious, self-contained, cosmopolitan, seemingly idyllic retirement community known only as The Village. While luxurious and resort-like, the Village is a virtual prison disguised as a seaside paradise: its inhabitants have no true freedom, they cannot leave the Village, they are under constant surveillance, their movements are tracked by surveillance drones, and they are stripped of their individuality and identified only by numbers.

Much like the American Police State, The Prisoner’s Village gives the illusion of freedom while functioning all the while like a prison: controlled, watchful, inflexible, punitive, deadly and inescapable.

Described as “an allegory of the individual, aiming to find peace and freedom in a dystopia masquerading as a utopia,” The Prisoner is a chilling lesson about how difficult it is to gain one’s freedom in a society in which prison walls are disguised within the trappings of technological and scientific progress, national security and so-called democracy.

Perhaps the best visual debate ever on individuality and freedom, The Prisoner confronted societal themes that are still relevant today: the rise of a police state, the freedom of the individual, round-the-clock surveillance, the corruption of government, totalitarianism, weaponization, group think, mass marketing, and the tendency of mankind to meekly accept his lot in life as a prisoner in a prison of his own making.

The Prisoner is an operations manual for how you condition a populace to life as prisoners in a police state: by brainwashing them into believing they are free so that they will march in lockstep with the state and be incapable of recognizing the prison walls that surround them.

We can no longer maintain the illusion of freedom.


Source : The Rutherford Institute

Despotism Is the New Normal: Looming Threats to Freedom in 2022

John W. Whitehead & Nisha Whitehead wrote . . . . . . . . .

“Looking at the present, I see a more probable future: a new despotism creeping slowly across America. Faceless oligarchs sit at command posts of a corporate-government complex that has been slowly evolving over many decades. In efforts to enlarge their own powers and privileges, they are willing to have others suffer the intended or unintended consequences of their institutional or personal greed. For Americans, these consequences include chronic inflation, recurring recession, open and hidden unemployment, the poisoning of air, water, soil and bodies, and, more important, the subversion of our constitution.” — Bertram Gross, Friendly Fascism: The New Face of Power in America

Despotism has become our new normal.

Digital tyranny, surveillance. Intolerance, cancel culture, censorship. Lockdowns, mandates, government overreach. Supply chain shortages, inflation. Police brutality, home invasions, martial law. The loss of bodily integrity, privacy, autonomy.

These acts of tyranny by an authoritarian government have long since ceased to alarm or unnerve us. We have become desensitized to government brutality, accustomed to government corruption, and unfazed by the government’s assaults on our freedoms.

This present trajectory is unsustainable. The center cannot hold.

The following danger points pose some of the greatest threats to our collective and individual freedoms now and in the year to come.

Censorship. The most controversial issues of our day—gay rights, abortion, race, religion, sexuality, political correctness, police brutality, et al.—have become battlegrounds for those who claim to believe in freedom of speech but only when it favors the views and positions they support. Thus, while on paper, we are technically free to speak, in reality, we are only as free to speak as the government and tech giants such as Facebook, Google or YouTube may allow. Yet it’s a slippery slope from censoring so-called illegitimate ideas to silencing truth. What we are witnessing is the modern-day equivalent of book burning which involves doing away with dangerous ideas—legitimate or not—and the people who espouse them. Unfortunately, censorship is just the beginning. Once you allow the government and its corporate partners to determine who is worthy enough to participate in society, anything goes.

The Emergency State. Now that the government has gotten a taste for flexing its police state powers by way of a bevy of lockdowns, mandates, restrictions, contact tracing programs, heightened surveillance, censorship, overcriminalization, etc., “we the people” may well find ourselves burdened with a Nanny State inclined to use its draconian pandemic powers to protect us from ourselves. Therein lies the danger of the government’s Machiavellian version of crisis management that justifies all manner of government tyranny in the so-called name of national security. This is the power grab hiding in plain sight.

Pre-crime. The government is about to rapidly expand its policing efforts to focus on pre-crime and thought crimes. Precrime, straight out of the realm of dystopian science fiction movies such as Minority Report, aims to prevent crimes before they happen by combining widespread surveillance, behavior prediction technologies, data mining, precognitive technology, and neighborhood and family snitch programs to enable police to capture would-be criminals before they can do any damage. The intent, of course, is for the government to be all-seeing, all-knowing and all-powerful in its preemptive efforts to combat domestic extremism, a broad label that can be applied to anything or anyone the government perceives to be a threat to its power.

The Surveillance State. This all-seeing fourth branch of government, comprised of a domestic army of government snitches, spies and techno-warriors, watches everything we do, reads everything we write, listens to everything we say, and monitors everywhere we go. Beware of what you say, what you read, what you write, where you go, and with whom you communicate, because it is all being recorded, stored, and catalogued, and will be used against you eventually, at a time and place of the government’s choosing. Even agencies not traditionally associated with the intelligence community are part of the government’s growing network of snitches and spies.

Genetic privacy. “Guilt by association” has taken on new connotations in the technological age. Yet the debate over genetic privacy—and when one’s DNA becomes a public commodity outside the protection of the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition on warrantless searches and seizures—is really only beginning. Get ready, folks, because the government—helped along by Congress (which adopted legislation allowing police to collect and test DNA immediately following arrests), the courts (which have ruled that police can routinely take DNA samples from people who are arrested but not yet convicted of a crime), and local police agencies (which are chomping at the bit to acquire this new crime-fighting gadget)—has embarked on a diabolical campaign to create a nation of suspects predicated on a massive national DNA database.

Bodily integrity. It doesn’t matter what your trigger issue is—whether it’s vaccines, abortion, crime, religion, immigration, terrorism or some other overtly politicized touchstone used by politicians as a rallying cry for votes—we should all be concerned when governments and businesses (i.e., the Corporate State) join forces to compel individuals to sacrifice their right to bodily integrity on the altar of so-called safety and national security. This debate over bodily integrity covers broad territory, ranging from abortion and forced vaccines to biometric surveillance and basic healthcare. Forced vaccinations, forced cavity searches, forced colonoscopies, forced blood draws, forced breath-alcohol tests, forced DNA extractions, forced eye scans, and forced inclusion in biometric databases are just a few ways in which Americans continue to be reminded that we have no control over what happens to our bodies during an encounter with government officials.

Gun control. After declaring more than a decade ago that citizens have a Second Amendment right to own a gun in one’s home for self-defense, the Supreme Court has now been tasked with deciding whether the Constitution also protects the right to carry a gun outside the home. Unfortunately, when it comes to gun rights in particular, and the rights of the citizenry overall, the U.S. government has adopted a “do what I say, not what I do” mindset. Nowhere is this double standard more evident than in the government’s attempts to arm itself to the teeth, all the while viewing as suspect anyone who dares to legally own a gun, let alone use one in self-defense. Indeed, while it still technically remains legal to own a firearm in America, possessing one can now get you pulled over, searched, arrested, subjected to all manner of surveillance, treated as a suspect without ever having committed a crime, shot at, and killed.

Show Your Papers Society. With every passing day, more and more private businesses and government agencies on both the state and federal level are requiring proof of a COVID-19 vaccination in order for individuals to work, travel, shop, attend school, and generally participate in the life of the country. By allowing government agents to establish a litmus test for individuals to be able to engage in commerce, movement and any other right that corresponds to life in a supposedly free society, it lays the groundwork for a “show me your papers” society in which you are required to identify yourself at any time to any government worker who demands it for any reason. Such tactics can quickly escalate into a power-grab that empowers government agents to force anyone and everyone to prove they are in compliance with every statute and regulation on the books.

Singularity. Welcome to the Matrix (i.e. the metaverse), where reality is virtual, freedom is only as free as one’s technological overlords allow, and artificial intelligence is slowly rendering humanity unnecessary, inferior and obsolete. Indeed, it’s no coincidence that Elon Musk has announced his intentions of implanting brain chips in humans sometime in 2022. The digital universe—the metaverse—is expected to be the next step in our evolutionary transformation from a human-driven society to a technological one. Remaining singularly human and retaining your individuality and dominion over yourself—mind, body and soul—in the face of corporate and government technologies that aim to invade, intrude, monitor, manipulate and control us may be one of the greatest challenges before us.

Despotism. Even in the face of militarism, fascism, technotyranny, surveillance, etc., the gravest threat facing us as a nation may well be despotism, exercised by a ruling class whose only allegiance is to power and money. The American kakistocracy (a government run by unprincipled career politicians and corporate thieves that panders to the worst vices in our nature and has little regard for the rights of the people) continues to suck the American people into a parallel universe in which the Constitution is meaningless, the government is all-powerful, and the citizenry are powerless to defend themselves against government agents who steal, spy, lie, plunder, kill, abuse and generally inflict mayhem and sow madness on everyone and everything in their sphere.

It is a grim outlook for a new year, but it is not completely hopeless.

If hope is to be found, it will be found with those of us who do their part, at their local levels, to right the wrongs and fix what is broken. I am referring to the builders, the thinkers, the helpers, the healers, the educators, the creators, the artists, the activists, the technicians, the food gatherers and distributors, and every other person who does their part to build up rather than destroy.

“We the people” are the hope for a better year.

Until we can own that truth, until we can forge our own path back to a world in which freedom means something again, as I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People and in its fictional counterpart The Erik Blair Diaries, we’re going to be stuck in this wormhole of populist anger, petty politics and destruction that is pitting us one against the other.

In such a scenario, no one wins.


Source : The Rutherford Institute

自由之家: 香港自由度跌至 52 分 低過科索沃、布基納法索 中國 9 分 台灣 94 分

國際人權監察組織「自由之家」(Freedom House)今日(3日)公佈《2021年全球自由度調查報告》,香港自由度總評分較去年跌 3 分至 52 分,自 2017 年特首林鄭月娥上任以來,香港自由度共下降 9 分,與中非贊比亞同分,比巴爾幹半島的波黑、科索沃、西非布基納法索等低分。210 個國家及地區之中,中國自由度僅 9 分,屬最不自由的 16 國之一,而台灣上升 1 分至 94 分,成為全球最自由的 20 國之一。「自由之家」報告形容,中國粗暴「輾過」香港民主體制,《國安法》令香港制度愈來愈接近中國,從近日民主派初選 47 人被控顛覆國家一事,可見在港反對中國共產黨的成本愈來愈高。

根據報告,世界最自由國家為瑞典、挪威、芬蘭,三國自由度總評分均取得 100 分的滿分。香港自由度總評分為 52 分,屬於「部分自由」,其中政治權利不合格,只有 15 分(滿分為 40),公民權利也只有 37 分(滿分為 60)。

「自由之家」:香港制度愈來愈接近中國

報告指,中國粗暴「輾過」香港的民主體制和國際間的共識,令香港的自由度自 2013 年起大幅下跌,尤以 2019 年反修例示威及 2020 年北京收緊控制最顯著,而自《國安法》推出後,眾多民主派人士幾乎一夜之間被「消滅(erased)」,令香港制度愈來愈接近中國。報告亦提及,超過 50 名民主派政治人物近日因涉控「顛覆國家」被捕,眾人或面臨終身監禁,之前也有 4 名民主派議員被褫奪資格,可見反對中國共產黨的成本愈來愈高,而香港從獨裁狀況回復到以前的可能性也愈來愈微。

稱中國嚴重阻礙全球政府應對病毒部署

報告又形容,中國政權作為世界上人口最多的獨裁統治體制,2020 年透過假消息及大型審查掩蓋武漢肺炎爆發,嚴重阻礙全球政府在病毒流行初期的應對部署。報告指,中國一邊干預其他民主國家的國內政治糾紛,另一邊廂就侵犯國民的人權,破壞香港的自由和法律自治,但中方在聯合國人權理事會等多邊機構的影響力卻日益增加,令北京以「不干涉」為由,避免因民主和人權問題被懲罰。

「自由之家」指,中共於疫情期間努力「轉危為機」,藉經濟援助和向小國「捐贈」醫療用品,輸出政治宣傳,或試圖將疫情責任嫁禍到意大利等國;中共一直吹捧其專制防疫手段,卻無視其他民主國家的防疫成功,尤其是台灣。

台灣列全球最自由的 20 國 比英國更高

而台灣取得 94 分,評分比英國的 93 分及美國的 83 分更高,成為全球最自由的 20 國之一。報告形容,台灣政府不需專制手段,就成功以驚人效率遏制武漢肺炎爆發;口罩、防護設備、接觸追踪或檢測工作等,都將透明放在首位。報告又提及台灣因中國壓力,而被排除在世界衛生組織之外,發出病毒人傳人的預警更被無視,不過台灣選民仍拒絕中國的宣傳,現任總統蔡英文以壓倒性姿勢態勝出並連任,反對與中國大陸統一。


Source : The Stand News


Read also at Freedom House:

Freedom in the World 2021 – Democracy under Siege . . . . .