By Rainer Shea
Source: Ghion Journal
After 9/11, the balance between liberty and despotism in America took an unprecedented turn in favor of the latter. In previous centuries, America had certainly been put under presidential dictatorship and experienced attacks on constitutional liberties. Remember Lincoln’s imposition of martial law during the Civil War or Wilson’s imprisonments of dissenters during World War I. But with the advent of the War on Terror, the possibility emerged for a much less easily reversible state of tyranny.
In this case, America had entered into a war with the assumption that the war wouldn’t ever be allowed to end. How and why? Because a war against “terror” would be a war against an amorphous enemy that could never be decisively defeated, and that “terror” would consistently get portrayed by the government as an overwhelming threat, no matter what the actual reality was. Echoing Herman Goering’s rhetoric after the Reichstag fire, Americans were told after 9/11 that they were now on a “war footing.” Nazi-esque language about defending the “homeland” became normalized, giving a nationalistic sense of legitimacy to the illegal wars, unconstitutional state surveillance, for-profit security apparatus expansions, torture, extrajudicial arrests, and persecution of Muslims that would happen in the next few years.
In the years since the initial post-9/11 hysteria, America has settled into a new normal, one where a constant state of war goes unquestioned and where we live with less and less of the freedoms we once took for granted. No one has digital privacy from government surveillance. Whistleblowers are now regularly prosecuted, and if Julian Assange is extradited to the U.S, both leakers and their publishers will become subject to arrest. With the passage of the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act, the president gained the ability to arrest and indefinitely detain American citizens at any time. Since the start of America’s longest war, our freedoms have been almost consistently stripped away, and under our current administration the authoritarian takeover could go much further.
In her 2007 book The End of America: Letter of Warning to a Young Patriot, Naomi Wolf wrote that:
“America is not driven by pure ideologies the way that fascist Italy and Nazi Germany were. In America, profit drives events where ideology does not: Within days of the 9/11 attacks, security companies were lobbying airport and government officials to invest in new…