Weather Forecast: Tyranny Foretold

Below is a passage from a column I published in the Moscow Times on Nov. 9, 2001. (Weather Report: The Hard Chill Begins to Bite.) I offer it here not as an example of my powers of prophecy – I have none, of course – but simply as evidence that the darkness that has descended on the Republic today could be seen coming years ago, by any ordinary citizen, without power or position, no special access to insider information, no expert knowledge or academic rank:

[Excerpt]: It won't come with jackboots and book burnings, with mass rallies and fevered harangues. It won't come with "black helicopters" or tanks on the street. It won't come like a storm – but like a break in the weather, that sudden change of season you might feel when the wind shifts on an October evening: everything is the same, but everything has changed. Something has gone, departed from the world, and a new reality has taken its place.

As in Rome, all the old forms will still be there; legislatures, elections, campaigns – plenty of bread and circuses for the folks. But the "consent of the governed" will no longer apply; actual control of the state will have passed to a small group of nobles who rule largely for the benefit of their wealthy peers and corporate patrons.

To be sure, there will be factional conflicts among this elite, and a degree of free debate will be permitted, within limits; but no one outside the privileged circle will be allowed to govern or influence state policy. Dissidents will be marginalized – usually by "the people" themselves. Deprived of historical knowledge by an impoverished educational system designed to produce complacent consumers, not thoughtful citizens, and left ignorant of current events by a media devoted solely to profit, many will internalize the force-fed values of the ruling elite, and act accordingly. There will be little need for overt methods of control.

The rulers will often act in secret; for reasons of "national security," the people will not be permitted to know what goes on in their name. Actions once unthinkable will be accepted as routine: government by executive fiat, the murder of "enemies" selected by the leader, undeclared war, torture, mass detentions without charge, the looting of the national treasury, the creation of huge new "security structures" targeted at the populace. In time, all this will come to seem "normal," as the chill of autumn feels normal when summer is gone. [End of excerpt]

If a yokel like me could see all this coming – just by observing the open declarations and actions of the Bush Administration and its Congresssional and media sycophants in the first few weeks after the September 11 attacks – then what excuse do the lords and mandarins of the Establishment have for standing by and allowing all this to happen? They have no excuse. There is no excuse.

So whenever some big media beast or Democratic "leader" steps forward now to say, "Gee, we were misled by these guys" or "Boy, if I'd only known before," or some other craven, mealy-mouthed expression of self-justifying ignorance – tell them to their face that they lie. If they were ignorant, it was a willful ignorance, a co-opted ignorance, a bribed and bought ignorance, born from their desire to keep on feeding from the trough of power and privilege just as long as the slops keep coming. Wadded with power, privilege and nice pay packets, they were willingly deceived.

For when we speak of the media and political elite, we're talking largely about a generation that lived through the gross crimes and deceptions of Vietnam, Watergate, Iran-Contra, COINTELPRO, the Phoenix Program, and dozens of other associated scandals – perpetrated by many of the same people brought back into power by George W. Bush. And yet at every turn, Bush and this gang of known scofflaws were given – and continue being given – the benefit of the doubt by the "wise men" of the Establishment: "Gosh, presidents and government officials don't ever lie, deceive, spy, murder and steal, do they? We've certainly never seen anything like that before. There must be some reasonable explanation for Mr. Bush's actions."

This faux-naivete bespeaks a level of cynicism every bit as deep as the sugar-coated public piety that masks the Bush gang's bloodsoaked greed for loot and power.