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Something I've always wondered...
NFG (Administrator) #1
Member since May 2011 · 2485 posts · Location: Brisbane
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Subject: How People Give Up Freedom
Something that I've been wondering about a lot lately is how a country becomes a police state.  How did it happen in fascist Italy or Nazi Germany that normal, free people allowed the madmen to take control and take away their freedoms and rights?

I've been looking for good books that would cover this segment of history so I could learn more about how it happened then, so I could compare it to what is happening now.  It seems obvious to me that, largely in the USA but also in Canada, Japan and Australia (the latter three being places I've lived in the last decade) freedoms and rights are being eroded.  I want to fight back against it, but I worry that without a solid understanding of how it happened last time I wouldn't be able to successfully work against it this time.

I bought a book on the subject, but then I found an interesting post detailing the 10 steps to fascist America.  Naomi Wolf (someone I've never heard of before) puts things in perspective quite succinctly:

  • Invoke a terrifying internal and external enemy
  • Create a gulag
  • Develop a thug caste
  • Set up an internal surveillance system
  • Harass citizens' groups
  • Engage in arbitrary detention and release
  • Target key individuals
  • Control the press
  • Dissent equals treason
  • Suspend the rule of law

She goes on to detail exactly how, in each case, these things are already happening in America.  It's disturbing, not only because it's happening, but because it's happening with so little apparent resistance.

She doesn't believe it can go as far as it did in Italy or Germany:
Of course, the United States is not vulnerable to the violent, total closing-down of the system that followed Mussolini's march on Rome or Hitler's roundup of political prisoners. Our democratic habits are too resilient, and our military and judiciary too independent, for any kind of scenario like that.

I'm sure the people in those countries at the time never thought it would go as far as it did either.
NFG (Administrator) #2
Member since May 2011 · 2485 posts · Location: Brisbane
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I found over on debito's blog a link to an article, about the disappearing rights and freedoms in our world.

Quote by economist:
Governments argue that desperate times demand such remedies. They face a murderous new enemy who lurks in the shadows, will stop at nothing and seeks chemical, biological and nuclear weapons. This renders the old rules and freedoms out of date. Besides, does not international humanitarian law provide for the suspension of certain liberties “in times of a public emergency that threatens the life of the nation”?

There is great force in this argument. There is, alas, always force in such arguments. This is how governments through the ages have justified grabbing repressive new powers. During the second world war the democracies spied on their own citizens, imposed censorship and used torture to extract information.

This fascinates me.  The idea of an isidious, creeping evil that inches ever closer until, quite suddenly, we wake up and realize hey, we're completely fucked.  

Peoples' apathy towards the issue is genuinely distressing to me.  A lot of people don't seem to think it will affect them.  It's not their problem, so don't rock the boat.  I'm reminded of a poem by Martin Niemöller:

In Germany, they came first for the Communists, And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist;
And then they came for the trade unionists, And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist;
And then they came for the Jews, And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew;
And then . . . they came for me . . . And by that time there was no one left to speak up."
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