The Road to Authoritarianism

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Kenny Steven Fuentes is a freelance actor/director, activist, and blogger who currently resides in Brooklyn, NY. His work can be seen on ‘The Activationist’ blog at, and periodically he will also be sharing his ideas here at Check out Kenny’s appearance on the podcast in Episode 74, follow him on Twitter @kentesian, and enjoy his latest article, ‘The Road to Authoritarianism’: 

In the wake of the media assassination of Edward Snowden and smearing of Glenn Greenwald, we find ourselves at a critical moment in American history. With a few exceptions, our fourth estate has ceased to function as a check on power. Rather than focus on the grave consequences of domestic spying, the media has adopted the language ofjingoism and authoritarianism. In the early days of the Occupy movement, Cornel West urged, “don’t be scared to call it Revolution!” I look to the words of brother West for inspiration when I say the words: “Don’t be scared to call it Authoritarian!”

Even before the wave of American populist revolts and direct actions of the Great Recession began, we saw a dramatic erosion of our civil liberties under Bush that were subsequently extended under Obama. Surveillance, spying,entrapment, etc. These are abuses of power that have been reported and debated among independent journalists, activists, and Muslim communities for nearly a decade. When The Guardian began publishing a series of stories detailing NSA spying programs, there were a few days of genuine debate among the mainstream media. But we’ve devolved to sexist dissections of Edward Snowden’s girlfriend, cold war rhetoric, and open calls to prosecute journalists who report government leaks.

Noam Chomsky once wrote: “Propaganda is to a democracy what the bludgeon is to a totalitarian state…” When a journalist chooses to coddle power for access, that journalist ceases to exist and becomes an voluntary propaganda arm for the state. Michael Hastings was a journalist who challenged power and was mocked for it. After his sudden death last week, Geraldo Rivera had the gall to tweet:

Reporter Michael Hastings KI tragic car wreck Condolences to family. But hard to forget he destroyed career of 1 of our best fighting generals.

The implication here is that Michael Hastings did something wrong by reporting the words and actions of one of the most powerful men in the world. What the media doesn’t generally discuss is why one of the most powerful men in the world felt comfortable speaking so freely and disdainfully about his boss in front of a journalist. One must conclude that our power elite doesn’t fear repercussions. If the media is a business, why would journalists risk their main source of exclusive information? Journalists have little incentive to burn their sources, lest they lose their invite to the press correspondence dinner.

When journalists criticize Edward Snowden for seeking asylum in Ecuador, or imply defection to the Kremlin because he’s holed up in a Moscow airport, they become mouthpieces for The State Department. If Edward Snowden is a traitor for seeking help from nations with reputations for abuse of power, why don’t we apply the same standard to those who seek asylum in The United States? Our government has a long history of imperialism and mass murder that continues to this day. By that logic, should the world condemn blind Chinese dissident, Chen Guangcheng, for making New York City his home?

As for all the speculation, the media could use the argument that “We’re just asking questions!” Yet somehow, that doesn’t comfort me any more than when people claim that 9/11 was an inside job. The media has the power to steer the narrative, and rather than focus on the implications of the spying programs, we’re turned the story into a cold war thriller.

Meanwhile, our economy continues to struggle. Our environment continues to teeter towards disaster. The U.S. military predicts a major oil crisis as early as 2015. As we look towards the future, there are many possibilities and it is impossible to predict the future. But I am betting my money that we will see life in the United States get worse before it gets better. And according to The Guardian, the U.S. government is predicting this as well:

“…in 2010, the Pentagon ran war games to explore the implications of ‘large scale economic breakdown‘ in the US impacting on food supplies and other essential services, as well as how to maintain “domestic order amid civil unrest.”

Speaking about the group’s conclusions at giant US defence contractor Booz Allen Hamilton’s conference facility in Virginia, Lt Col. Mark Elfendahl – then chief of the Joint and Army Concepts Division – highlighted homeland operations as a way to legitimise the US military budget:

“An increased focus on domestic activities might be a way of justifying whatever Army force structure the country can still afford.”

Remember those words every time you hear a journalist or a politician claim that our nation is recovering.

We are in a state of perpetual war against an abstract idea. The war on drugs ushered in a massive militarization of the police, and the war on terror has led to an endless war in the Muslim world that has angered populations who never gave a damn about us beforehand. We are expanding our security state and empowering the government in ways unheard of during the cold war. What a superpower with enough nukes to destroy the world several times over couldn’t make us do, young kids with pressure cookers have. We bomb them, they bomb us. Over and over again. All along the way, we compromise our freedom more and more, as a massive security apparatus is built up. And in the background, the next crisis looms.

These are the ingredients for authoritarianism. No democratic system of any variation has ever survived endless war. National security, patriotism, traitor. These are words and terms used by authoritarian and totalitarian governments all over the world.

Don’t be afraid to call it authoritarianism.

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