Glenn Greenwald has the goods on the all-out war that the Bush Regime and its bootlicking sycophants throughout the right-wing media are waging against the free press. The recent "controversy" over the New York Times report on the Regime’s surveillance of bank records is, as Greenwald astutely notes, based entirely on outright falsehoods. It is also being deliberately stoked by the White House, whose lies about the non-existent "damage" the NYT story has done to national security are exposed here — by their own words. Greenwald turns up quote after quote, going back years, many of them from Bush himself, detailing the same kind of information relayed in the Times’ story. Yet, as Greenwald and others report (Atrios has been good on this as well), the Regime’s hate campaign has now burst into the media mainstream, where calls for Times editors to stand trial for the capital crime of treason are routinely being aired, along with scarcely veiled exhortations for mob violence against the press. (But only the so-called "liberal" press. The fact that the Wall Street Journal, the Financial Times and other papers have also run stories on the banking records is ignored or dismissed by the hatemongers.)
Make no mistake: the Bush Regime intends to silence all dissenting voices and suppress all politically harmful information in the American establishment. It’s a not a drive toward totalitarianism; they don’t want or need to repress and control everything. They don’t care if bloggers rant, or Harper’s fulminates, or Michael Moore makes movies, or Noam Chomsky sells books (or even speaks at West Point). They are perfectly happy to allow isolated enclaves of dissent to float around out there somewhere — as long they remain isolated and, above all, ineffectual. What they cannot tolerate — and increasingly will not tolerate — is any institution, organization or person in a position of genuine influence on the American power structure to undermine the presidential dictatorship that the Regime has established. (There will be more on this theme in the next column.) Anyone within the power structure who attempts to report disturbing facts or "inconvenient truths" about the Regime’s unconstitutional secret government will be attacked relentlessly. It begins with slander to destroy their credibility and effectiveness, to marginalize them, to destroy their public position — and to frighten off anyone else who might support them or give them hearing.
In the past, this has usually been sufficient; there’s been no need for recourse to sterner measures. You don’t arrest Dan Rather, you simply drive him out of his job. You don’t imprison John Kerry; you just Swift Boat him. But these are increasingly desperate times for the Bush Regime. It is vastly unpopular with the American people. Its war in Iraq is an unmitigated disaster. And the sheer bulk of its high crimes and misdemeanors has grown so large it can longer be hidden; rotten chunks of this mammoth slagheap are spilling out almost every day. They know that should the tide ever turn completely against them — if anything even faintly resembling a constitutional republic is ever established again — they face not just political oblivion but actual prosecution.
And as we all know, desperate times call for desperate measures. If slander and hate don’t do the trick, if they are ineffective in cowing Establishment opposition, then the next step is the criminalization of dissent. Thus the not-so-subtle hints from Torturer General Alberto Gonzales about pursuing leakers — and the leaked-to — with federal charges. And thus the current trial balloons in the media about charging the NYT with treason. These are serious threats; but just in case they’re not enough, we’re also getting the increasingly open call for violence against Bush opponents, for the "outraged public" to "take the law into their own hands." These calls are couched — for now — as "concerns" about "what might happen" if Bush’s opponents continue their "provocations;" they are being phrased — for now — as warnings of a fate that the commentators hope will not come to pass. But as the Regime’s position grows more precarious, these "concerns" will give way to incitements. Indeed, you can already see this happening with people like Ann Coulter and Michelle Malkin — hatemongers with ready and frequent access to the mainstream media.
I’ve said for years that the most dangerous time will come not when the Regime is flush with triumph but when this vicious gang of thugs find their backs against the wall. That time has come. No doubt Greenwald’s warning will be dismissed by the comfortably numb as "typical liberal paranoia" (or ignored by fatuous fools too busy ranting about "blogofascism" to see their own republic disappearing before their eyes). "Come off it," they’ll say; "do you really think the Administration will start prosecuting newspapers? They’d never cross that line." But the record clearly shows that the Bush Regime has crossed line after line after line, into depredations that no one could have imagined an American government embracing so openly, so brazenly, with such sinister gusto: torture, concentration camps, indefinite detention, rendition, mass surveillance, "extrajudicial killing," and aggressive war. Where exactly is the line they will NOT cross? They are "so far steep’d in blood" — and you think they’d blanche at prosecuting newspapers?
As bad as these last five and half years have been, what we have seen so far is just the beginning. There is worse, much worse yet to come.
Chris Floyd [send him mail], Global Eye columnist for the Moscow Times, is the author of Empire Burlesque: The Secret History of the Bush Regime.