Americans are constantly being told to accept tyranny in the name of “liberty.” While some are trying to educate others about this travesty, no one except cave-dwellers can ignore the quite disturbing elements of fascism in America (not to mention communism). Now video clips on YouTube (and other websites) document rights-violations committed by government's employees on a weekly basis.
Bad ideas about the nature of government not only give rise to despicable actions but also foster a society that tolerates tyranny. Rationalizing bad behavior is the oldest game in the book of governmental power. The trick is to convince people that certain things aren’t bad for them, but are rather for their own good, especially for the security of their homeland. Whether or not the people are fully convinced by the relentless propaganda in these matters, real or ideological goose-stepping typically follows. Wikipedia has an interesting quote by George Orwell about goose-stepping:
[Goose-Stepping] is simply an affirmation of naked power; contained in it, quite consciously and intentionally, is the vision of a boot crashing down on a face. Its ugliness is part of its essence, for what it is saying is "Yes, I am ugly, and you daren’t laugh at me," like the bully who makes faces at his victim… Beyond a certain point, military display is only possible in countries where the common people dare not laugh at the army.
Goose-stepping is of course best done with the right frame of mind. First, empty it of logical thoughts. Then, march to whatever fuels your emotions. In the case of ideological goose-stepping, a terrorist attack on American soil can be a potent marching fuel. What better way to demonstrate that “Islamofascists” are hell bent on destruction of our lives and property than a band of them killing approximately 3,000 Americans on 9/11/2001? You’ve heard it before by the flag-waving, hegemonic neocons: People with a wicked ideology want to kill us, so you should be mad as hell! Government’s job is to save us from evildoers; justice will be done.
With this in mind, the intellectuals at the Ayn Rand Institute (ARI) desire to take us to the land of freedom, peace, prosperity, and respect for individual rights. But in order to do this, we’re going to have to compromise some principles. Namely, we must use the tools of the State to conquer our enemy, those radical mystics who hate us, the fellows at ARI allege, solely because of our freedoms. “We” must wage war on “them” in an unrelenting fashion, disregarding any and all collateral damages incurred, because “we” are moral and “they” are evil. Civilian casualties be damned! This is no laughing matter, after all. Of course, the “we” here is used (wittingly or not) to conflate all Americans with the actions of the U.S. government, its military and its more clandestine and even more unaccountable coercive organizations such as the CIA, NSA, DHS, ICE, FBI, etc.
The ARI fellows just advocate kicking it up a notch from the neocons’ purported agenda, as David Theroux eloquently noted in his article, “The Moral Poverty That ‘Self-Esteem’ Requires War.” They believe that the U.S. government shouldn’t appease other countries by apologizing for its assertions of power in the Middle East; it shouldn’t make concessions; it shouldn’t be diplomatic; it shouldn’t lose face; and, it shouldn’t cut and run. They also believe that, even though “we” shouldn’t be in Iraq, “we” should fight to “win,” nevertheless. Additionally, the U.S. government shouldn’t be “selfless” by trying to institute freedom or democracy or stability in the Middle East. Rather, “we” must kill the enemies of reason, egoism, and individualism until they’re all wiped off the planet, or until they so tremble in fear at the mere mention of “America” that they wouldn’t even think about being aggressive.
Welcome to the world of Objectofascism, a world in which every American has an Islamofascist’s gun to their head, and the only proper response is to use a tax-and-Federal Reserve Bankfunded military to kill, maim, destroy, and conquer anyone who threatens “America” — which, in practical terms, translates into anyone who threatens the U.S. government’s foreign escapades. This must be done in order to achieve safety for Americans. After this, we can finally get back to those principles necessary for bringing about a land of freedom, peace, prosperity, and respect for individual rights.
Instead of using logic to understand war and the elements of statism and collectivism that give rise to it, emotions seem more appealing to the ARI fellows — “truthiness” as The Colbert Report calls it, facts from the gut. We’re now in mortal danger, they implore, and government’s responsibility is to protect us, despite its horrific track record on that account. Clearly, this is where the Taggart Transcontinental locomotive of reason jumps off its track of Rearden metal and causes quite a philosophical train wreck.
From their war rhetoric (and politicians who continue to exploit 9/11), you’d think that terrorists have been attacking us every other week here in America. Now let’s assume, for the sake of their arguments, this were actually the case. Would it then justify the United States military and all those alphabet soup coercive agencies taking action, assuredly killing and maiming many more thousands of innocent people in the process, not to mention further damaging the American economy and what’s left of our liberties? If you believe so, then it’s time to do some good ol’ Randian premise checking.
It’s vital to recognize the distinction between a voluntarily funded militia that’s organized ad hoc to retaliate effectively and efficiently against a cabal of wrongdoers and a military that’s devised and managed by government to occupy for years and even decades hundreds of places around the globe. A voluntarily funded militia is precisely what’s necessary to deal with terrorist groups who aggress against peaceful Americans. But — and this is a big but — it's also extremely important to have a rights-respecting political foundation that's reflective of a peaceful America.
Governmental “officials” are fellow flesh-and-blood human beings who “legally” use absolute coercive power to tax and regulate people. Can they really save us from the dangers that they themselves have created? Instead of understanding the nature of terrorism, not to mention the nature of liberty, the State’s employees engage in endless programs to systematically control citizens and destroy their freedoms whenever such actions serve their interests (i.e., whenever the people in general tolerate such actions). For example, the Israeli government (with a little help) builds a bigger, stronger police State and a system of checkpoints and walls to supposedly obstruct potential terrorists. The U.S. government is in the process of building a wall too, ostensibly to keep all us freedom-loving people in and all those law-breaking people out, in concert with a police State — to keep track of all potential wrongdoers (i.e., each and every person who seeks to move freely). Those who believe that such tactics are just or useful are typically blinded by irrational ideology and emotion, primed for goose-stepping.
Though we could probably nominate Dinesh D’Souza for the War-Monger-for-Freedom Award, given his arguments at Freedom Fest 2007 in Las Vegas, the fellows over at ARI take the war-mongering cake and everything else that’s edible. D’Souza thinks that “freedom” can be promoted in Iraq through military intervention and occupation, but the fellows at ARI see such a policy as self-sacrificial. (Of course, war-mongering intellectuals seldom practice exactly what they preach. The virtue of integrity becomes as foreign to them as their foreign policy ideas are from reality. Therefore, given what they sow, it’s no surprise that being air-dropped into Baghdad to do patrol for a year isn’t on their things-to-do-for-liberty list.)
Recently, on the sixth anniversary of 9/11, ARI held a public lecture at the Hilton in Costa Mesa, CA. Elan Journo began his speech, titled “The Road to 9/11: How America’s Selfless Policies Unleashed the Jihadists,” by setting the historical context of terrorism. Where did he start? In 1979 with the taking of the hostages in Tehran, Iran. He then went on to catalog the various terrorist attacks since then against military personnel and civilians. The idea of foreign policy blowback was conspicuously absent in his talk. While the fellows at ARI declare U.S. military actions overseas to be misguided, they also ironically believe that no one abroad ought to complain about them, let alone resist them, because they’re mostly done to “help” others (i.e., for supposed altruistic purposes).
Similarly, not a disparaging word was uttered by Journo about the Israeli government’s rights-violating actions over the years (apparently people in Palestine are always to blame). Further, he offered no discussion of, or critical reflection on, the operations of the CIA in Iran (let alone elsewhere) and no acknowledgment of his audience members’ (and Middle Easterners’) capacity to recall such things. In ARI’s world, neither the government of Israel nor the government of the United States plays an indictable role in the rise of terrorism and Middle Eastern conflicts. (Another sizable tidbit Journo left out was the fact that terrorism mainly began in Sri Lanka, courtesy of the Tamil Tigers (which a statist source reiterates).
Dying To Win: The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism is one of the many things the ARI scholars should have put on their homework list (as well as this and this) before they attempted to give any sort of history lesson on terrorism. As mentioned earlier, because they believe that terrorists are motivated by no political grievances, but rather by their sheer lust to impose Sharia or death upon all of us, how could the fellows at ARI ever analyze the facts and be objective? Their goal at this point appears to be the promotion of an ideology that seeks to meld an ethics of rational self-interest (egoism) and psychology of self-esteem (self-confidence and self-respect) with collectivism and statism, particularly in the realm of foreign policy. That a Hitlerian kind of evil dwells in this illogical fusion of ideas is apparently lost on ARI’s scholars — who are, after all, True Believers in government as the institution that protects us. So, not only do they embrace the fanciful notion that government is (or can be) efficacious, but they also believe that the U.S. military’s actions should accord with national “self-interest.” As long as the killing and bombing are done in the name of egoism, in the name of rationality and pride, they see no contradictions in such an agenda. According to them (mimicking the priceless debate tactic of Bill O'Reilly), you’re living in the land of Oz if you believe otherwise.
By appealing mainly to emotions throughout his speech, Journo encouraged audience members to quench their thirst with a fascist brand of Kool-aide. Given the current state of affairs in America, most people are impressed by the rhetoric of “freedom and security,” anything that offers a glimmer of hope for a future in which our families and friends aren’t threatened by evildoers. Thus, in the Q&A the Director of ARI, Yaron Brook, unabashedly proclaimed that being wiretapped is important for maintaining our liberty. Both he and Journo, in response to my question, also asserted that the end (our security and safety) justifies a rights-violating means (U.S. governmental actions). In other words, the ARI fellows believe that the practical and the moral need not be aligned when our lives and safety are at stake — openly flouting Ayn Rand’s cogent expositions about the moral being the practical and vice versa.
Instead of strictly denouncing taxation and the welfare/warfare State, and by extension its ridiculous military structure, based on the principles of reason and individualism (and its philosophical and societal roots in colonial America), the fellows at ARI utilize the currently neoconned political climate and the psychological aftermath of 9/11 in a way that rivals the mainstream media (some of the corporate heads of which are on the board of directors of various defense contractors). Since the ARI fellows have dropped the entire context of liberty in pursuing their ideological agenda, the unjust nature of government and its coercive actions are in turn rendered as minor footnotes.
The fact of the matter is this: The U.S. government (from national to local) is by far the biggest violator of Americans’ rights, and therefore by far the biggest threat to our lives, security, and freedoms. One politician who has the honesty and common sense to acknowledge this is, of course, Congressman Ron Paul. This is because Paul emulates the classical liberal views of Thomas Jefferson, while other politicians emulate the statist views of every aspiring central planner since the dawn of civilization. In line with reason and reality, Paul knows that the only way to deal with terrorism and protect individual liberty is to enact a foreign policy of non-intervention, which includes abolishing all governmental “aid” to other countries (i.e., dollars expropriated from productive Americans). Only then will the inhabitants of countries in the Middle East lack reasons to hate the U.S. government, and by extension Americans who champion its employees’ coercive methods of operation and funding. Only then will they start hating only their own unjust forms of government, and then, like us, they’ll have no one else to blame but themselves.
Most people in the Middle East (and elsewhere) really like America; it’s a dynamic and capital-rich marketplace of goods, services, and ideas. It represents (in theory, at least) a great land of opportunities for anyone wanting to flourish and willing to be productive — “a shining city on a hill.” They just detest the depraved institution that casts a shadow on our city and the rest of the world. The U.S. government’s empire might be one of the worst kinds, because its citizens view themselves as free and, hence, its coercive actions as benevolent. Of course, the actual individuals who are orchestrating and participating in this madness know full well what they’re doing, and how large their bank accounts are getting on account of it. Far from being the selfless do-gooders that ARI folks contend, they are selfish in the most irrational way — sacrificing others’ lives and well-being for their own sakes.
Granted, in this age of pervasive authoritarian and collectivistic memes, fears and other strong emotions continue to hinder people’s better judgment. As a result, callous disregard for innocent people in terrible political systems is all too common, as is ignorance of individual rights, self-ownership, and personal sovereignty. Such a context makes it much more difficult to subdue Leviathan, the systematic, monopolistic organization of initiatory force that wreaks havoc on people’s lives and liberties both here and abroad. Even though Ron Paul advocates a form of representative federal government that’s supposed to stay out of people’s consensual affairs (no matter where they’re living), he’s also noted the importance of civil disobedience, or non-violent resistance, for inducing meaningful change. After all, if anyone has been a witness to, and a resistor of, the immutable nature of bureaucracy and legislative corruption, it’s been Ron Paul — aka Dr. “No.” Clearly, it’s also high time for Americans to start firmly saying “No” to anything that’s not based on the principles of individualism, property rights, agency, and voluntary trade. Each of us needs to hold strongly to our own liberty (and thus our society) — as fear-mongers of all creeds constantly try to take advantage of real or potential acts of terrorism. Beware the intellectual and psychological guises of those who posture as your Protector or Savior. Pay attention to the way they step.
October 26, 2007