Once Western elites realized the depth of rage and contempt for them, they embarked on a strategy to criminalize dissidents and outlaw protest movements

Once Western elites realized the depth of rage and contempt for them, they embarked on a strategy to criminalize dissidents and outlaw protest movements. By Glenn Greenwald.

When it comes to distant and adversarial countries, we are taught to recognize tyranny through the use of telltale tactics of repression. Dissent from orthodoxies is censored. Protests against the state are outlawed. Dissenters are harshly punished with no due process. Long prison terms are doled out for political transgressions rather than crimes of violence. Journalists are treated as criminals and spies. Opposition to the policies of political leaders are recast as crimes against the state. …

But when these weapons are wielded by Western governments, the precise opposite framework is imposed: describing them as despotic is no longer obligatory but virtually prohibited. …

The implicit guarantor of this comforting framework is democracy. Western countries, according to this mythology, can never be as repressive as their enemies because Western governments are at least elected democratically. This assurance, superficially appealing though it may be, completely collapses with the slightest critical scrutiny. The premise of the U.S. Constitution and others like it is that majoritarian despotism is dangerous in the extreme; the Bill of Rights consists of little more than limitations imposed on the tyrannical measures majorities might seek to democratically enact (the expression of ideas cannot be criminalized even if majorities want them to be; religious freedom cannot be abolished even if large majorities demand it; life and liberty cannot be deprived without due process even if nine out of ten citizens favor doing so, etc.). More inconveniently still, many of the foreign leaders we are instructed to view as despots are popular or even every bit as democratically elected as our own beloved freedom-safeguarding officials….

Watching Justin Trudeau — the sweet, well-mannered, well-raised good-boy prince of one of the West’s nicest countries … — invoke and then harshly impose dubious emergency, civil-liberties-denying powers is just the latest swing of the hammer causing this Western sculpture to crumble.

In sum, you are required by Western propaganda to treat the two images below as fundamentally different; indeed, huge numbers of people in the West vehemently denounce the one on the left while enthusiastically applauding the one on the right. …

 

 

How you became a criminal:

Those tactics pioneered against WikiLeaks — excluding dissenters from the financial system and coercing tech companies to deny them internet access without a whiff of due process — have now become standard weapons. …

In 2017, mass protests erupted in Barcelona as part of a movement in Catalonia for more autonomy from the Madrid-based Spanish government, culminating in a referendum for autonomy on October 1. In 2019, even larger and more intense protests materialized. The methods used to crush the protests shocked many, as such domestic aggression had been rarely seen for years in western Europe. Spain treated the activists not as domestic protesters exercising their civic rights but as terrorists, seditionists and insurrectionists. Violence was used to sweep up Catalans in mass arrests, and their leaders were charged with terrorism and sedition and given lengthy prison sentences. …

This last decade of history is crucial to understand the dissent-eliminating framework that has been constructed and implemented in the West. This framework has culminated, thus far, with the stunning multi-pronged attacks on Canadian truckers by the Trudeau government. …

It is … based in the central recognition that there is mass, widespread anger and even hatred toward the neoliberal ruling class throughout the West.

Trump, Brexit and the rise of far-right parties in places where their empowerment was previously unthinkable — including Germany and France — is unmistakable proof of that. Rather than sacrifice some of the benefits of inequality that have generated much of that rage or placate or appease it with symbolic concessions, Western neoliberal elites have instead opted for force, a system that crushes all forms of dissent as soon as they emerge in anything resembling an effective, meaningful or potent form.

The pervasive surveillance systems constructed by the West — revealed during the Snowden reporting but only partially reined in at best since then — are crucial tools, as surveillance powers always are, for monitoring and thus stifling dissent.

We have now arrived at the point where the U.S. Government and its security state is officially and explicitly clear that it regards the greatest national security threat not as a foreign power such as China or Russia, and not as non-state actors such as Al Qaeda or ISIS, but rather “domestic extremists.” For years, this has been the unyielding message of the DHS, FBI, CIA, NSA and DOJ: our primary enemies are not foreign but are our fellow citizens who have embraced ideologies we regard as extremist.

It’s here

This new escalation of repression depends upon a narrative framework. Those who harbor dissenting ideologies — and particularly those who do not embrace that dissent passively but instead take action to advocate, promote and spread it — are not merely dissenters. The term “dissent,” in Western democracies, connotes legitimacy, so that label must be denied them. They are instead domestic extremists, domestic terrorists, seditionists, traitors, insurrections. Applying terms of criminality renders justifiable any subsequent acts of repression: we are trained to accept that core liberties are forfeited upon the commission of crimes.

What is most notable, though, is that this alleged criminality is not adjudicated through judicial proceedings — with all the accompanying protections of judges, juries, rules of evidence and requirements of due process — but simply by decree. …

This is why it is so imperative for the Democratic Party and their media allies to describe the four-hour riot at the Capitol on January 6 as an insurrection and attempted coup. If those are mere protesters or even just rioters, then all the standard protections and legal safeguards apply to them, as liberals demanded be applied to protect BLM and Antifa protesters, even ones who used violence. If, however, they are part of a broader insurrectionary movement — an ongoing attempt to overthrow the U.S. Government — then they are elevated from ordinary political adversaries into a faction of sustained criminality, and anything and everything, from censorship and detention to extra-legal means of banishment such as no-fly lists and exclusion from the financial system, becomes justified, even necessary. …

The western bureaucratic ruling class secretly abandoned democracy and took up with absolutism a few years ago:

Once Western elites realized the depth of rage and contempt for them, they embarked on a strategy to criminalize dissidents and outlaw protest movements. They did it to [Wikileaks,] Catalonia protesters, MAGA supporters, Canadian truckers. That’s the justifying rationale for repression. …

Growing up, reading history, I always wondered how those who embraced repression — censorship, banning protests, imprisoning journalists — convinced themselves they were the good guys. We see it now with liberals: they tell themselves their enemies are so bad, it’s justified. …

Obviously, Western liberals and their neoliberal leaders can never admit, even to themselves, that they’re repressive. They believe that attribute belongs intrinsically only to their enemies. But whatever you want to call it, they do not tolerate dissent.

That’s why our ruling class governs as though they expect to be in power forever, as if they will never have to face payback from their political opponents. Dangerous times indeed.