John Whitehead's Commentary
Trick or Treat: One Year Later, Is Trump a Blessing or a Curse to the Deep State?
“Jesus! Where will it end? How low do you have to stoop in this country to be President? … We’ve come to a point where every four years this national fever rises up — this hunger for the Saviour, the White Knight, the Man on Horseback — and whoever wins becomes so immensely powerful … that when you vote for President today you’re talking about giving a man dictatorial power for four years… The whole framework of the presidency is getting out of hand. It’s come to the point where you almost can’t run unless you can cause people to salivate and whip each other with big sticks. You almost have to be a rock star to get the kind of fever you need to survive in American politics.” —Hunter S. Thompson, gonzo journalist
Here’s the question I pose to you: has Donald Trump been a blessing or a curse to the architects of the American police state?
One thing is for sure: a year into his presidency, Trump hasn’t done much to improve the lot of the American people.
The predators of the police state are still wreaking havoc on our freedoms, our communities, and our lives. The government still doesn’t listen to the citizenry, it still refuses to abide by the Constitution, which is our rule of law, and it still treats the citizenry as a source of funding and little else. Police officers are still shooting unarmed citizens and their household pets. Government agents—including local police—are still being armed to the teeth and encouraged to act like soldiers on a battlefield. Bloated government agencies are still fleecing taxpayers. Government technicians are still spying on our emails and phone calls. Government contractors are still making a killing by waging endless wars abroad.
In other words, the American police state is still alive and well and flourishing.
Nothing has changed.
Rather than draining the corrupt swamps of Washington, as he repeatedly promised, Trump and his brand of reality TV politics have merely redirected our attention.
Trust me, the swamps are still stagnant with corruption.
Indeed, we are still the unwitting victims of a system so corrupt that those who stand up for the rule of law and aspire to transparency in government are in the minority. This corruption is so vast it spans all branches of government—from the power-hungry agencies under the executive branch and the corporate puppets within the legislative branch to a judiciary that is, more often than not, elitist and biased towards government entities and corporations.
We are still ruled by an elite class of individuals who are completely out of touch with the travails of the average American.
We are still viewed as relatively expendable in the eyes of government: faceless numbers of individuals who serve one purpose, which is to keep the government machine running through our labor and our tax dollars. Those in power aren’t losing any sleep over the indignities we are being made to suffer or the possible risks to our health. All they seem to care about are power and control.
We are still being made to suffer countless abuses at the government’s hands.
We still have little protection against standing armies (domestic and military), invasive surveillance, marauding SWAT teams, an overwhelming government arsenal of assault vehicles and firepower, and a barrage of laws that criminalize everything from vegetable gardens to lemonade stands.
In the name of national security, we’re still being subjected to government agencies such as the NSA, FBI and others listening in on our phone calls, reading our mail, monitoring our emails, and carrying out warrantless “black bag” searches of our homes. Adding to the abuse, we still have to deal with surveillance cameras mounted on street corners and in traffic lights, weather satellites co-opted for use as spy cameras from space, and thermal sensory imaging devices that can detect heat and movement through the walls of our homes. That doesn’t even begin to touch on the many ways in which our Fourth Amendment rights are still being trampled upon by militarized police and SWAT teams empowered to act as laws unto themselves.
In other words, despite Trump (or because of him), freedom—or what’s left of it—is still being threatened from every direction.
Trump has done nothing to wrest control of the government from the Deep State, that shadowy elite group of powerbrokers and corporations who call the shots in Washington.
Trump has done nothing to prevent the government from continuing to plunder and steal from the American taxpayer. In fact, his administration has paved the way for even more theft in the form of civil asset forfeiture.
Trump has failed to end the government’s endless wars. To the contrary, he has fallen in line with the military industrial complex.
Most of all, Trump has proven to be as deaf, dumb and blind as every president before him when it comes to the plight of the citizenry.
The new boss really is just the same as the old boss.
We’re still on the losing end of a tug-of-war over control of our country and our lives.
The Deep State is winning.
We’re just a few short years away from the dystopian future depicted in the film V for Vendetta, which is no future at all.
Written and produced by the Wachowskis, V for Vendetta (2005) provides a powerful visual commentary on how totalitarian governments such as our own exploit fear and use mass surveillance, censorship, terrorism, and militarized tactics to control, oppress and enslave.
The year is 2027 and the country is ruled by a totalitarian corporate state where concentration camps (jails, private prisons and detention facilities) have been established to house political prisoners and others deemed to be enemies of the state. Executions of undesirables (extremists, troublemakers and the like) are common, while other enemies of the state are made to “disappear.” The television networks are controlled by the government with the purpose of perpetuating the regime. And most of the population is hooked into an entertainment mode and are clueless.
Enter V, a vigilante in a Guy Fawkes mask, who rails against the people’s loss of freedom at the hands of a fascist government. Says V:
Where once you had the freedom to object, to think and speak as you saw fit, you now have censors and systems of surveillance coercing your conformity and soliciting your submission. How did this happen? Who’s to blame? Well certainly there are those more responsible than others, and they will be held accountable, but again truth be told, if you’re looking for the guilty, you need only look into a mirror. I know why you did it. I know you were afraid. Who wouldn’t be? War, terror, disease. There were a myriad of problems which conspired to corrupt your reason and rob you of your common sense. Fear got the best of you, and in your panic, you turned to the now high chancellor… He promised you order, he promised you peace, and all he demanded in return was your silent, obedient consent.
Sounds painfully familiar, doesn’t it?
We, too, have relinquished control over the most intimate aspects of our lives to government officials who, while they may occupy seats of authority, are neither wiser, smarter, more in tune with our needs, more knowledgeable about our problems, nor more aware of what is really in our best interests.
Yet having bought into the false notion that the government knows best and can ensure not only our safety but our happiness and will take care of us from cradle to grave, we have allowed ourselves to be bridled and turned into slaves at the bidding of a government that cares little for our freedoms or our happiness.
The lesson is this: once a free people allows the government to make inroads into their freedoms or uses those same freedoms as bargaining chips for security, it quickly becomes a slippery slope to outright tyranny.
As V remarks, “Since mankind’s dawn, a handful of oppressors have accepted the responsibility over our lives that we should have accepted for ourselves. By doing so, they took our power. By doing nothing, we gave it away. We’ve seen where their way leads, through camps and wars, towards the slaughterhouse.”
In other words, it makes no difference whether it’s a Democrat or a Republican at the helm, because the bureaucratic mindset on both sides of the aisle now embodies the same philosophy of authoritarian government, whose priority is to remain in power.
When our own government no longer sees us as human beings with dignity and worth but as things to be manipulated, maneuvered, mined for data, manhandled by police, conned into believing it has our best interests at heart, mistreated, and then jails us if we dare step out of line, punishes us unjustly without remorse, and refuses to own up to its failings, we are no longer operating under a constitutional republic.
Instead, what we are experiencing is a pathocracy: tyranny at the hands of a psychopathic government.
So where does that leave us?
In V for Vendetta, it takes a desperate act of terrorism (V blows up the seat of government on the fifth of November) for the people to finally mobilize and stand up to the government’s tyranny.
This is what happens when a parasitical government muzzles the citizenry, fences them in, herds them, brands them, whips them into submission, forces them to ante up the sweat of their brows while giving them little in return, and then provides them with little to no outlet for voicing their discontent: people get desperate, citizens lose hope, and lawful, nonviolent resistance gives way to unlawful, violent resistance.
As John F. Kennedy warned, “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.”
Do not wait to act until there is no alternative but violence.
As director James McTeighe observed about the tyrannical regime in V for Vendetta, “It really showed what can happen when society is ruled by government, rather than the government being run as a voice of the people. I don’t think it’s such a big leap to say things like that can happen when leaders stop listening to the people.”
What will it take for the government to start listening to the people again?
We’ve got to make them hear us using every nonviolent means available to us: picket, protest, march, boycott, speak up, sound off and reclaim control over the narrative about what is really going on in this country.
Mind you, the government doesn’t want to hear us. It doesn’t even want us to speak. In fact, it’s done a diabolically good job of establishing roadblocks to prevent us from exercising our First Amendment right to speech and assembly and protest.
Still we must persist.
As author Erich Fromm warned in his book On Disobedience and Other Essays, “At this point in history, the capacity to doubt, to criticize and to disobey may be all that stands between a future for mankind and the end of civilization.”
In other words, stop worshipping false idols. Stop waiting for Trump to drain the swamps, or some whistleblower to topple the tyrants, or some other political savior to swoop in and fix all that’s wrong with this country. Stop allowing yourselves to be drawn into divisive party politics. Stop thinking of yourselves as members of a particular political party, as opposed to citizens of the United States. Most of all, stop looking away from the injustices and cruelties and endless acts of tyranny that have become hallmarks of American police state.
As war journalist Chris Hedges concluded, “Not having to make moral choice frees you from a great deal of anxiety. It frees you from responsibility. And it assures that you will always be wrapped in the embrace of the powerful as long as, of course, you will do or dance to the tune the powers play… when you do what is right, you often have to understand that you are not going to be lauded and praised for it. Making a moral decision always entails risks, certainly to one’s career and to one’s standing in the community.”
Remember, remember the fifth of November.
Why should we remember the fifth of November?
Because it commemorates a day in history when a desperate vigilante tried to bring about a violent revolution.
Trust me, no one wants a violent revolution.
Americans speak reverently of how our founders mounted a revolution to secure our freedoms, but our platitudes gloss over the terrible toll it demanded of them: families torn apart, lives lost and years of misery and hardship.
As I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, the moral choice before us is clear: it is the choice between tyranny and freedom, dictatorship and autonomy, peaceful slavery and dangerous freedom, and manufactured pipedreams of what America used to be versus the gritty reality of what she is today.