Archive for the ‘American Right’ Category


The Scarlet B: A Brief History of Buggery in Colonial America

 In 17th-century Colonial America, there was no shortage of morality laws. As early European settlers formed colonies in modern-day America’s Eastern-most states, Puritan leaders made sure to administer their docket of strict religious rules on everyone around them.

At the same time, these early settlers had almost no understanding of science, and the “supernatural” was considered to be a part of everyday life. The lack of understanding of natural phenomena combined with a puritanical and capricious legal system resulted in some horrible miscarriages of justice: citizens were burned at the stake for engaging in “witchcraft,” stoned for exhibiting “satanic” traits, and, most improbably, hanged for supposedly copulating with and impregnating animals.

The last of these crimes, “buggery,” or the act of engaging in lewd sexual conduct with an animal, was considered the most reprehensible; the vast majority of the time, sentences were handed down with little or no evidence of guilt. Digging through early records of Colonial America yields multiple cases of men being executed for merely resembling barn animals — because if an animal resembled a man, it therefore implicated him as its father.

These mens’ stories serve as a good (if not disturbing) reminder that in the absence of a well-functioning legal system, people have been routinely put to death over the most absurd allegations imaginable.

The Puritan “legal” code essentially followed the Old Testament Bible word for word: anything deemed to be sinful in the text was appropriately punished in the New England colonies. Among the many crimes one could commit in the colonies, “buggery” was thought to be the most vile — so much so, that Plymouth’s Governor, William Bradford, once declared the act “too fearful to name.”

Both in the Bible and in Puritan legal codes, buggery was treated as a gravely serious offense, and almost always resulted in death for the accused.

For those who had sex with animals, the Old Testament was especially unforgiving. Exodus 22:19 declares that “Whosoever lieth with a beast shall surely be put to death;” similarly, Leviticus 20:15 states, “[If] a man lie with a beast, he shall surely be put to death: and ye shall slay the beast.” In 17th century America’s courts, these words were interpreted quite literally

Leviticus 20:15 and Exodus 22:19 both pronounce that a man should be put to death for copulating with an animal; screenshots from a 1606 copy of the Old Testament, similar to that favored by New England’s Puritans

The first recorded case of a settler being punished for buggery in New England was that of William Hackett, a Plymouth, Massachusetts man. Hackett, who was estimated by the court to be 20 years old, was spotted by an ill woman, while allegedly “[engaging] in buggery with a cow.” To make matters worse, she claimed he’d done so while the rest of town was in a Sunday church service. Needless to say, the court was not forgiving of Hackett’s action: though he insisted he’d merely attempted the act, and despite there being only one, highly questionable witness, he was found thoroughly guilty. The following day, the cow was brought before Hackett and slaughtered, and then Hackett himself was hung from the gallows.

According to the historical records of the New Haven, Connecticut colony, another man was convicted of buggery just a few months later — and this occurrence was much stranger. George Spencer was a lowly servant, who worked long days tending to his master’s stock. Much to Spencer’s misfortune, one of the cows birthed a disfigured sow — “a prodigious monster” — that apparently bore a great semblance to him. Like Spencer, the fetus “[had] butt one eye for use…the other [was] whitish and deformed.” For local Puritan townsfolk, only one conclusion could be drawn: Spencer had copulated with the cow, and the sow was his offspring.

In court, his history of “lying, scoffing, and lewd spirit” was brought to light as “corroborating” evidence, and though Spencer denied his guilt, he was sent to prison. Here, Puritan magistrates convinced him that, unless he confessed to his sin, he’d eternally burn in hell; after some time, he admitted that he’d lusted for the animal. Though lacking any witness testimony, and possessing no evidence of Spencer’s crime, the court pronounced that it was “aboudnantly satisfied in the evidence,” and, in accordance with New England’s capital laws, no time was spared in putting the man to death.

The capital laws of New England, including buggery (#7); full list here

The following year, back in Plymouth, a 17-year-old servant named Thomas Granger was accused of the most heinous act of buggery yet. Plymouth’s Governor, William Bradford, found the case such a “sad spectakle” that he devoted an entire page to it in his diary of 1642:

“Thomas Granger…was this year detected of buggery (and indicted for the same) with a mare, a cow, two goats, five sheep, 2 calves, and a turkey. Horrible it is to mention, but the truth of the historie requires it. He was first discovered by one that accidentally saw his lewd practise towards the mare. (I forbear perticulers.) Being upon it examined and committed, in the end he not only confest the fact with that beast at that time, but sundrie times before, and at severall times with all the rest of the forenamed in his indictmente…”

Following Granger’s confession, various sheep were rounded up, and he was forced to identify his muses. After he’d done so, the incriminated creatures were slaughtered before his eyes — “first the mare, and then the cow” — before Granger himself was hanged. His execution marked the first recorded instance that a juvenile was put to death in America.

Plymouth’s Governor, William Bradford, came down especially hard on those who took “beasts as mistresses”

Five years later, back in the New Haven Colony, the strangest case of buggery in history unfolded — that of aptly-named Thomas Hogg, a man accused of sexually engaging a pig.

Like the aforementioned George Spencer, Thomas Hogg was a servant who often worked with his master’s animals. According to the official Records of Colony and Plantation of New Haven (1638-49), when a sow was born with “faire white skinne and head [and] one eye like his, the bigger on the right side,” the apparently similar-looking Hogg was implicated as the animal’s lover.

A series of unrelated witnesses came forward, attesting to Hogg’s “indecency” — first, a woman who claimed to have seen him “act “with filthiness with his hands by the fire side,” and then another who’d supposedly seen Hogg’s “members.” Though Hogg claimed his “belly was broake,” requiring him to wear especially loose trousers, the court took favor with the witness’ testimonies, and his predisposition for animals was put to the test.

With the Governor and court officials at his side, Hogg was brought to a barnyard, where he was presented with his “mistress” — the sow that bore his likeness. He was then forced to “scratt” (fondle) the animal, to see if it produced any favorable reaction. Unfortunately for Hogg, “there immedyatley appeared a working of lust in the sow, insomuch that she prowed out seede before them.”

Of course, this test could not be held as hard evidence without a control group: another sow was brought before Hogg, and when it was “not moved at all” by the man’s advances, he was found guilty of buggery.

Despite his charges, Hogg seems to have miraculously avoided capital punishment. Written records show that he was alternatively whipped and imprisoned in a hard labor camp, where his “lusts [could] not be fedd.”

Hogg’s case was indicative of the changing nature of capital punishment in Colonial America: by the end of the 17th century, cases of buggery less frequently resulted in death. Moving forward, many of the accused were merely branded on the forehead, publicly humiliated, and permanently expelled from the colonies. In the time of Puritans, this was considered progressive.

As the state became more secularized and strict morality codes loosened, the Puritans’ harsh punishments for sexual “crimes” — including buggery — were forgotten. But for a period of time in American history, men were executed for nothing more than bearing a resemblance to barn animals.

This post was written by Zachary Crockettyou can follow him on Twitter here.


Rick Santorum: Only dirty commies support the separation of church and state

The social conservative favorite is playing to type VIDEO

Rick Santorum: Only dirty commies support the separation of church and stateEnlargeRick Santorum (Credit: Reuters/Jonathan Ernst)

Rick “Man on Dog” Santorum made his political career as a champion of theocratic conservatism, so it’s hardly a surprise that he’s no fan of the separation of church and state.

But to Santorum, the concept of church-state separation isn’t merely misguided. It’s downright communist.

Santorum delivered this sizzling take in a conference call with social conservatives posted online today and flagged by the watchdog group Right Wing Watch. A caller told Santorum that that many of the policy priorities of President Obama and “the Democrat Party” appeared in Karl Marx’s “The Communist Manifesto”; the caller proceeded to cite a number of things, including same-sex marriage, that appear nowhere in the tome.

“Well, I was just thinking,” Santorum chimed in, “that the words ‘separation of church and state’ is not in the U.S. Constitution, but it was in the constitution of the former Soviet Union. That’s where it very, very comfortably sat, not in ours.”

The fact that the phrase “separation of church and state” doesn’t appear verbatim in the Constitution is a favorite right-wing talking point — one that conveniently glides over the founders’ explicitly expressed support for a “wall of separation.” It’s been a particular hobbyhorse of Santorum, who made headlines during his 2012 presidential campaign for saying that he “almost threw up” upon reading then-Sen. John F. Kennedy’s famed 1960 speech in which he advocated an “absolute” separation of church and state.

Santorum’s latest remarks don’t mark the first time he’s tarred an idea he doesn’t like with the pinko label. Earlier this year, he said that using the term “middle class” is “Marxism talk.”

“Since when in America do we have classes?” Santorum asked at the time. “Since when in America are people stuck in areas or defined places called a class? That’s Marxism talk.”

Early indications suggest that Santorum is prepared to take his anti-commie crusade to the 2016 presidential race, although it’s looking like America will be deprived of the chance to be led by the warrior for all that is good and godly. RealClearPolitics’ polling average finds Santorum in 11th place in the GOP field, garnering just 3 percent support.

Listen to Santorum’s newest comments, via Right Wing Watch:

Luke Brinker is Salon’s deputy politics editor. Follow him on Twitter at @LukeBrinker.


A Year in Jail for Not Believing in God? How Kentucky is Persecuting Atheists

In Kentucky, a homeland security law requires the state’s citizens to acknowledge the security provided by the Almighty God–or risk 12 months in prison.

The law and its sponsor, state representative Tom Riner, have been the subject of controversy since the law first surfaced in 2006, yet the Kentucky state Supreme Court has refused to review its constitutionality, despite clearly violating the First Amendment’s separation of church and state.

“This is one of the most egregiously and breathtakingly unconstitutional actions by a state legislature that I’ve ever seen,” said Edwin Kagin, the legal director of American Atheists’, a national organization focused defending the civil rights of atheists. American Atheists’ launched a lawsuit against the law in 2008, which won at the Circuit Court level, but was then overturned by the state Court of Appeals.

The law states, “The safety and security of the Commonwealth cannot be achieved apart from reliance upon Almighty God as set forth in the public speeches and proclamations of American Presidents, including Abraham Lincoln’s historic March 30, 1863, presidential proclamation urging Americans to pray and fast during one of the most dangerous hours in American history, and the text of President John F. Kennedy’s November 22, 1963, national security speech which concluded: “For as was written long ago: ‘Except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain.'”

The law requires that plaques celebrating the power of the Almighty God be installed outside the state Homeland Security building–and carries a criminal penalty of up to 12 months in jail if one fails to comply.

The plaque’s inscription begins with the assertion, “The safety and security of the Commonwealth cannot be achieved apart from reliance upon Almighty God.”

Tom Riner, a Baptist minister and the long-time Democratic state representative, sponsored the law.

“The church-state divide is not a line I see,” Riner told  The New York Times  shortly after the law was first challenged in court. “What I do see is an attempt to separate America from its history of perceiving itself as a nation under God.”

A practicing Baptist minister, Riner is solely devoted to his faith–even when that directly conflicts with his job as state representative. He has often been at the center of unconstitutional and expensive controversies throughout his 26 years in office. In the last ten years, for example, the state has spent more than $160,000 in string of losing court cases against the American Civil Liberties Union over the state’s decision to display the Ten Commandments in public buildings, legislation that Riner sponsored.

Although the Kentucky courts have yet to strike down the law, some judges have been explicit about its unconstitutionality.

“Kentucky’s law is a legislative finding, avowed as factual, that the Commonwealth is not safe absent reliance on Almighty God. Further, (the law) places a duty upon the executive director to publicize the assertion while stressing to the public that dependence upon Almighty God is vital, or necessary, in assuring the safety of the commonwealth,” wrote Judge Ann O’Malley Shake in Court of Appeals’ dissenting opinion.

This rational was in the minority, however, as the Court of Appeals reversed the lower courts’ decision that the law was unconstitutional.

Last week, American Atheists submitted a petition to the U.S. Supreme Court to review the law.

Riner, meanwhile, continues to abuse the state representative’s office, turning it into a pulpit for his God-fearing message.

“The safety and security of the state cannot be achieved apart from recognizing our dependence upon God,” Riner recently t old Fox News.

“We believe dependence on God is essential. … What the founding fathers stated and what every president has stated, is their reliance and recognition of Almighty God, that’s what we’re doing,” he said.

Laura Gottesdiener is a freelance journalist and activist in New York City.

Related articles


Kirk Cameron: “God IS the Platform”
The Christian Taliban movement
Wingnuts

Today’s moment of right wing religious fanaticism comes from former child star Kirk Cameron, who says, “one of our parties is wondering whether the name God should be in the platform,” but according to America’s founding fathers, “God is the platform!

The crowd cheers this line in a very disturbing way.


Sikh worshippers in Wisconsin raise an American flag before a service commemorating the victims of a mass shooting. A gunman who identified himself as a white supremacist went on a rampage during a Sikh service at Oak Creek, killing six people.

Sikh worshippers in Wisconsin raise an American flag before a service commemorating the victims of a mass shooting. A gunman who identified himself as a white supremacist went on a rampage during a Sikh service at Oak Creek, killing six people.

AP

Rise of far right in US aided by ‘perfect storm’

WASHINGTON // Heated political rhetoric, economic hardships, changing demographics, anti-Islamic fervour and the first African-American president have all contributed to a “perfect storm” for the proliferation of extremist groups in America that some civil-rights groups are warning could become more violent.

The past two months have seen at least a dozen violent incidents involving religious establishments across America, including the massacre of six worshippers at a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Most of the other incidents involved mosques and Islamic institutions. A mosque in Missouri was burnt to the ground, shots were fired at an Islamic school in Illinois and six other Islamic institutions were targeted in apparent acts of vandalism.

An Arab Christian church in Dearborn, Michigan, a Jewish holocaust memorial in New York and a synagogue in Florida were also vandalised.

If those acts suggest actions of the extreme political right, violence has also gone the other way. Last Wednesday, a man opened fire inside the Washington, DC, headquarters of a Christian conservative group, reportedly upset at its opposition to same-sex unions. A security guard was wounded.

Some fear more violence. Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), a civil-rights group that tracks extremists in America, said the Milwaukee killings did not surprise observers, who had been expecting some kind of copy-cat attempt after the shootings and bombings in Norway last July when Anders Breivik killed 77 people.

“I think we are at a very dangerous moment. There’s a kind of perfect storm of factors favouring the development of [extremist] groups and accompanying domestic terrorism.”

The SPLC has documented a nearly 70 per cent increase in the number of American extremist groups since 2000 and an “extraordinary” expansion – from 149 in late 2008 to 1,274 in 2011 – of so-called patriot movements, often loosely aligned anti-government groups that sometimes form armed militias.

Patriot militants were behind a string of domestic terrorism plots in the 1990s, including the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing that killed 168 people.

The expansion coincides with the term of Barack Obama, the first African-American in the White House, but it is not necessarily a classic racist reaction, Mr Potok said. Rather, America’s First Family is visceral evidence of the fact that the country’s demographics are changing – 2011 was the first year in the United States in which non-white birth rates exceeded white birth rates, according to the US Census Bureau.

“Every white supremacist in America knows the census bureau has predicted that non-Hispanic whites will lose their majority in America by the year 2050.”

America’s slow recovery from its worst economic downturn since the depression of the 1930s and rhetoric that previously belonged on the fringe gaining more traction have also provided fertile ground for extremists, Frank Meeink, a former neo-Nazi and author of a memoir, The Autobiography of a Recovering Skinhead, said in a recent interview.

Mr Meeink joined skinhead gangs in the late 1980s. He said he sees many parallels between now and when Bill Clinton, another socially progressive Dempcratic president on civil-rights issues, took office in 1993 during an economic slump.

The difference, he said, is that rhetoric that used to belong to neo-Nazi groups has become more mainstream and is particularly evident in the language of the Christian Right and the Tea Party, where, he said, some of his former associates had ended up.

“The new lingo is calling everything ‘socialist’.And it’s almost the same as how neo-Nazis used to talk about Jews taking over the government.”

Adding fuel to the situation is the fact that unrestrained political rhetoric is seemingly becoming increasingly common in public places.

In New York City, for instance, posters citing “19,250 deadly Islamic attacks since 9/11/01. It’s not Islamophobia, it’s Islamorealism” went up last Friday and will be visible for another three weeks.

Buses in San Francisco bear posters proclaiming: “In a war between the civilised man and the savage, support the civilised man. Support Israel. Defeat Jihad”.

Both are paid for by the American Freedom Defence Initiative, run by Pamela Geller, best known for her role in the “Ground Zero Mosque” controversy in 2010 and part of a coterie of what Mr Potok described as “professional Islamophobes and the politicians willing to shill for them”.

The controversy over plans for an Islamic centre near the site of the World Trade Center in 2010 ushered in a year when anti-Sharia legislation began to appear in state legislatures across the country and congressional hearings into the “radicalisation” of America’s Muslims – which took place in early 2011 – were announced.

The same year also saw a 50 per cent spike in anti-Muslim hate crimes, according to FBI statistics, bucking a steady decline since 2002 when passions had settled after the attacks of September 11.

Robert Sellers, a professor at the Logsdon school of theology in Texas, warned of a “culture of Islamophobia” at the annual Baptist World Congress in late July.

“I trust that none of us wishes to sin against our neighbours by spreading fear and stereotypes,” Mr Sellers said, according to the Baptist Center’s Ethics Daily website.

Extreme rhetoric has an effect, Mr Potok said.

“When people make completely unsubstantiated and incredibly demonising statements about entire groups of people, they can’t be surprised when those people are subjected to criminal attacks


Random Notes From the GOP Clown Show

This is getting embarrassing. First you have Mitt Romney claiming that Rick Santorum is too liberal and does not have “the fiscal conservative chops” that he, Mr. Flip-Floppin Conservative, has. Then Santorum fires back in typical schoolyard one-upmanship by claiming that Romney is a socialist.

Mitt first.

I find it interesting that he [Santorum] continues to describe himself as the real conservative. This is the guy who voted against right-to-work. This is the guy who voted to fund Planned Parenthood. This is the person who voted to raise the debt ceiling five times? […] Rick Santorum is not a person who is an economic conservative to my right.

Little Ricky’s response.

I didn’t back Romneycare, which is a government takeover of one-sixth of the economy,” Santorum told conservative radio host Mark Levin on Monday night, pointing to his own work with Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) on health savings accounts during the Clinton administration. “When Mitt Romney’s solution to a healthcare problem is to take over one-sixth of the economy, you can’t call yourself a conservative,” Santorum said. “You can call yourself a socialist, but you can’t call yourself a conservative.

These guys are duking it out to see who’s going to be the last clown standing in a battle of witless wonders.

Most depressing thought for Republicans has got to be the good possibility that this stuff is going to carry on all the way to the Tampa convention.

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(The base source photograph for the above illustration is a Library of Congress digital image. The Mitt Romney source photograph is a Creative Commons licensed image from photographer Gage Skidmore. )


World War on Democracy

by: John Pilger, Truthout  | News Analysis

B-1B Lancer Bombers on a runway at Diego Garcia, November, 2001, during the bombing campaign in Afghanistan. (Photo: Senior Airman Rebeca M. Luquin, U.S. Air Force)

Lisette Talate died the other day. I remember a wiry, fiercely intelligent woman who masked her grief with a determination that was a presence. She was the embodiment of people’s resistance to the war on democracy. I first glimpsed her in a 1950s Colonial Office film about the Chagos islanders, a tiny creole nation located midway between Africa and Asia in the Indian Ocean.

The camera panned across thriving villages, a church, a school, a hospital, set in a phenomenon of natural beauty and peace. Lisette remembers the producer saying to her and her teenage friends, “Keep smiling girls!”

Sitting in her kitchen in Mauritius many years later, she said, “I didn’t have to be told to smile. I was a happy child, because my roots were deep in the islands, my paradise. My great-grandmother was born there; I made six children there. That’s why they couldn’t legally throw us out of our own homes; they had to terrify us into leaving or force us out. At first, they tried to starve us. The food ships stopped arriving [then] they spread rumours we would be bombed, then they turned on our dogs.”

In the early 1960s, the Labour government of Harold Wilson secretly agreed to a demand from Washington that the Chagos archipelago, a British colony, be “swept” and “sanitised” of its 2,500 inhabitants so that a military base could be built on the principal island, Diego Garcia. “They knew we were inseparable from our pets,” said Lisette, “When the American soldiers arrived to build the base, they backed their big trucks against the brick shed where we prepared the coconuts; hundreds of our dogs had been rounded up and imprisoned there. Then they gassed them through tubes from the trucks’ exhausts. You could hear them crying.”

Lisette and her family and hundreds of islanders were forced onto a rusting steamer bound for Mauritius, a distance of 2,500 miles. They were made to sleep in the hold on a cargo of fertilizer: bird shit. The weather was rough; everyone was ill; two women miscarried. Dumped on the docks at Port Louis, Lisette’s youngest children, Jollice and Regis, died within a week of each other. “They died of sadness,” she said. “They had heard all the talk and seen the horror of what had happened to the dogs. They knew they were leaving their home forever. The doctor in Mauritius said he could not treat sadness.”

This act of mass kidnapping was carried out in high secrecy. In one official file, under the heading, “Maintaining the fiction,” the Foreign Office legal adviser exhorts his colleagues to cover their actions by “re-classifying” the population as “floating” and to “make up the rules as we go along.” Article 7 of the statute of the International Criminal Court says the “deportation or forcible transfer of population” is a crime against humanity. That Britain had committed such a crime – in exchange for a $14 million discount off an American Polaris nuclear submarine – was not on the agenda of a group of British “defence” correspondents flown to the Chagos by the Ministry of Defence when the US base was completed. “There is nothing in our files,” said a ministry official, “about inhabitants or an evacuation.”

Today, Diego Garcia is crucial to America’s and Britain’s war on democracy. The heaviest bombing of Iraq and Afghanistan was launched from its vast airstrips, beyond which the islanders’ abandoned cemetery and church stand like archaeological ruins. The terraced garden where Lisette laughed for the camera is now a fortress housing the “bunker-busting” bombs carried by bat-shaped B-2 aircraft to targets in two continents; an attack on Iran will start here. As if to complete the emblem of rampant, criminal power, the CIA added a Guantanamo-style prison for its “rendition” victims and called it Camp Justice.

What was done to Lisette’s paradise has an urgent and universal meaning, for it represents the violent, ruthless nature of a whole system behind its democratic façade, and the scale of our own indoctrination to its messianic assumptions, described by Harold Pinter as a “brilliant, even witty, highly successful act of hypnosis.” Longer and bloodier than any war since 1945, waged with demonic weapons, a gangsterism dressed as economic policy and sometimes known as globalization, the war on democracy is unmentionable in Western elite circles. As Pinter wrote, “it never happened even while it was happening.” Last July, American historian William Blum published his “updated summary of the record of US foreign policy.” Since the Second World War, the US has:

  1. Attempted to overthrow more than 50 governments, most of them democratically elected.
  2. Attempted to suppress a populist or national movement in 20 countries.
  3. Grossly interfered in democratic elections in at least 30 countries.
  4. Dropped bombs on the people of more than 30 countries.
  5. Attempted to assassinate more than 50 foreign leaders.

In total, the United States has carried out one or more of these actions in 69 countries. In almost all cases, Britain has been a collaborator. The “enemy” changes in name – from communism to Islamism – but mostly it is the rise of democracy independent of Western power or a society occupying strategically useful territory, deemed expendable, like the Chagos Islands.

The sheer scale of suffering, let alone criminality, is little known in the West, despite the presence of the world’s most advanced communications, nominally freest journalism and most admired academy. That the most numerous victims of terrorism – Western terrorism – are Muslims is unsayable, if it is known. That half a million Iraqi infants died in the 1990s as a result of the embargo imposed by Britain and America is of no interest. That extreme jihadism, which led to 9/11, was nurtured as a weapon of Western policy (“Operation Cyclone”) is known to specialists, but otherwise suppressed.

While popular culture in Britain and America immerses the Second World War in an ethical bath for the victors, the holocausts arising from Anglo-American dominance of resource-rich regions are consigned to oblivion. Under the Indonesian tyrant Suharto, anointed “our man” by Thatcher, more than a million people were slaughtered. Described by the CIA as “the worst mass murder of the second half of the 20th century,” the estimate does not include a third of the population of East Timor, who were starved or murdered with Western connivance, British fighter bombers and machine guns.

These true stories are told in declassified files in the Public Record Office, yet represent an entire dimension of politics and the exercise of power excluded from public consideration. This has been achieved by a regime of noncoercive information control, from the evangelical mantra of consumer advertising to sound bites on BBC news and, now, the ephemera of social media.

It is as if writers as watchdogs are extinct, or in thrall to a sociopathic zeitgeist, convinced they are too clever to be duped. Witness the stampede of sycophants eager to deify Christopher Hitchens, a war lover who longed to be allowed to justify the crimes of rapacious power. “For almost the first time in two centuries,” wrote Terry Eagleton, “there is no eminent British poet, playwright or novelist prepared to question the foundations of the Western way of life.” No Orwell warns that we do not need to live in a totalitarian society to be corrupted by totalitarianism. No Shelley speaks for the poor; no Blake proffers a vision; no Wilde reminds us that “disobedience, in the eyes of anyone who has read history, is man’s original virtue.” And, grievously, no Pinter rages at the war machine, as in “American Football”:

Hallelujah. Praise the Lord for all good things … We blew their balls into shards of dust, Into shards of fucking dust …

Into shards of fucking dust go all the lives blown there by Barack Obama, the Hopey Changey of Western violence. Whenever one of Obama’s drones wipes out an entire family in a faraway tribal region of Pakistan, or Somalia, or Yemen, the American controllers in front of their computer-game screens type in “Bugsplat.” Obama likes drones and has joked about them with journalists. One of his first actions as president was to order a wave of Predator drone attacks on Pakistan that killed 74 people. He has since killed thousands, mostly civilians; drones fire Hellfire missiles that suck the air out of the lungs of children and leave body parts festooned across scrubland.

Remember the tear-stained headlines when Brand Obama was elected: “momentous, spine-tingling”: The Guardian UK. “The American future,” wrote Simon Schama, “is all vision, numinous, unformed, light-headed …” The San Francisco Chronicle’s columnist saw a spiritual “lightworker [who can] usher in a new way of being on the planet.” Beyond the drivel, as the great whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg had predicted, a military coup was taking place in Washington, and Obama was their man. Having seduced the anti-war movement into virtual silence, he has given America’s corrupt military officer class unprecedented powers of state and engagement. These include the prospect of wars in Africa and opportunities for provocations against China, America’s largest creditor and new “enemy” in Asia. Under Obama, the old source of official paranoia Russia, has been encircled with ballistic missiles and the Russian opposition infiltrated. Military and CIA assassination teams have been assigned to 120 countries; long-planned attacks on Syria and Iran beckon a world war. Israel, the exemplar of US violence and lawlessness by proxy, has just received its annual pocket money of $3 billion together with Obama’s permission to steal more Palestinian land.

Obama’s most “historic” achievement is to bring the war on democracy home to America. On New Year’s Eve, he signed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), a law that grants the Pentagon the legal right to kidnap both foreigners and US citizens and indefinitely detain, interrogate and torture, or even kill them. They need only “associate” with those “belligerent” to the United States. There will be no protection of law, no trial, no legal representation. This is the first explicit legislation to abolish habeas corpus (the right to due process of law) and effectively repeal the Bill of Rights of 1789.

On 5 January, in an extraordinary speech at the Pentagon, Obama said the military would not only be ready to “secure territory and populations” overseas, but to fight in the “homeland” and provide “support to the civil authorities.” In other words, US troops will be deployed on the streets of American cities when the inevitable civil unrest takes hold.

America is now a land of epidemic poverty and barbaric prisons: the consequence of a “market” extremism which, under Obama, has prompted the transfer of $14 trillion in public money to criminal enterprises in Wall Street. The victims are mostly young jobless, homeless, incarcerated African-Americans, betrayed by the first black president. The historic corollary of a perpetual war state, this is not fascism, not yet, but neither is it democracy in any recognizable form, regardless of the placebo politics that will consume the news until November. The presidential campaign, says The Washington Post, will “feature a clash of philosophies rooted in distinctly different views of the economy.” This is patently false. The circumscribed task of journalism on both sides of the Atlantic is to create the pretence of political choice where there is none.

The same shadow is across Britain and much of Europe, where social democracy, an article of faith two generations ago, has fallen to the central bank dictators. In David Cameron’s “big society,” the theft of 84 billion pounds in jobs and services even exceeds the amount of tax “legally” avoid by piratical corporations. Blame rests not with the far right, but a cowardly, liberal political culture that has allowed this to happen, which, wrote Hywel Williams in the wake of the attacks on 9/11, “can itself be a form of self righteous fanaticism.” Tony Blair is one such fanatic. In its managerial indifference to the freedoms that it claims to hold dear, bourgeois Blairite Britain has created a surveillance state with 3,000 new criminal offenses and laws: more than for the whole of the previous century. The police clearly believe they have an impunity to kill. At the demand of the CIA, cases like that of Binyam Mohamed, an innocent British resident tortured and then held for five years in Guantanamo Bay, will be dealt with in secret courts in Britain “in order to protect the intelligence agencies” – the torturers.

This invisible state allowed the Blair government to fight the Chagos islanders as they rose from their despair in exile and demanded justice in the streets of Port Louis and London. “Only when you take direct action, face to face, even break laws, are you ever noticed,” said Lisette. “And the smaller you are, the greater your example to others.” Such an eloquent answer to those who still ask, “What can I do?”

I last saw Lisette’s tiny figure standing in driving rain alongside her comrades outside the Houses of Parliament. What struck me was the enduring courage of their resistance. It is this refusal to give up that rotten power fears, above all, knowing it is the seed beneath the snow.


 John PilgerJohn Pilger, Australian-born, London-based journalist, film-maker and author. For his foreign and war reporting, ranging from Vietnam and Cambodia to the Middle East, he has twice won Britain’s highest award for journalism. For his documentary films, he won a British Academy Award and an American Emmy. In 2009, he was awarded Australia’s human rights prize, the Sydney Peace Prize. His latest film is “The War on Democracy.”