Close your eyes for a moment and imagine the worst possible future abuse by a government over its own citizens. The first thing likely to come to mind for many would be assassination of citizens without due process. Sadly, you will have to think a bit harder; in the US, which so often describes itself as the world's leading democracy and regularly criticizes the human rights records of other nations, the right to kill its own citizens before allowing them a chance to give their side of the story has already been reserved. Targets are placed on a 'kill list' by a secret panel working out of the White House, and their findings are brought to the President, who makes the final decision on whether a suspect will live or die. And not just the suspect, anyone else unfortunate enough to be standing close by when the drone strikes.
It is a fundamental tenet of law in any country that can call itself even remotely civilized that one is innocent until proven guilty, and that no matter how bad something looks on the surface, formal due process must be followed to get to the root of any alleged guilt. The alternative is chaos: lynch mobs and random punishment based on hearsay or unverified evidence. Terrifyingly, the World's Leading Democracy(TM) now countenances such lawlessness, setting a precedent that other nations are bound to follow, basing their judgments on 'secret evidence', while the citizenry are supposed to blindly trust the actions of the same government that has demonstrably lied and orchestrated cover-ups on multiple issues.
Imagine if citizens, sufficiently outraged, took to the streets and blogs to protest. Would it make any difference? Make no mistake: the powers behind the governments, namely the banks, the corporations, special interest/lobbying groups, and the super rich, are working toward ensuring that any protest in the future that threatens the status quo will be ineffective.
Some protests will succeed (to some degree), of course - the Trayvon Martin case being one such recent display of people power - but the elites will not be overly concerned about giving in on such issues of justice as they do not even slightly threaten their hold on real power; indeed, such concessions serve to reinforce the false view that ordinary people actually have the power to change society in any meaningful way under the current system.
In reality, any form of dissent which presents a potential threat will be crushed mercilessly. Citizen protest sadly has as much chance of changing things as an asthmatic squirrel has of scaling the north face of the Eiger on an antique tricycle...ahem. Recent examples include Julian Assange/Wikileaks and the Occupy movement. A closer look at how these two threats were dealt with yields details of the methodology used.
Instead of learning the truly astonishing abuses uncovered via Wikileaks, the public is told in multiple media outlets and by a glittering cast of political household names that the recklessness of Wikileaks in publishing secret information will cost innocent lives. Then the target of hate is given a face; and so a personality cult is created around Julian Assange. Almost every single article has the words 'rape allegations' tacked on the end, so the reader goes away subconsciously thinking Assange is a rapist, even though he has not been charged with any crime. Tell that to The Daily Mail, which was forced to run five corrections regarding false allegations they made in articles about Wikileaks and Assange. In my book, I argue for prohibitive fines for such misleading journalism - only in that way can newspapers be forced to stop deliberately deceiving the public.
David Leigh, the 'investigations' executive editor of The Guardian unnecessarily published the password of the file containing the US diplomatic cables in one of the most stupid acts of internet recklessness of all time in his book co-written with Luke Harding (not in any way written to cash in on the Wikileaks phenomenon) and then went on to shamelessly blame Wikileaks for recklessness. He also told journalism students at City University that Assange is a 'Frankenstein's monster' who 'didn't used to wash regularly' and was 'quite deranged'. Meanwhile, supporters of Assange are smeared in comments threads around the world by astroturfers and ordinary people who have been taken in by the propaganda as 'naive' and 'Assange worshippers'.
On a more ominous note, the recent Stratfor leaks prove that the US has issued a sealed indictment against Assange, ready for if/when he is extradited to Sweden. The expectation is that he will then be taken to the US, where his outlook would be bleak when we consider the abusive treatment of the alleged leaker of the US diplomatic cables, Bradley Manning. Assange can expect no sympathy from Barack Obama, who, when asked about Bradley Manning, said: "He broke the law." I am no lawyer, but even I can see that Obama, a graduate of Harvard Law School, has some basic misconceptions about assigning guilt to a man yet to stand trial.
This all-encompassing deluge of, erm...bullshit leaves the average reader of news, the vast majority who lack either the time or the inclination to read past the surface, with an overwhelmingly negative impression of Wikileaks and its founder. To them, Assange is simply an attention-seeker with dubious personal habits and hygiene. Without digging deeper, what else could the average punter possibly think? And the actual abuses revealed via Wikileaks are lost in the background noise and fail to stir popular outrage. This is a tragic failing of modern establishment media.
The Occupy movement has suffered a similar fate. After the initial wave of euphoria which swept the world when people heard someone was actually going out onto the streets to try to do something about the criminals in government and on Wall Street, the propaganda machine ground into action. Lacking a single leader, the movement was smeared throughout the corporate-owned media en masse as a bunch of hippies who smoke a lot of marijuana and don't wash. They were advised to 'get a job' and stop bothering ordinary hard-working people. The fact that the movement itself contains a huge number of ordinary hard-working people failed to reach the front pages. In a presidential election year, they are now nigh on ignored, and we are instead treated to a witless stream of endless gaffes and missteps of candidates and their campaign staff.
On top of the smear campaign, protesters are regularly subjected to police violence and intimidation despite protesting peacefully, and those arrested can also expect special treatment at the hands of the police.
Returning to our original question, how many people do you know (including yourself) would risk the citizen abuses above, knowing full well that any protest you make is almost certainly likely to fail or be ignored no matter how long you continue? Protesting takes time, energy, conviction and courage, things that many people do not possess as they have families, jobs and other obligations to protect, obligations which would be severely jeopardized in the event of injury or arrest.
Meaningful protest in the traditional sense is finished. The only remaining frontier for effective protest is the internet, and the elites are already working hard to ensure this also comes under their control, justifying such efforts by invoking the threats of online piracy and even terrorism. You can be certain that internet-savvy organizations like Wikileaks and Anonymous will be the subjects of massive FBI investigations to ensure their silencing. For this reason, these organizations deserve our support and, indeed, respect for the risks they are taking on behalf of a world public that is largely hostile to them thanks to the endless smearing in the media.
What is the answer? There is only one thing that the elites would not be able to prevent: a massive grassroots movement towards direct democracy, a perfectly viable (despite what people often believe) system of government that would greatly reduce or even eliminate the abuses of the elites. Switzerland, a strong and stable society, utilizes a form of direct democracy, proving that such a system is workable.
In order to excise this cancer, massive support of such a movement would be required from all popular progressives and other public figures in order to promote awareness. One possible way of implementing such a grassroots campaign is detailed in my book (see footnote below), which is free to download. If we do not act soon, even the freedom of the internet will be severely curtailed and the chance will be lost. For those of us who do not want a future of pervasive surveillance of every aspect of our lives and ever-worsening abuses by those in power, it really is that critical. In a media environment suffering a surplus of superlatives, that cannot be stressed enough.
'The 99.99998271% - Why the Time is Right for Direct Democracy’ by Simon Wood is available for free download. In this 70-page book, the current state of human rights and democracy is discussed, and a simple method of implementing direct democracy is suggested.
Simon Wood on twitter (simonwood11) and Facebook or at his blog.