Ch 1 : The Matrix : Section 12


Richard Moore

* The management of discontented societies

    "It is also a fact that America is too democratic at home to
    be autocratic abroad. This limits the use of America's power,
    especially its capacity for military intimidation. Never
    before has a populist democracy attained international
    supremacy. But the pursuit of power is not a goal that
    commands popular passion, except in conditions of a sudden
    threat or challenge to the public's sense of domestic
    wellbeing. The economic selfdenial (that is, defense spending)
    and the human sacrifice (casualties, even among professional
    soldiers) required in the effort are uncongenial to democratic
    instincts. Democracy is inimical to imperial mobilization."
    -  Zbigniew Brzezinski, The Grand Chessboard , p.35

If the PNAC agenda provides the new-millennium blueprint with a
scheme for geopolitical order, we are still left with the
problem of how to maintain public order in discontented
societies. It turns out that preparations to deal with this
problem have been underway for some time, since the very
beginning of the neoliberal project in the early 1970s. Let us
step back and review this process, beginning with the postwar

The postwar years, especially in the United States, were
characterized by consensus politics. Most people shared a
common understanding of how society worked, and generally
approved of how things were going. Prosperity was real and the
Matrix version of reality was reassuring. Most people believed
in it. Those beliefs became a shared consensus, and the
government could then carry out its plans as it intended,
'responding' to the programmed public will.

The 'excess democracy' of the 1960s and 1970s attacked this
shared consensus from below, and elite planners decided from
above that ongoing consensus wasn't worth paying for. In
deciding to pursue the neoliberal project, circa 1971, they
could easily foresee that new means of social control would
need to be developed. Ultimately of course, there was always
the brute-force fascist solution: the outright police state,
which we are now beginning to see as part of the War on
Terrorism. But back in the 1970s such a regime would have been
infeasible politically, and was not yet necessary: the
neoliberal project was just beginning.

By examining shifts in Matrix propaganda over the past three
decades, along with other kinds of shifts in official policy,
and observing how these shifts have affected society and
public sentiments, we can in retrospect see how we have been
gradually conditioned to accept a creeping police state.
Perhaps the most obvious of these conditioning programs has to
do with our attitude toward police forces, the limits on their
powers, and the importance of civil rights and liberties. We
must recall here that a strong respect for civil liberties had
always been a proud and cherished principle of Western
democracies, particularly in America, with its hallowed Bill
of Rights.

I suppose the Matrix attack on this civil-liberties mindset
began in earnest with the film Dirty Harry. Here we had a
noble cop, of incorruptible integrity and dedication, who was
being prevented from dealing with a heinous crime in progress
by senseless bureaucratic interference 'from above.' In order
to save a helpless, abducted young girl, he was forced to defy
his superiors, employ his own heavy-handed police methods, and
heroically save the day - to eventual praise. The perpetrator,
just to complete the story, was a sadistic sociopath, totally
undeserving of any compassion from the audience.

This pioneering film served as a template for a whole genre of
films and television dramas, continuing up to this very day.
Time after time we see a noble cop, or perhaps a duo, and
always they must defy the system in order to bring a worthless
sociopath to justice. More often than not, an obviously-guilty
perpetrator is left at large because of a 'technicality' -
some silly thing about 'rights.' As the genre has evolved,
even the mention of 'rights' leads to a snicker, not only from
the cops in their patrol car, but from most viewers as well.
The message: cops need to be 'freed' to do their jobs.

As a result of this conditioning campaign, the concept of
civil liberties was reframed in the public mind: rather than
being seen as protector of law-abiding citizens from government
abuse, 'rights' were being perceived as a serious hindrance to
law enforcement. This perception was not supported by
criminological evidence, but who listens to criminologists?
Certainly not scriptwriters. Most people's 'experience' of
crime is what they see on television, and when the same
scenario is reinforced time after time, Matrix reality is
taken on board as reality perceived.

The contrast between the noble cop and the depraved
perpetrator is also important in this conditioning process. In
particular, we need to look at the kind of perpetrator images
we are presented with. There are certain stock images, such as
the young black gang member, the older black drug dealer, the
Italian mobster, the helpful ghetto resident who reveals
'what's goin' down on the street,' etc. Rather than law
enforcement being about solving crimes, this genre invites us
to see the noble cop in the role of 'civilized man'
maintaining control over certain anti-social elements of
society. Cops aren't dealing with individual crimes, rather
they are protecting 'us' from 'them.' Why shouldn't we give
more power to these brave guardians of our tranquility?

Drugs and drug-related violence have played a very important
role in this conditioning process, in both reality and in the
Matrix. In reality the U.S. government, in particularly the
CIA, is very much involved in the drug trade, and in the
promotion of drug-related violence. During the Contra hearings
it was revealed that part of the Contra's funding came from
the sales of crack cocaine and automatic weapons to L.A.
Latino street gangs. The role of the CIA's Air America airline
in ferrying drugs became so widely known that a Hollywood film
was produced, which tried to explain the matter away as
'understandable rogue corruption.' More recently in
Afghanistan the Taliban had put a halt to opium growing; after
the American invasion the opium growers were back in business.
Here's just one example of the many reports that have come out
in several wellreferenced books by various investigators, in
this case regarding Southeast Asia some decades ago:

    I, for example, had reason to gather evidence based on talking
    to American officials in my own inquiry that the Chief of
    Staff of the Royal Laotian Army and the commander of the CIA
    secret army was involved in drugs. What happened when I made
    this allegation? The CIA did everything to discredit my
    allegations. They attacked me. They didn't attack Vang Pao who
    was operating a heroin ring. They didn't go after General Owen
    Radicone who had the world's biggest heroin operation - they
    went after me! They tried to suppress my book, they threatened
    to murder my sources, they spent $25 million in staging a
    massive opium burning by the Nationalist Chinese forces in
    northern Thailand announcing they were retiring from the drug
    trade. I mean, they went through all kinds of hoops to
    discredit me and my allegations. They protect these guys.
    While you're working with the agency, you are protected

While on the one hand the U.S. government is involved in
supplying and profiting from drugs, on the other hand it
declared a 'War on Drugs,' and over the years the severity of
the penalties, the arbitrariness of policing procedures - and
the degree to which the Bill of Rights is being ignored - have
steadily increased. These real-world developments combine with
their Matrix representations to effectively move forward the
conditioning agenda. In addition, very real precedents have
been set regarding seizure of property, severity of sentences,
permissibility of evidence, access to parole, etc.

Another relevant genre, of more recent vintage than the noble
cop scenario, involves courtroom and law-firm dramas, as
exemplified by The Practice and Ali McBeal. The focus in these
dramas is not on so much on winning noble cases, but rather on
law as a cynical game: the technicalities and legalities, and
how to manipulate them, are what it's all about, along with
what kind of deals can be cut. Realistic or not, the overall
effect of this genre serves to undermine one's faith in the
legal system as it currently operates, and again encourages us
to consider important rights to be 'technicalities.'

Cruising along beside this genre is the very popular CSI
(crime scene investigation) television multi-series. Here we
learn how terribly unreliable witnesses and obvious evidence
can be. Only sophisticated forensics is capable of solving
crimes, and forensic teams always have incorruptible integrity
and highly professional competence. (This despite
well-publicized cases of FBI forensic labs falsifying results
in order to achieve convictions.)

Taken together these two genres, regarding lawyers and
forensics, convey a subliminal message: trial by jury is
defective. If you were an innocent accused, wouldn't you
rather have the CSI squad investigating the scene, rather than
put your trust in Ali McBeal, unreliable witnesses, and some
random jury and prosecutor? In fact, trial by jury is the
oldest institution in the evolution of British and American
democracy, preceding parliaments, and is one of the only
forums in our societies where ordinary people actually have
power, and can apply their own best judgment.

    I consider trial by jury as the only anchor yet devised by
    man, by which a government can be held to the principles of
    its constitution.
    - Thomas Jefferson

In this regard we need to keep in mind the very real campaign
by corporate lobbyists to 'do something' about all those big
corporate law suits. One of the core objectives of this
lobbying campaign is to eliminate juries from the corporate
liability process. If juries can be eliminated from criminal
trials as well, then the state will have additional tools with
which to maintain civil 'order' under the neoliberal regime.
These two television genres do not go very far in this
direction, but they do serve well as 'softening up'

All of the genres we've considered, along with the War on
Drugs and similar developments, turned out to be softening up
conditioning for the big event: one wholesale frontal assault
on the whole civilized notion of citizens' rights. That
assault came in the form of one of the 'responses' to 9/11.

    The illegal we do immediately, the unconstitutional takes a
    little longer.
    - Henry Kissinger, cited in New York Times Magazine, October
      28, 1973

There have been two primary 'responses' to 9/11 by the U.S.
government, both under the banner of the War on Terrorism. The
first 'response' has been the vigorous campaign of military
aggression and conquest, as outlined beforehand in the
neocon's PNAC agenda. The second response has been a campaign
to achieve unlimited powers of civil control, including
arbitrary arrest, unlimited detention without charges or
evidence, denial of outside contact, and the use of torture,
murder, rape, and other 'inhuman' practices against detainees.
Every one of these things has in fact occurred and been
admitted publicly, in some cases involving American detainees,
in some cases at the hands of U.S. personnel, and in some
cases contracted out to foreign governments such as Egypt,
where torture is common.

Such practices are in fact encouraged by policy documents
released by Vice President Cheney, and despite official
apologies regarding certain publicized incidents, the
practices continue while a few low-level sacrificial lambs have
been the victim of token and well-publicized prosecutions for

I don't use the term fascist lightly, but we are looking here
at images right out of Nazi Germany: the raid in the night,
the disappeared-forever neighbor, the sadistic Gestapo - even
the slave labor camp, in the form of a massive prison-labor
industry and the world's highest rate of incarceration, as a
result of the hypocritical War on Drugs.

So far the full force of the new police-state legislation has
been unleashed mostly on marginalized groups, in particular
Muslims. But there's nothing ethnic in the written
legislation. Anyone who is 'suspected' of being involved in a
group which is 'suspected' of being involved in 'terrorism' in
any way, direct or indirect, can be arrested and held
indefinitely without charges or evidence - even if the
suspicion itself is not genuine. This state of affairs became
official with the recent decision in the well-publicized
Padilla case, where a Federal Court ruled in favor of the Bush
administration, which claimed that it had the right to
indefinitely imprison an American citizen without charging him
with a crime.

The various precedents that are being set, regarding the
Patriot Acts and extended police powers, are affirming that
this draconian legislation is here to stay, and that it is
enforceable. This is very ominous, because so far we've only
seen the tip of the iceberg as regards the full scope of this

We've seen a few isolated domestic cases, all allegedly
related to violent terrorism, and we've seen maltreatment of
non-citizen prisoners. But in fact this legislation defines
terrorism very broadly, and it applies to all citizens. If you
send a donation to an environmental group, and if someone
associated with that group commits an act of sabotage, as did
Earth First! members, you could conceivably be charged for
contributing to terrorism.

This doesn't imply that we are likely to see lots of
prosecutions of individuals, but it does imply that
environmental advocates in general might be designated as a
'terrorist group,' making a considerable segment of the
population subject to arbitrary detention. Environmentalism is
only one example. Any cause or movement that sometimes engages
in civil disobedience would be equally vulnerable. Even
sending email messages could designate you as a terrorist if
you express support for some group you believe to be fighting
a just cause, but where Homeland Security feels differently.

The main point here is that the new police powers are
unlimited, and could be applied in any number of ways,
depending only on the will of the Federal Government.
'Suspicion of terrorism' can be applied to any person or group
that meets with government disfavor, since no evidence or
charges need to be produced. America is now officially a
police state, the necessary legislation and precedents having
been carefully established. There has been no need as yet for
the iron fist to be widely brandished, but it is available
whenever needed to maintain 'order' under the neoliberal,
NewAmericanCentury regime.

    We are fast approaching the stage of the ultimate inversion:
    the stage where the government is free to do anything it
    pleases, while the citizens may act only by permission, which
    is the stage of the darkest periods of human history, the
    stage of rule by brute force.
    - Ayn Rand, "The Nature of Government"

Although it has received little public attention, the fact is
that the situation in the rest of the West, as regards
police-state powers, is essentially the same as in America. As
part of the War on Terrorism, Washington has pushed other
governments to adopt 'adequate security measures,' so that
they can 'play their role' in 'fighting global terrorism.'

Incidents such as the Madrid and London rail bombings, and the
Omagh bombing in Northern Ireland, have served to move this
agenda rapidly forward - each being promptly followed by the
adoption of 'antiterrorist' legislation. Like 9/11 itself,
these incidents have all been suspicious, in that they each
were unprecedented in their scale, were characterized by a
variety of anomalous circumstances, and made no sense in terms
of terrorist motivation. From any conceivable terrorist
perspective, these incidents have all been entirely
counterproductive. Regardless of who has been responsible for
these incidents, the primary outcome has been the adoption of
draconian 'antiterrorist' legislation granting essentially
unlimited police powers to Western governments.

In the EU legislation, for example, 'terrorism' is defined
very broadly indeed. If a public demonstration is aimed at
"changing the economic system," and if property damage occurs
during the demonstration, then everyone involved in the
demonstration can be charged with terrorism. In Britain, in
the aftermath of the July 11 subway bombings, a shoot-to-kill
policy has been adopted, and can be applied to anyone who is
'suspected' of being a suicide bomber. The first time this
policy was applied an innocent Brazilian was the victim, and
he was wearing or carrying nothing that could possibly have
concealed a bomb. Nonetheless, the policy remains and the
precedent stands.

As in America, these iron-fist powers are being mostly kept
hidden in a velvet glove, and given as little publicity as
possible. But they are available whenever the need for them
might arise. In addition, U.S. security forces are staking out
a direct role for themselves in the domestic affairs of other
Western nations.

    Milan - A radical Egyptian cleric known as Abu Omar was
    walking to a Milan mosque for noon prayers in February 2003
    when he was grabbed on the sidewalk by two men, sprayed in the
    face with chemicals and stuffed into a van. He hasn't been
    seen since.
    ŠItalian authorities suspect the Egyptian was the target of a
    CIAsponsored operation known as rendition, in which terrorism
    suspects are forcibly taken for interrogation to countries
    where torture is practiced.
    - Washington Post, March 13, 2005
    US INVESTIGATORS, including CIA agents, will be allowed to
    interrogate Irish citizens on Irish soil in total secrecy,
    under an agreement signed between Ireland and the US last
    - Irish Examiner, July 21, 2005


"Apocalypse Now and the Brave New World"

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