Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The Business of Fear

On December 8th, 1941, Franklin D. Roosevelt gave an impassioned speech about a day that will live in infamy. In that address, he reminded the American people that “The only thing we have to fear is, fear itself.”

I wonder, was he completely wrong, or has something changed during the last 67 years that has now made that statement obsolete? Because from what I can tell today, we have much more to fear than “fear itself”. Everyone is telling me to be afraid, and of so many things.

Insurance companies tell me that I need to be afraid for my family’s welfare if I don’t have life insurance, health insurance, and every other kind of insurance. I need to join an identity protection service because of the danger that someone is going to steal my electronic identity. I need to be afraid that I won’t have enough money for that mythical creation known as “retirement”. I must have extended warranties and protection plans, a monitored home security system, and a GPS trackable computer chip implanted in my dog in case he gets lost.

I get it; it’s business, and business is about sales, and sales are emotional, and fear is a powerful emotion. I wouldn’t expect anything less from corporate America. The problem is, it’s no longer just corporate America. Now, my government – the very same entity once led by Franklin Roosevelt less than 7 short decades ago – is telling me that I need to be afraid. Very afraid. And I’m kidding myself if I’m only being afraid of “fear itself”.

Although there is a continuous stream of fear propaganda coming from the Federal level, you certainly don’t have to go all the way to Washington D.C. to get the Full Monty; the Kentucky Department of Homeland Security, for instance, is doing its part to make sure we all get the message here in the Bluegrass State.

Several months ago the KY DHS was showing a commercial that exploited children to incite its fear: Mommy, Daddy, what should I do if I come home and you aren’t here? Nice. The current commercial airing bombards me and my family with terrifying images of tornados, floods, and explosions. This may never happen, it proclaims, but if it does . . . Don’t Panic!


I have to tell you, I’m not sure how much confidence I have in an organization whose entire strategy is founded on the same one used by Douglas Adams in “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.”

Good, bad, or otherwise, however, let’s forget the strategy and focus on something else instead; what is the motive? Knowing the relationship between sales and emotion and fear, it certainly makes me curious as to what “business” my government is now employed in, because isn’t the spread of fear something that terrorists are supposed to do?

I’m sorry to be such a non-team player, but I recognize a sales pitch when I see one. I would suggest that what our government is selling – on both a state and federal level – is a concept, and what they want from all of us is “buy-in”, because when everybody’s on board, the train moves along a whole lot faster. The real question we should be asking is this: Where is that train going?

I don’t know. But I do know this: I won’t be buying their products. I accept that I will die one day, but whether that day is tomorrow or 50 years on, whether it happens peacefully in my sleep or in a hail of flying shrapnel from a suicide bomber, until that day comes, I will NOT live in fear.

Please don’t get the impression that I am an eternal optimist blinded to reality by my rose colored glasses. I understand very well – without anyone reminding me – that the world is a dangerous place, but I also understand what many others seem to have forgotten; it always has been. Historical trends clearly show that 100% of all people will die.

Probably Just a Coincidence . . .

As I was considering everything above, there was something else about the Department of Homeland Security that was bothering me. Following a hunch, I did a little historical digging, and I unearthed some more things that were rather surprising and unsettling to me. I’m not passing judgment, nor am I making accusations, but for some reason I’ve always thought that the difference between good and evil would be a much broader line than this:

* The role of the Gestapo was to protect the “Fatherland”; the role of the Department of Homeland Security is, by virtue of its name, to protect the “Homeland”.

* Germany recruited members from professional police departments and ran the Gestapo as a federal police agency. The federally run DHS now includes the United States Secret Service, the CBP (US Customs and Border Protection), the Coast Guard, FEMA, TSA, and INS, to name a few.

* The Gestapo’s power encompassed all of Germany. The Department of Homeland Security has authority over all 50 states.

* The Gestapo maintained the security of the German people at home as the Nazi war machine spread throughout Europe and beyond. The DHS maintains security in the United States as our government conducts wartime operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, and continues a military presence in over 130 other countries worldwide.

* The role of the Gestapo was to investigate and combat “all tendencies dangerous to the state”. The mission of the Department of Homeland Security is almost identical, if not as succinct.

* The Gestapo had the authority to investigate treason, espionage, sabotage, and cases of criminal attacks on the Nazi Party and Germany. The DHS also has this type of authority.

* In 1936, Germany passed a law which effectively gave the Gestapo carte blanche to operate without judicial oversight. They were specifically exempted from responsibility to administrative courts, where citizens normally could sue the state to conform to laws. The USA PATRIOT Act of 2002 provides the DHS – and other government organizations – with a similar capability. Several major US telecommunication companies are currently enjoying amnesty from lawsuits regarding personal information that was turned over to the federal government without consent.

* Also in 1936, a law was passed that gave the Gestapo responsibility for setting up and administering concentration camps. In early 2002, the United States created – and still maintains – an all-purpose detention facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

* One of the powers most often misused by the Gestapo was called Schutzhaft, or “protective custody”, which allowed for the imprisonment of people without judicial proceedings. Hundreds of “suspected” terrorists are currently being detained at Guantanamo Bay with no charges pending against them. Many have been there for years.

* At its height, the Gestapo was made up of around 45,000 members. The DHS presently employs over 180,000.

Oh, well. No sense being paranoid. I admit that it’s all very interesting when you compare the two organizations side by side, but at the end of the day, I have to remember that I live in the United States of America. We’re the land of the free and the home of the brave. We’re the good guys; our leaders are not above the law, they are not psychopaths, and they certainly have no intention of expanding their power over the rest of the world.

It’s probably all just a coincidence. I probably have nothing to worry about.

I’ll leave you with this quote that I came across during my web surfing on the above. I normally don’t make it a point to quote Nazis, but considering the subject matter, it seemed apt, and in context with the subject matter, it seemed very . . . I want to say “illuminating”, but I’ll settle for “disturbing”.

“Why, of course, the people don’t want war. Why would some poor slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war when the best that he can get out of it is to come back to his farm in one piece? Naturally, the common people don’t want war; neither in Russia nor in England nor in America, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a Parliament, or a Communist dictatorship . . .”

“Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country.”
- Hermann Goering, as told to Gustav Gilbert during the Nuremberg trials


Mama Hen said...

Yes, if they can push the fear, and make everyone afraid, they can sell just about anything in the guise of "keeping us safe." I heard the other day there is a new act/law (can't recall which one) that will require all school employees, daycare workers, realtors, and a long list of others to be fingerprinted and put in a data base....that is if they want to keep their jobs.

Doesn't that seem like unreasonable search and seizure? Or at the very least, testifying against yourself in the future? What happened to innocent until proven guilty? I wonder if they will read all these employees their miranda rights before they ink them.

Oh, but it is to keep us "safe" so I guess that is alright then.

It is all about control and power and how they can achieve it in completion.

Ladyfromthewoods said...

Another "Bravo" article. Thank goodness for men like you who think and write like this...keeping us aware as we saunter along.


WC said...

>>I wonder, was he completely wrong, or has something changed during the last 67 years that has now made that statement obsolete?>>
No, things haven't changed: he was LYING!