Virtual Fascism or the State of Terror By William Bowles

10 July 2005

A letter from a reader:

For a good period of time I had gone along, starting my practice in neuropsychology (I worked in hospitals for a long time and the venture into private practice consumed me) and paying little attention to the neocon threat. I hated Bush et. al. but had little time to look at what he/they were doing. I had believed the govt. line on 9/11. But a very few months ago, I came across a reference to ‘Peak Oil’ on the web. My exploration of that, and then of 9/11, and then on the PNAC and Wolfowitz’s agenda, so to speak. My awareness of the role Iraq plays in the ‘plan’. My awareness of the psychological manipulation of the people in Britain and the US (I am a psychologist, after all).

However, I have arrived to a point, psychologically, where I just feel dispirited and despondent. I have influenced a small number of colleagues and friends. But the threat seems so overwhelming. The task of fighting these fascists so daunting. I have no platform from which to influence any greater numbers. Even if they could be influenced.

I am glad that you speak out. And others. But I was wondering if you might have a word of encouragement. Or a particular insight that can help me find a way to do something constructive. A strategy I have yet to think of. Or maybe I am simply trying to connect with someone who appears to think similarly but who has not, apparently, been sinking into the discouraged state I am finding myself in these days more and more frequently.

I received this letter from a reader who had read my ‘If Osama didn’t exist…’ article. Now I’m not sure such as an animal as synchronicity exists, whatever, but I was in the middle of putting this piece together when the note arrived on my (virtual) desktop.

I think we have reached a critical time here in the West, a turning point if you like with the London bombings as the final signal of the direction that the would-be rulers of empire want to herd us in.

Though the manipulation of the people is not new, indeed it extends back over 100 years (see The People as Enemy by John Spritzler, Black Rose and A Century of War – Anglo-American Oil Politics and the New World Order by William Engdahl, Pluto Books., both of which I have reviewed here and here). What has changed is the sophistication of the psychological warfare used to persuade us that war but of a new kind – perpetual war – is the order of the day. And there are good, practical reasons for this change in tactics on the part of our rulers, though the contradictions and pitfalls of this change in tactics is readily apparent (for anyone who cares to look, that is).

The planet’s people will not tolerate ‘general wars’ such as WWI and II, the scars and the memories are still with us. ‘Small’ wars however, especially when conducted against people of colour in the former colonies are still permissible but even these, following the defeat in Vietnam for the US, have to be conducted in a modified form of ‘low intensity warfare’ such as those initiated by Reagan against Nicaragua, Grenada and Panama and in the new, post-Soviet period, against Yugoslavia, which should be regarded as a ‘dry run’ or testing ground of both military and propaganda techniques for Iraq and Afghanistan and other points East and South.

Enter ‘perpetual war’ against an invisible and entirely fictitious enemy, the ‘terrorist’ and all the better that this new ‘enemy’ is not of the Christian (read white) persuasion. Centuries of conditioning concerning the ‘superiority’ of the Western way of life has made pretty sure of that.

The problem with maintaining a state of perpetual war, which unlike the ‘Cold War’ period that depended on a ‘threat’ – nuclear annihilation – a threat too horrendous to actually contemplate initiating, waging a modified form of ‘low intensity warfare’ requires that the state maintain a constant state of ‘personal’ or intimate terror in the citizens’ minds that will justify the policy. In turn, maintaining a constant state of terror requires the creation of a total – or if you like, a totalitarian state.

For the implementation of this new form of fascism requires total control and manipulation of information and ultimately total control of the population. Ipso facto – ‘virtual fascism’, a fascism of a new kind, facilitated by the total concentration of powers of control of the flow of information and of complete, or as near as, surveillance and social control of the population. The code words are ‘joined up’ government, ‘efficiency’ and ‘cost benefit’ and of course now, the ‘international terror network’, organised crime, ‘illegal immigrants’ and the scourge of the middle classes, ’benefit fraud’.

Three things have made virtual fascism possible; the first has been the concentration of capitalist ownership into a handful of giant, globe-spanning corporations and the second related development, that of the information technology revolution. In fact it’s inconceivable to have the former without the latter. The third has been how both developments have transformed the state machine, both through the use of technology and the merging of the state and business. In other words, the traditional political class that ‘managed’ the capitalist state in its essentially 19th century form has been transformed by these developments into the one we see emerging under the direction of the Labour government and its security apparatus. Indeed, the Labour government leads the capitalist world in the development of the corporate, security state (and very little else).

With only a handful of capitalist enterprises, the organic links between the state and capital has been radically simplified. We can no longer speak of a discrete political class that through the state represents the interests of capital, largely because most of us no longer bother to vote or even participate in political activities of any kind. This leaves the field clear for state to become what I suppose we should call the ‘sixth estate’, that is the state as just another form of private corporation, except it is funded through our taxes and legitimised through a (redundant and largely irrelevant) electoral process. This process has also been made possible by the rollback of public ownership and hence some form of oversight and control through the so-called neo-liberal agenda initiated in the 1970s.

Rid yourself then, of the image of jackboots and Blackshirts, or of National Socialist rallies (but not of the 3am knock on the door). Instead, today we are encouraged to worship a fictitious past called ‘heritage’, Nelson at Trafalgar, Wellington at Waterloo, the dead of countless imperialist wars or get lost in voyeuristic replacement reality shows, shop-til-you-drop, and preserving the ‘British way of life’ (though not of the Iraqis).

Parallel to and intimately a part of this virtual fascism are the new methods of social control – anti-social behaviour orders and so forth – all of which not coincidentally require increasing and ultimately, total public surveillance and tracking of everyone. Laws passed to regulate public assembly/’anti-social activities’ by the young of the ‘underclass’ are very easily extended to the general population just as anti-terrorism laws have already been used to curb and control dissent.

The attempt to introduce a national database on citizens, misnamed the ID card is the final, virtual nail in the coffin (though thankfully the ineptitude of the technical caste of corporate/state capitalism will no doubt ensure failure on a grand if expensive scale. Time and again the inability of corporations to actually innovate is proof that they can only appropriate but never truly create).

The bombings in London is yet another vicious jab that is intended to stampede us like cattle toward a corral called the total state. A place where thinking ceases and where a complicit media are the cowboys of the corporate, security state.

In attempting therefore to answer the question posed by my despondent correspondent, I can only say that there is an ‘inverse square law’ operating that goes something like this; the progress of constructing the total state is inversely proportional to our withdrawal from the political process. Therefore, the answer is obvious though by no means easy – without participating in the political process, no matter in what form, the construction of the virtual fascist state is inevitable, made possible only by our acquiescence and failure to act in time.

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