States of Paralysis: America’s Surrender to the Spectacle of Terror

“When our fears have all been serialized, our creativity censured, our ideas “marketplaced,” our intelligence sloganized, our strength downsized, our privacy auctioned; when the theatricality, the entertainment value, the marketing of life is complete, we will find ourselves living not in a nation but in a consortium of industries, and wholly un-intelligible to ourselves except for what we see as through a screen darkly.” -Toni Morrison

(Truthout) – As the link between the media and corporate power becomes more integrated, the visual theater of terror mimics the politics of the “official” war on terror. Echoing the discourse of the “official” war on terror, the violence of extremist groups as well as state-sanctioned and corporate violence are understood almost exclusively within the discourse of moral absolutes pitting good against evil. Whether it is former President George W. Bush’s claim, “You are either with us or against us,” or Osama bin Laden’s injunction, “You are either a believer or an infidel,” this is a repressive binary logic that not only comes from the mouth of too many politicians, but also saturates the media.

Within the current spectacle of politics, fear and the rhetoric of terror prevail. Obama’s press secretary, Robert Gibbs, lashes out at leftist critics suggesting they are both losers and drug users. As Glenn Greenwald points out, Gibbs seems to be in denial over a number of substantive criticisms of the Obama administration raised by the left, including the fact they have “done so little about crisis-level unemployment, foreclosures and widespread economic misery,” exhibited an “endless devotion to Wall Street,” expanded “a miserable, pointless and unwinnable war that is entering its ninth year…. claimed the power to imprison people for life with no charges and to assassinate American citizens without due process, intensified the secrecy weapons and immunity instruments abused by his predecessor, … found all new ways of denying habeas corpus…. granted full-scale legal immunity to those who committed serious crimes in the last administration [and] failed to fulfill – or affirmatively broken – promises ranging from transparency to gay rights.

Henry A. Giroux
T r u t h o u t
August 18, 2010

Many of these claims are also backed up by a recent ACLU report, which, as Jameel Jaffer, deputy legal director of the ACLU, states:

So, some of the places we point to in the report include the endorsement of indefinite detention for some of the people who are now held at Guantánamo, the failure to hold accountable the people who endorsed torture. The last administration built a framework for torture, but this administration, we say in the report, is building a framework for impunity. Allowing those senior officials who endorsed torture to get away with it leaves torture on the table as a permissible policy option, if not for this president, then for the next president.(5)

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