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Ash writes: "If aspiring right-wing authoritarians have nothing else to offer citizens of the countries they hope to lead, they always have fear of terror."

The scene near London Bridge after the attacks. (photo: Reuters/Neil Hall)
The scene near London Bridge after the attacks. (photo: Reuters/Neil Hall)

Terrorism and Authoritarianism

By Marc Ash, Reader Supported News

04 June 17


f aspiring right-wing authoritarians have nothing else to offer citizens of the countries they hope to lead, they always have fear of terror.

“Terrorism,” as it is conveniently defined by today’s Western governments, is actually a phenomenon that dates back to at least ancient Rome.

Interestingly, many historians cite an act of terrorism and subsequent embrace of military rule by the Roman Republic as the event that put the Roman Republic on the path to becoming the Roman Empire.

The current plague of attacks on civilians in Western countries is a bit more complicated, but may well presage the decline of the American Republic and the rise of our own empire. Or not. The matter is unsettled.

In any case, nothing makes free citizens hurl their rights at the feet of authoritarians faster than an act of terrorism – real, imagined, or made inevitable through colonialist aggression.

One significant complicating factor is the ideology of the Islamists. Al-Qaeda and ISIS do agree on one strategic point: they see a US drawn into a broader Middle Eastern conflict as desirable. In much the same way as the Soviet Union was drawn into Afghanistan, the Islamists see the US defeated as well. An epic oversimplification to be sure.

With Donald Trump at the American helm, obviously anything is possible. However Trump’s newfound solidarity with the UK in the wake of recent bloodletting there, while reeking of rank political opportunism, also illustrates his and America’s own dependence on the Western democratic order. The pond grows ever smaller regardless, it seems.

Trump’s departure from the Paris Accord evoked the image of a child threatening to run away from home, only to realize that he has nowhere to go. But of course that wasn’t the point – rallying his base on the advice of Steve Bannon and by proxy Bannon’s stakehorse Rebekah Mercer was the motivating factor in that decision. A recurring phenomenon at the Trump White House.

It will be more difficult for the US Republic to reinvent itself as an empire with post-World War Europe positioned in the middle of the equation. However, in the end, all that democracy guarantees its citizens are the tools to preserve it. The tools must be used. How badly do you want a republic?

Marc Ash is the founder and former Executive Director of Truthout, and is now founder and Editor of Reader Supported News.

Reader Supported News is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to Reader Supported News. your social media marketing partner


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For months a stream of media reports have warned of coordinated propaganda efforts targeting political websites based in the U.S., particularly in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election.

We too were alarmed at the patterns we were, and still are, seeing. It is clear that the provocateurs are far more savvy, disciplined, and purposeful than anything we have ever experienced before.

It is also clear that we still have elements of the same activity in our article discussion forums at this time.

We have hosted and encouraged reader expression since the turn of the century. The comments of our readers are the most vibrant, best-used interactive feature at Reader Supported News. Accordingly, we are strongly resistant to interrupting those services.

It is, however, important to note that in all likelihood hardened operatives are attempting to shape the dialog our community seeks to engage in.

Adapt and overcome.

Marc Ash
Founder, Reader Supported News

+3 # Jaax88 2017-06-04 10:47
Well stated.
-2 # Allanfearn 2017-06-04 11:10
Er - what makes you suppose that all republics - especially the ones which say they are - are democracies? Most of the twentieth century nations which threw their rights at the feet of authoritarians from fear of terrorism were republics, weren't they?
And sincere democrats can be found engaging in terrorism - a little more rarely, true, but still...

Any "ism" can become a convenient label for any other 'ism' in a history written by victors who would, in the name of a free press, rather not think about what they did.
Sad to find you falling into this student trap.
+11 # futhark 2017-06-04 11:44
Randolph Bourne wrote during World War I that "War is the health of the state", noting that government power and authority are always enhanced during any perceived threat to the existing social order.

From Howard Zinn's "A People's History of the United States"

and Randolph Bourne's original essay:

When the nation is not being overtly threatened by a hostile established nation state, there exists among powerful but unprincipled people the temptation to either create an adversary or to enhance the perception of an existing adversary.

Nothing seems to have worked better in this regard than to provoke people with an alien culture and with relatively primitive technology existing on the other side of the planet to take up arms against the United States, or at least to make it appear they may likely do so (Saddam Hussein's WMDs, etc,).

We should always view with skepticism the claims of those shouting the clarion call of anti-terrorism and search out their true motivations.
+4 # Robbee 2017-06-04 13:04
"right-wing white supremacists?" f/k/a "silent majority?"

robbee prefers "radical christian terrorists"
+14 # REDPILLED 2017-06-04 13:21
The U.S., with more than 700 military bases in 80 countries, Special Ops teams deployed to more than 100 countries, nuclear-armed fleets on every ocean, and waging wars on seven Muslim countries, is ALREADY an empire.

However, now a corporate oligarchy, it ceased being a republic long ago.
+9 # CurtW 2017-06-04 13:35
'Threats against the state' are among dictators' favorite tools to rally the masses. Mussolini invoked it; Hitler moved against both internal and external so-called enemies and created terrorist agent-provocate urs to underline it; while Franco fought against real and imagined 'Bolsheviks and Judeo-Masonic' enemies of the state. There are historical patterns.
+7 # Woratnac 2017-06-04 16:07
Duh, I thought America already WAS an empire! Certainly Chomsky and Zinn both agree (in Z's case, "agreed") that it is. But its star is on the descent. The American empire is dying. I think what you mean, Marc, is that the Republic will die, and that international corporations will take over. But that is the classic definition of fascism: government by corporations, no more popular representative government. Our Congress has long since been bought by corporations, so we don't have democracy left anymore, either.
+1 # Salus Populi 2017-06-04 21:28
I am surprised that any serious scribe thinks that whether or not the "rise of our own empire" is in question, or "unsettled." Even William Buckley over a quarter century ago called the U.S. an "empire."

That aside, I note other serious errors in this essay. "... an act of terrorism – real, imagined, or made inevitable ..." leaves out false flag terrorism entirely. Of course, liberals hate conspiracy theories, but NATO itself, with "Operation Gladio," deliberately carried out acts of terrorism, including both the assassination of Italian Prime Minister Aldo Moro and the worst terrorist act in Europe up to that time [the 1980 Bologna Rail Station bombing, with over 80 lives lost], in order to blame them on the "left" [the Red Brigades] and destabilize the governments in favor of fascism. Prince Borghese, a former aide to Mussolini, and would=be coupster who co-founded the Black International, the murderous Stefano delle Chiaie, and Licio Gelli of the notorious Masonic Lodge P-2 attempted to undermine the Italian government under the auspices of Gladio; the Italian parliament investigated the plots during the late eighties, and documented both their reality and the knowledge and approval of NATO leaders.

Ash goes on to implicitly claim that "the Islamists" drew the Soviet Union into Afghanistan; credit where it is due would place that particular cynical ploy at the feet of President "human rights" Carter and his _eminence grise_, NSC honcho Zbigniew Brzezinski.

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