“Many consider the elevation of Voice of America (VoA) to the status of the official domestic news organ of the United States as emblematic of when authoritarianism became fully established in America. Quietly, and without much notice, the Trump administration had been actively recruiting for positions within a reconstituted VoA, and most were vetted by Sean Hannity (VoA Director 2018-2022) via referrals from Bannon’s Breitbart and Murdoch’s FOX. By the time the formal announcement was made declaring VoA’s domestic role, three solid years had gone by since the inauguration.
The well-orchestrated plan to fully establish VoA as the domestic propaganda arm of the government consisted of several phases: (a) undermining “mainstream” media, (b) prosecutions of reporters, (c) revelations of “mainstream” media “conspiracies”, and (d) the complicity of a Republican controlled congress in passing enabling legislation. The fact that VoA had operated for many decades below the radar of the American public allowed it to create a semi-autonomous organization which had, in the international arena, established a robust, well-funded, operation.
Looking back, it’s hard to fathom that this all happened so quickly, but under the cover of continuous disruption of normal state activity–manufactured “incidents,” coordination with Alt-Right groups and so-called scandals–the public and mainstream media were effectively manipulated. Though by 2019 Trump’s accelerating dementia was obvious to even the most casual observer, a power-hungry, Alt-Right-controlled congress continued to allow him to remain President, if but in name only. This manipulation allowed the right-wing architects of America’s authoritarian coup to operate out-of-view, and to quietly build a domestic, state-run and funded propaganda operation right under the noses of the American people. By the time Vice President Pence made the announcement that VoA was assuming all official state communications functions took place, it was too late to stop.
Accordingly, revival of the long-moribund Office of Public Standards to ensure the promulgation and enforcement of rules insuring “the proper moral, patriotic, and accurate” representations of the United States in film, television, internet and other forms of mass communications was generally well-received by a public by then convinced its mainstream media sources had been compromised. An upwelling of patriotic fervor, as some have called it, combined with highly publicized prosecutions of reporters and news organizations spelled the end for America’s “free press.” Supreme Court decisions (Gorsuch replaced Roberts as Chief Justice after Roberts “retired” in 2019) affirming the government’s broadened right to censor and regulate “speech” when the “national interest is threatened” (see NY Times vs. The United States of America – 2019) was the final nail in the coffin.
With the formal elimination of the FBI in the wake of the “Mueller conspiracy” and with its operations reconstituted within a newly established Federal Office of Law and Order, the mechanism to enforce domestic laws against “seditious and treasonous” speech activity was given firm grounding. As we now know, the Chinese and Russian governments both provided assistance by sharing sophisticated digital tools they had developed to monitor and throttle communication channels to the public and to constrain personal expression. Though the change in net-neutrality rules governing the internet were characterized as supporting “the creativity of free enterprise” the true purpose was to provide means to get government hands around the throat of America’s dominant communication tools. The famous “Facebook prosecutions” of 2020 for sedition effectively muzzled citizen dissent.
As part of the overall authoritarian move, the new “National Arts Council” directed monies to projects deemed “worthy of support” while insuring the demise of others, such as the Public Broadcasting System. Televised and internet-based programming was thenceforth provided by state-sponsored, VoA approved producers.
In short, the collapse of press freedom seemed rapid, but was the result of a long-term and well-organized strategy to supplant democratic norms with authoritarian constraints.”
–Excerpt from “The Collapse: How America Lost its Way”, by Winston Smith, published by Sentinel Publications, © 2050.
One thought on “Authoritarianism in America: The view from 2050”
This is Frank Herbert-esque.