WHAT IS IT about dystopian political thrillers that we find so compelling? You know, the stories depicting the descent of civilized, democratic societies into darkness, laced with themes of brainwashing, thought police, and the suppression of individual freedoms… Could it be that they cause us to think critically about our our own very real world? More likely, it’s that they allow us to walk out of the theater, or switch off the tube, thinking: That could never happen here.
Consider the following improbable story-line, from a major production which reliable sources say is already well underway but not yet completed:
The setting is modern times. The pivotal, opening scene focuses on a teacher, employed by a public school system in a southern U.S. state, who has just lost her job for declining to sign an oath of loyalty– loyalty not to the welfare of her students, or to the state where she works, not to America’s Constitution, ideals and system of governance… but to a foreign nation!
Then in flash-back sequences, the screenplay unfolds how this twisted, dangerous state of affairs evolved: It seems that several decades before, a very small country had appeared on the world stage and quickly, inexplicably, come to exert enormous global influence. One element in the narrative involves a world body (akin to the real-life UN) serving as the global arbiter of international law and human rights, an entity repeatedly forced to cast scrutiny upon the small country’s questionable practices and policies. However, early in the story, American political leaders decide they must protect the small country at all costs from potential criticism, vetoing any meaningful censure that would sometimes arise from the global community.
The script goes on to describe how the small country — by then already highly developed and heavily armed, including with undeclared nuclear weapons — convinces the American government to hand over to it the largest portion of its foreign aid budget, not for humanitarian projects but solely in the form of ever more high-tech weapons systems and munitions. Amazingly, neither America’s citizens nor her political leaders seem to object, or even notice.
(All this stretches credulity, I know, but it’s just a story. Stay with me. By the way, the version of the project I’ve been privy to never fully explains how the small country comes to wield such monumental sway over the American body politic and popular mind. Maybe this will become clearer as the story is fine-tuned — as I say, it’s still a work-in-progress.)
Anyway, in one jaw-dropping scene the small country’s head-of-state — unbidden by the U.S. president but invited by the political opposition — addresses a joint session of Congress and brazenly argues against established U.S. foreign policy, receiving in response round after round of tumultuous, nearly unanimous, ovations. Then in a later scenario, the same foreign leader (prime minister) is seen in a joint White House press conference with yet another president, this one so ignorant, foolish and easily manipulated that the minister can only laugh in response to the president’s inane blathering on grave matters of international diplomacy.
And so it goes. As the latter part of the narrative unfolds, the small country has essentially hijacked and subverted American’s public discourse and system of government. Thus, the U.S. Congress, with strong bi-partisan support, starts crafting shocking new legislation that actually imposes criminal penalties on their own citizens who dare criticize the small country, who merely insist that it abide by the established norms of international law. (Leading up to this unthinkable coups, agents of the small country had repeatedly brought to bear a devious tactic: Any criticism of the small country’s government policies or actions was immediately and forcefully re-cast as a hateful, racist rejection of that country’s people, especially their ethnicity, religion, and rich heritage. This simple yet clever tactic, however twisted and dishonest, proved unimaginably powerful.)
Anyway, by this point in the story the descent into a post-democratic nightmare was well advanced, since a majority of the U.S. states had already enacted laws forcing people to take what amounted to a loyalty oath to the small country: Unless they signed, public school teachers would lose their jobs, companies large and small would be shut out of government contracts, and so on. (This shocking takeover, we learn, had been achieved in part by ALEC, an Orwellian-sounding entity which regularly spewed out repressive legislative templates to gullible state lawmakers.)
Thus it was that some American citizens — those who sought a measure of Truth beyond America’s corporate media — started seeing reports like the following, a bit of realistic-looking newscast footage about the fired school teacher. (This sneak preview Continue reading