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article imageOp-Ed: American 'police state' not just hyperbole

By Craig Boehman     Jul 19, 2013 in Politics
Is America really a police state? The term is saturated in articles critical of US government policies on any number of issues and commonly prefixed with 'heading towards'. But based on prison population alone, we've got one.
According to the Global Research, there are approximately 2 million prisoners in the United States occupying state, federal, and private prisons. The vast majority of this population is made up of Blacks and Hispanics. By the number, America maintains 25 percent of the total prison population on the planet – half a million more prisoners than the next largest jailer, China, which has five times the population of the US. California Prison Focus concludes “no other society in human history has imprisoned so many of its own citizens.”
By comparison, according to archival evidence, the Gulag labor camps in the Soviet Union averaged anywhere from 510,000 to just over 1, 700, 000 prisoners between 1934 to 1953, and were reduced considerably in populations following the death of Stalin in 1953. Most prisoners were incarcerated for petty crimes.
Of course, there's more to a police state than just prisons.
There could very well be a wide gap between what we picture a police state to be in our own minds and its definition and historical usage. For me personally, a police state summons images of armed police or soldiers on streets keeping order; and with what is probably the billionth reference to Orwell's dystopian novel 1984, I envision a totalitarian regime monitoring our personal lives in our homes and everywhere we go. I picture goon squads operating like the NKVD secret police in the Soviet Union who rounded up political prisoners by the train load and shipped them off to forced labor camps in Siberia. I see a world where public matters of importance and “the truth” are shunned or prohibited outright in the public discourse. Perpetual warfare. A few rich people making the rules. Lots of poor people working menial jobs. In short, a bleak society controlled by utmost force if necessary to keep the peace all the while ensuring there would be no challenge to the ruling class.
Arguments could be made very easily that all these conditions already exist in the US. I'll bullet point a few of these: The Patriot Act; section 1021(b) of the 2012 NDAA (see Hedges v. Obama); the ongoing and nebulous war on terror; CIA rendering of prisoners and secret prisons; the Guantanamo Bay prison; Obama's drone program and kill lists; Obama's prosecution of whistleblowers; corporate-financed elections; “free trade” and NAFTA; the TPP; a dysfunctional mainstream media; non-prosecution of corporate crimes that sank the economy; the multi-trillion dollar bail-out of Wall Street; the government suppression of freedom of speech and social movements like Occupy Wall Street; 1 in 2 Americans in poverty or poor; student debt; lack of healthcare; militarized border between the US and Mexico; and the NSA surveillance program.
Wikipedia says:
A police state is a state in which the government exercises rigid and repressive controls over the social, economic, and political life of the population. A police state typically exhibits elements of totalitarianism and social control, and there is usually little or no distinction between the law and the exercise of political power by the executive.
The inhabitants of a police state experience restrictions on their mobility, and on their freedom to express or communicate political or other views, which are subject to police monitoring or enforcement. Political control may be exerted by means of a secret police force which operates outside the boundaries normally imposed by a constitutional state.
Understandably, the topic is too immense to do it justice on Wikipedia or in this piece. I would argue that the United States does fit many of the criteria for a police state, and prison population should definitely be one of the criteria if we insist on keeping the 'police' bit. After all, what do police do? They keep the peace. They also put people in jail. A police state, at least semantically-speaking, would lock up a whole bunch of people. A study of global prison populations is therefore apt in this case.
I'll share with you a piece written by Paul Craig Roberts. His first line: “The American people have suffered a coup d’etat, but they are hesitant to acknowledge it.”
Roberts goes on to list, in what could be described as hyperbole by those blissfully ignorant of current US affairs, tyrannical policies which began under George W. Bush and subsequently expanded under Barack Obama. Interestingly, he doesn't invoke 'police state' anywhere in his article. He doesn't need to. Oppression goes by many names; it's not important which ones we choose to adopt into our personal lexicons – only that we recognize oppression when we see it and opt to fight it.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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