Attention Deficit Democracy.
Article Type: Book review
Subject: Books (Book reviews)
Author: Arnett, Jerome C., Jr.
Pub Date: 12/22/2008
Publication: Name: Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons Publisher: Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, Inc. Audience: Academic Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Health care industry Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2008 Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, Inc. ISSN: 1543-4826
Issue: Date: Winter, 2008 Source Volume: 13 Source Issue: 4
Topic: NamedWork: Attention Deficit Democracy (Nonfiction work)
Persons: Reviewee: Bovard, James
Accession Number: 190198293
Full Text: Attention Deficit Democracy, by James Bovard, 281 pp, paperback, $14.95, ISBN13: 978-1-4039-7666-6, New York, N.Y, Palgrave Macmillan, 2005.

Fear is the principle of despotic governments. The mystery is not that politicians lie, but that citizens believe.

--James Bovard

Ignorance ... explains much of what we see. Ignorance is curable.

--Walter Willhams

Rather than a republic, the United States is an elective dictatorship, in which every four years voters simply choose a master who will violate the laws and Constitution and send them to die in foreign lands, in wars based on mass deceptions, James Bovard writes. Even worse, thanks to voter ignorance and delusions, "pack journalism," and lying politicians, Attention Deficit Democracy is leading us to political collapse.

Here are some of the many examples he offers:

While he ridiculed Americans who distrusted government, President Johnson told lies that led to the deaths of more than 50,000 Americans and a million Vietnamese.

Although Social Security is the heaviest federal tax most workers pay, in 1989 only 25 percent of people knew what the FICA deduction on their payroll stub meant.

In 1996, only 60 percent of the public knew that Republicans controlled Congress, and half believed the Democratic Party was more conservative than the Republican.

In 1998-1999, more attention was given to what Clinton did to the intern than what the government was doing to the people.

"The percentage of Americans who exercised informed consent in casting ballots for Bush in the 2004 election was likely less than 15 percent of the electorate," Bovard writes.

New prisons have mushroomed across the land, and one of the nation's fastest growing employment categories is that of prison guards.

James Bovard, author of Lost Rights and Freedom In Chains, has been described as a one-man GAO (Government Accountability Office). In this hard-hitting expose he observes that when people blindly assume that their leaders are trustworthy, the biggest liars win, and the vast majority of liars get reelected.

In Washington, power is the highest truth and deception is the norm, Bovard states. There is only one natural right, the right of the superior to rule over the inferior. These ideas emanate from prominent University of Chicago professor of philosophy Leo Strauss, the "philosopher of the noble lie." His followers include many top Bush administration advisers, media commentators, and neo-conservative champions of greatly increased federal power. They believe there is no morality, that rulers have a right to deceive, and that truth is only for the elite.

Author Ron Suskind quoted a senior Bush advisor who stated, "We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality ... we'll act again, creating other new realities."

Truth--in the view of Washington politicians--is whatever serves one's ideology. Francis Fukuyama, a Reagan political appointee at the State Department, popularized the current cult of "democratic inevitability" with his 1989 article on "The End of History." He described German philosopher G.W.F. Hegel, whose philosophy equates government and truth, and whose ideas previously were invoked to sanctify both communism and fascism, as the supreme "philosopher of freedom." Hegel declared that "... all the worth which the human being possesses ... he possesses only through the State." Instead of Hegel, as Bovard points out, Bush uses God to sanctify his foreign policy.

The Founders intended the United States to be a constitutional republic--not a democracy. Democracy, which means unlimited majority rule, is a form of collectivism or totalitarianism that denies individual rights. It is the tyranny of the majority. Implying that it is a form of freedom is itself tyrannical.

But thanks to voter ignorance, "democracy" is America's newest form of Manifest Destiny, Bovard believes. That has come to mean nothing more than America's divine right to impose pro-American governments upon foreign peoples. The theory of "democratic peace" provides a pretext for war. Warring to spread democracy is the same as working for peace. Apparently few Americans remember George Orwell's "war is peace" slogan from his novel 1984.

Of course, lying is nothing new in American politics, as Bovard points out. Woodrow Wilson represented military might as a supreme force for goodness, and more than 300,000 Americans subsequently were killed or wounded in World War I. Franklin Delano Rosevelt, whose first instinct was always to lie, states Bovard, painted World War II as a crusade for democracy, hailed Stalin as a partner in liberation, and praised Soviet Russia as one of the "freedom-loving nations." In 1956, Sen. John F. Kennedy urged support for war in Vietnam "for the security of freedom everywhere." And 50 years later, George W. Bush used the same terms to justify U.S. intervention in the Middle East.

According to Bovard, President Bush is acting like the World Pope of Democracy. After the September 11 attack he decreed, in effect, that he possessed absolute unchecked power over anyone in the world even suspected of being a terrorist. Thus, he could nullify all rights. In 2005, his solicitor general announced in federal court that the entire United States is a "battlefield" upon which Bush has absolute power to have people-including American citizens-seized and detained indefinitely.

The Bush Administration is unique in proclaiming its right to torture. Apparently, the President believes he has a right to order torture because he is above the law. But as Yale Law School Dean Harold Koh noted, "[by the same analogy the President] has the power to commit genocide, to sanction slavery, to promote apartheid, to license summary execution."

The use of torture subverts freedom. With torture the end justifies the means, even if the means assures that the end is not achieved. American tolerance for torture is one of the greatest shocks of recent years. It is nearly as damning as the torture itself. The media coverage of the torture scandal was itself a scandal. According to Bovard, it shows how the federal government is above both the law and the truth, and illustrates the feebleness of American bulwarks against tyranny.

Bovard's other examples of tyranny, in addition to the Patriot Act, include the administration's Total Information Aware ness network, a system to track every purchase, trip, or phone call that citizens make; the FBI's Carnivore wiretapping system to monitor all emails without getting a search warrant; and Operation TIPS, a program to recruit millions of Americans to report on their neighbors. TIPS unleashed FBI agents to infiltrate churches, mosques, and political groups, even without suspicion of criminal activity. The Homeland Security Department warned 18,000 law enforcement agencies to keep an eye on anyone who "expressed dislike of attitudes and decisions of the U.S. government."

James Bovard is more than a one-man GAO. He is a national treasure, an accomplished writer whose knowledge of American history is encyclopedic. He believes we have only two alternatives. We can either embrace paternalism and evade responsibility for our own lives, or we can reduce the size and scope of government.

Before this can happen, we need to reverse the subjective philosophy that pervades our popular culture. Tens of millions of Americans must profoundly change their attitude toward government. For this we need a higher class of citizens--an informed citizenry resolutely defending their right and liberties.

As Walter Williams has noted, ignorance is curable. If enough Americans read Attention Deficit Democracy we're off to a great start. Read it and buy a few copies for your friends and colleagues.

Jerome C. Arnett, Jr. M.D.

Helvetia, W. V.
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