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U.S. and Israel are ‘paranoid democracies, craving surveillance

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Angela Merkel

Angela Merkel

Edward Snowden continues to deliver gifts to the U.S.: the gift of self-awareness. Who can possibly argue that the information he released is not vital to our democracy? Or, as Snowden said, what gave him the right as a security analyst to know about our wiretapping Angela Merkel without his fellow citizens knowing it too? Here is Dirk Kurbjuweit in Spiegel writing about paranoid democracies, Israel, the U.S. and the former South Africa, which depend on freedom myths, ideas of themselves as paradise, and paranoia:

To understand the United States, it’s worth taking a look at other paranoid democracies. In southern Africa, Boer settlers battled the local population for land. To this day, the Boers still have a glorified view of their history, as suggested by Boer expressions like “Eie land, vrye volk,” or “One land, free people.” A strict apartheid system was implemented in South Africa starting in 1948. The system enabled the Boers to isolate themselves from the black majority and create a democracy, but only for whites, making it entirely undemocratic. Fear was the basis of that state. It built nuclear bombs, even though it had no enemies….

In Israel, too, politics are shaped by fear — and a justified one. The country is surrounded by enemies, some of which have made the renewed extermination of the Jews their objective. But does that mean that the Israelis have to have their presumed enemies murdered abroad? One of today’s symbols of political paranoia is the giant wall that seals off Palestinian areas from Israeli territory. “Homeland” is actually based on an Israeli TV series.

The United States differs in many respects from South Africa during apartheid and Israel today. But the three countries are similar in terms of the triad of freedom myth, paradise and fear. This has led to the development of a tremendous ability to put up a fight, but also a heightened sensitivity.

Political paranoia requires an enemy, or at least the concept of an enemy…

Unfortunately, however, a paranoid democracy tends to use tools that are beneath a democracy, the tools of a dictatorship, and they include as much surveillance as possible.

Information is the most valuable thing in a paranoid world.


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20 Responses

  1. seafoid
    November 10, 2013, 11:58 am

    “politics are shaped by fear — and a justified one.”

    How is it justified? The system is built around the IDF and the companies that make money from the IDF. Is that right? The only way to do it ? And why are all the neighbours enemies ? Says who ?

    • bilal a
      bilal a
      November 10, 2013, 3:30 pm

      who wants the “renewed extermination of the Jews [as] their objective.” ? Even the most extreme al qaeda type terrorists state the contrary. They just want the Israelis, as Helen Thomas put it, to go back to Poland and Russia.

      That said, there probably are some nutters who advocate genocide, but unlike the Israeli nutters, they don’t sit in the parliament of a nuclear bio chem armed expansionist ethnic cleansing state.

      • just
        November 10, 2013, 8:56 pm


  2. Krauss
    November 10, 2013, 12:00 pm

    America, for all its flaws, is lightyears away from former Apartheid South Africa and current Apartheid Israel.

    It would simply be impossible to think about the segregated school system in Israel happening in America in this day and age where Arabs are concentrated into their own schools.
    America had that experiment and we all know what happened.

    Or take foreign workers in Israel forced to sign NDA’s promising not to impregnate Jewish women(in America’s case, that’d be white women) for racial paranoia.

    Is America paranoid? Yes, there’s that strain. Whether it is the Red Scare of the 50s or the “Islam is taking over America from within” movement, you have that strain. But America tends to get over it, and it gets embarrassed looking back. Israel’s primary lesson is usually “we went too soft” and then double down on paranoia and racism.

    As I wrote a few days ago; can anyone even think about a de Klerk emerging in Israel? You gotta give the Afrikaaners that. They don’t assassinate the people who want peace(even if Rabin was far more hardline than his airbrushed image is usually portayed).

    • seafoid
      November 10, 2013, 4:24 pm


      The US prison situation is in a class of its own. I wouldn’t use “light years away” …

  3. American
    November 10, 2013, 12:29 pm

    The US didnt use to be a paranoid –that is something that evolved among right wing imperialist after WWII as the US took the position of superpower creating justified blowback by some countries.
    Israel’s fear is, like the US’s, only ‘justified’ in the same way —fear that some blowback to their agression/actions is going to finally give them what they deserve.

    Terrorist, crooks, murders, etc. whether they are the US, Israel or ALQ or whoever are always ‘fearful’ of their crimes or victims catching up with them.

    • Dan Crowther
      Dan Crowther
      November 11, 2013, 10:31 am

      I’d refer you to the statements of almost all the “founders” concerning “The Indians” or “The Savages” “Heathens” and so on. They generally all agreed that “we gotta kill em first, before they get us!” was best practice. That’s not paranoid? Racist? Seems to me, it’s the same criminal as victim ideology found in other expansionary blood and soil movements

      • American
        November 11, 2013, 10:59 am

        @ Dan

        Refer me to those statements by the founders (in their policy and papers on US posture in the world)—not just individual/group expressions on ‘domestic’ enemies, races, etc..
        Policy by the founders re foreign enemies of the US nation.
        Fear certainly wasnt our first founder, Washington’s policy for the US position/attitude toward the world.

  4. seafoid
    November 10, 2013, 1:55 pm

    Most, if not all, settler colonial societies are/were defined by fear, dead ideologies and violence. Guatemala has the world’s highest murder rate. The US imprisons more per head than anywhere else. Australian Aboriginal people have a life expectancy 30 years less than that of white Australians. Israel is just following the rest. It’s another settler colonial state with the same issues.

  5. HarryLaw
    November 10, 2013, 2:35 pm

    “Information is the most valuable thing in a paranoid world”. And in a authoritarian one, just think what power a dictator would have, when able to listen and read every communication every member of the public ever made and to store that information for ever. Frightening yes, it’s happening now, BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU.

  6. DICKERSON3870
    November 10, 2013, 2:48 pm

    RE: “Unfortunately, however, a paranoid democracy tends to use tools that are beneath a democracy, the tools of a dictatorship, and they include as much surveillance as possible.” ~ Dirk Kurbjuweit in Spiegel

    FOR EXAMPLE, SEE: “Road map for a decease plan”
    By Trish Schuh | Tehran Times | April 28, 2005

    [EXCERPT] . . . In the final months of 2002, Israeli experts advised U.S. Justice system lawyers how to legalize “targeted killings.” The February 7, 2003 The Jewish Forward reported on an unprecedented legal document developed for the U.S. by Israel. It contained a comprehensive set of justifications for state terror assassinations, and revealed the Bush administration’s involvement in such schemes. Bush now characterized terrorists caught — but denied rights to trial –as being “otherwise dealt with.” Israeli media also revealed that Mossad was training the U.S. military and CIA how to implement covert ‘hits’ with expertise gained fighting the Palestinians — car bombs, snipers, cell phone explosives, high-tech devices and poisoning — and how to disguise them as “unexplained events and accidents.” . . .

    SOURCE –

  7. DICKERSON3870
    November 10, 2013, 2:56 pm

    RE: “U.S. and Israel are ‘paranoid democracies'”

    SEE: “How the Power of Myth Keeps Us Mired in War”, by Ira Chernus,, 01/20/11

    [EXCERPT] . . . White Americans, going back to early colonial times, generally assigned the role of ‘bad guys’ to ‘savages’ lurking in the wilderness beyond the borders of our civilized land. Whether they were redskins, commies, terrorists, or the Taliban, the plot has always remained the same.
    Call it the myth of national security — or, more accurately, national insecurity, since it always tells us who and what to fear.
    It’s been a mighty (and mighty effective) myth. . .

    SOURCE –

    AND SEE: “Israel’s Defense Chief OK’s Hundreds of Israeli Deaths”, By Ira Chernus,, 11/11/11

    [EXCERPT] . . . An essential motive of Zionism from its beginning was a fierce desire to end the centuries of Jewish weakness, to show the world that Jews would no longer be pushed around, that they’d fight back and prove themselves tougher than their enemies. There was more to Zionism than that. But the “pride through strength” piece came to dominate the whole project. Hence the massive Israeli military machine with its nuclear arsenal.
    But you can’t prove that you’re stronger than your enemies unless you’ve also got enemies — or at least believe you’ve got enemies — to fight against. So there has to be a myth of Israel’s insecurity, fueled by an image of vicious anti-semites lurking somewhere out there, for Zionism to work. Since the 1979 Iranian revolution, Iran has gradually risen to the top of Israel oh-so-necessary enemies list. Iranophobia is rampant in Israel, as one Israeli scholar writes, because “Israel needs an existential threat.”
    Anyone who has grown up in Israel, or in the U.S. Jewish community (as I did), and paid attention knows all this. . .


    P.S. ALSO SEE – “Iranophobia: The Panic of the Hegemons”, by Ira Chernus, Tikkun Magazine, November/December 2010
    LINK –

    • DICKERSON3870
      November 10, 2013, 3:33 pm

      P.P.S. ALSO RE: “U.S. and Israel are ‘paranoid democracies’


      [This scene takes place just above and behind the HOLLYWOODLAND sign, to where they had ridden their bicycles.]
      • Douglas Fairbanks: “Charles, you’re a foreigner; you’re still an outsider. You’ve never understood this country.”
      • Charlie Chaplin: “It’s a good country underneath, Doug.”
      • Douglas Fairbanks: “No, it’s a good country on *top*. Underneath, that’s [paranoia is] what starts showing when we’re scared.”

      NOTE: The use of “*top*” means that top was said with emphasis.

      SOURCE –

  8. marc b.
    marc b.
    November 10, 2013, 3:10 pm

    i’d say that American paranoia is directly related to rise of modern media, which is the delivery system for various incorrect statistics, studies, etc. all designed to make people more fearful. the public perception of rising levels of crime, while crime rates actually, simultaneously drop, has been measured in the US and UK for several years now. we here have the phenomenon of idiot Zionists who can’t tell the difference between the perception of anti-Semitsm with anti-Semitic acts, and can’t parse out the errors in junk studies that support their paranoia.

  9. just
    November 10, 2013, 8:47 pm

    “In Israel, too, politics are shaped by fear — and a justified one. The country is surrounded by enemies, some of which have made the renewed extermination of the Jews their objective.”

    That’s BS, imho. If and when Israel behaves like a “democracy” interested in peace, instead of a warmongering hegemonist and cruel Occupier, they will have ‘friends’. Just who wants the “extermination of the Jews”? Seems that Israel prefers cultivating “enemies”.

    As for the US… we have one helluva way to go.

  10. RoHa
    November 10, 2013, 9:17 pm

    “In Israel, too, politics are shaped by fear — and a justified one. The country is surrounded by enemies,”

    All their own fault.

    ” some of which have made the renewed extermination of the Jews their objective. ”

    Name one.

  11. wondering jew
    wondering jew
    November 11, 2013, 1:32 am

    Why is the US on the list, but not England? Are there fewer surveillance cameras in London than in New York? Hardly. (The IRA is the reason, but that hardly matters.) But including England would ruin some kind of symmetry that the author was trying to evoke and England would not serve his purpose.

    • Ecru
      November 11, 2013, 4:59 am

      @ yonah

      The IRA isn’t the reason, the huge number of cameras around the UK (not just England, the entire UK) went up after the IRA had declared the armed struggle over.

      And those millions of cameras throughout the UK have had little to no effect on reducing crime, their supposed purpose, except perhaps in stopping theft from cars. And of course speed cameras have been a great hit with the police because all the fines go straight to them. For example, if you drive through Northumberland to Scotland on an arrow straight stretch of road in the middle of nowhere, the speed limit changes repeatedly with no obvious cause, except for the little yellow boxes that is…….but I’m straying o.t. As far as other cameras are concerned, only around 3% of London muggings are solved using them, and of all the images sent to the police 80% are completely unfit for purpose. It’s a response perhaps not so much down to paranoia as down to consecutive govts not wanting to pay for increased numbers of police but still wanting to appear to be doing something in the headlines. And more effective strategies, like targeted increases in street lighting, just don’t grab the Telegraph and Mail readers’ attention the way cameras do.

      So I don’t think it’s so much down to paranoia on the part of the state there as cynical political manoeuvring.

  12. pabelmont
    November 11, 2013, 8:35 am

    USA need not be paranoid to be imperialist. Of course, it helps, for without paranoia, why would tax-payers (if there are, any more, any who “matter”) consent to pay for our over-the-top-expensive military imperialist system?

    But consider an earlier warlike state, Athens at the time of Pericles. In his famous Funeral Oration, Pericles said this about openness.

    (Actually, I have no idea if the Athenians were paranoid or merely very warlike. If we believe Pericles, they would not have liked state secrecy or NSA surveillance But, anyhow, read this speech. The following fragment is by no means all that is worth reading in it.)

    “If we turn to our military policy, there also we differ from our antagonists. We throw open our city to the world, and never by alien acts exclude foreigners from any opportunity of learning or observing, although the eyes of an enemy may occasionally profit by our liberality; trusting less in system and policy than to the native spirit of our citizens; while in education, where our rivals from their very cradles by a painful discipline seek after manliness, at Athens we live exactly as we please, and yet are just as ready to encounter every legitimate danger. In proof of this it may be noticed that the Lacedaemonians do not invade our country alone, but bring with them all their confederates; while we Athenians advance unsupported into the territory of a neighbour, and fighting upon a foreign soil usually vanquish with ease men who are defending their homes. Our united force was never yet encountered by any enemy, because we have at once to attend to our marine and to dispatch our citizens by land upon a hundred different services; so that, wherever they engage with some such fraction of our strength, a success against a detachment is magnified into a victory over the nation, and a defeat into a reverse suffered at the hands of our entire people. And yet if with habits not of labour but of ease, and courage not of art but of nature, we are still willing to encounter danger, we have the double advantage of escaping the experience of hardships in anticipation and of facing them in the hour of need as fearlessly as those who are never free from them.

    “Nor are these the only points in which our city is worthy of admiration. We cultivate refinement without extravagance and knowledge without effeminacy; wealth we employ more for use than for show, and place the real disgrace of poverty not in owning to the fact but in declining the struggle against it.

    • just
      November 11, 2013, 9:52 am

      holy moly, pabelmont– thanks for sharing.

      “funny” how history repeats itself. Humans’ incredible inhumanity and ego seem to know no bounds.

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