If you ask people around the world to play a word association game, “America” will often be associated with “freedom.” This gives enormous soft power to the United States abroad and lots of legitimacy at home. The US President is referred to by the media as the “leader of the free world.” And every American war since WW2 was sold as a fight to spread “freedom and democracy.” People often say, “You can say anything you want in the USA, unlike in other countries!” Meanwhile, geopolitical rivals such as Russia and China are portrayed as authoritarian, tyrannical, and dictatorships where citizens are muzzled.
So, what’s the secret of America’s freedom? Why can’t other countries be like the U.S.?
Well, there are definitely some cultural and historical factors. The history of the United States of America naturally led to more individualism than other traditional societies. However, there are also three other secrets behind the contemporary American freedom …
**1. Freedom works when other countries can’t intervene:
The key to freedom and democracy is lack of foreign intervention. If powerful external forces can’t meddle, then people of any country will settle the matters either peacefully, grudgingly, or, in rare situations, through a civil war. For example, in the U.S., the 19th century saw a brutal civil war, but it led to a unified country (although the repercussions are still felt in US politics). Now, the American people are trained to switch between Coca Cola and Pepsi — Republicans and Democrats — regardless of how severe the internal problems are.
On the other hand, consider countries such as Russia, China, Venezuela, Syria and Iran. They don’t have much power to stop the US, which openly funds separatists in Xinjiang, rioters in Hong Kong, opposition leaders in Russia, and violent factions (“MEK”) in Iran. In Venezuela, the U.S. just chose an unelected puppet (Guaido) and claimed that he’s the real president! In Syria, the U.S. spent billions of dollars arming and funding jihadists.
In China, the U.S. funded and armed the pro-US group (KMT) in China’s civil war in the 1940’s, and then helped establish Taiwan as a new country. With extraordinary chutzpah, the US also claimed that Taiwan was the “real China”. In 1950, Taiwan’s population was 8 million, which was minuscule compared to the 500 million in mainland China. And if it were not for the US military and navy, Mao would have easily conquered Taiwan.
Now, any person in China who speaks out against the communist party can become an instant celebrity in the West. Even people with dumb stories — like the Chinese “spy” who escaped to Australia just before the election in Taiwan or the researcher from Hong Kong with insane conspiracy theory about COVID19 — are given a royal welcome in the West. If the anti-CCP person is reasonably smart, they can even get a Nobel prize.
Imagine if China and Russia were allowed to fund Antifa, Black Lives Matter, Native Americans, or undocumented immigrants in the US. That would cause a lot of chaos. This is why the US is paranoid about Russia interference and ruthlessly tries to shut down external influences such as Wikileaks and Julian Assange.
It’s like a guy who constantly sleeps around with other men’s wives … being highly sensitive to other men even smiling at his own wife.
**2. US government outsources restriction of freedom:
The US increasingly has embraced the Orwellian concept of thought police.
A clever way for controlling the narrative in the USA is the use of corporations — mainstream media and social media. As Noam Chomsky said, “Any dictator would admire the uniformity and obedience of the U.S. media.”
First, the media do a superb job of distracting the masses with cheap sensationalism.
And for those who dare to think out of the box, they will beaten down with the hammer of censorship. For example, YouTube censored whopping 11 million videos during a period of three months (Apr-Jun 2020). Where’s the free speech in USA?
However, Americans are brainwashed to say, “Oh, these are private corporations, and they can censor anyone they want!” Fact is that, social media giants like Facebook, Twitter, Google (YouTube) and others do the censorship on behalf of the US government and elites. In foreign policy issues, these media giants have censorship teams with people from western intelligence or think tanks who are funded by the foreign policy establishment.
Thus, when you hear 170,000 pro-China or pro-Russia accounts are deleted by Twitter or Google, it’s censorship by hidden hands.
Even if you’re an American, you don’t have much of freedom to be pro-peace, as renowned economist and professor Jeffrey Sachs found out. He was driven out of Twitter by mobs of thought police when he criticized the US ban on Huawei.
There are also other clever ways to censor speech — demonetizing YouTube accounts, eliminating them from search results, and numerous other clever techniques.
In domestic affairs, the US elites tolerated far-right groups for the last thirty years, since the groups were not effective. However, in the last four years, scared by Trump’s success, the powers that be have been quickly silencing the right-wingers. For example:
- Neo-Nazi website Stormfront was banned after existing for 25 years. US companies now wouldn’t even host his content.
- Former KKK leader David Duke was recently kicked out of Twitter after a decade.
- YouTube suddenly banned thousands of channels that are supposed to promote white supremacy.
- Crazy conspiracy theorists like Alex Jones, who were tolerated for a long time, also got de-platformed. Same with those who bought into the “QAnon” conspiracy theories.
- A harmless but not very intelligent Trump supporter — Bill Mitchell — was banned from Twitter this week, even though he had 580,000 followers.
So, why did the rules change? Because, as long as the economy was doing well, these people were on the fringe and didn’t threaten the system. However, with the decline of America’s prosperity and influence, these populists and nationalists now have the power to disrupt the social and political order.
Note that, during the era of Cold War and McCarthyism, the US censored and arrested a lot of people on the Left for being pro-communist. Thus, liberals shouldn’t celebrate the current crackdown on conservatives. It’s likely that “far-left” in the US will soon be punished for thoughtcrimes.
**3. Freedom works within the Overton window:
So, how much freedom do you have? Well, you have the freedom as long as:
- You stick to limited ideas, or
- Your crazy, revolutionary or anti-establishment ideas don’t get enough following.
This is the so-called “Overton Window.”
Freedom is a difficult concept that works only when people accept responsibility. There’s no such thing as unrestrained freedom — that will lead to chaos. People need to be trained to think, speak and debate rationally and objectively. However, an enlightened public is also bad for the oligarchs and plutocrats.
Countries should also respect sovereignty of one another and abstain from interfering in others’ internal affairs. If there are truly horrendous things happening in a country, the UN should investigate and help in a neutral, objective, and transparent way.
Truth shall set us free but, right now, there is too much propaganda, hypocrisy, and censorship everywhere …