With Journalism Persecuted, The United States Is Now At Event Horizon To A Police State

Glenn Greenwald, the Guardian reporter who published Edward Snowden’s leaks, was recently suggested to be a criminal for shining light on the NSA’s abuse of power. This is a key identifiable step when societies close down; it is a point of no return. It seems the United States is reaching the event horizon to a police state.

To understand the pattern when societies close down, we need to look at other societies that have done so. There is much we can learn from history in terms of what happened in recent times. Let’s take a very well-known sequence of events in modern history as an example here, just to illustrate:

When the famous skyline landmark building in the world’s economic center was attacked in fire and flames on that fateful, horrible day, and our elected leaders decided to go to war against terrorism in a “you’re with us or against us”, there is something to learn from that. When the blame for all evil was unanimously put on people from the Middle East with their foreign religion, and all of them were made suspicious, there is something to learn from that. When patriotic new laws were passed almost immediately in the emotions from the attack, and those laws suspended most civil rights (even if those laws had a sunset provision, one that would never be reached). When the word “Homeland” suddenly started being used again, after having been practically extinct. When the country went to war, one after another, in the wake of that attack. When internment and torture camps for those middle-easterners and other unwanteds were created – outside the country borders, in order to hide what was going on from the public. Indeed, the 1930s were a very dark time, and the Reichstag fire in Berlin set off a chain of events that might – theoretically – repeat itself.

While this may seem a trivial observation, it is critical in this context: people tend to be focused on what affects them in the here and now. While some people can connect the dots and follow the line with their eyes into the future, the vast majority of people don’t bother with something that doesn’t affect them directly, personally, and in the present. In 1932, families were still skating in the park in Berlin on weekends. All that nasty stuff was theoretical, rumored, and somewhere else. People who look ahead and try to sound the alarm bell tend to be regarded as tinfoil hats, eccentric, and nuts.

One of the first things that happens past the point of no return into a police state is the persecution of reporters. As a society is closing down, those persecuted first are those with the audience and an interest in reporting the worrying trends that society seems to be closing. This is the proverbial canary in the coal mine. This is the alarm bell. Once that happens, get out of the mine.

An event horizon is a term from astrophysics. It is the edge of a black hole – so the event horizon appears like a black sphere, if you like. Nothing, not even light, can escape from within the event horizon – hence the term black hole. But if you were traveling through space, in direction of the black hole (which may be as large as an entire solar system), then you would notice absolutely nothing as you crossed the event horizon. You would pass a point of no return, and register not a single thing while doing so. The analogy is depressingly apt.

I’ve written before that I believe that the U.S. is lost to encroaching totalitarianism, which it will likely endure for a number of years before it collapses under its own weight (as all empires do sooner or later). With Edward Snowden being hunted relentlessly across the globe for leaking evidence of systematic abuse of power, Glenn Greenwald – who published Snowden’s leaks – was recently criticized for aiding and abetting the leak itself. This is a key choice of words, for aiding and abetting a crime is itself a crime – the wording suggested that the reporter who published evidence of abuse of power is himself a criminal.

It is notable that Julian Assange was hunted and disrespected in the same manner when he published Manning’s leaks in the role of the publishing reporter, by the way.

Now, it should be said that this reporter weren’t formally hunted by law enforcement. That’s actually secondary. It’s not necessary – the fact that the sentiment exists at all in society, that a reporter is criminal for doing his job, has enormous chilling effects and progresses the closing-down. But reporters are being formally persecuted as well.

Take the example of Barrett Brown. He published a lot of material that was inconvenient and embarrassing to the government – which is a reporters’ job – and was put under investigation for it. At that point, he did the crucial mistake of threatening the FBI agents who were harassing him and his family in a YouTube video, which is an act that doesn’t go unpunished in the United States. He was arrested and charged with something serious enough – but over time, the charges grew to the whole Christmas tree. Particularly, Brown was charged with publishing the leaks in the first place. In other words, Brown was charged with the crime of doing his exact job as a reporter. He has currently been in detention without bail for 291 days, and pretty much nothing is seen in oldmedia about it.

That’s crossing the event horizon.

Rick Falkvinge

Rick is the founder of the first Pirate Party and a low-altitude motorcycle pilot. He lives on Alexanderplatz in Berlin, Germany, roasts his own coffee, and as of right now (2019-2020) is taking a little break.


  1. Carl

    Thank you, Rick! Thanks for fighting for our rights (or, in many cases, what used to be our rights…)!

  2. Zeissmann

    Exactly, the same thing crossed my mind already a couple of years ago. But there is a mystery here I don’t understand. In Germany there was a psychopath obsessed with power and hatred and the bad economy worked to his advantage. But what’s driving the change in the US? G.W. Bush started the whole mess going, but he didn’t collect, after all he is not a dictator and won’t be. Obama doesn’t look like someone who would play in the same team as Bush, yet he’s pushing for the same catastrophic changes. So who’s controlling it? Or maybe this is just how history goes? Maybe the US is simply rotting from within, without anyone conspiring against its freedom?

    1. Rick Falkvinge

      I think Herr Hitler is given much too much credit for the events that took place in Germany. Once the peace terms of World War I were set in a way that would humiliate and bankrupt Germany, World War II was inevitable. I see it as a continuation of WW1.

      The sentiments of resentment and unfairness were practically inevitable. The details in execution may have varied with the name on the leader, but I doubt the overall events would have.

      Also, don’t forget the guy was democratically elected during the Weimar Republic (even if one could discuss how well the elections worked, they were still held and respected). By pointing at this, I mean to infer that whoever would have stood up and said that the peace conditions were grossly unfair and that Germany needed to do something about it would probably have gotten votes. Hence, I see WW2 as a continuation of WW1, quite regardless of the names of the actual players.

      Was it necessary to close down society to continue WW1 in WW2? Maybe. Maybe not. But that’s how it happened, and that gives us a data point for how it can be done that rhymes well with other such processes.


      1. FiveGreenLeafs


        I get the feeling that your argument in part resonate with the toughts of Hannah Arendt. I am just reading “The Origin of totalitarianism” myself, and can only urgently recommend everyone to do it.

        In reference to your comment in particular, Arendts stance is, as far as I understand, that the historical threads that leads up to “Hitler”, is both more general, and historically older then a direct result of the outcome of WWI.

        It might be somewhat misleading to focus on the peace condition, and it might distract from the more fundamental underlying forces at play. It is well to remember that several totalitarian or highly authoritarian regimes came into being during this historical period.

        The same forces were in evidence in many other countries beyond Germany/Austria/Russia, for example France, and it is only in historical hindsight that the the situation in France so completly pales and fades into the background, in comparison to Nazi Germany.

        I am concerned, that by focusing on the Nazis, everyone will be looking for “marching black boots”, when the next totalitarian regime could equally well be heralded by black oxfords, or pairs of sensible orthopedic shoes…

      2. FiveGreenLeafs

        In regard to Hannah Arendt and The Origin of Totalitarianism, 1951, (Random House, 2004), excepts from page 559-560

        “The Okhrana, the Czarist predecessor of the GPU, is reported to have invented a filing system in which every suspect was noted on a large card in the center of which his name was surrounded by a red circle; his political friends were designated by smaller red circles and his nonpolitical acquaintances by green ones; brown circles indicated persons in contact with friends of the suspect but not known to him personally; cross-relationships between the suspect’s friends, political and nonpolitical, and the friends of his friends were indicated by lines between the respective circles.

        Obviously the limitations of this method are set only by the size of the filing cards, and, theoretically, a gigantic single sheet could show the relations and cross-relationships of the entire population. And this is the Utopian goal of the totalitarian secret police. It has given up the traditional old police dream which the lie detector is still supposed to realize, and no longer tries to find out who is who, or who thinks what.


        This old dream was terrible enough and since time immemorial has invariably led to torture and the most abominable cruelties. There was only one thing in its favor: it asked for the impossible. The modern dream of the totalitarian police, with its modern techniques, is incomparably more terrible. Now the police dreams that one look at the gigantic map on the office wall should suffice at any given moment to establish who is related to whom and in what degree of intimacy; and, theoretically, this dream is not unrealizable although its technical execution is bound to be somewhat difficult. If this map really did exist, not even memory would stand in the way of the totalitarian claim to domination; such a map might make it possible to obliterate people without any traces, as if they had never existed at all.”

      3. Tom Jeffries

        Remember that Hitler was financed by the German armament manufacturers who wanted to get past the restrictions laid down by the end of WW1. US politicians are financed by similar groups.

        I wish I didn’t agree with Rick’s article, but I do. We’re there.

    2. mentorian

      Follow the money… Who profits?
      Then, as now, there were the big companies.

      1. pwq

        I quite convinced this is he case. The amount of money companies funnel into politics is staggering, and of course they expect a good ROI. Specifically: New american nation: The Military-Industrial Complex

    3. Sotarr The Wizard

      Well, at least from **MY** POV, the difference between Bush II and Obama, is that Bush was reactive, and Obama is pro-active. If 9/11 hadn’t happened, think what ALSO wouldn’t have happened:

      The PATRIOT Act

      The Transportation Security Administration

      The Department of Homeland Security (which, until 9/11, was only being pushed by Senator Lieberman. . . .)

      The massive militarization and wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

      . . . .and thus, the Security State which evolved out of that mix.

      Obama merely took the reigns of what crystallized, and DIRECTED it towards his ideological ends. Massively empowering the Bureaucracy in particular (which follows from massive, 1000+ page bills that no politician actually READS much of before voting on it. . .)

      We painted **ourselves** into this corner. My fears are, that we won’t have the courage to get paint on our shoes, politically. . .

      1. Ninja

        Call me a conspiracy nut but even if you don’t consider 9/11 to be orchestrated by the US Govt (and their corporate masters) themselves they took advantage of what happened to further adapt the laws and the society to their ultimate goal which is complete control. Supposing 9/11 never happened there would probably be some event sooner or later with those proportions given the general hatred Americans have generated around the globe. But even if ultimately 9/11 had never existed nor any major event they’d still find enemies and advance towards totalitarianism. How long has the US been at war now? Russians, Vietnamese, Afghanistan, Iraq, China, Hackers (those are rather effective because they are subjective you can attribute much more threat than reality). The lack of consistent opposition for the bipartisan system is one of the core issues behind this inevitable development.

    4. Toni

      “But what’s driving the change in the US?”

      Corporations are people, my friend…

      1. Andy

        Corporations are not people, they are persons (legalese). Get it right.

  3. Anonymous

    the one thing you haven’t mentioned Rik, is that the UK, a party of the EU, is doing the exact same thing! it is backing the USA and blaming Snowden for releasing the information. it has forbidden airlines from allowing him to board a plane bound for the UK. it seems to me that there is a two-pronged attack coming. one from the USA itself and one from within the EU via the UK! if that is the case, we are well and truly screwed and when you look at what started this whole issue, as ridiculous as it seems, it stems from the entertainment industries and their constant bribing of politicians to introduce new, more harsh laws, permitting surveillance on the ordinary people. although these laws were purported to be to stop copyright infringement and illegal ‘file sharing’, the obvious next step is where we are at today, being watched from morning til night, with all phone calls, text messages, letters and speech being looked at, listened to or recorded. we are indeed on the brink and if we take that extra step, then we are going to be completely screwed! the films about ‘The Terminator’ are oh so close to becoming reality!!

    1. Rainfall

      Whilst i do not support much of what the UK goverment has been doing in the last few years, their decision to bar Snowden from entering the country seems like a good move to me.

      If Snowden was inside the UK then most likey they would be forced to hand him over to the USA, so by preventing airlines from allowing him to board they appear to be against him whilst also protecting him.

      Its not much of an excuse, but i can’t think of many other reasons – it would be much easier to catch Snowden wer he to travel to the UK.

  4. Caleb Lanik

    This is literally the first I have ever heard of Barrett Brown. Gotta love the crack job the media does these days.

    1. Rick Falkvinge

      There are several more similar examples.

      1. Sotarr The Wizard

        None of which, of course, will get ANY mention in the Mainstream Media, and only pop up on the far-less-trafficed Alternative Media.

  5. Colin

    Hi Anonymous,
    Why the UK thinks for one naqnosecond that Edward Snowden would want to go to the UK, Amerika’s European lickspittle, is beyond me, but never mind.

    I strongly suspect that the entertainment/copywrong mafia are not the leaders in attacking our rights to privacy and free speech, but rather a front for darker forces who seriously plan to rule the world. Call them the 1%, the New World Order or whatever, but beware. They work in the shadows stirring up wars to benefit Lockheed Martin, eternal copywrong to benefit News Corporation, Sony etc. However, their main objective is not just money but world domination.

    Perhaps the internet, by decentralising communications, can help push back against these evil people.

    1. Anonymous

      that may be true but, if they, whoever they are, have the power and wealth to start this off, what else can they be getting? they already have more power and more wealth than anybody could possibly want or need.
      as for the UK, they have become an extension of the USA. they do as they are told, they say what they are told. they are in full agreement with the spying and the surveillance, but just as noticeable, they are following the same road that the USA did on copyright. that is even to the point of saying that it is (or will be) legal for people to make copies of their legally purchased disks. however, exactly the same kicker comes in as it did in the USA, you cant circumvent or bypass the DRM on disks. now forgive me for being perhaps thick here but HOW CAN YOU MAKE A LEGAL COPY FOR PERSONAL USE OF A LEGALLY BOUGHT DISK IF YOU CANT BYPASS OR CIRCUMVENT THE FUCKING DRM? sorry, but talk about a leaf out of another’s book! this is exactly what happened in the US. the UK seems as if it hasn’t got the sense, the decency or the balls to go do anything by itself.
      i personally think the UK should leave the EU. i think financially it will be better off, but if it did and joined with the USA even more than it is now, i think that would be a disaster! the USA seems to me to be heading down a slippery slope to oblivion and it will take with it any country that is daft enough to join it. if the UK stays in the EU, the USA will have a partner on the ‘inside’ who will keep feeding information, discussing tactics and be trying to undermine the EU in favour of the USA. look also at the various ‘trade agreements/negotiations’ all of which are instigated by the USA and all of which, not only are they discussed in want rules brought in that benefits the USA and USA companies to maximum effect, the other countries are bullied into signing even knowing their own country is going to be substantially worse off. how ridiculous is that? and dont forget that 99% of these ‘negotiations’ are purposefully done in secret so as to keep the people uninformed of what crap is in them and how they are going to be screwed yet again!! businesses, however, are in on the ground floor, telling the negotiators exactly what they want included so as to better their own industries and sod any other!! that’s what you call a fair, negotiated, agreement? i think not!!

  6. MC

    Good article, one which i broadly agree with. The US rally is probably past the event horizon of a totalitarian state, and its a great analogy.

    Slight technical error though, there are no black holes as large as galaxies, the supermassive ones at the CENTER of galaxies may have a horizon about as wide as our solar system, and it is only a hole of this size which you could cross the horizon without feeling it. Smaller solar mass holes have such a severe gravitational gradient that you would be stretched out into spaghetti by the time you reach the horizon.

    Other than that though, its a great analogy. A state system really does have a point of no return, and theyre probably past it. And it was also important to emphasise that there is no official warning of officialness or something when a society gets close, it is up to every citizen to subjectively judge it for themselves and act accordingly, hopefully with the help of a functioning media. That is where we have all failed on both counts (yet again, judging from history) and now the only way out is through. Just dont have kids, i suppose.

    1. Rick Falkvinge

      Thanks, updated this part. I may have thinking too much of my college studies in theoretical physics, Swartzschild radii et cetera. I remember doing math on a galaxy-sized black hole, which is probably where that came from; thanks for pointing out that they don’t actually exist. 🙂

      1. Mind

        ” thanks for pointing out that they don’t actually exist”

        As far as we know, maybe we find one in the future 🙂

    2. Dennis Nilsson

      “there are no black holes as large as galaxies”

      How is it possible that you have the knowledge to know that? Are you Mr. God himself. We, the mankind, is only at the start on the quest for the knowledge about universe.

    3. Neil Bartlett

      There isn’t really a “point of no return” when you’re talking about states. Germany came back after Hitler, Italy hanged Mussolini, and so on. Though it seems to require the complete destruction of the old state so that a new, free one can be built in its place.

      Maybe Hawking radiation would be the appropriate analogy 😉

      1. Ninja

        What he means is that it’s a point of no return towards totalitarianism. Sure it will be reverted but not before a whole freaking lot of damage is done. 5 million Jewish, anyone?

  7. Lars
  8. Anon

    It still amazes me that people aren’t up in arms about this crap. There were hundreds of thousands protesting during the ‘Occupy’-period. Protesting PRISM and the general consensus that we need protection by relinquishing our rights in the process, shouldn’t be far-fetched.

    Apathy is the most dangerous state to be in when shit goes down. And it is really going down at the moment.

    I also really want to start using Dropbox again because it is a really good service, but I just can’t bring myself to put anything remotely private on it now, even if I have encrypted it first.

    1. Sotarr The Wizard

      We’ve been painstakingly conditioned to be quiet and not stick our heads up: the nail that sticks up, gets hammered down.

      That’s why BOTH major US Parties see the Tea Party as a danger: they are NOT listening to “their betters”. . .

  9. Ano Nymous

    What is the difference between terrorism and the fourth box, from the governments point of view? None.

    In the EU, pretty much everything that could be used as terror tools, such as guns and explosives is, and have for a long time been, heavily regulated. Now they are starting to regulate “precursors” for explosives too.

    I don’t know how it is in the USA, but the police state has come futher there than here. On the other hand, USA has a reputation of guns being easy to get, even though Obama is changing that.

    No matter what, the point is that terrorism and fourth box action is very similar. The only real difference is if the people support it. The laws against terrorism is maybe not against terrorism, but to prevent the American people from rising up against their government if and when they feel that it is necessary.

    Could the laws even have more effect against that than against terrorism? I mean, in a war against a mad government, said government can do ANYTHING against the people. Suspicion that someone is making weapons or bombs is enough to bomb the neighbourhood to smithereens.

    Then, if say, ammonium nitrate is prohibited, and an electronic nose (which is the size of a car roof ski box, but is being developed into smaller units) carried by a drone, searching for bomb chemicals, finds it, only a press of a button is needed to obliterate the source.

    This feels scary and wrong, writing about violence as something that might be needed and supported by the people. Both in itself, and what it might tell the FRA, SÄPO, etc, about me, that I am thinking about that.

  10. Anonymous

    Yes, the situation the United States is going through right now fits perfeclty into the profile of all the older big empires that went nuts.
    And so more surveillnce, more abuse of power and of course, chasing those that seek to inform the public of what is going on.
    But there is one, one big relly big difference between all the previous police states and empires.
    They didn’t have the internet.
    I really hope tht this time the internet can be a game changer, people being able to leak information so easily, everyone can be a reporter, we can all record, share and publish information now and there are many places online where people can share that information and discuss it, and the government might start going after them and after those places just like they did in the past but it is much easier to find a place to expose injustice anonymously to a lot of people today than it was in the past.

    So being able to share a story on twitter, facebook, youtube, tumblr, might all make a difference. Even if CNNwill never talk about the serious matters, people might know.
    Decentralization of news is key now.

  11. Dennis Nilsson

    A little bit of positivism!

    I encourage anyone to watch “Lives of Others”, a powerful Deeply inspiring and moving cold war-era movie about an East German Stasi agent, spying on others and coming to terms with his conscience.

    This was pure art conveying the cruelty and goodness of humanity: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Veag-ptUkXI

  12. Ademo

    On a smaller scale I personally did 60 days in a county jail for wiretapping public officials. And what they mean by wiretapping is recording comment of police abuse by those who tried to cover it up. Visit CopBlock.org/freeademo to learn more.

  13. Ano Nymous

    “I’ve written before that I believe that the U.S. is lost to encroaching totalitarianism, which it will likely endure for a number of years before it collapses under its own weight (as all empires do sooner or later). ”

    Will this one really collapse? Sure there has never been such good communication between people before, but there has also never been so much surveillance before!

    In USSR, DDR etc. it was impossible to keep track of everyone’s movements, opinions, and so on, so they kept track of as many as possible and said that they kept track of everyone.

    This time they really can keep track of everyone. And use the data, with behaviour recognition and prediction software.

    If they literally know what everyone is going to do next before they know it themselves, do you really think anyone has a chance to stop them?

    1. Ninja

      The US has the largest debt in the world… It will either adapt with lower military coverage around the globe and less expenditure in all the security madness or… It’ll go down. Nose dive.

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