Rebuttal of the film, "Obsession: Radical Islam's
War Against the West"
| Introduction | Content | Conclusion |
Propaganda is a tool of influence, a mechanism of subliminal coercion where the emotions and fears of a people or nation are manipulated for personal political gain. The movie Obsession: Radical Islam's War against the West is a classic example of such propaganda that presents a Western audience with a vision of an unreal Manichean world in which horror is being visited upon us and every second that passes is one that is lost to the forces of a fictional "Islamo-fascism": an ideology which seeks nothing more then to annihilate our very existence.
In Obsession, the filmmakers for all effects and purposes essentially melt and mold the Nazi swastika into the Islamic symbol of the star and crescent creating an image in the mind of the viewer that Islam and Nazism are one and the same. This deception is a clever ploy to enhance the feeling of paranoia and terror amongst the masses justifying the very mentality that lead us into the "pre- emptive war" and occupation of Iraq.
The movie is incoherent, contradictory, and inconsistent when analyzing the origins, history, motivations, and players in the so- called international global plot of radical Islam. In fact it gets the whole reality of this conflict wrong as it never focuses on the real problem: terrorism.
Instead it links groups who have no affiliation with one another, have opposing agendas, and are in some cases sworn enemies.
It cannot even come to an agreement as to the term to use in identifying this enemy: "Radical Global Islam," "Islamo- fascism," "Muslim Jihad terror" are all used interchangeably.
It unifies isolated regional issues with events in other parts of the world, and cherry picks sound bites and sensational images that are strategically deprived of their fuller context in an attempt to corroborate a preset ominous conclusion.
The filmmakers present themselves as making this movie out of an altruistic and righteous commitment to safe guard Western civilization from the horde of Muslim-Nazi barbarians, but their colorful cast of discredited characters passing as "experts" as well as its intellectually lazy and often downright disingenuous arguments - not to mention outrageous generalizations - give away its true and unambiguous agenda, an agenda closer in spirit to the infamous silent film Birth of a Nation.
A who's who of Islamophobes and Neo-Conservatives:
Many of the commentators are as we will come to see well-known virulent Islamophobes as well as outright right wing nut jobs associated with the worst trends in the Neo-conservative and Likudo-Zionist circles. Some of the commentators such as Walid Shoebat and Nonie Darwish are extremist Evangelical Christians who believe in a Dispensationalist theology in which, during the end times, Jesus will come and destroy the Jews while rapturing all who were born-again into heaven.
Walid Shoebat a member of Christians United for Israel (CUFI) and a self confessed "ex- terrorist" has stated, "Islam is not the religion of God – Islam is the devil." At other times as reported by the San Francisco Chronicle he has stated that Islam is a "Satanic Cult." He argued that Israel should retake the Gaza Strip and resettle Jews there, arguing that Gaza is Jewish by right. "If a Jew has no right to Gaza, then he has no right to Jaffa or Haifa either," he said. He advocates that the government of Greater Israel introduce a law exiling anybody who denies its right to exist, "even if they were born there."
Brigitte Gabriel described by NYT Magazine as a "radical Islamophobe" is some one who believes that "the difference between Israel and the Arab world is the difference between civilization and barbarism. It's the difference between good and evil…They have no soul!"
Daniel Pipes head of has stated that, "Western European societies are unprepared for the massive immigration of brown-skinned peoples cooking strange foods and maintaining different standards of hygiene... All immigrants bring exotic customs and attitudes, but Muslim customs are more troublesome than most" and that "In its long history of immigration, the United States has never encountered so violence- prone and radicalized a community as the Muslims who have arrived since 1965."
Steve Emerson a discredited self-styled terrorism expert whose prime goal according to a Wall Street Journal story is "to whitewash Israeli governments and revile their critics." Emerson claimed in a March 1995 article in Jewish Monthly, that Islam "sanctions genocide, planned genocide, as part of its religious doctrine."
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This section is organized by selected quotes from the film (in bold black underline) that are grouped together by theme (in red bold). The rebuttal to each argument made by each bundle of similar quotes is directly underneath it.
"Most Muslims are peaceful and do not support terror, this is not about them."
The movie begins with the above hollow disclaimer, it is as we come to see a useful caveat that allows the filmmakers to then go on and present the Muslim world as brimming with nothing but terrorists and extremists.
Often throughout the movie, the "experts" conveniently forgo all caveats that the problem is "Radical Islam" or a distinct subset of Muslims and revert to berating "Islam" itself as the problem, such as when Nonie Darwish states "the propaganda of Islam is similar to Nazism." Here she doesn't talk about radical Islam or even Islamo- fascism but the whole religion of Islam. This premeditated toggle between pretending to oppose radicalism and plunging into demonizing Islam and mainstream Muslims is put forth as a safe yet effective strategy to confuse audiences and leave them with a general aversion to all things Muslim.
"Radical Islam has declared a war against the West" - Khalid Toameh
This is a repeated propaganda point through out the film as John Loftus and Nonie Darwish state, "It's a declaration of war." We must ask who made this declaration of war, and how do terrorists who have no state affiliation or state authority declare war. Where are their standing armies, jets, tanks, and bases?
Terrorist groups pose a real threat that must be dealt with, but examples of individuals with radical personal views, while undesirable, do not equate to terrorism let alone a declaration of war. Radical thinkers and speakers exist within every culture and ideology and is nothing new.
As for the terrorists, the film misrepresents the fact that they are non- state organizations with limited resources and can not declare war as states do. This is dangerous because it deflects away from the real practical methods needed to combat terrorism, a unique threat different in nature from enemy state threats. It glosses over the real nature of terrorism and extremism which are the real culprits while concocting theories of some monolithic Islamo- fascism in its place.
The notion of a Global and United Radical Islamic Front:
"People don't want to feel like this is part of a single threat, because if you come to that conclusion, and I am sure its the right conclusion then you have to do something about it" - Martin Gilbert
"Every single country in the world is dealing with this on one level or another…all of these areas that we refer to as separate wars, the Palestinian war in Israel, the Iraq war; they see this as not specific wars but fronts in a global Jihad" – Caroline Glick
Extremism does exist in the Muslim world as do violent groups who resort to wanton violence, the most graphic example being 9/11, but we must not fall into the lazy temptation of lumping all these groups into one entity as it would be self- delusional.
The filmmakers regurgitate a popular neo-con talking point that we are facing a unified front that has permeated every single country in the world; a monolithic movement that is large, global in reach, and able to maneuver easily to and fro through Muslim borders with the support of governments.
We are provided with no information identifying this large monolithic group, its leaders, its ideology, or evidence of where, when and how they organized into such a gargantuan yet supremely-coordinated entity. Nor are we provided with any credible evidence as to why the Muslim mainstream would tolerate, let alone, support such a criminal enterprise. In fact, every Muslim country, including Saudi Arabia prosecutes any individuals remotely suspected of belonging to non-state militant movements or violent ideologies. Al Qaeda operatives, for example, would be sought, captured, and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law if identified anywhere from Malaysia to Egypt or Morocco to Kuwait.
It is telling, however, that we do not once see Bin Laden or his cohorts at anytime during the course of this one hour film. This is a shocking yet revealing observation that raises serious questions about the film's credibility in lieu of its stated title, "Radical Islam's War against the West." This glaring absence is the most damning evidence that Obsession has no genuine interest in the real problems that threaten our national security. Instead, it exploits genuine apprehension in this country in order to sell its own agenda-driven polemic that the West should declare war on Islam and its adherents. In concocting this fictitious threat, it cynically glosses over the group responsible for a majority of the terrorist attacks portrayed in the film against the West and Muslims.
"There is a silent majority not speaking out. I hope it's out of fear and not sympathy." - Khaled Toameh
The insinuation that Mainstream Muslims are apathetic or tolerant of radical violence is a myth promulgated by several individuals in the film. In fact the majority of Muslims have spoken out clearly and consistently as evidenced by their organizations' websites. Indeed, they have been at the forefront in condemning 9/11 and other attacks.
The film conveniently excludes footage of hundreds of thousands who took to the streets in Iran to deplore the attacks and show solidarity with New Yorkers. In the West, every major Islamic organization came out firmly against terrorism and sought practical ways to address the problem.
"10- 15% of Muslims in the world support militant Islam, while the percentage against Zionism and America is much more." - Daniel Pipes
"The number of terrorists is equal to the [entire] population of America." - Walid Shoebat
This is alarmist speculation. There is no evidence to support these highly exaggerated estimates. Neither Pipes nor Shoebat bother to provide any proof or to explain why such numbers would somehow be conveniently available to anti- Muslim bigots but not scholars or statisticians.
Scientific analysis paints a completely different reality from the lies told by Pipes and Shoebat. The Gallup Poll, for instance, addressed the issue in a scientific survey: "What about Muslim sympathy for terrorism? Many charge that Islam encourages violence more than other faiths, but studies show that Muslims around the world are at least as likely as Americans to condemn attacks on civilians. [LA Times]
"Hamas has the largest infrastructure of all terrorist organizations on American soil today." - Brigitte Gabriel
Once again, Brigitte Gabriel purports to have uncovered something that US law enforcement, the FBI, CIA and Department of Homeland Security have not. We are not provided with any evidence, just theories and blind accusations leveled against any and all functional American Muslim community organizations.
"They are not trying to be part of the American way of life, they are not trying to be a part of our culture, they are here with an agenda to make Islam the law of the land" – Nonie Darwish
Nonie implies that "they," presumably American Muslims, don't want to be a part of the American way of life and "they" are secretly attempting to make Islam the law of the land. It is important to note how such claims are never made by Muslims, but are always made by anti- Muslim pundits on their behalf. Furthermore, how does one make a religion which is a way of life and a set of moral and existential beliefs into the law of the land? Most American Muslims hail from lands in which Islam is not the law of the land despite over 90% Muslim majority populations. If that were their goal, why would they travel to a country in which Muslims number 2 to 4 million out of 300 million, according to Pew, and seek to establish that law there? More importantly, how can such a small percentage of citizens accomplish such an insurmountable task in a country that has as much transparency, checks and balances, conflicting interests, and powerful safeguards as the United States? Doesn't it make more sense to accept that Muslims have left their countries for America in pursuit of a higher standard of living and better opportunities like every other immigrant to the United States?
Darwish's claim also stands in stark contradiction to published reports that support the idea that Muslims are well integrated into American society and contribute to the well being of this country in all strands of our work force from government to family medicine to the convenient store down the block.
"There were numerous examples in American academia and media after 9/11 that placed the blame on American Imperialism around the world, papers and research stating they must be suffering so much, that it's imperialism… From Western eyes this seems logical, this message [that it's because of our foreign policy] was given in academia and a significant part of the media and this is unfortunate because it distracts the population from the real source of the problem which is an ideology that wants to destroy the West." - Itamar Marcus
"After 9/11 a lot of people in the West asked ‘why do they hate us?' and some of them even started blaming themselves. Looking at what America could have done. Is it our foreign policy…it's their duty to do Jihad." - Nonie Darwish
"This is a war against the West, against Judaism and Christianity." - Khalid Toameh
"They've been very clear about this, they're the same as Hitler's goals, kill all the Jews, crush the democracies, destroy Western Civilization, " - John Loftus
"It's very clear they want to Islamize the World" - Nonie Darwish
"Radical Islamic groups want to see the world unified under Islam" - John Loftus
The filmmakers are painfully aware that they obscure the simple reason why we, as opposed to the equally Western and affluent nations of Canada or Switzerland, face animosity from parts of the third world. They sought to pre- empt the logical refutation of this by attempting to criticize and delegitimize the more nuanced view that it has something to do with our foreign policy.
Bin Laden himself has publically stated that "If I wanted to attack some one because of freedom I would have attacked Sweden." In a revealing scene from the film we get a cut of the London terrorist bomber speaking in his video. The film choses to focus on a few sentences where he condemns the West for debauchery but glides over his admission as to why he ultimately decided to carry out this horrendous attack: the invasion and occupation of the Iraq war.
Itamar Marcus lays the blame on academics and the media whose investigation of the motivations and historical progression of Middle East terrorism leads them to suggest that it had something to do with our foreign policy: our unconditional support for Israel, tyrannical despots and dictators, coups and counter coups, as well as our opposition to democratic and constitutional movements in countries that we deem unfriendly to our strategic interests.
Looking at the analyses of government specialists and experts, we hear a similar line of reasoning to that of academic scholars. Michael Scheuer (ex- CIA head of the Bin Laden unit) publically stated that, "they attack us because we are over there." The analyses suggest that it isn't about their supposed envy, or jealousy of our freedom, or desire to destroy Western Civilization, and exterminate all Christians and Jews but our lack of what they perceive as a fair and balanced foreign policy, our intervention in their countries and occupation.
We should be clear that motivation and justification are two different animals. While the motivation for fighting us may be the above, this should not be taken as justification or excuse for illicit violent action. Terrorism can never be justified.
Once again, scientific analysis backs up this rebuttal. As the same Gallup poll research cited above concluded:
Moreover, it's politics, not piety, that drives the small minority -- just 7% -- of Muslims to anti-Americanism at the level of condoning the attacks of 9/11. Looking across majority-Muslim countries, Gallup found no statistical difference in self-reported religiosity between those who sympathized with the attackers and those who did not. When respondents in select countries were asked in an open- ended question to explain their views of 9/11, those who condemned it cited humanitarian as well as religious reasons. For example, 20% of Kuwaitis who called the attacks "completely unjustified" explained this position by saying that terrorism was against the teachings of Islam. A respondent in Indonesia went so far as to quote a direct verse from the Koran prohibiting killing innocents. On the other hand, not a single respondent who condoned the attacks used the Koran as justification. Instead, they relied on political rationalizations, calling the U.S. an imperialist power or accusing it of wanting to control the world. (Emphasis added)
"They tell Arab children that Jews bake cookies with their blood" - Nonie Darwish
"This is a war of propaganda in which the same techniques of subversion which we saw earlier with fascism and Nazism" - Robert Wistrich
The filmmakers have managed to present a litany of anti- Semitic nonsense from Arab TV including a TV program run on Hezbollah backed Al'Manar TV that gives in to the European idea that Jews use blood to make their bread.
While those images are unequivocally deplorable and should be condemned for what they are, they can in no way be used to equate Islam or even the threat of terrorism with historical Nazism. Secondly, in no way are they mainstream or normative expressions. In fact, they are bizarre and outrageous expressions by mainstream, normative standards anywhere from Cairo to Tehran.
Islam does not condone such outrageous remarks or beliefs. Having said that, it is not entirely unimaginable that the Arab world has its share of those who harbor absurd beliefs. In the West, there are individuals who harbor absurd beliefs about "the other" as well, including about Muslims. Shoebat himself, who is interviewed in this film, made the outlandish claim that "Palestinians keep Jewish testicles and breasts in jars," at a speech at a University in Milwaukee.
In a context of conflict in which both sides are demonizing one another, some Arabs have fallen prey to Anti- Semitism. Anti- Semitism is a form of bigotry. No form of bigotry is acceptable, regardless of context or conflict. As such, anti- Semitism must be fought whenever and wherever expressed. But it is another thing to make the false insinuation that ludicrous utterances of deviant individuals are officially sanctioned by Islam or mainstream Muslim society.
Islamic Global Jihad is akin to and even worse than Nazism:
"The propaganda of Islam is very similar to the propaganda of Nazism, it's the same hate speech, paranoia, us against them." - Nonie Darwish
"This threat which is like World War II, if we ignore it we will have millions dead." - Martin Gilbert
"Yes people think about it Jihad means self struggle, struggle within but so does Mein Kampf. Mien Kampf means My Struggle." –Walid Shoebat
"The world is reaping what these eggs are hatching and what's coming out is literally something from Nazi Germany." - Walid Shoebat
"We were enlightened people and we fell for this, why wouldn't Muslims fall for this?" - Alfons Heck
"What the Muslims do to their own children is worse than Hitler." - Alfons Heck
"A secular dogma like Nazism is less dangerous than this Islamo- fascism we see today. It's less dangerous because Islamo- fascism has a religious twist to it. It's God the All- Mighty ordering you to do this not the Fuhrer, so it's way more dangerous. It's trying to grow itself in 55 Muslim states so you can possibly have a success rate of several Nazi Germanys if these people get their way." - Walid Shoebat
This is the most egregious part of the film, a portion in which Islam is likened to Nazism and then declared to be worse than Nazism. This part of the film is little more than pure propaganda worthy of Goebbels. By this portion of the film, the thin disguise of benevolence wears off the film and its anti- radical façade is shed in place of full blown hyperbole. At this point, the filmmakers spur hysteria and play on the emotions of the audience by making them feel guilty for being "complacent" in the face of the "Nazi enemy."
The history and horrors of World War II are still fresh in the minds of the West. The destruction and toll of the gas chambers and the threat to our existence posed by Hitler and Mussolini is seared in our collective consciousness. It is therefore despicable the way the filmmakers use this historic trauma to peddle their own agenda and stoke peoples' fears.
Walid Shoebat, hardly an "expert" on the Second World War, attempts to link the Munich accords to how the West is dealing with terrorism. (In the Munich accords, Neville Chamberlain allowed Germany to annex Sudetenland from Czechoslovakia in return for peace)
This was the doctrine known as "appeasement" and is in no shape or form comparable to our context today. We are not fighting an industrial military power such as Germany that is asking us to cede land or threatens the sovereignty of a nation, but rag- tag minorities of extremists hell- bent on seeing us remove our bases from their countries as well as end our unconditional support of Israel.
In fact, the manner in which most of the West responded to Al Qaeda's attacks was exactly the opposite of "appeasement." Most Western nations invaded Afghanistan where those who plotted many of the attacks took sanctuary; America also invaded Iraq, a country that had nothing to do with terrorism. Going to war with two countries can hardly be coined as "appeasement."
Shoebat, in his frenzy to link Islam with Nazism, also assumes the role of reinterpreting Islamic theology. He takes the concept of Jihad meaning "struggle towards betterment" and projects a meaning that has no correlation to the word. He associates Hitler's book Mien Kampf, which is filled with anti- Semitism to the Islamic spiritual concept that has enabled millions to self- empowerment against poverty, pain, suffering, etc.
The fear mongering continues as ex- Nazi leader of the Hitler Youth, Alfons Heck, shows that he has not really recanted his racist ways by stating, "We were enlightened people and we fell for this, why wouldn't Muslims fall for this?" He implies that if we "enlightened" people could have fallen for Nazism why can't "unenlightened, barbaric" Muslims fall for it?
The Mufti and the Nazis:
"Hitler and his propaganda section made a great effort to win over the Arab peoples of the Middle East" - Martin Gilbert
"We see that the undisputed leader of the Palestinian Arab national movement of the 1920's, 30's and 40's, the Mufti of Jerusalem was a fervent admirer of Adolph Hitler" - Robert Wistrich
"The Mufti was one of the founders of the radical Islamic Movement" - Martin Gilbert
"It seems strange to us that a Mufti, who was not a pure Aryan was being received by Hitler, but they said no we have the same goal which is the extermination of the Jews" - Alfons Heck
"The Mufti was sent to the Balkans where he raised a Bosnian Muslim SS division" - Martin Gilbert
Much is made in the movie about the Mufti of Jerusalem who during British occupation met with Hitler.
The attempt here, of course, is to project 21st century issues onto the past and to create a link by saying that this Global Islamic radical movement is not new but that it existed in the past and even actively took part in the holocaust.
This is pure sensationalism. It is ludicrous to subjectively thrust our 21st century biases onto the geopolitical drama of the 30's and 40's.
The fact is that America and the allies didn't even know the extent of the holocaust or the extermination of European Jewry so how was the Mufti of Jerusalem supposed to know?
It is unfortunate, but not surprising that he wasn't averse to dealing with Germany when it was at war with Britain which was occupying Palestine, or that he wasn't partial to the plight of European Jews since he feared a Jewish state would be created on Palestinian land.
According to Hitler's Aryan perspective, the Mufti of Jerusalem should have theoretically been exterminated for his Semitic roots. The Mufti was in fact more Semitic, not less Semitic, than the European Jews Hitler was after. Yet the Mufti was greeted by Hitler who was at war with the British. This is a classic case of "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" rather than an acceptance of the Mufti on the part of Hitler.
Likewise, from the Mufti's perspective, Germany was a strategic ally in so far as they were fighting the occupiers of his land, not in that he subscribed to their Aryan philosophy. Throughout history, especially during the turmoil of the 20th century's great wars, many unholy alliances were forged in order to safeguard physical or political survival.
This does not absolve the Mufti from criticism. He may rightly be accused of political and even moral expediency. But to reinterpret history in order to contrive a scenario that fits some kind of contiguous "Islamofascism" that binds Jerusalem's Mufti with Bin Laden, Saddam , Hamas, Ahmadinejad, and other 21st century phenomena, that are themselves unrelated, is simply revisionist absurdity.
The price we must pay:
"Ultimately what we're talking about is the price of freedom, every generation I think we're called upon at some point to stand up for that ideal." - Robert Wistrich
We are told that what is ultimately at stake is our very "freedom." Doesn't this sound familiar? It is the same Neo- Con tripe that led us to invade and occupy Iraq and is the same rhetoric used to beat the drums of a new war with Iran.
What price of freedom is Wistrich referring to? Is it the price of protecting our freedom or of taking others? Is it the price of eroding our liberties?
"It's the duty of all moderate Muslims to speak against the hate, against the Jihad… the people in the West must support the moderates, the very few who are speaking out" – Brigitte Gabriel
Here Moderate Muslims – the "very few" at that - are told what their responsibilities are by Gabriel who seems to believe in moderate Muslims. A surprising statement to see coming out of the mouth of Brigitte Gabriel since she has gone on the record in a New York Times interview about her book They Must be Stopped saying: "The moderate Muslims at this point are truly irrelevant." It seems that Brigitte has a problem with double speak. It is also cynical advice coming from someone the New York Times Magazine describes as a "radical Islamophobe."
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The movie ends with the statement of Edmund Burke, "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." This is indeed a fitting conclusion for this propaganda film. Those who view this Islamophobic documentary must take a stand against the producers and the funders of this fear- mongering claptrap whose agenda it is to spread fear of Islam and Muslims and equate Islam with Nazism, all the while ignoring real terrorism and extremism.
The film has little credibility given the cast of shady characters that the filmmakers chose to present as experts and specialists on this complex topic and the absence of real experts and scholars of reputable standing.
Recently, the Clarion Fund, a shadowy entity that owns distribution rights to Obsession has begun a campaign to distribute millions of free DVD copies in newspapers around the country. More alarming is the fact that these copies are being specifically targeted at swing states in the up coming 2008 presidential election.
As Jews on First reports: "The markets chosen for the inserts by the financing organization, the Clarion Fund, have prompted news reports that questioned whether distribution of the video is aimed at building support for the Republican presidential campaign in potential swing states. In a report on its own insertion of the DVD, the Raleigh- Durham News & Observer noted: "Some have wondered if the distribution is intended to influence voters in swing states for this year's presidential election."
Clarion fund has yet to reveal where they get their funding or who sits on their board. Their director of communications Glenn Ross has denied attempting to influence the election or any sort of partisanship, "We make a distinct point of reminding people that we are not trying to influence the elections"
However this is contradicted by several reports, including one on Editor & Publisher, that said that"a Clarion Fund website, radicalislam.org, had posted an article endorsing McCain that was removed after questions were raised about it."
Furthermore, Tom Trento who heads watchobsession.org distributed DVD's of the film to delegates at both the Democratic and Republican National Convention "to awaken the country -- to get everyone in the country to watch the video before the election so everyone can "see the insidious nature of radical Islam." Trento said that his group's website then directs viewers of the video to "a scorecard that shows how elected officials have voted" on terrorism- related issues so they can decide "how they can intelligently vote" in November."
The scorecard is on the website of actforamerica.org, a group that says it has tabulated electeds' "votes related to national security and the threat of Islamofascism." Its Senate scorecard consistently favors Republicans over Democrats, with Sen. John McCain scoring 58 and Senators Barack Obama and Joseph Biden each scoring 25."
It becomes clear from this information that this film is not an objective analysis of the problems plaguing the world or the West. It is not an honest estimation of the threats that we face from extremism and terrorism, rather it is a propaganda tool used by the far right to instill fear in the people and thereby win their votes while setting the groundwork for more wars in the Middle East.
Americans and all people of conscious should take a stand and say we will not be manipulated by fear mongering and blind hate realizing that Obsession's creators are nothing but replicas and mirror images of the extremist and terrorist that we are fighting.
In the end, as Noam Chomsky stated, "Propaganda is to democracy what the bludgeon is to a totalitarian state." Meaning propaganda can affect, influence and coerce a society to the same or greater degree as if it were brute force.
It remains to be seen if we Americans will stand for that.
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