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(American Thinker) — There have been murmurs for at least the last ten years about the potential for civil war in the United States. Polls have shown that roughly half the country believes that future conflict is likely. The intrusion of unchecked government power into every crevice of our private lives has transformed politics into a high-stakes cage match in which furious citizens fight to survive. Because government exerts so much control over citizens, winning control of government has become an existential imperative. Such zero-sum thinking has fractured society and pitted Americans against one another.

However, something fundamental has been shifting beneath our feet. If you look at how civil conflict has been discussed on websites and internet forums over recent years, a noticeable trend emerges. Talk of “civil war” between various coalitions of states transformed into calls for “independence” from tyrannical government on par with America’s 1776 founding. In turn, calls for an American-style “revolution” against government abuse have transformed into the kind of rage against a “permanent ruling class” that existed before the French Revolution and the Reign of Terror.

This shift is significant. “Civil war” connotes a feeling that Americans will be fighting one another. A “1776-style struggle for Independence” reflects a belief that the federal government must be brought to heel. Widespread discussions of how to rid the country of an unaccountable bureaucracy with more allegiance to fellow globalists from the World Economic Forum than to fellow citizens from America’s heartland reveal a growing recognition of and antipathy for an entrenched ruling aristocracy.

Governments don’t mind when citizens quarrel. In fact, that old “divide and conquer” scheme is Washington’s favorite tactic for keeping Americans too busy fighting one another to notice what kind of mischief is going on in D.C. Governments would prefer that citizens not speak about “freedom” or “liberty” because those ideas are antithetical to bureaucratic mandates, institutional power-grabs, and rhetorical appeals to authority. Still, so long as an Orwellian news media establishment and a Machiavellian political class can work together to impugn “liberty” as “selfish” or “hateful,” then the powers that be largely succeed in twisting the meaning of “freedom” into a love for Big Government policies or a patriotic subservience to the State. However, when ordinary people begin to set aside their differences and instead turn their fury toward those holding the reins of power, well, “Katie, bar the door – trouble’s brewing!”

There is an understandable tendency to look at the growth of government-directed censorship, warrantless surveillance, and political persecution as proof that Americans will soon be under the yoke of full-fledged totalitarianism. That is a real and threatening possibility. However, petulant and steel-booted policies meant to terrorize and dishearten citizens also reflect a growing fear among the “ruling elite.” You do not spend three years hunting down patriotic grandmas and selfless veterans who attended the January 6 protest for free and fair elections unless you are terrified that a critical mass of people sees rampant election fraud as a Uniparty weapon for maintaining illegitimate control. You do not set up “disinformation” review boards or pretend public debate is a “threat to national security” unless you are frightened of what ordinary people have to say. You do not spy on people’s financial transactions, text messages, and social media posts unless you view every single American as a danger to the State. Rapid technological advancements have given government authorities unsavory tools for pursuing unconstitutional, illegal, and immoral policies against the American people, but those authorities would not be so openly hostile to the public or flagrantly dismissive of their constitutional obligations if they were not already afraid.

They should be. The single greatest social transformation in several centuries is occurring right now. A transnational consensus is growing among ordinary citizens that coercive government is dangerous wherever it exists.

No longer does a Cold War mentality successfully corral national populations into an “East vs. West” or “Us vs. Them” cognitive prison. Western governments that conveniently partition the world into “democracies” and “autocracies” betrayed their own distinction when they imposed COVID policies as brutally stringent as those of any communist dictatorship. No longer do our puppeteers successfully divide us into two opposing camps – one fighting unrestrained government power and the other fighting unrestrained corporate power. The illusion of self-government has been shattered, and a broader public appreciation has taken hold that recognizes the convergence of financial and political interests at the expense of democratic principles and human rights. No longer are those most eager to profit from the death and destruction of war capable of flipping a switch to turn patriotic citizens into willing sacrifices for a “ruling class” that never seems to have common people’s best interest in mind. Decades of costly wars with questionable strategic aims, battlefield betrayals, the moral ambiguity of occupying foreign lands, the resettling of millions of foreigners into our homelands, and the constantly shifting definition of which nation, group, or tribe is now the “enemy” have all produced much more discerning civilians unwilling to die for Bill Kristol’s, Hillary Clinton’s, Nikki Haley’s, or Liz Cheney’s next call to arms.

The U.S. and other Western governments know this to be true. It is why the United Kingdom’s new “Online Safety Act” criminalizes the publishing of “false information,” unless that false information is coming from mainstream media corporations. It is why the European Union’s “Digital Services Act” seeks to stifle public debate on social media platforms. It is why the U.S. Senate is pushing through legislation ostensibly meant to protect children from online threats and to protect adults from the dangers of Chinese propaganda that will nonetheless be used to censor “politically incorrect” and un-“woke” points of view from the internet. It is why the Biden administration is funding A.I. research programs that can be used to seek and destroy government-defined “misinformation.” It is why the White House successfully pressured Amazon to suppress the sale of disfavored books. And it is why political figures across the West had a conniption fit when they discovered that Tucker Carlson was conducting a journalistic interview with Russian president Vladimir Putin. Such is the state of free speech in the West that a panoply of petty tyrants representing America, the U.K., and continental Europe all called for Carlson to face severe punishment for having the temerity to engage in unsanctioned journalism. The blurry line between “democracies” and “autocracies” has vanished.

This should not have to be said, but no society can be described as “free” unless that society can engage in free speech. Likewise, there can be no free speech unless the public is free to criticize and disagree with the government. Any government that claims a monopoly to determine what is true is a government hostile to dissent, debate, and democratic self-rule.

Western governments have so betrayed their duties to act as custodians of Enlightenment-inspired human rights that they have become as tyrannical as the tyrants against whom they posture. They are now little more than a collection of feudal lords using the trappings of their offices to enrich an insular “ruling class” while impoverishing and diminishing the masses.

Through a lot of unnecessary pain and discomfort, national populations have discovered this hard truth for themselves. “Green energy”-induced inflation has cut a hole in every struggling citizen’s pocket, while “green energy”-inspired regulations have devastated the livelihoods of every worker. “Green energy” zealots have targeted Western farmers, miners, laborers, and machinists for cancellation. The World Economic Forum’s “green new world order” seeks to eliminate private property, private communications, private transportation, and private transactions. The heart of human freedom is on the line. And, increasingly, Western populations are concluding that Western governments and corporations deserve the blame.

Reprinted with permission from American Thinker.