By John W. Whitehead
RIP George Romero (1940-2017).
Romero—a filmmaker hailed as the architect of the zombie genre—is dead at the age of 77, but the zombified police state culture he railed against lives on.
Just take a look around you.
“We the people” have become the walking dead of the American police state.
We’re still plagued by the socio-political evils of cultural apathy, materialism, domestic militarism and racism that Romero depicted in his Night of the Living Dead trilogy.
Romero’s zombies have taken on a life of their own in pop culture.
Zombies also embody the government’s paranoia about the citizenry as potential threats that need to be monitored, tracked, surveilled, sequestered, deterred, vanquished and rendered impotent.
Case in point: in AMC’s hit television series The Walking Dead and the spinoff Fear the Walking Dead, it’s not just flesh-eating ghouls and cannibalistic humans that survivors have to worry about but the police state “tasked with protecting the vulnerable” that poses some of the gravest threats to the citizenry.
Why the fascination with zombies?
Perhaps it’s because zombie fiction provides us with a way to “envision how we and our own would thrive if everything went to hell and we lost all our societal supports.” As Time magazine reporter James Poniewozik phrases it, the “apocalyptic drama lets us face the end of the world once a week and live.”
In other words, zombies are the personification of our darkest fears.
Fear and paranoia have become hallmarks of the modern American experience, impacting how we as a nation view the world around us, how we as citizens view each other, and most of all how our government views us.
The propaganda of fear has been used quite effectively by those who want to gain control, and it is working on the American populace.
Despite the fact that we are 8 times more likely to be killed by a police officer than by a terrorist, we have handed over control of our lives to government officials who treat us as a means to an end—the source of money and power.
We have allowed ourselves to become fearful, controlled, pacified zombies.
Most everyone keeps their heads down these days while staring zombie-like into an electronic screen, even when they’re crossing the street. Indeed, a Nielsen study reports that American screen viewing is at an all-time high.
Psychologically, such screen consumption is similar to drug addiction, transforming viewers into a more passive, nonresistant state. Historically, television has been used by those in authority to quiet discontent and pacify disruptive people. Prisons officials actually use TV to keep inmates quiet.
We are being controlled by forces beyond our control.
This is how the police state takes charge.
As the Atlantic notes, “The villains of [Fear the Walking Dead] aren’t the zombies, who rarely appear, but the U.S. military, who sweep into an L.A. suburb to quarantine the survivors. Zombies are, after all, a recognizable threat—but Fear plumbs drama and horror from the betrayal by institutions designed to keep people safe.”
What we are experiencing is a betrayal of the very core values—a love of freedom, an adherence to the rule of law, a spirit of democracy, a commitment to accountability and transparency, and a recognition that civilian rule must always trump military methods—that have guided this nation from its inception.
The challenge is not whether we can hold onto our freedoms in times of peace and prosperity, but whether we can do so when all hell breaks loose.
Anyone who has been paying attention knows that it will not take much for the government—i.e., the military—to lock down the nation in the event of a national disaster.
The government is not out to keep us safe by monitoring our communications, tracking our movements, criminalizing our every action, treating us like suspects, and stripping us of our means of defense while equipping its own personnel with an amazing arsenal of weapons.
No, this is not security. It is an ambush. And it is being carried out in plain sight.
For example, for years now, the government has been carrying out military training drills with zombies as the enemy. In 2011, the DOD created a 31-page instruction manual for how to protect America from a terrorist attack carried out by zombie forces. In 2012, the CDC released a guide for surviving a zombie plague. That was followed by training drills for members of the military, police officers and first responders.
The zombie exercises appeared to be kitschy and fun—government agents running around trying to put down a zombie rebellion—but what if the zombies in the exercises are us, the citizenry, viewed by those in power as mindless, voracious, zombie hordes?
“We the people” or, more appropriately, “we the zombies” are the enemy in the eyes of the government.
So when presented with the Defense Department’s battle plan for defeating an army of the walking dead, you might find yourself tempted to giggle over the fact that a taxpayer-funded government bureaucrat actually took the time to research and write about vegetarian zombies, evil magic zombies, chicken zombies, space zombies, bio-engineered weaponized zombies, radiation zombies, symbiant-induced zombies, and pathogenic zombies.
However, in an age of extreme government paranoia, this is no laughing matter.
The DOD’s strategy for dealing with a zombie uprising using surveillance, military drills, awareness training, militarized police forces and martial law is for all intents and purposes a training manual for the government in how to put down a citizen uprising or at least an uprising of individuals “infected” with dangerous ideas about freedom.
If there is any lesson to be learned, it is simply this: as I point out in my book, Battlefield America: The War on the American People, whether the threat to national security comes in the form of actual terrorists, imaginary zombies or disgruntled American citizens infected with dangerous ideas about freedom, the government’s response to such threats remains the same: detect, deter and annihilate.
It’s time to wake up, America, before you end up with a bullet to the head (the only proven means of killing a zombie).