Authoritarianism Keeps Surging In Western “Free Democracies”

Caitlin Johnstone
6 min readMay 31, 2023

Listen to a reading of this article (reading by Tim Foley):

Today in tyranny we’ve got three stories on the rapidly increasing authoritarian abuses in western “free democracies”.

Let’s dig in.

1. Grayzone reporter detained by British counter-terrorism police for doing journalism.

The Grayzone’s Kit Klarenberg was detained by “six anonymous plainclothes counter-terror officers” who “grilled him for over five hours about his reporting” upon returning to Britain on the 17th of May, according to a new report by Grayzone editor Max Blumenthal.

Blumenthal reports that Klarenberg was asked many questions about The Grayzone and his work with the independent outlet, saying police “seized the journalist’s electronic devices and SD cards, fingerprinted him, took DNA swabs, and photographed him intensively,” threatening him with arrest if he didn’t comply.

Blumenthal writes that the police action was likely a retaliation for Klarenberg’s reporting for the outlet, which has angered British officials and establishment media figures with the inconvenient information it has reported about their behavior:

Klarenberg’s interrogation appears to be London’s way of retaliating for the journalist’s blockbuster reports exposing major British and US intelligence intrigues. In the past year alone, Klarenberg revealed how a cabal of Tory national security hardliners violated the Official Secrets Act to exploit Brexit and install Boris Johnson as prime minister. In October 2022, he earned international headlines with his exposé of British plans to bomb the Kerch Bridge connecting Crimea to the Russian Federation. Then came his report on the CIA’s recruitment of two 9/11 hijackers this April, a viral sensation that generated massive social media attention.

Among Klarenberg’s most consequential exposés was his June 2022 report unmasking British journalist Paul Mason as a UK security state collaborator hellbent on destroying The Grayzone and other media outlets, academics, and activists critical of NATO’s role in Ukraine.

Asserting that Klarenberg did nothing more nefarious than engaging in “the same journalistic practice that the West’s most prominent legacy newspapers, from The New York Times to The Washington Post, depend on to break news themselves,” Blumenthal says it appears that “British authorities did not detain Klarenberg for any legal breaches, but because he reported factual stories that exposed the national security state’s own violations of both domestic and international law, as well as the malign plots of its media lackeys.”

Blumenthal himself was subjected to legal harassment and intimidation in the United States a few years back, arrested and charged with having committed “assault” while reporting on imperial efforts to drive the Venezuelan government out of its embassy in Washington DC. The charges were later dropped.

The Grayzone has been doing some of the best independent reporting in alternative media over the last few years, and should wear its now-evident status as a thorn in the empire’s side with pride.

2. South Australia passes draconian anti-protest law.

Reacting to recent inconvenient demonstrations by environmental activists, the state of South Australia has just rapidly shoved through legislation — without consulting the public — to exponentially increase the penalties for unauthorized protesting. Demonstrators will now face up to three months in jail and fines of $50,000 if they are deemed guilty of the extremely vague offense of “obstructing a public place” with their protesting.

The Human Rights Law Center expresses the following:

South Australia is the latest jurisdiction to impose severe penalties on people for engaging in peaceful protest, joining New South Wales, Tasmania, Victoria and Queensland who have passed anti-protest laws in the last five years. South Australia’s anti-protest laws carry the harshest financial penalties in Australia.

The Bill is excessive and will have a chilling effect on the right to protest in South Australia. The Bill is also potentially unconstitutional and in clear breach of well-established principles of international human rights law.

South Australian Premier Peter Malinauskas acted shocked and offended that anyone could possibly think life-altering penalties for vaguely-defined protest activities might have some effect on protest activities, saying, “One of the things that I have found rather disconcerting around some of the commentary on this piece of legislation is that somehow, it curtails or diminishes people’s right to protest, which is simply not true.”

Hilarious.

Now would probably be a good time to repeat my periodic reminder that Australia is the only so-called democracy in the world which has no national charter or bill of rights of any kind. A lot of attention went into the Australian government’s authoritarianism when its strict Covid measures were in place, but the fact of the matter is that this country has been diving headlong into tyranny since long before Covid, and continues to do so now that the lockdowns are long over. There simply aren’t enough checks and balances in place to prevent this from happening, and not enough will from the public to fight for them while fighting is still possible.

3. State Department dismisses questions about Ukrainian imprisonment of US citizen for speech crimes.

At a press conference last week the State Department’s new spokesman Matthew Miller flatly brushed off questions about whether the US government was doing anything about the fact that commentator Gonzalo Lira has been arrested and charged with what amount to speech crimes by the Ukrainian government.

Here’s the State Department’s transcript of the exchange:

QUESTION: Thanks. Liam Cosgrove with Epoch Times. So this was a couple weeks ago, but I haven’t seen an official statement on it. A U.S. citizen who is residing in Ukraine has been arrested and that he was a California-born man; he was in the past like a Business Insider contributor, and he had a YouTube channel. He was an outspoken critic of Zelenskyy’s regime. The Ukrainian SBU released a press release saying he was arrested for justifying Putin’s invasion. So ultimately, it added up to speech. And I spoke with Congressman Ted Lieu, a Democrat, and he said he urges the State Department to engage its authorities to work out some sort of negotiation to get him released. So are you guys aware of this? How do we feel about our allies detaining U.S. citizens for speech abroad?

MR MILLER: So I will say in general that we’re aware of the report. We obviously support the exercise of freedom of speech anywhere in the world, and I’ll leave it at that.

QUESTION: So you guys aren’t working to get him released?

MR MILLER: I’m going to leave my comments where I just left them.

It’s not every day a US spokesperson gets asked a question that’s so inconvenient that they just overtly refuse to answer it without even pretending to provide an explanation for doing so.

Lira, a US citizen, is reportedly facing five to eight years in prison for having “publicly justified the armed aggression of the Russian Federation” and “publicly justified the armed aggression of the Russian Federation,” per the SBU.

Are Americans okay with their government risking a very fast, very radioactive third world war to defend the freedom and democracy of a nation that imprisons US citizens for speech crimes? I guess we’ll never know, because nobody’s asking them.

If western governments need to keep ramping up censorship, propaganda and the persecution of journalists in order to defend western freedom and democracy, is it really freedom and democracy? And, is it worth defending?

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