Is Progressive Dissent Public Enemy #1?
- News & Views for Anarchists & Activists:
Wednesday, October 6, 2010 by CommonDreams.org
Is Progressive Dissent Public Enemy #1?
by Lydia Howell
Is free speech worth the constitutional paper it’s written on?
After the September 26 FBI raids on peace activists’ homes in
Minneapolis, Chicago and North Carolina, it appears to depend on who’s
speaking and what they’re saying.
The pretext for the raids was investigating “material aide to
terrorists”, resulting in grand jury subpoenas and confiscation of
computers, books, music CDs and from one home, a Martin Luther King
poster. The targeted Minneapolis activists have openly protested US
military policy since the 1980s. The FBI certainly knows they have
nothing to do with terrorism. These activists simply have the audacity
to challenge bi-partisan US invasions, occupations and support for
dictatorships and human rights abusers. Dissent on the left has long
been seen as ‘criminal behavior’. Where once “the communist threat" was
the argument for such repression, now, “terrorism” is.
When it comes to war, US government sees three roles for the American
people: 1. Pay hundreds of billions for the largest military on Earth 2.
Kill and possibly die or be maimed for US military and corporate
dominance of other countries 3. Cheerlead war. The US government --
bought and paid for by weapons-makers and mercenaries (‘contractors’) --
does not think that We The People have the right to even question, much
less challenge and resist permanent war, which is bankrupting our
country and civilian deaths ignite more violence.
Just days before the raids, the Department of Justice Inspector General
released a report about FBI abuses of peace groups under the Bush
Administration -- abuses that President Obama continues. Republicans and
Democrats rubberstamp domestic spying on peace organizations, Quakers,
and solidarity groups visiting countries that the US bombs or subsidizes
death squads in.
In June, the Supreme Court ruled 5-to-4 in Holder v. Humanitarian Law
Center that peace groups who talked about non-violent, democratic
practices and international human rights law -- that is, alternatives to
terrorism -- with organizations on the State Department’s “Terrorist
Watch List” may be charged with ‘material aid to terrorists’. If ending
terrorism is actually the goal, then, why make working to end violence a
crime? In his dissent, SCOTUS Justice Stephen Breyer warned that
political speech -- the most protected speech under the First Amendment
-- was being criminalized.
President Bill Clinton’s 1996 Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty
Act made “material aid" a crime, was expanded under George W. Bush’s
PATRIOT Act and is broadening to Orwellian vagueness under the President
Obama. He made campaign promises to close Guantanamo, yet the Obama
Administration is defending Bush-era torture and imprisonment without
charges, trial or conviction in court. Obama claims further powers: to
assassinate anyone labeled a “terrorist’ overseas -- including American
Billions of dollars have simply disappeared in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Contractors like KBR/Halliburton reap billions for work not done and
services not provided. The US government bribes Taliban, warlords and
“insurgents” with over $2B.
Dissidents educate the American public about these policies as much as
they protest them.
As the FBI raided American dissidents’ homes, Secretary of State Hillary
Clinton announced economic sanctions against Iran for human rights
abuses, including “suppression of dissent”. What hypocrisy!
Since WWI, the FBI has targeted peace activists; most infamously labor
leader Eugene Debs was sentenced to ten years in prison for an anti-war
speech. The FBI’s COINTEL program subjected the civil rights movement to
domestic spying while the Klux Klux Klan burned churches and homes, beat
and murdered with near-total impunity. Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X
and other leaders of color had thick FBI files. The Black Panther Party,
American Indian Movement and Puerto Rican Independence movement were
subjected to FBI assaults, murders and frame-ups. Congress’ 1978 Church
Committee investigated these abuses and ended them until 9/11 loosened
Almost always it is progressive/Leftist non-violent groups and activists
that the FBI spies on, harasses and tries to jail.
Anti-choice groups post hit lists of doctors with their addresses,
commit arson on and mail anthrax-like powder to clinics -- without being
investigated. White supremacists and militias threaten and commit
violence against people of color, Muslims and progressives. Violent
rhetoric infuses many right-wing groups -- with no grand jury subpoenas.
Supporting racism, corporate rule and war -- that is, rightwing ideology
-- even with a call for violence, is protected speech.
The Supreme Court will hear the case of homophobic preacher, Fred
Phelps, who protests military funerals. Likely Phelps will win, as
“unpopular speech" -- especially if it's bigotry -- gets protection.
This is the same court that made talking about international human
rights law a crime.
Bigots are held up as "victims" whose First Amendment rights are
threatened, yet hatred has no problem being heard. No one is harassed
for suggesting that the US nuke other countries who have not attacked
us. Instead, the government targets those who uphold values of equal
justice under the law, human rights, democracy and peace.
Nine years after the September 11 attacks, the US government has done
more damage to fundamental American freedoms than Al-Qaeda ever did.
With progressive dissent, censored from corporate media, increasingly
treated like a crime, it’s time to ask: what is being protected?
Lydia Howell is a Minneapolis activist, journalist and producer-host of
CATALYST: Politics and Culture on KFAI Radio.
New book: _Weird Words: A Lovecraftian Lexicon_:
My collected fiction: _The Unspeakable and Others_
Lord Weÿrdgliffe & Necronomicon Page:
News & Views for Anarchists & Activists:
Skipper: Professor, will you tell these people who is
in charge on this island?
Professor: Why, no one.
Skipper: No one?
Thurston Howell III: No one? Good heavens, this is anarchy!
-- _Gilligan's Island_, episode #6, "President Gilligan"