Tuesday, 13 November 2007
More on the Thought Crime Bill
The New York Times, the so-called “paper of record”, has still not written about H.R. 1955, The Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism and Prevention Act of 2007 (the thought crime bill) which I reported on last week.
The bill passed in the House on 23 October 2007, and was sent to the Senate where, sponsored by Maine Republican Senator Susan Collins, it has been referred to Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs where Ms. Collins in the ranking member.
It is interesting that even though H.R.1955 was sent to the Senate more than three weeks ago, on the page at congress.org showing Collins-sponsored legislation, this bill is not listed.
Last Sunday, Frank Rich titled his New York Times Op-Ed column, The Coup at Home. Without mentioning H.R. 1955, he laid out the six-year, incremental subversion of the rule of law taken by the Bush administration that is resulting, says Rich, in a “quiet coup.” Some highlights from his piece:
“…our democracy has so steadily been defined down that it now can resemble the supposedly aspiring democracies we’ve propped up in places like Islamabad. Time has taken its toll. We’ve become inured to democracy-lite.”
“More Machiavellian still, Mr. Bush has constantly told the world he’s championing democracy even as he strangles it.”
“Rather than set a democratic example, our president has instead served as a model of unconstitutional behavior, eagerly emulated by his Pakistani acolyte.”
“To believe that this corruption will simply evaporate when the Bush presidency is done is to underestimate the permanent erosion inflicted over the past six years. What was once shocking and unacceptable in America has now been internalized as the new normal.
“This is most apparent in the Republican presidential race, where most of the candidates seem to be running for dictator and make no apologies for it. They’re falling all over each other to expand Gitmo, see who can promise the most torture and abridge the largest number of constitutional rights.”
“…only 24 percent of Americans believe their country is on the right track…Americans know the ideals that once set our nation apart from the world have been vandalized, and no matter which party they belong to, they do not see restoration anytime soon.”
Without mentioning Naomi Wolf and her book, The End of America, which I have been re-re-re-reading for the past several weeks, Frank Rich is on the same page although Ms. Wolf’s argument is more urgent and sharply etched. If you haven’t read her book, please do. If that’s too much for you or you want to get started right away, try the following.
Most of the book – ten of the 11 chapters – recounts, with historical and present-day examples, the ten steps Ms. Wolf has identified from her research that are taken by incipient dictators to turn democracies into fascist states. She wrote a short version of the ten steps on her blog at Huffington Post titled Ten Steps to Close Down an Open Society. It is a Must Read.
In addition, Ms. Wolf has made available the Preface and Introduction to her book in two parts at HuffPost: Part 1 here and Part 2 here. These too are required reading for the 76 percent of us who know something is terribly wrong in the United States.
In the final chapter of her book, “Conclusion: The Patriot’s Task”, Ms. Wolf writes:
“So it turns out we really are at war – a long war, a global war, a war for our civilization.
“It is a war to save our democracy.
“Each one of us needs to enlist. We have no one to spare.”
Equally pertinent for you and me is the following passage from Chapter 9 which is on freedom of the press:
“At a time such as this, it is up to U.S. citizens who are not part of the formal media world to publish online, research aggressively, check facts assiduously, expose abuses, file Freedom of Information Act requests, publish ‘zines, write op-eds, and take ownership of producing as much of the news and information stream as they can…
“Blogging has to lead the way, because this is the access point for citizen journalism. But bloggers must take their impact far more seriously, becoming warriors for truth and accountability: Citizens have to start to produce reliable samizdat. Opinion is important, but opinion alone is totally inadequate when the ground of truth itself is under assault.
“Bloggers must become rigorous and fearless documentarians and reporters – not just to critique the news, but also to generate the news. Citizens in every venue must now apply to their work the accuracy and accountability that news editors have traditionally expected of their writers and researchers.
“The locus of the power of truth must be identified not in major news outlets but in you. You – not “they” – must take responsibility for educating your fellow citizens.”
H.R. 1955 “only” establishes a commission to study violent radicalization, homegrown terrorism and their prevention. It’s that “study” part that chills me; do they mean to find out how dictators, past and present, accomplished the closing of open societies to better apply the tactics to the U.S.? It is a reasonable question.
With no media attention, this frightening bill is so far under the public radar that it could become law and our blogs shut down before we realize what's happened. If we lose the freedom to speak freely, we lose everything else for it is the only way to protest other wrongs.
I telephoned the offices of the Senate bill’s sponsor, Susan Collins, to ask what her rationale is in supporting H.R. 1955. There was no answer, not even a message machine in her Bangor, Maine office.
There was a recording at the senator's Washington, D.C. office stating only that I, as a constituent, should leave a message with my “exact street address” so that Ms. Collins could answer. Given past experience in contacting congressional representatives, I'm not holding my breath.
Meanwhile, please do the above reading. Although it is long, it is crucial for the future of our nation to understand what has been happening to our democracy while the administration and the media has diverted our attention elsewhere. And watch this space. I’ll have more to say each week.
[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, janinsanfran tells how 30 years of fear were finally lifted in Long Story, Good Ending.]