H.R.1955, The Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism and Prevention Act of 2007 (full text here), has been assigned a new number in the Senate: S.1959. Bookmark this page to track its progress in the coming weeks and months.
The bill was sponsored in the Senate by Susan Collins (R-ME), co-sponsored by Norm Coleman (R-MN) and now sits in the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs where Senator Collins is the ranking member. Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama is also a member, and you can find out more about this Committee here.
A search of mainstream media websites yesterday, Sunday, including The New York Times, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, the Boston Globe, CNN and others reveals not one story about the bill. According to Google, only 128 blogs have written about H.R.1955. One piece of good news is that yesterday davidinchi posted a good story at Daily Kos which might reach a larger audience than this blog.
As you know, most bills die in committee, never making it to the Senate floor. But that doesn’t mean we can let up. After all, the House version passed unnoticed with only six dissenting votes.
What makes this bill so terrifying is that it essentially rescinds the First Amendment without which no other civil liberties can exist because if citizens cannot speak their minds, all other rights and liberties become moot. Never in the history of mankind have 45 words been so precious. If you have never memorized the First Amendment, you should do so now and keep it close:
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
When I attended the first Blogher conference in the summer of 2005, Jay Rosen, who runs the excellent media blog, PressThink, spoke to the 300 of us gathered for the final session. I don’t remember what else he said - only these six words:
“Blogs are little First Amendment machines.”
As soon as I got home, I posted a little badge linking to the Electronic Frontier Foundation with Jay’s quote. It’s been sitting at the bottom of the left sidebar, but I’ve promoted it today to the top and linked it to the Thought Crime Index page listing all posts on this topic. It will remain there until this bill is defeated. If you copy and save the image, you can post it on your blog too.
Jay's simple but crucial little mantra is pertinent to you and me because among the “Findings” in the House bill is this:
“(3) The Internet has aided in facilitating violent radicalization, ideologically based violence, and the homegrown terrorism process in the United States by providing access to broad and constant streams of terrorist-related propaganda to United States citizens.”
The internet – not radio, television, newspapers, magazines or books - has been singled out for special mention in this bill. Among everything else on the internet, that means you and me and our blogs, our little First Amendment machines. Because of the mainstream media blackout on this bill, no one would know about H.R.1955/S.1959 without us and a few others around the web.
It has been three weeks since I first telephoned and emailed my representatives regarding this bill and I have received no response from anyone. I’m trying snailmail this week and you may want to do that too. Perhaps in an electronic age, postal mail stands out.
If you are still inclined to try the telephone, here are toll-free numbers to the Congressional switchboard which may work better than the direct lines to individual Congress members’ offices. However, the Senate is not in session again until Tuesday, 27 November and the House does not return until the afternoon of Tuesday, 4 December.
And here is this week’s idea to get word out about this bill to more people: the bloggers who show up here regularly and/or are listed on the Elderbloggers blogroll live in most of the states of the U.S. Let’s each contact the major newspaper in our city to ask why they have not covered this bill, why there has not been an editorial on its danger to our way of life. Many newspaper websites list phone numbers and email addresses for their editors and reporters. And there is always snailmail.
Include links to the text of the bill and to commentary in the blogosphere. If you get a response, let us know.
I want to thank all of you who have posted blog stories about The Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism and Prevention Act of 2007 and urge you to keep doing it. This is the most important thing the internet is for - exercising our First Amendment rights. Send me the links to those stories (and any others you have found that you like) and I will include them in the Thought Crime Bill Index page.
[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Pat Temiz recalls the thrill of everything new in her first year living in Istanbul in 1969.]