Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Free Speech Hypocrisy: the US Gov't and WikiLeaks

It has come to light with recent events that we live in a civilization whose political leadership, and its unpaid agents in our corporate-owned media, express no qualms or hesitation about lecturing the world's Muslims over the importance of living in a democratic society, women's rights, and individual liberties--the most important of which is freedom of the press.  We have even fewer notions about attacking Vladimir Putin for silencing his country's dissident reporters who reveal the war crimes his government has committed in Chechnya (accompanied by open calls for those reporters to be assassinated by nationalist Russian politicians [who sound remarkably similar to any American conservative]).  

But all of that melts away when someone dares to reveal the depths of our  government's crimes.  When you show our government for the criminal enterprise it has become in its foreign policy, needless to say, to this country's elite thinks there should be no free speech for thee.

Our President is openly calling for the prosecution of Julian Assange.  Sarah Palin is going even further, calling for WikiLeaks to be declared a "terrorist organization" and have its assets (and anyone who helps them) frozen.  Such believers in freedom and democracy, to be sure.  Paragons of the values of this country's founders--that is, if they were Kim Jong-il and Erich Honecker.

If James Madison were alive today (the person who wrote the First Amendment, for Sarah Palin fans), he would be utterly ashamed over what has become of this republic.  There is no secrets protection clause in the First Amendment.  There never has been.  That was inserted by the US government in the last century to "protect" itself, which it does by classifying millions of documents (regardless of whether or not they are worthy of such classification), thereby preventing us from finding out that our government back in the early 1960s had within its ranks people who thought we should attack our own country, purposely targeting and killing Americans in terrorist attacks (that included blowing up buildings), blame it on Cuba, and use it as a pretext to invade the island and overthrow Castro.  Think about that.  Our government considered murdering its own citizens to manufacture a pretext for a war.  We only know about it now because it took that long to get it declassified.  If Obama, Palin, and our phony establishment media had it their way, you would be waterboarded and electrocuted for having revealed such a criminal plan before it was officially declassified.

The whole purpose of the First Amendment and freedom of speech is not as some academic exercise or for street preachers or telemarketers to propagandize us with their products.  According to Madison scholar Vincent Blasi, "The principal safeguards, as he viewed the matter, were devices to prevent the concentration and consolidation of governmental authority. These included the separation of powers, federalism, and what he termed the 'extended sphere,' by which Madison meant a territorial jurisdiction large enough to encompass a multiplicity of interests, passions, and ideologies that would keep each other in check. The conventional wisdom of his day held that smaller units of government provide a greater safeguard for minority rights. Madison thought the reverse: that smaller units of government allow a cohesive oppressive majority to form. In Madison's extended sphere, internal controls such as checks and balances were more important than external controls such as popular opinion or elections, although he did envision a periodic checking role for an electorate devoted to choosing virtuous, independent, and incorruptible representatives." 

In other words, allowing the free, unregulated flow of information by private individuals was seen as a must and vital way to keep in check the power of government.  If you listened to Fox News, you would never know such a thing existed.  Indeed, the government would be seen as a good in itself.  How ironic that people who claim to oppose an overreaching government, opposing federal government spending and regulations, and who now want to declare people terrorists (and possibly even use that same government to murder them) for doing what Madison wrote was the primary mission of a free press: the use of the free exchange of information  (by anyone, and not just an "official" member of the dying journalism profession) to keep our government honest.  Even then, governments were understood to be untrustworthy to their core because they were made up of people.  Today, with Interpol's arrest warrant for Julian Assange and the likely shutdown of WikiLeaks (and the hunting down of its members and even its supporters), what we are seeing is the twilight of the First Amendment and our society's eroding freedoms, turned into dust by people who never believed in what Madison wrote to begin with.

The arguments being used by the US government, that somehow these revelations "threaten lives" are even more spurious than the proposals for what to do with Assange and WikiLeaks.  Can anyone show a single instance, anywhere in the world, where these revelations have cost a single life?  And even so, should that be a matter of the law?  After all, our government has no problem with making our parolees register, and publicly provide that information, which has actually led to several of them being attacked and killed.  No, transparency only matters when it hurts people we do not like, and when it does not negatively impact the criminal outcomes of a centralized government that treats us like subjects to be spied upon, monitored, tortured, and assassinated (and all under the appearance of freedom).

If we could give a Joseph Stalin prize for totalitarianism, I would not offer it to the Western governments that want to see Mr. Assange strung up and hanged.  No, if we could give it to anyone, it should be us, the citizens of these supposedly free governments who cower, accept, and even vociferously apologize for destroying the foundations of an open society.  To that, I am truly glad Mr. Madison is not alive to see what we have done to his country and Constitution.  We have desecrated his memory and made a mockery out of the values of the people who founded this republic, and in the process transformed ourselves into a praetorian state.  

Worse, there is no public debate anywhere about this, in either of the two parties, even in civil liberties circles, never mind the citizenry.  We have accepted this growing Orwellian state without notice and without a care in the world, and we the people who have to live in this will be the ultimate losers when our every move in the not too distant future is being watched, when our DNA collected by the authorities upon birth, when we have GPS devices installed in us on the first day of pre-school, and when the intent of our speech will be scanned and interpreted by bureaucrats.  Oh, but God help you if you want health care.  We would not want to be thought of as Communists!

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