Election 2004 will be decided by fear.
President (sic) George W. Bush and company have scared half the voters to death with stories about terrorists...so they’ll vote for him.
Senator John F. Kerry (JFK2) and his surrogates on the soft left have scared the other half to death with stories about creeping fascism...so they’ll vote for him.
Of course, anyone with an iota of objectivity left realizes the terror threat is laughably exaggerated...and there’s infinitely more danger in operating a motor vehicle than all the “evildoers” in the world combined.
But what should we make of the claims of the Democrats (and the disturbing number of lefties who support them)? What about all the yarns spun about liberties lost...solely due, we hear, to one inarticulate puppet from Texas?
Whether we want to accept it or not; we’ve heard it all before. The fascists are perpetually at the gate, it seems. But, I submit: Are Bush’s efforts truly more frightening than, say, Woodrow Wilson’s repressive behavior during World War I?
“Conformity will be the only virtue and any man who refuses to conform will have to pay the penalty,” Wilson warned...and he had the newly minted Espionage and Sedition Act to back him up.
Passed in June 1917, it cast a wide net and trampled civil liberties. In Vermont, for example, a minister was sentenced to 15 years in prison for writing a pamphlet, distributed to five persons, in which he claimed that supporting the war was wrong for a Christian. Here’s a sample of that law:
"Whoever, when the United States is at war, shall willfully cause or attempt to cause insubordination, disloyalty, mutiny, or refusal of duty in the military or naval forces of the United States, shall be punished by a fine of not more than $10,000 or imprisonment of not more than 20 years, or both."
“The Espionage Act had very little to do with espionage,” says Howard Zinn. “Instead it made it a crime, punishable by up to twenty years in prison, to say or print anything that would ‘willfully obstruct the recruiting or enlistment service of the United States.’ The Sedition Act, which was an amendment to the Espionage Act, made it even a little more drastic. In fact, two thousand people were prosecuted under those acts and about a thousand went to prison.”
(For those keeping score at home, the Espionage and Sedition Act is still on the books.)
All this “fascism” was in addition to the Palmer Raids and the deportation of Emma Goldman for saying and writing things often less radical than those that appear on this website.
If all this wasn’t worse than a Tom Ridge Code Orange, how about lefty hero FDR interning over 100,000 Japanese-Americans without due process in 1942? How does that stack up against Dubya’s holy crusade?
We had McCarthyism in the 1950s...COINTELPRO in the 60s and 70s...Eight years of Reagan in the 80s. And I’ve left out volumes.
Does anyone recall the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act, signed into law on April 24, 1996 by the alleged liberal king, Bypass Bill Clinton? This USA PATRIOT Act prequel contained provisions that Clinton himself admitted “makes a number of ill-advised changes in our immigration laws, having nothing to do with fighting terrorism.” An unconstitutional salvo that did little to address so-called terrorism but plenty to limit the civil liberties of anyone—immigrant or resident—who disagrees with U.S. policies, foreign or domestic, the bill severely restricted habeas corpus and expanded the number of federal capital crimes...and the Patriot Act is mostly an extension its legal foundations.
News Flash: JFK2 voted for the 1996 Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act and wrote parts of the USA PATRIOT Act. We now return to our regularly scheduled programming:
Things are bad under Bush.
Things will be bad under Kerry.
Things have been bad under every president.
Nothing will change until we change our minds...until we discover what Proust called “new eyes.” Because, frightened readers, the facade of power is remarkably fragile. Consider the words of David Hume, written in 1758:
"Nothing appears more surprising...than the easiness with which the many are governed by the few, and the implicit submission with which men resign their own sentiments and passions to those of their rulers. When we inquire by what means this wonder is effected, we shall find that, as force is always on the side of the governed, the governors have nothing to support them but opinion. It is, therefore, on opinion only that government is founded, and this maxim extends to the most despotic and most military governments as well as the most free and popular."
Fascism, to me, is not a bigger or more urgent concern than irreparable environmental damage, and I certainly lose less sleep over facile Bush/Hitler comparisons than I do a planet populated with oppressed and starving humans.
Things are bad...but Bush, Cheney, Ashcroft, Rice, Ridge, Wolfowitz, Powell, et al did not invent these problems. Not even close. Replacing them with JFK2 will not eliminate these problems. Not even close. The fascists aren’t at the gate. In a country this conditioned, they don’t have to be.
“The corporate grip on opinion is the United States is one of the wonders of the Western World,” says Gore Vidal. “No First World country has ever managed to eliminate so entirely from its media all objectivity—much less dissent.”
That corporate grip, obscured by layers of fear, is a very, very weak grip...but until we recognize that reality, we’ll be too busy running scared from terrorists and fascists to inspire genuine change.
Mickey Z. is the author of two brand new books: The Seven Deadly Spins: Exposing the Lies Behind War Propaganda (Common Courage Press) and A Gigantic Mistake: Articles and Essays for Your Intellectual Self-Defense (Library Empyreal/Wildside Press). For more information, please visit: http://mickeyz.net.
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