Archive for the ‘1st Amendment’ tag
New “trespass bill” makes it a federal offense
to protest government business
or against people or places
under Secret Service protection.
House Passes “Trespass Bill” That Makes Protests Illegal
March 8, 2012
The U.S. congress is pushing a bill into law under the innocent pretense of making protests at the White House illegal.
The new legislation just passed by the house H.R. 347, informally known as the “Trespass Bill”, goes far beyond the White House and will outlaw peaceful protests in an almost endless possible combinations of situations.
The bill begins by making it illegal to enter or remain in any restricted building or grounds, which are defined as any location where the Secret Service or any person under protection of the secret service is located or at any place designated as a special event of national significance.
Hence, the it will be illegal to protest at not only the White House but at any location where the The President, Former President’s, their families, Presidential and Vice Presidential Candidates, Foreign Heads of States, U.S. Officials performing certain tasks, or any one else under protection of the secret service is located.
That would means it would be illegal for protestors to hold a rally outside an Obama speech or even at an event hosted by Rick Sanatorium or Mitt Romney. It doesn’t stop there either.
The bill goes on to make it a federal offense “to impede or disrupt the orderly conduct of Government business or official functions, engages in disorderly or disruptive conduct in, or within such proximity to, any restricted building or grounds when, or so that, such conduct, in fact, impedes or disrupts the orderly conduct of Government business or official functions”
Then to make the bill all inconclusive it is also a crime when anyone “obstructs or impedes ingress or egress to or from any restricted building or grounds”
Here’s an article detailing just how far this bill goes into killing the First Amendment Free Speech and Assembly rights, followed by the full text of the bill.
Goodbye, First Amendment: ‘Trespass Bill’ will make protest illegal
Just when you thought the government couldn’t ruin the First Amendment any further: The House of Representatives approved a bill on Monday that outlaws protests in instances where some government officials are nearby, whether or not you even know it.
The US House of Representatives voted 388-to-3 in favor of H.R. 347 late Monday, a bill which is being dubbed the Federal Restricted Buildings and Grounds Improvement Act of 2011. In the bill, Congress officially makes it illegal to trespass on the grounds of the White House, which, on the surface, seems not just harmless and necessary, but somewhat shocking that such a rule isn’t already on the books. The wording in the bill, however, extends to allow the government to go after much more than tourists that transverse the wrought iron White House fence.
Under the act, the government is also given the power to bring charges against Americans engaged in political protest anywhere in the country.
Under current law, White House trespassers are prosecuted under a local ordinance, a Washington, DC legislation that can bring misdemeanor charges for anyone trying to get close to the president without authorization. Under H.R. 347, a federal law will formally be applied to such instances, but will also allow the government to bring charges to protesters, demonstrators and activists at political events and other outings across America.
The new legislation allows prosecutors to charge anyone who enters a building without permission or with the intent to disrupt a government function with a federal offense if Secret Service is on the scene, but the law stretches to include not just the president’s palatial Pennsylvania Avenue home. Under the law, any building or grounds where the president is visiting — even temporarily — is covered, as is any building or grounds “restricted in conjunction with an event designated as a special event of national significance.”
It’s not just the president who would be spared from protesters, either.
Covered under the bill is any person protected by the Secret Service. Although such protection isn’t extended to just everybody, making it a federal offense to even accidentally disrupt an event attended by a person with such status essentially crushes whatever currently remains of the right to assemble and peacefully protest.
Hours after the act passed, presidential candidate Rick Santorum was granted Secret Service protection. For the American protester, this indeed means that glitter-bombing the former Pennsylvania senator is officially a very big no-no, but it doesn’t stop with just him. Santorum’s coverage under the Secret Service began on Tuesday, but fellow GOP hopeful Mitt Romney has already been receiving such security. A campaign aide who asked not to be identified confirmed last week to CBS News that former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has sought Secret Service protection as well. Even former contender Herman Cain received the armed protection treatment when he was still in the running for the Republican Party nod.
In the text of the act, the law is allowed to be used against anyone who knowingly enters or remains in a restricted building or grounds without lawful authority to do so, but those grounds are considered any area where someone — rather it’s President Obama, Senator Santorum or Governor Romney — will be temporarily visiting, whether or not the public is even made aware. Entering such a facility is thus outlawed, as is disrupting the orderly conduct of “official functions,” engaging in disorderly conduct “within such proximity to” the event or acting violent to anyone, anywhere near the premises. Under that verbiage, that means a peaceful protest outside a candidate’s concession speech would be a federal offense, but those occurrences covered as special event of national significance don’t just stop there, either. And neither does the list of covered persons that receive protection.
Outside of the current presidential race, the Secret Service is responsible for guarding an array of politicians, even those from outside America. George W Bush is granted protection until ten years after his administration ended, or 2019, and every living president before him is eligible for life-time, federally funded coverage. Visiting heads of state are extended an offer too, and the events sanctioned as those of national significance — a decision that is left up to the US Department of Homeland Security — extends to more than the obvious. While presidential inaugurations and meeting of foreign dignitaries are awarded the title, nearly three dozen events in all have been considered a National Special Security Event (NSSE) since the term was created under President Clinton. Among past events on the DHS-sanctioned NSSE list are Super Bowl XXXVI, the funerals of Ronald Reagan and Gerald Ford, most State of the Union addresses and the 2008 Democratic and Republican National Conventions.
With Secret Service protection awarded to visiting dignitaries, this also means, for instance, that the federal government could consider a demonstration against any foreign president on American soil as a violation of federal law, as long as it could be considered disruptive to whatever function is occurring.
When thousands of protesters are expected to descend on Chicago this spring for the 2012 G8 and NATO summits, they will also be approaching the grounds of a National Special Security Event. That means disruptive activity, to whichever court has to consider it, will be a federal offense under the act.
And don’t forget if you intend on fighting such charges, you might not be able to rely on evidence of your own. In the state of Illinois, videotaping the police, under current law, brings criminals charges. Don’t fret. It’s not like the country will really try to enforce it — right?
On the bright side, does this mean that the law could apply to law enforcement officers reprimanded for using excessive force on protesters at political events? Probably. Of course, some fear that the act is being created just to keep those demonstrations from ever occuring, and given the vague language on par with the loose definition of a “terrorist” under the NDAA, if passed this act is expected to do a lot more harm to the First Amendment than good.
United States Representative Justin Amash (MI-03) was one of only three lawmakers to vote against the act when it appeared in the House late Monday. Explaining his take on the act through his official Facebook account on Tuesday, Rep. Amash writes, “The bill expands current law to make it a crime to enter or remain in an area where an official is visiting even if the person does not know it’s illegal to be in that area and has no reason to suspect it’s illegal.”
“Some government officials may need extraordinary protection to ensure their safety. But criminalizing legitimate First Amendment activity — even if that activity is annoying to those government officials — violates our rights,” adds the representative.
Now that the act has overwhelmingly made it through the House, the next set of hands to sift through its pages could very well be President Barack Obama; the US Senate had already passed the bill back on February 6. Less than two months ago, the president approved the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012, essentially suspending habeas corpus from American citizens. Could the next order out of the Executive Branch be revoking some of the Bill of Rights? Only if you consider the part about being able to assemble a staple of the First Amendment, really. Don’t worry, though. Obama was, after all, a constitutional law professor. When he signed the NDAA on December 31, he accompanied his signature with a signing statement that let Americans know that, just because he authorized the indefinite detention of Americans didn’t mean he thought it was right.
Should President Obama suspend the right to assemble, Americans might expect another apology to accompany it in which the commander-in-chief condemns the very act he authorizes. If you disagree with such a decision, however, don’t take it to the White House. Sixteen-hundred Pennsylvania Avenue and the vicinity is, of course, covered under this act.
Here is the full text of H. R. 347, which was just passed by in the house by a vote of 388-to-3.
H. R. 347
To correct and simplify the drafting of section 1752 (relating to restricted buildings or grounds) of title 18, United States Code. Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,
SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.This Act may be cited as the `Federal Restricted Buildings and Grounds Improvement Act of 2011′.
SEC. 2. RESTRICTED BUILDING OR GROUNDS.Section 1752 of title 18, United States Code, is amended to read as follows:
Sec. 1752. Restricted building or grounds(a) Whoever–(1) knowingly enters or remains in any restricted building or grounds without lawful authority to do so;(2) knowingly, and with intent to impede or disrupt the orderly conduct of Government business or official functions, engages in disorderly or disruptive conduct in, or within such proximity to, any restricted building or grounds when, or so that, such conduct, in fact, impedes or disrupts the orderly conduct of Government business or official functions;(3) knowingly, and with the intent to impede or disrupt the orderly conduct of Government business or official functions, obstructs or impedes ingress or egress to or from any restricted building or grounds; or(4) knowingly engages in any act of physical violence against any person or property in any restricted building or grounds;or attempts or conspires to do so, shall be punished as provided in subsection (b).(b) The punishment for a violation of subsection (a) is–(1) a fine under this title or imprisonment for not more than 10 years, or both, if–(A) any person, during and in relation to the offense, uses or carries a deadly or dangerous weapon or firearm; or(B) the offense results in significant bodily injury as defined by section 2118(e)(3); and(2) a fine under this title or imprisonment for not more than one year, or both, in any other case.(c) In this section–(1) the term `restricted buildings or grounds’ means any posted, cordoned off, or otherwise restricted area–(A) of the White House or its grounds, or the Vice President’s official residence or its grounds;(B) of a building or grounds where the President or other person protected by the Secret Service is or will be temporarily visiting; or(C) of a building or grounds so restricted in conjunction with an event designated as a special event of national significance; and(2) the term ‘other person protected by the Secret Service’ means any person whom the United States Secret Service is authorized to protect under section 3056 of this title when such person has not declined such protection.’.
Passed the House of Representatives February 28, 2011.
The Powers-That-Be Can Label All Americans Terrorists, Then Arbitrarily Harass Anyone They Dislike.
For years, the government has been using anti-terror laws to crush dissent and to help the too big to fail businesses compete against smaller businesses (and see this).
This trend is getting worse by the day
On January 31, 2012, the Department of Homeland Security’s Behavioral Science Division pointed to the following as indicators of potential terrorism (please note – as you review the list – that some indicators are conservative, some are liberal and some are bipartisan).
- “Reverent of individual liberty”
- “Believe in conspiracy theories”
- “A belief that one’s personal and/or national “way of life” is under attack”
- “Impose strict religious tenets or laws on society (fundamentalists)”
- “Insert religion into the political sphere”
- “Those who seek to politicize religion”
- “Supported political movements for autonomy”
- “Suspicious of centralized federal authority”
- “Fiercely nationalistic (as opposed to universal and international in orientation)”
- “A belief in the need to be prepared for an attack either by participating in … survivalism”
Given that most Americans fall into one or more of these categories, the powers-that-be can brand virtually anyone they dislike as being a terrorist.
Fresh figures once again show Paul received more military donations than all other candidates combined
by Steve Watson, InfoWars.com
The US Army said Wednesday that it is considering disciplining Reserve Corporal Jesse Thorsen, the soldier who spoke out against a militaristic foreign policy at Ron Paul’s post-Iowa caucuses rally.
After being cut short during a CNN interview Thorsen, who has served two tours in Afghanistan and was due to head back for a third, was invited on to the stage by Paul himself to address Paul’s cheering supporters.
“If there’s any man out there that’s had a vision out there, it’s definitely [Ron Paul],” Thorsen said. “His foreign policy is by far, hands down better than any other candidate’s out there, and I’m sure you all know that. We don’t need to be picking fights overseas and I think everybody else knows that, too.”
Apparently someone within the military infrastructure did not take kindly to Thorsen’s remarks, and set about attempting to punish the 10-year veteran for his words.
Lectures the Children about truth, free people and a free press and the 1st Amendment
After four years of reporting on the various immoral, unethical and in many cases criminal acts perpetrated by people in our financial system and Congress, we now have our evidence at the bar.
This man was gassed for waving a flag. He was not alone.
Last night “OccupyOakland” was literally laid siege by the police. Firing rubber bullets and tear gas into a peaceful gathering, they committed hundreds of cases of felonious assault upon peaceful individuals. I’ll lay odds that not one of the felons-in-blue will be indicted, prosecuted and imprisoned for their crimes.
I remind everyone that our Constitution guarantees you the right of free speech including the right to petition the government for redress of grievances.
This does not, of course, include the right to riot, destroy property and commit assaults and batteries.
Well, unless you’re the cops. Then it appears that you have the right to do all of those things, irrespective of the fact that the people were exercising their lawful First Amendment rights – and nothing more.
The police didn’t stop with tear gas. They also detonated explosives within the crowd – an act that, taken by an ordinary person, would constitute the use of a bomb and be considered terrorism.
Yeah, I know, they call them “flash-bangs”; intended to stun and surprise. Let’s call them what they are: They’re explosives, otherwise known as a bomb, and legally known to the BATFE as a “Destructive Device” as they contain more than the lawful limit of powder for a common firecracker. They can (and do) cause personal injury when fired into a crowd. That injury is reasonably foreseeable when the device is delivered. This makes the act an intentional deployment of a destructive device with the intent to harm a person – a serious felony.
Of course such felonies are not prosecuted when the police commit them. Just like the apparent felony murder committed in Chicago by a Gang-Banger in Blue who fatally shot an unarmed man in the back after he had already been shot four other times and was lying prone on the grass.
This man, it appears, was executed in a scene reminiscent of the various murderous thugdoms that have been all-to-common throughout history. Now we have summary justice-by-gang here, and the gang is wearing blue uniforms and badges!
Police have a tough job, but that’s not an excuse for felonious behavior. The job of the police is to Protect and Serve. Lately, it appears they serve themselves, including smuggling guns, slot machines and stolen cigarettes, shooting anyone who might happen to be a nuisance to their “right” to tromp on the people’s necks whenever they so choose.
I’ve long asked the following question: What happens when the people determine that law enforcement agencies – or the government in general – are felons?
This is no longer a rhetorical question, and the answer should give all law-abiding citizens pause.
I don’t care if you hail from the left or right, or what your particular view of the “Occupy Wall Street” movement is. The fact of the matter is that we no longer have the foundational principle of this nation underlying our nation: The Rule of Law.
That’s the difference between a Constitutional Republic and tyranny.
In a Constitutional Republic you do not have the rule of 100 jackbooted thugs wearing badges, discharging firearms (albeit – thus far – with rubber bullets) at people, tossing bombs into their midst and gassing them. You also don’t have jackbooted thugs in blue shooting unarmed people in the back. Any rogue individual who attempts such a stunt goes straight to prison to rot along with the common mugger or murderer, because he or she is one and should an entire agency show up to commit these acts the immediate response is that the National Guard rises and arrests the entire agency, tossing all of them into the clink where they belong.
Today, however, this sort of abusive crap is exactly what we have in this nation and The Guard, who has sworn an oath to protect this land against all enemies, foreign and domestic, is nowhere to be found.
Those in California (along with those in both New York and Chicago) are discovering the hazards of their failure to demand that entire Constitution be strictly enforced in favor of the rights of the people.
Now you see the consequences of that failure America. You thought you were trading “a bit” of freedom for alleged security. What you were really doing is ceding your rights to a band of gang-banging felons-in-blue who have now demonstrated their clear intent to gas, bomb and even murder you.
Have you discerned the error of your ways yet?
We shall see.
Woman arrested for speaking at city council meeting in Quartszite, Arizona
Everything was okay until they did not like what she said…
Happy 4th of July
A Preemptive Strike by Sunstein? Open Thread
© Miri WTPOTUS 2011
A scholarly paper published January 15, 2008, by Cass R. Sunstein and Adrian Vermeule, both of Harvard Law School, addresses “conspiracy theories” and what governments can do about them. One might be forgiven for wondering why “governments” should think that they ought to do anything about them. Or perhaps I should say, why someone who now works in OUR government thinks the government should do anything about what free people think. This is, after all, the United States of America, founded upon the idea of freedom of speech, and by implication, of thoughts and beliefs, no matter how esoteric or wild. However, Sunstein and his co-author write,
Those who subscribe to conspiracy theories may create serious risks, including risks of violence, and the existence of such theories raises significant challenges for policy and law.
This, presumably, is their justification for believing that sometimes a government must intervene.
Considering that “birthers” were nearly immediately labeled ”conspiracy theorists” by Obama supporters, members of his campaign (later his administration), and most of the mainstream media, and considering that they were (and are) derided, in Alinsky fashion, as mentally impaired beings, it might be instructive to ask whether Sunstein’s goal with this paper was to advise how to counter conspiracy theories promulgated by Islamic terrorists overseas or whether Sunstein’s goal was to launch a preemptive strike against those who might, very shortly, question whether or not presidential candidate Barack Hussein Obama II is a natural born citizen of the United States, as his admittedly fictional autobiography suggests.
(An aside: The analysis linked in my previous sentence, itself links to a 2008 NY Times story by Janny Scott, who is currently in the news as the author of a new book about Obama’s (alleged) mother, which was previewed recently in NY Times magazine and discussed in Business Insider. You may want to read both of Janny’s articles to compare and contrast, and for perspective on the likelihood that the new book from this Obama apologist will differ in tone and accuracy from her older Obama book review. Look for a quote by Cass Sunstein on page 3 of the book review.)
Sunstein and Vermeule define a conspiracy theory as
an effort to explain some event or practice by reference to the machinations of powerful people, who have also managed to conceal their role.
While taking care to state that conspiracy theories that are supported in fact, meaning that there truly IS a conspiracy, shouldn’t be “undermined,” they warn that
… the mechanisms that account for conspiracy theories overlap with those that account for false and dangerous beliefs of all sorts, including those that fuel anger and hatred.
Now consider the labels that have been put on Tea Partiers by politicians, Obama supporters, and many in the media who falsely call Tea Partiers violent, racist, even potential domestic terrorists. Consider also those who argue that if Obama, the first (alleged) “black” president, should be proved ineligible, then we may have riots the streets, such as we saw after the murder of MLK. Keeping these considerations in mind, now imagine the possibility that this administration might justify taking action against “conspiracy theorists” because “false and dangerous beliefs” could “fuel anger and hatred.”
One particularly interesting contention these authors make, in light of the extreme lack of objectivity currently displayed by our mainstream media when they cover Barack Hussein Obama II [emphasis added]:
In a closed society, secrets are not difficult to keep, and distrust of official accounts makes a great deal of sense. In such societies, conspiracy theories are both more likely to be true and harder to show to be false in light of available information. But when the press is free, and when checks and balances are in force, government cannot easily keep its conspiracies hidden for long. … Much depends on the background state of knowledge producing institutions. If those institutions are generally trustworthy, in part because they are embedded in an open society with a well-functioning marketplace of ideas and free flow of information, then conspiracy theories will generally (which is not to say always) be unjustified. On the other hand, individuals in societies with systematically malfunctioning or skewed institutions of knowledge – say, individuals who live in an authoritarian regime lacking a free press – may have good reason to distrust all or most of the official denials they hear.
Ask yourself whether we still have a free and open press, an objective press that is trustworthy and not skewed, a press with checks and balances. We the People “have good reason to distrust.”
These are Sunstein and Vermeule’s suggestions for “possible” governmental responses to “conspiracy theories” [emphasis added]:
What can government do about conspiracy theories? Among the things it can do, what should it do? We can readily imagine a series of possible responses:
(1) Government might ban conspiracy theorizing.
(2) Government might impose some kind of tax, financial or otherwise, on those who disseminate such theories.
(3) Government might itself engage in counterspeech, marshaling arguments to discredit conspiracy theories.
(4) Government might formally hire credible private parties to engage in counterspeech.
(5 Government might engage in informal communication with such parties, encouraging them to help.
Each instrument has a distinctive set of potential effects, or costs and benefits, and each will have a place under imaginable conditions.
However, our main policy idea is that government should engage in cognitive infiltration of the groups that produce conspiracy theories, which involves a mix of (3), (4) and (5).
My admittedly kneejerk responses to these alternatives:
(1) Ban conspiracy theories? Not possible in the US, at least not yet. How would this be accomplished? Censorship of the media and the Internet? Orwellian thought control? Speech control? Mind control?
(2) Tax those who promulgate conspiracy theories? Can you imagine? This is a twofer for Marxist, thought-control Nazis–TAX them into submission while you make them submit!
(3) Counterspeech. Okay, if you grant that the government even has the Constitutional authority to spend the taxpayers money to combat “conspiracy theories”, then this might pass muster because at least it doesn’t infringe upon OUR free speech, free thought, or free beliefs (with an emphasis on “free”, meaning not subject to taxation). Counterspeech is what the Founders envisioned, when they wrote the Constitution. A marketplace of ideas, although I doubt any of them ever considered that our government might use our money to counter our own speech.
(4) Hire “credible private parties” to provide the counterspeech? Ponder this one, peeps. Are We the People paying for the asshats (h/t Pam Geller) at FactCheck, Media Matters, and obot war-rooms, where bogus bloggers set out to use Alinsky tactics against us–we who want only for our candidates to prove eligibility, under the Constitution, to serve us, not to rule us, as POTUS? Is our government, is this administration, already taking Sunstein’s suggestions to heart? How do we find out if we are paying for this astroturfed “counterspeech”, which has been so readily apparent to all of us since 2008?
(5) Informal communication with “credible private parties” to ask them to “help?” Can you say, Journo-list? Paid for by We the People? In this country, the government is (or is supposed to be) The People, which means that if taxpayer dollars are going towards such efforts, then we are paying for governmental attacks against ourselves! Again, how do we find out?
Sunstein and his co-author present this scenario:
If Albert and Barbara say that the CIA was responsible for the assassination of President Kennedy, Cynthia might not contradict them publicly and might even appear to share their judgment — not because she believes that judgment to be correct, but because she does not want to face their hostility or lose their good opinion.
This is what Obama’s true believers try to accomplish when they label and denigrate anyone who merely wants Obama to prove his eligibility. They call them “birthers”, ridicule them, call them kooks, mentally challenged, ignorant. Or worse–racist bigots. Hostility? You better believe it.
Here’s an amazing suggestion, straight from these authors:
Government agents (and their allies) might enter chat rooms, online social networks, or even real-space groups and attempt to undermine percolating conspiracy theories by raising doubts about their factual premises, causal logic or implications for political action. … In another variant, government officials would participate anonymously or even with false identities.
Yes, they might, and they may already have. Have you ever suspected, over the past few years, that this happens right now? Some bloggers believe that they have proof that this indeed occurs, because they have traced the IP#’s of commenters to government agencies and government computers.
Reading between the lines of Sunstein’s research paper, I believe it’s “justified” to ask whether the Obama administration took Sunstein’s “main policy idea” and put it into practice. If so, then We the People may likely pay for bureaucrats to engage in “counterspeech and marshall arguments” against us. We may pay, directly or indirectly, for ”credible private parties to engage in counterspeech” (FactCheck, Media Matters, Snopes, public relations firms, progressive operatives who appear on CNN, FOX, CNBC, MSNBC and call into talk radio show, minions who write op-eds and letters to the editor, or “obots” who comment on blogs). Or we may merely pay for ”informal communication with such parties, encouraging them to “help.” Did we pay for the secret meetings wherein someone organized media groups like Journo-list? We certainly paid for those organizing phone conferences between administration staffers and the NEA, which aimed to recruit artists to “help” promote the Obama agenda.
According to Wikipedia, the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs , which is currently headed by none other than Cass Sunstein, “develops and oversees the implementation of government-wide policies in the areas of information technology, information policy, privacy, and statistical policy.”
Could the policies Sunstein develops and oversees in the area of “information policy” include developing policies for debunking “conspiracy theories”? If so, it’s PROPAGANDA. Where in the U.S. Constitution is our government authorized to use taxpayer money to engage in PROPAGANDA against the people of this country?
But ARE they using our money? How do We the People find out whether or not our tax dollars are being spent against us? There has already been at least one example of this administration issuing a contract “for the development of Persona Management Software which would help the usercreate and manage a variety of distinct fake profiles online [emphasis added].” While this is software intended for use in Iraq and Afghanistan, who can assure us that, once developed, it won’t be used within the United States as well?
What say you? This is an open thread, so feel free to add your two cents about this subject or anything else on your mind.
h/t CanaGuy at Free Republic, who recently reminded me of this paper by Sunstein. We’ve written about or commented about Sunstein often, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here, for example. While Sunstein’s research paper has been analyzed on other blogs, as well as here, I thought it worth discussing yet again, because of what’s happened to Tea Partiers and so-called “birthers” at the hands of the complicit media and Obama’s supporters.
by John Pilger (from Information Clearing House)
10th March 2011
As the United States and Britain look for an excuse to invade another oil-rich Arab country, the hypocrisy is familiar. Colonel Gaddafi is “delusional” and “blood-drenched” while the authors of an invasion that killed a million Iraqis, who have kidnapped and tortured in our name, are entirely sane, never blood-drenched and once again the arbiters of “stability”.
But something has changed. Reality is no longer what the powerful say it is. Of all the spectacular revolts across the world, the most exciting is the insurrection of knowledge sparked by WikiLeaks. This is not a new idea. In 1792, the revolutionary Tom Paine warned his readers in England that their government believed that “people must be hoodwinked and held in superstitious ignorance by some bugbear or other”. Paine’s The Rights of Man was considered such a threat to elite control that a secret grand jury was ordered to charge him with “a dangerous and treasonable conspiracy”. Wisely, he sought refuge in France.
The ordeal and courage of Tom Paine is cited by the Sydney Peace Foundation in its award of Australia’s human rights Gold Medal to Julian Assange. Like Paine, Assange is a maverick who serves no system and is threatened by a secret grand jury, a malicious device long abandoned in England but not in the United States. If extradited to the US, he is likely to disappear into the Kafkaesque world that produced the Guantanamo Bay nightmare and now accuses Bradley Manning, WikiLeaks’ alleged whistleblower, of a capital crime.
Should Assange’s current British appeal fail against his extradition to Sweden, he will probably, once charged, be denied bail and held incommunicado until his trial in secret. The case against him has already been dismissed by a senior prosecutor in Stockholm and given new life only when a right-wing politician, Claes Borgstrom, intervened and made public statements about Assange’s “guilt”. Borgstrom, a lawyer, now represents the two women involved. His law partner is Thomas Bodstrom, who as Sweden’s minister for justice in 2001, was implicated in the handover of two innocent Egyptian refugees to a CIA kidnap squad at Stockholm airport. Sweden later awarded them damages for their torture.
Read More : Information Clearing House
America’s journalists are not “newshounds.” They are nothing more than salesclerks, hocking the products their employers want to sell. The pretty faces that now function as most television news anchors are no different than the pretty models used to sell other products. The American “free” press is comprised of nothing more than a number of retail outlets which sell stories slanted to please their target audiences. As such, they exist merely to sell snake oil.
Sometime in the 1960s, I took part in a university symposium along with three other faculty members—a political scientist, a historian, and a journalism professor. The topic was Freedom of the Press—Good or Bad.
During the sixties, the Cold War was being fought mightily. The Soviet Union’s news agencies, TASS and Pravda, were continually attacked by the American “free press” as untrustworthy. A common claim was that a controlled press could never be trusted while a free press could, and my three colleagues on the panel supported that view. I did too, but only partially.
A controlled press, I argued, most certainly could not be trusted when reporting on governmental actions or policies, but I pointed out that much news is not affected by government, and I saw no reason to be suspicious of a controlled press’ reporting on such matters. But I also argued that there was good reason to distrust the so called free press no matter what was being reported.
My argument rested upon the observation that a controlled press, being funded by its controlling government, had no need to attract readers while the so called free press had to rely on readers to remain economically viable. The free press had to market its wares in the same way that any retail company must, and one way to do that was to slant the news in ways that made it attractive to the news organization’s target groups which, in a sense, biased all the stories the free press reported. And although the free press claimed to maintain objectivity by balancing the presentation, using two people of divergent political views, I pointed out that it was easy to select the two people in ways that made it seem that one side always prevails, the result being that the media divided itself into ideological groups, not even to mention that large segment of the press openly termed sensational-tabloid.
Although this symposium took place approximately half a century ago, my argument is easier to make today than it was then. The media in America today often openly declare their various points of view, from conservative Fox News to liberal MSNBC.
Distinguished from these “all news” outlets are the more traditional networks, ABC, CBS, and NBC. These can be likened to department stores, in which various products are sold throughout each day, so called news being only one of them. These networks have their departments—the game show department, the reality show department, the sports department, the business department, the celebrity department, and, of course, the “news” department.
What either type of medium does, however, is similar. Just as Macy’s sells products of various kinds, the news sells stories, and each outlet distinguishes itself from the others by the slant in which each frames their products. Just as McDonalds distinguishes its burgers from those sold by BurgerKing, ABC distinguishes its stories from those told by NBC. In short, in the free press, the news is sold by slanting it in ways that make it appealing to the target audiences, and the slanting often takes up more time than telling the story does. An anchor often tells a story and then so called experts are used to embellish it by providing the slant. Unfortunately, the “experts” used often know nothing more about the issues discussed than the average viewer/listener does. The news, which many believe should consist of facts, becomes mere opinion.
Everyone must remember that there is no Hippocratic Oath for journalists; a person does not have to swear to report events truthfully to be a journalist. In fact, less is required of a journalist than of the plumber you call to unstop your toilet. In short, today’s American journalist can be likened to the teenager on roller skates who brings the hot dog you ordered to your car at Sonic or the clerk behind the counter at Macy’s. So anyone who criticizes the mainstream press for not being truthful, neutral, or objective is misguided. That’s not what the mainstream press sells and criticizing it is as unreasonable as criticizing McDonalds for not selling lamb chops.
That the media need to differentiate products from those of competitors also limits the kinds of stories that can be reported. If adding a bias to a story is difficult because of the story’s nature, the “free” press tends to ignore it. For instance, when the Iranian opposition engaged in anti-governmental demonstrations after the last election, the American press made much of it because the story could easily be presented as an oppressive government’s suppression of dissent. But the demonstrations against austerity policies taking place in Iceland, Ireland, Great Britain, France, and Greece have gone unreported because those demonstrations cannot be presented as demonstrations against oppressive governments. Similarly, the killing of Christians in Iraq and Egypt have gone unreported because they cannot be slanted to make them seem justified. If slanted any other way, they would provide anti-war Americans with another reason to argue against the wars. Furthermore, it is difficult to sensationalize stories about foreigners Americans know nothing of. So, for instance, stories about the antics of Italy’s Berlusconi would have little attraction to American viewers/listeners. Ever since it joined Mrs. Merkel’s German government, the fortunes of the pro-business Free Democrats have been dramatically changed from a party that won 15 percent during the federal elections of September 2009 to below 5 percent today, because of an increasing negative attitude of Germans for business since the current economic collapse began, a story that cannot easily be told to Americans because of American pro-business attitudes.
Snardfarker.ning.com claims that there are five reasons that the mainstream media is worthless. (1) Self-Censorship by journalists who are afraid to do what journalists were put on this green earth to do. “There’s the intense pressure to maintain access to insider sources. . . . There’s the fear of being labeled partisan if one’s bullshit-calling isn’t meted out in precisely equal increments along the political spectrum.” (2) Censorship by higher-ups. “If journalists do want to speak out about an issue, they also are subject to tremendous pressure by their editors or producers to kill the story.” (3) To drum support for war. “Why has the American press consistently served the elites in disseminating their false justifications for war? One of the reasons is because the large media companies are owned by those who support the militarist agenda or even directly profit from war and terror (for example, NBC . . . was owned by General Electric, one of the largest defense contractors in the world — which directly profits from war, terrorism and chaos).” (4) Access. “For $25,000 to $250,000, The Washington Post . . . offered lobbyists and association executives off-the-record, nonconfrontational access to ‘those powerful few’ Obama administration officials, members of Congress, and — at first — even the paper’s own reporters and editors.” And (5) Censorship by the Government. “the government has exerted tremendous pressure on the media to report things a certain way. Indeed, at times the government has thrown media owners and reporters in jail if they’ve been too critical.” These reasons are true to some extent, but the ultimate reason is merely the need to grow the bottom line, to make money which is, after all, the reason the media exists in America.
The consequence of all of this is that Americans have become mentally isolated. The world beyond America’s borders is an amorphous, unknown land. As Zbigniew Brzezinski has recently said, “most Americans are close to total ignorance about the world. They are ignorant.” What people don’t realize is how much of this ignorance is the result of the American “free” press’ need to slant its reporting. Brzezinski finds this “unhealthy,” and he is right, since America’s “foreign policy has to be endorsed by the people if it is to be pursued.” And this ignorance makes it easy for the government to convince the people that some disastrous policy is appropriate.
Americans who are critical of the mainstream press have an idealized notion of what the press is. They indict the press for not being what the press should be but is not and never has been. The press’ need to sell its products makes it impossible to be what it should be.
Unfortunately, the alternative press has adopted many of the mainstream press’ models. There are sites devoted exclusively to ideological stories—conservative, liberal, libertarian, pro and anti war, global warming, carbon taxation, and more—all in an attempt to attract readers. So the truth doesn’t emerge there either. How then can we find it?
There was once a small segment of the “free” press called investigative journalism which has now become almost entirely extinct. Perhaps this has happened because of the difficulty of prying information out of governmental agencies and corporate entities. About the only way to get that hidden information is to have it leaked by some whistleblower to some site that can protect the anonymity of the leaker. WikiLeaks is a start, but many such sites are needed if all the lies and disinformation is to be revealed. And, yes, it is likely that governments and even corporations will create pseudo-leaking sites to try to obfuscate the truth revealed by any leaker. But if the sites can, as WikiLeaks does, disseminate actual source documents that any reader can judge the authenticity of for her/himself, much more of the truth will emerge than can emerge now.
Slanted journalism must, of course, be debunked. Many alternative journalists already do this quite well, but sites like WikiLeaks are also necessary to combat the increasing secrecy that even the “free” press must contend with. Slanted reporting must be debunked, and leaking and whistleblowing must be encouraged and protected if the truth is ever to get a change of emerging from the darkness of insidious secrecy.
America’s journalists are not “newshounds.” Although I suspect that each and every one of them will consider this an insult, they are nothing more than salesclerks, hocking the products their employers want to sell. The pretty faces—well at least not ugly—that now function as most news anchors are no different than the pretty models used to sell other products. The American “free” press is comprised of nothing more than a number of retail outlets which sell stories slanted to please their target audiences. As such, they exist merely to sell snake oil.
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John Kozy is a retired professor of philosophy and logic who writes on social, political, and economic issues. After serving in the U.S. Army during the Korean War, he spent 20 years as a university professor and another 20 years working as a writer. He has published a textbook in formal logic commercially, in academic journals and a small number of commercial magazines, and has written a number of guest editorials for newspapers. His on-line pieces can be found on http://www.jkozy.com/ and he can be emailed from that site’s homepage.
John Kozy is a frequent contributor to Global Research. Global Research Articles by John Kozy