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  • Monday, March 06, 2006


    Sedition and Free Speech

    The recent case of the V.A. nurse who was investigated for "sedition" because she wrote a letter to a local newspaper is typical of the American government's reaction to all criticism during wartime. I don't just mean this administration or this war. It has happened during wartimes for much more than a hundred years. The FBI has played an integral part of this broad application of the label "sedition" to any form of dissent.

    As noted in Agents of Repression by Churchill and Vander Wall, the national security and law enforcement agencies, particularly the FBI, have often used wars as a pretext to ramp up anti-dissent operations to levels unthinkable in peacetime. Such illegal actions are viewed incredulously outside of wartime, without some perceived external threat, but then are excused as regretable but necessary violations of civil liberties during wartime.

    Reactionary forces and personalities will laud the extremes of overzealousness, claiming it's the price we must pay to be "safe" when it's really just the excuse needed for intimidation and silencing of all dissent through force. And it works. The V.A. nurse used the phrase "act forcefully to remove a government administration playing games of smoke and mirrors and vicious deceit" in her public and printed letter to the editor. While this is a rather strong language, I find it difficult to interpret it as advocating violent overthrow of the government. I don't think violent revolutionaries tend to use the letters column in the local paper as their cadre recruiting grounds.

    The concept of "fellow travelers" seems culturally embedded, so much so that right-wing commentators continually accuse all who disagree with them as witting or unwitting collaborators with terrorists and enemies of the State. This is the current form of "red-baiting," tar-and-feathering dissent with accusations of collusion.

    Say bye-bye to the nice freedoms. You'll hardly miss them at all as the years pass. Really.

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