The Daily Sandwich

"We have to learn the lesson that intellectual honesty is fundamental for everything we cherish." -Sir Karl Popper

Location: Boston, Massachusetts, United States


Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Free Speech: Enemy of Democracy

Hoo boy. Time for another disturbing trip to those lists of traits that make up a fascist regime...

A White House manual that came to light recently gives presidential advance staffers extensive instructions in the art of "deterring potential protestors" from President Bush's public appearances around the country.

Among other things, any event must be open only to those with tickets tightly controlled by organizers. Those entering must be screened in case they are hiding secret signs. Any anti-Bush demonstrators who manage to get in anyway should be shouted down by "rally squads" stationed in strategic locations. And if that does not work, they should be thrown out. . .

The techniques described have become familiar over the 6 1/2 years of Bush's presidency, but the manual makes it clear how organized the anti-protest policy really is. . .

"These squads should be instructed always to look for demonstrators," it says. "The rally squad's task is to use their signs and banners as shields between the demonstrators and the main press platform. If the demonstrators are yelling, rally squads can begin and lead supportive chants to drown out the protestors (USA!, USA!, USA!). As a last resort, security should remove the demonstrators from the event site."

Advance teams are advised not to worry if protesters are not visible to the president or cameras: "If it is determined that the media will not see or hear them and that they pose no potential disruption to the event, they can be ignored. On the other hand, if the group is carrying signs, trying to shout down the President, or has the potential to cause some greater disruption to the event, action needs to be taken immediately to minimize the demonstrator's effect."

The article is a must-read. I'm amazed at my capacity to still be amazed at the GOP's capacity to crap on the Constitution in such a matter-of-fact way. Not to mention the capacity of conservatives to regard all of this as no big deal. Just like gagging scientists, discrediting intellectuals, linking criticism with treason, bogus national security emergencies, manipulating elections, stoking racial antagonism, conflating government with business & religion, et al. And they just... don't... care.

It also gives the lie to the commonplace "overzealous staffer" defense. We continue to see BushCo claim that they have no knowledge of what's happening beneath their very noses and insist that they're shocked by each new scandal and determined to get to the bottom of it-- only to have evidence emerge that they were not only aware of it, but orchestrated it.

All right, I can't resist. I have to cite Karl Popper's list again. As terrifying as it is, it reads like the GOP's "to-do" list of the last ten years.

1. Nationalism; the concept of a chosen nation destined for world domination. (The neo-con platform.)

2. The state's identity as fundamentally unlike other states-- emphasis on differences, and why they must be maintained to preserve the state. (The twin menaces of Arabs and Mexicans.)

3. Exemption from moral obligation; "historical success" as the sole judgment. The ends justify the means, up to and including propaganda and lies. (Headline today? Bush: History to Prove Iraq War Worth It)

4. War as a moral imperative. War is not only inevitable, but sometimes a desirable way to strengthen the state. Military superiority is evidence of state superiority. (The hot new thing? Wars of choice.)

5. "The creative role of the Great Man," what Hegel called the "World Historical Personality," and Popper describes as the religion of glory. The "Great Man" despises public opinion in his desire to achieve something great-- indecision or moral obligations only spoil his chances of success. (We tend to demand that our candidates be saints. The GOP just pins the saint label to turds like Bush and Giuliani.)

6. The ideal of a heroic life. Life is not about rationality or reason, but action. The more sweeping and dramatic the action, the better one has lived. (Shoot first-- ask questions never.)