Friday, June 28, 2013

Prophylactic attack on human and civil rights?

We in the global and historical apex of human society, the planetary engine toward democracy, teach our children well that the US values such things. As American children, and into our American adult years, we are saturated in the rhetoric proclaiming all these things.

We are also taught that our enemies make similar claims but none of their claims are based in reality. Proof of that is easy; their citizens flee from them to us. Every schoolchild in the US knows this. They also know that the US must be forced to go to war only because other aggressors eventually make us do so. That is easy to prove because of instances that anchor that fundamental truth, such as Pearl Harbor.

Then, as adults, we begin to be exposed to other facts that do not fit comfortably into our received master narrative, facts that violate the common wisdom and culturally certain knowledge. This can produce many responses.

There are some who flip completely because living with a dichotomous typology--one side good, one side bad--is simplest. There are ready-made philosophies and structural explanations that sit on our ideological shelves. Islam is divinely mandated. Communism is perfection. US bad, socialism good. These are folks who need a received scaffolding that explains everything in one Manichean paragraph. The theology or ideology has primary or holy texts, to be read literally and interpreted by masters, not individuals. Any behavior committed in the name of that single explanation is excused and contextualized in that frame. Women have fewer rights because it is written in the Bible and the Quran. Violence is required because Marx, Lenin, the Founding Fathers/American Revolution, St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas, the Baghvagita, the Old Testament, and the Quran all justify it.

Then there are those to whom critical thinking either comes naturally or who have been taught to use it by family, teachers, or other mentors. Most of us believe we engage in assessments and decisions like that, weighing all the facts and evaluating the options before making decisions. Most of us believe we are immune to uncritical acceptance of some master narrative.

But at some level we know better. Propagandists and other persuaders certainly understand our weaknesses and exploit them. It is insidious but pervasive. One recent example is the notion that all the violations of our privacy are Just Fine because this is how our government protects us. We hear the persuaders telling us that our rights are all fine but lucky thing for our government intelligence services, since they have stopped so many terror attacks in the past few years. What value are all those rights if the terrorists blow up your family? Be grateful, subjects. Resistance is not only useless, it is unpatriotic, even treasonous.

It worked for Lenin, Stalin, and all their successors and functionaries in the Soviet Union. Privacy was unpatriotic. Same for Hitler, Goebbels, and the rest of the Nazis--and their successors in East Germany and the rest of the Warsaw Pact. China has shown the unpatriotic evils in many who sought to gain even the slightest human or civil rights, all the way from Mao onward. In the US, it was how we came to the McCarthy Era, and how Nixon went about his business. In our Homeland, the military and intelligence services demand, in the name of national interest, to know everything about everybody. Anything less is siding with the terrorists, anything less is evil. Challenging this Orwellian hegemony of the state, questioning and revealing the practices of Big Brother, is siding with The Enemy.

So what about all the claims that, without the Patriot Act, without PRISM, without the NSA and FBI and CIA information-gathering we would fall victim to the terrorists because these patriotic defenders have stopped so many attacks already?

Really? Are these attacks like the one here locally, in Portland, Oregon, in which a child of 17 expressed some violent ideation when he learned of US drone attacks on his birthplace, Somalia? The US intelligence services were actually notified of this by the boy's father--perhaps they had known from other sources as well--and they swung into action, helping to radicalize the boy, and, after he turned 18, provided the 'man' with a fake bomb. The only radical Muslim in the entire terrorist operation was the young fellow himself--all the rest were agents. This is the sort of case from which we were protected.

And even that level of 'protection' that results in conviction is exceedingly rare. To this aspirant critical thinker, all such claims by our officials must be dismissed as pure propaganda to justify their rampant, wholesale, illegal violations of our Bill of Rights, the UN Charter, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, unless they show enough evidence to have resulted in a conviction in our US courts, and even then, one must wonder about those cases if they are anything like the Portland fiasco.

So yes, we have many great rights in the US, and I'm taking advantage of them right now. Of course, for the mere exercise of those rights, my 100 percent nonviolent, anti-militarist criminal career has landed me in many jails and three prisons. so please pardon me if I'm convinced that Daniel Ellsberg, Julian Assange, Bradley Manning, Edward Snowden and others should be thanked, not arrested. And when John Kerry and Barack Obama say that Snowden should be extradited to the US because the US routinely does that for Russia, I say well let's stop doing that for Russia, a place where dissidents flee successfully or may be radioactively poisoned, fed dioxin, or gunned down in their own homes, all fates of Russian dissidents. There should be no extradition to such places. Time to start shaking up those master frames and narratives. Ethically, they are flimsy.

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