In a moment of theological reflection, Woody Allen once declared, "I believe there is something out there watching us. Unfortunately, it's the government."
Woody's little joke has become today's chilling reality as the Bush-Ashcroft regime has imposed measure after measure of new autocratic police power to keep watch over We the People. All of this has been done under the guise of "fighting terrorists" -- but the government's focus increasingly is shifting from "them" to "us."
The latest example is the FBI's heavy-handed push to harass, intimidate and suppress ordinary citizens who seek to protest governmental or corporate policies. Prior to the national conventions of both the Republican and Democratic parties, the so-called "justice" department dispatched federal agents to at least six states to trail and grill potential protesters. As one young protester put it, the government agents were trying "to let us know that, 'Hey, we're watching you.'"
This repressive "knock-on-the-door" by authorities is not merely directed at targets known to be plotting criminal activity, but at citizens who were simply planning to attend legitimate protests. Ashcroft himself asserts that these people "might, perhaps, possibly could have the potential to do something criminal -- or that they might, perhaps, possibly could know someone who could do so."
The justice department's infamous office of legal policy okayed this vague, Big Brotherish assault on our individual liberty by declaring that any "chilling" of the right to dissent would be outweighed by the need for order.
Of course, throughout our country's history, from the Redcoats forward, bullying autocrats have always donned the dark cloak of "order" to rationalize their repression. The Bush-Ashcroft use of FBI snoops to intimidate today's dissenters is not about preventing crime, but about preventing protest.
Publication date: 09/09/04