Walkerism is, front and center, part of the growing American security and surveillance society | WisCommunity

Walkerism is, front and center, part of the growing American security and surveillance society

Just as we need to regard the George Zimmerman acquital in Florida as part of a national defect of racism, we need to see decisions to restrict protesters as a national defect of free speech.

Last week, Federal Judge William Conley issued a preliminary injunction prohibiting the Wisconsin Department of Administration from enforcing part of its restrictive state Capitol access policy on the basis that it violates First Amendment free speech protections. The Walker administration imposed the rules in an obvious attempt to quash continuing peaceful demonstrations in the Capitol rotunda. From The Progressive magazine:

The order does not enjoin the entire permitting process. It abolishes the distinction made in the rules between a rally promoting a cause, and any other type of gathering, performance, ceremony or presentation in the building, and it raises the limit on how many people may be gathered before the permit requirement kicks in from a group of 4 to a group of 20 people.

The judge's ruling represents only a partial, perhaps temporary victory. Whatever the outcome of the case, it will no doubt be appealed. Beyond that, the Walker regime's efforts to stifle dissenting voices are part of a national trend, driven mostly by conservatives but also increasingly a bipartisan political phenomenon. Witness the Obama administration's continuing use of policies begun under the Bush administration to pursue warrantless spying of Americans, and assassinate suspected (only suspected, in many cases) terrorists with invasive, inaccurate drone strikes on foreign soil.

Then there are the cries of dissent coming from American women, reacting to restrictive abortion laws imposed by an increasing number of red-controlled states, Wisconsin included. Here and elsewhere, it is now the law that a woman considering an abortion has no right to reject a medically unnecessary, invasive probe. In another context, that would be considered rape.

Or consider the quasi-military, camouflaged private security guards brought in from Arizona to "guard" what remains for now a public-traversible forest from the public, with the help of military assault rifles. Of course, increasingly, our local police forces increasingly resemble these same kinds of soldier wannabes. Indeed, in some places here and around the US, the police have without legal right internally probed suspects in rape-like fashion -- sometimes right on the street.

Finally, let's not forget how conservative groups in Wisconsin quickly turned state recall petitions into contact databases, which the groups essentially are using as permanent McCarthyesque black lists against around a million state residents. Applying for a job? Your prospective employer may consult the on-line blacklist and reject you as undesirable. All because you exercised what is supposed to be a high and unassailable right to particpate in the nation's political discourse. And thanks to the Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling, companies arguably now have more rights in that regard than you.

Sum it all up. Right now, arguably, the number one threat to progressive causes and minority/mainstream rights is this country's growing, institutionalized assault on privacy and disagreement of any sort with political, corporate and economic elites. The assault is especially alarming given the billions spent to pursue it from wealthy, corporate authoritarians like the Koch brothers, who are now busy trying to buy up major US media companies.

Chris Hedges, blogging at Common Dreams, puts it all into disturbing context:

The security and surveillance state, after crushing the Occupy movement and eradicating its encampments, has mounted a relentless and largely clandestine campaign to deny public space to any group or movement that might spawn another popular uprising. The legal system has been grotesquely deformed in most cities to, in essence, shut public space to protesters, eradicating our right to free speech and peaceful assembly. The goal of the corporate state is to criminalize democratic, popular dissent before there is another popular eruption. The vast state surveillance system, detailed in Edward Snowden's revelations to the British newspaper The Guardian, at the same time ensures that no action or protest can occur without the advanced knowledge of our internal security apparatus. This foreknowledge has allowed the internal security systems to proactively block activists from public spaces as well as carry out pre-emptive harassment, interrogation, intimidation, detention and arrests before protests can begin. There is a word for this type of political system -- tyranny.

Another word for this type of political system, one that describes the path to tyranny is a word that often came up in the large-scale protests of the late '60s: repression. Repressive societies lead to repressive regimes, and then to tyranny. Republican-style authoritarianism, sometimes aided or abetted by establishment-dependent Democrats, feeds this cycle.

In a society so diverse yet hugely intolerant as ours is today, the center cannot hold. As the GOP swings far right along with some Democrats, the answer from progressives must be to remain firmly planted in our beliefs -- or even move further leftward, as a balancing tactic.


July 16, 2013 - 11:28am