Yes we have no democracy, or, Don't park yourself here! | WisCommunity

Yes we have no democracy, or, Don't park yourself here!

[img_assist|nid=109449|title=Park off limits|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=245|height=125]Back when George W. Bush was running for president, protesters would regularly show up at his appearances, just as they do now whenever Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker goes out to raise more millions for his campaign or talk smack about his excellent public record. But the Bushies, like some right-wing authoritarians before them, had a way of coping with this: They'd check IDs at the door of their events to sort out anyone who wasn't a known Bush supporter, and they would get the police to corral street protesters in far away,out of sight, fenced-in "free speech zones" -- as if free speech in this country was never universal, but only allowable within a very limited set of physical reservations. Hey, it's how earlier great white fathers dealt with native Americans.

So now come Walker and his pals in the Wisconsin Ledge, deciding to try to cool dissent by making it way too expensive, less visible and more bureaucratic. Republican national conventions used to be lampooned for their well-scripted "spontaneous, unrehearsed demonstrations," but now, scripted protests will be the only kind deemed acceptable by the Walker administration. You can't, in the Walkerverse, simply show up and start waving a protest sign outside the Capitol. Nope, say the Walkerites, you need to make reservations, 72 hours in advance. And you'd better have deep pockets, because they're going to rid you of as much of your cash as possible for every public "expense" they can pretend might be associated with your protest. Never mind that the blood of hundreds of thousands of Americans has been shed to ensure that protest won't come affixed with a price tag.

There's another, more disturbing level to this puerile attempt at managing dissent, and that's the combined efforts of authoritarians in the business community and the conservative political movement to increasingly declare democracy off limits to Americans. If you're collecting petitions in Wisconsin, for a recall campaign or any other political purpose, courts have ruled that privately owned property is off limits unless the owners consent. Of course, more and more of America is being taken private -- even our supposedly "public" parks, as the Occupy Wall Streeters discovered in the case of New York City.

Meanwhile, back here in Wisconsin, the Walker gang has made it very clear via a new memo to state workers from employment relations secretary Greg Gracz that workers are not to circulate recall petitions or engage in any other political activity within state (i.e., public) buildings. Remaining apolitical when you're on the job is a reasonable requirement for public employees, but Gracz's memo presumes that public employees never take breaks or go to lunch and that they have no right to freely associate with their colleagues within state government buildings at any time. Never mind that the taxes imposed on those state workers helped pay for those buildings and help keep them open. 

So there you have it: Political activity is by default forbidden on private property, and now it's increasingly forbidden by default on public property. If you manage to find an available public space to stage a protest, however peaceful, Walker and his cronies will try to hit you with reams of regulations that make it harder to organize your event, and then will send you a big fat bill for your trouble.

But there's always mass media, right? Not as much as you think. If you do turn to that environment to relay your message, most private broadcasters and an increasing number of print media will blow you off. And if you manage to round up enough cash to buy a political ad, and if the broadcaster or publisher doesn't refuse to run it, your message will be drowned out by the billions of unlimited dollars the Koch brothers and their ilk can deploy. Because, the more money you have, the more free speech you have. The Supreme Court has so decreed.

And now come corporations to Washington, urging Congress to enact the onerous new "Protect IP" bill that will enable private interests to effectively censor the Internet if they don't like what they see there. 

The British invented the famed soapbox in London's Hyde Park, where for many years people have been able to step up and be heard without interference. These days, in America at least, all the figuative and real soapboxes seem to be controlled by interests unwilling to share them. Meanwhile, more and more public parks are deeded over to private "caretaker" corporations that prefer them to be sterile, placid and pretty, not actually used by citizens beyond perhaps feeding pigeons.

Democracy, you see, is messy. And our elites don't like messes, except the ones they themselves make and promptly ignore. Theirs is, if only in appearance, a luxurious, peaceful country that brooks no dissent, especially not from the rabble over whom they rule. So they badger the politicians they've bought to send in the cops with their Tasers and tear gas and pepper spray and rubber bullets.

Mao said all power comes from the barrel of a gun. That, and if you're living in America, a barrel or two more of money.


December 2, 2011 - 12:21am