By John W. Whitehead
My friends, we’re being played for fools.
On paper, we may be technically free.
In reality, however, we are only as free as a government official may allow.
We only think we live in a constitutional republic, governed by just laws created for our benefit.
Truth be told, we live in a dictatorship disguised as a democracy where all that we own, all that we earn, all that we say and do—our very lives—depends on the benevolence of government agents and corporate shareholders for whom profit and power will always trump principle. And now the government is litigating and legislating its way into a new framework where the dictates of petty bureaucrats carry greater weight than the inalienable rights of the citizenry.
We’re in trouble, folks.
Freedom no longer means what it once did.
This holds true whether you’re talking about the right to criticize the government in word or deed, the right to be free from government surveillance, the right to not have your person or your property subjected to warrantless searches by government agents, the right to due process, the right to be safe from soldiers invading your home, the right to be innocent until proven guilty and every other right that once reinforced the founders’ belief that this would be “a government of the people, by the people and for the people.”
Not only do we no longer have dominion over our bodies, our families, our property and our lives, but the government continues to chip away at what few rights we still have to speak freely and think for ourselves.
If the government can control speech, it can control thought and, in turn, it can control the minds of the citizenry.
The unspoken freedom enshrined in the First Amendment is the right to think freely and openly debate issues without being muzzled or treated like a criminal.
We no longer have free speech.
What we have instead is regulated, controlled speech, and that’s a whole other ballgame.
Protest laws, free speech zones, bubble zones, trespass zones, anti-bullying legislation, zero tolerance policies, hate crime laws and a host of other legalistic maladies dreamed up by politicians and prosecutors are conspiring to corrode our core freedoms purportedly for our own good.
For instance, the protest laws being introduced across the country—in 18 states so far—are supposedly in the name of “public safety and limiting economic damage.”
Don’t fall for it.
No matter how you package these laws, no matter how well-meaning they may sound, no matter how much you may disagree with the protesters or sympathize with the objects of the protest, these proposed laws are aimed at one thing only: discouraging dissent.
In Arizona, police would be permitted to seize the assets of anyone involved in a protest that at some point becomes violent.
In Minnesota, protesters would be forced to pay for the cost of having police on hand to “police” demonstrations.
Oregon lawmakers want to “require public community colleges and universities to expel any student convicted of participating in a violent riot.”
Pushing back against what it refers to as “economic terrorism,” Washington wants to increase penalties for protesters who block access to highways and railways.
South Dakota wants to create new trespassing penalties and make it a crime to obstruct highways.
In Iowa, protesters who block highways with speeds posted above 55 mph could spend five years in prison, plus a fine of up to $7,500. Obstruct traffic in Mississippi and you could be facing a $10,000 fine and a five-year prison sentence.
A North Carolina law would make it a crime to heckle state officials.
Indiana lawmakers wanted to authorize police to use “any means necessary” to breakup mass gatherings that block traffic.
Georgia is proposing harsh penalties for those who obstruct public passages or throw bodily fluids on “public safety officers.”
Virginia wants to subject protesters who engage in an “unlawful assembly” with up to a year of jail time and a fine of up to $2,500.
Missouri wants to make it illegal for anyone participating in an “unlawful assembly” to intentionally conceal “his or her identity by the means of a robe, mask, or other disguise.”
Colorado wants to lock up protesters for up to 18 months who obstruct or tamper with oil and gas equipment and charge them with up to $100,000 in fines.
In Oklahoma, protesters could be locked up for 10 years and fined $1,000,000.
Michigan hopes to make it easier for courts to shut down “mass picketing” demonstrations and fine protesters who block entrances to businesses, private residences or roadways up to $1,000 a day. That fine jumps to $10,000 a day for unions or other organizing groups.
Ask yourself: if there are already laws on the books in all of the states that address criminal or illegal behavior such as blocking public roadways or trespassing on private property—because such laws are already on the books—then why does the government need to pass laws criminalizing activities that are already outlawed?
What’s really going on here?
No matter what the politicians might say, the government doesn’t care about our rights, our welfare or our safety.
How many times will we keep falling for the same tricks?
Every despotic measure used to control us and make us cower and fear and comply with the government’s dictates has been packaged as being for our benefit, while in truth benefiting only those who stand to profit, financially or otherwise, from the government’s transformation of the citizenry into a criminal class.
Remember, the Patriot Act didn’t make us safer. It simply turned American citizens into suspects and, in the process, gave rise to an entire industry—private and governmental—whose profit depends on its ability to undermine our Fourth Amendment rights.
Placing TSA agents in our nation’s airports didn’t make us safer. It simply subjected Americans to invasive groping, ogling and bodily searches by government agents. Now the TSA plans to subject travelers to even more “comprehensive” patdowns.
So, too, these protest laws are not about protecting the economy or private property or public roads. Rather, they are intended to muzzle discontent and discourage anyone from challenging government authority.
These laws are the shot across the bow.
They’re intended to send a strong message that in the American police state, you’re either a patriot who marches in lockstep with the government’s dictates or you’re a pariah, a suspect, a criminal, a troublemaker, a terrorist, a radical, a revolutionary.
As I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, by muzzling the citizenry, by removing the constitutional steam valves that allow people to speak their minds, air their grievances and contribute to a larger dialogue that hopefully results in a more just world, the government is deliberately stirring the pot and creating a climate in which violence becomes inevitable.
When there is no steam valve—when there is no one to hear what the people have to say, because government representatives have removed themselves so far from their constituents—then frustration builds, anger grows and people become more volatile and desperate to force a conversation.
Then again, perhaps that was the government’s plan all along.
As John F. Kennedy warned in March 1962, “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.”
The government is making violent revolution inevitable.