Thursday, September 08, 2005

America Dying

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
The First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America

We are now hearing from a variety of sources that the press is being prevented from entering New Orleans. There are stories of photojournalists being ordered at gunpoint to surrender their cameras and memory cards. FEMA has quite clearly forbidden any photos being taken of recovered bodies. National guardsman are turning away the press at the outskirts of New Orleans. Brian Williams of MSNBC blogs what is going on:
While we were attempting to take pictures of the National Guard (a unit from Oklahoma) taking up positions outside a Brooks Brothers on the edge of the Quarter, the sergeant ordered us to the other side of the boulevard. The short version is: there won't be any pictures of this particular group of guard soldiers on our newscast tonight. Rules (or I suspect in this case an order on a whim) like those do not HELP the palpable feeling that this area is somehow separate from the United States.

At that same fire scene, a police officer from out of town raised the muzzle of her weapon and aimed it at members of the media... obvious members of the media... armed only with notepads... the fact that the National Guard now bars entry (by journalists) to the very places where people last week were barred from LEAVING (The Convention Center and Superdome) is a kind of perverse and perfectly backward postscript to this awful chapter in American history.

Brian Williams: Making the Quarter rounds
America has a long history of surpressing press freedoms during times of war and quite frequently the courts have upheld these restrictions. And we are at war. But this was a natural disaster, not a terrorist attack. There are no national security concerns here. A possible argument could be made for health concerns, but that has never before prevented journalists covering a disaster area.

Josh Marshall spells out what is going on in his usual polite and fairly mild manner:
Take a moment to note what's happening here: these are the marks of repressive government, which mixes inefficiency with authoritarianism. The crew that couldn't get key aid on the scene in time last week is coming in force now. And one of the key missions appears to be cutting off public information about what's happening in the city.

This is a domestic, natural disaster. Absent specific cases where members of the press would interfere or get in the way of some particular clean up operation, or perhaps demolition work, there is simply no reason why credentialed members of the press should not be able to cover everything that is happening in that city.

Think about it.

Talking Points Memo, 9/7/05
I have thought about this. I was going to blog on this last night, but rather I slept on it, or rather I tried to. I simply could not sleep well.

Political speech is supposed to be the most protected form of speech in this country. The only reason to ban media coverage of the New Orleans debacle is to provide political cover for an embattled administration. These orders are prima facia illegal and unconstitutional. But they stand today and I have yet to hear of any journalist challenging them.

For the first time ever I am seriously thinking about moving out of the United States of America. Europe would be the logical choice. How shameful that we used to be the beacon of liberty and individual freedom for them.

Last night I started to think about purchasing a gun, but honestly, what good would that do? Who would I be shooting at? What would it accomplish? There is no organized resistance to join - yet. I won't say I am a pacifist, but I would definitely prefer the route of peace. Besides which any resistance to this tinpot dictator would be so outgunned it would be laughable. I think Cindy Sheehan is lighting the path we must take. But I no longer think we will win. The enemies of individual freedom no longer recognize legal barriers to their activities and each time they succeed, it emboldens them to go further.

We must realize the United States of America is no longer a constitutional republic. Everything that underpins the freedom and liberties hard fought and won by our ancestors is being undone. There is no longer a guarantee of freedom of speech. We are now a fascist state similar to Italy in the hands of Mussolini or Spain under Franco. All those dire warnings about what made the Soviet Union so evil when I was growing up; that it was a one party state where that one party controlled the press and the government and dissent was not tolerated, all of that is coming true right here, right now.

I will grant the Republicans this: we are nothing like Nazi Germany. The Republicans don't have the brains to implement their fascism in such an organized, methodical manner. Karl Rove has, however, taken a page directly from the Nazi propaganda minister: It is the absolute right of the State to supervise the formation of public opinion. -Joseph Goebbels

As Josh says, think on it.