Death of Free Association
In most nations on planet Earth participating in political opposition is extremely dangerous. Truly peaceful debate amongst political enemies followed by a vote of the people is the rare exception to the rule. In most nations elections, those in power rig the outcomes, terrorize the voters, and imprison or assassinate the opposition. This fundamentally means that, in those despot nations who purport to have free elections, every election cycle is really a minor civil war, and every change in power is a coup d’état.
Our Founding Fathers wanted a better system… a peaceful system where the people decide who leads and the rules are democratic and fair for the majority and the minority. A system where people of like mind could gather, speak their mind and attempt to effect change without fear of murder, imprisonment or harassment, “Congress shall make no law… abridging the right of people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for redress of grievances.” President Richard Nixon violated this fundamental tenet of democracy and ended up resigning the presidency as a result. That was forty years ago.
Now enter President Barack Obama. We already know that the NSA tracks all our individual communication networks… just in case. What you may not know is that once he was in office, Obama’s IRS began targeting and harassing many of his political enemies, such as Christine O’Donnell, to such an extent as to actually sway electoral outcomes. A parade of political conservatives have testified about the harassment before Congress, while former IRS official, Lois Lerner, in a tantamount admission of guilt, exercised her Fifth Amendment rights hoping to dodge responsibility for denying President Obama’s enemies their First Amendment rights.
I am confident there will never be any legal repercussions for President Obama and he will finish his term as president unscathed. His people will close ranks and no one of any import will go to prison because Congress will invariably conclude the abuse of power was not illegal. All Nixon did was have his minions break into the office of his opponents in the attempt to steal their playbook. Not even Nixon had the brass to attempt to use a government agency to bully his enemies into submission.
Death of Free Speech and the Death of Unlawful Search and Seizure
Freedom of speech is not about gossip or pornography or vulgar language or campaign donations or PAC dollars. Those are the evils of free speech. Our Constitutional guarantee of free speech exists so we can criticize the King and the British East India Company without being punished. Not only do we have a guarantee of free speech, U.S. and international copyright laws say we own the copyright for everything we say and write. Those laws are effectively dead, assaulted by arrogant leaders and rapidly developing technologies, and killed by our malaise.
“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”
In 2013, whistle-blower Edward Snowden, confirmed what everyone already knew. The Federal Government, along with giant corporations of all kinds were recording, tracking, and tabulating our every electronic movement. Our conversations, our correspondence, our purchases, our internet searches, everything. All without warrant or just cause, and without financially compensating us for illegally benefiting from our copyrighted materials. This massive database is then mined to create a profile in black and white of every American – our habits, attitudes, health, movements, associations and the like. Corporations are stealing the copyright of our lives for their own profit and the government is monitoring and storing the data, without warrant, to save for that rainy day some random, law-abiding citizen just might do something they do not like. With a few clicks on a keyboard our lives can be parsed, our characters assassinated and our futures crippled.
All this has a very chilling effect on real free speech – the kind of speech that criticizes the government or takes the rich and powerful to task. For instance, Obama’s IRS used its power to single out and assassinate the character of Delaware Republican senatorial candidate, Christine O’Donnell. In 2010 O’Donnell was in a close race against Democrat Chris Coons. Despite O’Donnell’s outspoken conservative views in a relative progressive stronghold, she was mounting serious threat to Coons’ election. The voters liked her… so someone in Obama’s IRS decided to place a fake tax lien on a property she no longer owned, made the information public to embarrass her, and swung the election in Coons favor. Those in power did not like what O’Donnell had to say, did not want her deal with her as a senator, and made sure she lost – all with a few clicks on a computer. This is not Larry Flint or Catcher in the Rye. This is about the core of our democratic process, and if no one goes to prison, if there is no significant government accountability, then we know for certain true free speech and free association are dead and our personal effects are no longer our own.