Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Political profiling and the attempt to squelch dissent

There is probably no species I disdain more than "watchdog" groups whose members set about scrutinizing the behavior, conduct and attitudes of their fellow citizens, determined to expunge views deemed "undesirable." These self-righteous caretakers make a mockery of American freedom.

All too often, when their efforts to inform the populace of some potential calamity fail to arouse the desired concern, these interlopers are known to further embellish their hoaxes, and even engage in outright lies. They are given to contriving whatever it takes to denigrate perfectly legitimate challenges to public policies, in order to make those they view as political opponents look like "threats" to the social order.

The most recent case of such chicanery comes in the form of the Missouri Information Analysis Center (MIAC), an entity initially concocted by Missouri’s Department of Public Safety. In February, MIAC issued a report entitled, "The Modern Militia Movement," whose purpose was to warn the public of scary organizations filled with shady individuals who hold unconventional attitudes and pursue anti-American activities.

If you thought you had heard the last of militia-bashing, think again. It seems that "militia" has metamorphosed into a frame of mind, rather than an actual membership group. You might be a militia type simply due to some of the notions you carry in your head. It appears that the militia groups of the 1990s, that were intimidated out of existence by Bill Clinton’s jack-booted mobs, will forever be conjured up and given new life, whenever powerful cliques desire to squelch the political views of their opponents.

You might ask, can’t a citizen question the role played by the Federal Reserve or the usefulness of U.S. membership in the United Nations or take a stand against illegal immigration? It seems not. For these are among a specific list of categories used by this Missouri government agency to profile potentially dangerous "militia" types. Also under suspicion for anti-American thinking are those who oppose gun control, those who challenge the government’s right to violate the Posse Comitatus clause in the Constitution, and those who express opposition to the North American Union and to abortion. And don’t have a beef with the income tax!

Unfortunately, since 9/11, many newly created agencies have been given carte blanche by the Department of Homeland Security, ostensibly to alert police and other law enforcement officers to prospective social misfits. Almost every state has something called a "fusion center," whereby an agency is set up primarily to ferret out "domestic terrorists." And which state would not welcome yet another make-work opportunity, to justify a substantial flow of federal funds? These fusion centers found ways to further feed at the public trough long before bail-outs and stimulus packages became popular. Worst of all, they operate under the false guise of "assisting" the police in recognizing so-called enemies of society.

When first perusing the MIAC report, I was struck by the simpleminded disparagement of challenges to government policy for which there are First Amendment constitutional protections. In the opinion of the creators of the report, even to be opposed to a call for a Constitutional Convention makes one suspect. Say, what? But I was really taken aback when I came across this statement:

Militia members most commonly associate with third party political groups . . . are usually supporters of former Presidential candidates Ron Paul, Chuck Baldwin and Bob Barr."

Now, my first choice for President in the last election was the Honorable Ron Paul. But on November 4, 2008, it was not possible to vote for him here in New York. As it turned out, my second choice was also not on the state ballot. That was Rev. Chuck Baldwin. And so, I opted to vote for someone who was much further down my list of choices, former Congressman Bob Barr. When I saw these three names, of all people, in that MIAC report, I laughed.

But, of course, this is no laughing matter. Imagine what these watchdogs are implying. They are sending signals to law enforcement personnel to keep an eye on people wearing buttons with particular politicians’ names on them, on cars that bear bumper stickers with names like Ron Paul, and on protesters carrying signs supporting or discrediting specific causes.

The tone and spirit of the MIAC report had a familiar ring to it. It sounded similar to screeds regularly disseminated by those scapegoating watchdogs, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and the B’nai Brith Anti-Defamation League (ADL). So, when I read this statement by Chuck Baldwin, I knew he had it right:

I am absolutely convinced we will find that this report actually originates with Morris Dees and his ultra-liberal Southern Poverty Law Center. And if my hunch (a very educated hunch, I might add) is correct, it means that the Department of Homeland Security and various State police agencies around the country are allowing a left-wing special interest group to use them to harass, intimidate, and profile people with conservative political opinions.

Campaigns to "reeducate" police departments around the country have been underway for some time by these self-appointed watchdog groups, initiated by the ADL. They began with the passage of "hate crime" laws in various states and municipalities. As we see, they have now expanded to include still further whims and fancies of the doctrinaire left. Political "independents" are clearly targeted. Notice how only conservative-libertarian independents are profiled in that MIAC report. Why not the left-leaning independent Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont? There’s no greater hell-raiser when it comes to challenging government policies than my favorite leftist, the estimable Bernie (who identifies himself as a "Socialist"). Obviously, the MIAC crew considers Sanders on the correct side of the political spectrum; hence, no need for political profiling.

As the MIAC report made its way into the media, first via the muckraker Alex Jones, and eventually into the hands of radio and TV talk show hosts, an avalanche of criticism poured down on the Missouri state government. William Gheen, director of Americans for Legal Immigration (ALIPAC), expressed shock "to see credible law enforcement agencies disseminating the same kind of over-the-top political propaganda" distributed by such groups as the SPLC and ADL.

Gheen stressed the fact that, however these groups might market themselves, they are nothing more than political organizations with stated political goals and agendas. The founders and directors of these watchdog groups are not unbiased, objective bystanders. On the contrary, through character assassination and smear tactics, they work to instill fear in the general public, in order to weaken the will to dissent.

A major charge made by the watchdog groups against "militia" adherents is their tendency to promote "conspiracy theories" about government persecution. So, it is ironic that the very existence of this MIAC report, developed by a government agency to instruct law enforcement personnel, confirms fears of government abuse. That is, the government, using the force of law, appears intent on curtailing individual liberty, free speech, and even the right to vote for a preferred political candidate and belong to an independent political party.

The huge public outcry against the MIAC report finally resulted in Missouri’s Governor Jay Nixon rescinding its further distribution. Also, John Britt, the director of the Department of Public Safety, was placed on "administrative leave." In addition, several Missouri state legislators promised to introduce an amendment that would bar the Department of Public Safety from ever using state or federal funds for political profiling. Official apologies were sent to Rep. Ron Paul, Chuck Baldwin and Bob Barr.

But the damage has already been done. As Chuck Baldwin, observes,

The fear and intimidation associated with those referenced in this report has already taken place. Are people opposed to abortion, illegal immigration, the Income Tax, the U.N., etc., now afraid to express their opinions publicly (especially in Missouri)?

Will similar political profiling reports be better hidden from public view? Have we seen the end of this type of pernicious scapegoating, or will greater secrecy be employed in the future, to keep such briefings under wraps?

The mainstream media, of course, will learn nothing from this incident. Newscasters, journalists and pundits will continue to accept as Gospel the press releases and "intelligence" reports that flow almost daily from these notorious surveillance groups. After all, they make such good news fillers. Fawning, deferential members of the media, for years, have ignored all criticism of these spy organizations, as newspapers and other media outlets propagate their slanders and rumors, thus granting them the credibility they do not deserve.

On The Web:  issuesviews.blogspot.com/2009/04/political-profiling-and-attempt-to.html