The Times reported in March that the Police Department had conducted wide-ranging surveillance of political groups and activists who were planning to attend the convention. While a small number appeared to be bent on creating trouble, the authorities said that most of those who came apparently had no plans to break the law. The surveillance was necessary, police officials have said, to head off possible terrorism or violent protests.
[ ]…A sampling of those unfiltered reports reviewed by The Times shows that they include more detailed information about the groups and individuals that were watched and in some cases disclose how the undercover officers conducted the surveillance.
I think there is some merit to the argument this ain’t the sixties or seventies and that large protests might be a waste of energy. That is not to say that protesters are wrong in their ideals, only that the energy might be put to better use in other ways. Still the fact remains that people have a right to peaceful protest;
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.
When you have agents of a city or federal government infiltrating organizations and compiling dossiers there is an intrusion on those rights by intimidation – just think Soviet Union and the KGB . Those whose personal information has been documented have not been arrested – as they haven’t done anything illegal yet the records compiled have become part of the the state’s criminal investigations. The authoritarians have thus pulled a kind of preemptive strike on civil liberties. That a few people might use protest as cover for criminal activity shouldn’t be used as an excuse to assume that everyone is guilty until they prove otherwise. Imagine if there were a power shift in American political thought and progressive Americans controlled the reins of government power and those progressives abused their government power to compile records on those people that hold the most extremists convoluted views of executive power such as John Yoo, Michael Ledeen or Bill Kristol. To keep these dangerous right-wing ideologues under surveillance in order that their unhinged ideas be kept in some kind of check. Wouldn’t that violate their rights to free speech and freedom to assemble and have something of an intimating effect on them as individuals and on neocons as a group. The neocons, unlike some rag tag protesters have a clear history of deeply detrimental effects on government policy, civil liberties and quality of life of the American people. At the very least while progressives would be wrong to compile such records using the strong arm of government, they would have the probable cause to do so. Probable cause seems to to the the major factor missing in the N.Y. city surveillance and intelligence gathering. The major qualification for making their hot list seems to have simply been that you disagreed with Republican policy – that one finds Republican policies range from the illegal to the morally repugnant is a very patriotic point of view and hardly warrants being lumped in with the minority of people who might well be radical trouble makers. This is one of the defining characteristic of the current social and political climate, to spread the net of who is a genuine danger to society so far that it also includes people that dissent from radical right-wing policies.
Of course, media outlets have an ideological orientation that usually conforms with the interests of their governments. Journalists who challenge it are often marginalized, ignored or fired. I have documented that in my books and film WMD about the deplorable media coverage of the Iraq war. I am not the only one to argue that there was complicity and collaboration between a servile press corps and the Bush Administration that we both cheerleading for war.
[ ]…Even more distressing is the tend towards the depoliticalization of politics through the merger of showbiz and newsbiz to assure that much of the media agenda is noisy and negative, stripped of all meaning: superficial, often celebrity-dominated with little in-depth explanatory or investigative journalism. They would rather market American Idol as the American Ideology. To them, the only “hegemony” in Canada is its beer and hockey.
The people who run our media are, after all, in the end, promoting a culture of consumption, not of engaged citizenship. They want eyeballs for advertisers, not activists to promote change. The sound-bytes presented as substance are there for entertainment, not illumination. It’s heat, not light, all the way
So truth be told, the real propaganda in an era where with more pundits than journalists, is less real coverage. It is pervasive and invisible at the same time-omission more than commission. They want to dumb us down, not smarten us up. They foster passivity, skepticism and resignation. Forget beliefs of any kind-just buy, buy, buy. Why even use deception when distraction works just as well?
This has been true for as long as I can remember. The media or the broadcast media in particular is far more concerned with selling cars then informing people. If you inform people they might get angry, if they get angry they might not watch your commercials or buy your advertisers products. For five or more hours a week CNN has made the conscience decision to have Glenn Beck misinform people. We could have those same hours filled with genuine thoughtful experts on Constitutional law, national security or economics talk about Bush’s signing statements, or warrantless domestic data mining, or tax cuts and the effect on the middle-class . No instead we get a grown man show how much ideological drivel he can spew in one hour – well 35 minutes plus 25 minutes of commercials. Should we even mention Fox where the droll runs in rivers or CBS where they have been so intimidated by years of right-wing hostility that you will literally get more news from ten minutes of John Stewart then CBS’s entire two hour morning news show.
Kevin Doneghy: You guys… you guys are all the same! The doctors at the hospital, you… it’s always what I’m going to do for you. And then you screw up, and it’s, “Ah, we did the best that we could, I’m dreadfully sorry.” And people like us live with your mistakes the rest of our lives.
from the movie The Verdict (1982)