Monday, July 18, 2005
The FBI monitors ACLU, Greenpeace, protestors against Bush, subpoenas Internet posts
Now, under an Administration that could be trusted to do the right thing even a small portion of the time, this would be a good thing: It would mean that the FBI is not grandstanding for political effect, but quietly monitoring the white supremacists and trying not to blow their cover.
But the way things have worked in DC for the past four-going-on-five years, the reason we're not hearing about FBI monitoring of right-wing groups is actually because there is NO government surveillance of these groups, even though they are a clear and present danger to America.
The Bureau (and the Agency and all US law enforcement) has never really been able to accept the concept that they should include people other than white, conservative men. The result is they have a really bizarre view of the way the world works. They have few legitimate contacts inside other communities (though one is occasionally amazed to learn that, for example, Thurgood Marshall was an FBI informant) and so they often use people who are pretty flaky. Some of those people, whether under FBI direction or not, commit violent or otherwise reprehensible acts, undermining the legitimate function of the Bureau.
Worst of all, systematically suppressing legitimate dissent produces a slave nation. One sees this in Central American countries where generation after generation people have been beaten down, first by the Spanish and then by the ricos the US installs to make sure we get our daily cup of coffee.
I know a couple of guys who have worked at the Bureau and still swap Christmas cards with one. They're not bogeymen to me. But good individuals can be part of a system that is going very wrong.
I'm reading an excellent account of Guatemala, where chronic fear has erased from people's minds their history, as well as their sense of community and of self-worth. Fear has essentially made them incapable of self-government.
The US is turning into Guatemala. We laugh about the fact that only a quarter of the voters can name both their US senators and that only half of Americans vote. But my impression is that this ignorance is learned.
Mostly people are afraid of job repercussions, I think. And then there's the Carville-Matalin problem: having pleasant social relations with someone whose politics you hate. But some of it is fear of somehow falling afoul of the government. When one learns that the FBI is watching an organization like the ACLU, it calls into question whether people should think they have political freedoms.
More blogs about politics.