Freedom Fries

So back in the 90s there was this television show called Bablyon 5. Over the 5 year story arc the Earth Alliance goes from your standard Sci-Fi-Peaceful-Explorer to a fascist police state. And quickly. First, the president is assassinated and the murder is pinned on aliens. The new president, along with friends in powerful places, begins the propaganda machine through ISN (CNN essentially). President Clark also creates the Ministry of Peace--an organization to monitor and protect the citizens of Earth Alliances from domestic threats. A sub-group called Nightwatch puts citizens on guard against one another. "If you see something, tell someone" is the rule of it. Anything that speaks out against the President or his decisions is seen as treason. Dissidents are arrested and punished. Media blackout occurs. ISN can only report what is screened by the President's colleagues. When members of Earth Alliance break away to stand up against Clark, EA forces are sent in. War breaks out as citizens protest for their freedoms until finally Clark calls martial law.

Watching that plot unfold is pretty scary. To see a government quickly turn on its people for power under the guise that it's "in their best interests"? It's enough to make you glad we don't live in that sci-fi world. But if you look around at 2011 you see it? It's not science fiction anymore.

let's talk.... Right now in America things are getting...dicey? Weird? Scary? Our economy is bad and we all know it. The media spew out figures and opinions and doctored "facts" to perpetuate fear. Everything from job security to tainted meat to terrorist threats: it's all fear-mongering. Fear keeps you in your chair. Pass the popcorn.

Things are bad.

Various groups are trying to do something about it. The Occupy movement is one such group. They see what's wrong and regardless of your personal opinion they are doing what they think is best for people as a whole. They want the bought Congress gone. They want to steer us away from the oncoming cataclysm. They are people trying to staunch the flow of our country bleeding out.

The wounds aren't wars--although they are symptoms. The wounds are with words and ideas.

There are two bills up for passage right now that directly effect every American (foreign and domestic). The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) essentially trashes the Sixth Amendment of the Constitution that grants US citizens the right to due process. Your Miranda rights? That whole "innocent until proven guilty by a jury of your peers" thing? That's what the Sixth Amendment ensures for every American citizen. The police and government cannot detain indefinitely for no reason and suspicion isn't a reason. You must be charged to be held. The NDAA says that *anyone* including US citizens can be held in military custody indefinitely without charge or trial if they are suspected of terrorism. The Act also states that this will continue until the threat of terrorism is gone.

President Obama has said he would veto this bill if it came to his desk. Well, as of last night, he's changed his mind. The House passed the bill by a staggering margin and the Senate will vote later this week. It could be signed into law as soon as Wednesday.

UPDATE: As of 12/15/11, the NDAA passed the Senate (86-13). The President is expected to sign it into law quickly. Ironically, the vote comes on the day that celebrates the Bill of Rights. Funny, no?

The other bill on the table is the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). This bill gives more control to the government, law enforcement and copyright holders to restrict the traffic of pirated property. On the surface, that's not a bad idea. Digging deeper into the bill, however, we find that it allows for some pretty serious things. First off, it can go against *any* website foreign or domestic. Secondly, if a website is served with a court order to pull content, the companies that do business with that site (eg. Google, PayPal, etc) will *also* be served with notice to suspend that business indefinitely. The domino effect this can and will cause is catastrophic to Internet freedom.

Both of these bills are Republican creations. Both of them tighten the hold the government has on its people. For a party that fights regulation and touts their stance as "anti-Big-Government" they certainly are building a reservoir of power.

Look, I know some of you might be thinking, "But Jamie,  you're not a terrorist or an internet pirate so you're safe."

It's true: I'm not a terrorist nor do I pirate copyrighted material. However, the crux of the matter is that these bills set a precedent that the government can define "terrorism" and "piracy" as they wish then turn those rules against its citizens.

Do you remember how this spring the people of Egypt and Tunisia rose up against their governments? Remember that a lot of their messages were on Twitter and other social media sites? The Arab Spring has flourished because of the Internet and countries like Yemen, Syria and Libya are rising up to take control back from dictatorial regimes. It's still going on. Countries are still erupting with protests against the seated governments because they don't work for their people. This is page one on most magazines and newspapers around the world, but here Time magazine leads with "How Anxiety is Good For You".

The US has a problem. It's people are discontent with the power structure. Eyes are opening that we have a bought Congress, that something is incredibly wrong and it's not people who are openly gay serving in the military. Our government is broken and corrupt. Our system is breaking down from the inside and some people--regardless of party affiliation--seem to be hellbent on speeding it along to cataclysm. It's like they want the "world to end" in 2012 just to be right.

Look at the revolutions of history, the ones going on right now in the Middle East, and the ones going on right here. The people in power are scared because they see possibility. They see that what happened in Egypt could happen here, too. So, let's invent an executive power to censor the Internet so the protesters can't communicate so widely. Let's redefine terrorism and use that on our own people who disagree with the status quo. Those people could be called terrorists and hauled off to prisons like Gitmo without charge or trial and kept there. For thinking differently.

It could happen and it's terrifying.

Terrifying. Terror.

If these bills pass, the American principles of freedom will have vanished to be replaced with fear and intolerance. All in the name of "national security". We must protect ourselves from terrorists, right? Such a blanket term. Your rights come second to fighting that threat. That's what our government is telling us. Fuck, look at the TSA. Your Fourth Amendment rights are already in question with the scanning machines there.

This is how a democracy crumbles. This is how fascism rises to power.

If these bills pass, it will be the culmination of Osama bin Laden's far-reaching goal to dismantle the American way of life. If we lose our freedoms to our own government, the terrorists have won.