“I’m so bored. I hate my life.” - Britney Spears

Das Langweilige ist interessant geworden, weil das Interessante angefangen hat langweilig zu werden. – Thomas Mann

"Never for money/always for love" - The Talking Heads

Saturday, August 26, 2006

I'm with stupid - the law of the land

It was good to see some bipartisanship return to D.C. this week. According to the WAPO, a bill to re-write the preamble to the Constitution found support from both Hilary Clinton and John McCain – the two sides of the aisle came together in a spirit of amity. “Senator Clinton said that the tedious first sentence - We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect union, etc., etc.” was good in its time, but times have changed. “’I’m with stupid’ has always been my favorite t shirt slogan, and when Senator McCain said it was also his, we thought, why not make erase the obsolete, eighteenth century wording of our founding document and introduce something fresh and representative from the new millennium?” The “I’m with stupid’ change was passed, 95-1, with 4 abstentions. It is also being haled at the White House, where President Bush admitted that it was his favorite t shirt slogan too.” The first sentence now reads: "We, the people of the United States, say: I'm with stupid!"

The I’m with stupid theme is behind the happy convergence of two news stories today. One, in the WAPO, is about Katherine Harris’s own constitutional theory. Harris is running for Senator in Florida. Her personal position on the constitution (a position conveyed to her by a cohort of senile angels, who then went onto Disneyland, using their New Jerusalem discount) is the following:

Rep. Katherine Harris (R-Fla.) said this week that God did not intend for the United States to be a "nation of secular laws" and that the separation of church and state is a "lie we have been told" to keep religious people out of politics.

"If you're not electing Christians, then in essence you are going to legislate sin," Harris told interviewers from the Florida Baptist Witness, the weekly journal of the Florida Baptist State Convention. She cited abortion and same-sex marriage as examples of that sin.”

The other story is about another party of God, Hezbollah. It, too, is about the Constitution – apparently, that first amendment part of it can be trashed when your gov feels like trashing it – to protect us though. In this glorious, long war on terrorism, with the wind of liberty sweeping the planet, we can’t afford to have people just saying whatever they want to. Speech has consequences. Cops need the power to shut your trap by knocking your teeth in, or arresting you and sending you to a prison where (heh heh) you better not lean over to pick up the soap in the shower! God, I love jokes about the sodomy rape of prisoners – makes me feel so part of this great nation. Here’s the story in the NYT. A Mr. Iqbal apparently runs a business providing ‘satellite programming for households.” In its wisdom, the FBI has come down on his type – did I say his name is Iqbal? Did I say it isn’t Smith, a good American name, but Iqbal? As in Iqbal? Did I say that? – to stop his nefarious doings:

But this week, the budding entrepreneur’s house and storefront were raided by federal agents, and Mr. Iqbal was charged with providing customers services that included satellite broadcasts of a television station controlled by Hezbollah — a violation of federal law.

Yesterday, Mr. Iqbal was arraigned in Federal District Court in Manhattan and was ordered held in $250,000 bail. The Hezbollah station, Al Manar — or “the beacon” in Arabic — was designated a global terrorist entity by the United States Treasury Department in March of this year.”

Now here’s some synergy for you:

“For several years, Javed Iqbal has operated a small company from a Brooklyn storefront and out of the garage at his Staten Island home that provides satellite programming for households, including sermons from Christian evangelists seeking worldwide exposure.”

Yes, it is idiot vs. idiot on the bloody junkyard of this world, Christian evangelist vs. Hezbollah, and the loser is (envelope please)--

Your right to freedom of speech!

A big round of applause for the end of that shit. We got our American Idol. We got our angelically inspired senatorial candidates. They got the party of God. They got the holocaust cartoon exhibit (the NYT story about which was, actually, rather hopeful. Iranians aren’t attending that sick and rabid stunt – and the story mentioned, as an afterthought, that there is actually a Jewish member of the Iranian parliament who condemned it. How many Jewish members of the Saudi parliament are there? or the Egyptian? or Iraqi?). And all together, if we work real hard, we can encase ourselves in complete and utter ignorance, a worldwide theo-perversity combining Witchhunters, Jewhaters, Ragheadhaters, and the perpetual war crowd in order to better clusterbomb, clusterfuck, atomfuck and enucleate each other and all the rest of us for the glory of God, leaving the planet to look like the Aral Sea on a bad day. Planet Chernobyl. At least, god damn it, it will rid us of all those ultra-dangerous moral relativists running about destroying our civilization.

Is that cool or what? This is what our systems are leading to – showing, once again, that they are the best damn systems in all the world. What other system offers the prospect of world wide heat death while stewing in our gas exhausts and middle aged male rages?

The prosecutor in the Iqbal case has said that – oh my! – Al Manar glorifies suicide bombers! they are anti-semites as well. Fuck, throw the book at him. We can’t have that running rampant, or soon all of Staten Island will be building IEDs in its spare time. Now, let’s get back to our regularly scheduled program of embedded reporters explaining the great job liberty loving American forces are doing throughout Iraq.


The roots of the G.O.P. hatred of freedom of speech go back to the Southern hatred of freedom of speech. We have, perhaps, too casually tossed this history into the memory hole, but it is important, since the conservative defense of restricting freedom of speech seems, at first, to go oddly with a libertarian strain in conservative theory. To see why this isn’t so, we have to go back to the abolitionist campaign of 1835.

In that year, abolitionist groups decided to create some publicity for themselves by mailing out anti-slavery pamphlets and newspapers – flooding the zone in their own way. Now, in 1835, that great Democratic president, Andrew Jackson, was ruling the roost. He has been viewed via the liberal historians of the 1950s as a democratic president, a people’s president. But Jackson was impatient of democracy when it got in the way of public order. For instance, the exercise of speech to promote terrorism certainly got him hot around the collar – as it so often gets our good Democrats in Congress hot around the collar today. In his annual message to congress in December, 1835, he came up with an excellent solution to the terrorism problem: we needed federal laws to severely repress these incendiaries. The first thing to do, according to Jackson, was for the postmasters to publish the names of every person who received anti-slavery terrorist propaganda. He’d already praised the mobbing of abolitionists, so the publishing of the names would rationalize the lynching process in a way that would hearten the Cheney crowd today. Also, he called for federal laws to stop abolitionists from sending anti-slavery literature through the mail to the South.

This legislation was opposed by, of all people, John C. Calhoun. Calhoun was for censoring the abolitionists, with hot tar if necessary, but he was against the federal government taking control of the postal system in this way. Calhoun did like the informal federal effort, led by the Postmaster General, Amos Kendall, to confiscate anti-slavery materials. The postmaster General of New York City was on board, too.

In 1836, a gag rule was passed prohibiting the House of Representatives from discussing any anti-slavery petition or referring to one in any way. In Charleston, S.C., a crowd broke into the post office and burnt the handily available anti-slavery, pro-terrorist literature. In D.C., a man named Crandall was discovered with anti-slavery pamphlets in his possession. This led to some fine sport – a lynch crowd formed, buildings were burned, and Crandall was marched to jail. The equivalent of the WAPO, the Washington National Intelligencer, published an editorial that could have been penned by Fred Hiatt – a wonderful exercise in mature judgment, deploring the riots but attributing it to “ the natural resentment inspired by the demoniacal design, on the part of a fanatical individual to stir up our Negro population to insurrection and murder.” A terrorist sympathizer for sure, this Crandall, and well deserving of remaining in jail eight months until his trial, where – oh, how symbolism has graced this republic – he was prosecuted by Francis Scott Key. Alas, a duped jury let him off on the damned first amendment excuse. Surely the Justice Department should look up this case for pointers, so we don’t have any aberrant juries letting off today’s terrorist sympathizers.

All of these events played out in the shadow of the Nate Turner slave revolt, in which whites were massacred. Our beloved Dixie, assaulted by savage slaves, who were stirred up by the abolitionists. Is it any wonder that, for our security, the first amendment had to be temporarily suppressed in these cases?

The GOP has long been the inheritor of the Calhoun strain in the American culture. The ruling class in the South has had utter contempt for the first amendment for one hundred eighty years – that class now rules the GOP and, by extension, the country. Stifling free expression is near the very heart of their tradition, and they will work to do it with might and main.


Amie said...

LI, another amazing post, and much appreciated. re the i'm with stupid line. seems to me the 'with' creates all kinda nasty snags, as it implies a - however minimal - distance, differentiation, and therefore the ugly heathen possibility of dissent.
how about getting rid of the with altogether eh! let the constitution read - i'm stupid, or better, we're stupid?

roger said...

So, Amie, it has come to this -- we are playing the cynic's dozens! Your suggestion makes me laugh, but I'm going to come back with something, don't you worry. As soon as I think of it.