Storm Coming?

Is it that lately activists are more under siege? Maybe I think so because I hear so many horror stories at the RFC. Yesterday I read about the Muslim students at UC Irvine in California being charged with criminal offenses because they heckled a speech on their campus given by the Israeli Ambassador. The Jewish Voice for Peace has gathered petitions with thousands of signatures demanding that the charges be dropped. In the meantime, peace and justice activists in Minneapolis and Chicago have been subpoenaed to testify before Grand Juries who are investigating whether these activists should be charged with providing material support for terrorists. In Puerto Rico, college students have gone on strike to protest massive tuition increases. As I write this the police have stormed the University of Puerto Rico campus, beating and arresting the non-violent protesters.

Elsewhere prosecutions continue under the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA). AETA is a sweeping federal law that brands as terrorism protests that hurt the finances of corporations that conduct animal research or deal in animal products. Rumors continue to swirl about the government using the Espionage Act to indict those associated with Wikileaks. Prosecutions and deportations of undocumented workers skyrocketed in 2010. I feel like I’m compiling a laundry list from hell.

Unfortunately, I’m not just imagining an increasingly repressive climate. I believe, instead, that economic and environmental forces are fostering autocracy and the creation of scapegoats. The big corporations now have almost unfettered domination in our country. They will do everything they can to maximize their money and power at everyone else’s expense. Even the most sophisticated disinformation complex ever created (today’s mainstream media) can’t hide the growing disparity between rich and poor in our society. The system can’t advertise away the fact that approximately one in six adults are either unemployed or underemployed, and that a recovery that is limited to corporate profits will not alleviate this situation.

This is a recipe for increasing social unrest and the rulers are well aware of it. It is, therefore, only natural for them to seek to increase their control over the flow of information and stifle any dissent as firmly as possible before it gets out of hand. First, they expand what is classified as secret and then prosecute those who wish to disseminate it. They stack the courts with authoritarian judges who sentence activists to draconian prison terms under laws that make almost any organizing activity for basic change illegal. And they create a new set of bogeymen, “illegal” aliens and “terrorists” who are on the verge of destroying our way of life to justify the repression and divide those they exploit.

These are not predictions of what is to come, but rather a description of what is happening now. But I don’t think any of these repressive tactics will succeed. Presently, we may be wishing for more resistance in the United States, but I sense it growing all over the world, and think it is only a matter of time before the acid begins to bubble in the belly of the beast. This is, perhaps, an overly simplistic analysis, but getting screwed if you do nothing can be a powerful goad to action.

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