WHEN DID PEACEFUL PROTESTS BECOME ‘ANTI-GOVERNMENT RALLIES’?
Congress shall make no law … 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. –First Amendment in the Bill of Rights.
I love my children more than anything in the world, as I’m sure all of the parents reading this can relate. It’s a strange way to start a post about free speech and word manipulation, but I assure you it’s relevant.
The recent story of a couple kidnapping their own children from a court-appointed custodian after having their parental rights stripped has jarred me to the core. This could easily be me, or you.
What did the parents do that was so awful that they lost permanent parental rights of their boys?
According to earlier information, the couple lost custody of the two boys after attending an anti-government rally in Louisiana. The father was charged with possession of drugs (pot) in the presence of the children. (my emphasis and additions).
What really shocked me in this story was the use of “anti-government rally” in place of peaceful protest. Aren’t all protests for redress of grievances “anti-government”?
I realized that this was done very deliberately, and not the first time I’ve seen this subtle tactic used to bastardize the First Amendment right to free speech. In fact, it is now frequently used in place of “demonstrations” or “protests” in news headlines everywhere. Google “anti-government rally” and have fun scrolling.
It seems that when the establishment dislikes the message of a given demonstration they call it an “anti-government rally” ever-so-slightly invoking thoughts of Klan rallies and all the emotional triggers that come with it. Just like how all pro-Second Amendment demonstrations are referred to as “gun rallies”.
Compare this rhetoric of the Arab Spring or Uprising, or Occupy Wall Street demonstrations. Anti-government rally was NEVER used by the establishment to describe those protests. So when it is used, its negative connotation is clearly being used for a purpose.
But for what? To change the definition of peaceful protesters to something more insidious? Or to soil free speech altogether? Or both?
The right to peaceably assemble has already become criminalized. People protesting too close to public buildings in America are now felons thanks to the passage of HR 347, the “Federal Restricted Buildings and Grounds Improvement Act of 2011,” or “Trespass Act.”
It seems that was the beginning of demonizing protests as anti-government.
In a free society there is nothing wrong with protesting the government’s actions, or even in the term anti-government. Yet, since the war-on-terror-industrial complex seems to have run out of Islamic villains to demonize, detain indefinitely, torture, or drone bomb, a new enemy had to be invented to keep the money flowing and civil liberties suppressed.
The US Justice Department and Homeland Security have been cleverly, deliberately, and methodically swapping in the “anti-government” label for terrorist. Without ever really defining what anti-government means, they both officially state that “anti-government” Americans are now the biggest threat in the war on terror.
A Fusion Center in Arkansas, which coordinates anti-terror activity between the DHS and local law enforcement, recently announced that they don’t spy on all Americans without a warrant, just the ones on the anti-government list.
How comforting, since the label is conveniently broad enough that potentially anyone who complains about the government, a policy, or a politician could be on the anti-government watch list. This is nearly anyone who’s even remotely paying attention by the way. And it seems these poor parents in the story above made it to this dreaded list.
Now they have been pushed to extreme measures by a ridiculously intrusive government that would have your kids, too, if they caught you with weed at an anti-prohibition rally. I don’t know about you, but I’m not sure I would have the willpower not to tie up the custodian and kidnap my own children if I was an actor in this made-for-TV movie.
I’m radically opposed to the policy that led to these children being stripped from their parents, which must make me anti-government. I’m disgusted that marijuana, a perfectly safe and helpful plant, remains illegal while alcohol freely flows. Strike two for being anti-government. And I despise that my own government spies on me, suppresses my free speech rights, and lumps me in with violent extremists. Strike three.