Knock-Knock! By William Bowles

11 May 2003

Land of the free and home of those who keep their mouths shut?

“First they came for the Communists,
and I didn’t speak up,
because I wasn’t a Communists
Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn’t speak up,
because I wasn’t a Jew.
Then they came for the Catholics,
and I didn’t speak up,
because I was a Protestant.
Then they came for me,
and by that time there was no one
left to speak up for me.” — Pastor Martin Neumuller

5/11/03. (Information Clearing House) A very kind reader supplied me with the original text of Neumueller’s poem, which I had tried in vain to find, written in Dachau concentration camp in 1944 (according to another kind reader). Another famous victim of political persecution, Angela Y Davis paraphrased this famous quote for her book written in 1971, If They Come in the Morning: Voices of Resistance (published by Aperture; Reprint edition, June 1992 and it’s still available) at the height of the repression/destruction of the Black Power movement, and especially of the Black Panthers. We urgently need to recall those times as our history has once more been erased by the dominant culture, and the lessons learned removed from our collective consciousness.

And just as the Nazis and the FBI/Cointelpro used the ‘Red Menace’ as an excuse for stripping away our rights, so too the current rulers are using the ‘Terrorist Menace’ to strip away the rights we struggled for (and to some degree achieved) after the experiences of the 1960s Civil Rights/anti-war struggle.

So once more we have to repossess our memory and this is a task that I believe is vital! In fact I think it’s central to the crisis we face. For in the name of fighting ‘terrorism’ anyone who dares question the power and authority of the state to protect its interests and the economic class it represents, will be labelled a ‘terrorist’ or a ‘terrorist sympathiser’. And in fact, it’s already started, not only through the repressive laws that have been passed but increasingly, anyone is liable to be caught up in the net who has even a remote connection to those whom the state identifies as its ‘enemy’.

And this is a process that’s not confined to the US. Here in the UK, similar laws have been enacted over the past few years, some to fight the IRA and of course, we have the sweeping and all inclusive, Official Secrets Act, under which virtually anyone and for virtually any reason the state deems, can be caught up and detained, which is what happened this past week to some journalists in Northern Ireland who had dared to print embarrassing information on the state’s actions in bugging Members of Parliament!

As Neimueller’s quotation says, if you say nothing now, by the time you’re woken up by that knock on the door, it’ll probably be too late.

Land of the free and home of those who keep their mouths shut?

You may think because we have the Web and sites like ICH that we enjoy the democratic right to express ourselves and indeed, within the confines of this site and others, we can pretty much say what we like but as the saying goes, ‘Freedom of the press belongs to those who own one,’ and ICH is a long way from being the ‘press’. For the reality is that we are marginalised and denied access to communicate with the many millions of people whose only source of ‘news’ is ABC, CNN, Fox and so on. And even those few voices who dare challenge the corporate media are silenced:

“According to a May 5 search of the Nexis database, there have been no in-depth reports about cluster bombs on ABC, CBS or NBC’s nightly news programs since the start of the war. There have been, however, a few passing mentions of cluster bombs — enough so that viewers may be aware of their existence. Not so with depleted uranium. Since the beginning of the year, the words “depleted uranium” have not been uttered once on ABC World News Tonight, CBS Evening News or NBC Nightly News, according to Nexis.” – Source: http://www.fair.org/

And criticism of the war before it had even been launched was also silenced:

“Starting before the war began, several national and local media figures have had their work jeopardized, either explicitly or implicitly because of the critical views they expressed on the war.

MSNBC canceled Phil Donahue’s talkshow after an internal memo (leaked to the All Your TV website, 2/25/03) argued that he would be a “difficult public face for NBC in a time of war…. He seems to delight in presenting guests who are anti-war, anti-Bush and skeptical of the administration’s motives.” The report warned that the Donahue show could be “a home for the liberal anti-war agenda at the same time that our competitors are waving the flag at every opportunity.” – Source: http://www.fair.org/

And what about the experience of, Kurt Hauglie, a reporter and columnist for Michigan’s Huron Daily Tribune, quit the paper after allegedly being told that an anti-war column he had written would not run because it might upset readers (WJRT-TV, 3/28/03).

And if you think the Web is immune to this kind of censorship, read on:

“The website YellowTimes.org, which featured original anti-war reporting and commentary, was shut down by its Web hosting company on March 24, after it posted images of U.S. POWs and Iraqi civilian victims of the war. Orlando-based Vortech Hosting told Yellow Times in an e-mail, “Your account has been suspended because [of] inappropriate graphic material.” Later, the company clarified: “As ‘NO’ TV station in the U.S. is allowing any dead U.S. soldiers or POWs to be displayed and we will not either.” – Source: http://www.fair.org/

This site is back online but a search on the Yellowtimes site for Vortech yielded zilch, so I assume they’ve changed their host.

But what I can do, I’m only one voice?

Indeed, you are only one voice, as am I, but think about this: If the state felt that it had no challengers to its deadly policies, we can pretty sure it would not resort to such draconian measures to ensure compliance. It’s only because if even a few voices speak out or dare to question that reveals just how insecure the state is. After all, they’ve bamboozled the public into believing that invading other countries, subverting their governments has all been in the defence of ‘freedom and democracy’. You’d look pretty stupid too if you went around telling people, ‘Do as I say, don’t do as I do’ and then get caught out at it.

And yes, in times like these, many people are too scared to voice their concerns or doubts about the policies being pursued by their government. They might run the risk of losing their jobs or being ostracised within their communities, or worse even, being detained in ‘protective custody’ under the Patriot Act as one unfortunate citizen experienced recently. It might be too late already. Look, none of us are heroes, all we want to do is live our lives and let others get on with living theirs. Yet even this supposedly basic ‘right’ is something we have fought for. Blacks, gays, immigrants, the poor and disenfranchised do not have such basic rights either in the US or the UK, even if ‘laws’ exist supposedly to protect those rights. As yet another generation is learning, these ‘rights’ are as slippery as eels and just easily vanish far faster than the time taken to acquire them. What we take for granted today, may not be around tomorrow.

Knock-knock! Anybody home?

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