Dissent: What’s In It for You?

Oct. 3, 2007 – San Francisco (crisispapers.org) – The Crisis Papers is approaching its sixth year of internet publication. Our inaugural appearance was on November 2, 2002, two days before the Congressional election of that year.

In the five years that followed, my colleague Dr. Bernard Weiner and I have written more than three hundred original essays for the progressive internet, originating at The Crisis Papers; these in addition to dozens more that we wrote before we launched The Crisis Papers. Almost all of these essays have been severely critical of the Bush Administration, the Neo Conservatives, and the radical right.

Along with numerous progressive bloggers, we do this with no expectation or realization of financial compensation, but rather out of passionate concern about the political and economic catastrophe that has befallen our country since the appointment of George Bush to the Presidency by the Supreme Court. We, the progressive bloggers, are also motivated by a shared realization that with the honorable exception of such individuals as Bill Moyers, Keith Olbermann, and Jon Stewart, the internet is virtually all that remains of an opposition media, the “mainstream” media having reduced itself to little more than the propaganda organ of the Republican Party and its corporate sponsors.

When we launched The Crisis Papers, we believed that we could do so without fear of retaliation by the government. After all, we assumed that because we were American citizens, we were protected by our Constitution and Bill of Rights. No longer. With the passage and subsequent “refinements” of The Patriot Act, with the abolition of habeas corpus, with the Military Commissions Act, with recent executive orders unchallenged by the Congress, we have lost these protections. “You are either with us or you are with the terrorists,” said the President. We are clearly on record as not being “with” the Busheviks. Ergo, what? Are we terrorists?  The answer lies, not with the law or the courts, but with the whim of the President. The new decrees so stipulate.

Speaking for myself, I have no illusions: this dissenter is a very small minnow in a very large lake. I am protected by my personal obscurity and insignificance. If there is a roundup of dissenters, I expect that the awaiting Brown & Root detention camps will be filled to near capacity with important players of the opposition before the thought-police come a-knocking at my door. But this much we already know: After eight-hundred years in Anglo-American jurisprudence and explicit specification in the US Constitution, habeas corpus is a goner, and the Congress is unwilling to restore it. American citizens can be held and tortured for several years without charge, trial or access to counsel – witness the fate of Jose Padilla,  whose incarceration explicitly violated five of the ten amendments of the Bill of Rights, plus the Fourteenth Amendment. Countless additional prisoners of the state are now sharing Padilla’s fate in Guantánamo and elsewhere. (Note: The Bill of Rights applies, not to “citizens,” but to “persons.”) Dissenters in the mainstream media have been silenced, and several have lost their careers. Witness Phil Donahue, Ashleigh Banfield, Bill Maher, and Dan Rather. Retaliation against dissent has extended to family members: cf. Valerie Plame Wilson.

Yes, I am free to write and dissent. But only because I am too insignificant for the regime to notice, much less be concerned about, my complaints. As for the “bigger fish,” they persist at the sufferance of the regime and the corporate media: for the moment, it would be politically inconvenient to silence them. But the means are in place to do so, should the regime so order.  Not long ago, dissenters were protected by the law, the courts and the Constitution. No longer. And that should concern all of us.

And so I am asked by friends, relatives, and strangers who visit our website, “Why are you doing this? Why are you writing and publishing your constant stream of criticism of George Bush, his regime, the neo-conservatives and the radical right? What’s in it for you, Ernest Partridge?”

If these were simply personal questions, then my response would be a personal indulgence and unworthy of your further attention. But these are, by implication, general questions which might be as readily addressed to hundreds of other volunteer citizen bloggers: to Will Pitt, Glenn Greenwald, Mark Crispin Miller, Michael Green, David Swanson, Robert Parry, Paul Craig Roberts, and so many more.

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