Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Meanwhile, in America...

The radical right want a new sedition law to punish "traitors" who oppose their glorious king president:

Much of the language of the "loyal opposition" has been anything but loyal. In September 2002, Rep. Jim McDermott (D-Wash.) called President Bush a liar on Saddam Hussein's turf, then added that Hussein's regime was worthy of American trust. On "Face the Nation" back in December, Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) stated that American troops were "going into the homes of Iraqis in the dead of night, terrorizing kids and children, you know, women, breaking sort of the customs of the -- of, of, of historical customs, religious customs …" Howard Dean, the head of the DNC, averred in December that the "idea that we're going to win the war in Iraq is an idea which is just plain wrong."

At some point, opposition must be considered disloyal. At some point, the American people must say "enough." At some point, Republicans in Congress must stop delicately tiptoeing with regard to sedition and must pass legislation to prosecute such sedition.

America has made this mistake before - twice. In 1798, President Adams signed the Alien and Sedition Acts, which outlawed criticism of the government. Rather than suppressing criticism, the law inspired it, and it became an election issue. It ultimately expired in 1800 when the President it was designed to protect left office. In 1918 they passed a similar Sedition Act which likewise criminalised criticism of the US's form of government, its military, flag, and military uniforms, and was used to persecute Socialists and other opponents of the US's participation in WWI (among them Eugene Debs, for this anti-war speech). While upheld at the time, the law is now considered grossly unconstitutional - which is why the US's current sedition law is interpreted as being limited to speech which poses a "clear and present danger" of producing actual violence. Mere criticism or advocacy or disagreement with government policy is insufficient to justify punishment.

Interestingly, the current version of the page on the US Sedition Act of 1918 has this to say:

Historically, these types of acts have been suggested and/or passed when a presidential administration or congressional majority has lost general public support and additional, judicial tools are necessary to minimize public dissent. The Sedition Act was the most recent attempt by the United States government to limit “freedom of speech,” in-so-much-as that “freedom of speech” related to the criticism of the government, or, more applicably, the political policies of the presidential administration or congressional majority.

Which pretty much sums up the radical right's position perfectly.

Of course, if they had their way, then saying even that would be sedition...