by L. Neil Smith
Special to L. Neil Smith’s The Libertarian Enterprise
Several weeks ago — before September 11 — I got a message from a friend and fellow freedom fighter who wanted to know what I thought of rumors that the government has built secret detention camps all over America, ready to warehouse dissenters and others it deems undesirable under whatever circumstances it declares to be a national emergency. It was the first she’d heard of this; to say she was appalled is an understatement.
It wasn’t the first I’d heard of it. I’ve been getting electronic and paper mailings about it for close to 20 years now, including many photos that may have been of detention camps, but looked an awful lot to me like the military reservations I grew up on and around during my childhood.
I didn’t answer my friend. I didn’t know what to say. And then I realized that wordlessness on my part was information of some kind in itself. Fact is, her question made me angry — not at her — because I couldn’t reply, “Nonsense — our government doesn’t do things like that!”
I was angry at an entity I have reason (and so do you) to believe is capable of doing anything — absolutely anything — to increase its deathgrip on my throat and that of everyone else on the planet. “Our” government does do things like that, all the time, and it always has. They did it to Japanese-Americans (but not to German-Americans) during World War II. They did it in Europe to innocents who had escaped from Russia — refugees who were rounded up by American and British troops, loaded aboard cattle cars just as the Nazis had done with Jews, and sent back to certain and immediate execution. It was called “Operation Keelhaul”; look it up sometime. They’re doing it right now, to folks who escape Cuba or Haiti into what they erroneously imagine is a free country.
I had about the same reaction to the destruction of the Murrah building in Oklahoma City. Right afterward, e-rumors began circulating about the impossibility of a mere truck-bomb doing that much damage, about the presence of bomb squad personnel and equipment hours before the explosion, about the absence of ATF agents and their children from the doomed building that morning, about certain undercover operatives investigating various right-wing activities who allowed the crime to be committed out of incompetence or for reasons we can only speculate about.
The hell of it was, I couldn’t say flatly it was untrue, surely not out of any certain knowledge of the character of the government or its hirelings, because I knew what the government has done on other occasions.
I knew, for example, that having committed countless major crimes at Mount Carmel near Waco in 1993 — including lying every day to the media and the public about why they were there and what they intended — government agents had bulldozed the ruins in Texas only hours after the fire in an attempt to bury evidence of the atrocities they were guilty of. Then they did exactly the same thing in Oklahoma, bulldozed and buried the evidence before a real investigation could even get started. If they had no responsibility in the matter, why did they do that?
Nobody trusts the government. Entire industries have sprung up around that fact. The secret prison in the movie Face Off was believable because it’s exactly the kind of thing most people know (whether they like to admit it or not) the government would construct. The attempted murderous “fundraiser” in The Long Kiss Goodnight, the covert United Nations espionage unit in The Art of War, the spectacular success of The X-Files and the whole UFO industry are made possible by the historically demonstrated criminal perfidy of the government.
Want another example of how it works? If my friend had asked me whether I believed the official story about the downing of TWA Flight 800, I would have been left similarly wordless. Although I’ve read volumes about that event, I have only one universally undisputed datum I would consider evidence: government agents threatened several of the folks trying to find out what really happened. If the government were actually worthy of our trust, they wouldn’t have had to do that, would they?
(Similar threats were made at Roswell, in 1947, which is the main reason I believe that something real and significant happened there, too.)
Hitler used the Reichstag Fire as a convenient excuse to crush his enemies on the left, take Germany over, and turn it into the ultimate police state. Clinton attempted to use the Oklahoma City explosion to crush his enemies on the right. Now George W. Bush and his friends are using what happened on September 11 to stifle dissent and impose Nazi or Soviet-style controls on American lives. Many historians believe that Hitler had the Reichstag Fire set, and there’s clearly something fishy about what happened at the Murrah Building. I’ve seen messages from some people who think the events of September 11 were similarly contrived.
What do I think?
Damned if I know.
I do know that The Matrix is the best metaphor ever created for what we are and what we’re allowing to be done to us. It may be the most libertarian film ever made (although I’m very fond of Demolition Manand its merciless assault on the nanny state and the twisted psychology that underlies it). I’m also eager to see whether the movie version of The Sorcerer’s Stone will display the same attitude, conveyed more subtly but unmistakeably, by J.K. Rowling’s wonderful books.
Metaphorically, most of us float all of our lives in a sensory deprivation tank, in a body-temperature liquid, diverted by utter trivialities like mass spectator sports, soap operas, “reality” TV, and whatever it is that Oprah Winfrey and Jerry Springer do, while the government taps half of our energy, in the form of taxation, to use, in part, to keep us in that vegetative condition, and safely under its thumb.
The problem — for the government — is that, thanks very largely to talk radio and the internet, more and more of us “coppertops” have been waking up. The government needs something new to get us all back under control, and that something new turns out to be something old: a highly welcome war. The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor saved Franklin Roosevelt from having to explain the pathetic failure of his economic policies. Now the FBI won’t have to defend itself over Waco any more. Now it’s telling TV networks what thay can say and what they can’t, demanding the power to monitor every message on the Internet, and openly mulling the use of torture on “terrorist” suspects who won’t talk.
A dismaying number of otherwise intelligent Americans are reported to be going along with this nonsense and even worse. The nation’s airports are being patrolled by machine-gun toting thugs with the power to deprive anyone they don’t like of the right to breathe, let alone travel. Television cameras scanning public places and facial recognition software that were being properly criticized only a scant few weeks ago now seem like a good thing to a depressing majority of people. More proposals for a national identification card pop up every day.
How it will all come out is anybody’s guess — it’s the end of the world as we know it, one way or another. But that’s not necessarily bad news. It could be that Robert A. Heinlein was correct in The Moon is a Harsh Mistress when he predicted that things will have to get worse before they can begin to get better. All of these recent police state intrusions could prove to be just what we’ve needed to stimulate a vastly more powerful and cohesive freedom movement in the near future.
The American Civil Liberties Union, for instance, along with Amnesty International and every other organization like them are up in arms just now about what’s being done to the Constitution by the Bush Administration. They must be pounded on relentlessly — by genuine freedom activists — until they give up decades of leftist hypocrisy and start supporting the whole Bill of Rights, not just the parts they like.
It’s called “Bill of Rights enforcement”.
Full Bill of Rights enforcement.
One thing is absolutely certain: the freedom movement must not be content, as it has foolishly been in the past, to roll back some — or even all — of the dangerous and stupid impositions that have settled on us recently. This time, each and every one of us must be determined to get it all back — all of our freedoms — and following due course, to punish those who took them from us, so that it will never happen again.
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