L. Neil Smith's
Number 193, October 7, 2002


by John Hoffman

Exclusive to TLE

After hearing about the recent shootings in our nation's capital this morning, I did something I rarely do any more; I turned on the boob tube and tuned in CNN's "Headline News" channel, looking for more information. Yup, go ahead, call me a boob. You'd be right.

So anyway, while waiting for a news story about the shootings (of which the first incomplete descriptions I'd gotten made me believe it was someone sniping from a rooftop), I caught a short blurb about the controversy over Amiri Baraka's latest poem and its dubious, anti- Semitic content, and about his refusal to resign as the State of New Jersey's Poet Laureate. Never mind whether one can hold a poet to writing only on approved or truthful subjects.

Never mind also why the State of New Jersey should be spending taxpayer money subsidizing poets.

No, what got me was the reporter's stating that the esteemed Mr. Baraka complained it would be "undemocratic" to have his freedom of expression stifled. "Undemocratic." That's the word that pushed my button.

You see, Mr. Baraka is WRONG. It would be entirely consistent under a democracy for his poetry to be censored, banned, and for him to be jailed for his transgressions against the will and conceptions of the majority.

It's Mr. Baraka's error, and the reason he made the mistake, that really gets my goat. Go out into the streets of America and ask people why our government is so much better than any others elsewhere in the world, and I'm sure eight out of nine will tell you. It's a democracy, right?

Well, it's rapidly becoming a pure democracy, and many people who know better are mourning the death of the original United States government, which was not a democracy, but a CONSTITUTIONAL REPUBLIC. The scope of our national government was carefully limited in order to prevent history from repeating itself, as our forefathers were quite aware of the fate of Rome, which two thousand years ago was the only similar form of government, and which succumbed to the perils of democracy.

It was men like Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin and George Washington who sought to place these Constitutional limits on our Federal government, and others supplemented that protection with the Bill of Rights. It's truly unfortunate these protections are now being torn down willy-nilly in the name of democracy.

I don't know if you folks have ever heard of a law, passed by the House of the State of Indiana at the end of the nineteenth century, that would have set the mathematical value of the constant "pi" to three. It was killed in the State Senate, but the lesson was established -- even if no one seems to have gotten the joke. IF SOMETHING IS WRONG, IT DOESN'T MATTER HOW MANY PEOPLE VOTE TO MAKE IT RIGHT. Physically, or morally.

So Mr. Baraka, if you are actually reading this article, please take my advice. Don't use the term "democratic" as a buzzword; you might find that institution, rather than supporting your argument, instead sprouting a mouth and swallowing you whole. I instead suggest you argue based on your right to freedom of speech, as enumerated in the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights. And to paraphrase Ben Franklin, I may not agree with what you pen, but I'll defend to the death your right to write.


The State vs. The People, by Claire Wolfe and Aaron Zelman

Is America becoming a police state? Friends of liberty need to know.

Some say the U.S. is already a police state. Others watch the news for signs that their country is about to cross an indefinable line. Since September 11, 2001, the question has become more urgent. When do roving wiretaps, random checkpoints, mysterious "detentions," and military tribunals cross over from being emergency measures to being the tools of a government permanently and irrevocably out of control?

The State vs. the People examines these crucial issues. But first, it answers this fundamental question: "What is a police state?"

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