Although much of the focus in Constitutionalist circles is rightfully on combating threats to the Second Amendment, there is an equally important issue: Our First Amendment freedoms of speech, press, religion, to peaceably assemble, and assuring our right to petition for redress of grievances. These rights are in peril.
Gradually, the United States is devolving into a quasi-Police State. One goal of the statists/collectivists is to marginalize and muzzle independent journalists. In this essay, I will outline some of the methods that could provide multiple gains for the statists: to control the press, to steer mass media content in a way that is pleasing to The Powers That Be, to consolidate State legitimacy, to manipulate and construct public opinion, and to exclude and marginalize the alternative media. In essence, the statist goal is to give the corporatist mainstream media a monopoly and make them a compliant choir that only sings one tune: The Approved Message.
- Packing the courts. The next presidential election may prove to be pivotal, both because of potential new Executive Orders and of course because of future Federal court appointments, most importantly Federal appellate courts and the U.S. Supreme Court. Could you imagine President Hillary Clinton appointing Barack Obama to the Supreme Court? That might happen. Following the recent death of conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, it is feared that his replacement might hold a much more statist view and shift the court’s direction on this issue, abandoning some long-standing legal precedents. Obama’s latest court nominee, Merrick Garland, has a judicial history of favoring big government and the primacy of the State over individual rights. Even worse, if a statist takes the White House in the next presidential election then the presently gradual statist/collectivist/socialist shift in the U.S Supreme Court could accelerate with upcoming appointments, as elderly justices retire.
- Reinstituting the Fairness Doctrine. Originally adopted as an FCC rule in 1949, it was repealed in 1987 by the FCC with the encouragement of the Reagan administration. If reimposed, in the context of web sites and blogs, it would force blogs to provide “equal space” to those with opposing viewpoints. Thus, for example, a pro-life blog or web site would be required to provide equal space to abortion advocates and/or abortion practitioners.
- Imposing Net Neutrality. Even though the variety of content available through the Internet is enormous and growing larger every day, many leftist/collectivist groups want to impose Net Neutrality. Describing the full implications of Net Neutrality would require an essay in itself. Just suffice it to say that Net Neutrality is bad news for freedom of speech, especially if it is later expanded.
- Enacting Hate Speech Laws. These laws could go far beyond simply restricting the speech of racist bigots. The laws could be gradually expanded to restrict “microagressions”, “homophobic statements” (including Bible quotes), “anti-immigration hate statements”, calls for abstinence to prevent the spread of venereal diseases, and much more. By redefining those taking a moral stand (verbally or in writing) as “hate speech”, tremendous coercive force could be employed. Leftist pressure groups with axes to grind (such as the notorious Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), which has already targeted me, could very well end up as plaintiffs, “referrers”, or expert witnesses in show trials of alleged “Haters”.
If all this seems implausible, then consider the plight of Geert Wilders, who is scheduled to go on trial in Holland in August, 2016 for anti-immigration comments that would be considered innocuous in most other jurisdictions. The European model of hate speech laws in Europe and Canada might become adopted by the United States. Beware!
- Assigning Each American a Unique Internet Identity String. (And eventually requiring its use, with penalties for failure to do so.) This scheme, which was proposed by the Obama Adminisitration in 2011, was described as “voluntary”. But given the general tendency of governments to expand control, we have learned that yesterday’s voluntary becomes tomorrow’s mandatory. If such an ID scheme ever carries the force of law, then there will no longer be any “anonymous logins”. This will effectively end anonymous posts or comments to Internet news articles.
Although the Internet ID scheme presently appears to be moribund, it might re-emerge. I predict this would be most likely following a nationally-publicized Amber Alert kidnapping that involves earlier contact between the kidnapper and the victim via the Internet.
The Powers That Be have not forgotten about this goal. They have simply put it on hold until well-publicized events give them the opportunity to put it in action.
(“You never let a serious crisis go to waste. And what I mean by that it’s an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before.” – Rahm Emanuel)
- Imposing Passport Revocation/Travel Restrictions. Recently, in accord with congressional legislation, the U.S. State Department began restricting exits from the country for anyone owing more than $50,000 in unpaid Federal taxes. The same is done for anyone owing more than $2,500 in unpaid child support. Essentially, this a “No Fly/No Drive/No Sail” List. This is not much different that the old Soviet system of “exit visas” and “internal passports”.
- Expanding Visa Exclusion Lists. Larger numbers of visiting journalists, economists, and perhaps even some theologians could be barred from entering the United States. Presently, the U.S. visa exclusion list is fairly small. But if our government shifts further toward totalitarianism, then expect to see The List grow rapidly.
- Expanded Copyright Restrictions on Fair Use Quotes and Article Linking. This could greatly curtail readership of blogs.
- Licensing Journalists. Under current practices, press associations issue their own credentials (as we do at www.CFAPA.org). But if tyranny is kicked up a notch, then only government agencies would issue the legally valid credentials, in effect licensing journalists and barring bloggers and other unlicensed or non-“professional” journalists from attending trials, legislative meetings, and other public events. Don’t expect professional journalist organizations to raise much of a fuss, as long as they get their credentials. They are already feeling the pressure of Citizen Journalists, so they will likely be willing to go along with an “official” credentials law, to keep their club exclusive.
Remember that per Black’s Law Dictionary , the key definition of the word “license” is: “The permission by a competent authority to do an act which, without such permission, would be illegal, a trespass, a tort, or otherwise not allowable.” [Emphasis added.]
- Restrictions on Encryption and Mandated Government “Back Doors”. There has been a lot of recent publicity about Apple’s refusal to provide back doors to their iPhone software. The government might eventually prevail, with the consent of the courts. In the modern context, denying encrypted e-mail to individuals and increasing “transparency” will greatly hamper journalists from communicating with whistleblowers and other confidential sources.
- Currency Controls. If expatriation becomes more commonplace, we can expect to see the U.S. put controls on taking money out of the country without first paying a hefty tax. It could also become illegal to hold an account denominated in any foreign currency, even if it is held on-shore.
- Increasing the “Application/Processing Fee” for Renouncing U.S. Citizenship. If any bloggers or other Internet journalists seek to leave the U.S. to free themselves from the shackles of the ever-encroaching Nanny State, then they might find themselves in a predicament. Our government might soon make it too costly for expatriated citizens of average means to renounce their citizenship. As of 2015, the “application processing fee” jumped to the arbitrary figure of $2,350 per family member. (It had been $450 up until 2014.) That was a 422% increase. But what is to stop the government from raising the fee another 422% to $9,917? Or even arbitrarily to $100,000? Let’s recognize this “fee” for what it is: An exit tax. The processing fee has a key precedent in the 20th Century, when the government of Germany harshly taxed Jews that were leaving the country. This was called the Reich Flight Tax. (In German: Reichsfluchtsteuer.)
The percentage of wealth confiscated under the Reichsfluchtsteuer increased over time:
January, 1934: 20%
August, 1934: 65%
October, 1936: 81%
June, 1938: 90%
September, 1939: 96%
The lesson to be learned from this historical example is that it is wise to expatriate before expatriation becomes popular, and thence heavily taxed.
- Establishment of Small “Free Speech Zones” at Public Events. Increasingly, free speech zones (also known as protest zones, First Amendment zones, or free speech cages) are areas set aside in public places as a limited venue of political protesting.
The obvious but unspoken message of Free Speech Zones is that only the mainstream political orthodox messages will get publicized at public events, and that above all other viewpoints.
- Firewalling Web Access. The well-publicized Great Firewall of China (fánghuǒ chángchéng) might become a model for blocking access to websites that fall into political disfavor, probably under the guise of “blocking hate speech”.
According to Wikipedia:
“As part of the Great Firewall, beginning in 1993 China started the Golden Shield Project (jindun gongcheng), a massive surveillance and censoring system, the hardware for which was provided by mostly U.S. companies, including Cisco Systems. The project was completed in 2006 and is now carried out in buildings with machines manned by civilians and supervised by China’s national police force, the Public Security Bureau (PSB). The main operating activities of the gatekeepers at the Golden Shield Project include monitoring domestic websites and email and searching for politically sensitive language and calls to protest. When damaging content is found, local PSB officials can be dispatched to investigate or make arrests.”
- Coercive Force by Various Agencies of Government. If an assault on the First Amendment begins in earnest, then we can expect various agencies (including the IRS, FBI, EPA, BATFE, et cetera) to be unleashed on journalists, in an attempt to intimidate them into silence, or to coop them up in jail on unrelated fabricated charges. The IRS Targeting Scandal (aka Lois Lerner’s “Special Research Project“) serves as an example of how this was done and might happen again.
- Redefining Those with Certain Beliefs as “Mentally Ill”. This is already being discussed as a tactic to be used against those who deny Man-Made Climate Change. This follows the Soviet model, where dissidents to The System were committed to mental institutions.
- Intrusive Wiretapping and Tracking of Cell Phones and Cell Phone Cameras. The technology to secretly record your conversations even when your cell phone is ostensibly “powered down” was developed for intelligence and law enforcement agencies in 2003. I suspect that this practice is far more widespread than is publicized. Your best defense is to remove your cell phone’s battery when it is not in use.
- Extraordinary Rendition and Secret “Ghost House” Prisons. The current patchwork of extradition treaties might eventually be replaced by a supranational United Nations treaty that mandates nearly all extraditions, and legalizes extraordinary rendition (i.e. cross-border kidnapping of anyone under indictment). If this ever becomes a serious threat, then it could effectively muzzle journalists in any country from making comments on the internal affairs of any other country. This would be the ultimate in de facto Prior Restraint.
My Recommended Countermeasures:
- Get press credentials and carry them whenever you are away from home. Our CFAPA.org spin-off web site provides press credentials free of charge to any adult citizen who agrees to a pledge of journalistic ethics. There have been tens of thousands of downloads of these credentials. (We don’t have an exact number, because we DO NOT keep lists of our credentialed reporters. Our only visibility of the credentialing process comes in the form of some bandwidth statistics. Based on those statistics, it is safe to assume that more than 12,000 people have downloaded credentials.)
- Use both the Tor proxy for your web browsing and a virtual private network (VPN) for nearly all of your Internet access.
- Use anonymous remailers, such as Mixmaster.
- Lease offshore servers, and prominently post their dotted quad IP addresses on your web page. If your readers have bookmarked your dotted quad IP address, even if your domain name is blacklisted, people can still see your web page, by using your IP address.
- Establish backup web sites, preferably offshore.
- Use encryption! Install free mail encryption such as GPG. Choose a long but memorable passphrase in which you intentionally transpose a couple of letters, inject a misspelling, or use numbers in places of letters. Hence, a really solid (difficult to break) passphrase would be something like: “Dere’s-no-bus1nezz-like-show-bus1nezz”
- Make redundant offsite backups of your computer files. One good technique is to regularly make copies of all of your most important files to a memory stick (aka thumb drive). Ask a local friend to do likewise. Then, whenever you visit them, exchange your memory sticks. (One friend and I refer to this as our regular “baton hand-off”.)
- Carry a camera or a camera-equipped cellphone, whenever you are out in public. Record all interactions with government employees. (Note: Depending on your state law, you may have to begin your interaction by stating loudly: “For the record, this conversation is being video and audio recorded. We are in a public place and you have no expectation of privacy.”
- Install multiple dash cameras inside your car (ideally, with front, rear, and driver/side window views). Dashcams without audio can be very inexpensive (under $40), but I strongly recommend cameras that can selectively record audio, too. This might provide critical evidence in a courtroom! The Zero Edge Z3 (available for around $110.) Buy three of them, if you can afford to! If you are involved in a car wreck and your camera is on, then you’ll have proof of everything that happened. These cameras more than pay for themselves, in car accident litigation. And by documenting all of your interactions when out on the road, they can provide an unimpeachable witness to someday present to a jury of your peers.
- Keep your passports up to date, for every member of your family.
- If need be, relocate. If you have a particularly high profile, then you might be forced to expatriate, to prevent being muzzled. (Don’t think of this as a concession. Instead, consider it a deliberate act of defiance.)
- Never cave in to unjust pressure. General George Patton once famously said: “Pressure makes diamonds.” Live your life as a Citizen Journalist fearlessly. If you are writing responsibly, then you don’t need to seek anyone’s approval to press on. And you certainly shouldn’t bow to the demands of bureaucrats or to the statist whiners of Political Correctness.
Larger Issues, Longer Term
When considering fundamental God-given rights, it is important to keep a broad perspective and look at threats to our rights from a multi-generational view. The degradation of our First Amendment rights has thusfar been fairly gradual. However, the emergence of cyberspace has created some new challenges to maintaining journalistic independence, anonymous sources, and the ability to make our voices heard. Unless we are vigilant and stay inside of our opponents’ threat spirals, then we will lose. (By lose, I mean that we will be marginalized or silenced.)
The speed at which information flows in the Internet and its tremendous reach to the homes of billions of people can be both blessings and curses. The same tools, which can quickly spread news, can also be used to put people on the Bad Boy Lists, maintained by tyrants (or would-be tyrants).
I believe that EFF founder John Perry Barlow was ahead of his time when he drafted the Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace, in 1996. It is worth reading.
We are now living in perilous times, where our liberty is dangling by just a thread. This is the Age of Deception and Betrayal.
I’ve said this many times before in the context of the Second Amendment, but it bears repeating here, when discussing the First Amendment:
Whenever someone must buy a license or pay a fee to exercise a right, then it is something less than a right. It is in fact a mere privilege, subject to the whim of petty bureaucrats. Fundamental rights are not abstract tokens that are given or sold by other men. They are in fact primary liberties bestowed upon us by God, our maker. Rights are not substantially secured by asking, “Mother may I?” of any government agency. Rights are more properly demanded or boldly seized and then conspicuously exercised regularly. This secures the liberties that have legitimately belonged to us since birth. If need be, lost rights can and must be restored through proscriptive use. If you live in a land where your rights have been marginalized into privileges, then it is either time to change your government or to change your address. Much like a muscle that atrophies with disuse, any right that goes unexercised for many years devolves into a privilege and eventually can even be redefined as a crime.
(Note: Permission is granted for re-posting of this entire article, but only if done so in full, with proper attribution to James Wesley, Rawles and SurvivalBlog, and only if the included links are preserved.)