Tuesday, August 16, 2011

CENSORSHIP: If This Doesn't Disturb You, It Should

Posted by: Noël Jones

According to an article by Carrie Johnson on the National Public Radio (NPR) web site, authorities for Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART), San Francisco's subway system, shut down all cell phone signals in their subway system Thursday, for hours, to prevent a protest in response to the recent shooting of a citizen by police. Problem is, as the article points out, that also meant cutting off everyone else--children on the phone to their parents, colleagues on the phone with business associates, seniors on the phone with their doctors. This is a case headed directly to the Supreme Court, as it is a gross First Amendment violation. But while attorneys and judges are parsing law on this issue, they might as well take a look at a Senate bill introduced last January, in response to the Egyptian revolution, which was primarily organized via Facebook and Twitter. The legislation is designed to give power to President Obama pull a "kill switch," shutting down the internet for our entire nation, in the case of "significant cyberthreats," as reported by Yi Yang for The Epoch Times on line. 

According to Johnson's article on the incident in San Francisco, "One group that promotes
electronic freedom compared the people who run BART to an authoritarian regime in Egypt, tweeting "BART pulls a Mubarak in San Francisco."

We, as Americans, need to wake up and think fast. We have become so self-absorbed in our own lives and entertainment, that our civil liberties are being stripped away right under our noses to the point that we are in danger of being compared to third-world dictatorships. Stay tuned, as I'm sure there are going to be petitions going around soon (or at least I hope so) and I will post them in the comments to this post as soon as I come across them. This is not a liberal or conservative issue. This is an issue at the very heart of what it is to be American, and the freedoms that our forefathers fought for, but in a modern context. When the creators of our Declaration sat in the Bachmann Publick House on Northampton Street in our city, they discussed this kind of repression over a pint of mead and it eventually led to the American Revolution. It's time to start talking over pints again--in Porters, Pearly's, Black & Blue--and make sure that we stay on top of these issues and don't allow the freedoms our forefathers fought and died for to be stripped away from us.

There is a reason that freedom of speech is our First Amendment--because it is the most important freedom that the Colonies fought for to end oppression under British Rule. This episode of censorship is just another step along the steady line of progressive legalization of civil rights violations by our government, i.e., wiretapping of American citizens under the Patriot Act and TSA body scans and body searches--all in the name of "security."

[By contrast, according to Channel 69 News, a bomb squad was called to the Sands Casino today because of a suspicious package found in the parking lot, but the casino was not evacuated.]

"They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." ~Benjamin Franklin, 1775


peterkc said...

Blocking mobile communications in anticipation of a possible protest is unconstitutional -- but for these folks the Bill of Rights is just a nuisance, something to ignore. I wouldn't be surprised if this was a test case to test their equipment and also to see what they could get away with. [And the ability to block cellular & wifi communication is probably part of the toolkit of the 'homeland security'/'emergency management' folks here as well.]

Closer to home, there are free speech restrictions at the new SteelStacks plaza in SouthSide Bethlehem: The Sands Casino gave land to the City of Bethlehem [for a 'Town Square' and visitor center] and to ArtsQuest and PBS-39 -- and the deeds all contain restrictions prohibiting any speech or events critical of the casino or any union organizing or protests, and it restricts other participation to 'approved' organizations celebrating local arts & culture. Every time freedom of speech is restricted, we all lose.


Dennis R. Lieb said...

We're sleepwalking off a cliff. The Constitution, as we know it, is now only interpreted for the good of the People when those "People" are corporate People.


noel jones said...

peterkc--i did not know that!

Dennis' comments gives me the perfect opportunity to post a link from another Lehigh Valley blogger--LVCI--who posted this great video of Romney on the campaign trail ARGUING with people who have come out to see him and listen to him, insisting to them that CORPORATIONS ARE PEOPLE:


in case you had any doubt as to where this former Wall St. banker's loyalty lies, he is spelling it out for us.

Ron Paul Anon 3:57 said...

It's absurd to say that the constitution is only being misinterpreted solely for corporations. The constitution is being misrepresented for everyone. Corporations and individuals are reaping benefits that are unconstitutional and not sustainable.

Dennis R. Lieb said...

Ron Paul...

I'd have to mostly disagree with you based on 160 years of high court cases in which the Constitution has been continuously and consistently interpreted to take rights away from human individuals and municipal corporations (cities and towns) and increase the protections to corporate "individuals" (business property). The only individuals reaping benefits of Constitutional corruption are the players behind those corporations, who are basically the same entity as the corporation

This is overwhelmingly due to a long term campaign to place corporate backed judges in positions of power and buying off legislators and the judicial branch.

I would hope that with all the uproar over the disintegration of our local rights of self-governance that there would be a stampede of West Ward and other Easton citizens to my Democracy School class this fall.

I have 15 openings. This is an invitation. Any takers in blogland?


carinne said...

What is the date for the class?
I will attend :)

noel jones said...

you know i'm in!

noel jones said...

Dennis--Please post your contact info at the WWNP into a comment so that people you don't already know can get in touch with you to let you know that they are interested.

To all readers: This democracy workshop is neither liberal nor conservative. CELDF teaches residents how they can achieve more self-governance on the local level--regardless of the topic or issue--by challenging things on a state constitutional basis, rather than fighting things in the normal regulatory realm. It's going to be VERY interesting, whether you're a socialist, a libertarian, a Democrat, a Republican, a Tea Partier or an Independent.

Sign up and lets figure it out together!

david said...

I think we can and should expect more of this. I've been spending the day looking into our local drug crew , facebook, cell phones, etc...and waiting to hear from Easton vice. We caught someone dealing in front of the house, (suspected of course).
But after the London riots it has become clear that that social media, cell phones, etc...can and will be turned to bad intent. Sadly like most other good things, this is another issue where a minority of bad people affect the well being of the whole. Perhaps the local police expected a London style riot, perhaps infringing on peoples rights was to serve the health and safety of the greater community. Still, as we here in Easton deal with gangs and drug dealers who use social media, cell phones and all sorts of modern equipment and techniques to make everyday life a living hell for the law abiding, we may be faced with a cut in our civil liberties, yet again...because criminals have perverted them.
It's sad that I just posted that the neighborhood was getting better, an hour later, there's a drug deal going down in front of my house in broad day light. And honestly due to modern technology, myself and the police barring some intervention by superior courts will remain behind these people who think of no one but themselves and would harm or kill anyone of us if it served their needs. And we know it, it's blatant. I'm sorry, but if it means protecting the villains, or losing some freedoms or in the case of this protest likely to turn riot, livelihoods and possibly lives?
It's a no brainer. You want someone to blame, blame the people who use these tools to commit violence and other crimes.
It think the decision took quite a brass pair personally. This city should be commended not condemned.

noel jones said...

david--i couldn't disagree more. as soon as the majority of regular Americans start justifying the quashing of protests, spying on Americans who have committed no crime, and shutting down communications for all--all in the name of Homeland Security, is when we are in daner of accelerating toward Facism.

And for once, this is a Hitler reference that is on-topic.

I remember when I first learned about the Nazis--I was 12, and read the Diary of Anne Frank. I was so shocked that I became obsessed and read every book I could get my hands on about Hitler, the Nazis, the concentration camps, etc. My teachers were horrified whenever I did oral book reports.

The one question that I kept asking adults over and over--my parents, my teachers--anyone willing to talk about it--was how could a civilized society of normal people ever get to the point where they agreed with Hitler and approved of what the Nazis were doing? How could it ever be ok to watch the police haul away a Jewish family next door, and then Jewish family after Jewish family--without them ever returning, and without explanation? And how did Hitler ever find enough regular people who were ok becoming SS officers so that he could amass the huge army that he did and commit the atrocities on Jewish people that they did? Why did no one speak up? Why didn't the people stop him?

And the answer I always got, which disturbed me greatly, and I could not allow myself to believe, is that it can happen anywhere, in any country, if the conditions are right--that it happens incrementally, as civil liberties are gradually stripped away in the name of security and patriotism.

If we, as Americans, think that we are above that, and that only mid-century Germans could be manipulated and brainwashed to the degree that they become both that brutal and that steeped in denial--then we are fooling ourselves.

This is a very dangerous trend, and anyone who loves liberty had better start standing up and speaking out consistently, so the voice of reason is not drowned out completely by fear-mongering spin-doctors and their Facist "solutions."

david said...

In many ways, it has happened in this country. By riot and civil suit, we have allowed a tyrany of the poor. We have become a people so stunted by the potential violence of a priveldeged class (they don't have to work and we pay for food, education, housing, and medical care-all free-except that we who work pay for it), that they have used and will use at the barest provocation.
A question for me would be, did they turn off the pay phones?
Did they limit all comunication? or did they limit only that form of communication so recently and brutally used in london to bring about 4 deaths and billions in damages...over the death of a thug.
What disturbs me most is the general willingness of the American people to believe that the government (which is us) is always wrong. That if a criminal gets shot, the police are automatically in the wrong and that any action that might serve the public good is immeadiately suspect. A person got shot by a police officer in SF, we know little about him or the circumsatnces and quite bluntly we don't care. Some people were made to not use their cell phones....the horor...it's the nazi's.
A week after the worst riot in Europe in decades over the same subject. A police shooting. Is it shocking to think that they may have expected a similar outcome?
As well, was the order instituted across the state?
Across the nation?
In Easton?
Was it permanent?
We ban cell phones in hospitals, texting while we drive (Proof that darwin was right) in Governemnt buildings, courtrooms, etc...
For that matter is a cell phone a right?
Or is it governed by the FCC?
There is so much here to be questioned.
Still I will agree about the Hitler reference. Many have taken on a Nazi like need to blame everything on government, the police, and anyone who stands between them and their right to be an idiot, a rioter, a drug dealer.
Sadly without that nazi like mindset they would be forced to deal with the fact that they are losers and criminals.

noel jones said...

so, i assume, you're also ok with the Patriot Act, wiretapping spying on the emails of Americans who have committed no crime, TSA body scans and searches? It's all for security, right? What next? How many of your civil liberties and right to privacy are you willing to give up?

david said...

we are a spoiled people. i assume that you're alright with the people who abuse these freedoms to Destroy The peace, safety and livelihoods Of the average american City. even such cities as our little Easton sleepy ole' PA. ^^

There is and has always been a trade off between safety and freedom and even Ben Franklin went against his own words and acknowledged this in the constitution. His rebellious words used to spark war became a thing of the past for him when he became a ruler. Such is an has always been the way with revolutions.
And yes, I do approve of those things. Had we had them in place before 9/11 5,000 + Americans and millions of Islamics would be alive today. Clearly you support those deaths as you demonize the steps that could have been taken to prevent them.
One act of profiling, one person willing to question overdue passports and raise a stink without fear of being sued for racism could have prevented this war and the millions of deaths that have come from it. We want to know how the Nazi's managed to do all that they did we need only look at ourselves. Fairly soon, we may yet break Hitlers six million...and in the end simply because we wanted to spare people's feelings and inconvenience. It is perhaps good that the terrorists who flew those planes did so without being inconvenienced, and my heart feels lighter knowing that we didn't hurt their feelings.
That is the choice we've made as a nation and that is a choice we're going to have to un-make.

noel jones said...

david--you said:

"Had we had them in place before 9/11 5,000 + Americans and millions of Islamics would be alive today. Clearly you support those deaths as you demonize the steps that could have been taken to prevent them. "

you are completely out of line and insulting me because your points aren't holding up, which is usually the case when comments deteriorate into vitriol.

as someone who was in new york on sept. 11th, someone who worked in the world trade center between the first and second terrorist attacks on those buildings, and someone with close friends who lost friends, family and coworkers on sept. 11th (i was very lucky not to have lost anyone myself), i would never accuse someone of "supporting those deaths" unless they were actual terrorists who supported those deaths.

i'm sick of people--especially people who weren't there--using sept. 11th as a fear-mongering tool to justify stripping away our civil liberties, and vilifying those who would speak out against it.

if you disagree and have valid points to make, make them. but if you are out of valid points and have to resort to personal attacks against me, or any other readers that disagree with you, you will be deleted.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Noel greatly and am also shocked when people make such strong claims on something hypothetical. Maybe we should examine not how the terrorists could have hypothetically been prevented on getting on the plane, but why they were driven to commit such a heinous act in the first place. Most safeguards set in place seem to be primarily for appearances and uneffective harassment. A number of people have reported boarding planes with dangerous objects including a reporter who mistakenly flew with his gun in his carry on (I'll try to find a link), while I've personally watched the pat down of a man in his 80's for no reason. The problem is there is no definition of who a terrorist is, and it is impossible to predict what method they will use to commit an act. All we can do as a people is live in a society that encourages freedom and the pursuit of happiness, and allow the people to protect themselves. Since we seem to enjoy hypothetical situations, I would venture to guess that if there were less safeguards and a few citizens on the September 11th planes were legally carrying firearms, the outcome would have been significantly different, but that's just hypothetical.

david said...

Actually just to make the point of how easy it is to pass messages through social media blogs and such, I included the coded message "destroy the city of Easton" in my last response. See if you can find it, I made it so a child could find it. Simple cipher. I of course am not a terrorist (just the opposite), but were I then I just passed the message to target this city to my non existent folowers. And not only did you allow it, you didn't even catch it. Perfectly legal BTW. Now times that by every blog in America and barring laws removing some of our annonimity in places such as this, we're talking about hiring a million or so people to monitor such communication, much less facebook and twitter and youtube where anonymous people can set up entire networks with acess limited to "friends" aka cell or gang members that require a search warrant or wire tap warrant to acess. Were I running a serious test of the nations defenses (and it's been done- you don't want to know the results) I would do things like switch languages, use deeper ciphers and codes, use regular misspellings, that sort of thing to point out to the inteded reader where ciphers were changing as an aspect of opsec, but I wanted to give you a fair chance. As well, I'd be sycophantic. Such people are rarely if ever censored by the staff.
Still I do find it intersting that in a conversation about censorship your first threat is to censor me, because we disagree. Well, so be it.

There's no insult in pointing out that our actions as a people have ramifications. Feel free to disprove the point as the known actors in 9/11 were here on expired visa's. It's fairly simple to draw such lines. Had anyone govt or civilian felt comfortable in challenging even one of those creatures, 9/11 would not have happened or at least not in the way it did, and as the war resulted from it, the logic is simple to follow. And yet, we (many of us at least) are horrified that any action that in any way limits our freedoms to prevent another is a crime ...and nazi's....
Seriuosly. Well, I'm done with this conversation as quite bluntly we've crossed that line where civil discourse is no longer possible.
Thank you for your time,

noel jones said...


To claim "censorship" on a privately administered blog would be like accusing you of censorship because you feel you have a right to decide who can walk into your living room and what sort of behavior your will tolerate in your home.

All readers are my guest here. Would you go to a party at someone's house, and in their living room, start shouting to everyone that the host supports terrorists and the murder of thousands? If so, you would be kicked out pretty quickly--no doubt hollering about "censorship" the whole way.

But you have made your point--there is no limit to the civil liberties that you are willing to give up for the mirage of security--as you point out, it would take millions of employees to spy on all Americans at once--and you think everyone else should be willing to give up their liberties for the mirage too.

That's fine. We disagree.

looking out for myself said...

have you heard of the Golden Rule? you know, he who has the gold makes the rules? the govt serves the needs of the corporations because its the corporations who drive the economy.
the govt doesn't 'make' anything, thye can't 'create' jobs.
I mention this because its eay to blame 'corporatyions' as if they are some borg-like, inhuman entity; but they ARE people, and if youp are employed you benefit. even if you are unemployed you benefit, because it's the SYSTEM. the system that we are all part of. you can't hid from it.
maybe this is off topic, but there ARE some things that HAVE to be controlled. who makes these decisions? hopefully not a bunch of hooligan thugs ripping of TVs. if the govt or corps always going to make decisions in the peoples best interests? no, of course not, but this is the world we live in; an imperfect flawed world run by people who often don't have a clue.
blocking cell phones? so what? what would you have done juast 15 years ago when you didn't even have a cell phone?
most people are ambivalent about whats going on around them. black people don't get involved in the horrible black on black violence that plagues their neighborhoods, but if a white cop beats a black dude, whoa! watch out!
lots of white folks don't care about starving in Haiti, but if a dog gets euthanized, OMG!
the govt doesn't HAVE to censor anyone; they still will do what they want, because most people DON'T CARE.
the college campus protests of a generation ago must have did some good; those people CREATED this cynical, arrogant, entitled apathetic generation. may God help us all...

noel jones said...

LOFM--your point on apathy of the citizenry is well-taken--although I tend to think that prosperity and a consumerist culture bred Generation X (my generation--the most apathetic generation of all time) more than anything. people tend to stop working and worrying when everything is ok, and start living narcissistic self-absorbed lifestyles in pursuit of their own entertainment.

but unless you are one of the hold-outs who does not yet use a cell phone regularly, my guess is that you'd be pretty mad if someone cut it off and told you it was for your security.

tachitup said...

lofm - that's a very interesting post, I like it; doesn't quite qualify as a rant, but close. So do I understand that you think it's OK to block cell service?
So who really cares if guns are outlawed? Humans survived without them for millennia.
Read the above with tongue planted firmly to the side.

"They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety." Benjamin Franklin in a letter, Feb 17, 1775, although often attributed to Jefferson.