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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 1/7/17

What is a Terrorist? The Criminalization of American Dissent in the 21st Century

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Message Matthew Vernon Whalan

There are many ways to explain and analyze the last two decades' criminalization of American dissent, and the examples cited in this piece are admittedly only some examples. Of course, the future is forever uncertain and it is possible that the everyday lives of ordinary Americans will not be controlled or punished by this increasingly ominous trend. It is also possible that -- particularly in the very likely event of an enormous crisis of some kind -- more and more people will be targeted by more and more laws and punished in more and more heinous and brutal ways. I'll end by noting that in December of 2011, a law was passed in the National Defense Authorization Act authorizing the indefinite detention of anyone, including American citizens, "who substantially supports or is a member of al-Qaeda, the Taliban or associated forces." Neither "substantial support" nor "associated forces" have clear definitions, which is worrisome enough, and becomes more worrisome the more groups like Black Lives Matter and environmentalists are equated with -- and treated as -- terrorists.

Again, it is important to remember that we have been headed in this direction for a long time, and to consider that there have been times in our history when the punishment for dissent was worse. Public crises of the kind that occurred in 2001 and 2008 do not create this attitude; they re-legitimize it. It is also important to consider that the ability of the security apparatus to monitor and punish those who dissent has been on the rise in our more recent history and will become more naked the more public crises we encounter in the near future. Trump will be cruder about this than Obama has been or Clinton would have been, but we should continue to expect it to get worse for the foreseeable future no matter who holds power. There is no way to know for sure how brutal this could get because there is no way to calculate how large and pervasive the next crises will be. But, especially with the Trump team in power and every branch of the government controlled by the far right, the worst case scenario seems more likely than the best case scenario, even if it is impossible to say exactly what those scenarios are.

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Matthew Vernon Whalan is a journalist and writer from Great Barrington, MA. He has published journalism in the Red Crow News, The Berkshire Edge, Spin Education, The Brattleboro Reformer, and other newspapers. He is the author of The Little Book (more...)

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