This morning’s (Sunday, December 23) edition of The Press-Enterprise, the newspaper in California’s Inland Empire region, featured a 150-word blurb, highlighted in relatively small font, on page A-3 that should have been large and bold page 1: “Hoover had plan for mass arrests.”
The report was given the attention it deserved in other, more responsible newspapers. The fact it wasn’t in The Press-Enterprise is perfect illustration of the dangers of media consolidation that the FCC approved last week. Were it not for greater coverage elsewhere, my guess is that it wouldn’t have been reported at all. My guess is that if Clear Channel, for example, had as much of a lock on newspapers as it does on the broadcast and cable media outlets it currently owns, no one would have been the wiser concerning a most outrageous assault on the first tenets of American democracy.
For those who haven’t read about it, J. Edgar Hoover, head of the FBI, in 1950 had “a list” containing more than 12,000 names of Americans he suspected of disloyalty, and intended to preemptively incarcerate all of them, recommending that Truman suspend the writ of habeas corpus on his say-so.
The FBI would “apprehend all individuals potentially (emphasis mine) dangerous to national security, the arrests to be executed under “a master warrant attached to a list of names” provided by the bureau. “The index now contains approximately twelve thousand individuals, of which approximately ninety-seven per cent are citizens of the United States.” And, “In order to make effective these apprehensions, the proclamation suspends the Writ of Habeas Corpus.”
Here is my bet: Most Americans would guess that “habeas corpus” is something you might pick up at an unclean restaurant, or, if they have some remote passing acquaintance with it (meaning: “Oh, yeah . . . I’ve heard of that.”), it is some nicety readily overlooked if their president regards it necessary to do so.
Just because an associate may have an amicable disposition doesn’t make that person a good person. He or she, in their pleasant ignorance of basic civics and the demands good citizenship require, is as dangerous a threat to the most fundamental human rights as are folks like Hoover, Joe McCarthy, and George Bush; all Republicans, all boastfully proud conservatives, by the way.
But where does this inclination to ignorance come from, from whence does the readiness to submit to arbitrary authority arise?
I submit that much, if not all, of it comes from simple human insecurity and the hope that the untoward circumstances of fate can be at least partly averted if only we are sufficiently supplicating before some ethereal entity who supposedly can marshal the capacity to save us.
Don’t ask an impious question or have a doubting thought, for even your thoughts are known to such an entity. If folks can be led to conduct their lives thus in allegiance to some mysterious faith that is without backing by tangible evidence, just think how easily they can be led to acquiesce before an authority they can actually see and hear.
And what if that authority is the only one they can see and hear, because all others have been effectively silenced?
Look. Sacrificing skepticism on behalf of “faith” is not a rational approach to any dilemma; it is the very definition of stupidity. We’re all pretty puny creatures, destined from the moment of our conception to pass away largely and forever unnoticed in such a short while. How is it that anything any of us might think or say or doubt or question while we’re here might be the least troublesome to an all-powerful entity? Not much of an entity, if anything I say throws him/her/it into paroxysms of self doubt or jealousy and me into eternal damnation.
Subservience and pursued ignorance are nothing to boast of. Irksome challenges hurtled to all who seek authority over us are the first indications human dignity is alive and thriving in the human breast.
Indeed, those are the stubborn, liberal precepts that formed the very backbone of American independence, the very precepts that made an America at all possible. “Don’t tread on me!” If you do, if you try, I will fight you to the death, because my heart and soul are to “Live free, or die.”
So, that the head of the FBI would have enchained us all, if we seemed to him potentially dangerous, is not a story worth front page telling, and all of us fretting over how telling a story it is? A dictator and a tyrant are dictators and tyrants, regardless of the country in which they dwell; exactly as are all in the Bush administration who would suspend for a second any provision that keeps us from their clawing talons reach.
— Ed Tubbs