Yves here. This is really ugly. Pre-crime is arriving. It was bad enough in the McCarthy era when merely having gone to a meeting sponsored by a Communist group way back in college could do serious career harm. But now, going Howard Beale is being criminalized…not actually having done something, just making clear that you are seriously pissed off about the established order.
By this standard, men squaring off in a bar would also be criminal even though no one has thrown a punch.
BTW, Minority Report is a great movie, the rare case where a screenplay improved upon its literary source.
By Thomas Neuburger. Originally published at God’s Spies
We’re on the road to the next 9/11, but not in the way you think.
The last 9/11 wasn’t just an event. It was a trigger for the radical restructuring of privacy and surveillance in American life, and the radical elevation of the National Security State as the new highest branch of government, a branch with such power and reach that no one with place and reputation to protect — not the Hayeses, the Maddows and Tappers; not the Bidens, the Harrises and Buttigiegs — would dare to oppose it.
The post-9/11 infrastructure, including its propaganda and consent-manufacturing arm, is now in place.
A Reborn Radical World
Yet things change. Since 9/11 occurred the nation has entered a new phase — it’s become pre-revolutionary on both the left and right sides of the political spectrum, become like boil that isn’t yet big enough to burst. In fact, though few with place and reputation to protect will admit it, the left and right have largely overlapped to create a vertical division, a “rich versus the rest” divide.
(This is a split the rich are working hard to obscure. That’s why so much of our professional media is “other-side obsessed” — why the pied pipers of the left, MSNBC and CNN, are so determined to gin up Trump-voter-hate, an anger that perfectly matches the older and well-tested liberal-voter-hate so relied on by pied pipers of the right. But let’s pass that point for the moment. We have other fish to fry.)
The nation arrived at its pre-revolutionary state by a number of paths. Obama sold Change in 2008, received massive voter support, then reneged, most notably, but not solely, by bailing out banks before people. That’s why, for example, so many abandoned him in 2012, and in 2016 why so many ex-Obama voters turned to Trump or stayed home.
Another spur to pre-radicalization occurred in 2016 and 2020 with the clear and overt sabotage of Sanders’ “political revolution” in favor of two “nothing will change” Establishment candidates. Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden both “defeated” Bernie Sanders, though they needed a full measure of Establishment help to do it. Even progressive icons, Establishment figures with credible public brands like John Lewis and Gloria Steinem, took part in his destruction. All of this was noticed and remembered, and not with love, by those who wanted real change.
Not Dark Yet, But It’s Getting There
So here we are: No one who doesn’t have money or a work-from-home income is happy, and some are downright miserable. People give different reasons for that unhappiness, and they couch their analysis in different terms, but the broad mass of America — the underserved many who deliver food to the overserved few, who never leave home when they go to work — is getting pretty ready to rip the place apart.
It’s true that most aren’t yet over the edge, except perhaps in their speech. We’re not near critical mass like we were in the 60s and 70s — but like the singer said, we’re getting there. Every time someone takes our political temperature, it’s up a notch from the last time.
The Department of Pre-Crime
From an Establishment standpoint, of course, none of this can be allowed. No rebellion of an unapproved sort is permissible. Not BLM, not Proud Boys, not Stop the Steal, not student debt strikes, not Occupy Wall Street 2.0, not any activity that represents an actual threat to the “nothing will change” apple cart that gives meaning to the lives of the few who constrain the lives of the many.
The few feed on the many, surf with pleasure on the back of their forced labor, and the bent-down many cannot be allowed to object.
How to enforce this constraint in pre-revolutionary times? The Riot of January 6 is providing the perfect excuse to clamp down on any objection to “the way things have always been.”
But more than that, the one-time event of the riot allows a radical and permanent redefinition of political crime — not as an act of violence, but an act of thought. We’re entering the world of pre-emptive arrest, incarceration and prosecution for the political crime of being on the “path to radicalization.”
The “Path to Radicalization” As a Criminal Offense
There’s no better example of that trend than the following article in the Washington Post. This piece not only announces the first “pre-crime” arrest; it justifies it. Both of these aspects of the piece are noteworthy.
First, the arrest:
The FBI warned about far-right attacks. Agents arrested a leftist ex-soldier.
TALLAHASSEE — Shortly after sunrise on Jan. 15, FBI agents descended with guns drawn on a squat, red-brick apartment complex here, broke open the door of one of the units and threw in a stun grenade, prompting the frightened property manager to call 911.
Inside the apartment, furnished with little besides books and a sign declaring “THE REVOLUTION IS NOT A PARTY,” the agents found their target: [Daniel Baker,] a 33-year-old U.S. Army veteran and self-described “hardcore leftist” who had posted a flier on social media threatening to attack “armed racist mobs WITH EVERY CALIBER AVAILABLE.” A shotgun and handgun were found in his apartment, they said. …
[T]he FBI agents who had been monitoring Baker’s social media posts since October described him as being on a “path toward radicalization.” They catalogued his Facebook musing about being “willing to do ANYTHING to ANYONE so I don’t end up homeless and hungry again.” They noted updates about “voting from the rooftops” and hoping “the right tries a coup on Nov. 3 cuz I’m so f—— down to slay enemies again.” A post on his page in December announced, “Trump still plans on a violent militant coup. If you don’t have guns you won’t survive.”
On Jan. 25, U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael J. Frank agreed that Baker posed a potential threat and ordered him held without bond, writing that the former soldier had “repeatedly endorsed violent means to advance the political beliefs that he espouses.”
Daniel Baker was arrested and held without bond for posting the social media posts quoted above. Yet looking at the language, I’m not sure there’s a target named anywhere; just frustration.
Is being “willing to do ANYTHING to ANYONE so I don’t end up homeless and hungry again” a threat to an actual person. Do “racist mobs” count as a named target? “This weekend’s Proud Boys March at the Civic Center” would be a target. Anger at generalized “racist mobs” and those who cause homelessness sound more like hopeless frustration than threats.
Ask yourself: How many others could be jailed for voicing these thoughts? Thousands on any given day? Tens of thousands? The number of Baker-class criminals must be very high.
Yet how many would act on those sentiments if they had them? You can count that for yourself — one or two a year at the very most.
In addition, the shape of rebellion doesn’t have to be a violent mess. It can also be simply a threat to the existing order, a willingness to say no until actual justice arrives, to “put your bodies upon the gears and the wheels” of the machine and just make it stop. Yet even that is a crime — especially that is a crime — to those fed by the machine.
What Will the State Do Next? Whatever It Wishes To
So this is where we are as a nation, with people like Baker — the homeless and hopeless — jailed for their anger and fear, incarcerated for what they might do but haven’t yet done.
Nancy Pelosi has proposed a new 9/11-type commission to look at the Capitol riot. The last 9/11 gave us permanent mass surveillance.
Where will our new 9/11 take us? Wherever people with the most to lose from anger want to put us, including in jail.
The world of political pre-crime will be no fun at all. And just as when the last 9/11 occurred, the good guys will lose again.