Friday, June 08, 2007

A microcosm of our broken democracy

I've walked by a television maybe 8 or 9 times today in different locations. In every single instance that I passed the television, some sort of coverage of the Paris Hilton prison "saga" was on the tv. Every time. I kid you not.

Meanwhile, I get on-line, go on over to Glenn Greenwald's blog and I come across this (bold emphasis mine)

I'm currently at a conference of education professors concerning the Bush administration's radical executive power theories, and normal blogging will resume tomorrow. One of the points I attempted to emphasize this morning as part of the presentation I made was that as much as we think we know about the range of controversial Bush policies, it is almost certainly the case that what we do not know, what remains concealed, vastly outweighs what we know.

On a break from the conference, I see that Hilzoy this morning is discussing an amazing new report (.pdf) issued jointly by six human rights groups concerning 39 individuals whose whereabouts are unknown and at least some of whom, it seems quite likely, the U.S. has simply "disappeared," secretly holding in detention. Among the disappeared ... are likely children as young as 7-9 years old.
So you tell me. What's the bigger story? Whether or not Paris Hilton goes to jail, or the possibility that our government HAS DISSAPPEARED CHILDREN AS YOUNG AS 7-9 YEARS OLD?

I would interject some profanity here, but I know of none strong enough to convey the disgust and anger I have that I am living in an America that I even have to consider the possibility that such a thing has occurred.

Now let me qualify this: there is no conclusive evidence that such has happened. But the mere fact that the allegation merits investigation, that there is any chance it is true is a travesty and a shame. And regardless of whether or not children have been dissappeared remains the fact that PERSONS were dissappeared, been turned into ghosts living in a realm beyond the rule of law. This is not democracy in action, it is totalitarianism in action. I again quote Hannah Arendt from The Origins of Totalitarianism:

The first essential step on the road to total domination is to kill the juridicial person in man. This was done, on the one hand, by putting certain catergories of people outside the protection of the law and forcing at the same time, through the instrument of denationalization, the nontotalitarian world into recognition of lawlessness; it was done, on the other hand, by placing the concentration camp outside the normal penal sytem, and by selecting its inmates outsdie the normal judicial procedure in which a definite crime entails a predictable penalty.
So what really poses a graver threat to democracy? Hm? What does the public need to know about ... Paris Hilton's fate or if our country has engaged in on what Hannah Arendt identified as "the first essential step on the road to total domination?"

Instead of the press "covering" Paris Hilton (e.g. rolling footage of her and having pundits offer "commentary") maybe we can send out some journalists and see how much democracy has been hacked away by this administration. The founders of this nation imagined, when they wrote the 1st amendment, the press playing the role of the public's watchdog, to serve as a guardian of democracy. They did not imagine it would be a means of keeping people distracted while democracy died.

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