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John W. Whitehead

Institutionalizing Intolerance: Bullies Win, Freedom Suffers When We Can’t Agree to Disagree

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What a mess.

As America has become ever more polarized, and those polarized factions have become more militant and less inclined to listen to—or even allow for the existence of—other viewpoints, we are fast becoming a nation of people who just can’t get along.

Here’s the thing: if Americans don’t learn how to get along—at the very least, agreeing to disagree and respecting each other’s right to subscribe to beliefs and opinions that may be offensive, hateful, intolerant or merely different—then we’re going to soon find that we have no rights whatsoever (to speak, assemble, agree, disagree, protest, opt in, opt out, or forge our own paths as individuals).

In such an environment, when we can’t agree to disagree, the bullies (on both sides) win and freedom suffers.

Intolerance, once the domain of the politically correct and self-righteous, has been institutionalized, normalized and politicized.

Even those who dare to defend speech that may be unpopular or hateful as a constitutional right are now accused of “weaponizing the First Amendment.”

On college campuses across the country, speakers whose views are deemed “offensive” to some of the student body are having their invitations recalled or cancelled, being shouted down by hecklers, or forced to hire costly security details. As The Washington Postconcludes, “College students support free speech—unless it offends them.”
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Government Eyes Are Watching You: We Are All Prisoners of the Surveillance State

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First broadcast in America 50 years ago, The Prisoner—a dystopian television series described as “James Bond meets George Orwell filtered through Franz Kafka”—confronted societal themes that are still relevant today: the rise of a police state, the freedom of the individual, round-the-clock surveillance, the corruption of government, totalitarianism, weaponization, group think, mass marketing, and the tendency of humankind to meekly accept their lot in life as a prisoner in a prison of their own making.

Perhaps the best visual debate ever on individuality and freedom, The Prisoner (17 episodes in all) centers around a British secret agent who abruptly resigns only to find himself imprisoned and interrogated in a mysterious, self-contained, cosmopolitan, seemingly tranquil retirement community known only as the Village. The Village is an idyllic setting with parks and green fields, recreational activities and even a butler.

While luxurious and resort-like, the Village is a virtual prison disguised as a seaside paradise: its inhabitants have no true freedom, they cannot leave the Village, they are under constant surveillance, their movements are tracked by surveillance drones, and they are stripped of their individuality and identified only by numbers.
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Say No to 'Hardening' the Schools with Zero Tolerance Policies and Gun-Toting Cops

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Just what we don’t need: more gun-toting, taser-wielding cops in government-run schools that bear an uncomfortable resemblance to prisons.

Microcosms of the police state, America’s public schools already contain almost every aspect of the militarized, intolerant, senseless, overcriminalized, legalistic, surveillance-riddled, totalitarian landscape that plagues those of us on the “outside.”

Now the Trump Administration wants to double down on these totalitarian echo chambers.

The Justice Department, headed by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, has announced that it will provide funding for schools that want to hire more resource officers. The White House has also hinted that it may repeal “Rethink School Discipline” policies, heralding a return to zero tolerance policies that treat children like suspects and criminals, especially within the public schools.

As for President Trump, he wants to “harden” the schools.

What exactly does hardening the schools entail?

More strident zero tolerance policiesgreater numbers of school cops, and all the trappings of a prison complex(unsurmountable fences, entrapment areas, no windows or trees, etc.).

Just when you thought this administration couldn’t get any more tone-deaf about civil liberties, they prove once again that they have absolutely no regard for the Constitution (especially the Fourth Amendment), no concept of limited government, and no concern for the growing need to protect “we the people” against an overreaching, overbearing police state.
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Armed and Dangerous: If Police Don’t Have to Protect the Public, What Good Are They?

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In the American police state, police have a tendency to shoot first and ask questions later.

In fact, police don’t usually need much incentive to shoot and kill members of the public.

Police have shot and killed Americans of all ages—many of them unarmed—for standing a certain way, or moving a certain way, or holding something—anything—that police could misinterpret to be a gun, or igniting some trigger-centric fear in a police officer’s mind that has nothing to do with an actual threat to their safety.

So when police in Florida had to deal with a 19-year-old embarking on a shooting rampage inside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., what did they do?

Nothing.

There were four armed police officers, including one cop who was assigned to the school as a resource officer, on campus during that shooting. All four cops stayed outside the school with their weapons drawn (three of them hid behind their police cars).

Not a single one of those cops, armed with deadly weapons and trained for exactly such a dangerous scenario, entered the school to confront the shooter.

Seventeen people, most of them teenagers, died while the cops opted not to intervene.

Let that sink in a moment.

Now before your outrage bubbles over, consider that the US Supreme Court has repeatedly affirmed (most recently in 2005) that police have no constitutional duty to protect members of the public from harm.
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Merchants of Death: America’s Toxic Cult of Violence Turns Deadly

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We are caught in a vicious cycle.

With alarming regularity, the nation is being subjected to a spate of violence that terrorizes the public, destabilizes the country’s fragile ecosystem, and gives the government greater justifications to crack down, lock down, and institute even more authoritarian policies for the so-called sake of national security without many objections from the citizenry.

Take the school shooting that took place at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., on Valentine’s Day: 17 people, students and teachers alike, were killed by Nikolas Cruz, a 19-year-old former student armed with a gas mask, smoke grenades, magazines of ammunition, and an AR-15-style semiautomatic rifle.

This shooting, which is being chalked up to mental illness by the 19-year-old assassin, came months after a series of mass shootings in late 2017, one at a church in Texas and the other at an outdoor country music concert in Las Vegas. In both the Texas and Las Vegas attacks, the shooters were dressed like a soldier or militarized police officer and armed with military-style weapons.

As usual following one of these shootings, there is a vocal outcry for enacting more strident gun control measures, more mental health checks, and heightened school security measures.

Also as usual, in the midst of the finger-pointing, no one is pointing a finger at the American police state or the war-drenched, violence-imbued, profit-driven military industrial complex, both of which have made violence America’s calling card.
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Justice Denied: The Government Is Not Going to Save Us

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The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled: it will not hear the case of Young v. Borders.
 
Despite the fact that a 26-year-old man was gunned down by police who banged on the wrong door at 1:30 am, failed to identify themselves as police, and then repeatedly shot and killed the innocent homeowner who answered the door while holding a gun in self-defense, the justices of the high court refused to intervene to address police misconduct.
 
Although 26-year-old Andrew Scott committed no crime and never fired a single bullet or lifted his firearm against police, only to be gunned down by police who were investigating a speeding incident by engaging in a middle-of-the-night “knock and talk” in Scott’s apartment complex, the Supreme Court refused to balance the scales between justice and injustice.
 
Despite the fact that police shot and killed nearly 1,000 people nationwide for the third year in a row (many of whom were unarmed, mentally ill, minors or were shot merely because militarized police who were armed to the hilt “feared” for their safety), the Supreme Court will not act to right the wrongs being meted out by the American police state.
 
Although “knock-and-talk” policing has become a thinly veiled, warrantless—lethal—exercise by which citizens are coerced and intimidated into “talking” with heavily armed police who “knock” on their doors in the middle of the night, the Supreme Court will not make the government play by the rules of the Constitution.
 
The lesson to be learned: the U.S. Supreme Court will not save us.
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America Breaks Down: The Anatomy of a National Nervous Breakdown

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Another shooting
, another day in America.

Or so it seems.

With alarming regularity, the nation is being subjected to a spate of violence that terrorizes the public, destabilizes the country’s fragile ecosystem, and gives the government greater justifications to crack down, lock down, and institute even more authoritarian policies for the so-called sake of national security without many objections from the citizenry.

Take this latest mass shooting that took place at a small church in a small Texas town.

The lone gunman—a former member of the Air Force—was dressed all in black, wearing body armor, a tactical vest and a mask, and firing an assault rifle. (Note the similarity in uniform and tactics to the nation’s police forces, SWAT teams and military.)

Devin Patrick Kelley, the 26-year-old gunman, had served a year in military prison for assaulting his wife and child in 2012. Domestic disputes aside, Kelley—like many of the other shooters in recent years—was described as a “regular guy” by those who knew him.

This “regular” guy’s shooting rampage left at least 26 people.

President Trump and the Governor of Texas have chalked the shooting up to mental illness.

That may well be the case here.
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This Is How Tyranny Rises and Freedom Falls: The Experiment in Freedom Is Failing

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It is easy to be distracted right now by the circus politics that have dominated the news headlines for the past year, but don’t be distracted.

Don’t be fooled, not even a little.

We’re being subjected to the oldest con game in the books, the magician’s sleight of hand that keeps you focused on the shell game in front of you while your wallet is being picked clean by ruffians in your midst.

This is how tyranny rises and freedom falls.

What characterizes American government today is not so much dysfunctional politics as it is ruthlessly contrived governance carried out behind the entertaining, distracting and disingenuous curtain of political theater. And what political theater it is, diabolically Shakespearean at times, full of sound and fury, yet in the end, signifying nothing.

We are being ruled by a government of scoundrels, spies, thugs, thieves, gangsters, ruffians, rapists, extortionists, bounty hunters, battle-ready warriors and cold-blooded killers who communicate using a language of force and oppression.

The US government now poses the greatest threat to our freedoms.
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Freedom for the Speech We Hate: The Legal Ins and Outs of the Right to Protest

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There was a time in this country, back when the British were running things, that if you spoke your mind and it ticked off the wrong people, you’d soon find yourself in jail for offending the king.

Reacting to this injustice, when it was time to write the Constitution, America’s founders argued for a Bill of Rights, of which the First Amendment protects the right to free speech. James Madison, the father of the Constitution, was very clear about the fact that he wrote the First Amendment to protect the minority against the majority.

What Madison meant by minority is “offensive speech.”

Unfortunately, we don’t honor that principle as much as we should today. In fact, we seem to be witnessing a politically correct philosophy at play, one shared by both the extreme left and the extreme right, which aims to stifle all expression that doesn’t fit within their parameters of what they consider to be “acceptable” speech.

There are all kinds of labels put on such speech—it’s been called politically incorrect speech, hate speech, offensive speech, and so on—but really, the message being conveyed is that you don’t have a right to express yourself if certain people or groups don’t like or agree with what you are saying.

Hence, we have seen the caging of free speech in recent years, through the use of so-called “free speech zones” on college campuses and at political events, the requirement of speech permits in parks and community gatherings, and the policing of online forums.

Clearly, this elitist, monolithic mindset is at odds with everything America is supposed to stand for.
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You Want a Picture of the Future? Imagine a Boot Stamping on Your Face

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We have arrived, way ahead of schedule, into the dystopian future dreamed up by such science fiction writers as George Orwell, Aldous Huxley, Margaret Atwood and Philip K. Dick.

Much like Orwell’s Big Brother in 1984, the government and its corporate spies now watch our every move.

Much like Huxley’s A Brave New World, we are churning out a society of watchers who “have their liberties taken away from them, but … rather enjoy it, because they [are] distracted from any desire to rebel by propaganda or brainwashing.”

Much like Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, the populace is now taught to “know their place and their duties, to understand that they have no real rights but will be protected up to a point if they conform, and to think so poorly of themselves that they will accept their assigned fate and not rebel or run away.”
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