The New Domestic War on Terror is Coming

The New Domestic War on Terror is Coming. By Glenn Greenwald.

Rhetorically, “incitement to violence” can mean any political speech you want:

Much of the alarmism and fear-mongering is being driven by a deliberate distortion of what it means for speech to “incite violence.” …

This phrase — “inciting violence” — was also what drove many of the worst War on Terror abuses. I spent years reporting on how numerous young American Muslims were prosecuted under new, draconian anti-terrorism laws for uploading anti-U.S.-foreign-policy YouTube videos or giving rousing anti-American speeches deemed to “incite violence” and thus provide “material support” to terrorist groups — the exact theory which Rep. Schiff is seeking to import into the new domestic War on Terror.

It is vital to ask what it means for speech to constitute “incitement to violence” to the point that it can be banned or criminalized. The expression of any political viewpoint, especially one passionately expressed, has the potential to “incite” someone else to get so riled up that they engage in violence. …

No political speech will be safe from this term when interpreted and applied so broadly and carelessly. …

If you rail against the threats to free speech posed by Silicon Valley monopolies, someone hearing you may get so filled with rage that they decide to bomb an Amazon warehouse or a Facebook office. If you write a blistering screed accusing pro-life activists of endangering the lives of women by forcing them back into unsafe back-alley abortions, or if you argue that abortion is murder, you may very well inspire someone to engage in violence against a pro-life group or an abortion clinic. If you start a protest movement to object to the injustice of Wall Street bailouts — whether you call it “Occupy Wall Street” or the Tea Party — you may cause someone to go hunt down Goldman Sachs or Citibank executives who they believe are destroying the economic future of millions of people. …

The Bernie Sanders campaign volunteer and hard-core Democratic partisan, James Hodgkinson, who went to a softball field in June, 2017 to murder Republican Congress members — and almost succeeded in fatally shooting Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) — had spent months listening to radical Sanders supporters and participating in Facebook groups with names like “Terminate the Republican Party” and “Trump is a Traitor.” Hodgkinson had heard over and over that Republicans were not merely misguided but were “traitors” and grave threats to the Republic. As CNN reported, “his favorite television shows were listed as ‘Real Time with Bill Maher;’ ‘The Rachel Maddow Show;’ ‘Democracy Now!’ and other left-leaning programs.” …

But the Supreme Court has ruled on this before, in Claiborne v. NAACP:

The Supreme Court [explained] that free speech will die if people are held responsible not for their own violent acts but for those committed by others who heard them speak and were motivated to commit crimes in the name of that cause … Even explicitly advocating the need or justifiability of violence for political ends is protected speech, ruled the court.

They carved out a very narrow exception: “where such advocacy is directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action and is likely to incite or produce such action” — meaning someone is explicitly urging an already assembled mob to specific violence with the expectation that they will do so more or less immediately (such as standing outside someone’s home and telling the gathered mob: it’s time to burn it down). …

“Incitement” is not so much left versus right as the oligarchy versus the ruled:

Continuing to process Washington debates of this sort primarily through the prism of “Democrat v. Republican” or even “left v. right” is a sure ticket to the destruction of core rights.

There are times when powers of repression and censorship are aimed more at the left and times when they are aimed more at the right, but it is neither inherently a left-wing nor a right-wing tactic. It is a ruling class tactic, and it will be deployed against anyone perceived to be a dissident to ruling class interests and orthodoxies no matter where on the ideological spectrum they reside.

The last several months of politician-and-journalist-demanded Silicon Valley censorship has targeted the right, but prior to that and simultaneously it has often targeted those perceived as on the left. The government has frequently declared right-wing domestic groups “terrorists,” while in the 1960s and 1970s it was left-wing groups devoted to anti-war activism which bore that designation. …

If you identify as a conservative and continue to believe that your prime enemies are ordinary leftists, or you identify as a leftist and believe your prime enemies are Republican citizens, you will fall perfectly into the trap set for you. Namely, you will ignore your real enemies, the ones who actually wield power at your expense: ruling class elites, who really do not care about “right v. left” and most definitely do not care about “Republican v. Democrat” — as evidenced by the fact that they fund both parties — but instead care only about one thing: stability, or preservation of the prevailing neoliberal order.

Unlike so many ordinary citizens addicted to trivial partisan warfare, these ruling class elites know who their real enemies are: anyone who steps outside the limits and rules of the game they have crafted and who seeks to disrupt the system that preserves their prerogatives and status.

The one who put this best was probably Barack Obama when he was president, when he observed — correctly — that the perceived warfare between establishment Democratic and Republican elites was mostly theater ….

A standard Goldman Sachs banker or Silicon Valley executive has far more in common, and is far more comfortable, with Chuck Schumer, Nancy Pelosi, Mitch McConnell, Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan than they do with the ordinary American citizen.

Except when it means a mildly disruptive presence — like Trump — they barely care whether Democrats or Republicans rule various organs of government, or whether people who call themselves “liberals” or “conservatives” ascend to power. …

Neoliberalism and imperialism do not care about the pseudo-fights between the two parties or the cable TV bickering of the day. They do not like the far left or the far right. They do not like extremism of any kind. They do not support Communism and they do not support neo-Nazism or some fascist revolution.

They care only about one thing: disempowering and crushing anyone who dissents from and threatens their hegemony. They care about stopping dissidents. All the weapons they build and institutions they assemble — the FBI, the DOJ, the CIA, the NSA, oligarchical power — exist for that sole and exclusive purpose, to fortify their power by rewarding those who accede to their pieties and crushing those who do not.

The oligarchy rule us from behind a curtain. But their rule is threatened by Trump and his voters, so the fist has come out.

It’s as if our rulers commanded: Get rid of Trump — cheat if necessary. Silence his followers — sack them if necessary. Democracy and free speech can take a hike.

hat-tip Stephen Neil