Tastes Almost Like Free Speech

Free Speech ZoneAlmost like the real thing.

We live in a substitute society. Our consumer culture has produced numerous products that are only meant to emulate other products that, for one reason or another, we seek to avoid. There is mock meat and faux fur and sodas sweetened sans sugar. Now, courtesy of BushCo, we have fake free speech.

In response to litigation, the White House was forced to reveal the existence of a secret manual used to manage the public events of the President. Many of the tactics outlined in the Presidential Advance Manual are well known to activists, but now, for the first time, we can see the actual policy from the Oval Office handlers.

The Washington Post reports that:

“A White House manual that came to light recently gives presidential advance staffers extensive instructions in the art of “deterring potential protestors” from President Bush’s public appearances around the country.”

“Among other things, any event must be open only to those with tickets tightly controlled by organizers. Those entering must be screened in case they are hiding secret signs. Any anti-Bush demonstrators who manage to get in anyway should be shouted down by “rally squads” stationed in strategic locations. And if that does not work, they should be thrown out.”

The White House doesn’t view these measures as suppression of lawful dissent. They believe that they are in compliance with the spirit of free speech if they…

“designate a protest area where demonstrators can be placed, preferably not in the view of the event site or motorcade route.”

The primary goals of the directives in the manual are not to protect the President or to maintain civil order, but to shield the President from the unpleasant reality that he is universally despised, and to prevent the media from witnessing, and potentially reporting, any outbreak of democratic redress of grievances. It goes so far as to say that if demonstrators are unlikely to be noticed by the press, they should be ignored. That instruction makes perfect sense for the administration because, if protesters are not observed by the media, they will be ignored by the nation.

Despite our cultural acceptance of fakes and knockoffs, there really is no substitute for free speech and other Constitutional liberties. And while a designated free speech zone may have the appearance and texture real freedom, the aroma has the stench of a cowardly administration that is afraid of its own constituents. In other words, it still tastes like chicken.


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