Webster defines dissent as: to differ in opinion… to disagree. This implies that one has an opinion. Dissent can be effectively stifled by keeping people too ignorant to form opinions, frightening them into silence or shutting down the means to express dissent.
The mass media that should keep the public informed is instead keeping the public ignorant. It acts as a gate keeper deciding what we should know. If facts about a controversial person or policy are never revealed, opinions go unformed and there is no dissent. Thomas Jefferson recognized the importance of educating the public when he stated, "If a nation expects to be ignorant -- and free -- it expects what never was and never will be."
As the 2008 election was nearing, I had occasion to ask many friends if they weren’t troubled by the association of Barack Obama and Weatherman Underground founder and bomber Bill Ayers. Without exception, no one I spoke with had heard of Bill Ayers. No opinion…. no dissent.
When Van Jones, the White House “Green Jobs” Czar stepped down in the dark of night, it was generally reported that he had called Republicans a nasty name and signed the “9/11 truther's petition” suggesting the Bush administration was responsible for the 9/11attacks. If not for Glenn Beck and Fox News, no one would know that Van Jones was a self avowed communist advising the President. That is rather significant information that was withheld from the public and ensured there would be no public outcry.
Then there is demonization of those who voice dissent. It began with the characterization of the tea party and town hall goers as un-American, Nazis, brown shirts, teabaggers, mobsters, and most recently domestic terrorists. But the ugliest technique of all is the race card. Being branded a “racist” is a direct assault on character that makes the average person want to run for cover.
Congressman Joe Wilson was the initial target. His two word outburst on the floor of the House was a breach of decorum, but quickly his very legitimate policy concern was branded “racist” by the likes of New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd.
Next came the race baiting irresponsible former President Jimmie Carter charging that "There is an inherent feeling among many people in this country that an African-American ought not to be president, and ought not to be given the same respect as if he were white."
Charges of racism effectively squelch dissent when people are afraid to express policy differences for fear of being branded a racist.
The April 7th Homeland Security document profiling, as potential rightwing extremists and domestic terrorists, American citizens concerned about “gun rights” and the "current economic and political climate" was another intimidating event. It led to a policeman detaining an individual by a Louisiana roadside for half an hour to determine if he belonged to an extremist group. His crime was an expression of opinion. He had a “Don’t Tread on Me” bumper sticker on his car.
It caused an uproar when the White House asked people to squeal on their neighbors if they heard some “fishy” ideas about Obamacare. But some individuals are now afraid to sign petitions or express their ideas on Face book for fear of being “flagged” on a White House enemies list.
The major outlets for both information and dissent today are talk radio and the internet. Mark Lloyd, the Federal Communications Commission’s new “Diversity Czar” is a disciple of “Rules for Radicals” Saul Alinski and an admirer of Hugo Chavez. Lloyd describes freedom of speech and the press as a “distraction”. He proposes whipping private radio companies into line by threats to their license renewal or by taxing them so heavily that they would be driven out of existence.
If that doesn’t worry you, consider Senate Bill 773 which would permit the president to seize temporary control of private-sector non-governmental computer networks during a so-called cyber security emergency, however that may be defined.
Dissent is not un-American, but trying to intimidate and, squelch free speech is. As the editor of the Morning Journal wrote in an August 9 column, “You had better keep a close eye on this White House. Because the Obama White House apparently has its eyes and ears out on the streets watching, listening and ready to 'flag' anyone who doesn't sing their tune.”