Coming soon to an airport near you: Dissent equals Terrorism

I missed this, honestly. But it cropped up on one of the e-mail lists I’m subscribed to, where a subscriber noted the Bush administration’s rhetorical shift from the “war on terror” to the “global struggle against extremism.” His comment–which he credited his students for recognizing “right away”–was that “Terrorism is a behavior; extremism is an attitude.” True enough.

He also cites Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting (FAIR) for their excerpt from a New York Times column, in which Thomas Friedman writes, in part:

When you live in an open society like London, where anyone with a grievance can publish an article, run for office or start a political movement, the notion that blowing up a busload of innocent civilians in response to Iraq is somehow “understandable” is outrageous. “It erases the distinction between legitimate dissent and terrorism,” [former State Department spokesperson Jamie] Rubin said, “and an open society needs to maintain a clear wall between them.”

The subscriber to this e-mail list asks, “Are we being prepared for an expanded list of thought crimes?” He is wrong only in phrasing this as a question. In my response, I wrote first on the shift in terminology:

Apparently, [the Bush Administration] can only go so far even with an amorphous war on terror that, as defined, could last indefinitely. This is a case where a shift preserves the urgency of the former terminology while expanding the “enemy” class to include — well, let’s get to the second part of this…

Then in response to the FAIR excerpt:

First, [Rubin, by way of Friedman] seeks a distinction between legitimate dissent and, by implication, illegitimate dissent. Second, he diverts attention from the fact that the U.S., first through UN sanctions, and then through its prosecution of the war in Iraq, has largely targeted civilians, most spectacularly, perhaps, in leveling Fallujah. We attack their civilians on their own home turf, we should not be surprised when they attack our civilians on our home turf. Finally, Rubin identifies “illegitimate dissent” with terrorism.

We have every reason to accept that Friedman is representing the administration’s view accurately, for Bush has consistently sought to suppress–by any means available–free speech which opposes him. That would seem to me, to remove any doubt, as to whether the “list of thought crimes” will expand.

But this need not involve criminal prosecutions. I’ll have to see if I’ve made the “no fly” list.

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