NOVEMBER 22, 1999
Freedom of speech, sort of
© 1999

Thirty-six years ago I was a sophomore at LaSalle Academy in Providence Rhode Island. A group of us had been pulled out of class by Brother Benilde to move some chairs in the cafeteria. Half-way through the exercise the principle came on the PA system and made a static clouded announcement. Most of us didn't pay attention, but Ray D'Abate got everyone's attention when he said, "Holy s--- ... the president's been shot!"

I doubt there is a baby boomer alive who doesn't remember where they were when they first heard that John F. Kennedy, the young Camelot President, was assassinated in Dallas, Texas.

The assassination of JFK has become a boutique industry for conspiracy pundits of assorted flavors. Notwithstanding the Warren Report's conclusion that the assassination was the product of a "lone gunman" (Lee Harvey Oswald), most Americans do not accept the official government story. However, the broad spectrum of alternative solutions to the death of the charismatic young president rivals the comparative religion section of any good library.

The Mafia did it because after getting him elected, he couldn't or wouldn 't control his brother Bobby. The CIA did it because he challenged their black ops autonomy. No, rogue elements of both conspired with Castro to do it because they were all ticked off at him for a variety of reasons. It was the New World Order bankers responding to a perceived threat to the Federal Reserve System. Or was it the Groom Lake crowd?

Niccolo Machiavelli once noted that "Men are more apt to be mistaken in their generalizations than in their particular observations."

Today is the 36th anniversary of the murder of President John F. Kennedy. We may never know (in our lifetimes) what really did, or didn't happen that tragic day in Dallas. However, there is a humongous body of work devoted to the topic.

I have often been criticized for even asking questions regarding the complex, eclectic arena of "conspiracies." To even broach certain issues earns one the presumably discrediting label of "conspiracy wacko." However, if one allows name calling to hobble the pursuit of truth, you might as well just sit back and do what your would-be controllers would tell you to do, the way they tell you to, when they tell you to do it. Conversely, Ayn Rand once observed, "Thinking men cannot be ruled."

I often (some argue too often) remind folks that "Knowledge IS power ... if you take that knowledge and DO something with it." Our greatest challenge is to conduct our own triage and sort through the abundance of information that is available. Sir Conan Doyle, through Sherlock Holmes, noted that once you have eliminated the impossible, the answer is revealed, no matter how improbable (or something close to that). Therefore, in that spirit, and without either criticism or endorsement, let me direct you to a couple of web addresses, which may spark more questions for you than they answer:

Check them out...

Most of us revere the First Amendment to the Constitution. Freedom of Speech is accepted as pretty axiomatic. Still, despite very specific prohibitive language which states "Congress shall make no law..." Congress has, in fact, a whole bunch of times, passed laws supposedly "in the public interest", which do in fact restrict freedom of speech and press.

Some of the more famous include the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1790, the Smith Act of 1940, and the McCarran Act of 1950. On top of which a gaggle of federal agencies and/or prosecutors have sparked actions that have resulted in various limitations on freedom of speech and press.

I recall an interesting survey I found a few years ago, which listed countries that had free presses. The United States of America was tied for eighth place.

Information is power, and the power elite can and will restrict information however and whenever they can to further THEIR specific agenda. We have several recent examples to point to for confirmation of this fact: Ruby Ridge and Randy Weaver; Waco; Oklahoma City; TWA Flight 800; Wag the dog/bomb an aspirin factory.

Back in 1798, four acts were passed by Congress, which came to be known collectively as the Alien and Sedition Acts. The dominant Federalist Party hoped, by this legislation, to hamstring political enemies, specifically the Democratic Republicans. You see, the quasi-war with France following the XYZ Affair convinced a whole bunch of Federalists that criticism was disloyal, and so legislation was authored, sponsored, and pushed through Congress. Despite the reservations of President John Adams, it happened. Here's what they did. The Naturalization Act increased residency requirements for aliens seeking citizenship from 5 to 14 years. The Alien Act -- limited to two years' duration -- gave the president power to deport any foreigner he regarded as dangerous "to the peace and safety of the United States." The Alien Enemies Act gave the president broad powers to deal with enemy aliens during time of war. The Sedition Act (another two-year deal) made it a crime to PUBLISH anything false or scandalous against the government.

Gee, maybe we now need an Act, which makes it criminal for the government to publish anything false or scandalous against the Constitution? Now, this last act violated the letter AND spirit of the First Amendment, although it IS notable in that it raised the concept of seditious libel to accept TRUTH as a defense, and to allow juries to rule on questions of law as well as fact. Something courts would like you to NOT know and which the Fully Informed Jury Association is attempting to make known. Republicans won in 1800 and repealed (in 1802) the Naturalization Act. The others were quietly allowed to expire.

But it happened - and it happened again.

The Smith Act of 1940 was a result of concerns over Germany's European aggression during WWII, and more specifically over alleged Communist sparked strikes intended to cripple defense production. The Smith Act called for and required the fingerprinting and registering of all aliens residing in the United States and made it a crime to advocate or teach the violent overthrow of the U.S. government or to belong to a group advocating or teaching it. If King George had had this, the Sons of the American Revolution, Minutemen, and all of the Constitutional Congress would have been neutered. Now a lot of folks said "Whoa! Wait a minute. What about the First Amendment and Freedom of Speech?" The Supreme Court of 1951 in Dennis v. United States upheld the Act's constitutionality (because they could) and told dissenters to shut up and sit down. The fact is, the Supremes have always been mercurial and subject to change. In 1957, the court amended their position in Yates v. United States and ruled that teaching communism or other revolutionary theories did NOT in itself constitute grounds for conviction -- only proof positive that direct action had been urged to topple the government could yield a conviction.

The above is especially significant (historically) when viewed in contemporary context in which the Clintonistas have been railing against militias and those who oppose government abuses. By the way: Do you know the difference between the IRS and the BATF? The latter has automatic weapons.

The Red Scare of Alger Hiss, the Rosenbergs, and McCarthyism gave birth to the Internal Security Act of 1950. This was reportedly an effort by Congress to eliminate suspected Communist subversion within our borders. This puppy (which grew into a Great Dane Mastiff cross) provided that Communist front and Communist action organizations must register with the U.S. attorney general. It denied members employment within the federal government or its defense industries and the right to the use of U.S. passports. What the hell this had to do with the movie industry remains a mystery to many. Other elements extended the statute of limitations for espionage, arranged for emergency detention of those likely to commit espionage or sabotage, and created (here we go folks) a Subversive Activities Control Board for the purpose of determining whether organizations and individuals were Red. The way inertia is guiding the Clintonistas we may well expect a similar board to monitor and control dissent within the patriot movement from militias to talk show hosts. That passed Congress despite a presidential veto from Harry Truman and hung around (although ignored) until it was eventually whittled away piece by piece during the early '70s.

This is significant because it demonstrates that we have a history in the United States of Congress tinkering with what we assume to be carved in stone: the First Amendment. It is also significant because in the wake of what we hear from the White House about militias and other patriots.

We are now hearing of the FBI's Megiddio program, and the potential for Y2K-related disturbances (real or promulgated). If you are bold enough to admit to being a "constitutional conservative," or worse ... a "patriot" (especially one who loves his/her country, but fears your government), your government considers you a potential threat.

Once upon a time, a brave group of colonists pledged "to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor." Those men of substance, station, and money, willingly sacrificed their "lives, and fortunes" but maintained and immortalized their "sacred honor."