Ashcroft's in the House
The Little Man Behind the Curtain of Fascism
By Michael I. Niman ArtVoice
John Ashcroft invokes the Bible obsessively, but his actions speak only of hypocrisy. It’s this blasphemous invocation of scripture on the part of both Ashcroft and the Bush administration in general that seems to have stripped words like “evil” of their meaning. In this new moronic lexicon that often passes in the media for a national discourse, all enemies of the Bush administration are “the evil doers,” evil as they may or may not be. In this rhetorical environment, words like “evil” lose their meaning, and writers are under pressure to abandon using them.
“Evil doers” and “evil ones” aside, however, I’m not quite ready to abandon powerful words, stripped of any coherent meaning as they may temporarily be. This all brings me back to John Ashcroft. “Evil” seems to be the first word that comes to mind when I think of Ashcroft. It means “morally bad or wrong, harmful, injurious, causing misfortune, suffering or difficulty.” “Dangerous” is the second word that comes to mind. Last week I set out to write a quick 800 word summing up Ashcroft’s frightening political record. That piece quickly grew to 2,600 words while barely scratching the surface.
I don’t really know why, but it’s precisely this
iniquitous aura, and a morbid sense of curiosity that brought me out to hear
John Ashcroft speak in
I knew Ashcroft wouldn’t be saying anything I haven’t
already heard or read. And the Ask
No Questions, We Talk – You Listen script left little room for surprise.
Ashcroft spoke for only about a minute before invoking the mantra of the Bush administration – that being 9/11. By minute three, with all the charisma of the grim reaper, he broke into a rendition of terror, terrorism, terrorist – exterminating any hope of a meaningful discussion about civil liberties. Ashcroft was here to sell a new, more ominous Patriot Act dubbed Patriot Act II. But he never actually mentioned it. Instead he read a script that could have been written by George Orwell. The Patriot Act, according to Ashcroft, provides special protections for those exercising their constitutional rights – though in reality the point of a right is that it should require no special protection. It’s a right. Get it? And in reality the Act provides no such protections. To the contrary, it strips them away. he Patriot Act, Ashcroft went on to explain, protects our liberties by protecting us from those who would deny us our liberties, meaning the amorphous terrorists, wherever they may lurk – but Ashcroft never explained that the Patriot Act “protects our liberties” by denying our civil liberties in order to “protect us from those who would deny us our liberties.” Ya follow?
Black Cats and Holy Oil
Ashcroft is occasionally unpredictable, sometimes breaking
into impromptu rants about black
cats being linked to the devil, or how he’s anointed with holy oil every time
he gets sworn into office. Spectators
at an Ashcroft speech might even be treated to the spectacle of the Attorney
General theatrically dropping to his knees in prayer – making a mockery of the
separation of church and state while diverting debate to more ethereal and less
pragmatic issues. But none of this
Most of Ashcroft’s monolog was rather monotonous,
focusing on the less onerous aspects of the Patriot Act and the new political
culture it ushered in, while ignoring it’s more draconian provisions.
Hence, he talked about the creation of task forces while ignoring
indefinite detention and secret tribunals. He
talked about how searches conducted under the auspices of the Patriot Act
require judicial authorization, but neglected to mention that under Patriot II,
search warrants would no longer be necessary for many investigations. And like
everyone else in
He credited The Patriot Act with providing the tools needed to arrest terrorists, citing the Lackawanna Eight as an example. In reality, however, it wasn’t The Patriot Act, but instead a tip from concerned Lackawanna Muslims, that brought about those arrests. And the facts indicate that the Eight were more likely a bunch of naïve wannabe players on a bizarre ill-fated road trip, then bona fide terrorists. Suspect number nine, also an American citizen, was summarily executed without the benefit of trial by an American missile in Yemen – a fact no one in the Justice Department, most of all John Ashcroft, wants to talk about.
Ashcroft’s tour is a staged political event.
It’s all about massaging public opinion regarding The Patriot Act, in
an effort to soften us up for Patriot Act II.
Democrats and civil libertarians are crying foul as Ashcroft pressures
Justice Department employees to lobby elected officials while working on the
government clock. Similarly, he’s
now pressuring law enforcement officials to do the same.
The reception in
Outside of the Hyatt, one of the largest crowds yet to
confront Ashcroft on his current tour was amassing.
Spanning the political spectrum and representing a political and cultural
cross section of
The new post 9/11 political culture is rearing its ugly
The stories go on. A
retired UB professor received a letter from his son in
All of this adds up to a picture of a country that should
be alien to native born Americans. Yet
Dr. Michael I.
Niman’s previous columns are archived at www.mediastudy.com
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