Watch what you say online because the First Amendment appears to have been revoked.
That’s the only conclusion that can be drawn in the wake of the detainment of former Marine Brandon J. Raub.
Writing on his Facebook page, Raub registered his discontent with the direction of the country. Some of his postings were provocative. In other postings he questioned the official story about 9/11 and alluded to a future revolution.
For this, Raub was arrested. He is now being held in a psychiatric ward against his will.
Writing for the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Michael Paul Williams described the sequence of events leading to Raub’s arrest.
“The Revolution will come for me. Men will be at my door soon to pick me up to lead it,” Brandon J. Raub posted on Facebook last Tuesday.
The Marine Corps veteran from Chesterfield County punctuated that post with a wink emoticon. But two days later, federal and Chesterfield County law enforcement officials arrived at his door.
Raub, 26, was questioned and taken to John Randolph Medical Center in Hopewell, where he was being held for postings that were deemed “terrorist in nature.”
It should not need to be repeated that the First Amendment is one of the foundational protections of the rights of a free people. Traditionally, Americans have been able to define themselves as free by comparing our tradition of protected speech to regimes around the world that persecuted their citizens for speaking out.
In the 1980s, for instance, Americans uniformly deplored police states like that in East Germany at the time where citizens were under constant surveillance and lived in fear of saying anything that might be interpreted as critical of the regime. Similarly, communist China has continued to detain those who, like noted artist Ai Weiwei, are critical of the government.
These things are not supposed to happen in the United States, the “land of the free.”
The trouble is, we are increasingly not free. Consider photographers.
Florida-based photographer and journalist Carlos Miller has been documenting the growing trend of police and other officials confiscating cameras and preventing citizens from recording video and taking photos in an overzealous but widespread abridgment of the First Amendment.
Some of the dozens of examples collected by Miller include:
- Police and the Secret Service attempting to order videographer Jeff Gray to stop shooting video from a public sidewalk outside a police perimeter. “Just because the Secret Service comes to town doesn’t mean my rights don’t exist,” Gray quipped.
- Luke Rudkowski of the organization We Are Change was ordered by New York City police not to record video from a public sidewalk during an attempt to interview Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson.
- Carlos Miller was himself told by a security guard that he could not photograph the Miami Herald building “because it was historical….” Police were called to the scene and one of them told Miller that he was “not allowed to photograph the building simply because [the security guard] said so.”
- The City of Houston produced a video warning citizens that photographers are likely terrorists. The video states: “Cameras and recording devices have gotten so small, that most of us seem to have one with us all the time. It’s not unusual to see people taking pictures or video almost anywhere. But surveillance and information gathering is a common practice used by terrorists prior to an attack. If you see someone trying to conceal what they are doing, taking pictures of exits, security or restricted areas, if they hang around for no apparent reason, ask inappropriate questions about schedules or the facility, or if they try to avoid security when approached, make the call.”
Carlos Miller’s blog, “Photography is Not a Crime,” contains a depressingly large number of similar examples, all of which demonstrate that governments at multiple levels are increasingly hostile to the First Amendment.
We have, at this point, come to the depressing moment in American history when the American tradition of freedom appears at a crossroads. Sadly, in light of the crackdown on freedom of expression, one wonders if just quoting the Founding Fathers might make one a terrorist in the eyes of government.
For example, Brandon Raub is alleged to have said on Facebook, “Sharpen my axe; I’m here to sever heads.”
Compare to Thomas Jefferson. In 1787, the writer of the Declaration of Independence asked: “…what country can preserve it’s liberties if their rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms. The remedy is to set them right as to facts, pardon & pacify them. What signify a few lives lost in a century or two? The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots & tyrants. It is it’s natural manure.”
Clearly, Jefferson must have been a terrorist. And, indeed, the British thought him one, and that was a badge of honor for our third President.
Or, consider John Adams, our second President, who thought tyrants should be killed. “The right of a nation to kill a tyrant, in cases of necessity, can no more be doubted, than to hang a robber, or kill a flea,” he wrote.
That’s pretty incendiary. Should we now consider the men who, respectively, were the second and third presidents of the United States to be terrorists? That’s absurd, but it appears to be the direction we are headed.
It should be noted that the worst abuses are occurring now, during the administration of Barack Obama, the man who once promised to roll back the excesses of the Bush administration and put in place the most transparent administration in history.
Just the opposite has happened. Whistleblowers are persecuted. The president personally draws up a kill list in the White House, and, in the wake of the Raub detainment, citizens apparently can be detained simply for expressing their opinions.
If this isn’t the America you remember, then it’s time to take appropriate action at the ballot box. The presidency is up for grabs in November and it would seem to be an opportune time to vote for someone other than the current occupant of the White House. But to make real headway in restoring liberty, look to Congress. Those who aid the growth of the police state, who believe that the government is the solution to any and all problems, must be replaced with Senators and Representatives dedicated to returning the nation to its constitutionally limited government scope.
Fail at this, and historians of the future may very well look back at the year 2012 as the year liberty took its last breath in America.
The Moral Liberal Associate Editor, Dennis Behreandt, is the Founder and Editor In Chief of the American Daily Herald. Mr. Behreandt has written hundreds of articles on subjects ranging from natural theology to history and from science and technology to philosophy. His research interests include the period of late antiquity in European history as well as Medieval and Renaissance history.