The Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act: A Tutorial in Orwellian Newspeak
"Political language has to consist largely of euphemisms . . . and sheer cloudy vagueness." - George Orwell -
H.R 1955: the Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007 recently passed by the House-a companion bill is in the Senate-is barely one sentence old before its Orwellian moment:
It begins, "AN ACT - To prevent homegrown terrorism, and for other purposes."
Those whose pulse did not quicken at "other purposes" have probably not read George Orwell's essay, "Politics and the English Language," or they voted for the other George both times.
Orwell's jeremiad on the corruption of the English language and its corrosive effect on a democracy was written two years before his novel 1984 spelled out in chilling detail the danger of Newspeak, which renders citizens incapable of independent thought by depriving them of the words necessary to form ideas other than those promulgated by the state.
After its opening "tribute" to Orwell, H.R 1955 is strategically peppered with Newspeak regarding the establishment of a National Commission and university-based Centers of Excellence to "examine and report upon the fact and causes of violent radicalization, homegrown terrorism, and ideologically based violence in the United States" and to make legislative recommendations for combating it.
The "sheer cloudy vagueness" of H.R 1955, as well as its terror factor, may account for its bipartisan 404-6 House vote but how, in an era informed by the Bush-Cheney administration's egregious assault on the Bill of Rights, can the phrase "other purposes" fail to raise the "National Terror Alert" from its current threat level of "elevated" to "severe."
Future "other purposes" will undoubtedly be justified by the Act's use of the term "violent radicalization," which it defines as "the process of adopting or promoting an extremist belief system for the purpose of facilitating ideologically based violence . . ." or by the folksy, Lake Wobegonesque "homegrown terrorism," defined as "the use, planned use, or threatened use, of force or violence by a group or individual born [or] raised . . . within the United States . . . to intimidate or coerce the United States, the civilian population . . . or any segment thereof . . . [italics added]."
In the service of some self-serving "other purposes," will "extremist beliefs" become any belief the temporary occupants of the White House consider antithetical and threatening to their political agenda?
Will "ideologically based violence" or the use of "force" become little more than the mayhem resulting after a peaceful protest, daring to move beyond the barbed wire of the free speech zone, is attacked by a truncheon-wielding riot squad armed with tear gas, German Shepard dogs and water cannons?
Will the unarmed, constitutionally protected dissenters who are fending off blows or dog bites, or who are striking back in self-defense become "homegrown terrorists" and suffer draconian sentences for their attempt to "intimidate or coerce" the state with free thought and free speech?
A clue to future "other purposes" may lie in the Act's parentage. The proud House "mother" of the Patriot Act's evil twin is Rep. Jane Harmon (D-CA), chair of the Homeland Security Intelligence Subcommittee. Rep. Harmon has admitted to a long and productive relationship with the RAND Corporation, a California based think-tank with close ties to the military-industrial-intelligence complex. RAND's 2005 study, "Trends in Terrorism," contains a chapter titled, "Homegrown Terrorist Threats to the United States." Is this Act a bastard child?
Keep in mind that the RAND Corporation was set up in 1946 by Army Air Force General Henry "Hap" Arnold as "Project RAND" sponsored by the Douglas Aircraft Company. Keep in mind also that Donald Rumsfeld was its chairman from 1981 to 1986 and Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Dick Cheney's felonious former chief of staff, and Condoleezza Rice were trustees. Enough said!
RAND maintains that "homegrown terrorism" will not be the result of jihadist sleeper cells. Rather, it will result from anti-globalists and radical environmentalists who "challenge the intrinsic qualities of capitalism, charging that in the insatiable quest for growth and profit, the philosophy is serving to destroy the world's ecology, indigenous cultures, and individual welfare."
Further, RAND claims that anti-globalists and radical environmentalists "exist in much the same operational environment as al Qaida" and pose "a clear threat to private-sector corporate interests, especially large multinational business." Therein lies the real "other purposes."
Predictably then, H.R. 1955 is not about protecting homegrown Americans. That protection is only incidental to its "other purposes" of protecting homegrown corporate interest and its unconscionable manipulation of the American political process to fill its coffers. Any thought or speech or action- however protected it might be by the Bill of Rights-that threatens corporate hegemony and profit will no doubt suffer the "other purposes" clause of the Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act.
Anyone doubting the Orwellian nature of a "bastard child" that equates anti-globalists and environmentalists with al Qaida terrorists will do well to read Orwell's "Politics and the English Language" and to acquaint themselves with the fate of Winston Smith in 1984.
Robert Weitzel is a freelance writer whose essays appear in The Capital Times in Madison, WI. He has been published in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Skeptic Magazine, Freethought Today, and on popular liberal websites. He can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org.