"The only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not sufficient warrant." ~ John Stuart Mill
Column by Jim Davies.
Government tries to justify its ubiquitous spying on private correspondence on the back of 9/11. It's just another government lie. The events below took place four years earlier.
Back in 1997, Mr Gingrich was a powerful figure in DC – Speaker of the House. Soon afterwards he swapped wives and was cast into outer darkness for a decade, but recently he ran against Ron Paul and others for the R-nomination. He didn't last too long. When he was at the zenith of his power, however, I wrote to him – and reported the details in my local newspaper, as follows.
Seven weeks ago, I wrote a short letter to Speaker Gingrich, up there in Washington DC, with a copy to our Congressman, Charles Bass. So far, neither has replied. I expect they will, eventually, when they get around to it, and that the replies will be the usual platitudinous placebos that some staffer pulls out of their word processor's compendium of Paragraphs Suitable for those Outside the Beltway (PSOBs). You know the sort: they will say how warmly they agree, then explain why, regretfully, they will do nothing anyway.
Meantime, they are no doubt busy men . . . but I too am busy, and in my business, I have a rule that if I don't reply to a customer's letter the same day it comes, there has to be a powerful reason why not. I really don't see why these grossly overpaid "public servants" should be held to any lower standard, do you?
So I'm going to compose a reply on behalf of Speaker Gingrich, and I'll try to make it honest and truthful. That's not the way he'll reply in real life, of course, when he does get around to it, but it will (to the best of my ability) be the way he would reply, if someone were to shoot him up with a Truth Drug a few moments before he called in one of his secretaries for dictation.
What I Asked
First, the background: the note to which Newt's reply is needed. I had just been surfing the channels, and happened upon a talking-head show run by Paul Weyrich, who comes (I understand) from Gingrich's very own section of the Demopublican Party. I caught just a snippet, but it reported that shortly, Congress was going to debate how far We the People shall be allowed to use unbreakable code on our computers when communicating with each other.
Now, as Speaker of the House, Gingrich controls what gets debated, so that had to be his doing. So my note drew his attention to Amendment #1, which forbids Congress to make any law abridging the freedom of speech, and asked him:
“Which part of that absolute prohibition don't you understand?”
He's a bright guy, so cannot have failed to see my simple point: If no law can be written to fetter our communications, there is no point at all in debating the subject; the debate time would be a total waste. And one day's worth of 435 Representatives earning $130,000 a year each amounts to pouring over $150,000 of your money and mine down the sewer, all on the say-so of Speaker Newt.
So much for what I asked. Now let's see how a truth-struck Speaker would reply.
"Dear Mr. Davies,"
he would start. All letters start that way, even to one's deadliest enemy; and I doubt if I yet have that honor, despite my best efforts in this column.
"You ask which part of Amendment #1 I don't understand, and the answer is, of course, none; I understand it perfectly. Yes, it's the supreme law of the land, and yes, it says that my organization is absolutely forbidden to interfere at all with anything anyone wants to say to his neighbor or business associate and yes, I fully intend to pay that prohibition no heed or attention whatsoever.
"Come now, Mr. Davies, you too are a student of history; who do you think you're kidding? You, too, have read Macchiavelli, you too know the meaning of that delightful German word, Realpolitik. So you can't possibly be serious, in supposing that a mere scrap of 200 year old paper is going to stand between the United States Government and our enjoyment of power? Surely not?
"Thanks to the efforts of our school system over seven generations, nine tenths of You the People have never even read Amendment #1, and if You have heard of it at all, You imagine it's a right that government has graciously granted You, and so can repeal at will. So don't try to intimidate me into imagining that if Congress forbids encrypted speech, there's going to be any kind of outraged public protest. The 'public' hasn't even gotten its mind together, so will do just what our TV counsellors tell them to do. Protest? Fat chance.
"Lawsuit? Again, don't be silly. In the unlikely event you ever get near to the Supreme Court, we've had that 'independent' body mostly in our pocket since 1803, when Marbury vs. Madison established that the Constitution says only what the Supreme Court says it says, regardless of the opinion of jurors. We pay these guys, remember? So if we need them to say we can forbid the use of any code we cannot break, we don't have to go through the tedium of getting a Constitutional Amendment, we just snap our fingers and they will say it. You have read Orwell, have you not? Of course you have. So you know full well that black is white, war is peace, slavery is freedom, just whenever we want it so.
"Harmless, you imply; you seriously want me to suppose that it would do us no harm, if You the People were to write each other in a language we cannot interpret? Again, believe me, I wasn't born yesterday. Real freedom of speech would destroy us: unbreakably encrypted communication would put paid to our power position permanently. The harm would be immense; everything we have worked for, these 221 years, would be lost; this government would collapse, and I think you know that, and that's why I'll see we have a special cell reserved for you, my friend, in one of the mega-prisons You people say we're building.
"Why, if You peasants could communicate freely and privately, You would break our money and banking monopoly, avoid our taxes, spread sedition, even have some of us assassinated, all undetectable by our swarms of officers! And that revenue loss would terminate our power, for it rests solely on our magnificent, well-crafted ability to buy votes, to play off one group of You against another--even as that idiot Steve Forbes started to say, before we ended his campaign.
"So don't fool with me. Uncrackably coded conversations will be crushed, at ANY cost. We have the guns, we have the police, we have the technology, we have the media, we have the courts, and we are absolutely not, no way, going to let go of Power. See you across the barricades!
Very truly yours,