Environmental Ethics
and Public Policy
Ernest Partridge, Ph.D

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The Gadfly Bytes -- October 2, 2007

Dissent: What's in it for You?

Ernest Partridge, Co-Editor
The Crisis Papers.

October 2, 2007

The Crisis Papers is approaching its sixth year of internet publication. Our inaugural appearance was on November 2, 2002, two days before the Congressional election of that year.

In the five years that followed, my colleague Dr. Bernard Weiner and I have written more than three hundred original essays for the progressive internet, originating at The Crisis Papers; these in addition to dozens more that we wrote before we launched The Crisis Papers. Almost all of these essays have been severely critical of the Bush Administration, the Neo Conservatives, and the radical right.

Along with numerous progressive bloggers, we do this with no expectation or realization of financial compensation, but rather out of passionate concern about the political and economic catastrophe that has befallen our country since the appointment of George Bush to the Presidency by the Supreme Court. We, the progressive bloggers, are also motivated by a shared realization that with the honorable exception of such individuals as Bill Moyers, Keith Olbermann, and Jon Stewart, the internet is virtually all that remains of an opposition media, the “mainstream” media having reduced itself to little more than the propaganda organ of the Republican Party and its corporate sponsors.

When we launched The Crisis Papers, we believed that we could do so without fear of retaliation by the government. After all, we assumed that because we were American citizens, we were protected by our Constitution and Bill of Rights. No longer. With the passage and subsequent “refinements” of The Patriot Act, with the abolition of habeas corpus, with the Military Commissions Act, with recent executive orders unchallenged by the Congress, we have lost these protections. “You are either with us or you are with the terrorists,” said the President. We are clearly on record as not being “with” the Busheviks. Ergo, what? Are we terrorists?  The answer lies, not with the law or the courts, but with the whim of the President. The new decrees so stipulate.

Speaking for myself, I have no illusions: this dissenter is a very small minnow in a very large lake. I am protected by my personal obscurity and insignificance. If there is a roundup of dissenters, I expect that the awaiting Brown & Root detention camps will be filled to near capacity with important players of the opposition before the thought-police come a-knocking at my door. But this much we already know: After eight-hundred years in Anglo-American jurisprudence and explicit specification in the US Constitution, habeas corpus is a goner, and the Congress is unwilling to restore it. American citizens can be held and tortured for several years without charge, trial or access to counsel – witness the fate of Jose Padilla,  whose incarceration explicitly violated five of the ten amendments of the Bill of Rights, plus the Fourteenth Amendment. Countless additional prisoners of the state are now sharing Padilla’s fate in Guantánamo and elsewhere. (Note: The Bill of Rights applies, not to “citizens,” but to “persons.”) Dissenters in the mainstream media have been silenced, and several have lost their careers. Witness Phil Donahue, Ashleigh Banfield, Bill Maher, and Dan Rather. Retaliation against dissent has extended to family members: cf. Valerie Plame Wilson.

Yes, I am free to write and dissent. But only because I am too insignificant for the regime to notice, much less be concerned about, my complaints. As for the “bigger fish,” they persist at the sufferance of the regime and the corporate media: for the moment, it would be politically inconvenient to silence them. But the means are in place to do so, should the regime so order.  Not long ago, dissenters were protected by the law, the courts and the Constitution. No longer. And that should concern all of us.

And so I am asked by friends, relatives, and strangers who visit our website, “Why are you doing this? Why are you writing and publishing your constant stream of criticism of George Bush, his regime, the neo-conservatives and the radical right? What’s in it for you, Ernest Partridge?” 

If these were simply personal questions, then my response would be a personal indulgence and unworthy of your further attention. But these are, by implication, general questions which might be as readily addressed to hundreds of other volunteer citizen bloggers: to Will Pitt, Glenn Greenwald, Mark Crispin Miller, Michael Green, David Swanson, Robert Parry, Paul Craig Roberts, and so many more.

First of all, a very practical answer: it’s too late to back out now. For all of us dissenting bloggers, our “thought-crimes” are on the record. So there is no choice but to carry on until either silenced by the regime, or until that regime is overthrown and our Constitutional rights and rule of law are restored.

However, the question, “what’s in it for you?” is fundamentally misguided, for it presupposes that the bloggers’ dissent is selfishly motivated. It is the sort of question that a disciple of Ayn Rand would readily understand. Not so a patriot. One might just as well ask “what’s in it for you?” to the signers of the Declaration of Independence, to Mohandas Gandhi, to Martin Luther King.

As Ken Burns’ magnificent series “The War” reminds us, when millions of young men enlisted to fight that war, those volunteers did not ask themselves: “what’s in it for me?” When the US government imposed rationing and other burdens on the civilians, they did not ask “what’s in it for me?” 

After December 7, 1941, the nation united to defend itself against an external enemy – an enemy that threatened our nation’s commonly held and cherished political and moral ideals: freedom, autonomy, personal rights, mutual respect, tolerance, and rule by consent of the governed.

Today, the progressive bloggers are calling upon the nation to defend itself against another common threat, but this time the threat is from within. This enemy of our republic seized power through the connivance of a corrupt Supreme Court and has maintained that power through lies and electoral fraud. Because this enemy has the support of the mainstream media, much of the public has accepted the official line and, equally important, has not been informed of the crimes of this regime or of the official encroachment upon the citizens’ Constitutional rights and upon the rule of law.

Instead, the Bushevik regime and its compliant media have directed public attention abroad, to a mythical “Axis of Evil” and “Islamo-Fascism,” in an attempt to revive through these chimeras the public perception of external threat that united “the greatest generation” in the war against the “Axis Powers.”

And for awhile, it worked spectacularly well. However, as I have noted before, propaganda is a sprinter and reality is a long-distance runner, and it appears that reality is catching up at last.

If our democracy is to be restored, the truth of the internal threat must continue to seep into the public consciousness. The Bushevik regime and its Republican party will resist, as will the mainstream media. To our profound sorrow, we have discovered that the Democratic party has been intimidated into insignificance.

And so if the facts of the right-wing, Bushevik betrayal of our civic compact are to be heard, it is up to the few remaining independent and progressive voices in the corporate media to report them, as long as they are permitted to be heard, also the few remaining independent and progressive publications, such as The Nation, The New York Review, and The New Yorker.

Above all, there remains the internet, which repeats and amplifies the voices of the progressive broadcast and print media – Moyers, Olbermann, Krugman, Hersh, etc. Added to this are the volunteered insights and opinions of the progressive bloggers.

And what’s in it for them – for us? Nothing more or less than the satisfaction of performing our urgent and compelling moral and civic duties.

At his January, 1961 inauguration, John F. Kennedy told the nation, “Ask not, ask not what your country can do for you -- ask what you can do for your country." At the outset of his war of choice against Iraq, George Bush advised his fellow citizens to “go out and shop.” “It’s my job” to worry about the war, he told us in July, 2004.  “It’s your job to go about your business.”

For the authentic patriot, when the nation’s fundamental civic and moral principles are in mortal danger, the essential question is not, “why should I get involved with this struggle?” That essential question is “How can I not be involved?” It is a rhetorical question that Thomas Paine answered directly: in times such as this, that “try men’s souls...  [the] summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will in this crisis shrink from the service of his country.”

Instead, it is “the business” of the authentic patriot to dissent and to resist, until government of, by and for the people is restored. 

Fortunately, at this crucial moment in our history, the internet provides us with a powerful instrument of resistance.

Copyright 2007 by Ernest Partridge


Ernest Partridge's Internet Publications

Conscience of a Progressive:  A book in progress. 

Partridge's Scholarly Publications. (The Online Gadfly)

Dr. Ernest Partridge is a consultant, writer and lecturer in the field of Environmental Ethics and Public Policy. He has taught Philosophy at the University of California, and in Utah, Colorado and Wisconsin. He publishes the website, "The Online Gadfly" and co-edits the progressive website,"The Crisis Papers".   His e-mail is: gadfly@igc.org .

Crisis Papers editors, Partridge & Weiner, are available for public speaking appearances




Dr. Ernest Partridge is a consultant, writer and lecturer in the field of Environmental Ethics and Public Policy. He has taught Philosophy at the University of California, and in Utah, Colorado and Wisconsin. He publishes the website, "The Online Gadfly" (www.igc.org/gadfly) and co-edits the progressive website, "The Crisis Papers" (www.crisispapers.org).  Dr. Partridge can be contacted at: gadfly@igc.org .