Free speech: a distinction


Many people wildly wave American flags over their freedom.  What precisely they mean by “freedom” I’m not quite sure.  The freedom to “do what you want?”  By that do they mean entering into the cannibalistic bloodbath of hierarchy and servitude which is sometimes called “the market?”  They must mean something else.

Perhaps they mean “free speech.”

Oh boy.

It’s true that in certain social systems, you can’t do things that you can do in America.  In America you can whine and complain, hell, you can even ejaculate on photographs of Senators in the privacy of your own home (I have never done this).  You can even ruin dinner by having political conversations with your family or neighbors, even political conversations in which the current official puppets are sharply criticized.

It’s true, you can do these things in America.  However, I wouldn’t call this “free speech” in the political sense.  I would instead say that the American system is one in which the state does not interfere in the population’s aimless chatter.  This is actually very effective: if you can blabber about the dresses at the Oscars without restriction, it kind of feels like freedom.

Wave that flag!

Here’s what you cannot do in the USA: make an actual difference.

The fact that other social systems have actually gone so far as attempt to purge criticism of the government from all media and even from ground-level conversations means that what I previously called the “population’s aimless chatter” actually does play a critical role in politics, especially at certain junctures.  No revolution yet started without people first growling in bars about how they should have one.

However, it’s still no substitute for the ability to create an articulate political organization, which actually behaves as an embodiment or coordinating point of consciousness within the working majority, which becomes large and influential enough to threaten changing the economic system or the government.

The Industrial Workers of the World did this in the 1910s and was hit by the Palmer Raids.  The Communist Party and other reds in the near-insurrectionary 1930s were subsequently wiped out by McCarthyism.  During the 1960s the Black Panther Party faced infiltration, the sewing of divisions, and assassination by COINTELPRO, and other social movement organizations like the National Organization of Women and Students for a Democratic Society were also infiltrated.  Wikileaks, while not intentionally a revolutionary organization, has still proven “dangerous” enough to invite repression; it may have helped provide documentation which fueled some of the Middle East revolutions of 2011.  Violent police evictions as well as some arrests utilizing the PATRIOT Act were used against Occupy Wall Street.

So it’s not like every single cop is continually engaged in counter-revolution.  Hell, half the time, they’re just pulling cats out of trees, it’s true.  It’s not like they rip down the flyers for our political events or arrest us for hanging them up.

Why?  Because an organization is only repressed if it matters, if it’s a threat.  Boring liberal organizations are never repressed, no matter how large — they’re not a threat.  Tiny radical groups are almost never repressed because they’re not a threat either, unless they start blowing stuff up, which is more of a legit public nuisance than an actual contender for altering the politico-economic system.

In America you have the right to chat but only if that chatter does not change anything.  People talk, but if you cut off the head — if you wipe out the articulate organizations — that anger often never materializes into struggle, or the struggle turns out to be confused flailing which is easily repressed if it doesn’t die from its own aimlessness first.

The threat is when you connect the few self-conscious radicals to the “apolitical” angry masses — the threat is when you activate the swarm.

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