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11/23/2003 Archived Entry: "Silence is Health"

"SILENCE IS HEALTH." Back in the terrible days when Argentina was ruled by a military junta, a slogan, "Silence is Health," became one of that country's catchphrases. It was "unhealthy" to make noise against the regime. For many, it was even fatal.

Ironically,"Silence is Health" didn't actually have anything to do with politics. As described by Marguerite Feitlowitz in A Lexicon of Terror: Argentina and the Legacies of Torture (and quoted by Aaron Zelman and me in The State vs. the People), it was an innocuous public-safety slogan, used to get drivers to cut down on excess horn honking.

But it resonated. Years later, many people remembered it as part of the junta's oppression. Silence was health. Or at least, it was temporary, momentary, tentative safety.

Now, within the last few weeks, a New Zealand man has been charged with a crime for writing an anti-war letter to the U.S. embassy there. Just this morning, three people sent me various copies of a New York Times story that says the FBI has been investigating anti-war protestors (as terrorists) and asking local authorities to report any troublemakers to the feds' counterterrorism squad. Debra also sent an article that describes how Slovenia (of all places) just prosecuted (as a terrorist) a man who got drunk and sent an e-mail nastygram to President Bush. In this latter case, the dolt did say "you will be killed" (although not, "I will kill you"). Stupid, stupid, stupid -- very. But terrorism? Hardly.

And of course, there is the infamous, secret second no-fly list, which reportedly contains the names of some 1,000 Americans who aren't allowed to travel by air -- solely because they're outspoken politically.

Then I dropped in on The Claire Files message boards to find, in a thread about tax-activist Bob Schultz and the upcoming Give Me Liberty 2004 conference, one of the board members warning, "My source in Washington D.C. told me to warn you that Schultz will be indicted in 2004 and you may not want your names on his list of supporters. It is up to you whether you want to be investigated too!"

So it seems that silence is becoming "health" in America, too, and wherever the power of the American empire reaches. Keep your mouth shut. Don't criticize the regime. Don't read the "wrong" books or magazines. If you're silent and compliant maybe you'll stay off the Busheviks' Stasi-style lists. Maybe you'll be "allowed" to travel. Maybe you won't disappear into a military prison where you won't be allowed even to see a lawyer.

By all means, keep silent, if that's the kind of country you want to have.

Posted by Claire @ 12:44 PM CST

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