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Hip Hip Hooray for Dictatorship

by Jeff Elkins

Stick a fork in it, it's a done deal; At least according to the vanguard of American journalism.

Is there one major print media outlet that has the courage, the raw guts to call a spade a spade and challenge George Bush's naked power-grab? Apparently not. All that appears to be left are individual websites, the samizdat of our generation, now waiting to see if John Ashcroft's FBI will slowly but surely enforce cyber-silence and strangle them out of existence.

The print media has blessed George Bush's new "Homeland Security" department from all sides of the spectrum and nary a word is being printed with mainstream ink regarding the unarguable loss of civil liberties this new American Gestapo will lead to. Instead we're hearing "it's just wonderful" or we're hearing about "turf battles" between fatcat bureaucrats and sleazy politicos; a zero-sum, who won, who lost game with our precious liberty as the football. Of course the real losers in this high-stakes World Cup are American citizens.

Laying alongside history waving come-on is the jolly crew at National Review; when not defending Jonah Goldberg's spousal boss, John Ashcroft, as a pillar of the Constitution, they are dwelling on the bureaucratic infighting Bush faces; or phoning in incoherent columns about Star Trek and trips to Mars, no doubt while reclining on the couch, stroking Cosmo the Wonder Dog. Beltway Boy Fred Barnes of the Weekly Standard is dismissive regarding this massive power consolidation, preferring to concentrate on his upcoming war with Iraq and his master William Kristol is silent as I write; probably planning for a post-Saddam Baghdad, the American Empire's next outpost in the Middle East.

Safire of the New York Times thinks the Homeland Security agency is a basically sound idea. His compatriots at the LA Times and the Washington Post have also brushed aside any minor fears one might have regarding our fast-shrinking freedom.

The Wall Street Journal is unsurprisingly leading the charge on the cheerleading front; this supposedly "conservative" newspaper's editorial page wants more surveillance and wants it quickly. It's calling for a unified national database, access available for all and sundry; federal, state and local law enforcement agencies and corporations too, by golly. Not only that, they want it at zero cost, financially at least.

"We can't afford to wait a decade for the feds to have the computing power most American households have now. Mr. Bush should call on AOL, Oracle, Microsoft and others to design a computer system and database for the new department. Perhaps these corporations would even be willing to donate some of their services. After all, it is their hides being protected too."

"Homeland Security needs to have a centralized computer database and practice unilateral information sharing. The FBI should use that database and be forced to contribute to it. Information collected via satellite or through other electronic means for the CIA should be handed over to Homeland Security as well...The database should be far-reaching in scope. It should be designed so any police agency (even state and local) can upload warrants and any number of official documents... "

Those scary quotes were from an editorial by the WSJ's Brendan Miniter. He also wants us all to immediately be issued a daily ration of potassium iodide pills to prepare for the nuclear disaster that will be caused by skin-diving Al Qaeda agents.

Bush's plan doesn't "amount to a police state" according to Mr. Miniter, therefore it doesn't go far enough. It has serious flaws; "the biggest flaw in the plan is that it leaves the FBI and the CIA basically untouched...," the assumption being that these agencies as well as the Secret Service need to be folded into this all-encompassing federal behemoth.

Separation of powers is also an outmoded concept under Mr. Miniter's "not a police state." According to this journalistic defender of our freedom, "Mr. Bush also needs to fight for freedom from Congress's normal appropriation rules. Congress should approve a budget for the whole department, not individual agencies within it."

I've got an idea for Mr. Miniter and all his colleagues. Rather than "Department of Homeland Security," an awkward appellation to say the least, let's just rename this new agency the Ministry of Love.

George Orwell would be proud.

June 11, 2002

Jeff Elkins is a freelance writer and the editor of, a free online webzine and discussion forum.

Copyright © 2002

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