Niagara Gazette

Opinion

September 17, 2012

CONFER: The assault on free speech

Niagara Gazette — We’re 11 years removed from the 9/11 attacks and it seems like such a different world. Or, at least, a different America.

A land once ripe with unabated liberty is one now governed by tyranny. A police state is allowed to persist under the guise of “security” and some bastardized premise of freedom. Congress and the Bush and Obama administrations thought and think nothing of eavesdropping on phone calls and emails without warrant; indefinitely detaining our people while stripping them of their citizenship, rights and dignity; molesting men, women and children in our airports; and stifling expression by limiting what can be said and where whilst profiling the far-right (Constitutionalists) and far-left (Occupy activists) as terrorists.

This isn’t just a federal issue. Following the lead of Uncle Sam (who’s also a Big Brother to all), metropolises like New York City (and its famed surveillance system and quasi-military cops) have found it attractive to do the same. And, so have smaller communities.

Take Hornell for example. In a February 2011 column for this paper (http://tinyurl.com/ConferHornell) I looked at how that very small city of 9,000 created its own domestic spying program by placing 32 cameras throughout the community that were monitored 24/7 by the police department. Mind you, it’s a city where crime rates are but a fraction of the national average. So, with minimal criminal element present, just who is being observed?

That camera system hasn’t been very popular with local residents. That disdain, though, didn’t set any sort of precedent in city hall. Hornell’s leaders still can’t seem to fathom rights – especially the natural rights identified in the US Constitution – as made evident by what transpired over the past month.

For the past 8 years, Main Street of Hornell been frequented by a troubadour named Noah Carlton, who with guitar in hand, sings Christian music on Saturdays and Sundays to passers-by. In August the local Chamber of Commerce sent a letter to the mayor, saying that Carlton’s continued presence inhibits business growth in the burgh by turning away prospective customers and investors.

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