12 March 2008

Collar City Censorship

As Crhymethinc has informed us in his comment on the "I Don't Know Art" article below, the Republican regime in Troy has shut down the Sanctuary for Independent Media in an obvious reprisal for Wafaa Bilal's "Virtual Jihadi" exhibit. All you need to know is that the Public Works Commissioner here is Robert "Bobby" Mirch, the same county legislature majority leader who led a protest demonstration against the exhibit at Monday's opening and has called it "anti-American."

Mirch is brazen enough to tell the Record that "he did not know the building had been closed to the public until he was contacted by several local reporters." He's hiding behind the deputy mayor, Dan Crawley, and city spokesman Jeff Buell, both of whom note that complaints against the building came in on Monday afternoon -- just before the exhibit opened. They claim that the Sanctuary was notified of code violations 14 months ago, but is only now being punished for failure to comply.

Crawley is at pains to deny that the Sanctuary has not been "shut down," but he confirms that the city "asked that they do not hold public gatherings until all issues are resolved." If that's not a shutdown, what is?

Steve Pierce, the Sanctuary director, knows the real score. "They shut us down," he told the Times Union. To the Record, he said, "Apparently if you do something the Republican administration doesn't like, they shut you down." He notes that inspectors toured the Sanctuary on Monday afternoon and told him "they were fine with what we planned to do" to meet code standards, -- "Then I got a call as I was driving in [Tuesday] saying that they had shut down the building."

Bill Dunne, a Democratic City Council member, told the Record that the shutdown is consistent with an oppressive pattern. "It looks like the city is using code enforcement officers as some form of political retaliation," he said while suggesting that the council, which has a Democratic majority, might subpoena the code enforcement authorities to tell who ordered them to take this action. The council president, Clement Campana, agrees that the incident "should be investigated," according to the Times Union.

These are standard tactics in the authoritarian states that Americans love to complain about. They're not normally so blatant as to declare dissent itself illegal. Instead, they use petty regulations like these to crack down on dissidents, so they can later tell the world that even dissidents still have to obey the law. Study history a little and you'll find that these were standard tactics for much of American history as well. In modern times the preferred tactic is to force dissent into "free-speech zones" far away from the powerful people protesters want to reach. In Troy, the Republicans have stooped to old-school thuggery to suppress a form of dissent that doesn't even threaten their own power in any way. This is self-evidently an attempt to punish the "thoughtcrime" of opposing the Iraq War. Wafaa Bilal may be a dubious artist, but as a dissident he has to be defended to the utmost. If the United States wants to be regarded as "better" than other countries, one of the best arguments we can make is that, unlike in many places, here dissidents get the benefit of the doubt. If that means we must risk mischaracterizing the motives of authorities or hurting the feelings of patriots, so be it. If they object to the exhibit, and if they object to our objections to its suppression, let them go to Russia or some other more congenial country where patriotism crushes all protest. Today the "Home of Uncle Sam" is a national disgrace.

1 comment:

hobbyfan said...

Bobby Besmirch is a registered Democrat, isn't he? I know he's criss-crossed party lines to suit his personal agenda, whatever it may be, but this man needs to be shut down. He's bullied merchants for posting innocent signs in front of their shops, just because said signs are being placed on city fixtures, such as street lights. Now I'm not surprised to read that Besmirch was at the head of the protest on Monday. Pray that this self-serving jackal never is elected mayor, or even worse, governor. And as for our Mayor, Oil Can Harry, maybe this will make people think twice about having reelected him last November.