Florida Weekly: Tories and troublemakers

Florida Weekly: Tories and troublemakers

Reprinted from Florida Weekly

For a long time, people in the United States have been protesting — this, that or the other thing.

So for a long time, we’ve elevated the venerable traditions of whining, complaining and troublemaking to the status of moral virtues.

Take the example of the Revolutionary War, and the Founding Folks: just a bunch of whiners, all.

In contrast, there were people called Tories. They didn’t complain, whine or protest. They weren’t troublemakers. Tories were loyal and brave. Tories loved their country (England). They insisted that patriots support the nation wholeheartedly, and they put the hammer down on those who didn’t. Tories wore nice clothes.

But troublemakers tended to be unwashed and wild-eyed. They wandered around in public places mouthing off and spitting in the dirt. They’d slap bumper stickers on their cars that said whiny things like, “Mean people suck,” instead of patriotic things like, “America: Love it or Leave it.”

If you gave them an inch, they’d take a mile. Like that troublemaker named Thomas Paine.

Somebody gave him an inch, and the next thing they knew he was pontificating self-righteously: “The World is my country, all mankind are my brethren, and to do good is my Religion.”

Definitely not a patriot.

At bottom, Mr. Paine was just a troublemaker mps who resented the fact that complainers could get beat up, penned up or strung up for complaining about taxes.

Of course, those taxes didn’t serve the public;p they were the cream skimmed from the thin milk of farmers, shopkeepers and tradesmen to enrich the one-percent — the people with all the money.

Today they’d include Wall Streeters and the owners of big banks and corporations.

But in those days the one percent consisted of English royalty and their friends, who were busy drinking cordials and spreading syphilis across “this sceptered isle… this precious stone set in the silver sea against the envy of less happier lands… this blessed plot, this earth, this realm, thisEngland,” as Shakespeare described it.

All this suddenly became relevant again last month when a bunch of troublemakers in Washington, D.C. — they call themselves the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund — wrapped up a three-year effort to get their hands on government agency records under the Freedom of Information Act, then released 4,000 pages of them, on line.

That opus amounts to a Tory look at some other troublemakers in 2011 who protested the massive role of Wall Street and the major banks in collapsing the American economy, before taking sizeable bailouts from American taxpayers.

Many were arrested, even though they protested peacefully on public streets and in public parks all over the country.

Here’s how that happened. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) developed a sophisticated and coordinated method of sharing information between police other government agencies, and private contractors fighting terrorism after 9/11. It depends on so-called Fusion Centers placed around the country — more than 70 of them — that gather and coordinate information.

“Fusion centers are uniquely situated to empower front-line law enforcement, public safety, fire service, emergency response, public health, critical infrastructure protection, and private sector security personnel to understand local implications of national intelligence, thus enabling local officials to better protect their communities,” says the DHS.

But that’s not all the Fusion Centers, or the agencies that use them, do.

Instead, they behave like perfect little Tories.

As the Partnership describes it (at www.justiceonline.org), “The new documents roll back the curtain on the Fusion Centers and show the communications, interactions and emails of a massive national web of federal agents, officials, police, and private ‘security’ contractors. They accumulated and shared information reporting on all manner of peaceful and lawful political activity that took place during the Occupy movement, from protests and rallies to meetings and educational lectures. This enormous spying and monitoring apparatus included the Pentagon, FBI, Department of Homeland Security, police departments and chiefs, private contractors and commercial business interests.”

Using those Fusion Centers, the Tories even went to work for Walmart, more or less. When a bunch of troublemakers decided on the day after Thanksgiving to boycott major stores that take advantage of people, in their opinions, the big Tories spied on them, too. Then they reported their activities and plans to little Tories at local police departments, and to the storeowners themselves.

In short, when they should have been protecting all of us from “terrorists,” the Tories were trampling all over our traditional right to be “troublemakers,” and to protest.

Their spying and information sharing provided the backdrop to mass arrests, including those of 700 troublemakers on the Brooklyn Bridge by the New York Police Department, on Oct. 1, 2011.

That action was later deemed illegal by Judge Jed Rakoff, in the U.S. District Court’s Southern District of New York, following a class-action lawsuit against the NYPD by the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund.

Judge Rakoff put it this way: “What a huge debt this nation owes to its ‘troublemakers.’ From Thomas Paine to Martin Luther King Jr., they have forced us to focus on problems we would prefer to downplay or ignore. Yet it is often only with hindsight that we can distinguish those troublemakers who brought us to our senses from those who were simply… troublemakers.

“Prudence, and respect for the constitutional rights to free speech and free association, therefore dictate that the legal system cut all non-violent protesters a fair amount of slack.”

But that decision and his opinion have been challenged. Tories just don’t like troublemakers. Never have, never will. ¦