The Peach

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Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Talking Treason

While the SCLM sleeps, a truly alarming attack on our democracy is underway. The Peach presents Exhibit A:

Republican Rep. Spencer Bachus of Alabama has suggested that comedian Bill Maher may be guilty of treason for remarks that Mr. Maher made on his May 13 show. As reported by the AP, the offending remarks touched on the America's military's failure to reach recruiting goals. Maher allegedly speculated that more people may have "joined the Michael Jackson Fan Club" than the military recently, and suggested that the military was desperate for "warm bodies."

Mr. Bachus seems to be operating with a rather specialized definition of treason. "In treason," he said, "one definition is to undermine the effort or national security of our country." That may be "one definition," but it is not the accepted one. According to Black's Law Dictionary, treason is "a breach of allegiance to one's government, usually committed through levying war against such government or by giving aid or comfort to the enemy."

The Black's definition goes on to specify that the offense comprehends overt acts to overthrow the government to which one owes allegiance or to betray one's government "into the hands of a foreign power." To be convicted of treason, the offender must have both joined forces with the enemy and rendered him aid and comfort. The Peach believes that in a sane world, it would be hard to argue that Mr. Maher's remarks qualify.

However, the Peach begins to wonder if we do live in a sane world. For despite Mr. Bachus's ignorance of the very legal code with which his constituencies have entrusted him, his charges are likely to resonate well with Red Staters. Why can't we, after all, stretch the definition of "giving aid and comfort to the enemy" to include making snide remarks about the foibles of our own military? Why couldn't such statements constitute joining forces with the enemy? The fact that Mr. Bachus's definition of treason is invented on the spot for his own self-serving purposes will make no difference to people in this country who are eager for one-party Republican rule, and who probably see Black's Law Dictionary as just another egg-headed, elitist liberal sham.

The Peach wonders if this is just a taste of things to come. As Donald Rumsfeld put it so ominously after the Newsweek flap: "People need to be very careful about what they say just as they need to be careful about what they do." He implies that in the gathering Republican theo-dictatorship, saying is doing. Words are deeds. People like Bill Maher better be very careful about what they say, because their statements may amount to an act of treason.

And that is something that we all, but most of all the MSM, should be very, very concerned about. For his part, Mr. Bachus is not calling for Mr. Maher's prosecution, but merely for the cancellation of his show. Silence, not jail. But when you think about it, silencing free speech is uncomfortably close to a world where journalists could be prosecuted for speaking out.

The truly alarming possibility is not that we may eventually find ourselves living in such a world, but that we already are.

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