Updated: Feb 19
In the real world, the one we're in now, the Department of Pre-Crime won't be anything like this much fun. Nor will the good guys win.
By Thomas Neuburger
We're on the road to the next 9/11, but not in the way you think.
The last 9/11 wasn't just an event. It was a trigger for the radical restructuring of privacy and surveillance in American life, and the radical elevation of the National Security State as the new highest branch of government, a branch whose power and reach that no one with any public reputation to protect — the Chris Hayeses, Rachel Maddows and Jake Tappers; the Joe Bidens, Kamala Harrises, and Pete Buttigiegs — would dare to oppose.
The 9/11 infrastructure — including the propaganda and consent infrastructure — is now in place.
Yet things change. The nation entered a new phase since 9/11 occurred — it's become pre-revolutionary on both the left and right sides of the political spectrum. In fact, though few with reputations to protect will admit it, the left and right have largely overlapped to create a vertical division, a "rich versus the rest" divide.
(This is a split the rich are working hard to obscure. That's why so much of our professional media is "other-side obsessed" — why the pied pipers of the left, MSNBC and CNN, are so determined to gin up Trump-voter-hate, a manufactured anger that perfectly matches the older and well tested liberal-voter-hate so relied on by pied pipers of the right. But let's pass that point for the moment. We have other fish to fry.)
The Birth of a Radical World
The nation arrived at its pre-revolutionary state by a number of paths. Obama sold change in 2008, received massive voter support, then reneged, most notably by bailing out the banks instead of the citizens in 2009. That's why, for example, so fewer voters supported him in 2012, and why in 2016 so many ex-Obama voters turned to Trump or stayed home.
Another spur to pre-radicalization occurred in 2016 and 2020 with the clear and overt sabotage of Sanders' "political revolution" in favor of two "nothing will change" Establishment candidates. Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden both "defeated" Bernie Sanders, though they needed a ton of Establishment help to do it. Even progressive icons, Establishment figures with credible public reputations like John Lewis and Gloria Steinem, took part in his destruction. All of this was noticed and remembered, and not with love.
So here we are: No one who doesn't have money and a work-from-home income is happy. People give different reasons for that unhappiness and they couch their analysis in different terms, but the broad mass of America — the overwhelming many who deliver food to the few who never leave home when they go to work — is getting pretty ready to rip the place apart.
It's true that most aren't there yet — we're not near critical mass like we were in the 1960s and 70s. But we're coming closer. Every time someone takes our political temperature, it's up a notch from the last time.
The Department of Pre-Crime
From an Establishment standpoint, of course, none of this can be allowed. No rebellion of an unapproved and effective sort is permissible. Not BLM, not Proud Boys, not Stop the Steal, not student debt strikes, not any activity that represents an actual threat to the "nothing will change" apple cart that gives meaning and measure to the lives of the few who order and constrain the lives of the many.
The few feed on the many, surf with pleasure on their backs of their forced labor, and the many cannot be allowed to stand and object.
How to enforce that in pre-revolutionary times? The Riot of January 6 is providing the perfect excuse to clamp down on any objection to "the way things have always been."
But more than that, the one-time event of the riot allows a radical and permanent redefinition of political crime — not as an act of violence against the state, but as an act of thought. We've now entered the world of arrest and prosecution for "political pre-crime," for being on the "path to radicalization."
The "Path to Radicalization" As a Criminal Offense
There's no better example of that trend than the following article in the Washington Post. This piece not only announces the first "pre-crime" arrest; it justifies it. Both of these aspects of the piece are noteworthy.
First, the arrest:
The FBI warned about far-right attacks. Agents arrested a leftist ex-soldier.
TALLAHASSEE — Shortly after sunrise on Jan. 15, FBI agents descended with guns drawn on a squat, red-brick apartment complex here, broke open the door of one of the units and threw in a stun grenade, prompting the frightened property manager to call 911.
Inside the apartment, furnished with little besides books and a sign declaring “THE REVOLUTION IS NOT A PARTY,” the agents found their target: a 33-year-old U.S. Army veteran and self-described “hardcore leftist” who had posted a flier on social media threatening to attack “armed racist mobs WITH EVERY CALIBER AVAILABLE.” A shotgun and handgun were found in his apartment, they said. ...
But the FBI agents who had been monitoring Baker’s social media posts since October described him as being on a “path toward radicalization.” They catalogued his Facebook musing about being “willing to do ANYTHING to ANYONE so I don’t end up homeless and hungry again.” They noted updates about “voting from the rooftops” and hoping “the right tries a coup on Nov. 3 cuz I’m so f------ down to slay enemies again.” A post on his page in December announced, “Trump still plans on a violent militant coup. If you don’t have guns you won’t survive.”
On Jan. 25, U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael J. Frank agreed that Baker posed a potential threat and ordered him held without bond, writing that the former soldier had “repeatedly endorsed violent means to advance the political beliefs that he espouses.”
Arrested and held without bond for posting the social media posts quoted above.
How many others could also be put in jail for voicing sentiments like these? Thousands on any given day? Tens of thousands?
Yet how many would act on those sentiments if they had them? You can count that for yourself — one or two a year at the very most.
Yet this is where we are as a nation. Nancy Pelosi has just proposed a new 9/11-type commission to look at the Capitol Riot. The last 9/11 put us under mass surveillance. You can imagine the changes this next group will propose.
Where will our new 9/11 take us? Anywhere the people with the most to lose from the people's revolutionary urges want us to be.
As to the article's justification of Baker's arrest and judicial treatment, read it and note how often the writer likens or quotes other who liken left-wing anger with right-wing anger. (They are in many ways alike, but not in the ways imagined in the article.)
The most significant justification of pre-crime as crime is in this passage (emphasis mine):
Baker represents the flip side of [the far-right] threat: As a far-right extremist movement wages an assault on American government and institutions, experts say an unpredictable battle is brewing, fueling potentially legitimate threats of violence from the opposite fringe of the political spectrum.
“It is ratcheting up and then getting a response and a back-and-forth,” said Steven Chermak, a professor of criminal justice at Michigan State University. ...
[H]igh-profile right-wing attacks could be spurring far-left extremists to respond in kind, Chermak said. And cases like Baker’s can have a snowball effect, he said: Articles about Baker have been circulated online by members of the Proud Boys, a far-right group with a history of violence, who cite his arrest as evidence that left-wing activists are plotting against them.
About people like Steven Chermak, keep in mind that criminal justice professors train cops and usually side with them. Chermak's comments certainly fit that profile — the left "could be" spurred to respond in kind, which "can have" a "snowball effect," so the arrest (the article implicitly states) is justified.
As I said above, the world of political pre-crime will be no fun at all. Nor will the good guys win.