A Climate of Acquiescence

Hartford Common Council considers civil rights reforms
August 18, 2010
Food Not Bombs and the new COINTELPRO
September 30, 2010

What do Ferdinando Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti, The Scottsboro Boys, and The Hollywood 10 have in common? All were famous miscarriages of justice, yes. But all of these abrogations of civil liberties also spawned massive public protests. By contrast their contemporary counterparts, victims of “war on terror” zealotry run amok, remain unknown to the public, reflecting—as Peter Gelderloo argues in Counterpunch—a profound “decline of resistance,’ 83 years after the execution of Sacco and Vanzetti brought out millions of people in global protest.

“The War on Terror is even more replete with frame-ups and judicial lynchings than the Red Scare, although life imprisonment and solitary confinement, arguably far more cruel than capital punishment, have come to replace the electric chair.

The main targets of this War are Muslims and Middle Eastern or South Asian immigrants, radical environmentalists, and anarchists. In one sense, not so much has changed, as immigrants also bore the brunt of the Red Scare. The resounding difference is the general silence outside the most directly affected communities.

How many people today even know the names of Tarek Mehanna, Marie Mason, and Eric McDavid?

In a massive campaign of racial profiling after September 11th, 2001, the FBI visited and questioned people in every single Muslim and Middle Eastern or South Asian immigrant community in the country. Afraid of groups they saw as not culturally integrated, they pressured thousands of people into becoming informants for them, repeating the COINTELPRO tactic that helped destroy resistance in black communities in the ’60s and ’70s. An unknown number of Muslims have been disappeared to secret prisons in other countries, separated from their children, and tortured over the course of years. Some are unaccounted for and may have been killed. “

“Sacco and Vanzetti were probably engaged in other highly illegal activities, as participants in a tense and bloody workers’ struggle. And it’s beyond dispute that the two of them, from prison, continued to call for revolution against capitalism, and for vengeance against their executioners.

The most remarkable aspect of the whole affair is how much public support they received, not only on the streets, but from internationally renowned political figures and intellectuals. People like John Dos Passos, George Bernard Shaw, Dorothy Parker, H.G. Wells, Edna St. Vincent Millay, and Albert Einstein wrote letters and protested in their defense. In today’s political climate, no one who cared about their social status would be caught dead speaking out in favor of a political criminal who espoused fiery and radical ideas.”