November 26th, 2007
This proposal is meant to be considered alongside, or in conjunction with my other recent Open Source Party proposal. They can both be discussed within active, dedicated groups at the new MondoGlobo social network, along with related issues.
A dark cloud is passing over America. We've witnessed, in recent years, the death of many of our constitutional rights and liberties. We've also seen increasingly authoritarian trends in daily life and culture.
Those of us who would prefer to keep our freedoms have been relatively powerless as the events of 9/11 have created an atmosphere of fear and acquiescence. Everybody knows the litany: the virtual death of habeas corpus, the legalization of surveillance against all Americans, the lawlessness and usurpation of powers by the executive branch, ad infinitum.
It is time for all those who oppose this gathering trend towards the worst type of authoritarian governance and culture to put aside their differences and join together in a coalition that can act as a counterforce to this gathering threat to our liberties. It is time for QuestionAuthority (QA).
1: QuestionAuthority — A Coalition
QuestionAuthority is an educational and advocacy project dedicated to defending and extending personal and civil liberties and encouraging free expression. Our goal is to create a broad-based coalition of non-authoritarian groups and individuals who may currently be working in relative isolation on single issues, for political organizations and candidates, or in relatively isolated ideological cohort groups. As a cohesive force, we can do more than just stem the tide one issue — or one court case — at a time. We can exercise political and cultural influence by uniting the vast numbers of Americans who believe that the country has taken a radical turn in an authoritarian direction.
2: QA Platform
We ask you to please endorse the QA Platform below. You can demonstrate your endorsement of the QA Platform by joining the dedicated group on the MondoGlobo Network, and by so joining, you'll send a message to the nation and the world.
1) We call for the resurrection of all basic liberties and protections – including protections against pervasive surveillance – taken away by the federal government and by the executive branch of the Federal Government resulting directly, or obviously, as the result of reactions to the events of 9/11
2) We call for maximum state transparency (an end to excesses in state secrecy). This would include a generous and resilient usage of the Freedom of Information Act; procedural oversight that can bring sane boundaries into the process of classifying materials; and a movement towards the greatest possible realistic use of open source information-sharing and problem-solving in areas related to defense and intelligence.
3) We call for the restoration of a robust system of checks and balances and separation of powers, meant by the Founders to keep concentrated growths of political malfeasance shaken and unable to take root.
We are particularly concerned about centralized power within the Executive Branch of government. In this context, we emphasize a return to active use of "The War Powers Act" in which substantive military campaigns have to be approved by the US Congress.
4) We call for an end to the so-called "war on drugs." This drug war has resulted in frequent violations of limits against search and seizure and an abhorrently large prison population, among other forms of abuse by authorities. (There is room within QA for those who would like an outright end to prohibition as well as for those who prefer more cautious approaches like reform and medicalization to bring to an end the more draconian aspects of the "drug war.")
5) We call for continued vigilance in the defense of free expression, both in the technical legal sense and in a broader socio-cultural sense. There must be a vibrant, vital dialogue around possible contemporary threats to free expression that might not strictly fall under the rubric of censorship. Issues worthy of dialogue and debate include excesses in copyright, hypersensitivity, pressures wrought by corporate media consolidation, state intimidation (such as Congressional hearings) and intimidation of discourse during times of war or during the buildup towards war.
3: Action Agenda for QuestionAuthority
The action agenda for the QA is simple.
1a) We will monitor, inform about, and coordinate public educational responses against any further assaults on the basic constitutional liberties of Americans, and will organize information and educational responses to civil liberties already lost to the "war on terror."
1b) Imagine every authoritarian absurdity and outrage carefully explored and catalogued on a single website. Imagine networked groups that can spring into action to alert and educate the public the next time authorities savage the Bill of Rights
2a) We will do everything in our power to bring non-authoritarian and anti-authoritarian thinkers and speakers before the public and particularly before youth.
2b) Imagine a QA publicity/speakers bureau that would get a wide variety of QA types onto college campuses, on the various media talk shows (let's change the dialogue from Right v. Left to Authoritarian v. Non-Authoritarian) and before various civic groups.
3) We will encourage, initiate, and provide an online place for a wide-ranging discussion among supporters of the QA principles. We envision a QA virtual library of various "question authority" texts, videos, audio files, blogs and other media forms that give expression to diverse non-authoritarian and anti-authoritarian views.
We envision QA members organizing meetups, regional meetings, local forums and perhaps an annual or semi-annual QA conference. We envision QA members and supporters expressing these concepts in their own style through their own websites, wikis, blogs, videos, podcasts, and through other forms of communication directed towards those who are not online.
4: QA FAQ
Q: What is the difference between QA and other organizations and candidates that fight for our rights?
A: First of all, our goal is to create a broad-based coalition of non-authoritarian groups and individuals who may currently be working in relative isolation on single issues, for political organizations and candidates, or in relatively isolated ideological cohort groups.
Also, in cases where civil liberty types of issues are involved, people tend to sit back and let them be fought out in the court. As a cohesive force, we can do more than just stem the tide one issue — or one court case — at a time. We can exercise political and cultural influence by uniting the vast numbers of Americans who believe that the country has taken a radical turn in an authoritarian direction.
Secondly, look again at what we promise to do in terms of organizing informational and educational materials. If these things were being done by anyone else, we wouldn't need to do them. QA proposes to be dynamic and participatory in ways that other organizations are not.
Q: Why should non-authoritarians want to unite in a big centralized organization?
A: They should unite only to the extent that it's necessary to show our numbers to the nation and amplify our influence as a way to counteract the influence of well-organized authoritarians.
How many times, in recent years, have you heard folks wonder why people don't "do something" when major, fundamental outrages against basic constitutional liberties are committed by the state? Now imagine a large, networked group of "question authority" types who can spring into action the next time something of this sort occurs to educate and advocate. Next time, do something! Additionally, the "myth" of a grand QA with a large membership filled with both influential and diverse people could have power to influence media and political discourse.
Q: How will the QA be organized?
A: QA will seek tax-deductible non-profit status. We imagine a very minimal centralized "bureaucracy." Everything about the actions of the QA as an organization, including its use of funds, will be open and transparent. For a brief period, QA decisions will be made by a Board of Directors. It will be comprised of people representing a wide variety of political (and perhaps "anti-political") views. We would hope to move quickly towards making decisions via open source, democratic processes.
We also imagine that many QA activities, right from the start, will be decentralized and taken by local and cohort groups.
Q: This document calls for action to educate and alert the pubic about basic losses of essential liberties. Isn't it time to move beyond education and into activism?
A: The rules guiding the creation of an educational organization and the rules around activism are subtly different. There is room for activist types of activity in an educational context, and those kinds of responses can be discussed and debated by the group. Also, some people will be more comfortable joining an informational/educational project than an activist project and we want a big fat sassy coalition.
Q: Who will join the QA?
A: We hope everybody who agrees with our platform (or who agrees, but with minor quibbles) will join us, so that our numbers and influence will act as a powerful counterforce against the authoritarian activists. Let's let them know we're here.
But let's be blunt. It's obvious that many of those who agree with this platform will tend to be people who are labeled "liberal" and "libertarian." Beyond that, we believe that this coalition will appeal to an even larger disenfranchised group of Americans who believe in questioning authority, but who have very few ideological certainties.
Finally, let's be excessively blunt. We want all the nation's most influential anti-authoritarian individuals and organizations to join in this coalition. We want the ACLU and the Cato Institute; Bob Barr and Mos Def; the EFF and the People for the American Way; MoveOn.org and AntiWar.com; Hitchens and Chomsky; Penn Jillette and George Carlin, Reason magazine and Harpers magazine; Howard Stern and Amy Goodman; Ron Paul and Dennis Kucinich; Paris and Nicole… (OK, maybe not.) Anyway, by now, you get the point.
These days, those of us who question authority find ourselves shocked and astonished by the actions of the state – both small and large – on nearly a daily basis. As individuals, we find ourselves wondering, "Why isn't there mass outrage?"
Of course, there is quite a bit of outrage. It's distributed all over the web and all over the culture, but this sense of outrage does not have the coherence it needs to be perceived as a player on America's political stage. We can no longer afford to let that be the case. We need to act now.
Visit our newly re-purposed MondoGlobo Network to get more involved with this idea and/or in a social network for people who question authority.
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