Friday, January 18, 2013

Snuffing Out Lives

Trey Smith

Corruption isn’t just people profiting from betraying the public interest. It’s also people being punished for upholding the public interest. In our institutions of power, when you do the right thing and challenge abusive power, you end up destroying a job prospect, an economic opportunity, a political or social connection, or an opportunity for media. Or if you are truly dangerous and brilliantly subversive, as Aaron was, you are bankrupted and destroyed. There’s a reason whistleblowers get fired. There’s a reason Bradley Manning is in jail. There’s a reason the only CIA official who has gone to jail for torture is the person – John Kiriako - who told the world it was going on. There’s a reason those who destroyed the financial system “dine at the White House”, as Lawrence Lessig put it. There’s a reason former Senator Russ Feingold is a college professor whereas former Senator Chris Dodd is now a multi-millionaire. There’s a reason DOJ officials do not go after bankers who illegally foreclose, and then get jobs as partners in white collar criminal defense. There’s a reason no one has been held accountable for decisions leading to the financial crisis, or the war in Iraq. This reason is the modern ethic in American society that defines success as climbing up the ladder, consequences be damned. Corrupt self-interest, when it goes systemwide, demands that it protect rentiers from people like Aaron, that it intimidate, co-opt, humiliate, fire, destroy, and/or bankrupt those who stand for justice. [emphasis mine]
~ from Aaron Swartz's Politics by Matt Stoller ~
The snippet above is from an ode to Aaron Swartz, the internet activist who among other things created RSS and Reddit. Swartz committed suicide last week as the result of what Glenn Greenwald charges is federal prosecutorial misconduct.

There is no question that America has a two-tiered justice system. Capitalist institutions and government officials literally can get away with wholesale murder, while the book is thrown at peons for miniscule offenses.

A company can economically cripple or ruin thousands of lives, but commoners are sent to jail for stealing a loaf of bread or a bottle of hair spray. A company can poison the air or water which leads to numerous injuries, illnesses and death with little fear of any type of meaningful reprisal, while a working stiff can receive jail time for bunching a neighbor in the nose. A bank can receive a" stay out of jail free" card for laundering billions of dollars of illegal drug money, but you or I can be hauled off to the pokey for possessing a few ounces of those same illegal drugs.

And, as both Stoller and Greenwald point out, those courageous few who seek to expose the corruptness of our two-tiered justice system do so at great personal peril. Our corporatized government goes after them with all barrels blazing. They go after such individuals with a ferocity that boggles the mind. They do this for the simple reason that they don't want to be exposed for the frauds they are. They do it because they desire to keep the rest of us dumb and ignorant.

An ignorant society is more easy to manipulate.

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