Sunday, July 16, 2017

Laughing At Tyrants

Is ridicule an effective tool against kleptocracy? 

In a system of government by, of, and for thieves is there any point in petitioning the corrupt? Going through official channels like elections, phone calls, letters and meetings with lawmakers has taken up a lot of our time but changed little as the engines of propaganda churn out manufactured consent for our downward slide.

In a landmark case from the tumultuous early days of the current regime, retired librarian Desiree Fairooz was arrested for laughing at a lie told in the U.S. Senate's hearing to confirm Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III.

Sessions, who claims people think he's racist because his middle name (and that of his pappy and grandpappy) honor a Confederate general, was described in the hearing as someone whose "extensive record of treating all Americans equally under the law is clear and well-documented." As Senator Shelby of Alabama read from scripted remarks in halting tones, a faint "ha ha" can be heard in the background. Then, as Fairooz is dragged from the courtroom, my own Senator Susan Collins can be heard groveling to "my friend and colleague, Senator Jeff Sessions." (Collins, who has built her career on the lie that she's a plucky independent like Margaret Chase Smith, has been quick to grovel to the new regime.)

"It's demoralizing what our criminal justice system happens [sic] when we just talked about Alton Sterling's case," said CNN's legal expert Mark O'Mara, referring to the case of a black victim of police violence in Louisiana whose killers, officers Howie Lake II and Blane Salamoni, were not charged. Both had been investigated -- and cleared by their own department -- for using excessive force in the past, and Sterling was not the first black man to be shot by Lake.

The rule of law is in shreds, black lives don't matter to police or our criminal justice system, and senators fall all over themselves to praise a blatantly racist candidate for the highest legal office in the land. What to do?

Ridicule may be our best resort, because it hastens the regime's loss of the consent of the governed.

Some of us are old enough to remember when the Smothers Brothers comedy team was fired for making fun of Richard Nixon's war in Vietnam. They sued NBC and won. Nixon was impeached, and the Vietnam war lurched to a close.

None of us are old enough to remember when Aesop, an ancient Greek slave, made tyrants ridiculous by telling stories where they were silly animals. His stories also made fun of the common people: a frog who ridiculed a dumbly passive Log King regards the Stork King sent by Zeus as an admirable replacement in the William de Morgan illustration above (Public domain via Wikimedia Commons). The frog's goofy expression appears innocent of the fact that storks eat frogs.

Desiree Fairooz is well aware that Sessions and his ilk eat up the lives of people like Alton Sterling.

Fairooz shouted that Sessions is evil in the ruckus she caused while being removed after what she has described as chortling. She was convicted in a jury trial of disrupting the hearing, but the sentencing judge threw the case out saying the jury was improperly instructed to convict her solely on the basis of her barely audible laugh.

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