In John Whitehead’s chilling new book, “A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State,” there is a photo of a young Rev. Martin Luther King being arrested by two police officers. The photo is not unusual for the era of the Civil Rights Movement, and we are now decades removed from the incident.
Yet it is jarring when one thinks on it for a moment: An American citizen, peacefully protesting legitimate injustice, is hauled off to jail. In the classic human justification, it happened to “him.”
What if it happened to you, though?
This is the essence of Whitehead’s book, and the fairly famous libertarian exposes a growing police state in this country that is flat-out scary. That doesn’t mean we should avert our eyes, however – just the opposite.
An interesting quote that opens Chapter 10 (“Dominate. Intimidate. Control.”) comes from passengers’ rights advocate Kate Hanni: “They’re trying to scare the pants off the American people that we need these things. … Fear is a commodity, and they’re selling it. The more they can sell it, the more we buy into it. When American people are afraid, they will accept anything.”
True dat, and the fact is, a mushrooming police state is certainly looming for American citizens. It is and will be unlike anything we’ve ever seen or that previous generations could have imagined.
Whitehead manages to convey troubling information in a gripping, even entertaining way. Take Chapter 5 for example (“Reality Check”). He compares and contrasts the government surveillance equipment used in the futuristic (2002) film “Minority Report.”
Whitehead notes that in the film, a fictional bit of technology is used – holographic data screens, dimensional maps, etc. – but in reality, today: “Microsoft, in a partnership with New York City, has developed a crime-fighting system that ‘will allow police to quickly collate and visualize vast amounts of data from cameras, license plate readers, 911 calls, police databases, and other sources. It will then display the information in real time, both visually and chronologically, allowing investigators to centralize information about crimes as they happen or are reported.’”
Thanks, Bill Gates.
It isn’t that we haven’t seen troubling trampling of civil rights before in this country. The “Red Raids” of the ’20s; the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798, and in World War I, when, according to Whitehead, “Woodrow Wilson not only practically suspended but also discarded the First Amendment.”
But what is developing now, due in no small measure to the astonishing developments in technology, is a government entity that literally controls the citizenry. It isn’t by accident that Whitehead titles the first chapter, “I Am Afraid.”
Whitehead describes how New York City is perhaps the prototype of how a full-blown police state operates, citing among other things a “60 Minutes” report about random “swarms” of police cars descending on some part of the city, “just to make a scene.”
Frankly, most people will react with the fear the police state expects. But at least you’ve been warned in “A Government of Wolves.”
The data Whitehead provides is so fascinating (and of course, unnerving) that we can’t look away. Take the shutdown of lemonade stands (you read correctly: kids’ lemonade stands) around the country, citing “health risks.” Just such an example comes from Coralville, Iowa (2011), where Dustin Krutsinger’s daughter operated her stand for a half-hour before being shut down; she’d made four dollars (and the permit to operate the stand would cost $400).
Whitehead also notes some of the more bizarre laws on the books in the U.S.:
- Minnetonka, Minn., has made it illegal for a vehicle to deposit mud or other substances onto streets and highways. It’s considered a public nuisance, and the vehicle’s owner is subject to a fine of up to $2,000.
- Rockville, Md., made the use of foul language within earshot of others a crime punishable by a $100 fine and/or up to 90 days behind bars.
- To protect hotel staff from injury, California introduced legislation that would ban the use of “flat sheets” in favor of fitted ones, as the bottom sheet on beds and require the use of “long-handled” tools to clean bathrooms.
Needless to say, there are many, many examples of more serious government controls, can we see where this is all heading?
And, with such high-brow institutions as the Washington Post musing about the restrictive that pesky 22nd Amendment is, can it be far-off to imagine the police state being presided over by Obama? If that happens, we won’t be able to blame a handful of whistleblowers, like John Whitehead.
Consider yourself warned. It’s a government of wolves.