I remember reading something Ayn Rand had written about the way political oppression worked in the Soviet Union. She said it wasn’t that harsh laws were applied to everyone. It was that there were many laws and they were never applied to anyone, except when that person got out of line. Now I’m not sure exactly how true that was, given that she was only there during the very early stages of the government, before things got really bad under Stalin. But the point is well taken.
We’ve seen this in the United States a whole lot. In the 60s and 70s, hippies everywhere found themselves cited and arrested for ridiculous charges like spitting. And anyone arrested today can confirm that you are never arrested for a single thing. If the cops find you with a joint in your pocket, you are likely to find yourself facing a dozen other charges. That’s not explicitly politically motivated, by it is a form of political oppression.
A more explicit form of this has been going on in Louisiana for the last year. The East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriffs’ Department has been staging sting operations by picking up gay when and then arresting them for sodomy. These kinds of laws were made unconstitutional decades ago. But apparently, local officials wanted to “get the fags” and so they did. All the cases fell through and it was embarrassing. So the Louisiana House of Representatives voted on a bill to overturn the law. And it failed by a vote of 27-67. Of the 27 voting for repeal, only three were Republicans. Of the 67 voting to keep the law, 55 were Republicans. So 95% of the freedom loving Republicans voted to make private consensual behavior illegal. The Democrats hardly did themselves proud with only 63% voting for repeal. But then, Democrats don’t claim to be the party of individual liberty. It all makes a clear statement though: stay away from Louisiana because it’s filled with a bunch of bigots.
Meanwhile, we have an even better (and really, more American) example of this process. In Latta, South Carolina, the mayor fired Police Cheif Crystal Moore. This is being reported as a firing based upon Moore being openly gay. But what I think is fascinating about it is that this appears to not be the case. It looks like Mayor Earl Bullard fired her to end Moore’s investigation of one of Bullard’s crony hires, Parks and Recreation Department Director Vontray Sellers. And this is where it gets good.
Bullard seems to have thought that he could use Moore’s homosexuality against her in this fight. During a private conversation with another council member that has been leaked, Bullard said, “I would much rather have—and I will say this to anybody’s face—somebody who drank and drank too much taking care of my child than I had somebody whose lifestyle is questionable around children… I’m not going to let two women stand up there and hold hands and let my child be aware of it. And I’m not going to see them do it with two men neither.” It is vile and ignorant, but it’s made so much worse that he seems to be using it thinking its going to play with a big chunk of the electorate.
The good news is that thus far, the people are supporting the police chief. About a hundred people came to the town council meeting tonight. They weren’t allowed to speak. Bullard said the issue was not on the agenda and so that was that. But it looks like at least part of the council is in open rebellion. And I really don’t see Bullard winning this one.
But notice what Bullard’s plan appears to have been. It wasn’t necessary to even use the law against Moore. His plan was to just use social mores against her. It was fine that she was gay—I’m sure everyone knew that she was. But the moment she did something that Bullard didn’t like, he tried to use her homosexuality against her. This is a key point, because this is something that libertarians like Ayn Rand don’t understand: it isn’t just the government that we have to worry about taking away our freedoms. In modern America, corporations have far more power to limit our freedom than the government does. And it is as big a problem. And any demagogue like Earl Bullard can easily use the bigotry of the American people to oppress pretty much anyone—whether the demagogue is a mayor or not.