USA is a truly free and open society. Yeah right.

Over at kiwiblog, Farrar promotes a new website “formed by some Londoners to fight anti-Americanism. It must be important to some people that the whole world has the same ill-informed, brain-washed view of the greatness of the USA that your average flag-worshipping Jefferson County Hoosier entertains.

Farrar, for whom ridding the world of this terrible scourge — anti-Americanism, not the Bush-voting rednecks — seems urgent, tells us that the new website has, “a useful myths page, including:

  • Myth: America is not a truly free and open society”

What myth?

A very few of you will recall a discussion about the lack of freedom in the USA on my very second post. In it I recounted how:

“I once pointed out to some Americans who were crowing but how “free” they were compared to me (!) that I was planning to visit Cuba, but that their government wouldn’t allow them this freedom of travel. Not well received. I stopped myself from adding a few more freedoms that they are denied when I saw the trouble they were having with the cognitive dissonance this example caused.”

Challenged to add a few more I came up with:

  • Laws governing what people could get up to in the privacy of their own bedrooms were still on the books in a number of states in 2003, when the Supreme Court in Lawrence v. Texas ruled laws criminalizing private, non-commercial sexual activity to be unconstitutional. The “Land of the Free” stopped at the bedroom door.
  • Gays can get married in NZ, but only in Califonia, I think.
  • Straight or gay, we can legally pay for sex in NZ. (Spitzer was in the wrong place at the wrong time, clearly.)
  • I checked on the rules surrounding “patriotic customs”, an area where the USA has been noted for its stringent controls on its citizens’ freedom to express themselves, and see that the penalties for desecrating the flag, etc, have been removed, at least from the Federal Code. So now its just strong societal pressure that keeps people in line. Or perhaps the states have moved to fill this gap.

Things have got worse since the 1990s, of course, with the wholesale phone tapping, monitoring of citizens’ bank accounts (Spitzer wouldn’t have been caught in NZ), and so on.

For an authoritative and thorough account read the Freedom House report “Today’s American: How Free?” on the state of freedom in the United States.

From the review in the EconomistLand of the free? Liberty in America is not quite as revered as its leaders pretend“:

““How Free?” not only details and condemns the administration’s familiar sins, from Guantánamo to extraordinary rendition to warrantless wiretapping. It reminds readers of its aversion to open government. The number of documents classified as secret has jumped from 8.7m in 2001 to 14.2m in 2005—a 60% increase over three years. Decade-old information has been reclassified. Researchers report that it is much more difficult and time-consuming to obtain information under the Freedom of Information Act.”

That latter point is a gross understatement. Read Jimmy Carter’s recent piece on the FOI Act in the Washington Post. Carter notes that according to the National Security Archives 2003 report, median response times (mandated by law at 20 days) may be as long under the Republicans as 905 working days at the Department of Agriculture and 1,113 working days at the Environmental Protection Agency.

So, Farrar, there are some suggestions for your summer reading.


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2 Responses to “USA is a truly free and open society. Yeah right.”

  1. Bryce Edwards Says:

    Interesting and good points.

    But you shouldn’t say that ‘Gays can get married in NZ’, as the current government is opposed to allowing gay marriage. The Labour Party clearly doesn’t believe that gay people should have the same marriage rights as heterosexuals. And that’s why they came up with the Civil Union con. Don’t buy into their bullshit on this – the mainstream NZ parties are still very socially conservative.


    Thanks Bryce. I did ponder the use of “marriage” when I wrote that, and thought it close enough to suffice. But of course you’re right. Mea culpa.

  2. roger nome Says:

    Bryce – can you please tell me what rights “marriage” allow that “civil unions” don’t? As I understand it, they are different in name only, but I’m open to being corrected.

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