Saturday, December 10, 2005

Silencing the Naysayers

The Washington Post has written about a troubling new shift in policy at the Department of Justice. According to columnist Dan Eggen, the DOJ "has barred staff attorneys from offering recommendations in major Voting Rights Act cases, marking a significant change in the procedures meant to insulate such decisions from politics."
While frightening in its own right, the DOJ's decision to suppress the analysis of its non-political appointees is truly scary precisely because it is not an isolated event. The current administration has made a habit out of ignoring information that doesn't mesh with its agenda, and of silencing voices that critique its strategies. While no one is suggesting (at least not yet) that this most recent development at the Justice Department is the direct result of White House pressure, it's quite conceivable that this never would have taken place in a different political climate.

Our government has cultivated an atmosphere of political conformity - by promoting dogmatism among its supporters and by aggressively attacking its detractors - which is anathema to a properly functioning democrarcy. Discourse, dissent, and the free exchange of ideas have been supplanted by the patriotric requirement of producing a unified national message, whether right or wrong.

Why? Why are we as a nation more concerned with appearing right than with being right? As John Stuart Mill wrote in "On Liberty," the "unity of opinion, unless resulting from the fullest and freest comparison of opposite opinions, is not desirable." Our government, in its attempt to bring liberty to the rest of the world, is stiffling it in its own backyard.


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