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I am currently reading (actually listening to) the abridged version of the Gulag Archipelago. What inspired me to do so? Frankly, it was to fill in some much-needed knowledge about what we could be facing in this country if one-party rule is realized. Does this sound alarmist? It does, including to me. I don’t want it to be true, I don’t want to think that people who occupy this country in the same way I have, natural-born and public educated, will become the oppressors of their fell0w-citizens. Can I even say “citizen” anymore? Is it an approved designation? After all, words (and thus thoughts) are in flux.
As I have contemplated the description by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn of Stalin’s gulags, I have been particularly struck by how “crimes” were assigned and “confessions” were obtained. Solzhenitsyn offers a detailed tutorial of how everyone is broken — no matter how strong and resistant, no matter how righteous your thoughts and actions, no matter how innocent your behavior. Gulag is an unremitting story of a society completely corrupted and in which no one is safe.
As I listened to the description of various interrogation techniques employed I was struck with how many are currently employed by law enforcement. You say, “whoa there, steady on, don’t go Through the Looking Glass!” I am not being critical of law enforcement. And let me quickly state that not all of the interrogation techniques described by Solzhenitsyn involve torture, brutality, and barbarism. Many are psychological. And they are employed by law enforcement because they work.
But here is the important part: These techniques work whether or not there is anything to confess. Although not pervasive there are a number of cases where false confessions have been coerced. And five of the techniques described in the Gulag Archipelago have been used in those cases: lying by interrogators (to include false promises or false evidence), lengthy interrogations that physically and emotionally exhaust the interrogated, “good cop” “bad cop” approaches, no assistance of counsel, isolation within a windowless room depriving the interrogated with a sense of the passage of time and creating a sense of dependency on the interrogator. An important safeguard against false confession in law enforcement is that there be independent corroborating evidence of the truth of the confession. In Gulag, no such protections existed because the object of the process was to convict, fill the labor camps and terrorize everyone else into submission to State control.
With this in mind consider the fate of those arrested and incarcerated for alleged crimes at the US Capitol Building on January 6, 2021: How have they been treated in contrast to BLM rioters and looters? Have they had effective assistance of counsel? Has solitary confinement “softened them up” for confessing to something they did not do? What independent corroborating evidence exists for anything to which they might confess? Do we even know who they are? Yes, we know of some, but how many are there, and what exactly was their involvement in intentional criminal activity?
Most importantly, does the United States have political prisoners? For many decades, probably throughout the history of the country (recall the Sedition Act under President John Adams), there have been persons jailed for opposition to the government. When that opposition has been through violence most people accept that their jailing is due to the violence and not their political positions. Conflating acts of violence with “free speech” is dangerous. And thus it was particularly disingenuous of Chris Cuomo in defense of the “mostly peaceful protests” to ask on his CNN show last summer “Show me where it says protests are supposed to be polite and peaceful”. Using the Cuomo standard why was anyone arrested at the Capitol Building on January 6? Why have so many been detained without bail?
Paul Hodgkins, a 38-year-old Floridian, is now the first Capitol rioter convicted of a felony to be sentenced. He pleaded guilty last month to obstructing congressional proceedings — specifically, the counting of the electoral votes, which he helped delay on January 6. He spent about 15 minutes inside the Senate chamber, wearing a Donald Trump shirt and carrying a Trump flag.
Eight months for Hodgkins for helping delay the counting of votes, while charges are dropped against BLM arsonists and rioters. Your business and livelihood can be completely destroyed, peasant, and your life ruined, but no jail time for those responsible. But if a legislator is inconvenienced and maybe a bit frightened, eight months and probably more for the perpetrators.
As the Gulag Archipelago recounts, when the prosecution is political, legal protections disappear. And our courts have become increasingly unreliable in ensuring that civil liberties are protected and that there is equal justice under the law. The FISA abuses remain unaddressed. The courts are denying standing to states suing other states trying to enforce the constitutional system of federal electors. Chief Justice John Roberts justified a fictional reason for declaring Obamacare to be constitutional because elections have consequences. Well then, by G-d, the courts need to make sure that elections are free and fair, the rules adopted in a constitutional manner, that laws are faithfully executed, and that persons who object to government acting outside of constitutional processes have equal protection of the law. Otherwise, we are entering a period when the following may become true for us:
“And how we burned in the camps later, thinking: What would things have been like if every Security operative, when he went out at night to make an arrest, had been uncertain whether he would return alive and had to say good-bye to his family? Or if, during periods of mass arrests, as for example in Leningrad, when they arrested a quarter of the entire city, people had not simply sat there in their lairs, paling with terror at every bang of the downstairs door and at every step on the staircase, but had understood they had nothing left to lose and had boldly set up in the downstairs hall an ambush of half a dozen people with axes, hammers, pokers, or whatever else was at hand?… The Organs would very quickly have suffered a shortage of officers and transport and, notwithstanding all of Stalin’s thirst, the cursed machine would have ground to a halt! If…if…We didn’t love freedom enough. And even more – we had no awareness of the real situation…. We purely and simply deserved everything that happened afterward.”
“Unlimited power in the hands of limited people always leads to cruelty.”
“To do evil a human being must first of all believe that what he’s doing is good, or else that it’s a well-considered act in conformity with natural law. Fortunately, it is in the nature of the human being to seek a justification for his actions…
Ideology—that is what gives the evildoing its long-sought justification and gives the evildoer the necessary steadfastness and determination.”