Banana Republicans: Traitor Baiters
Traitor Baiters is the title of chapter six of the 2004 book by Sheldon Rampton and John Stauber, Banana Republicans: How the Right Wing Is Turning America Into a One-Party State (ISBN 1585423424).
As defined by the Constitution, treason consists of two types of crimes, both of which constitute intentional acts of betraying the nation. Recognizing the serious nature of such a charge, U.S. courts have rarely sought to use this as the basis for criminal prosecutions. In the entire history of the country, there have been fewer than 40 federal trials for treason and even fewer convictions.
Following the terrorist attacks of September 11, however, the rhetoric of the conservative movement marked an abandonment of this tolerant tradition. The accusation of treason has been bandied about routinely against liberals in general and especially against critics of the Bush administration's invasion of Iraq.
Conservative firebrand Ann Coulter claims that liberals have been conspiring to destroy the nation for the past half century, beginning with the Cold War when "Democrats opposed anything opposed by their cherished Soviet Union." In contrast with the Constitution, which declares that treason must be intentional, Coulter insists that it doesn't even matter whether liberals know they are betraying the nation. "They are either traitors or idiots," she writes, and "the difference is irrelevant."
Even before 9/11, corporate think tanks and the conservative movement regularly demonized environmental and other activist groups by associating them with terrorism. The Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise, an organization run by anti-environmentalist crusader Ron Arnold, has been tossing around the term "eco-terrorism" for years, defining it so broadly that it even includes activities such as sit-ins and other forms of peaceful civil disobedience.
The post-9/11 political climate made it easier for voices within the White House and the conservative movement to accuse their ideological opponents of treason. "Even fanatical Muslim terrorists don't hate America like liberals do," declared Coulter at the February 2002 annual conference of the Conservative Political Action Committee. Speaking before an audience of 3,500 that included luminaries such as Lynne Cheney, Bill Bennett and Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson, Coulter drew applause when she commented on the recent capture of John Walker Lindh, an American citizen who fought alongside the Taliban in Afghanistan. "In contemplating college liberals," Coulter said, "you really regret, once again, that John Walker is not getting the death penalty. We need to execute people like John Walker in order to physically intimidate liberals by making them realize that they could be killed, too." (Actually, John Walker Lindh himself is not a liberal. Like Coulter, he is a fundamentalist.)
In speeches criticizing the Senate's hesitation to pass a bill creating the Homeland Security Department, Bush repeatedly characterized Democratic opponents of the bill as "interested in special interests in Washington and not interested in the security of the American people." Attorney General John Ashcroft used similar rhetoric in support of the U.S.A. Patriot_Act_I, legislation approved by Congress in October 2001 that gives the Justice Department new powers to spy on U.S. citizens.
You might be tempted to shrug off this rhetoric as the normal, if mean-spirited, posturing of one side in a two-sided, rough-and-tumble political debate. At present, however, Republican dominance of America's governmental institutions has turned this rhetoric into the language of the powerful against the powerless. As the conservative movement understands perfectly well, ideas have consequences, and the ideas expressed by people like Ann Coulter affect the lives and freedom of everyday citizens.
Such rhetoric is often absorbed by law enforcement officials who can take it as a signal from their political masters to repress civil protests. In November 2003, police attacks on anti-globalization demonstrators in Miami, Florida were widely criticised. The architect of the police strategy was Miami police chief John Timony, who had previously overseen aggressive police tactics against demonstrators as Philadelphia's police chief during the 2000 Republican National Convention. He characterized the protesters against the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA), an extension of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) as "outsiders coming to terrorize and vandalize our city."
After the trade talks and demonstrations had ended, Miami Mayor Manny Diaz proudly claimed that the FTAA police operations stood as "a model for homeland security." He may be correct. FBI agents, Department of Homeland Security officials, and law-enforcement leaders from Georgia and New York traveled to Miami to observe cutting-edge crowd control tactics in action. If the "Miami model" takes hold, however, we can expect more examples of violent harassment aimed at peaceful dissent.
- What is the difference between treason and the right to free speech in a democracy?
- What difference have the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks made to citizens right to free speech in America?
- Does it matter if people whose views you may disagree with are referred to as traitors? Why?
- Are street marches and protests a form of terorrism? Why or why not?
- James Madison, "The Same Subject Continued (The Powers Conferred by the Constitution Further Considered)," from the Federalist Papers, No. 43, for the Independent Journal, January 23, 1788; in Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and John Jay, The Federalist, Edited by Jacob E. Cooke (Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1961).
- James Wilson, "Of Crimes Immediately Against the Community, Lectures on Law," The Works of James Wilson, edited by Robert Green McCloskey, (Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1967), pp. 663-69.
- Carl Weiser, "KY Senator Sees TV Reporter's Remarks as Treason," Gannett News Service, April 1, 2003.
- David Horowitz, "The Sick Mind of Noam Chomsky," Front Page, September 26, 2001.
- David Horowitz, "MIT Loon Sounds Off at UT, Gets a Big Audience and an Appreciative Press," David's Blog, October 22, 2002.
- J.J. Stambaugh, "Tribute to the Troops," Knoxville News-Sentinel, April 8, 2003, p. A1.
- "Traitor List," ProBush.com. This website declares that it is a "parody" and that the traitors "are not legal 'traitors' of the United States," but it is hard to see the humor in its straightforward statements deploring critics of the Bush administration. In the call to "boycott Hollywood," for example, the site complains that while in Spain accepting an award, actress Jessica Lange stated that Bush "stole the election" and that the U.S. people "have been suffering under his leadership." The webmaster responds: "Trashing a president while on foreign soil as she did, with the possibility of a war looming is tantamount to treason." 
- "Dixie Chicks' 'Top of the World Tour' a Great Success" (news release), Clear Channel Entertainment, Inc., March 7, 2003.
- "DJs Suspended for Playing Dixie Chicks," Washington Post, May 6, 2003.
- Ann Coulter, Treason: Liberal Treachery from the Cold War to the War on Terrorism (New York, NY: Crown Forum, 2003).
- "A Double-edged Peace Prize," Guardian (UK), October 11, 2002.
- Michelle Malkin, "Terrorists with Tofu Breath," Washington Times, November 22, 2003.
- "Delaney: A Welcome Escape from the Mousetrap," Priorities, American Council on Science and Health, vol. 8, no. 3, 1996.
- Michael Fumento, "Tampon Terrorism," Forbes, May 17, 1999.
- Jacob Sullum, "Tobacco Terror," Reason, April 8, 1998, (April 16, 2003).
- Tina Gasperson, "Ethical Terrorism," (April 16, 2003).
- Eric Dezenhall, Nail 'em! (Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 1999), p. 81.
- Rod Smith, "Agriculture Told to Fight on Activists' Ground Using 'Attack Technologies' or Face Destruction," Feedstuffs, March 26, 2001. Note: With the retirement of Nick Nichols in September 2003, the Nichols-Dezenhall PR firm is now called Dezenhall Resources.
- Glen Martin, "Attack on Tax Status of Environment Group," San Francisco Chronicle, June 21, 2001.
- BanzhafWatch.com website.
- Steven Milloy, "Taco Terrorism," Cato Institute website, September 28, 2000.
- "Environmental Extremism and Eco-Terrorism," conference monograph, Frontiers of Freedom Institute, June 13, 2001 (visited April 16, 2003).
- Jeff Humphrey, "Cracking Down on Eco-Terrorism," Northwest Cable News, September 7, 2001.
- Ben White, "the Environment Become a Casualty of the Terrorist Attacks?" Grist, September 15, 2001 (visited April 16, 2003).
- Mary Mostert, "Was It Osama Bin Laden or Is He Just a Minor Player?" Reagan Information Interchange, September 12, 2001 (visited September 21, 2001). Archived at: http://www.bannerofliberty.com/OS9-01MQC/9-12-2001.1.html
- Tom Randall, "As a Nation Struggles, Domestic Terrorists Brag," National Policy Analysis, National Center for Public Policy Research, September 2001 (visited April 16, 2003).
- "War Against Eco-terrorists," Washington Times, October 7, 2001, p. B2.
- "McInnis Presses Forward with 'ELF' Subpoena", (news release), October 2, 2001.
- Richard B. Berman, "Ecoterrorism, Its Connections to Animal-Rights Terrorism, and Their Common Above-Ground Support System," testimony before the U. S. House of Representatives, Committee on Resources, Subcommittee on Forests and Forest Health, February 12, 2002.
- Dean Schabner, "New Front on Ecoterror?" ABC News, February 26, 2002.
- "Website, EnviroTruth.org, Brings Truth to the Environmentalist Movement" (news release), PR Newswire, May 6, 2002.
- Nicaragua, The Human Rights Record, 1986-1989 (London: Amnesty International, 1989). See also Violations of the Laws of War By Both Sides in Nicaragua, 1981-1985 (New York, NY: Americas Watch, March 1985); and "Nicaragua," Human Rights Watch report, 1989.
- "February: Highlights: Conservative Political Action Committee Conference 2002," Right Wing Watch Online (e-mail newsletter), February 26, 2002.
- Jay Bookman, "Liberals, Report to Re-education," Atlanta Journal-Constitution, February 14, 2002, p. 18A.
- White House Press Briefing, September 25, 2002.
- Andrew Sullivan weblog, September 18, 2001.
- Michael Kelly, "Pacifist Claptrap," Washington Post, September 26, 2001, p. A25.
- Press briefing by Ari Fleischer (transcript), White House Office of the Press Secretary, September 26, 2001.
- William Bennett, open letter, "Week in Review" section, New York Times, March 10, 2002.
- Testimony of Attorney General John Ashcroft, Senate Committee on the Judiciary, December 6, 2001.
- "Cheney Cautions Democrats Criticizing Bush," Associated Press, May 17, 2002.
- Dan Balz, "Bush and GOP Defend White House Response," Washington Post, May 18, 2002; Page A01.
- "Bush, GOP Blast Calls for 9/11 Inquiry," CNN, May 17, 2002.
- The Beltway Boys, Fox News, transcript #051801cb.257, May 19, 2002.
- Adam Nagourney, "Eyes on 2004 Vote, Democrats Fault U.S. Terror Defense," New York Times, December 26, 2002, p. A1.
- The O'Reilly Factor, Fox News, February 26, 2003, transcript #022601cb.256.
- Kris Axtman, "Political Dissent Can Bring Federal Agents to the Door," Christian Science Monitor, January 8, 2002.
- "Rise of Lunacy at Six," Page Six column, New York Post, April 3, 2003.
- John Podhoretz, "A Hitler Miniseries Meant to Bash Bush," New York Post, April 9, 2003.
- Lisa de Moraes, "Producer Is a Casualty in CBS's 'Hitler' Miniseries," Washington Post, April 11, 2003, p. C7.
- Eric Haas and Jama Fisk, "Speak Out for Academic Freedom," Albuquerque Tribune, May 20, 2003.
- Steve Liewer, "Servicemembers Speaking Out: A Look at the Policies, Consequences," Stars and Stripes, July 22, 2003.
- Douglas Quenqua, "Pentagon Makes Moves to Contain Complaints from U.S. Troops in Iraq," PR Week, August 4, 2003.
- Jonathan Turley, "Un-American Arrests," Washington Post, October 6, 2002, p. B8.
- Susan Lee, program director, Amnesty International Americas Regional Program, Letter to Governor Jeb Bush, December 16, 2003.
- Stephen O. Starr, "Reaction from the Other Side of the Aisle," Indy Media Center FTAA weblog, November 21, 2003.
- Stephen O. Starr, "Bienvenido a Miami, Scum," Free Republic website, November 23, 2003, <>.
- Ina Paiva Cordle, "Reporter's Notebook," Miami Herald, November 24, 2003, p. G3.
- Michelle Goldberg, "[http://salon.com/news/feature/2003/12/16/miami_police/index_np.html This Is Not America," Salon.com, December 16, 2003.
- Leo W. Gerard, International President of the United Steelworkers of America, Letter to the Congressional Leadership, November 24, 2003.
- Mike Schneider, "Protesters Say Police Overreacted During Miami Trade Talks," Associated Press, November 21, 2003.
- Ken Thomas, "Protesters, Police Clash During Free Trade Demonstrations," Associated Press, November 20, 2003.
- Tere Figueras, Sara Olkon and Martin Merzer, "Big Police Presence, Few Clashes," Miami Herald, November 21, 2003, p. A1.
- Susannah Nesmith, "Police Praise Selves on Absence of Chaos: Police Succeed in Protecting Downtown Miami from a Small Cadre of Violent Protesters, But Activist Groups Complain of Heavy-Handed Tactics," Miami Herald, November 22, 2003, p. A1.
- Carlos Hamann, "Protesters, Police Clash as Americas Trade Summit Ends Early," Agence France Presse, November 21, 2003.
- Cynthia Moothart, "Goons Over Miami: It's the Police, Not the Protesters, Getting Violent," In These Times, January 5, 2004, p. 4.
- Les Kjos, "Analysis: Suits Planned in Miami Protest," United Press International, November 24, 2003.
- Jim Defede, "'Miami Model' of FTAA Security Is Lightning Rod," Miami Herald, December 18, 2003, p. B1.
- Coky Michel, "Chaotic, Forceful Police Muddy Peaceful Gathering," Miami Herald, November 25, 2003, p. A21.