In most state legislatures today, “off the wall” has become the political center, and bizarre bills are no longer unusual.
Still, it seems strange that legislators in so many states — including Arkansas, California, Florida, Indiana, Missouri, Ohio and Vermont — have simultaneously been pushing “ag-gag” bills that are not merely outrageous, but downright un-American. Each is intended to quash free speech by banning journalists, whistleblowers, workers and other citizens from exposing illegal, abusive or unethical treatment of animals that are incarcerated in the factory-feeding operations of huge corporations.
Our nation’s founders mounted a revolution to establish our free-press and free-speech rights, enshrining them in the First Amendment to ensure the free exchange of ideas — even when the Powers That Be didn’t like the message that such freedoms produce. In fact, the Founders knew from hard experience that the protection of those freedoms was especially essential when the Powers That Be have something they’re eager to hide from the citizenry.
Yet here comes a mess of so-called “conservatives” attempting to use state government to outlaw messengers who shine a light on corporate wrongdoing — turning those who expose crimes into criminals. Even kookier, these repressive laws declare that truth-tellers who so much as annoy or embarrass the corporate owner of the animal factory are guilty of “an act of terrorism.”
Oddly, each of these state proposals is practically identical, even including much of the same wording. That’s because, unbeknownst to the public and other legislators, the bills don’t originate from the state lawmakers who introduce them. Instead, they come from a Washington-based corporate front group named ALEC — the American Legislative Exchange Council.
This infamous “bill mill” periodically convenes its corporate funders to write model bills that serve their special interests. Then ALEC farms out bills to its trusted cadre of state lawmakers across the country, who introduce them as their own, not mentioning the corporate powers behind them.
The secretive ALEC network produced the model ag-gag bill in 2002 and began shipping it from state to state under the ominous tile, “Animal and Ecological Terrorism Act.”
The freedom-busting terrorists in this fight are not those who reveal the abuse, but the soulless factory-farm profiteers in the corporate suites and the cynical lawmakers who serve them.