Perhaps This Time We’re the Silent Majority


Here’s an intriguing thought: Maybe opposition to President Bush is much more widespread than anyone suspects, because people are afraid to say what they are really thinking.

I got an inkling of this when I was speaking to a group of people who came to a Borders Bookstore in Villanova, PA last night where I was talking about my new book, This Can’t Be Happening! Several people there, some who identified themselves as Democrats, and some who somewhat sheepishly admitted to being Republicans, said that they felt intimidated in their own neighborhoods about expressing their opposition to the Iraq War and their dislike of President Bush. The Republicans in particular seemed nervous about expressing their thoughts and one told me she was afraid to tell neighbors her opinions about the war and about the president.

I put this together with the ugly picture that ran in the N.Y. Times this morning of a right-wing male Bush backer yanking brutally on the hair of a female anti-Bush protester.

Of course this fear that was expressed to me could just be a local phenomenon, but I suspect it is much more widespread. In fact, fear of stepping out of line, or being critical of the government, is something that the Bush administration, right-wing members of Congress, and of course Attorney General John Ashcroft, have been deliberately promoting.

In the post-9/11 era, FBI and Secret Service agents have been sicced on people who have been reported by neighbors to have posters on their walls mocking or criticizing the president, who have publicly announced plans to attend protests against the president or the war, or who have said such innocuous (if self-evident) things such as that the president is “dumb.” High school students have been suspended from school for wearing anti-government or anti-Bush T-shirts, while others have been visited by police or the FBI for making drawings or writing essays that are perceived as anti-war. Teachers have even been fired for allowing students to produce anti-war themes.

It would not be surprising if, in such an intimidating environment, in which the words “treason” or “traitor” are readily bandied about by Republicans in power, ordinary people of good will and reason might feel afraid to express themselves openly–either to neighbors or to pollsters.

If this is the case, there could be a surprise in store for Bush and the Republicans on November 2.

Meanwhile, those of us who are not feeling intimidated need to get out and express our views on the election, the war, the importance of civil liberties, and the other major issues of the day–protecting the environment from corporate rape, protecting women’s rights, aiding the poor, properly funding public education, defending Social Security, keeping the courts honest, etc. Silence in the face of intimidation and threats only begets more intimidation and threats.

Speaking out, in homes and churches, at school, at work, at parties, in the supermarket, in letters to the editor, and with posters, T-shirts and bumper-stickers, will embolden others to say what they think too.

DAVE LINDORFF is the author of Killing Time: an Investigation into the Death Row Case of Mumia Abu-Jamal. His new book of CounterPunch columns titled “This Can’t be Happening!” to be published this fall by Common Courage Press. Information about both books and other work by Lindorff can be found at

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CounterPunch contributor DAVE LINDORFF is a producer along with MARK MITTEN on a forthcoming feature-length documentary film on the life of Ted Hall and his wife of 51 years, Joan Hall. A Participant Film, “A Compassionate Spy” is directed by STEVE JAMES and will be released in theaters this coming summer. Lindorff has finished a book on Ted Hall titled “A Spy for No Country,” to be published this Fall by Prometheus Press.