SNITCH CULTURE, HOW CITIZENS ARE TURNED INTO THE EYES AND EARS OF THE STATE [Replay of DN! February 16, 2001]
SNITCH CULTURE, HOW CITIZENS ARE TURNED INTO THE EYES AND EARS OF THE STATE Wednesday afternoon. The offices of The Stony Brook Press, an alternative campus publication in a sleepy town in New York. Two Secret Service agents and a police officer enter the newspaper office. They are investigating a tip from an unidentified snitch, a faculty member. After making inquiries, the agents locate a suspect and escort him to the campus police office. There, they ask Glenn Given, managing editor of the college newspaper a litany of questions. "They asked where I grew up, where I went to school, if I'd ever been convicted of a crime, if I take narcotics, if I'm on prescription medicine," Given recalled. "If I'm part of any anarchist or dissident groups, if I have an unnatural fixation on public figures, if I own or carry weapons. It was no to all of these things. My history is clean." Given granted the agents' request to search his home. The crime that provoked the snitch to call and the authorities and agents to swoop down? Given wrote a editorial framed as a Christian prayer to satirize Bush's emphasis on faith Based social services. It asked Jesus or "some crazy mortal" to "smite" President George W. Bush. The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and the Student Press Law Center, both based in Alexandria, Va., called on the Secret Service to issue a formal apology for what they called an "overaggressive response" to an article clearly protected by the First Amendment. The case is one example of the kind of surveillance most of us are subject to. And not just by humor-impaired academics and cops. Increasingly, the government and corporations are prying into every aspect of our public and private lives, from what books we read, to what web sites we visit, to how much toilet paper we buy. Jim Redden's new book Snitch Culture: How Citizens Are Turned into the Eyes and Ears of the State details the invasion of Netscape. Guest: Jim Redden, investigative reporter and author of Snitch Culture: How Citizens Are Turned into the Eyes and Ears of the State, Feral House Press. Related link: Feral House Press.