Imagine a country that imprisons peaceful protestors on false charges of participating in an attempt to overthrow the government, as part of efforts to discredit and ultimately criminalize all opposition to the ruling party’s agenda. People who entered a public building when police held the door open for them are being held in solitary confinement and given draconian punishments far out of proportion to what they actually did. This is the sort of thing that happens in Third World countries, right? This is the sort of thing tinpot dictators do in banana republics, where the rulers gained power by underhanded means and have no respect for due process, the rule of law, or the rights of their citizens – right? Maybe so, but all this and worse is happening right now in the land of the free and the home of the brave, where up until quite recently, it all would have been unthinkable.
Take, for example, the case of Matthew Perna, who traveled from his home in Pennsylvania to Washington on January 6, 2021, to protest the widely reported election irregularities, which only now are being confirmed by investigators. He pleaded guilty on December 9 to entering the Capitol and committed suicide on February 25, while awaiting sentencing.
Perna’s obituary tells an appalling story of injustice and railroading. Perna, it says, “attended the rally on January 6, 2021, to peacefully stand up for his beliefs.” He was no revolutionary or radical activist: “After learning that the FBI was looking for him, he immediately turned himself in.” What did he do on January 6 to attract the attention of the FBI? Nothing much: “He entered the Capitol through a previously opened door (he did not break in as was reported) where he was ushered in by police. He didn’t break, touch, or steal anything. He did not harm anyone, as he stayed within the velvet ropes taking pictures.”
The government, however, was bent on portraying him and others like him as an “insurrectionist,” and destroying his life accordingly. The obituary adds: “The constant delays in hearings, and postponements dragged out for over a year. Because of this, Matt’s heart broke and his spirit died, and many people are responsible for the pain he endured. Matt did not have a hateful bone in his body. He embraced people of all races, income brackets, and beliefs, never once berating anyone for having different views.”
Perna’s aunt, Geri Perna, said of Matthew: “They broke him. They mentally broke him. He had run out of hope. I know he couldn’t take it anymore.”
Compare the treatment of Perna and the other January 6 scapegoats to the treatment of Quintez Brown, a Black Lives Matter activist who shot at Louisville mayoral candidate Craig Greenberg. Journalist Miranda Devine noted that Brown was “portrayed sympathetically by the media and immediately bailed out of jail by his Black Lives Matter comrades, who crowdfunded the $100,000 cost.” Devine added that Brown was “a celebrated gun control advocate, anointed as a rising star by the Obama Foundation, he was an honored guest on Joy Reid’s MSNBC show. He was granted a biweekly opinion column in the Louisville Courier-Journal to spew boilerplate leftist, race-based, anti-cop sentiment.” Brown had, Devine says, “BLM privilege.” Indeed.
In America, we no longer have a single justice system for all people, regardless of race, or of power, or privilege, or the protected victimhood status they may have among the Leftist intelligentsia. We no longer have a justice system that is indifferent to and independent of political pressure. The politically and culturally dominant Left is not content with the massive power and influence it wields now; it is determined to silence all opposition, and destroy it utterly.
We have seen the totalitarian impulse of the far-Left play out in revolutionary France, as well as in the Soviet Union, Communist China, Democratic Kampuchea, Fidel Castro’s Cuba, and a host of other places. In every one, the judiciary serves as a tool of the political elites, who wield it in order to prosecute, persecute, and obliterate their opposition. American schools used to teach that our system had a series of built-in checks and balances that would prevent that kind of tyranny from developing.
But now the schools focus on teaching that the Founding Fathers were evil slaveowners, and the system they created is just another vehicle of white privilege to be dismantled. By the time the fanatics they have indoctrinated get around to dismantling that system altogether, doing so will be just a formality. The Left has long since hollowed it out and rendered its safeguards meaningless. The persecution of the January 6 defendants proves that.
Robert Spencer is the director of Jihad Watch and a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center. He is author of 23 books including many bestsellers, such as The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades), The Truth About Muhammad and The History of Jihad. His latest book is The Critical Qur’an. Follow him on Twitter here. Like him on Facebook here.