Back in the USSR: The Sovietization of American Life

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Ilija Trojanov was at the airport in Brazil’s Salvador da Bahia, on September 30, checking in for his flight to the United States, when the person behind the American Airlines counter told him that the computer had issued a “Border Security Crossing” alert – and that it was necessary to contact the American authorities before he could be issued a boarding pass. As the time for his flight approached he was told the airline was forced to refuse him entry to the flight – and that he must return to Germany.

Trojanov is an acclaimed author of 20 books, including Along the GangesCollector of Worlds, and Mumbai to Mecca. He is the co-author of Angriff auf die Freiheit (Attack on Freedom), with Juli Zeh, a 2009 jeremiad against State surveillance. Trojanov was on his way to the Denver conference of the German Studies Association, and had been issued an invitation to appear at the Goethe-Institut’s “New Literature From Europe” Festival in November.

He had earlier been denied a visa to enter the United States, but with the help of an American university he was finally granted his travel papers: thus the “security alert” came as a surprise.

So why all the trouble over traveling to the US?

In response to media queries, the US embassy in Berlin had “no comment” to make. That’s because no comment was necessary: Trojanov was among the prominent signers of an open letter addressed to German Chancellor Angela Merkel protesting NSA surveillance on German soil as an “historic attack on our democratic, constitutional state.” That is clearly the reason for this Soviet-style harassment by the Obama administration.

This latest outrage is part of a disturbing pattern of repression that all points to one ineluctable conclusion: the United States is the Soviet Union of the new millennium – an ideological state with global ambitions that holds itself up as the epitome of “freedom” and yet is the single most powerful enemy of liberty worldwide.

Trojanov’s history makes this Soviet-style persecution all the more ironic: he and his family fled Bulgaria when he was very young, seeking refuge in the former Yugoslavia and finally being granted political asylum in Germany. During the regional uprising against Soviet domination and the revolts against the dictatorship of the Communist parties of the Warsaw Pact, the peoples of Eastern Europe looked to the United States as the torchbearer of freedom and the symbol of all their hopes for a better future: that one of those hopefuls is now being barred from entering “the land of the free and the home of the brave” on account of his political views is utterly sickening.

The American PEN Center, representing thousands of American writers, has issued a formal protest to our clueless Secretary of State, who’s too busy arguing for funding Al Qaeda jihadists in Syria to be bothered with answering for travel restrictions on ideological grounds: the German government is also making “inquiries.” Washington’s response continues to be “no comment.”

Okay, so it’s only this one guy, and maybe it’s a mistake, and why am I making such a big deal about this?

Because it isn’t only just one guy: as the Pen Center points out, “Mr. Trojanov is at least the third member of one of our international affiliates who has been barred from entering the United States since September 2001″ on ideological grounds, and it doesn’t stop there. While the Bush administration was no friend of the freedom to travel, the Obamaites have escalated the government’s attack on visitors it deems politically incorrect.

When writers and journalists are targets of government repression, you know you have a problem – a big problem – on your hands. And that is precisely the case here in the US. Why else would the Committee to Protect Journalists be doing a study – for the first time – of the mounting difficulties put in the way of reporters in America? Facing prosecution for “espionage” on account of their probing into Washington’s spying on its own citizens, as well as others worldwide, US journalists find themselves increasingly in the crosshairs of Justice Department prosecutors, who are taking some lessons from their Soviet forebears:

“For three decades, the Committee to Protect Journalists has reported on assaults on press freedoms in China, Iran, Syria and other countries with government regimes traditionally hostile to a free and robust news media.

“This year, for the first time, the Committee is conducting a major investigation of attacks on press freedoms by the U.S. government, led by an Arizona State University professor.

“’Journalists working in the United States have told us that their work has become more difficult as aggressive leak investigations and prosecutions have chilled certain kinds of reporting,’ said Joel Simon, executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists.”

What in the name of all that’s holy is going on?

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