Police Surveillance is the Quickest Way to Take the Fun Out of Puppet Making

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My friend was one of the Billionaires for Bush. She worked tirelessly and hardly slept, organizing new ways of getting other students to care about the election looming. Humor is our best strategy, she thought.

So in the spring of 2004 she spent a few evenings in the backyard of an off-campus co-op, twisting chicken wire into a globe, plastering it with paper mache, and painting on green land and blue sea. Bigger than she was, it took the help of a few friends to carry to a rally in front of the university president’s office, where she and some Billionaires, dressed ridiculously in furs and cocktail dresses and tuxedos, ferociously smashed it to bits. But chicken wire is hard to smash. The wire cage eventually wound up in the backyard, recycled into an an overflow compost container.

Was she being watched? What if she had a hunch and entertained the thought—well, that would make her crazy. Who would perceive her as dangerous? Who would have the time to watch? Who would even care? If she’d wondered out loud to her doctor—well, that falls under a few diagnoses in the DSM-IV. She would have been sent to the loony bin. And she was. She spent a few weeks in the psych ward and was forced by school officials to take the rest of the semester off. I saw her once, in a group, during visiting hours, and couldn’t think of a damn thing to say.

But she would have been right. Today the New York City Police records covering those months were exposed. Jim Dwyer writes in the New York Times, “From Albuquerque to Montreal, San Francisco to Miami, undercover New York police officers attended meetings of political groups, posing as sympathizers or fellow activists, the records show. They made friends, shared meals, swapped e-mail messages and then filed daily reports with the department’s Intelligence Division.” They sent daily notes back to New York on forms called DD5s, describing the activists, their meetings, and their plans. My friend’s name must be in those piles of paper.

Another Billionaire, Marco Ceglie, told the Times, “It was a running joke that some of the new faces were 25- to 32-year-old males asking, ‘First name, last name?’ …. Some people didn’t care; it bothered me and a couple of other leaders, but we didn’t want to make a big stink because we didn’t want to look paranoid.”

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THE TRUTH...

is the first thing despots go after. An unwavering commitment to it is probably what draws you to Mother Jones' journalism. And as we're seeing in the US and the world around, authoritarians seek to poison the discourse and the way we relate to each other because they can't stand people coming together around a shared sense of the truth—it's a huge threat to them.

Which is also a pretty great way to describe Mother Jones' mission: People coming together around the truth to hold power accountable.

And right now, we need to raise about $400,000 from our online readers over the next two months to hit our annual goal and make good on that mission. Read more about the information war we find ourselves in and how people-powered, independent reporting can and must rise to the challenge—and please support our team's truth-telling journalism with a donation if you can right now.

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