Friday, July 07, 2006

Rainbow Children versus Homeland Security

What happens when you have thousands of hippies congregating in a National Park, and Homeland Security starts putting up road blocks and issuing fines?

You get rumour, misinformation, confusion -- and a whole lot of money pouring into government coffers.

Summary: yes, the government is trying to keep the "Rainbow Gathering" from entering National Parks, but it seems to be for a mix of good and bad reasons: keeping out hordes of potentially destructive people from sensitive forests, at least if they aren't the sort of destructive people who can pay for a permit. Yes, thousands of people have been given citations and tickets, but they haven't been arrested. There are no lawyers at the hearings, because there is no jail time on offer. In other words, it is just ordinary bureaucratic greyness, and not necessarily completely unjustified greyness. Yes, in principle it would be nice for the public to have free and unfettered access to public lands... but imagine the damage if everyone decided to tramp through the forest, pulling up flowers and digging holes and dumping trash and burning timber.

It's an interesting example of Chinese Whispers. The rumour mill rapidly went crazy, describing mass arrests, people being rushed to kangaroo courts without an attorney or a jury, then being shipped off to secret prison camps. The reality is not so bad, just fines and a fairly half-hearted attempt to keep the hippies out of the forest, and hardly anyone was machine-gunned in the back.

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