During the past month, we’ve been keeping up with the story of Danny Fenster, a former Daily Iberian reporter who was imprisoned in Myanmar under a specious law that allows the ruling military junta to arrest and jail anyone it perceives has slighted the regime.
At the time of his arrest, Fenster was on his way out of Myanmar. He was waiting for a flight to Kuala Lumpur, the first stop on his way home to Detroit to surprise his family, when he was detained and brought to Insein Prison, a notorious hellhole of a jail in the country’s largest city, Yangon. Nearly 100 other journalists have been held in that jail at one time or another since the junta seized power on Feb. 1.
While family members, friends and politicians have fought to keep Fenster’s fight for freedom at the top of the social consciousness, other voices have broken the surface from the far right. Rather than decrying the detention of an American citizen in a foreign country under conditions that are spurious at best, there are actually voices in the United States saying that the Myanmar coup, in which the military removed democratically elected government from power, might be a good course of action to follow in our country.
If there were ever a reason to push back on extreme ideologies from either end of the political spectrum, whether they be ultra conservative or ultra liberal, this would be it.
Even the man credited with saying it out loud, President Trump’s disgraced former National Security Adviser Mike Flynn, started backpedaling after his comments at the “For God & Country Patriot Roundup” in Dallas on May 30 went viral online. But even if the bell can be stilled, it can’t be unrung. His response that a coup “should happen here” continues to reverberate through the alt-right echo chamber.
Flynn was not even the originator of the idea. For months the idea that the Biden Administration should be removed and Trump reinstated to the Oval Office has slunk around beneath the surface of the toxic QAnon swamp online. Flynn’s statement only broke the surface and let the thought find footing in the real world, much as a tiny “Yop!” allowed the Whos to be heard and spared from being boiled in beezle-nut oil in Dr. Seuss’ classic “Horton Hears a Who.”
The scary thing about it all is that, in the modern analogy, the roles are reversed. The QAnon cult members are the Whos, with our democracy as we know it on the outside. Until a blip like Flynn’s comment breaks through the bubble, we are oblivious to the caustic philosophies and beliefs fermenting in the dark corners of the Internet.
Sometimes those ripples come too late, as they did on Jan. 6, when American citizens desecrated their own Capital under the guise of fighting for the democracy they befouled.
The true irony here is that if a military junta were to take control, comments like Flynn’s would likely get the speaker arrested and thrown in jail. Military regimes do not cotton to free speech. In Myanmar, journalists have been incarcerated, some tortured, with many like Fenster picked up and detained for doing nothing more than reporting the news without editorial comment.
Americans who have the privilege and right to free speech should think about that at length. Be very careful what you wish for, because sometimes you might get it — unforeseen consequences and all.