Police State USA: Where a joke can get you imprisoned

“I’ve got a new one,” says a young Stasi lieutenant in the German film “The Lives of Others,” the best movie ever made about the everyday oppressiveness of communism.

“Honecker comes into his office in the morning,” jokes the lieutenant, “opens the window, looks at the sun, and says …”

The silence of his friends tells the lieutenant that he has screwed up. Sitting within earshot is their boss. When he tries to apologize, the boss urges him to continue. “We can still laugh about our state officials,” he lies.

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The lieutenant proceeds warily: “The secretary general sees the sun and says, ‘Good morning, dear Sun’ … and the Sun answers, ‘Good morning, dear Erich.'”

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After another cordial exchange between East German Secretary General Honecker and the Sun at midday, the Sun does not respond to Honecker’s friendly, “Good evening.”

When Honecker asks what’s wrong, the Sun responds, “Oh, kiss my ass. I’m in the West now.” After a forced laugh, the supervisor stops abruptly and says to the lieutenant with a chill in his voice: “Name? … Rank? … Department?”

At the time of the film’s release in 2006, I took solace knowing that I lived in “the West” where one could joke about state officials. As events have shown, I consoled myself prematurely.

Ever since professional snitch John Dean ratted out Secretary of Agriculture Earl Butz in 1976 for an overheard racial joke, we’ve known that certain forms of humor can get one canned.

With the recent conviction of internet jokester Doug Mackey for passing along an anti-Hillary meme, we now know that a joke can get one imprisoned.

The slope from getting fired for joking about a state official to getting jailed has been slippery and steep.

In 2018, comedienne Roseanne Barr, the star of the reboot of the popular TV show “Roseanne,” famously tweeted that the mixed-race, Iranian-born Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett looked like “the muslim brotherhood & planet of the apes had a baby.”

ABC promptly canceled the show. Comedians had been saying the most vile things imaginable about Donald Trump without consequence, but Obama’s people were, as Barr learned, off limits.

Shocked by the show’s cancellation and undoubtedly guided by her press agents, Roseanne tweeted, “Don’t feel sorry for me, guys!! I just want to apologize to the hundreds of people and wonderful writers (all liberal) and talented actors who lost their jobs on my show due to my stupid tweet.”

In a police state, the accused cannot expect her friends and colleagues to rally to her defense. The “Roseanne” cast lived down to expectations.

“Roseanne’s recent comments about Valerie Jarrett, and so much more, are abhorrent and do not reflect the beliefs of our cast and crew or anyone associated with our show,” tweeted Sara Gilbert, one of the several cast members who dumped on Roseanne publicly.

Having permanently severed Roseanne from her own show, ABC restarted the show as “The Conners.” Without a word of support for the woman who gave them their careers, the original cast blithely picked up where they left off.

After a ritual apology got her nowhere – groveling never works – Roseanne offered a defense more keeping in character, “I thought the bitch was white.”

Almost too predictably, the political double standard that prevails in Hollywood has trickled down to the halls of justice.

On Election Day, Nov. 8, 2016, Kristina Wong tweeted out a video of herself saying, “Hey Trump Supporters! Skip poll lines at #Election2016 and TEXT in your vote! Text votes are legit. Or vote tomorrow on Super Wednesday!”

In the video, wearing a MAGA hat, Wong makes a direct appeal to black and Asian voters to text in their votes. She was obviously joking.

So was Mackey. In the months before the 2016 election he passed along a meme he found online titled, “Save Time, Avoid the Line.” The meme featured a smiling image of Hillary Clinton and directed readers to text their vote to a made-up number.

Four years later, within a week after the 2021 inauguration, Mackey was rudely snapped from his sleep by a crew of 10 law enforcement officers, including four FBI agents, banging on his door at 7 a.m.

In March 2023, a federal jury in Brooklyn convicted Mackey of “Conspiracy Against Rights stemming from his scheme to deprive individuals of their constitutional right to vote.” He was sentenced to seven months in prison.

So comfortable is the Left with the wildly out of balance state of justice, Wong has not even felt the need to delete her tweet.

“Every joke is a tiny revolution,” said George Orwell. As Mackey found out, the White House sees it that way too.

Jack Cashill’s new book, “Untenable: The True Story of White Ethnic Flight from America’s Cities,” is available in all formats.

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