Montreal, November 15, 2011 No 294

 

Bradley Doucet is a writer living in Montreal. He has studied philosophy and economics, and is currently completing a novel on the pursuit of happiness. He also is QL's English Editor.

 

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The Government vs. Gibson:
A Rock 'n' Roll Raid

 

by Bradley Doucet

 

          Wouldn't it be nice if governments just did what they're supposed to do? If the people you entrusted with the task of protecting and defending you from criminals and foreign aggressors stuck to that task instead of becoming criminals and aggressors themselves and watching every breath you take?

 

          Unfortunately, there's no indication that our governments are set to mend their evil ways anytime soon. One recent bump in the long and winding road to freedom is the raiding of the Gibson Guitar Corporation this past summer by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. The government claims that Gibson violated the Lacey Act, an animal conservation law adopted in 1900 and amended in 2008 to protect tropical forests from deforestation, but the company is fighting the rap and seems convinced that it can beat it.

SWAT vs. Due Process

          The Gibson Guitar Corporation is no fly by night operation. Born in the U.S.A. at the turn of the last century, Gibson is an iconic American manufacturer, maker of the popular Les Paul solid-body electric guitar, among others. But on August 24, 2011, employees at the company's Nashville and Memphis facilities were all shook up by "armored SWAT teams with automatic weapons" who threatened luthiers and other employees. Suspicious minds might be forgiven for thinking that this was a drug raid of the kind that has become all too common in the United States in recent years, but federal agents were after something else: computers, records, and over 10,000 guitar fingerboards.

          You have to wonder what's going on when government agents can get a warrant for a SWAT raid on an established, respected company and seize their property without having to file any charges, which they have yet to do as of this writing. In fact, the government raided Gibson back in 2009 and never filed charges, so why not do it again since it worked so well the first time? Alas, the government works in mysterious ways, leading some to suggest that Gibson is being targeted "because it is not unionized, perhaps, or didn't donate enough to the Democratic Party." Gibson CEO Henry Juszkiewicz actually wrote a letter directly to President Obama spelling out what happened and why he thought it was unfair, but he got no reply.
 

"Welcome to the machine that is government, hiding behind well-intentioned regulations like the Lacey Act to throw its considerable weight around, to the detriment of the rest of us."


Regulation vs. the Environment

          Welcome to the machine that is government, hiding behind well-intentioned regulations like the Lacey Act to throw its considerable weight around, to the detriment of the rest of us. Juszkiewicz actually has great respect for the conservationist principles behind the Lacey Act, for as he recently wrote, "As a user of tropical woods it just makes economic sense to buy our materials from sustainable forests, and it makes moral sense to do so in a way that ensures the survival of these resources." You might think the fingerboards seized during the raid were made from illegally harvested wood, but the government instead alleges that Gibson violated "an Indian export restriction designed to keep wood finishing work in India," i.e., a protectionist rather than an environmental measure. Worse still, the Indian government actually certified that the law in question was respected, but it seems that nothing else matters when the U.S. government decides it's your time to bow down.

          It wouldn't be the first time the Lacey Act was used to bludgeon the innocent, and Juszkiewicz is determined that he won't get fooled again. In the year 2000, three Americans were charged under Lacey and sentenced to eight years in jail for committing the crime of the century: importing lobster tails in plastic bags instead of cardboard boxes, a defunct Honduran regulation the U.S. decided to enforce.

          Juszkiewicz says Gibson's attorneys are advising him to play nice and lay low, but he would rather get up, stand up, and fight for what's right. If you're the CEO of a large, successful company, after all, you don't stop doing what made you successful just because the government is trying to make life difficult for you. Instead, you break on through the resistance and even use it to raise your profile, as Juszkiewicz is doing with Gibson's Fight for Your Right to Rock contest, for instance.

          Do you feel like we do, that the American government is abusing its power and arbitrarily targeting the Gibson Guitar Corporation for harassment in the absence of any evidence of wrongdoing? That the government actors responsible for this hatchet job are bad to the bone? Well, there's no time like the present to visit Gibson's website and find out how you can enter its contest by creating a video, song, or logo to fight this injustice. Just think what a wonderful world it would be if we could send them a clear message: we're not gonna take it anymore!

 

Song titles in this article: Wouldn't It Be Nice (The Beach Boys), Every Breath You Take (The Police), Evil Ways (Santana), The Long and Winding Road (The Beatles), Beat It (Michael Jackson), Fly By Night (RUSH), Born in the USA (Bruce Springsteen), All Shook Up (Elvis Presley), Suspicious Minds (Elvis Presley), What's Going On (Marvin Gaye), Do It Again (Steely Dan), Mysterious Ways (U2), No Reply (The Beatles), Welcome to the Machine (Pink Floyd), Respect (Aretha Franklin), You Might Think (The Cars), Nothing Else Matters (Metallica), Won't Get Fooled Again (The Who), Crime of the Century (Supertramp), Get Up, Stand Up (Bob Marley), Don't Stop (Fleetwood Mac), Break on Through (The Doors), Do You Feel Like We Do? (Peter Frampton), Bad to the Bone (George Thorogood & the Destroyers), No Time (The Guess Who), What a Wonderful World (Louis Armstrong), and We're Not Gonna Take It (Twisted Sister).