But how would you feel if your child was under official court order to never, ever utter one particular F word again for the rest of their lives, under pain of having the family homestead taken away and the bank account seized?
This has actually happened to a Pennsylvania couple who settled a lawsuit against a gas drilling company that polluted their drinking water supply through that most dreaded F word of all: Fracking. Under the terms of the settlement, even the two small children in the family were issued a gag order by the presiding judge, forbidding them to utter the word Fracking for the rest of their lives:
The sweeping gag order was imposed under a $750,000 settlement between the Hallowich family and Range Resources Ltd, a leading oil and gas driller. It provoked outrage on Monday among environmental campaigners and free speech advocates.
The settlement, reached in 2011 but unsealed only last week, barred the Hallowichs' son and daughter, who were then aged 10 and seven, from ever discussing fracking or the Marcellus Shale, a leading producer in America's shale gas boom.
The Hallowich family had earlier accused oil and gas companies of destroying their 10-acre farm in Mount Pleasant, Pennsylvania and putting their children's health in danger. Their property was adjacent to major industrial operations: four gas wells, gas compressor stations, and a waste water pond, which the Hallowich family said contaminated their water supply and caused burning eyes, sore throats and headaches.The Hallowiches constantly worry what will happen if the two kids slip up one day and yack about fracking on the playground in a town where fracking has become a way of life and livelihood for many families. No longer can the children partake in discussions about whose water is the smelliest, or who can triple-dog-dare who to be first to test out the latest playground water fountain to see what solid, liquid, gas or flame comes spewing out.
"They're going to be among other children that are children of people within this industry and they're going to be around it every day of their life, that if they in turn say one of the illegal words when they're outside of our guardianship we're going to have difficulty controlling that," said Mr. Hallowich.
My knee-jerk advice to the Hallowiches might have been to get the F out of town and out of Pennsylvania, where the gas lobby owns the government regulators. That hefty court award should last them awhile if they're thrifty, even if they have to abandon their polluted land and can't find new jobs. One possibility is the next state over (New York), where fracking is still banned, thanks to a strong environmental lobby. The kids could scream Fracking Fracking Fracking!!!! at the top of their lungs and blend right in with the activist crowd. To be really safe, I'd recommend Woodstock, whose town council last year actually voted to make fracking a felony.
But there's a huge catch. If the Hallowiches have cell phones or iPads, they won't be free no matter where they go. The technology now exists for police, courts, governments and probably corporations to remotely monitor the voices and movements of all of us, via the ridiculously easy secret installation of spying software on our electronic devices. They can hear us and they can see us, and that goes for our kids, too. The only solution is to get off the grid entirely. And that would be hard, given that technology has proven both addictive and necessary to our very existence. For example, without the Internet, we'd never be able to find out where they're fracking and how they're snooping.
Meanwhile, Steve Horn of DeSmogBlog has obtained documents proving that the Obama Administration is not only helping to shield fracking polluters from oversight and consequences, but that it actually censored a report establishing a clear link between fracking and the pollution of ground water in Pennsylvania. The EPA lied when it reported that the methane caused by fracking was "naturally occurring" in water and perfectly safe to drink. Two whistleblowers have now accused former EPA Chief Lisa Jackson of being the instigator of the cover-up. She was apparently acting on orders from the boss man himself, who feared that his re-election chances in that important swing state would be damaged by bad publicity. He has, after all, been a longtime booster of the gas industry and its donors. (Jackson, ironically and conveniently enough, now works for Apple, manufacturer of the iPad.)
I assume that the Justice Department has gone into full panic mode, trying to catch the EPA truth-tellers and indict them for giving aid and comfort to the populace. Because when it comes to leakers, this administration is schizophrenic. It punishes those who help their fellow citizens, and rewards those who poison us -- be it by leaking toxins into our air and water, or by the enactment of toxic policies that have sucked the wealth of an entire nation into the voracious maw of the predatory financial class.