What more could power need?
By Matthew Fraser, Opinions Editor
Because when fear is plenty, the loss of any freedom seems a fair cost for safety.
Fear has begun to dominate the political realm. Politics are no longer seen as a wrestling match between ideas and compromises. Instead, politics are seen as a battlefield wherein sides must fight mercilessly for what they believe to be the only right answer. As fear rallies the troops around a common cause, it makes the other side look all the eviler, all the more deadly, all the more detestable. Politicians now frame their speeches in the ways that best tickles the fear receptors of those who follow them; one side will be told to fight to take the country back, while the other is told these images are not America. But both sides agree to add more to the state’s power while sharpening the blades of oppression, to be used (they hope) against the other. With that, America crawls slowly but seemingly surely towards its second War on Terror.
After the tragedy of 9/11, Americans were gripped by a terror that hitherto was unfathomable save for movies. Suddenly, the everyday citizen could not be less sure of their safety; be it the unpredictability of the attack or the horrifying destruction that it wrought, the very fibres that bound people together where shaken. When the government commissions recommended the Patriot Act it was met by resounding applause despite the trepidation of the ACLU Russell Feingold. Why? Because when fear is plenty, the loss of any freedom seems a fair cost for safety. Despite the warnings of the liberty minded, the Patriot Act was adopted, and the civil liberties long treasured in word by the American patriot were flushed away.
Now, almost 20 years later, America creeps towards a new concession of freedom. Soon after the January 6 insurrection, security advisors like John Brennan began to announce the “laser like fashion” with which the incoming Biden administration would be focusing on Trump’s insurrectionists. And what a prime time to act, with roughly 54 percent of Americans thinking the biggest threat to their way of life is other people in America, the price tag on state security is only a freedom or two. When the promise is to infiltrate and disrupt white supremacist groups, surely, we have nothing to fear. At least that’s what’s said by all who forgot that COINTELPRO was founded to stop the Black Panther party and that the FBI once desperately tried to encourage Martin Luther King’s suicide. Some would have you believe that the state would never use its powers to oppress anyone but the few that they hate, yet are completely unaware of how thoroughly the Patriot Act has been used to survey for drugs over terrorists. Even more have forgotten that in 2017, numerous Republicans sought laws to ban Black Lives Matter protests from occurring. Somehow people have forgotten that the government—and those who ogle its might—will always use new powers to crush its favorite targets, regardless of its original promise.
Luckily, as the ACLU once did when it stood against the Patriot Act, a small, vocal group of politicians have stood up to protest these proposed expansions to the security state. Rashida Tlaib authored and signed a letter (with support from other progressives) outlining many of the egregious misuses of power that have been propagated by the American government while denouncing calls for more power. A short time thereafter, former Democratic congressperson and Presidential hopeful Tulsi Gabbard spoke out against these surveillance increases. Yet, despite the name recognition and followings of those who signed on, the fear that has propelled the American people through the rictuses of last year may be too powerful for the cautions of history to correct. Political commentator Krystal Ball recently opined that when the state of fear is so high, the only place to go is towards authoritarianism. As the mainstream media agrees with these censorships, I for one believe she is correct. It seems that far too many people believe that the powers of government given today will evaporate or be put away tomorrow. It seems the lesson of Trump (that leadership you like is not predictable and certainly not guaranteed) has fled the minds of liberals just as fast Biden walked through the White House doors.
It should be stranger to see how history will soon repeat itself. This should come as more of a surprise and the masses should be more upset, but then again as many a radical feared, the liberals who once cursed state power went back to brunch the second that Trump walked away.