Authoritarian Hypocrisy and “Anything for Security”

Lynne Kiesling

Does President Obama realize his hypocrisy when he says (as he did in his weekend radio address) that “as Americans, we refuse to live in fear”, while simultaneously having large armed law enforcement teams storm airplanes that have landed, remove passengers, strip search them, and detain them without probable cause or a warrant? Soshana Hebshi gives her own account on her blog; Mike Riggs reports on it at Reason, and James Fallows reports on it at The Atlantic. Note in Hebshi’s account that there were about 50 such events on Sunday, so if you think this is an isolated event you are sadly mistaken, or dare I say with all respect, naively deluded and in denial.

This authoritarian drive for power and control is a consequence of our fear-based “anything for security” policies. Such fear-based cowardice is socially, culturally, morally, and economically corrosive. And it will only stop if we, individually, choose consciously to object to authoritarian policies grounded in fear-based cowardice, make our objections loud and unavoidable to our peers and our elected so-called representatives, and refuse to be terrorized by our own government.

As long as this state of affairs persists, these issues are far, far more important and life-threatening (and way-of-life threatening) than electricity regulation, regulatory and competition policy, and technological change. That’s why I am writing about Shoshana Hebshi today rather than those topics.

13 thoughts on “Authoritarian Hypocrisy and “Anything for Security”

  1. Brava, Lynne. Seconding everything you say here.

    Those of us who’ve been ringing alarm bells about this stuff for years, who’ve been screaming publicly and agitating politically about the erosion of our civil liberties, are still fighting; but we’re growing weary. So many Americans just don’t give a damn.

    They need to brush up on their Martin Neimoller. (And Philip Zimbardo. And Stanley Milgram. And Solomon Asch. And and and . . . .)

  2. Very disturbing. It seems remarkable that the test for subjecting people to this sort of extreme treatment is simply the say-so of another passenger, particularly when the plane has landed safely and nothing has happened!.

    Here’s two questions though.

    What one presidential candidate could be expected to change this state of affairs? Answer: Ron Paul.

    For those who look down their noses at Ron Paul, but who claim to be outraged and value liberty, what aren’t you supporting him?

  3. Oops, “what aren’t you supporting him” should be “why aren’t you supporting him”. Obviously.

  4. Hi MIchael.

    “Gary Johnson seems to be the more consistent presidential candidate when it comes to valuing liberty.”

    You may be right but that’s not the impression I had.

  5. I’ll second Mike’s comments on Gary Johnson as being solid on civil liberties issues. He, like Paul, has argued in favor of abolishing the TSA and returning the responsibility for airline security to the, you know, *airlines*.

  6. I fear that, to quote Jane Austen, your hope is an extraordinary one (although I share it, despite my general disdain for politics and politicians).

    However, if we raise awareness of Johnson, and Paul, and continue to pressure all D and R candidates on civil liberties issues, at least the presence of Johnson and Paul in the campaigns will force the issue into prominence even though the rest of the Ds and Rs running for president find it politically repugnant.

  7. Hi Lynne.

    You’re no doubt correct that my hope is an extraordinary one. However, a number of extraordinarily good things have happened in my life and I can’t say for sure that my hoping was the determinative factor but in each case, it was a necessary (if not sufficient) condition. Failure to hope can often be a self-fulfilling prophecy.

    I have to say though that, even more extraordinary than my hope for either a Johnson or Paul presidency, is your hope that “the presence of Johnson and Paul in the campaigns will force the issue into prominence even though the rest of the Ds and Rs running for president find it politically repugnant.” Politicians who promise stuff to get elected frequently don’t (never?) deliver. For example, Obama promised IIRC to shut down Guantanamo.

    Probability of TSA being reined in = probability (either Ron Paul or Gary Johnson being elected) = small but growing

    Probability of TSA being reined in by anyone else either D or R = zero (despite what they may promise)

  8. I agree completely! But I think the real driver of meaningful long-term change, and of holding their feet to the fire once they are in office, is widespread public opinion and culture. That’s why I think writing essays and blog posts and comments on news articles and participating in forums and using social media to raise awareness one mind at a time is likely to be more effective than electing someone from either the D branch or the R branch of the Authoritarian Party. It’s also likely to be more effective than spending time writing letters to our so-called representatives, who in aggregate have shown only their ability to behave in a feckless manner and show no capacity whatsoever for true, meaningful leadership.

  9. Even the guy that created it, Rep. John Mica (R. -Fla.), says that the TSA is a fiasco and should be dismantled.

    “Congressman Mica doesn’t believe these efforts have made us safe, and as he put it, “They’ve failed to actually detect any threat in 10 years.””

    We, as a nation, need to make the decision to change (some will scream just because it’s change, whether it’s needed or not, but they will just have to deal with it) and not prolong this system that is not working on so many levels.

    Keep pushing.

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