It’s funny watching the trailer of In the Name of the Father, almost 20 years after it came out on video, especially at a time when it appears that, as Glenn Greenwald describes, with each new terrorist attempt — ironically, each one less sophisticated than the last — the popular response is to find new ways to strip away the rights of the people:
What’s most amazing about all of this is that even 9 years after the 9/11 attacks and even after the radical reduction of basic rights during the Bush/Cheney years, the reaction is still exactly the same to every Terrorist attack, whether a success or failure, large- or small-scale. Apparently, 8 years of the Bush assault on basic liberties was insufficient; there are still many remaining rights in need of severe abridgment. Even now, every new attempted attack causes the Government to devise a new proposal for increasing its own powers still further and reducing rights even more, while the media cheer it on. It never goes in the other direction. Apparently, as “extremist” as the Bush administration was, there are still new rights to erode each time the word Terrorism is uttered. Each new incident, no matter how minor, prompts new, exotic proposals which the “Constitution-shredding” Bush/Cheney team neglected to pursue: an assassination program aimed at U.S. citizens, formal codification of Miranda dilutions, citizenship-stripping laws, a statute to deny all legal rights to Americans arrested on U.S. soil.
The U.S. already has one of the most pro-government criminal justice systems in the world. That (along with our indescribably insane drug laws) is why we have the world’s largest prison population and the highest percentage of our citizenry incarcerated of any country in the Western world. It is hard to imagine a worse fate than being a defendant in the American justice system accused of Terrorism-related crimes. Conviction and a very long prison sentence are virtual certainties. Particularly in the wake of 9/11 and the Patriot Act era, the rules have been repeatedly rewritten to provide the Government with every conceivable advantage. The very idea that the Government is hamstrung in its ability to prosecute and imprison Terrorists is absurd on its face. Decades of pro-government laws in general, and post-9/11 changes in particular, have created a justice system that strangles the rights of those accused of Terrorism. Despite that, every new incident becomes a pretext for a fresh wave of fear-mongering and still new ways to erode core Constitutional protections even further.
It really is the case that every new Terrorist incident reflexively produces a single-minded focus on one question: which rights should we take away now/which new powers should we give the Government? We never reach the point where we decide that we have already retracted enough rights. Further restrictions on rights seems to be the only reaction of which our political and media class is capable in the face of a new attack. The premise seems to be that if we keep limiting rights further and further, we’ll eventually reach the magical point of Absolute Safety where there will be no more Terrorism. For so many reasons, that is an obvious myth, one that ensures that we’ll reduce rights infinitely and with no discernible benefit. We’re not the target of Terrorist attacks because we have too many rights; we’re the target because of our own actions, ones that we never reconsider in light of new attacks because we’re too busy figuring out which rights to erode next.
The reality of the world today is that our safety is always at risk, especially in public places, both by the terrorist loonies (even more foreseeable when the CIA is drone attacking other countries) and by the run of the mill All American Shooting Spree lunatics. The only difference being that the All American Shooting Spree is much more frequent and is always followed, not by a call for limiting rights, but by cries to reinforce the rights of gun owners. And won’t that be an interesting case of Right Wing cognitive dissonance when the first terrorist gets his hand on a gun purchased at a gun show?