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Now That Ain’t Right

Eileene quoted something, probably a tweet, to me this morning. I don’t remember it verbatim, but this is pretty close: “When right-wing bloggers start complaining about the TSA, you know it’s really gone overboard.”

But, y’know, I don’t think that’s true at all. Not that the TSA isn’t going overboard. It went overboard in the immediate wake of 9/11, and regularly finds new ways to go even further overboard, rather than standing down, as the general public gains perspective on just how little material threat terrorism really presents, how little can be done about the actual threat, and above all how oppressive even ineffective countermeasures are. It will continue to go overboard as long as the people making the decisions stand to profit, whether at the polls or through lucrative government contracts—c.f., former Homeland Security Advisor Michael Chertoff’s interest in promoting security scanners. But conservative bloggers are not the indicator for TSA excesses.

The problem with this natural but inaccurate observation is that the TSA isn’t going any farther than it has. The right-wing blogger’s objection is not to what is being done, but to whom it is being done. For right-wingers, any act of tyranny committed in the name of law and order is acceptable—on the understanding that it only happens to undesirables. Detaining scary dark-skinned people for hours on end is okay, because so many of them want to overthrow the country, and we can hardly tell them apart, anyway. Arresting liberals and intellectuals is okay, because they’re a bunch of know-it-alls who deserve what they get for challenging authority and undermining the war effort and looking down their noses at everyone. Strip-searching fags is okay, because they’ve already sexually debased themselves…hell, they probably enjoy getting groped. But harassing Real Americans? That’s going too far!

(And (gasp)…what if one of the friskers is one o’ them homo-uh-sectials? Oh my god. That ain’t right.)

The problem with denying fundamental rights to some undesirable minority is that the same arguments, and the same methods, eventually swing around to apply to everyone. Well, no, that’s not true: the problem with denying fundamental rights to undesirables is that it’s wrong. Undesirables are entitled to rights; that’s why they’re called “rights” and not “temporary license.” But because principles and morality carry no weight with a certain frame of mind, it’s worth remembering that lesser evil: license to violate rights of one is ultimately, license to violate the rights of all. If the right wing won’t protect civil liberties for the wrong sort of people on principle, perhaps they can be talked into protecting them out of self-interest.

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