Thursday, November 15, 2007

Getting to No

This morning, I read an article on the UK's plan to demand unprecedented amounts of personal information from travelers, which made reference to this dissenting argument:

Critics warned of mayhem at ports and airports when the system is introduced, beginning in earnest from mid-2009.
Not long after, I heard AAR's Thom Hartmann try to argue against drilling in ANWR, on the grounds that the pipeline is vulnerable to terrorist attack.

Like the earnest claim that "torture doesn't work," these criticisms amount to little more than sales objections; they imply that if a few minor logistical problems could be worked out, the objections would be withdrawn. If people are worried about longer lines at ports and airports, you can propose a plan to streamline the process. If people are worried about attacks on an aboveground pipeline, you can offer to bury it, or militarize the area through which it runs, or both. If people are concerned that torture isn't reliable, you can explain that this is precisely why more research into "enhanced interrogation" is so necessary.

The Right routinely complains that the Left is too emotional and too subjective. If anything, the opposite is true. The way to oppose an unprecedented invasion of personal privacy, or an insane energy policy, or torture, is to refuse to consider it. You don't say, "I don't like this feature, or that defect"; you say, "I don't want this, period, for myself or anyone else." The supposed liberal virtue of dialogue, of the "free exchange of ideas," is precisely what we should reject here, in favor of what Judith Butler calls "the active and difficult resistance to the temptation of war."

Because as I've said elsewhere, mainstreaming surveillance and torture is not about breaking the terrorists' will; it's about breaking ours. You can't hope to save yourself from brutality; you can only hope to save yourself from being brutal.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You can't hope to save yourself from brutality; you can only hope to save yourself from being brutal.

perfectly said.

sadly, i have little hope the wisdom of this statement will be heeded.

the confluence of osamas' success while pres. fucknuts was in office has pretty much precluded any rational response to the threat of terror. which statistically for any one individual has to be pretty low. but it turns out fear makes great politics, so there you go...