Always on edge  APR 06 2003

Dan Gillmor on how the permanent war on terrorism means permanent suspension of civil liberties:

Liberties ebbed and flowed in America's past. Leaders curbed liberties, with the public's often ignorant endorsement, in times of crisis. But the rights tended to come back when the crises ended.

The fabled pendulum of liberty may not swing back this time. Why?

For one thing, the damage that one evil or deranged person or group can cause has grown. Even if America somehow persuades all Islamic radicals that we are a good and just society, there will still be some evil and deranged people who will try to wreck things and lives in spectacular ways. In other words, the "war on terrorism" can't possibly end.

In thinking about this issue and what the U.S. gov't is doing here (whether it's deliberate or not), and I keep coming back to George Orwell. This is straight out of 1984. War is peace. If you want a stable country, you limit civil liberties. No freedom, no sudden movements, no free thinking, no chance of things getting out of control. How do you do that? Wage war full time. Too busy fighting to worry about freedom. The few control the many through their own fear and patriotism. Brilliant and scary.

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