End-of-semester stuff has been piling up—Who knew that there was a well known social theorist named Marx Weber? Or that he developed the idea of the Protastic Ethic?—which means that I haven’t had enough time to digest the NYT report that President Bush secretly authorized the NSA to spy on Americans without any legal oversight, or reactions to it. But from a quick perusal, it seems like both the Administration’s rationale and the response from supporters online is essentially the same as the effort to justify the arbitrary detention and torture of people (including U.S. citizens). In other words, choose any or all of:
- Epochal Shift: “9/11 Changed Everything and so the President can do whatever he likes.”
- You Can’t Handle the Truth!: Your Jack Nicholson moment, viz: “Son, we live in a world that has walls. And those walls have to be guarded by men with guns. Who’s gonna do it? … I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom I provide, then questions the manner in which I provide it!”
- Exquisite Regret: “I fully appreciate the strength of the arguments (moral, practical, empirical) that you put before me about the evil nature of torture, arbitrary detention and spying on the very citizens from whom our claim to legitimate government derives. So believe me when I say that I have agonized over these decisions, lain awake at night, analyzed the hypotheticals in detail and now, with a great sense of the weight of the choice I am making, I will sign this piece of paper suspending the rights of anyone whom our staffers feel should be investigated.”
- Rubber Stamp: “We obtained a legal opinion from one of our own lawyers. He said it was OK and I believe him. He’s totally objective.”
- World Weary: “Oh, puh-leeze. This is nothing new. It’s been going on for years—Americans have no idea how little legal protection they have from arbitrary government surveillance. That’s why I became a libertarian. I still fully support the Government’s right to monitor, lock up, ‘render’ and torture anyone they declare is an enemy combatant, though. I absolutely still don’t trust them to run a Social Security Program or redistribute taxes to the poor, obviously.”
- Radical Empiricist: I’m not sure we have all the facts about this, and we should suspend judgment until either more real evidence becomes available or the black GM Suburban pulls up outside my house and bundles me off to a disused Soviet-era facility in Eastern Europe.
Mix and Match as appropriate.