Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Politics: Greenwald Portends the Right

TORONTO, ONTARIO - On the busiest travel day of the year, pretty much every program that I listen to, short form or long form, news, talk, or entertainment, American, Canadian or British, brings up the topic of the new invasive security procedures at airports in the United States. If I hear one more comment using the word "junk" I think I will go crazier than those personally assaulted by the procedures.

The media boom surrounding this story is remarkable. At the beginning of the month, right after the election,'s Glenn Greenwald seemed like a lone voice on the topic. In a speech in Madison, Wisconsin (available on-line), Greenwald framed the civil liberties debate somewhat differently than I had heard before. He made the case that civil liberties were a well-defined thing that it doesn't take a lawyer to explain. On the other hand, terrorism is fundamentally an undefinable thing to the point that just about anyone can be considered a terrorist from some warped frame of mind, and pretty much any terrorist could be considered a patriot from a different warped perspective. Greenwald's point was that it is insane to give up a definable quantity, civil liberties, in order to prevent an undefinable quantity, terrorism.

While that expression of the idea resonated with me, it didn't attract much media attention--a friend who reads the on-line magazine had to point me to Greenwald's speech. Instead, what resonated with the media was the video taken of a libertarian's encounter with the Transportation Security Administration in San Diego, in which he ends up accusing them of sexually assaulting him. Everybody has seen that now, along with even more offensive tales of stripped seven year-olds, punctured urine bags, and removed prosthetic breasts.

All of the sudden, instead of the far-left like Greenwald talking about the topic, the same anger that fueled the fiscal-oriented TEA parties is leading the charge from the right. Dave Ross of CBS has even suggested that TEA now stands for "Touched Enough Already" instead of "Taxed Enough Already." The rational amongst us are asking why Israeli-style security has not been implemented, and the irrational are calling for protests to slow down security lines.

Sometimes, the far left and far right both go so far that they meet. In this case, though, the discontent is pretty much universal across the political spectrum. It's only a matter of time before these security measures are dropped, or the Obama administration can forget about ever being re-elected.

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