March 28, 2014

Glenn Greenwald - The problem with endorsing abuse of state power



Gore Vidal (at 17 minutes) said:
"Every president wants to be a dictator. It is the nature of power. You don’t accept limited powers unless you’re a very limited man."
Gore Vidal said in 1999:
"I don’t know where the Internet is going to go but I do know that the government is going to try and take it over. You can count on that." 
Glenn Greenwald (at 26 minutes) said there are lots of reasons why people should be concerned about civil liberties, even if theirs aren’t being infringed or abridged. He gave two reasons.

Firstly:
"The first of which, history leaves no doubt that, although civil liberties infringements begin in a very confined way - directed at the most marginalized minorities about whom people don’t care or to whom they direct their hostility – it is inevitable, absolutely inevitable that those civil liberties abridgments, once they are entrenched, will spread ; and they’ll spread far beyond their original intended targets."
He continued:

"This list of prohibited ideas [may begin] as a list you’re comfortable with because you think those ideas are really pernicious, but once that list starts to get compiled it will inevitably spread far beyond what you think it ought to be and ultuimately, and somewhat deservedly, will probably end up including many of the ideas of the people that actually wanted in the list in the first place believe in and would like to express. So that’s the problem with endorsing civil liberties abridgements and not caring about them when they’re confined to minorities, because eventually they spread and proliferate and if you’re somebody who endorsed them in the beginning, you have no principle basis for opposing their expansion."
Secondly:
"The second reason why civil liberties abridgments are crucial to care about - even if they’re not being directed towards a particular person or in a way that this person cares about - is that what happens when the government is permitted in certain instances to cross these lines that were supposed to be sacrosanct, is that a climate of fear ends up being created in the citizenry. And that climate of fear means that people on their own start relinquishing and repudiating their own rights because they now fear the government, and there actually begins being a process of self-censorship where people refrain from exercising rights because of this fear; and they can convince themselves that these weren’t rights that they really want to exercise in the first place; and that’s what leads to that mindset that I talked about; that people wake up in the morning and think: “well there’s nothing I really want to do that I’m being restricted from doing and therefore I don’t really think there’s a problem”."
Video in full here.

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