Tuesday, March 22, 2016

The Left Will Die If It Refuses To Be Realistic About The Need For Security And Intelligence

The reports on the attacks in Brussels are coming in with people saying that Belgium is considered weak on security and intelligence and was considered a weak point such as terrorists could have exploited, which may be true but it's just as true that other places which have been attacked aren't considered to be weak on security or intelligence.  One thing that is certain, any country which is attacked will go through a period when both are increased, if there are repeated attacks there will be calls to diminish much of what we consider a right to privacy.  I don't think that those will diminish as technology, especially communications technology, are used by terrorists or implicated in terror attacks.  In the face of a continued regime of acts of terror much of the legal and academic theory of a right to privacy will be seen as enabling terrorists and, eventually, an accusation of supporting terrorists.  Those who advocate the kind of privacy, access to technology, etc. which are implicated in terror will be discredited and will be removed from real politics and civic life by their refusal to face the new reality that such a regime of terror creates.

On the other side of that is the ever present danger of the use of security and intelligence agencies to suppress the legitimate rights of people who want to change the government through regular, democratic means.  The scandals in alleged democracies of police surveillance of the most peaceful of civil rights groups, peace groups, environmental activists, feminists,  LGBT rights workers prove that there is a real need for real and realistic protections of the rights of privacy.   It is especially important for those groups and others like them that their advocacy of privacy rights take into account what terrorists able to enjoy those same rights will do with them.  That is as much the fault of those who advocate violence as it is politicians, lawyers and police with fascist tendencies.   We have to understand that we are harmed by both of those groups.

I have no real idea where the lines should be drawn, I suspect that any line drawn will be immediately investigated to see how either side, the potential police state or the reign of terror to see how they can use it.  Which is why active, REALISTIC, engagement by those on the real left in government, facing the ever changing reality instead of striking poses on 18th century assumptions that are no longer relevant will be necessary.   If you refuse to be realistic you will find events quickly make you irrelevant, your issues attacked through association with terrorists.  That is one of the key failures of the past which has, in fact, kept the real left from having a major role in quasi-democratic governments.   Associations with the idiot anarchists who advocated "propaganda of the deed"  and those who were thrilled like teenage boys at the pointless, idiotic violence of the Weather Underground and other idiots in more recent times have cost the left a lot more than supporting terrorists has cost the right.  There is a reason for that, the right at least promises protection against terror.  That situation is a direct result of our failure to face the reality of media deregulation and the license to lie - also based in the romantic adoption of  fossilized 18th century rhetoric which reality has bypassed.

I don't know where the lines should be drawn even temporarily but I don't think where we strike a pose should depend on the marketing slogans of a company like Apple.  If the price of doing business in China or another massive market depended on them doing what the FBI wanted them to do, unlocking the phone of a dead terrorist,  I have every confidence that, if they thought they could make enough money out of it, they would do in a police state what they don't want to do here.  I wouldn't be surprised if such a company wouldn't unlock the phones of living dissidents.  And, in such a country, without anything countering the potential for abuse by the police, without any real possibility for independent judicial review.   If those protections have to be stronger here has to be part of finding where the line is and in a democracy you can do that.   In a terrorized country it will be surrendered by a terrorized population, under a regime of sustained terror the fascists will be those primarily benefited.

None of this is easy and it is not going to just happen as a result of natural forces, it isn't a matter of scientific discernment.  Any lines drawn, any solutions will almost certainly be temporary, at best.  The results won't be valid, eternally.   And it isn't answerable through the concepts we inherited from the 18th century, those are about as effective in today's technological world as dosing someone with mercury or white lead.

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