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07/13/2011

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mikey

There is a fascinating kind of historical rhythm to the way democracies choose to compromise their values. Not to the ostensible cause - those that favor a more authoritarian system can press any event into service as the 'existential threat' that requires, sadly, a historical compromise of core values, but rather to the specific values sacrificed, and the way they go about it.

One of the interesting dynamics operative here is that you can't take away people's liberties in secret - ultimately, what's the point of of doing so if the people and the whole world think they retain those freedoms after they do not. You cannot wiretap without a warrant or torture a suspect or hold someone indefinitely without ultimately telling people that you did it, and that they may well be subject to the same altered set of rules.

This is the most blatant kind, where the state, rather than eliminating a freedom, merely makes that freedom conditional in order to better serve their specific governing agenda. I very strongly suspect that even today, Israelis could call for a boycott of Palestinian, Iranian, Turkish or even German goods and services without any fear of state-sanction legal action.

But selectively eliminating specific previously guaranteed rights serves as a notification, a scrawled threat nailed to the doorframe in the night, that all the freedoms enjoyed by the citizenry are in play, and that they best be used judiciously, with one eye carefully cast to the desires of the state.

This is what we commonly call "a chilling effect", and it is the whole point of the exercise...

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