Fear Factor in Blue
by Eva Kosinski, August 28, 2003
[Eva Kosinski edits the newsletter for the Boulder County Libertarian Party. She plans to run for Louisville City Council, Ward 1, in 2004.]
It's very interesting to note the way that John Ashcroft's "road show" is being presented to the public. While on the surface there is a website defending Patriot II, and a lot of publicity about how the public needs to understand it better, the major focus is being placed elsewhere.
What Ashcroft is on is not a speaking tour to reassure the people about Patriot II. After all, he does not want a repeat of the demonstrations in Seattle, or an interactive discussion of the issues at hand. He is heading for friendlier territory. He is going to the police departments.
Why would this work? Imagine yourself as a street cop in some major city. You struggle all the time with the ethically impaired, with violent, sometimes insane, criminals. You have to keep their rights protected, and you are always subject to having some perpetrator show up with a fancy lawyer and throw all your hard, dangerous work, out the window as he gets his client off and back onto the street.
Here comes Ashcroft, with a bevvy of "new toys," better technlogy, and now, if you support Patriot II, you can actually use these legally. An appeal or two along the lines of "you are the only ones who really know what's going on out there" and some flattering comments about how important the police are to the safety of the country. Who's not going to support Ashcroft?
The most critical element here is, going back to the street cop, that sense of not being able to make any difference because the loopholes can set criminals free (the loopholes we actually need to ensure that the innocent don't get nailed wrongly) is suddenly removed. You have support for whatever you need at the highest levels of government. Once you are convinced of the rightness of the cause and your importance in the safety of the country, what are the chances that you are going to think about just using these new tools and powers to find terrorists?
Fear has been a powerful tool since 9/11 in the erosion of our freedoms. People fear speaking out lest they be taken for supporters of terrorism. How much more intimidated will they be when they know Ashcroft has "gotten to" their local men in blue?
Don't get me wrong. I don't believe all of our police are gullible. I believe they have the highest of intentions, and they put their lives out there every day to keep the worst elements of humanity at bay. I am sure if they look at the oath they took to join the force, upholding the Constitution is somewhere near the top of the list, and I am hopeful that they will remember that, but they are human, and these temptations are going to look like hope at last.
Any of you who have considered running for local and county government and have decided it was too much of a pain, or too daunting, think again. That's the only location from which you can have a vote on whether or not your local constabulary will enforce the way the Justice Department wants them enforcing in these dangerous times.