... We have Chris Matthews running around shrieking that he's scared of kung-fu-wielding Terrorists. Michael Chertoff is demanding that we stop listening to "privacy ideologues" -- i.e., that there should be no limits on Government's power to invade and monitor and scrutinize. Republican leaders have spent the decade preaching that only Government-provided Safety, not the Constitution, matters. All in response to this week's single failed terrorist attack, there are -- as always -- hysterical calls that we start more wars, initiate racial profiling, imprison innocent people indefinitely, and torture even more indiscriminately. These are the by-products of the weakness and panic and paralyzing fear that Americans have been fed in the name of Terrorism, continuously for a full decade now.
... What matters most about this blinding fear of Terrorism is not the specific policies that are implemented as a result. Policies can always be changed. What matters most is the radical transformation of the national character of the United States. Reducing the citizenry to a frightened puddle of passivity, hysteria and a child-like expectation of Absolute Safety is irrevocable and far more consequential than any specific new laws. Fear is always the enabling force of authoritarianism: the desire to vest unlimited power in political authority in exchange for promises of protection. This is what I wrote about that back in early 2006 in How Would a Patriot Act?:
The president's embrace of radical theories of presidential power threatens to change the system of government we have. But worse still, his administration's relentless, never-ending attempts to keep the nation in a state of fear can also change the kind of nation we are.
This isn't exactly new: many of America's most serious historical transgressions -- the internment of Japanese-Americans, McCarthyite witch hunts, World War I censorship laws, the Alien and Sedition Act -- have been the result of fear-driven, over-reaction to extrenal threats, not under-reaction. Fear is a degrading toxin, and there's no doubt that it has been the primary fuel over the last decade. As the events of the last week demonstrate, it continues to spread rapidly, and it produces exactly the kind of citizenry about which John Adams long ago warned.-- The degrading effects of Terrorism fears by Glenn Greenwald