Government United in Surveillance, People Divided

Steven Ahlquist has an interesting post (of a sort that I wish there were more of in Rhode Island) showing how several government agencies apparently thought it worthwhile to send agents to watch a couple dozen people protest the federal government’s surveillance of the American people in Providence, yesterday. The event and the subject raise a number of points.

1. Government stupidity and sense of immunity.

The government should not be spying on the people. Period. To send some agents as if for the sole purpose of being case-proving props at an anti-surveillance protest shows that at least one of two things must be true: The government is simply ham-handed and dumb, or government agencies simply do not fear that doing stupid, heavy-handed things will draw much public heat.

The second point is in keeping with my post, this morning, about the lack of media attention being paid to declining freedom of the press in the United States.

2. Blame to “the government,” not the administration.

Perhaps one reason the government fears no public heat is that a large portion of the population is conspicuously willing to be selective with regard to putting a face on what’s wrong. Remember those many years of “Bushitler” signs and efforts to paint the Republican president’s face on everything undesirable in the federal government?

Sometimes a president deserves blame, and sometimes he doesn’t, but it’s interesting to see that it’s now “the federal government” that’s the focus of the leftist protestors, not a particular administration. Chris Curry of MoveOn is even careful to articulate that the problem with surveillance is that “a crooked president in the future” might misuse the power it grants him.

Unlike misusing the IRS for electoral gain, one supposes.

3. The divided and the conquered.

It’s telling, in this context, that I first heard about the incident from commenter Russ. Inasmuch as he’s one of Rhode Island’s leading practitioners of bad-faith discourse, it’s not surprising that he alerted me to Ahlquist’s post in the form of an accusation. Apparently, I’m a hypocrite for not having mentioned something that I hadn’t seen and that just went up today.

This is the same mindset that leads Bob Plain to be always ready to state that I may very well be a Machiavellian liar and that underlies the political Tourrette Syndrome that has him shouting “Koch!” and “Heritage!” on just about every segment of News 10 Wingmen. (I sometimes wonder how many television viewers even know what he’s talking about when he does that.)

How thoroughly set against each other we’ve become when even our common interests divide us.

4. Not just a show of agreement.

As I’ve been going through some of the floor votes from last year’s legislative session, a few bills have stood out as uniting the progressives and the conservatives.  Of course, there was the pension-related budget article that went down, causing Speaker Gordon Fox so much difficulty, but other topics united the ends of the political spectrum, and they were heavily weighted toward these issues of civil liberties and privacy.

I should admit that I’ve gotten the impression that progressives are more target-specific in their sympathies.  That is, they seem to be less concerned with the privacy of the middle class and businesses than with that of the working class and ex-criminals, for example.  That said, the overlap in the instincts of both sides is real, not for show, on these issues.

5. An opportunity for concrete unity.

I do wonder, given the timing, whether Russ, Ahlquist, MoveOn, and all like-minded progressives will join with Republican Senator Rand Paul and FreedomWorks, who have initiated a class-action lawsuit against the Obama Administration to halt the NSA’s spying practices.

It’s one thing to exert effort digging up the topical records of a part-time blogger and accuse him of having no thoughts that aren’t filtered through a well-financed right-wing conspiracy. It’s another thing to take steps that might actually bring about objectives that progressives claim to share with Tea Partiers.

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