What’s wrong with surveillance?

I don’t understand what the big deal is with the Bush administration using the Patriot Act to spy on Americans.

Not because I agree with it-I’d have to be crazy to like Big Brother-but because I haven’t heard a single good argument against it.

Everything I’ve heard opposing it uses horrible rhetoric. In my free speech class I learned that, during the first part of the 20th century, the government used “bad tendency” to restrict free speech.

The argument was that if speech had a bad tendency to incite unlawful action, it could legally be restricted. It led to ridiculous restrictions on expression because it could hypothetically lead to trouble.

People weren’t allowed to protest World War I because it might lead to interference of the war. People weren’t allowed to advocate or teach communist ideas because they might lead to a revolution.

For years this ridiculous reasoning was used to silence speech on the most pressing issues of the day.

Yet the argument has been resurrected to fight the FBI. All I hear about surveillance is that it might lead to civil rights infringements. Knowing the FBI might be listening in on cell phone calls might put a chill on expression. Knowing the FBI might look at what books are checked out from a library might limit the research people do.

It’s all hypothetical!

I don’t see what the big deal is. If it helps the government to catch terrorists, and the privilege is under constant scrutiny, and congress must review and renew it frequently and laws prevent the government from interfering in what you say or what books you read, then who cares if Big Brother is watching?

If I’m going to read books about fertilizer bombs and discuss the making of them with people over the Internet or on the phone, then shouldn’t someone be watching me?

If I merely say, “The band bombed last night, which was to be expected after their explosive rehearsal,” I feel bad for the FBI sucker who wastes his or her time eavesdropping on my mundane life.

On the other hand, if my loved ones died because the people who were supposed to be protecting them were prohibited from being proactive because it had a tendency of chilling free speech, I’d be upset.

I don’t like the idea of the government spying on me, but when I’m faced with a hypothetical terrorist attack versus a hypothetical chilling of speech, the choice seems easy.

The answer to this conundrum is getting rid of the hypothetical arguments. No more using bad tendency, period.

Show me the real dangers of surveillance. Show me the chilling effect on free expression. Prove to me that fewer books have been written and fewer meetings have been held. If it’s true, it should be possible.

Or just come up with some other reason for opposing the Patriot Act. But I’m not going to support the government restricting citizens because their speech may lead to trouble, so I’m not going to support citizens restricting the government because its actions may do the same.

If it’s OK for the government to know who is exercising his or her constitutional right to bear arms, what’s wrong with the government knowing who is exercising his or her right to free speech? There are just too many double standards, and they’re hurting more than they’re helping.

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