The View From 1776

Perspective on the Patriot Act

      http://www.thomasbrewton.com/index.php/weblog/perspective_on_the_patriot_act/

ACLU opposition to the Patriot Act is motivated by animosity to 1776 ideas of civic virtue and personal morality.  It has no connection to protecting the liberties intended by The Bill of Rights.

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John Kerry, our first French socialist running for the Presidency, has joined the ACLU’s chorus denouncing the Patriot Act as destroying American liberties.  Even staunch conservatives like columnist William Safire have called for its repeal.

Wars have negative impacts on personal liberties.  President Lincoln suspended many civil liberties, albeit under provisions of the Constitution, during the Civil War.  The Federal government nationalized the railroads, shipping, and much of American industry during our brief involvement with World War I.  But President Woodrow Wilson terminated all these provisions and demobilized the armed forces within months of the 1918 Armistice.

The 1930s Depression, followed by World War II, the Korean War, and the 40-year Cold War with the USSR, of which the Vietnam War was a part, presented the nation with unprecedented conditions.  For the first time in American history, the nation was continuously mobilized in one way or another, militarily or politically, at the Federal level.  President Eisenhower warned us about the dangers of the military-industrial complex.

 

Liberals, nonetheless, were in hog-heaven with the New Deal’s national planning and regulatory control imposed on almost every aspect of private activity.  But, somehow the Bush administration’s Patriot Act is the straw that broke the camel’s back.

Is the Patriot Act really a mortal threat to the Bill of Rights?  Or isn’t it just one more necessary response to threats against our national integrity?  Reasonable people can disagree about specific procedures authorized by the Patriot Act.  They can demand stronger safeguards for rights of privacy.  But that’s different from saying that the privacy of individuals’ library records is more important than national security against terrorism.

The first thing to be said is that every political society, for obvious reasons, has come to the position that it must do whatever may be necessary to preserve its political and military integrity.  England and the United States, more than any other nations in history, have granted wide latitude to expression of critical social and political opinion.  Historically, in most of Continental Europe and in the Middle and Far East, rulers ruthlessly crushed all expressions of dissent.

John Milton’s “Areopagitica,” written in 1644, championed the view that no government should employ prior restraint to prevent the voicing of opinion, though it might punish wrongdoings resulting therefrom.  You can say what you believe, but you must be prepared to endure the consequences if it causes mischief.  Milton’s summation was, “When complaints are freely heard, deeply considered, and speedily reformed, then is the utmost bound of civil liberty that wise men look for.”

It is precisely this view that the ACLU and other liberal-socialist organizations rail against.  The possibility of Federal retribution, even for terrorist sabotage, is too much for them.  Theirs is a self-interested and expansive interpretation of the First Amendment that was first developed by the ACLU after World War I.  Realizing that public opinion, and therefore Congressional disposition, were strongly against them, they created the strategy of judicial activism to make end-runs around Congress and the public.  If they could get liberal-socialists appointed to the Federal courts, then liberal judges could legislate from the bench.

We must remember that the ACLU was defending the “rights” of anarchists, socialists, and communists to organize for and carry out activities intended to subvert the Constitution and replace it with anarchy or the despotism of socialist collectivism.  Just as with Islamic jihadists, the intellectual elite represented by the ACLU was driven by deep-seated faith that they alone understand what is best for society.  Their vision could be implemented only if the individualism of Constitutional principle could be removed.  Hence, there should be no restraints of any kind on their speech or actions.

Looking at the Patriot Act from the perspective of this history, it’s clear that the burr under the liberals’ saddle blanket is really conservatives’ challenge to licentious speech and public conduct.

At the every-day level, this liberal-socialist attitude is manifested in defending an anything-goes regurgitation of filth in TV, movies, and in print media.  Since the days of the French Revolution, liberals have advocated free-love, the early term for sexual promiscuity.  They have always understood that civic virtue and personal morality cannot survive a steady and prolonged erosion of public taste of the sort so skillfully effected by the entertainment media.

What seems not to have occurred to liberals is that such licentiousness, once it infects all of society, must abruptly and ruthlessly be brought to an end by the liberal intelligentsia itself if society in any form is to survive.  France’s Reign of Terror, the many purges of Lenin and Stalin, and Mao’s “Let a Thousand Flowers Bloom,” followed by Red Guard re-education of dissenters, are what inevitably follows the sort of society advocated by Michael Moore, Al Franken, and the air-head class of Hollywood denizens.

Meanwhile, if the ACLU has its way, Islamic terrorists also remain free to pursue the ruin of Constitutional government.  Liberals seem unaware that they will be among the first to feel the headsman’s axe if Al Queda is not brought under the Patriot Act’s surveillance.