That term “civil liberties” doesn’t mean what you think it does
Heather at C&L posted this 13-second video of Reihan Salam saying that the TSA dust-up is just one of many examples of conservatives getting back to caring about civil liberties. This is naked bullshit, of course, and that he bothered to utter it just proves what I said at the Guardian about this:
The influx of money, tied to a perceived political imperative not to be seen as being “soft on terrorism”, means the battle lines over this are being drawn in such a way that real change over security protocols is unlikely. Conservatives who are up in arms about this will likely shut up if their team wins by getting security privatised, even though it will remain as invasive. Meanwhile, many Democratic-leaning journalists and pundits seem content to attack dishonest and shady rightwing TSA critics – without examining in detail why such security procedures are invasive and need to stop.
It’s been really unpleasant, dealing with conservatives on this. Plenty of liberals think the TSA searches are out of line, but making alliances with conservatives on this is a scary proposition. From my article:
[A]ligning yourself with the American right means bringing on quite a bit of baggage: bad faith arguments, outright lying, racism – and hidden agendas, usually serving predatory corporate interests.
The notion that there’s some great pro-civil liberties sentiment on the right makes as much sense as saying Sarah Palin is a feminist. Which is to say, only if you’re too stupid to figure out how to work a zipper. Those of us who support civil liberties mostly find ourselves fighting the right on this one. We are talking about the conservative movement, to whom the term “ACLU” is a dirty word. Indeed, most of the energy on the right on this TSA thing is about restricting civil liberties—the problem for most isn’t that there are invasive searches. It’s that white people have to endure them.
As far as I can tell, the right only cares about civil liberties if they can make it about provoking the emasculation fears of a bunch of bitter assholes, thus the gun nuttery aspect of the right. But should said emasculation fears support restrictions on liberty, then they’ll all for it. You can’t take their guns, and no woman should have the right to reject a man’s seed, which is practically like taking his balls from him! Freedom of speech is sorely misunderstood on the right—their interpretation appears to be, “No one should criticize me when I speak my mind, liberals should shut the fuck up, and how come white people can’t say the n-word, like black people can?” (Which goes up to the first point—they seem to treat having people snarl at you as an infringement on liberty akin to actual infringements, like going to jail.) Religious liberty only means that Christians should have a right to impose their bullshit on everyone else with taxpayer money, but it certainly doesn’t mean you should have the right to build a community center on private land. There appears to be exactly zero right wing anger, outside of a couple of eccentrics working at libertarian think tanks, over police abuses of the citizenry.
Actual supporters of civil liberties are out there as they always have been, mostly working for the left. Which isn’t to say that there aren’t liberals who buy into fear-mongering and support actual infringements on our liberties—I’m not naming names, but I’ve seen some pants-wetting about terrorism used to justify the TSA searches on the left. But most of the work done in this area is and will continue to be done by liberals. And we tend to be more whole cloth about it. As I note in a podcast I do every week that’s devoted to a certain aspect of civil liberties, people shouldn’t have to have their junk touched to get on an airplane, but nor should the price they pay for delivering a baby in a hospital while being in an interracial relationship be that their baby is taken from them on spurious grounds.