The Politics of Fear

At this moment, I am sitting in a cabin, about fifteen miles north-northeast of Mesa Verda in southern Colorado. The air is a little thinner than what I am typically used to, and I am waiting for the percolating coffee maker (sigh – no Keurig) to finish pumping out some of the nectar of the Gods for me. I will have plenty to write on all that I will experience in the coming days though. Instead, for this morning’s post, I wanted to focus on something that I have been listening to on the radio airwaves:  the closing of the survelliance aspects of the so-called “Patriot” Act, which was followed on by the passage of similar survelliance aspects under the title of the “Freedom” Act by what is meant to be the vice of the people here in the United States — the Congress.

Senator (and Presidential hopeful) Rand Paul gave an empassioned…well, it wasn’t quite a speech, and it was far more than just him talking about why the “Patriot” Act needed to lapse instead of being extended. I’m not sure what to call it – so I’ll settle on diatribe, even though that doesn’t quite cover it either. Anyways, Rand Paul provide an empassioned diatribe against the “Patriot” Act even stating at one point: “…isn’t this what we fought the revolution over?” That’s not the real reason, but it is the one that gets stated openly so that voters think these folks in Congress are actually DOING something. No, the real reason that the “revolution” was “fought” was to insert new players into the positions of power and authority of Congress, and push out the older folks. But (as usual), I digress. On the opposite point – as opposite as it could get – was Mitch McConnell, from the same party as Senator Paul, arguing in his dull monotone about the virtues of the program. He lacked any kind of passion in his statements, and sounded more like he could care less if the measures were extended or not. That’s because there was the “Freedom” Act, with much the same measures installed in its wording, to take its place. This particular bll has been around since 2013, and lately, there have been a few amendments added to it – presumably to make things palatable to the American public.

But how does a bill like this, curtailing the freedoms that Americans treasure within the Constitution even see the light of day? For that, we have to stop talking about the “Patriot” and “Freedom” Acts and look instead at who benefits from this. This boils down to a single point – fear. After the tragic events of September 11th, 2001, the United States public demanded answers. How could plans such as these have been stopped? Security measures at airports were severely tightened. What we were allowed to bring on a flight was scrutinized and scrutinized again. After a terrorist attempted to ignite his shoes that were lined with C4 explosives during in incoming overseas flight into Detroit, we were forced to remove our shoes at the security check-in line. We, the public, expressed a fear that these attacks would happen. We implored our government to do what they should be doing:  protecting us. In response, the government noted that to protect us, they would need to remove a few of our basic freedoms to ferret out would-be attackers. And the American public agreed, provided that the measures were only temporary. We just saw the temporary status in play, as the provisions under the “Patriot” Act were allowed to lapse. And just mere hours later, we see the Congress using a different tactic to bring this back under a different measure.

The politics of fear is a lucrative business. We need TSA screening agents on the front lines. At the screening locations – but surely these folks din’t plop from the womb knowing everything about being a TSA screening agent, right? Of course not. They have to be trained properly. That means money. That means business contracts with third-party security firms who will train TSA screening agents. That also means bloated government contracts, and mis-management of funding. Let’s not kid ourselves, the government is terrible at third-party vendor contracts. Added along with the TSA screening agents are the new security measures that businesses will need to add in to keep from being attacked or a potential loss of data. I know a lot about this side of the business, I have worked in many places as a Disaster Recovery technician. These processes and the associated equipment and software do not come cheap. Added to that, these security companies and disaster recovery firms have strong lobbies in the halls of Congress. Its certainly not difficult to bend the arm of a congressperson to enact legislation that benefits your company, when Congress was one of the persumed targets on 9/11. Add to all of this, high profile security breaches of military data by WikiLeaks and Eric Snowden – and you have the perfect hammer to effect the drumbeat of fear in the halls of Congress.

Make no bones about it, unraveling this sticky ball of politics, legislation, and fear will be difficult. Senator Paul had the correct idea on allowing aspects of the “Patriot” Act to lapse. It will certainly be interesting to see if he continues that drumbeat against the “Freedom” Act or not. If he is lead by his principles, he will have very similar arguments against the Freedom Act. If he is lead by the lobbyists in the halls of Congress, he will be wanting to enact the new “Freedom” Act measures, along with all of its associated funding for equipment, procedures, staffing, and contractual bloat. It will certainly be an interesting measure to watch in the coming days – particularly on where the voting lines get drawn. 

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