Our resident rational ranter, Seth Hall, utilizes the tenets of V for Vendetta, Jean-Luc Picard, and, you know, The Constitution in this analysis of the government, the legal system, and your basic rights. “People should not be afraid of their government. The government should be afraid of its people.”
When it comes politics, I tend to be all over the map. After all, I did this amazing thing called learning to think for myself. But if I had to place myself somewhere, it would be slightly left of center. In my chosen career field, and in my current state of residence, this makes me the token “bleeding heart liberal.” But, frankly, I’m alright with that. After all,
the two things I believe in the most are freedom and justice. Yeah, clichéd, I know.
From my college education to my daily work, I would wager to say I’m pretty much an expert in the Bill of Rights. And the Amendment I know better than any other? The Fourth. I have to interpret it every single day; most of the time, in less than a few seconds. Need a refresher?
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
This probably one of the most detailed, specific, and blunt Amendments our government has ever written. And it is also one of the most important and underrated.
Look, trying to rank the Bill of Rights is pointless and damn near impossible. I would know. I once tried. But, I have to say the Fourth is up there. This is the Amendment that prevents the government, in any form, from simply coming into your home without a very good reason (probable cause). It prevents them from searching, seizing, or otherwise disrupting you or your personal property.
Now understand, this does not mean the government or the police can never come into your home or seize anything of yours. But that is what probable cause is for.
How does this relate to you, the geek? Well, it’s almost too obvious. Everything from Fahrenheit 451 and 1984, to V for Vendetta and Equilibrium, has taught us what happens when we lose our Fourth Amendment rights. You may not care that your porn collection is filed away in a massive government database, but you should.
We geeks are smart enough to not utilize a slippery slope argument fallacy, but we are smart enough to recognize patterns. Comparing geek culture to the real world is something our elected officials would look down upon. They would consider it an illogical approach; a distraction. But, is it not true writers write what they know? Is it not true the best writers put pen to paper because they observe something troubling in the world, and the only way the rest of us will listen is if we actually believe it is escapism? Is it not possible that some of these film, television, and book writers saw these patterns, and the only way they felt they could warn us was through entertainment?
At times like these I am often reminded of V’s newsroom speech in V for Vendetta. He doesn’t blame the people for letting them become controlled. We were all afraid, we were all angry after 9/11. We all wanted justice. Hell, let’s be honest. We wanted vengeance. We began to see enemies everywhere. Hindsight is 20/20, but let’s go ahead and look back anyway. It took us way too long to capture or kill those responsible. We got distracted in proxy conflicts. And the Axis of Evil now sounds like a less flamboyant SPECTRE.
We let our fear take control, and we put all the decisions into the hands of the borderline extremists whom we elected. And no, this is not an attack on solely the right. Diane Feinstein, the Democrat who led the charge against guns is also the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee and one of the individuals responsible for the latest surveillance scandals. A Democrat? Assaulting our civil liberties? Oh, say it isn’t so!
And now to come full circle back to Vendetta. When we let fear control our election decisions, we will only elect the extremists who make promises which can only be kept by crossing over the boundaries of law. Once this becomes mainstream, anyone who opposes such actions, even on peaceful, moral grounds, becomes the enemy.
Why do governments do this? It’s for our own protection, naturally. That’s why they placed us under arrest for crimes we hadn’t even committed in Minority Report. This could be the penultimate seizure, short of actually taking a life. But can you really seize someone or his or her property just because of what might happen? Isn’t that what is already happening? Isn’t that at the core of Guantanamo Bay and the PRISM scandals?
What about an imminent threat? I can remember news debates from only a few years ago, which may show just how badly we’ve lost touch with reality, and why we may have parts of our own geek culture to blame. In between adrenaline-pumping clips of 24, the talking heads on CNN, FOX, and MSNBC discussed if torture or other such questionable legal tactics were necessary in a “ticking-time-bomb” scenario?
Let me clarify something right now. This sort of thing pretty much never happens in the real world. And even if it did, by knowing about it, it creates what we call extenuating circumstances. Legal matters such as the Plain View Doctrine and the Terry Frisk can be utilized. In addition, fax machines have made the warrants process faster, while still ensuring probable cause. What does this mean? It means things move a hell of a lot faster under already legal methods, thereby negating any need to circumvent the established law.
And if someone is an imminent threat, we should attempt to capture them first. The benefits of capture far outweigh any feelings of vengeance by blood. First, you can gather more intel from someone who is alive. Second, you do not make them a martyr in the eyes of their fellow terrorists. Furthermore, it is the right thing to do. We are better than those who would seek to destroy us. To lower ourselves to a system which is just as brutal and draconian as that which we stand against does nothing more than allow the terrorists to win.
This is what they want. The terrorists wish to see our freedoms destroyed. Do we want them to succeed? Hell no.
Now, that being said. If you attempt to capture a violent terrorist, and they present you with no choice but to utilize deadly force in order to save others or yourself, you do what has to be done.
So what is the best way to counter terrorism? In my humble opinion, we must continue to live our lives and preserve our freedoms as was intended. The fact of the matter is, there will always be terrorism and those who seek to harm us. There will always be some evil cause toward which the most mentally disturbed and violent will flock. But we must not give in to them. I pray and hope we are never attacked again. But if we are, we respond. And we respond with a mighty force which will make extremists shake in their boots. But it will be a force governed by the rule of law, because we will not sacrifice our souls. We will not strike a bargain with any devil, real or otherwise.
I could beat you over the head with more of our friend V or with very hard copies of 1984 (which for all its relevance, let’s face the fact that Orwell was not a very good writer), but I think the Internet is still beating the remains of that dead horse. Instead, I want to talk about what we can do.
I’m sure by now, some of you may be wondering, if utilizing the law in the way it was intended is really so easy, why are some trying so hard to circumvent it? There are only two possible explanations. The first is an elaborate conspiracy meant to control us. This is a little “tin foil hat” for my tastes. Also, it requires everyone in the government to agree on something. When was the last time that happened?
The second, and more likely, explanation is all a matter of politics
Politicians are terrified of the United States being attacked again, but not for the reasons you might think. They’re worried if we are attacked while they are in office, we will see them as “soft” on security. And if they are seen as soft on security, the will not win a reelection. So, yes. Our rights are being violated so we will continue to vote into office the ones who have been violating our rights.
There is no way to say this without sounding arrogant, but here goes. We as geeks are the smartest people on the planet. Why is that? Because we have made the effort to broaden our minds. Because we enjoy learning about new things. Because we like to be challenged. We do not spend our time pining over reality television and celebrities with the intelligence quotient of a gnat.
We have the ability to generate real, peaceful change.
Separate, we are nerds, jocks, techies, artists, writers, gamers, cinephiles, and role-players. Together, we are geeks. We are stronger as one. We have the intelligence and the perseverance to encourage progressive, non-violent change, and to shape the world in the ways we have done so on our screens, table tops, and fields. Together, we will make Earth a beacon by which other civilizations inhabited with hot, blue women will be proud to make first contact.
You are the future. The real hope. You are that which makes our species strong. I am proud to call you my comrades.
You are One of Us.