US – Some Things Are “Brainers”, Not “No-Brainers” – Bill Maher Is Right About One Such Thing – 17 June 2013

If you haven’t already seen this Bill Maher clip about the NSA/privacy debate, it’s worth a watch. The main thing he says in the clip that I think is the message I’d like to spread further is that where one stands on the current NSA/privacy issues is _not_ a “no-brainer”. As Maher correctly observes, it’s a “brainer”.

These are not easy issues to sort out. This is why President Obama has repeatedly asked for people to seek a _balance_ in their views on civil liberties, instead of just opting for the “more privacy” box on the ballot, as if it were as simple as that.

Polls show that Americans, when asked about specific scenarios where they might be asked to give up privacy in order to have more security, are comfortable with some of the scenarios, but uncomfortable with others. The phone metadata scenario (now revealed to not be a scenario, but an actual reality) doesn’t bother most Americans. Granted, the margin isn’t filibuster-proof – 56% okay with such searches, 41% not okay. But it’s getting into supermajority territory. It is _not_ obvious Americans Who Love The Constitution must hate phone metadata searches, unless we’re claiming that 56% of Americans don’t love their constitution. 

However, other scenarios do bother Americans. For example, he Transportation Safety Administration had to ditch their more invasive scanners after people complained that it involved too much in terms of their own personal space being compromised. That didn’t mean that people can now go to airports and just walk right on the plane, with no kind of scanning at all. But it did mean what Americans think about what is _too_ invasive does matter.

The Patriot Act authorises secret home searches…did you know that? In 2005, pollsters for CBS and the New York Times asked Americans how they felt about that. A majority opposed it.

Why are liberal-tarians not running with that? Why are they not doing everything they can to stop anyone from having their home secretly searched. If they did, they would be on much firmer ground with most Americans than they are with the phone metadata thing.

I’ve already opined numerous times about how I suspect it’s because the outrage is being manufactured to take down Obama…but even so, wouldn’t it be more effective if liberal-tarians could find something Americans were potentially “outrageable” about? Secret home searches would seem to fall in that category.

It may be that the Greenwald set has deliberately picked an issue where a majority feels differently – possibly to pose as a proper “righteous few” who are more anointed by real concern for justice than the rest of us plebs. (The Glenn Greenwald who penned that obnoxious “You don’t really care about the victims of the Newtown attack if you don’t care about drones” article fits pretty nicely into that role. The point is not to help shape an enlightened majority view. The point is to hector the majority into guilt-trippy submission.)

But that’s still the reality of it…Americans aren’t convinced that something represented as a “no-brainer” is anything other than…a “brainer”.

I’d much rather be debating at Bill Maher’s table than one of Glenn Greenwald’s trained sheep. This is an issue that requires more than sympathetic bleats.

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