This video is going around the internet and the comments, more than being merely unpleasant, are disturbing in their anti-democraticness.


The refusal to assert one’s right when it is being illegally infringed upon will be taken as evidence of that right’s superfluity. That right will become no longer one’s own. You are positively contributing to facism in allowing your constitutional rights to be overrun.


Equally important, you have the right not merely to things, but the right to not do things, what Isaiah Berlin called ‘negative liberty’. The most famous index of such liberty is the Fifth Amendment: the right not to answer to a capital crime unless indicted by a Grand Jury, the right not to be tried for the same crime twice, the right to not self-incriminate, the right not to be deprived of life, liberty, or property.


The last clause however invokes that mode paradigmatic of negative freedom: privacy: the right not to be deprived of private property for public use. Privacy is in fact constitutive of democracy: the international law of the secret ballot: Article 21.3,  Universal Declaration of Human Rights: “The will of the people…shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which…shall be held by secret vote or by equivalent free voting procedures”; Article 23, American Convention on Human Rights: ‘Every citizen shall enjoy the following rights and opportunities: … b. to vote and to be elected in genuine periodic elections, which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and by secret ballot that gaurantees the free expression of the will of the voters…’; etc.


The pseudo-logic of ‘If you’ve got nothing to hide, you’ve got nothing to be afraid of’ shows itself tendentious. Not merely because everybody has something they wish to hide – even, as has been recently shown, the Attorney General, the Secretary of State, etc., but moreover because modern democracy is in fact founded on the privacy of secrecy. ‘If you’ve got nothing to hide, you’ve got nothing to be afraid of’  is doubly fallacious because one does have precisely to be afraid, and must be afraid of such encroachments this phrase is being served to justify,  encroachments of human and constitutional rights, rights such as ‘the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures’, i.e., the Fourth Amendment.


As Nazi Germany taught us, the threat of facism is not in some invading, non-Christian other, but precisely in the indifference of the polity.

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