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May 2, 2005

A moratorium, please. This story of a determined anti-Bush activist whose neighbors sicced the Secret Service on her is all too typical of many such stories we’ve heard lately. It’s cause for alarm, not because it heralds the imminent wholesale shipping of liberals to the glue factory, but because it reflects an increasingly corroded civic culture in which “security” is a cloak for sordid score-settling.

What I want to quibble with is blogger Jillian’s tag line: “Be afraid. Be very afraid.” You know, if there’s one movie tag-line I’d like to excise from popular language, it’s that one. Please don’t “be afraid, be very afraid.”

Be alarmed. Be pissed off. Be prudent, even. (As Dave Johnson constantly reiterates, “watch your back.”) But “be afraid, be very afraid” is exactly what the bastards want you to do. Like bullies everywhere, their main tool isn’t the force they can command, it’s their ability to make your fear do their work for them. Stop doing their work for them.

“Be afraid, be very afraid” is the stock-in-trade of our current leadership. Compare their “war on terror” and their belligerent yet never-conclusive military stumblings to the outcome of the war led by the man who told us that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself. Eloquence isn’t optional. Words matter. Be not afraid. [02:14 PM]

Welcome to Electrolite's comments section.
Hard-Hitting Moderator: Teresa Nielsen Hayden.

Comments on A moratorium, please.:

CmdrSue ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2005, 02:58 PM:

We have nothing to fear but fear itself.

Arthur D. Hlavaty ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2005, 03:00 PM:

"the only thing we to fear is fear itself" and missing words. Be anal-retentive, be very anal-retentive. Also, be snarky, be very snarky.

Arthur D. Hlavaty ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2005, 03:01 PM:

OK, you fixed it quickly. Delete my comment, if you wish.

Hal O'Brien ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2005, 03:17 PM:

"Be not afraid."

...the island is full of noises.

Whoops. Wrong play.

Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2005, 03:26 PM:

"...and it's full of stars..."

Oh wait, that was in the novel 2001: A Space Odyssey. But, then, the universe of writers is full of stars, and the monolith stands before us, as we throw our bones into space at the telecommunications satellites in Clarke Orbit, which the FCC seems to have seized in a coup d'espace. [I refer also to the particle on what a blog is and is not]

Michael Weholt ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2005, 03:40 PM:

I'm afraid I've been -- er, I mean -- It seems I've been stuck at "Be Pissed. Be Very Pissed" for quite some time now. Which is better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick, of course, but it's kind of wearing me out. I don't intend to "be less pissed, be very less pissed", but I feel like I've got to mix something else in with it. Maybe... Colicky? Intrepid? Enterprising? Ambidextrous? Well-groomed?

I think maybe... Nimble.

"Be pissed and nimble. Be very pissed and nimble."

Yeah, that'll do. For a while.

mayakda ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2005, 04:11 PM:

Eh, you triggerred a song loop in my cortex. A hymn, at that.
Be not afraid
I walk before you always
Come follow me
And I will give you rest.

And wow, that makes how many times our manly VP has hidden in a bunker, so far?

Ulrika O'Brien ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2005, 05:07 PM:

For unrelated reasons, I have been reading old rasseff threads, and so unto you I say: balloons, streamers, confetti, two dozen white doves, and the sound of champagne corks going off in volleys. Quite so. Well said. Me too.

Ulrika ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2005, 05:11 PM:


I am so poor at being nimble when I'm pissed, really, so I think I'll go with, "Be of good cheer," instead. When I get cheerful, industrious, and effective to align at once, I believe I will be taking over the planet.

Andy Perrin ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2005, 05:12 PM:

the imminent wholesale shipping of liberals to the glue factory

I thought they were going to use liberals in pregnancy tests to spare the rabbits?

Michael Turyn ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2005, 06:01 PM:

The line "Be afraid...." is redeemed for me via its use in one of the (inferior) "Addams Family" movies, in which a stranger meeting Wednesday prompts her with, "What do we say?," and the Ricci-played-one responds with that line.

(I'm sure Richard Calder liked it, too.)

Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2005, 01:48 PM:

I only ever use that line as a joke (Jordin has cleaned out the garage. Be afraid; be very afraid.) I'd never say it about anything serious.

One of the really nice things about where we live now is that I don't have to worry about the neighbors being upset by the "Save the Bill of Rights/Impeach Bush" sign in the 2nd floor window of our house. Capitol Hill is a veritable hotbed of liberals. (Though according to that how your neigbors donate thing there are a few people who donated to Bush. But nobody on this street.)


Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2005, 07:32 PM:

I wore my spring coat to the rheumatologist appt today, it has the "all one people" button and the Pinocchio Bush button. Webster and her staff gathered and laughed like crazy at the Bush button. I had no idea they were all so sensible.

Jack V. ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2005, 10:28 PM:

Well, the activist did have a sign that said, "Mr. Cheney, What You Sow You Shall Reap. Those Who Destroy the Earth Will Be Destroyed." That's what seems to have gotten the Secret Service's attention. She undoubtedly meant it metaphorically, no doubt; still, the Secret Service is duty-bound to investigate things that look like a threat. That sort of thing happens all the time -- thousands of times per year. A typical story:

PALO ALTO [Nov. 27, 1997]- President Clinton's Secret Service agents searched the apartment of a student columnist for Cal's Daily Californian who wrote a satirical Big Game column mentioning Chelsea Clinton that appeared in the school paper last week.

The 22-year-old Senior student columnist, Guy Branum, said yesterday that the agents had told him the search and investigation were initiated by an angry Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Or for some background:
McCarthy, a former special agent in charge in the U.S. Secret Service, spoke to a group at the University of Nebraska at Kearney's 13th annual Regional Criminal Justice Conference. ... McCarthy, who was involved in the protection of every president from Richard Nixon to Bill Clinton, said a sitting president receives 300 to 500 threats on his life per month. All the threats are investigated, and many are stopped by talking to the person, he said.

"A lot of it is stopped in its tracks just by listening," he said, referring to presidential threats and school shootings.

So just FYI.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2005, 10:41 PM:

And the Olympic Broad Jump Missing The Point Gold Medal goes to...

Avram ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2005, 11:42 PM:

That's right, Jack. Each one of those cases is a real "threat" that was "stopped" by the Secret Service just talking to the guy.

Once there was some guy who was gonna detonate the sun with the power of his mind, and I stopped him just by listening to him. You can tell I stopped him, because the sun never detonated.

Jack V. ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2005, 11:48 PM:

Missing the point? How so? The rest of the post is ok. But the activist's story with which you begin the post doesn't strike me as anything even remotely unusual. Pretty much the same thing happens thousands of times per year, including during Clinton's term in office. Some hot-headed person writes or says something a little bit over the top, some neighbor or bystander reports him/her, and the Secret Service automatically has to investigate. Thus, I guess I'm questioning whether this story has any usefulness in serving as a launching pad for talking about our "increasingly corroded civic culture" or "be not afraid" or whatnot.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2005, 09:14 AM:

The fact that you're spending all this energy defending the Secret Service is why I suspect you're missing the point.

As you say, the Secret Service is statutorily obliged to look into all kinds of threats and often what turn out to be imagined threats. What I'm saying is that the current climate is one in which people feel far more emboldened to pursue their little personal vendettas by siccing the cops on one another. That's the corrosion I was talking about. That's what "McCarthyism" is--not the sweaty shouting Senator, but all the people who use the atmosphere of fear he creates as a means to get even with their sister-in-law.

Yes, a certain amount of this stuff always goes on, and I'm sure you can find instances of it under previous administrations, but more of it is happening now, as is usually the case when people are whipped into a state of fearful hysteria.

Jack V. ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2005, 01:20 PM:

Yes, a certain amount of this stuff always goes on, and I'm sure you can find instances of it under previous administrations, but more of it is happening now . . .

How do you know? Are there statistics available somewhere?

Look, I also think it is silly and petty to sic the Secret Service on a neighbor like that. But I have no idea (1) how often that happens now, or (2) how often that has happened before. Do you?

Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2005, 01:26 AM:

The Secret Service only has to make one mistake...

That's maybe an over-simplification, but look at who has tried to kill the people they're charged with protecting. I'm not sure that this sort of thing is an effective part of the system. How many of the attackers have a history of making threats? How many of those histories have been a single threat. And how do you resolve the conflict between investigating every reported threat and the whole idea of freedom of speech?

It's that last part where the problem is.

Clark E Myers ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2005, 02:09 AM:

And how do you resolve the conflict between investigating every reported threat and the whole idea of freedom of speech?

I'd give full weight to freedom of speech so that:
(1) You ignore all reported threats that occured in the absence of the threatened party
(2) You ignore all threats lacking present intention and current ability.
(3) You act on threats made in the presence of the executive (family etc.) when the threat is accompanied by current intent and ability.

I'd hope for the policy from H. Beam Piper's Lone Star Planet/Planet for Texans for dealing with practicing politicians. (obs SF)

It's said that Harry Truman went for a walk following the shootings from the visitor's gallary in Congress by the Puerto Rican nationalists. It's also said then President Truman offered to excuse the assigned agents from going along saying in effect that being a target went with his job more than with theirs.

All rule is ultimately rule by force and therefore ultimately rule by fear (be afraid or make them afraid) and fraud - whether it's King John or Robin Hood ruling.

John M. Burt ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2005, 02:18 AM:

"Be not afraid."

I needed to hear that again.

Thank you.

Helen ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2005, 12:09 AM:

Having read Anna Funder's Stasiland (and if you haven't, you really should) I read your post and instantly recognised the kind of behaviour characteristic of East Germany under the Stasi.
If Republicans are happy to have their "democracy" drift that way (and I'm not saying 100%, but in that direction) then good for them, I guess?