The words chilling effect come to mind, somehow. (Via regis.) This is an isolated incident — perhaps. It’s a story told by a liberal — certainly. I don’t care. This shouldn’t happen. If I call the FBI and report that someone was reading something suspicious, that’s not an incident. That’s someone reading.
A few months ago, I got one of those scam emails from someone pretending to be Paypal. I called the Boston FBI office to report it. I literally couldn’t get someone to take my report. “Did you lose over $5,000?” “Well, no.” “Sorry, we don’t deal with cases in which nobody lost $5,000.”
But apparently they deal with cases where someone was reading a suspicious, liberal-slanting printout. Nice to see where the priorities are.
The good people over at the Volohk Conspiracy have written extensively on the Patriot Act. The general thrust of their argument is that the Patriot Act does not give the government rights it would not otherwise have. I submit that while this may be literally true, there are other factors at work.
If law enforcement officials perceive the Patriot Act as permitting certain types of actions, they are more likely to carry out those actions whether or not it actually permits them. It’s a question of perceived permission. While injustices thus created will (hopefully) get ironed out eventually, that is not entirely a comfort to those caught in such injustices. Chilling effect.
And now people are calling the FBI on bearded guys reading liberal editorials in public. Good thing I don’t have a beard.