Dear Conservatives: This Is Why We Hate All Your Civil Rights Restrictions in the Name of Fighting Terror

Because about 5 seconds after they are passed, government officials are scheming to use the laws against non-terrorists to protect themselves from criticism.

Twenty-four environmental activists have been placed under house arrest ahead of the Paris climate summit, using France’s state of emergency laws. Two of them slammed an attack on civil liberties in an interview with FRANCE 24....

The officers handed Amélie a restraining order informing her that she can no longer leave Rennes, is required to register three times a day at the local police station, and must stay at home between 8pm and 6am.

The order ends on December 12, the day the Paris climate summit draws to a close....

Citing the heightened terrorist threat, French authorities have issued a blanket ban on demonstrations – including all rallies planned to coincide with the climate summit, which Hollande is due to formally open on Monday.

This justification is about as lame as them come:

AFP news agency has had access to the restraining notices. It says they point to the “threat to public order” posed by radical campaigners, noting that security forces “must not be distracted from the task of combating the terrorist threat”.

Note that the police had absolutely no evidence that these folks were planning any violence, or even that they were planning any particular sort of protest.  This was a classic "round up the usual suspects" dragnet of anyone who had made a name for themselves protesting at green causes in the past.

Postscript:  Yes, I know that these protesters and I would have very little common ground on environmental issues.  So what?  There is nothing more important than supporting the civil rights of those with whom one disagrees.

And yes, I do have the sneaking suspicion that many of the very same people caught up in this dragnet would cheer if I and other skeptics were similarly rounded up for our speech by the government.  But that is exactly the point.  There are people who, if in power, would like to have me rounded up.  So it is important to stand firm against any precedent allowing the government to have these powers.  Else the only thing standing between me and jail is a single election.

Update:  Think that last bit is overly dramatic?  Think again.  I can guarantee you that you have some characteristic or belief that would cause someone in the world today, and probably many people, to want to put you up against the wall if they had the power to do so.  As proof, see:  all of history.


  1. mx:

    Bravo for speaking up for the fundamental rights of even those you disagree with!

  2. MNHawk:

    Nice rant, except it's a leftist going after fellow leftists.

  3. Daniel Nylen:

    Lincoln did it yet nobody thinks he was a tyrant. The train on liberty left the station a long time ago.

  4. SamWah:

    In that case, yes. Who will be next?

  5. Jim Collins:

    I was wondering when somebody was going to point that out.

  6. mesocyclone:

    Dear Libertarians. You are members of a suicide cult. Unlimited immigration will bring in people whose cultures are farther removed from Libertarianism than the US. Ignoring enemies at home and abroad can lead to the destruction of the democracy in which you thrive.

    For a society to survive in a world of real, flawed human beings, it needs to take unlibertarian measures. The issue is where to draw the line, but Libertarians generally tend towards ignoring the real problem and imagining freedom will solve all ills.

    Oh, and blaming conservatives for the actions of a leftist president of a foreign country is really lame.

  7. bigmaq1980:

    Not sure what the strand between free speech, and immigration is, in this article, despite agreeing on the problem with open immigration.

  8. bigmaq1980:

    People keep wanting new laws for whatever is their pet problem in society, and politicians are happy to oblige, while government representatives are too comfortable stretching existing laws beyond their original intent just to get their way (Lois Lerner, IRS, or Obama's executive actions).

    The problem is it becomes almost an arms race as each side, left and right, keep piling on new laws. Yet, each gets amazed that those same laws get "abused" by the "other side". Prompting new calls for new rules.

    Neither side seems to be willing to deescalate this mess and reduce the size and scope of the government. Probably because people keep asking for more and voting for politicians who promise to deliver more.

  9. chembot:

    there isn't one specifically. I do believe the original comment is striking at tone, namely, offering up a caricature belief and tarring an entire ideology with it. Perhaps ironically, I find a large grain of truth to be present in both statements.

    Libertarians do tend to like living in the realm of pure moral reason and conservatives do tend to have an unhealthy inclination towards setting up strong surveillance/police powers. Of course, so do libs, they are just more mealy mouthed about it: They speak for the trees and against the haters and are more than happy to sicc the dogs on anyone who says different.

  10. bigmaq1980:

    "..conservatives do tend to have an unhealthy inclination towards setting up strong surveillance/police powers...(while liberals)... speak for the trees and against the haters and are more than happy to sicc the dogs on anyone who says different."

    Agree. Long ago came to the conclusion that rules, policy, enforcement, government programs, taxes, etc. have all largely become tools for someone to force their point of view.

    As elections cycle power between the left and the right, they each keep adding on more (in the name of some pet issue for their group) vs taking any of it away. They may even believe they are doing good (there is some room for skepticism on this), but inevitably they are providing more tools for their opposition to (ab)use when they win the next election cycle.

    Since the cost of all this is spread out, but the benefits accrue to a concentrated few, this creates the wrong incentives for the wrong types of people to run for office, to manage the bureaucracy, and to lobby these people.

    The only solution is radically reduced size and scope of government.

    One of the few areas where Libertarian prescriptions seem troubling is with immigration in today's world. There is a human element and scale issue in this asymmetrical world that gets assumed away with open borders. Under specific conditions it would work, but we are not there yet.

    I've listed some questions in prior posts about these real world problems, but they haven't seen addressed yet, and perhaps never will if we keep discussion in the "purely moral realm".

    Morality, like theory, is not much good if we cannot apply it to the real world issues.

  11. markm:

    Lincoln faced an actual rebellion.

  12. Daniel Nylen:

    Rebellion? The newspapers Lincoln shut down and the people he jailed to stop their ideas were in rebellion? They were many of the Northerners who simply didn't agree with the war Lincoln foisted on the Union to force the South to stay in a government they didn't agree with. The South tried to leave, not rebel--there is a big difference. The North used force to prevent the South from leaving. I don't think that the South was trying to take over the North--you have the situation reversed.
    By today's standards of the rights of people for self-determination, or even by the standards then, we would view the South's efforts to form their own government differently, or at least we did in Serbia and Croatia. It is hard to defend that Lincoln wasn't a tyrant when he killed and destroyed a society until it acquiesced to the North's will against the rights and desires of the vast majority of the South's people-- the very definition of a tyrant. To keep his own society in line, Lincoln jailed, and abrogated rights to suppress dissent. As a libertarian, I see that the US passed a milestone in tyranny back then, regardless of any issues with slavery--which the majority of the Union didn't care about. Why should the present government be any different?

  13. stan:

    Why point the finger at conservatives? Liberals are far more authoritarian and far more restrictive of fundamental rights. Who goes after guns? Who shuts down free speech? Who punishes religion? Who demands regulations for everything and anything?