We're simple people, really, all of us. We don't like ambiguity or nuance, and we don't particularly like new things. We like to put things in tried and true box-like categories. When we argue about how society, or the government, should address a particular issue, we tend to argue Darmok-like, by analogy and allusion to those familiar box-like categories. Hence when our government develops an appetite to ban, say, videos depicting animal cruelty, it tends to do so by analogy, by saying that videos depicting animal cruelty belong in the child pornography box and can be banned on that basis.
Under this approach, a government hungry for unfettered power can achieve it by (a) making us irrationally terrified of the contents one particular box, and (b) selling us on the concept that a wide range of unrelated things belongs in that box.
The box we're most terrified of right now is the one marked "terrorism." The government has very successfully sold most of us on the concept that we're in mortal danger of terrorists killing us right here in America, correctly calculating that our collective innumeracy will prevent us from accurately assessing the actual danger and comparing it to the danger of being run over by an SUV or developing lung cancer from our cigarettes or a heart attack from our Big Macs. With few exceptions, we've bought into the concept that the OMG TERROR!! box is indeed terrifying, and that the government is justified in exercising broad and mostly unfettered power to do what it thinks is necessary to stop the awful things in that box from jumping out and EATING OUR CHILDREN. The Bush Administration got away with quite a bit, and the Obama Administration, despite unkept promises to reign in such exercises of power, has eagerly continued them.
Naturally the government is trying to drop more things in the terror box. Naturally the government wants to use its broad and largely anti-terror power against things other than just Middle Eastern terrorists. It craves the largely uncritical support we give to the War on Terror. It thinks it would be nice if we would support other government functions uncritically. Maybe we will, if the government can convince us that those other functions belong in the terror box.
So the government, having achieved nothing resembling success in its long and costly War on Drugs, tries to drop drugs into the terror box, and see if that will lead us to view its prohibition efforts with the same lack of critical thinking that we view the War on Terror.
But that isn't far enough. There's other problems out there. Like . . . piracy. Like people downloading Lady Gaga or Iron Man for free.
Wouldn't the world be a swell place if people would accept the government's anti-piracy efforts with the same uncritical support that they give to the War on Terror? You can be sure the RIAA thinks so. The RIAA thinks that the War on Piracy is more important than the War on Terror, because the War on Terror is (thanks to 24) mostly profitable to the RIAA, whereas the War on Piracy has cost it money.
Fortunately for the RIAA, the government is obliging; it's perfectly willing to try to wedge the War on Piracy into the terror box. It's win-win. The government gets broader power; the RIAA gets broader support for its propaganda.
Still, you may wonder … Why is the department of homeland security using federal muscle to protect Shrek?
“The reason the Department of Homeland Security is protecting Shrek is because we are all about protecting the homeland. We’re all about protecting American interests,” says John Morton, assistant secretary of DHS.
And what's good for the green ogre is good for America?
“If you don’t think undermining Hollywood’s ability to produce a "Shrek," undermining the creativity that goes into creating a "Shrek," undermines the United States," Morton says, "you are sadly mistaken.”
We were sufficiently terrified of the contents of the terror box not to flinch when they created something called a Department of Homeland Security. Why would we worry about giving it the job of pursuing illegal movie and music downloaders? Piracy threatens America. Just like terrorists.
Last 5 posts by Ken White
- How The University of Chicago Could Have Done A Better Job Defending Free Speech - August 29th, 2016
- Gawker, Money, Speech, And Justice - August 18th, 2016
- Lawsplainer: No, Donald Trump's "Second Amendment" Comment Isn't Criminal - August 9th, 2016
- Why Openness About Mental Illness is Worth The Effort And Discomfort - August 9th, 2016
- A Rare Federal Indictment For Online Threats Against Game Industry - July 28th, 2016