There is no shame in total devotion to liberty.
The Social Credit Security State
Our woke ruling class intends to use both private and public enterprise to police and punish hearts and minds.
President Ronald Reagan famously said, “the nine most terrifying words in the English language are, ‘I’m from the government, and I’m here to help.’” But as I’ve argued, many modern conservatives are now more concerned about Angelo Codevilla’s harrowing description of our new American oligarchy as an amalgam of “public” and “private” enterprise. We must conclude that the new “most terrifying words” are, “I’m from the ruling class, and I’m here to subjugate you.”
That, in a nutshell, is the telos—what Blackstone might have intuited as the ratio legis, or “reason of the law”—of the Biden National Security Council’s new pamphlet inaugurating a “National Strategy for Countering Domestic Terrorism.” The document seizes a post-January 6 moral high ground, invoking what Pedro Gonzalez calls a “socially constructed specter” of an all-encompassing and “insurrectionist” white supremacist threat. On this one foundation, the Administration lays the entire groundwork for a sort of American “social credit system” that will be weighted decisively against the “deplorable” half of the citizenry. Clear-eyed American patriots may rightfully decry the vile Chinese Communist Party on the occasion of its recent centennial. But many others of our countrymen seem eager to inflict elements of Maoism upon us in the here and now.
The “National Strategy” formalizes the Left’s disingenuous view that the lamentable unrest of January 6 represented some sort of pre-planned, murderous insurrection—rather than the foolish and pathetic actions of several hundred U.S. Capitol trespassers who acted spontaneously and ought to be properly—emphasis on properly—prosecuted. Overall, the document embodies that most famous of Rahm Emanuel exhortations: “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste.”
The Ruling Class Comes of Age
The document’s purported good-faith nonpartisanship is belied by the fact that “Ctrl-F” searches of “radical Islam” and “jihad” come up empty. To omit such mentions in a National Security Council document about terrorism is more than a little strange. The effect is the same as if a Treasury Department autopsy of the 2008 financial crisis were to elide the terms “Fannie Mae” and “Freddie Mac.”
Last December, for instance, Michael Anton cited data showing that since the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, Islamic jihadists have murdered roughly 28,000 people worldwide. The global death toll over the same period “from every act of violence even plausibly—that is to say, not necessarily” rooted in white supremacist sentiment was, at the time of the underlying side-by-side comparison, 346. The notion that white supremacy poses a greater national security threat than Islamic jihad is a fundamentally unserious proposition, and the Biden NSC would do well to take a glance at all the terrorism–related federal indictments that consistently trickle in from Minnesota. It won’t do so, of course; the president would instead rather meet leading Hamas Caucus cheerleader Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib on the tarmac and praise her “concern for so many other people.”
Nor, of course, does the “National Strategy” so much as allude to the very lethal threat of black nationalism—the likes of which we saw in 2019 in Jersey City, New Jersey and Monsey, New York, to say nothing of this past April back at the U.S. Capitol. Instead, the Biden NSC writes: “Among that wide range of animating [violent] ideologies, racially or ethnically motivated violent extremists (principally those who promote the superiority of the white race) and militia violent extremists are assessed as presenting the most persistent and lethal threats.” Ruby Ridge, Waco, and Oklahoma City were a long time ago, but the Biden administration would have us believe that right-wing “militia[s]” now pose a greater threat to the homeland than does either global jihad or the Antifa/BLM-induced 1619 Riots—the latter of which, as Gonzalez notes, ran up an arson, vandalism, and looting bill of $1 billion to $2 billion in paid insurance claims.
Perhaps most importantly, the “National Strategy” constitutes the clearest evidence to date that sundry “public” and “private” entities have seamlessly merged to form one unified, multifaceted ruling class with the woke ideology at its creedal core. The document expressly mentions the government’s desire to “partner” with the “technology sector” and “technology companies” in its efforts to prevent radicalization. Big Tech was already the “ruling class’s private-sector enforcement arm,” and at this point it appears the wokesters are not trying to hide it. That is, quite literally, the task the Biden NSC apparently intends to delegate to our Silicon Valley overlords.
Even worse than its forthright admission of a Big Tech partnership, the document also floats the possibility of the national security and intelligence apparatuses colluding with foreign intelligence services to surveil American citizens, as Ben Weingarten observes. As if our own intelligence apparatus weren’t problematic enough in its current state.
Though we cannot rely on the courts to fix this, we would do well to note the Strategy’s many constitutional weaknesses (not to say travesties) and put them to use in legal challenges. The document spills much ink on preventing radicalization, in part by fixing its gaze upon identifying and combating “incitement” to violence. That is fine as far as it goes, but it may not go very far. As former prosecutor Jeffrey Scott Shapiro argued in January after the Capitol Riot, the U.S. Supreme Court’s relevant case law, primarily the 1969 Brandenburg v. Ohio case, sets a very high bar for prosecuting incitement. “Mere advocacy” cannot be prosecuted, the Court noted, but only speech “directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action” and “likely to incite or produce such action.”
There are thus real First Amendment concerns here, in addition to Fourth Amendment problems. There are also Second Amendment problems that practically leap off the page, such as the document’s chilling call to “reduc[e] access to assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.” The subcategory of semiautomatic weaponry typically described as constituting “assault weapons” is cosmetically amorphous and technical undefinable, of course, to say nothing of successful recent litigation on the subject. And which magazines are “high-capacity” does not exactly entail a rigorous, scrutinizing inquiry. In sum, we must be prepared to litigate these various constitutional claims before Biden’s already-ascendant judicial carnage accelerates further. The judiciary will never save us, but well-argued, strategic litigation in proper venues can still redound to our tangible interests.
To its modest credit, the “National Strategy” accurately cites federal law defining “domestic terrorism” as actions that “(A) involve acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any State; (B) appear to be intended—(i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population; (ii) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or (iii) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping; and (C) occur primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States.” Good for the Biden NSC for citing some actual law. It’s too bad that it doesn’t seem likely such law will be put to anything other than overtly partisan, chilling, Orwellian use.
The American Mind presents a range of perspectives. Views are writers’ own and do not necessarily represent those of The Claremont Institute.