Why Radical Anti-Statism Increases State Brutality

Thoreau over at Unqualified Offerings calls the TSA pat down of a six-year-old girl "molestation."

Oh, come on -- "molestation"? I just watched the video, and I did not see the least indication that the female TSA agent had any sexual interest in the girl. I assume the girl had set off an alarm. Well, some people will stick a bomb on a kid. So what is the TSA agent supposed to do? Ignore the alarm? We lose our ability to complain about real violations when we call what happened here "molestation." Perhaps we need a better procedure, but the TSA agent obviously was not engaged in molestation as the word is usually used.

Similarly, if one calls every war an instance of "mass murder," then one loses the vocabulary to distinguish between, say, the Finns heroically defending themselves against the invasion of the USSR, and the fire bombing of Dresden.

Furthermore, the more hostility such rhetoric generates against the police, the TSA, the military, and so on, the more beleaguered such people feel, and the more they can justify to themselves adopting tactics that really are objectionable and really should be classified as "molestation" or "mass murder" or "police brutality." State officials, like corporate officials, like think tank officials, like church officials, sometimes act well, sometimes poorly. If we demonize any such group as "EVIL" we lose the ability to differentiate good from bad behavior, and make the members of the group tend to hunker down in a defensive posture from which any attack on any of the members' behavior is seen as an attack on all of them, and makes decent members of the group more reluctant to condemn the behavior of the less decent members.

Thus, the logic of radical anti-statism produces more state brutality.


  1. Does this generalize? Is the demonization of businessman, or for-profit corporations, or public-sector unions, or communists, (by anyone) all contributing to more 'radical' versions of each?

    And wouldn't this effect operate regardless of whether the 'demonization' is accurate?

    Someone is probably feeling marginally more beleaguered by your meta-criticism of hyperbolic criticism.

  2. "Someone is probably feeling marginally more beleaguered by your meta-criticism of hyperbolic criticism."

    That's pretty funny!

    Well, we must use our judgment, mustn't we? If we are dealing with Adolf Hitler, there is perhaps no hope of appealing to his better side, and we try to assassinate him instead. If it is a TSA agent who gets a little to pushy at times, a little love might work better.

    And this is very caring criticism!


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