On the Big Lie

“And I think he’s right,” Mr. Bates concluded. “We live in a dangerous world now, and we need that kind of protection.”

“But that’s the big lie,” Mr. Magundi said, taking the newspaper from Mr. Bates and pointing at the article. “It’s right there in what Mayor Bloomberg said. Here it is: ‘As the world gets more dangerous, people are willing to have infringements on their personal freedoms that they would not before.’ But it’s just a lie: the world hasn’t got more dangerous. Crime has plummeted since Mayor Bloomberg was a young man. And the 1970s were really the golden age of terrorism, when ‘take this plane to Cuba’ was a standard punch line in sketch comedy. In most ways we’re actually safer now than we were thirty or forty years ago. But we’ve been told so many times that we need to be afraid that, naturally, we’re afraid. And once we believe the lie that we’re in much more danger now than we ever were before, we gratefully submit ourselves to the whims of the first big bully who promises to keep us safe.

“I’ve said it before: there will always be a current emergency. So the question is whether our rights and freedoms ever exist in the real world, or whether they are merely theoretical ideals that can never be real this side of heaven. I want my rights here in the world of today; Mayor Bloomberg says I have to wait for heaven. You can decide which point of view you like better.”