Liberalism reconceives liberty as the opposite of this older conception. It is understood to be the greatest possible freedom from external constraints, including customary norms. The only limitation on liberty, in this view, should be duly enacted laws consistent with maintaining order of otherwise unfettered individuals. Liberalism thus disassembles a world of custom and replaces it with promulgated law. Ironically, as behavior becomes unregulated in the social sphere, the state must be constantly enlarged through an expansion of lawmaking and regulatory activities. "The Empire of Liberty" expands apace with an ever-enlarging sphere of state control.
Deneen seems to envision a sort of "soft" totalitarianism. However, we've also noted the FBI's recent claim that vaguely identified "conspiracy theories" are breeding grounds for domestic terror. The FBI report is notable for identifying virtually any "antigovernment" ideas--including "belief in a deep state" and ideas that fall outside "official" explanations--as potentially terroristic. The FBI report is thinly reasoned; it's main point appears to be a thinly disguised attack on the Trump demographic. While actual authorities were quick to debunk the FBI report (follow the link, above), it's important to note that this report was not written in a vacuum. Nor has it just been filed away. The FBI is, in fact, seeking greatly enhanced surveillance powers.
Today, Angelo Codevilla notes similar reports (The White Supremacy Hoax) that have been appearing in recent years, all warning about "white supremacists" and advocating the use of the US military--that's right!--against the threat. It's important to be aware of this context as we listen to the enormously increased chatter about the supposed threat of "white supremacists." Incredibly, one of the authors of such articles was featured very recently in the "mainstream conservative" WSJ:
Just yesterday, “the deplorables” were to be deplored because they were “racist, sexist, homophobic,” clingers to “God and guns,” and Russian dupes to boot. Today, the agility and unanimity with which our politicians and media—heck, the ruling class—have shifted to indicting roughly 72 percent of the population as white supremacists, ...
One may suppose that our ruling class merely intends to energize its constituencies and cower the opposition in the 2020 elections. But this is no game. Their proposals would impose pre-punishment for pre-crimes on persons accused or “suspected” of being a “white supremacist.” By whom? On the basis of what?
In practice, a “white supremacist” is anyone whom anyone in power dislikes enough to so label him. ...
Here is the latest. The Wall Street Journal on Saturday featured an essay by one Clint Watts, formerly of the FBI and West Point’s Counter Terrorism Center. Watts makes those proposals using the word “white” 16 times in 18 paragraphs. The sociopolitical ideas rife among white people are the main matrix of terrorism in America, Watts contends. Racial profiling, anyone?
Just in case you think Codevilla is exaggerating, here's a link to the actual article, which is a lengthy screed that was the "Featured Essay" in the WSJ's Weekend Edition:
How to Fight the New Domestic Terrorism
The U.S. should use its hard-won experience against al Qaeda and Islamic State to combat today’s surge of lethal white supremacist attacks
How over the top is that? This over the top. Watts is essentially advocating for a full scale police state--the FBI in partnership with Big Tech. Check it out:
... the formula for responding to America’s white supremacist terrorism emergency is quite clear—in part because of our hard-won experience fighting jihadists from al Qaeda and its spawn, Islamic State. We must swiftly and carefully apply the best practices of the two decades since Sept. 11, 2001, to counter this decade’s domestic terrorist threat—by passing new laws, increasing resources and enhancing investigative capabilities.
Rather than the convoluted “whole of government” approach beloved by some in Washington, the FBI should take the lead in this effort. The focus should not be on winning over whole communities that might harbor radicals but in detecting and demobilizing those few hundred individuals who are closest to perpetrating a shooting or a bombing.
Law enforcement and social media companies must also work more transparently together to detect likely attackers and stem the flood of terrorist and violent content. This should involve a public-private partnership to create a joint center for social media intelligence, where investigators and personnel at the tech companies share information about extremists. Such a center would help to identify the fringe sites used by white supremacists and help smaller social media companies defend their platforms.
Could drone strikes be far behind? Clearly the Power Elite regards the non-elites not as fellow citizens of a republic but as a subject population that must be kept in a state of subjugation. It's as if he's advocating that Google, Facebook, Twitter, and the rest should cooperate in one tech-empowered Deep State op against the rest of the country. Needless to say, this would all come in very handy when it comes to ensuring that "the Russians" don't meddle in our elections. Oh, wait ...
Continuing with Codevilla:
Bemoaning the fact that U.S. law now restricts surveillance of, never mind restrictions on, U.S. persons to those who have committed or may be about to commit crimes, Watts proposes legislation that would permit designating persons associated with what the government may identify as “white supremacist ideology” as subject to surveillance to “preemptively assess whether these white supremacists are taking a radical turn toward violence.”
Watts also proposes “red flag” laws, that would allow the government to take away weapons from someone so designated. Loss of weapons would be the least of burdens imposed on anyone so “red-flagged.” Career, reputation, possibly family, would be gone because someone in the notoriously impartial FBI so decided, perhaps with the agreement of the highly scrupulous FISA court, subsequent to ex parte, secret proceedings.
This has become ruling-class conventional wisdom. Desire to wage war on ordinary Americans—to disadvantage them and even to kill them—had long been bubbling in the ruling class’s basements. The countless, nearly identical pronouncements from on high in recent days can be taken as an announcement that the ruling class has raised them into its forceful mainstream.
In January 2012, the Department of Homeland Security, in cooperation with the University of Maryland, published a study titled “Hot Spots of Terrorism and Other Crimes in the United States, 1979-2008.” It classified persons who it judged to be “suspicious of centralized federal authority” and “reverent of individual liberty” as “extreme right wing terrorists.” So-called studies published by Clint Watts’ West Point center use the same typology. Skeptical of the government? You’re a potential terrorist.
Are you sitting down? OK--Get ready for this one. How does the concept of the US military engaging in "Full Spectrum Operations in the Homeland" strike you? You thought I was kidding about drone strikes? Wouldn't "Full Spectrum" be, like, the US military waging total war against ... US? Read on:
In July 2012, Colonel Kevin Benson of the U.S. Army’s University of Foreign Military and Cultural Studies at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, and Jennifer Weber of the University of Kansas, published an article in the Small Wars Journal titled “Full Spectrum Operations in the Homeland: A ‘Vision’ of the Future.” Benson and Weber argued that the U.S. Army should prepare itself for contingencies such as “extremist militia motivated by the goals of the ‘tea party’ movement” seizing a small town. They contend, moreover, that Army’s “Operating Concept, 2016-2028” obliges “the military to execute without pause and as professionally as if it were acting overseas.”
Codevilla closes on a note that sounds remarkably like Deneen:
None of this is law, or even official policy. It simply reflects the evolving identities and predilections of persons in power.
Today, our ruling class has come to define itself in terms of the will to humiliate “the deplorables,” as it subdues their disrespect. It is confident that the Republican Party won’t help the deplorables, and that President Trump will get out of the way quietly once he’s made some noise. And deplorables have this quaint habit of obeying laws—the fools!