Corey Robin in Jacobin:
Political fear is universal, but its language is particular. Racism is one language of fear; risk assessment is another. There is little doubt, however, that security — whether national or domestic — is the most potent and pervasive language of all.
Security is the one good, political theorists like John Dunn and Bernard Williams agree, that the state must provide. It has the ability, like no other argument, to mobilize the resources and attention of the state and its citizens. It has arguably inspired — and, in the case of nuclear deterrence, certainly threatened — more devastation and destruction than any other ideology of the modern era.
It has also provided the single most effective and enduring justification for the suppression of rights. Why that is so — why security has furnished what appears to be the strongest reason for eliminating or otherwise limiting rights — is the question I’d like to address here.
At first glance, this may seem like a question that answers itself. When people are afraid for their lives, they will do anything to protect themselves and their families. And when the safety of the nation or the state is threatened, it too will do whatever it takes to defend itself. Limiting the rights of its citizens is the least of it.