America 2015: Freedom or security?

This entry is part 5 of 5 in the series America 2015
Je Suis Charlie written in lights in Paris

“JE SUIS CHALIE” written in votive lights in one of the Paris protests following the massacre. The phrase, which means “I am Charlie,” became the most popular message of solidarity in protests worldwide. Photo by Syluban, uploaded to Wikimedia Commons for public use.

This week’s terror attack on “Charlie Hebdo,” a satirical newspaper in France, raises once again worldwide concerns about security. Western leaders vowed that the attacks would not undermine freedom of expression. But it’s likely that journalists and writers will feel less free to express themselves, and that the public will call for more security—even if it means less freedom.

As we enter 2015, are you willing to trade freedom for more security?

This week, we considered several themes that will likely dominate 2015: any hope for political progress, democracy without religion, the end of traditional marriage, and immigration reform. Today, we consider freedom versus security—a topic that is front and center once again, due to the tragedy in Paris.

Freedom of expression and national security are two of the 10 core values I documented in four national surveys and write about in United America. As core values, a very large majority of Americans endorse these 10 values and feel strongly about them. Support cuts across demographic, religious, and political lines.

In these surveys, I also asked explicitly about the value of trading freedom for more security. Many Americans said they were willing to do so, but many disagreed. If I ran a survey today, I’m certain that many more—perhaps a majority—of Americans would say that they are willing to give up freedom to escape terror attacks like the one in France.

The pendulum swings back and forth between security and freedom, as NBC/WSJ polls have shown over the years. After 9/11, a majority of Americans “worried that the government wouldn’t go far enough to monitor the activities of potential terrorists.” Opinion swung the other way in 2013, when we learned via Edward Snowden that the government was conducting mass surveillance of its citizens. A majority of Americans then said that “they were more worried about the government violating privacy rights.”

As we enter 2015, are you willing to give up freedom of expression and privacy for more security?

Has your opinion changed this week?

Express yourself

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  1. Todd says

    No, I don’t want to surrender any more civil liberties for security. I’d rather have my civil liberties restored than continually eroded. Especially since the “security” promised isn’t really security, it’s security theater. It would be one thing if we were trading civil liberties for actual safety, but there’s little evidence to support that eroding our civil liberties through domestic spying, searches without cause or suspicion (e.g. TSA), and a love affair with metal detectors does indeed increase safety.

    We’re spending hundreds of billions of dollars, costing even more in lost productivity and opportunity cost, and we’re only marginally safer. It’s a tragic waste of resources that’s seems more focused on maintaining a perpetual state of fear to justify its existence than actually making people safer.

  2. Denny says

    Security versus Freedom? There is no doubt that I want freedom first and what we’re doing as a nation will not provide greater security. Until we identify the threat we cannot attack the problem and thus far this nation, or maybe I should say this administration and President Obama, refuses to acknowledge Islamic Extremism. It’s just “terror” and “extremism.” Extremism could be radical left or right wingers, for example, and therefore the administration says, “there’s all kinds of extremism and it wouldn’t be right just to say ‘Islamist Extremism’.” We cannot defeat the threat if we first don’t identify it. Dropping a few bombs on those bad, violent people called ISIS or ISIL is not a strategy, it’s a copout. I’m not saying to step up our weak military efforts, but we need to consider what’s happening in our own country. It’s unbelieveable that Sweden has allowed over 55 “No-Go areas” in their country. That means part of Sweden has been taken over by Islamists and is no longer Sweden. I’m not going to modify “Islam” with extremists because I don’t know if that’s correct. And of course the same thing is happening in France. They waited too long and our country is also waiting “too long.” We must fight Islamist Extremism with strategies that identify the cells in this country, know what’s going on in Mosques and God forbid, not allowing No-Go zones in this country. But, that’s what I fear is happening as long as we continue to avoid identifying the threat. People may think we have greater security by ducking the issue, but that approach will result in our greater loss of freedoms. Yes,there are risks when we identify the threat, but if we don’t we will lose our freedom eventually. Political Correctness will kill us. By the way Dr. Baker,in many cases their is no coorelation between Freedom and Security. Common Core Standards is one area I have in mind. The federal government requiring 400 data points on each child in school is hardly to increase our security. It is to reduce freedom by controlling the population. I’d like to hear what others say regarding these so called “Common Core Standards” and how it is and will affect our K-12 education. My studies indicate Common Core will reduce and dumb down our educational system and will not do what is attempting to be sold to the public, i.e., increase educational standards. There is insufficient time and space to discuss this subject further, but it is critical to our Constitutional Republic.