A lecture given to students at Yale Law School, based on Greenwald’s recent book, “With Liberty And Justice For Some”:
This lecture is well worth a view, and is a wonderful antidote to the oversimplification of over-used terms such as “the rule of law”, and the attempt by many people (especially those on the American right) to almost deify the founding fathers and portray them as a unified, homogenised group.
The crux of Greenwald’s argument really comes in an anecdote he gives 28 minutes into the above video, where he contrasts a “healthy, free” society with a tyrannical one. The free society, he says, is one in which those who wield power do so with a healthy amount of fear that they will suffer some harm if they ever abuse that power. This may be fear of civil or criminal liability, fear of reputational harm or fear of potential physical injury to themselves (which of course neither Greenwald nor I would advocate, but nonetheless).
The tyrannical society is the exact opposite of this – a land where not only do those in power have no fears of any kind which might restrain them from abusing their power, but in which the citizens themselves live in fear of the leaders.
Given the fact that we are now five years into an Obama administration in which almost none of the gross infringements on civil liberties introduced by George W. Bush and Dick Cheney have been halted or reversed, this insight from Greenwald – and a fearless, uncompromising assessment of where we currently sit on the continuum between freedom and tyranny – is needed now more than ever.