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ETpro's avatar

Which scares you more, terrorism or a police state?

Asked by ETpro (34545points) April 23rd, 2013

Just about every time there is another terror attack, there are political voices from the right clamoring for a move toward becoming a police state in order to “keep us safe”. It’s strange, since at all other times, these same individuals seem to hate government and want it reduced in size till they can drown it in a bathtub.

It is true that it is only a matter of time till some terror cell manages to get their hands on bio-weapons or a dirty bomb filled with radioactive material. And with countries like Pakistan and North Korea in possession of nuclear weapons, poorly secured nukes in Russia, and state sponsors of terrorism like Iran on their way to becoming a nuclear power; the potential for a nuclear bomb in a major city is disturbingly real. But it is equally true that police states in the 20th century have been responsible for killing hundreds of millions of their own citizens. Where do you think the correct balance between security and freedom lies today?

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41 Answers

poofandmook's avatar

I’m going to say terrorism.

Maybe I’m being optimistic, maybe even naive—but I feel like we have ample protection from any governmental agency becoming too powerful, resulting in something akin to George Orwell’s 1984 or something. Whereas terrorists… it’s blind hatred or just the need to hurt people.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Police state. Because a police state affects every single individual in every little town. I don’t worry about a terror attack here in Farmville Kansas. If I lived in Wichita, I’d worry more simply because we have so many aircraft companies there that could be targets especially BMAC (Boeing Military Air Craft, which is now Spirit.)

majorrich's avatar

I fear a police state far more than I fear terrorists. For the most part, terrorists work in smaller groups and implies an insurgency. Which means we are under attack, but haven’t been beaten yet. Terrorist cells are relatively small numbers of operatives and are not particularly difficult to foil or neutralize once they have been identified. A police state (at least to me) implies we have been defeated and power has been consolidated. Way more difficult to fight against. Sometimes, I think our government ‘invents’ terrorism so that they might try to install a police state. That is why sometimes I rail so vigorously against governmental overreaching.

SadieMartinPaul's avatar

Police state. Terrorism is rogue activity, perpetuated by the very few who act outside of the law and acceptable behavior. A police state would be the law, not only accepted but sanctioned.

josie's avatar

Not scared yet.

But I do not like the idea of either to the extent that I would have to call it a tie.

You mention the goons on the right. But what about the PC weenies on the left? Talk about heads in the sand. They are pretty scary too.

cheebdragon's avatar

Police state, I’d laugh at any terrorist dumb enough to target the city I live in.

poofandmook's avatar

Now I’m equally scared of both. Hermit status in 3… 2…

Pandora's avatar

I would have to say a police state. It really did not work out great for Germany. Terrorists would do less harm. We would just be playing into their hands if we went that way because they know it would make us self-destruct.

JLeslie's avatar

I’ll say police state.

I guess with either it depends how often it is happening and the specifics. A police atate like Nazi Germany? Well, yeah that would suck. Especially for me and others like me who would be marked with a star. But, I guess not every police state has to be run by people full of hate for a particular group. However, power tends to get out of control, so eventually those in power would probably do some really crappy things to the general public. It’s a risk anyway.

if the terrorist groups get larger and larger and are in many communities and there are assaults every week, then that would be a bigger worry obviously. Here in America we have a terrorist attack every few years and we feel like it is all the time. Imagine if it really were all the time.

rainbowunbroken's avatar

Neither. How does one choose between controlled and uncontrolled evil, knowing that either can at any given moment take away my freedom or my life?

ucme's avatar

A nanny state is a fate not worth imagining even, big brother is watching :-(

Jaxk's avatar

Police state hands down. Terrorism is sporatic and isolated. A police state is everywhere and constant. I enjoy my freedom and am more than willing to risk injury or death to retain it. I would not fair well in a police state.

Blackberry's avatar

I don’t think about either of them.

tom_g's avatar


marinelife's avatar

Totally, a police state. That is just institutionalized terrorism.

flutherother's avatar

It depends how bad the terrorism is. If it reaches the catastrophic proportions of civil war as in Syria just now then you might be better off with a police state. But civil wars come to an end whereas police states tend to endure for decades. It is like asking where you would rather live, North Korea or Syria.

downtide's avatar

A police state scares me more. Terrorism is an occasional thing, affecting a small group of people on an occasional basis. A police state affects everybody, all the time.

glacial's avatar

They are the same. If the country turns into a police state as a response to terrorism, that means that the country lives in terror. That is the whole point of committing terrorism attacks – to make people afraid to lead their daily lives in freedom.

woodcutter's avatar

Police state is the end of what would be left of the democracy. And the powerful in govt. would not hesitate a second to use terrorism as the perfect excuse to implement it. It is no accident how the Dept/ Homeland Sec. has developed into a quasi military force nice end run to Posse Comitatus. A recent example was last week when the suburbs of Boston was locked down to look for one 19 yr old kid. Imagine what it will be like if something tremendously huge and persistent goes down.
Marshal law and the police state will not be for the security of the people. It will be for the security of the govt.

Remember that

glacial's avatar

I would not confuse a very short-term lockdown with a police state. Even the martial law that was enacted in Quebec during the FLQ crisis ran longer than that (just under six months, I think). In both cases, restrictions were lifted as soon as a very specific crisis was over. These actions served a useful purpose, and I don’t think that they were over-reaching under the circumstances.

What I think of when I hear “police state” are the kinds of things that Bush enacted after 9/11 (wiretapping civilians, etc.), and which, as far as I know, have still not been corrected. I would be far more concerned with those kinds of infringements on liberty.

tinyfaery's avatar

Police state. We seem to be going back in time to 1984. Have we learned nothing from history and current day police states?

I will NEVER feel safe if police just walk around with weapons drawn, asking me for ID and barring my freedom. Fuck that.

Terrorism only succeeds if you become terrorized. I refuse.

gorillapaws's avatar

Police state, especially with how loosely the term terrorist gets thrown around these days—e.g. people have even called Wikileaks a terrorist organization.

ETpro's avatar

This is a tough question. Where I usually acknowledge each of you who answer, agreeing with some and arguing with others, I’m not going to do that here.

I will say thanks to @josie for quite correctly pointing out that the left wingers respond at least as inappropriately to acts of terrorism as do right wingers. The left wants to Mirandize them instantly and let their lawyers do all the talking while a ticking time bomb they have planted sits in Times Square. The right wants to instantly pistol whip them till the “confess” whatever they think their captors want to hear and the authorities run off on a wild goose chase. I should have taken more time in writing the question details.

To those who said they want neither a police state nor terrorism, can’t say as I blame you, but you came to the wrong restaurant. That’s not on the menu. You either must settle for more cameras, more of big brother watching you; or more terrorism up to and including true weapons of mass destruction that will decimate one or more major population centers.

The current score card looks like this. In the 20th century, the following police states have killed this many of their own citizens:
Hitler: 10 million
Stalin: 20 million
Chairman Mao: 50 million

A few true WMD events, and the terrorists will be catching up.

They say there is an old curse that goes, “May you live in interesting times.” We certainly are under that curse.

rooeytoo's avatar

Is there an absolute definition of a police state? It seems as if it would vary. I wouldn’t mind living in Singapore and that is a sort of police state. In that case, terrorism scares me more.

ETpro's avatar

@rooeytoo Good point. The trick is setting up an all powerful police state and not then having it become power mad and run amok. Singapore is kind of a special case. It financial wealth depends on it not becoming an oppressive police state, and all its leaders benefit immensely from its prosperity. I don’t know how you replicate that in large nation states. But it’s certainly worth thinking about.

jsammons's avatar

A police state is, in my opinion, much more of a concern than terrorism. Also, in my opinion, that’s exactly what the U.S. government is heading for. If you look at how the DHS recently purchased over 1 billion rounds of ammunition, they’re installing cameras in major cities that can identify a single person in a crowd, our police are being issued military gear, how CISPA is trying to get passed (just passed the House), and they recently built camps for political/civil unrest; then it’s a hard fact to refuse.

ETpro's avatar

@jsammons CISPA is corporatism run amok, not a move toward a police state. You’re right that some of DHS is disturbing. The newspeak named “Patriot” Act is a good for instance. And even calling our nation the Homeland smacks of das Vaterland.

But internment camps that are invisible and only became known to the public via an Internet expose? I want to say “You can’t be serious?” but I know that you are. You can find Internet sites to support any tom-fool theory you can invent, from flat Earth to man never went to the Moon, it was filmed in the Arizona desert. How come the commercial satellites that Google Earth uses can’t see these internment camps? Why haven’t hikers seen them? Did the ancient aliens give our government invisibility shields?

Or is Occam’s Razor still worth considering? Maybe nobody’s seen them because they only exist in the troubled minds of Internet conspiracy theorist.

Paradox25's avatar

1. A culture/society that breeds hate and violence.
2. A police state
3. Terrorism

Yeah I cheated a bit by adding my own scenerio, but I sense that we’re already feeling the wrath of my first choice of a scenerio coming to life. Getting back to answering your question I’ll say the thought of a police state is much more frightening to me than even the thought of a terrorist detonating a nuclear weapon in a city full of people. A government has much more ability to cause harm than even the worst terrorist, criminal, organization, group, gang, etc.

As far as bringing politics into this I agree with a comment above that the left can be just as scary as the right. Progressives sometimes scare me just as much as conservatives do.

josie's avatar


…you came to the wrong restaurant. That’s not on the menu.

Great line. If it’s original I hate that I did not think of it myself. If it is in the public domain, my provincial self has never heard it, but I may use it.

And since you put it that way, I worry more about the Police State.

Once in place it is tough to get rid of.

At least with Terrorists I can take my chances with Counter Terrorism

ETpro's avatar

@josie I made it up, but that’s no indication I’m the first to ever do so.

mattbrowne's avatar

Police state which is a form of permanent terror established by the state.

woodcutter's avatar

The police state that is welcomed by their captive citizenry richly deserve it.

have fun

woodcutter's avatar

If people go along with these controls they deserve it. They will suffer unintended consequences by willingly giving up their rights. They are doing it right now only in tiny baby steps and they are feeling good about doing that. And there are the times when the govt just grants itself more power regardless of what the people think. That is what democracy is, right?

Arewethereyet's avatar

In a police state there is no where to run when those who should protect are the terror themselves. Have you read The Trial by KAFKA, explains it well.

Ron_C's avatar

Local police forces are becoming highly militarized. A few short years ago SWAT teams did not exist. They were later started in big cities with heavily armed criminals. Now, even small town have this military capability. Add that to the fact that combat hardened soldiers are leaving the military and joining the police force.

The situation we have today is that each town has its own army. I suspect that this new military/police force is very kind and forgiving for its supporters but outsiders are in real danger. I light of previous remarks, I find the militarized police much more dangerous than terrorist attacks.

ETpro's avatar

@Arewethereyet & @Ron_C If past history teaches anything, you are quite right.

Ron_C's avatar

@ETpro I take no pleasure in being right about this topic but thanks anyway.

cheebdragon's avatar

In my experience the cops are never around when they are really needed and when you don’t need them they are all over your ass for doing nothing.

ETpro's avatar

@cheebdragon Sad, but true. I’m rather like @Ron_C. I wish I could argue with that, but facts are facts.

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