On the moral world of the Volokh Conspiracy: what are the most important events of the last year or so?
Without question, our failure to find the WMDs in Iraq; the widespread abuses of Abu Ghraib; the continuing violence in Iraq and the failure of the United States to provide law and order, not to mention essentials like electricity to the Iraqi people.
Yet if you read blogs by thoughtful conservatives - like the Volokh Conspiracy - you'll find scant mentions of these things. If they are talked about at all, its only in a brief by-the-way manner.
Indeed, the Volokh conspiracy has devoted time to criticizing Democrats for giving Al Sharpton a speaking spot at the convention; criticizing the Democratic party for being too harsh on its anti-abortion members; criticizing John Kerry for helping to hurt veterans by publicly testifying against the Vietnam war; incredibly, criticizing Kerry for wanting to confirm judges which share his political beliefs; implying that North Korea and Iran want Kerry to win; criticizing Kerry for picking Edwards for VP due to Edwards' lack of experience (of course, Bush himself had plenty of experience when he ran for office); finally, criticizing Kerry for - I kid you not - singing along to Puff the Magic Dragon.
Not to suggest that anyone in the conspiracy is in any way obligated to write about WMDs or Abu Ghraib. But when Eugene Volokh says he doesn't feel like writing about the torture scandals and then spends his time coming up with ridiculous scenarios where the right of enemy combatants to sue brings about the destruction of the United States - what does this say about him?
I'm not the first to write about this - Daniel Davies over at Crooked Timber has speculated that multiple universes are the culprit here: many of the conservative inhabit Uqbar, a world eerily similar to our own, but not quite the same one.
The tendency is not limited to conservatives: consider the petitions circulating in Canada against hiring American companies. To some extent, this is just plain old protectionism, but the argument made, and taken seriously by many as far as I can tell, is that the Patriot Act allows the US government to subpoena data relating to Canadian clients of these companies and therefore American companies are a privacy risk.
This is, of course, rather ridiculous. True, the Patriot Act allows the Justice department to obtain this data more easily. But the subpoena power of the Patriot Act has never been used. And if the US government wanted data possessed by a company under US jurisdiction, it could easily obtain it even if the Patriot Act had not existed - by issuing a subpoena with the help of a judge - just like any other government could easily obtain the data. I don't condone the Patriot Act - I think Republicans are simply evil for championing it - but the actual practical effect of it has been close to negligible.
Canadian courts, on the other hand, have ruled that printing bible verses critical of homosexuality in a newspaper ad can be hate speech; Canadian officials have investigated a UBC professor for hate speech after she claimed Americans were "bloodthirsty, vengeful and calling for blood"; have shut down websites that were critical of homosexuality; and more recently, refused to renew the license of a popular radio station because they disliked the content.
These are real, tangible assaults on free speech and liberty. Only in a strange, twisted moral universe are they less worthy of attack than a never-used provision of the Patriot act.