“Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom. It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves.” — William Pitt, 1783

In the wake of last Tuesday’s tragic events — the death, the destruction and the fear that comes with it — what are we willing to give up, what are we willing to become, and which freedoms will we willingly surrender for the illusion of safety? These deaths, we are told, could have been prevented, if only the FBI had known where to look, if only the internet didn’t provide such a haven for violent free speech, if only our immigration policies were more strict, if only the American people were a little more willing to let Big Brother into their lives and their homes.

Or maybe talk of Big Brother is just leftist paranoia. What good are civil liberties anyway, if they stand in the government’s way, if they just make the work of tracking terrorists more difficult? Congress wants to issue national identification cards for citizens and noncitizens alike, but nobody at Metafilter, where I discovered the story, seemed too upset about that. If it will make the streets safe and keep us alive when we board our planes and go to work…well, where’s the harm?

I don’t know. It’s a slippery slope. While I think the parallels he draws to the Reichstag Fire in pre-Nazi Germany are probably an overreaction, John Perry Barlow (of the Electronic Frontier Foundation) is right when he says that “nothing could serve those who believe that American ‘safety’ is more important than American liberty better than something like this.”

Or, as Benjamin Franklin put it more than two hundred years ago: “Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

Because I seem to be doing little else but quoting other people, Chris Colin of Salon writes: And asking people what’s next is a little like pressing squirrels about Heisenberg.

I don’t know what the consequences of last Tuesday’s attack will be, and I can only guess at the full extent of our military’s retaliation, but in all this talk of what has happened, and what will happen, where is the national discussion of why this has happened?

Paul Ford (Ftrain) writes: I cannot bear any more shrill annotations added to the footage of the falling buildings by newspaper writers and anchorpersons. Everyone wants ownership, to stake their claim, to link to the most Web sites, to make the most accurate predictions, to criticize every possible leader, to cast blame, to matter. But they don’t matter. The dead matter. The grieving matter. The war matters. The media is throwing up walls of content, filled with instructions on how to feel, when there is absolutely no right way to feel, when this will not be going away, when there is no way to own what happened, [n]o way to possess the misery for yourself. Why would you want to?

I made the mistake of trying to watch Battlefield Earth last night. Jon Stewart was right: it’s like Star Wars combined with the smell of ass. Laughably bad, inept on so many levels. I couldn’t stand more than an hour and switched over to Memento, which I’d rented on DVD. While Battlefield is probably the worst movie of 2000 (and, as The New York Times suggested in its review, the worst for many, many years to come), Memento is probably one of the best. It’s incredible, ingenious. Rent it.

Neil Gaiman writes: The strangest recent FAQ submission let me know that it had been “proved on usenet” that Caitlin Kiernan had ghost-written Stardust for me, and did I have any comments? Denying it, I was told, would only demonstrate that I was intent on covering it up. Could I prove they were wrong? A puzzler, that, like being asked to prove that you are not an identical clonal double impersonating yourself….But I’d rather admit that Cait wrote Stardust while I was busy fighting crime off-planet. When you’re battling Denebian slime-worms, who has time to write? Thank heavens for the Legion of Substitute Neils. Gene Wolfe wrote Neverwhere for me, while the late Ian Fleming wrote American Gods via planchette.

Now, I like Caitlin R. Kiernan, don’t get me wrong. Her work on The Dreaming is what origianlly brought me back to the series. (Well, that and this cover.) And I stayed with her until the very end, even after she killed off a favorite character of mine, Matthew the raven. (Actually, I thought that took courage as a writer.) But still, I just don’t see how you can confuse her writing with Neil Gaiman’s. Yes, she inherited the mythos of The Sandman when she began writing its spin-off series, and she will likely be forever linked to Gaiman for that reason, but have these people on usenet actually read their work? They’re very different writers.

But I’ll agree with this much: the Denebian slime-worm story has its appeal.