The Smoking Gun: Toward Understanding the Decision Calculus Behind Repressive Outcomes
MetadataShow full item record
Why do states repress? Why are civil liberties curtailed? Explorations of these questions have departed from the assumption that security concerns motivate decisions that lead to repressive outcomes. If the state is challenged, it will repress. A state, it is assumed, must "strike a balance" between security and liberty. But what if those assumptions are flawed? If the decisions behind politically repressive outcomes are not always motivated by security challenges to the state, then we must ask a different set of questions about what can motivate state behavior and repression. This study examines the validity of these assumptions. A survey of cases of repressive episodes in the United States, using both primary and secondary sources, reveals that the decisions behind enacting repressive measures is not as straightforward as these assumptions would have it seem. A unique case, situated both contextually and historically by the preceding survey, is then explored in depth using data that is rarely available to shed a new degree of light on a decision making process. This data is overwhelming primary source information and includes declassified material from a variety of archives, material obtained from Freedom of Information Act Requests, as well as uniquely revelatory audio evidence that has only recently been made publicly available. After reviewing the case I argue that enough evidence exists to suggest the main assumptions of the repression and civil liberties literature fails to encompass all motivating factors behind repressive outcomes and a deeper understanding of how other factors can lead to repressive outcomes is needed.