The Onion on Terror

Excellent:

We must all do whatever we can to preserve America by refocusing our priorities back on the contemplation of lethal threats—invisible nightmarish forces plotting to destroy us in a number of horrific ways. It is only through the vigilance and determination of every patriot that we can maintain the sense of total dread vital to the prolonged existence of a thriving, quivering America.

Our country deserves no less than every citizen living in apprehension.

Fear has always made America strong. Were we ever more determined than during the Yellow Scare? When every Christian gentleman lived in mortal terror of his daughter being doped up on opium and raped by pagan, mustachioed Chinamen? What about the Red Scare, when citizens from all walks of life showed their pride by turning in their friends and associates to rabid anticommunists? Has America ever been more resolute?

The whole thing is funny, and far too real.

Posted on February 8, 2008 at 1:28 PM • 39 Comments

Comments

TomFebruary 8, 2008 2:55 PM

I guess I was just hallucinating when I saw two jumbo jets crash into the world trade center on live TV. Nope, no terror threat at all, nothing to see here.

Another TomFebruary 8, 2008 3:11 PM

@Tom,
There's a difference between reasonable steps to deal with a very real threat, and the quivering hysteria that our politicians, bureaucrats, news media, and corporations seem to culture for their own purposes.

killickFebruary 8, 2008 3:12 PM

Terror is real, but when a guy like Romney likens a vote against a Republican nominee as a vote for Osama bin Laden that it begins to be absurd. Drunk drivers are a much greater threat to my life than terrorists, even living near Washington, DC. I think the Bush "justice" department is a greater threat to my liberty than terrorists. We should all "Keep calm. Carry on."

RochusFebruary 8, 2008 3:15 PM

Well I really need our politicians to read "Beyond Fear", because here in germany the situation becomes the same. Today the german ministary of truth^H^H^H^H^H the interior thankfully remembered me to worry about the muslims in my area... never again I will forget how dangerous those people are... when I walk to the next shop I will use the other side of the street, far away from the mosque...

BTW, a german translation of "Beyond Fear" would be an eye-opener for many people here...

Some internet boneheadFebruary 8, 2008 3:17 PM

The thing people don't get about The Onion is that they're not satire, they're just posting from year in the future.

SlartyFebruary 8, 2008 3:24 PM

Tom, nobody is saying there is no terrorist threat, but we need to keep it in perspective. The US kills over 12,000 of its own citizens each year by murder, nearly 50,000 a year on roads and about a million by heart disease. Britain (England) was under attack by terrorists for many years - they were not defeated by security checks and removal of civil liberties. They were defeated by understanding the underlying grievance and addressing the root causes.

Current US policy on in this area is like watching young children in a playground. It is the politics of external escalation to support domestic a domestic agenda.

Perhaps if there was a greater education about non-US history, Americas citizens would note the thousands of years of mistakes by other countries and realize that its current path will lead to oblivion. But oblivion can be nice - look at the Greeks & Romans: they seem much happier now, compared to the British who seem to only just be getting over the loss of their empire!

merkelcellcancerFebruary 8, 2008 3:27 PM

How many rights and checks and balances do we have to give up for a sense of security?

Not even the Stassi, GRU, KGB could make their homelands more secure.

Joe PattersonFebruary 8, 2008 3:43 PM

@bonehead:

sometimes it's more than a year:

There's this, almost *exactly* a year too early:
http://www.theonion.com/content/news/...
Terrorist Extremely Annoyed By Delayed Flight
September 13, 2000

The last line from this one is kind of disturbing:
http://www.theonion.com/content/news/...
Bush Horrified To Learn Presidential Salary
October 18, 2000
..."I know my dad made a bundle off the Gulf War," Bush continued. "But I guess it wasn't through the job. I'll have to ask him just exactly how he did it. Maybe something like that would work again."

And then there's the one that I personally find the most freakish:
http://www.theonion.com/content/node/30160
Shake-Up Among Cast Of Hit Show ABC World News Tonight
Peter Jennings Character To Be Killed Off
August 19, 1997

and a friend pointed out:
The Onion: Feb 2004
http://www.theonion.com/content/node/33930
"Fuck Everything, We're Doing Five Blades"
vs.
Real Life: Jan 2007
http://www.gillettefusion.com/us/lowband.asp

So, is it still considered satire once it's true?

jsFebruary 8, 2008 3:55 PM

Tom: mitigating the threat of terrorism involves things like a change of foreign policy; appearing to the potential terrorists as a source of goodwill, hope, and a better future, rather than an aggressor, occupant, or a source of trouble, so that there is no point in terrorism any longer, and the movement dies down. Because do you honestly think anybody really gives a flying expletive about how people live their lives halfway across the world? You might not pay much attention to your neighbor across the street, but should he come in uninvited and expletive up your house, I'd say you would pretty soon be looking for retaliation - at least in the court room.

Then again, you don't treat all your neighbors as people who would potentially do that, would you? Unless you actually live in that sort of a neighborhood, in which case it's an established fact that any neighbor could come in uninvited and expletive up your place, which is why you have an armored door, heavy locks, and nothing to do with your neighbors.

Treating all people as terrorist suspects just means that ongoing terrorism is accepted as an established fact, no longer a threat. This may indicate either one of two things: either the perceived benefits of the current foreign policy are too great compared to the perceived benefits of mitigating the threat of terrorism, as opposed to the losses incurred by said thread; or the air of anxiety actually does incur some kind of a benefit, and this is perceived worth keeping up.

SlartyFebruary 8, 2008 4:09 PM

Nicely put js.

And I don't want to live in a world with steel doors. It's up to us to change it, and we start by saying "I am not afraid."

That's what the women of Northern Ireland did.

AnonymousFebruary 8, 2008 4:33 PM

@Kurt

And people thought Nostradamus could see the future... That article was *scary* fucking accurate.

AlanFebruary 8, 2008 5:13 PM

Take The Onion Challenge.

Read The Onion's "Our Dumb Century" for an hour, then read the newspaper of you're choice.

Can you tell the difference between reality and satire? Neither can we!

anonymousFebruary 8, 2008 10:12 PM

>mitigating the threat of terrorism involves
>things like a change of foreign policy;
>appearing to the potential terrorists as a
>source of goodwill, hope, and a better
>future, rather than an aggressor,
>occupant, or a source of trouble,
>so that there is no point in terrorism
>any longer, and the movement dies
>down.

How do you appease somebody like Timothy McVeigh? Or the various anti-abortion terrorists and eco-terrorists?

Ari ManiatisFebruary 9, 2008 1:57 AM

> How do you appease somebody like Timothy McVeigh?
> Or the various anti-abortion terrorists and eco-terrorists?

They aren't terrorists. The word is bandied about these days in such ridiculous ways. Is the addict who holds up an inconvenience store a terrorist because frightens people? Some nutter with a grudge against the government and a truck of fertiliser is not a terrorist. Palestinians who fight a war the only way they are equipped to... I could go on. The semantics of the word are fascinating and a powerful tool of governments everywhere:

* you should be scared (that would be the "terror" part)
* "they" are not like "us" (that would be the "ist", the 'other people' who should make you scared)
* therefore, thinking about their reasons, background, history is as futile as wondering how that wasps nest come to be on the tree in your backyard. They are summarised entirely in the word "terrorist" and no more exploration, thought or investigation is necessary.


SlartyFebruary 9, 2008 3:20 AM

Thanks Ari!

"Timothy McVeigh?
> Or the various anti-abortion terrorists and eco-terrorists?"

They are simply criminals, possibly mentally ill. Pandering to the mentally ill helps nobody.

People react with violence when they are either insane, or cannot express themselves in any other way. It's not about appeasement, it's about giving people a voice. Domestically you see this when democracy fails in our western nations - riots in LA and London ring any bells? Have a look at the root causes, and what was done to prevent them. It certainly wasn't addressed through security changes.

Nomen PublicusFebruary 9, 2008 12:10 PM

Why do governments want the population to be more than ordinarily afraid of insane criminals. Calling a psychopath a terrorist rather than a murderer just because his (and it's almost always a he) actions are based on some 2000 year old myth is not rational.

Someone who kills indiscriminately hoping to spread "terror" can only succeed if the target population allows itself to be terrorised. I'm sorry, but the only sensible response is to mourn
the dead and shout "Screw You!" at the murderers and carry on as normal.

nichtlustigFebruary 10, 2008 10:40 PM

Sorry, but I find the Onion piece not in the least funny. I find it to be a very good description of what is going on. Fear used to control the masses is a very old tool and the outcome has never been good.

AlexFebruary 11, 2008 12:20 AM

I've thought about this a great deal. If you take a ten year average, we lose about 300 people to terror (inside the US) every year. We lose more than 400,000 to heart attacks, and a similar number to lung cancer. We lose around 20,000 to ordinary murders, 50,000 to car accidents, and more than 7,000 people every year who've selected the wrong brand of over the counter pain relief drug. (That's right folks - headache remedies kill more people every year than Al Quaeda by a factor of 20 to 1.)

We lose 70,000 people every year who've caught a disease while in the hospital...

And we don't give up a shred of civil liberties in the cause of any of these deaths. We'd never waterboard a nurse to prevent iatrogenic disease. We'd never practice extraordinary rendition on smokers...

Sure, terror is a problem. It kills 300 people a year, and it should be treated like a problem that kills 300 people a year.

And one more little fact to contemplate: We're all going to die someday. Get used to it.

Alex

Y.SchmidtFebruary 11, 2008 2:00 AM

@merkelcellcancer
[quote]
Not even the Stassi, GRU, KGB could make their homelands more secure.
[/quote]

You are wrong. People's Democracies had very good internal security. No organized crime until the late '80s, almost no drug trade.(some say it was because all the criminals were in employ of state :-) The only crime there was was the petty crime, done by antisocial elements who were not yet locked up.

A terrorist cell would never, ever operate successfully in a country where there was an internal security agent in every workplace. (and there were. It is a very funny game these days, looking through the now online archives and checking up on former colleagues).

Imho, the US could use, let's say, 15 years of communist dictatorship. They would eliminate the old power structures and thus democracy could flourish again after those 15 years.

bobFebruary 11, 2008 8:35 AM

"Imho, the US could use, let's say, 15 years of communist dictatorship."

Thats sort of like saying my waistline problem would go away after a 3 week sabbatical in Dachau (Nazi concentration camp 1933-1945). The problem is getting the dictatorships to let go after (period of time).

Just like any Marxist attempt to date; utopia is perpetually "just around the corner" - as soon as we subdue the last anti-revolutionary influence. But the goal seems to never actually be reached to trigger the dictator's exodus from power (since it's the Dictator in power who gets to decide when society has "arrived").

Anonymous CowardFebruary 11, 2008 8:35 AM

@ g

I would call this the brown or olive scare. Fear of terrorism and uncertainty of immigration plays towards our cultural fear of people with olive complexions and dark hair, oh and then there is the fear of fear itself...

@ Tom

I think what Bruce and some of the other commenters on this blog frequently fail to point out is that the question is not whether to secure our (borders, air transit system, subways, cities, etc.) or not, but instead how do we set our priorities? Security professionals realize that a risk assessment does not rule out anything, it just shows you where all of your threats are in relation to your vulnerabilities and how those risks relate to your business/mission/goals. So, if you assume that security guys look at life as one big risk assessment you'll see that when we criticize New York City for putting heavily armed officers on random street corners and such, what we're actually saying is "is this really the most efficient way of addressing the threat?" Propagating fear through the population doesn't work to mitigate any actual or perceived threat, in fact, one could say that it is against our mission of maintaining a free and peaceful society.

AnonymousFebruary 11, 2008 9:26 AM

@Tom
Many more US troops have been killed in Iraq than those souls lost in the WTC. And the US suffers about as many gun-related deaths per MONTH from its own citizens --- so where is the REAL terror?

And if all the "homeland security" measures were really working, the illegal drug trade in the US should have become a distant memory with all the people supposedly being caught for suspicious activities, etc.

And have you noticed that all the "security" measures being implemented or planned are exactly the totalitarian copntrols the US used to accuse the Soviets and others of?

dragonfrogFebruary 11, 2008 1:19 PM

@killick

"Drunk drivers are a much greater threat to my life than terrorists, even living near Washington, DC."

Actually, sober drivers are an even greater threat to your life - I don't have exact figures for D.C., but I believe alcohol is involved in only about 40% of fatal auto accidents. A single drunk driver is more dangerous than a single sober one, but there are so many more sober drivers that they are more dangerous as a whole. Clearly the focus needs to be on getting sober drivers off the road.

xd0sFebruary 11, 2008 1:30 PM

@Alex

"(That's right folks - headache remedies kill more people every year than Al Quaeda by a factor of 20 to 1.)"

I didn't know this, but I like that stat. It gives a good "close to home" issue to compare with.

However as you pointed out, the risk of dying to any cause over a lifetime is 1 to 1 (100%). The means of death breaks out a bit differently, and the government's response to the risks are extremely skewed.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ka5FdP-gNF0 (approx 7 min video on the topic)

This isn't a matter of risk management though, despite how it's being sold. It's control, plain and simple.

Bruce nailed it directly in another thread. If given a choice between Security and Privacy (a false dichotomy) people will choose security, especially if they are scared first.

Winston SmithFebruary 11, 2008 3:59 PM

@Anonymous Coward

"Propagating fear through the population doesn't work to mitigate any actual or perceived threat, in fact, one could say that it is against our mission of maintaining a free and peaceful society."

Well, it is certainly counter to the publicly stated mission. As for the real mission, I'm not so sure. These guys have read "Beyond Fear". You van be sure they've also read "Manufacturing Consent". The fear mongering is systematic and deliberate.

Winston SmithFebruary 11, 2008 4:00 PM

@Anonymous Coward

"Propagating fear through the population doesn't work to mitigate any actual or perceived threat, in fact, one could say that it is against our mission of maintaining a free and peaceful society."

Well, it is certainly counter to the publicly stated mission. As for the real mission, I'm not so sure. These guys have read "Beyond Fear". You can also be sure they've read "Manufacturing Consent". The fear mongering is systematic and deliberate.

dragonfrogFebruary 11, 2008 5:51 PM

@ Y.Schmidt

"You are wrong. People's Democracies had very good internal security. No organized crime until the late '80s, almost no drug trade.(some say it was because all the criminals were in employ of state :-) The only crime there was was the petty crime, done by antisocial elements who were not yet locked up."

Yes, and they also always exceeded their five-year plans for industrial production O.o

OneFishFebruary 11, 2008 7:52 PM

@Tom

It is a scary world, isn't it? Wouldn't it be nice to just not have worry about it? To sit on Big Daddy's lap and ask him "Can you make me safe?", "Can you protect me?"

Well, grown ups can deal with uncertainty, paradox, yes, even death itself.

It is the weakness of the babies who run crying to their surrogate daddies that scare me. They empower people who should not be wielding anything more powerful than a hair dryer.

We are in a mess today because millions of whining babies wanted the neocons to protect us.

averrosFebruary 12, 2008 1:55 AM

@ Y.Schmidt:

" People's Democracies had very good internal security. No organized crime until the late '80s, almost no drug trade.(some say it was because all the criminals were in employ of state :-) The only crime there was was the petty crime, done by antisocial elements who were not yet locked up."

You must be kidding. The organized crime ("vory v zakone", Russian) was so widespread in Soviet Union that it spawned its own argot, "fenya", which made its way into the mainstream language and sustains the entire popular genre of folk music ("blatnaya pesnya").

The crime was relatively harmless to ordinary citizens because there wasn't that much to steal from them; but theft from employers was nearly universal (it is still very high all over Russia - a lot of people there think it's ok to steal from the bosses). The most prestigeous jobs were in positions allowing for access to most lucrative moveable objects - thus, being a manager of a retail shop was way more rewarding than being an engineer.

Rape and domestic violence were ubiquitous, too. Over there it is considered obligatory for well-mannered men to escort women to their apartments at night, and still most of my female friends from former Soviet Union were raped or robbed.

Y.SchmidtFebruary 12, 2008 2:49 AM

@avverros

Maybe I should have written: former USSR satellite countries. Russians considered Czechoslovakia to be 'almost' like the West. Russia is a very weird place. I hear people sometimes elbow each other while getting on a bus or tram. (in former Czechoslovakia, it is about as common as rampages with assault rifles)

But you are right with stealing from the bosses. Petty theft of building materials was quite common. (maybe because buying them was such a pain in the arse).

.. and the thing with shops is true.

But the most prestigious jobs were in the party, weren't they?

I would like to see the rape statistics. It certainly wasn't a widespread problem in Czechoslovakia.

the asbestos survey manFebruary 12, 2008 2:56 AM

From my perspective across the pond (and as a keen Onion reader) I've got to agree that there does seem to be an inordinate amount of scaremongering over the issue of terrorism. How many plots have been foiled in the US?

From memory, in the UK, we've had about 5 or 6 plots that have failed or been stopped and they were not the results of highly organised terrorist cells but rather deluded individuals or small groups who downloaded jihadi material from, the internet.

5 or 6 unsucessful plots in the past 7 years does not strike me as cause for panic.

jayFebruary 12, 2008 8:14 AM

"Sorry, but I find the Onion piece not in the least funny. I find it to be a very good description of what is going on. "

In the old days, only the court jester could really tell the truth.

hitmanFebruary 15, 2008 7:44 AM

reminds me of the lord of the rings when the messager of sauron appears at the gate of the lonely mountain to ask for some little ring, the less important ring of all, if the dwarfs might know something about that thing and if they could hand it out to sauron or give information about it....

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