Dahlia Lithwick on Terrorism Derangement Syndrome

In Slate.

Posted on February 10, 2010 at 6:43 AM • 24 Comments

Comments

BF SkinnerFebruary 10, 2010 7:23 AM

I'm gonna go with the cynics.

People who change their opinions when the only significant change is the guy in charge is no longer their boy--are oppourtunistic and obstructionist.

Obama could part the seas and they would say "he's interfering with the enviornment and I really really care about the enviornment"

The people I've talked with who are quite clear that they want to torture not interrogate. They've been hurt and they want to cause hurt in return.

I think the rest of us fearful and un are in the middle of changes that are making us feel we've lost control. Whether we had any real control (cf financial companies) is irrelevant.

A leader would help people regain their sense of control even in the midst of threat (cf Winnie and FDR in ww2). hmmm...Maybe Bush was doing this when he told the US to 'get out there and shop'

sarahFebruary 10, 2010 8:27 AM

I don't buy it - it's stupid and just more of the same. The fear-mongering certain politicians (Slate labels them Republicans) actually believe these things themselves. They don't get up in the morning and set out to deceive people (oh yeah... they do it because they want another big defense contract).

This is just another EFFECT and IS NOT A CAUSE. No one has answered why people are so afraid these days. IT IS NOT because Republicans are scaring them. Give me a break.

Bill ClintonFebruary 10, 2010 8:33 AM

I would like to say something to [those of you] who believe the greatest threat to America comes not from terrorists from within our country or beyond our borders, but from our own government....

[T]here have been lawbreakers among those who espouse your philosophy....

How dare you suggest that we in the freest nation on Earth live in tyranny. How dare you call yourselves patriots and heroes....

[T]here is nothing patriotic about hating your country, or pretending that you can love your country but despise your government....

DavidFebruary 10, 2010 8:56 AM

@sarah: I don't know about that. While there are doubtless fear-mongering politicians that believe their nonsense, there are a lot of politicians who seem to benefit from the fear-mongering. When politicians are doing things that I think hurt the US, I'm not inclined to give them the benefit of any doubt.

WinterFebruary 10, 2010 9:15 AM

Maybe too many Americans simply do not believe in the rule of law, or even democracy, anymore? (but you see it in other countries too)

Underlying all this might be a society that is polarized so much that everything must succumb to the desire to annihilate the "other" side of the political spectrum. (but how should I know from the other side of the world?)

I understand there have already been serious outcries in the USA for an armed uprising against a democratically chosen president. This makes me ask myself how civil wars start?

Winter

Clive RobinsonFebruary 10, 2010 9:16 AM

Hmm this bit of the article about sums it all up,

'Upon being elected to the U. S. Senate last month, Scott Brown declared: "Our Constitution and laws exist to protect this nation—they do not grant rights and privileges to enemies in wartime. In dealing with terrorists, our tax dollars should pay for weapons to stop them, not lawyers to defend them."'

Hmm "at war" and "tax dollars" sounds like the mantra from the previous SCOTUS...

Further,

'As Adam Serwer observed , "This is the new normal for Republicans: You can be denied rights not through due process of law but merely based on the nature of the crime you are suspected of committing."'

Ho hum so business as usuall...

AdamFebruary 10, 2010 9:26 AM

@Clive Robinson - Agreed is says it all-Scott Brown said,"In dealing with terrorists....not lawyers to defend them."

Wow, do these people even know what is means to be an American? Due Process? Innocent until proven guilty?

Please sit down and read the freakn Declaration and the Constitution people!

DayOwlFebruary 10, 2010 9:43 AM

I find it hard to believe that a population that, for the most part, cannot even name the Vice President of the United States, actually knows what the difference is between a civilian trial and a military commission. Or perhaps they believe a military commission will simply declare the defendant guilty without any deliberation?

Regarding fear-based politics: Pick up a recent issue of Reader's Digest. Nine out of ten articles will tell you about something you need to fear and prevent (while pointing you in the direction of services and products designed to ameliorate the danger). Madison Avenue has discovered that fear is the very best seller. Is it any wonder that politicians would use it to gain power? And if they get citizens to willingly denounce those awfully inconvenient "rights" they've been enjoying, so much the better!

uk visaFebruary 10, 2010 10:29 AM

The line that got me is
'So long as there are young men in the world willing to stick a bomb in their pants, we will never be perfectly safe.'
No, Dahlia - you will never be perfectly safe; none of us will ever be perfectly safe; nobody in the history of the world has ever been perfectly safe... with or without men with pant bombs.
Now, get over it and get on with your life.
It leaves me wanting to say 'man up' to 330 million Americans.

Brandioch ConnerFebruary 10, 2010 11:08 AM

Bruce,
This same pattern is well established in history. There always has to be a new enemy to be afraid of if you're going to keep the people afraid or angry.

And it is easier to get someone to vote for you if you can convince them that they are threatened by a third party.

Just look at how many times the "ticking time bomb" scenario has been brought up here by certain people and their ideological companions.

Nick LancasterFebruary 10, 2010 11:31 AM

@ "Bill Clinton"

Please explain to me, then, how the events of 9/11 and more recent events like the Shoefiend and Crotchbomber require that we distance ourselves from laws and principles we have held since our founding?

I make no claim to patriotism or heroism; I am merely the product of parents, teachers, and role-models who have encouraged me to THINK rather than trundle obediently along behind a leader who (allegedly) once called the Constitution 'a goddamn piece of paper.'

sarahFebruary 10, 2010 12:06 PM

@David - thanks for the feedback. I think the difference here is, that I don't think we should be afraid even if the threats are real. I would like to believe people in authority know things I don't know, and if they believe there's an ongoing cyberthreat to destroy the US banking system I tend to believe them. I don't want to be terrorized, but NOT because these things aren't true. That's a big difference I have with the extreme left nuts that want only to discredit and say don't believe the reports BECAUSE THEY"RE NOT TRUE. What if they are? How in the world can anyone know? By reading Slate? Ouch.

BF SkinnerFebruary 10, 2010 12:32 PM

Hmmm Sarah has put me in mind of the old days

Stephen Falken: "Hello, General Beringer! Stephen Falken! "
General Beringer: "Mr. Falken you picked a hell of a day for a visit!"
Falken: "Uh, uh, General, what you see on these screens up here is a fantasy; a computer-enhanced hallucination. Those blips are not real missiles. They're phantoms."

ChelloveckFebruary 10, 2010 1:11 PM

@Adam: The Declaration of Independence? The Constitution? They only apply to decent God-fearing Americans like you and me, not to those heathen terrorists out to destroy our way of life.

I'm being sarcastic, but the sad part is that I know people who would make exactly that argument, and not even see the absurdity of it. Protections and due process are fine for the good guys, but are not to be given to the bad guys. And how do you know who the bad guys are? Simple. They're not the good guys.

@Winter: I think you've nailed it. Anything the other political party says must be wrong, simply because of who is saying it. Both parties have demonized the other to the point where they *can't* agree, lest they be seen as caving in to the enemy. There's no way to come to a mutually agreeable solution without both sides losing face.

phred14February 10, 2010 2:58 PM

@Chelloveck: I blame Cable TV. I guess it isn't so much cable TV itself, but the ability for one to select one's on news feeds. In days long past, we all watched the same 3 networks and read the same hometown (OK, some bigger cities have multiple newspapers, but mine wasn't one of them.) newspapers to get our news. We all started with the same news feeds - and then our opinions diverged from there.

Today it's possible - easier even - to just get news from sources that match your personal bias. So we don't even start on the same page any more. We don't agree on the facts behind the stories, let alone interpretation, etc.

I blamed cable TV news. That's the easy way to cast blame, because it's the most obvious. But behind that I'm really blaming the lack of a common underlying basis of distributed factual news. I don't know how we can ever agree, starting practically in separate worlds.

John CampbellFebruary 11, 2010 7:50 AM

Fear sells.

Fear sells newspapers.

Fear has people watching CNN.

Fear of CNN's "slant" has people watching FOX News.

Fear of Rupert Murdoch has people watching CNN.

Our press, all too often, leverages fear.

Fear of terrorists.

Fear of paedophiles.

Fear of H1N1.

Fear of H1N1's vaccine(s).

As has been pointed out before, elsewhere, politics thrives on issues, be they related to reality or not.

Treatments for issues sell more than once while a solution (cure) gets sold but once.

How many things we have learned to fear turn out to be more fiction than fact? That a small problem has been somehow pumped up to sell ads?

Fear, Sex, Blood and Pain (the latter three are specialties of the scandal rags) sell the news which gives ads/commercials exposure to an audience.

It's all money.

AaronFebruary 11, 2010 9:35 AM

@Adam - "Wow, do these people even know what is means to be an American? Due Process? Innocent until proven guilty?"

I'd like to say that it depends on how you define what they've done and whether the individual committing the act is a US citizen. IMHO an individual who is not a citizen of the US should not necessarily be given the same rights as someone who is. If, as in the case of KSM, the individual is not a citizen and has committed an act which could be defined as an act of war, then I say that individual should be tried in a military court, not a civilian one. Just my two cents.

Charles CraigFebruary 11, 2010 9:53 AM

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

Where in here does it say that this only applies to American Citizens?

John CampbellFebruary 11, 2010 10:33 AM

@Charles Craig: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed."

Wrong thread, I think you wanted to add this comment to the SC "Subversive Organization Registration" thread.

Actually, to be frank, the Declaration of Independence" does not define the USA, it merely was a laundry list of reasons that eventually led to the US Constitution... which, sadly, has been subject to subversion by some of the very people who have sworn to defend and uphold it.

Bruce ClementFebruary 11, 2010 2:20 PM

Terrorism Derangement Syndrome - TDS

Is it just me, or is the way to pronounce this acronym "Tedious". That rather nicely sums up the on-going hysteria about the terrorists.

We've had them since at least the days of Guy Fawkes, we'll still have them long after I'm dead. Let's just stop worrying about them.

GlennFebruary 11, 2010 8:53 PM

To be fair, Bill Clinton made those comments soon after the Oklahoma City bombing, and they were directed at members of militia groups that espouse violence. It is not very honest to take the words out of that context and pretend that he was addressing the loyal opposition.

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