Tom Engelhardt on Fear of Terrorism
Similar sentiment from Newsweek.
Similar sentiment from Newsweek.
John Campbell • March 3, 2010 6:37 AM
As I’ve commented before… Fear Sells News… and there’s always a way to leverage fear for political gain.
Paul Renault • March 3, 2010 6:47 AM
Hear, hear, Tom! (I had already read this screed when it came out.)
I know very well that this has been going on forever:
Remember how trembling, fearful Americans were warned that the USA was only ‘two hours away’ from Nicaragua and that there was a very real risk of invasion by the Sandinistas?
The same day the planes hit the towers, I dropped by my bank to pay a bill and get some cash. The teller asked me if I had heard/seen the news. She told me that this event scared her. “Listen,” I told her, “in the list of terrorist targets, this little town in Southest New-Brunswick must be far, far down the list. If they start attacking more places, you’ll have lots of warning. I wouldn’t worry about it too much.”
BF Skinner • March 3, 2010 6:54 AM
As I’ve commented before…human brains are fizzy cocktails of un/barely-controlled swirling hormones and enzymatic reactions…but they can be taught to accept a common reality tunnel.
This is done by saying things like “Yes, America is the greatest country in the world. Any evidence to the contrary is a lie fostered by pinko commie subversives.”
Brain doesn’t discriminate data. But it does take context. If you show someone news on a Comedy channel they’ll laugh. If you show opinions on a News channel they’ll accept it as fact. If you point out these contradictory contexts and framings people get confused. Do it often enough and some get wise–others get violent.
If you insist upon telling the truth you had better make it funny, or people will kill you.
Carlo Graziani • March 3, 2010 6:57 AM
The comparative risk analysis is, of course, spot on, and a model of how one should make dispassionate judgements about risks from terrorism. Taking the emotional component — fear, revenge, etc. — out of the analysis, and replacing it with the question “what is worth defending against, based on real risk and the cost of its abatement”, and thus placing terrorism in its proper context, is the only way to allow reason to triumph over passion when thinking about terrorism.
Makes no difference to the public, though. I’ll go so far as to predict, based on past comment threads about such stories, that there will be two or three comments below by people who believe that it should make a difference to our risk-abatement response whether or not a particular risk is backed by an evil intent, irrespective of how small that risk is.
tyler • March 3, 2010 7:03 AM
In response to Obama’s “apology”, it sounds like he realizes that you are more likely to killed in America by a thug wanting your wallet than a terrorist. I think he was probably trying to calm peoples fear by saying the government would do more (whatever that means) and keep the protesters off his lawn.
tyler • March 3, 2010 7:05 AM
It is sad when a channel called Comedy Central has better news than a major news network.
Winter • March 3, 2010 7:27 AM
Do not disparage the “woman in the street”.
Common Israeli, British, and Spanish people have been able to live and let live during terrorist campaigns much, much worse than those experienced by the USA. And they did not tear down democracy.
Even the US public had no problem living with domestic terrorists. Think of the reaction to the Oklahoma bombing?
Only when media and politicians try to leverage terrorism do we see this kind of mindless panick.
BF Skinner • March 3, 2010 8:03 AM
@tyler ‘It is sad…”
Our current news trend isn’t new. The Hearst papers of the early part of the last century gave us yellow journalism and showed how the concentration of media in one man’s hands could be used for his own agenda. It’s a pity we allowed Congress to forget that. Did they think people have changed?
But there were always threads of …dunno truth, reality? The muckrakers. The foundations of journalistic ethics. But for every Woodward or Sinclair there are a hundred Becks and Murdochs. Because that’s where the money is.
Is it a surprise to any of us that while there’s a general decline in newspapers — The National Enquirer, Star, Sun and National Examiner turn a nice profit?
Reporters tell stories. That is they gather facts, try to discern the underlying pattern or cause, and put words in strings to transfer meaning to their readers.
Based on fact they are still just stories. Abstractions/simplifications, of reality. Americans? We’re not that good at nuance.
BigDog • March 3, 2010 8:42 AM
I want to agree with Mr. Engelhardt that terror plots are of little importance. But the fact is he’s wrong. Plain wrong. His facts in the beginning are very good. I like that he gives the reader some perspectives on the deaths caused by a lot of things. What he fails to see is that small things lead to bigger things. What’s next? A successful execution of a terror plot that leaves the electrical grid in a whole region of the country down, or water/food supplies get poisoned? I think that we need to be doing something. Doing nothing isn’t an option. I agree with him that war wasn’t the best choice of options to fight these terrorists. But, then again, I don’t get the national intelligence briefs every morning either. I don’t know what I would have done in either President’s shoes, but it wouldn’t have been, “Quiet down people, more people died today in car crashes than in this plane that just was exploded by a terrorist. Go home and don’t worry.”
I also think his bias towards the “Republican criticism machine and media..” is little ignorant. The Democrats don’t have their own criticism machine? Get real. They are worse than the Republicans. And there are a LOT more of them.
I think the blog post, with the exception of the well researched, fact presenting first section, was just a rant. Not worth the mental cycles that it took to read it and comment on it.
DayOwl • March 3, 2010 8:57 AM
Still laughing about the “threat” of invasion by Sandinista’s…
But really, the scariest thing about the terror attacks is the government’s overreaction and consolidation of greater powers. Al quaida has apparently been very useful.
The companies that manufacture body scan equipment were probably celebrating wildly the day after Christmas.
Andrew Gumbrell • March 3, 2010 9:14 AM
You can be sure your message is getting through, Bruce
Trichinosis USA • March 3, 2010 9:15 AM
The media is part of the problem, but that forest is a little too close to the dead trees to expect that the media would try to self diagnose. Nonetheless the rise of the left leaning blogosphere as a response to the American people’s demand for real news instead of right wing propaganda and “infotainment” should not be lost on mainstream media. It’s certainly got to be hitting them in the pocket. The left IS a majority in this country, like it or not.
One of the best possible things to happen to the nation would be the rise of a viable challenger to Peter King, fearmonger extraordinaire. That leftover Bush-era dinosaur has got to go.
Homeland Security needs to be broken up and it’s assets redistributed to the other three agencies, to include whatever few people are actually competent and willing to do the job, as opposed to the Bush boondogglers and corrupt fat cats. If anyone needs proof that Homeland Security isn’t, just look at the steady rise of the availability of heroin in this country. We’re fighting a war in Afghanistan, and for the entire duration of that time heroin’s been showing up on American doorsteps. Magic? No, merely willful incompetence on the part of the so-called Department of Homeland Security, with possible help from black ops types in the CIA. How many people in this country died from heroin OD last year? That might be a statistic worth looking at.
Oh, and then there’s all those folks coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan in body bags. Let’s not forget them when we’re trying to put terrorism in perspective. They think they’re dying to protect us from it, after all. How many people here know that the Afghanistan body count hit 1000 last week? Anyone? Bueller? Bueller?
HJohn • March 3, 2010 9:31 AM
Wow. A left wing political rant blaming the right for all the worlds problems. I haven’t seen something like that since, oh, the last time I read one of your posts.
David • March 3, 2010 9:33 AM
@BigDog: Okay, what have the September 11 attacks led to? So far, foreign terrorists have failed to take out electrical power or communications in the US, and deaths from food and water poisoning happen only from domestic causes. The plots that have surfaced, and are deemed thwarted, are hardly impressive. If we can’t laugh at a guy for setting his underwear on fire, the terrorists have already won.
You refer to a “plane that just was exploded by a terrorist”, without noting that the recent plane that caused so much consternation came through perfectly fine, and was never in any particular danger, since Mr. Great Balls of Fire neglected to provide a detonator. An idiot stuffing explosives down his pants is not the same as an exploded plane. If this is the best they can do, the terrorists are no danger.
mcb • March 3, 2010 9:36 AM
“What’s next? A successful execution of a terror plot that leaves the electrical grid in a whole region of the country down, or water/food supplies get poisoned? I think that we need to be doing something. Doing nothing isn’t an option.”
The electric grid crashes from time to time due to weather, squirrels, negligence, and even crime. Guess what, the people who run the grid apply their resources to repair it and get it running again, usually within hours, almost always within days. Steven Seagal need not apply.
The quantities of anything needed to deliberately contaminate a water distribution system is measured in trainloads. It’s easier to compromise the ability to treat water. Guess what, the people who operate the water treatment and distribution system apply their resources to repair it and get it running again, usually within hours, almost always within days. Chuck Norris is not needed.
From time to time the food supply is contaminated with E.Coli or Salmonella. Guess what, the people who operate the food chain apply their resources to recall the contaminated food, usually within days, almost always within weeks. Jack Bauer’s impromptu enhanced interrogation techniques are not required.
Letting qualified people operate high quality collection, generation, purification, pastuerization, and distribution systems, and respond to error, accident, breakdown, vandalism, or even deliberate criminal activity using a flexible “All Hazards” emergency response plan is not “Doing nothing.”
theprez98 • March 3, 2010 9:38 AM
Bush bashing is still in vogue, no?
mcb • March 3, 2010 10:09 AM
“Bush bashing is still in vogue, no?”
Only if your politics run to the left of McCain or to the right of Palin.
Kingsnake • March 3, 2010 10:17 AM
The only thing Steven Seagal is applying for these days is a NutriSystem discount …
Clive Robinson • March 3, 2010 10:21 AM
@ Andrew Gumbrell,
“- it’s coming back as other people’s ideas.”
It’s why some of us post here so often we have to give Bruce ideas 8)
Which Bruce is another matter 😉
Clive Robinson • March 3, 2010 10:29 AM
“Only if your politics run to the left of McCain or to the right of Palin.”
Meeoww, scratchy scratchy 8)
Brandioch Conner • March 3, 2010 10:35 AM
“Guess what, the people who run the grid apply their resources to repair it and get it running again, usually within hours, almost always within days.”
No, you don’t understand. Because it will be the evil terrorists who are involved, it will be impossible to recover.
All the standard practices will be useless. The people who repair and maintain the systems today will suddenly be unable to do anything because of the evil power of the evil terrorists.
Of course, these predictions are brought by the people least able to understand the technologies involved. But I’m sure that they’ve seen Die Hard 4 enough times to have a rough grasp of the situation.
Andy • March 3, 2010 10:46 AM
Yes, add global warming & H1N1 to the list of scares
Clive Robinson • March 3, 2010 11:09 AM
“Oh, and then there’s all those folks coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan in body bags. Let’s not forget them when we’re trying to put terrorism in perspective. They think they’re dying to protect us from it, after all.”
They may well be doing so rather more than most think.
Appart from Capt. Underpants and Cpl. Hotfoot (neither of whom where that credable) the US has not had a direct attack against it since 9/11.
Britain’s 7/7 attack whilst effective was mostly a home grown “me to” affair. Likewise one or two other attacks around the world.
It was not untill Mumbi that things got significant again.
Have you asked yourself why?
If you think that 9/11 was not designed to be a one off, but the first step of a plan against the US why has there been no serious follow up by the terrorists?
There might be a couple of reasons,
First off the plan may well have been designed to draw the US War Hawks off the perch and onto a chosen battle field where they do not have an advantage.
Secondly due to the US War Hawks those who would make suitable terrorists are otherwise more profitably (from their point of view) attacking US troops and in the process making the US & UK the most hated of nations in that part of the world and others places beside.
Either way arguably those troops in Afganistan and Iraq are acting as a lightning rod.
What ever peoples views are as to the “why of it” be it legal or ilegal does not matter the troops appear to be stopping the need for more acts of terrorism on US & UK soil. Something the DHS cannot even remotly make a valid claim to.
Since the change of focus has moved from “offence” against the various millitant factions to the “defence” or security of the general population out there I’m hopefull that the view of the population out there will change and thus peace actually have a chance.
If it does however it may be first indicated by new more proffesional terrorist attacks on US soil.
Thus the US people should not follow the US War Hawks and their “alpha male” mating rituals (of rape pillage and plunder). As this may well be playing directly into Osama bin Laden’s hands yet again.
Brian Samson • March 3, 2010 11:27 AM
Does anybody else think it’s ironic that Newsweek blasts politicians for “fearmongering” and then, on the same page, advertises an article about the top 10 scariest terrorists in the world?
Trichinosis USA • March 3, 2010 11:29 AM
If you believe as I do that we haven’t fully investigated the 9/11 attacks properly, then claiming that the actions of the Bush administration “made us safer” after 9/11 is like claiming that the wolf eating Grandma made the cabin safe for Little Red Riding Hood.
9/11 happened on Bush’s watch. While I was standing less than a mile away from the collapsing towers – to include my own offices – watching thousands of fellow New Yorkers die, that pathetic waste of the miracle of DNA was reading a children’s book.
To make things worse the number of fallen military who have died for what very well might turn out to be a pack of lies is fast approaching the 10,000 mark and shows no signs of slowing down. Not to mention the deaths of innocent civilians.
American soldiers in Abu Ghraib did to their prisoners what the Nazis did to my great uncle in World War II. When the Nazis were doing it, it was called a war crime.
I am ex military. Our people are not and never should be used as “lightning rods” – or a more appropriate term for it would perhaps be “cannon fodder”. We are destroying our best and brightest, and the ones who come home end up so damaged in heart and mind that many of them end up taking their own lives. For good reason – once they get over there and see what’s really going on, which is systematically hidden from the general public, they grow to truly understand that there’s no genuine justification for their putting their lives on the line.
There is no excuse for this. NO excuse. NO forgiveness from here. Ever.
Clive Robinson • March 3, 2010 11:37 AM
“Yes, add global warming & H1N1 to the list of scares”
You could look on Global Warming as a natural consiquence of using the type of fuels we do in the way we do. Thus you could argue it is simply winding the clock back to an earlier stage in earths evolution before life as we know it existed.
As for H5N1 (Bird flu) and H1N1 (Swine flu), both killed more people than they should have for the initial infection rate, both by attacking the lungs of otherwise healthy people.
The early out of season mortality rate appeared in line with the early stages of the 1918 (and subsiquent years) flu pandemic that arguabbly killed more people than WWI did. Importantly it to attacked the lungs of otherwise healthy and economicaly viable people (by the standards of the day)
What is not clear is why H1N1 did not take hold in the same way. It could simply be we don’t have as much in the way of lung problems in the modern first world than we had 90 years ago. We smoke less, wash our bodies and clothes more frequently and effectivly, we heat our homes and work places more effectivly and importantly don’t burn smog producing coal any more. oh and our life expectancy is about 1.5 times more than it was 90 years ago even though we eat considerably more porcine flesh per head of population than we did back then.
Sometimes the time gap allows for sufficient change in the population to change the suseptability of the population to a particular pathogen.
All we do know is that the human race is becoming a mono culture, and generaly that leaves any population more suseptable to single pathogens.
Thus it could be argued we doged a bullet others that nature was firing blanks.
HJohn • March 3, 2010 11:44 AM
@Trichnosis: “9/11 happened on Bush’s watch. While I was standing less than a mile away from the collapsing towers – to include my own offices – watching thousands of fellow New Yorkers die, that pathetic waste of the miracle of DNA was reading a children’s book.”
That would be a cheap shot against any president of any party or political leaning. Everything bad that happens happens on some president’s watch, and I find it amusing and depressing that the very same people who worry about someone being like a dictator are the same ones who wonder why he wasn’t powerful enough to prevent something that was virtually unpreventable by him.
At least I’m consistent. I think President Obama is nothing short of a catastrophy, but having said that:
1) not all the worlds problems are his fault, in fact most existed decades before he was ever heard of
2) a reasonable person cannot hold him accountable for ft hood or the underwear bomber.
Just a fun fact for you, the military you are an ex of, they voted the opposite of you by a 4-1 margin. You are entitled to your opinion, but you do not speak for all military.
HJohn • March 3, 2010 11:46 AM
I wonder what the commentary would be if, during the 9/11 attacks, a president flew into a panic in front of children, thereby scaring them. Stay calm in front of the kids while they prepare your exit, or cause hysteria in a school. Gee, what a choice.
John Campbell • March 3, 2010 11:49 AM
Y’know, 9/11 notwithstanding, if you think about it a bit more dispassionately, 9/11 was a FLEA-BITE.
It is only through political over-reaction (somehow I do not think Al Gore would have done any better than Bush since the PATRIOT act was just an amalgamation of legislative efforts that had already been seen before) and “fiduciary responsibility” that turned 9/11 from a flea bite into full-blown anaphylactic shock.
We can thank our ratings-hungry “news” agencies for the spread of fear and panic since, really, fear sells… perhaps better even than sex.
HJohn • March 3, 2010 12:16 PM
@John Campbell: “It is only through political over-reaction (somehow I do not think Al Gore would have done any better than Bush since the PATRIOT act was just an amalgamation of legislative efforts that had already been seen before) and “fiduciary responsibility” that turned 9/11 from a flea bite into full-blown anaphylactic shock.”
I think you’re probably right. It turns more into a campaign issue on both sides, which plays into the fear the article discusses (I wanted to reel the thread back in).
The Patriot Act two two primary things, it expanded powers that were used for the mob to be used against terrorists, and it made conspiring to do things illegal, not just doing them.
As with any government power, it is subject to abuse. I often think of the Patriot Act and the Homeland Security Act as twin abominations to be frank. And before someone jumps on a political bandwagon on either side, lets keep in mind that it breezed through the senate by a 98-1 margin, so it can hardly be pinned on one party.
It’s very difficult to separate the political from this, since it is the political that drives responses and laws, so trying to separate the partisan from the political, let me say this:
1) Those who supported Bush’s increased powers as commander in chief now have to deal with Obama having those powers.
2) Those who current support Obama’s initiatives best keep in mind that one day they’ll have to deal with a president they don’t support having the powers.
People shoot themselves in the foot a lot by being short sighted. You can’t give extraconstitutional powers to someone you trust without eventually handing those powers to someone you don’t. That’s just a fact… handling terrorism is really no different.
Clive Robinson • March 3, 2010 12:17 PM
@ Trichinosis USA,
As I said,
‘What ever peoples views are as to the “why of it” be it legal or ilegal does not matter the troops appear to be stopping the need for more acts of terrorism on US & UK soil. ‘
I was not arguing if the war is right or wrong (and for the record I personal side strongly with latter view) just what is in the minds and actions of those who seek to attack both the US & UK.
I used the term “lightning rod” as opposed to “cannon fodder” simply because the former implies some value for the waste in protecting others where as the latter implies just sensless waste.
Having been involved with the military in my time and been fortunate enough for it to have been mainly at a time of peace, I was not faced with the ethical choice the members of the armed forces currently have.
However when we are attacked in whatever way it is unwise to ignore it.
This then brings to the fore the question of proportionality of the response which generaly only history can judge.
And one question still lies unaswered “where we gulled/goaded into playing the puppet for somebody elses agenda”.
It could be argued that by removing the Taliban and Sadam we opened opportunities for others to sieze power in more measure than would have otherwise been possible for them to achive.
There are many many more questions that arise but one sits there like the elephant in the room,
‘Did the US bring it upon themselves by alowing the Neocon War Hawks into power’
That is the obvious and fairly predictable reaction of the Neocon War Hawks may have provided the incentive for 9/11 in order to bring about the situation in the gulf.
It is a very old trick of war to set one strong enemy against another to provide opportunity for a weaker force to prevail at a later stage once the energies of the strong have been disapated.
That being said it is in danger of draging this thread into party politics which I do not wish to do in any way.
HJohn • March 3, 2010 12:27 PM
@Clive: “That being said it is in danger of draging this thread into party politics which I do not wish to do in any way.”
It’s tough to avoid that, isn’t it? The political seems to be what drives response, reaction, legislation, etc. It’s really difficult to separate politics from fear assessment, no matter which side you seem to come from.
I will repeat one thing I said above which is both on topic and political, when basing one’s politics on their assessment of fear (whether they fear too much or too little), one must realize that any powers they give to someone they trust will be passed to someone they don’t, and any powers they deny to someone they don’t trust will be denied to someone they do.
Andrew • March 3, 2010 12:28 PM
I made myself very unpopular at a conference when I pointed out that America would survive a September 11th style attack once a day, every day, on a different city each time, for an entire year. It would be grisly, with impressive loss of life and great damage to our infrastructure and public confidence, but we would not stop being Americans and our country would survive and endure.
London survived the Blitz. That’s one city hit by thousands of tons of bombs.
The national emergency (without getting into politics) is recklessly changing our entire way of life in an immune system response to a handful of madmen.
“The great thing is not to lose your nerve.” — Jerry Pournelle
David • March 3, 2010 12:44 PM
@Clive: I notice you commenting on “the Taliban and Saddam”, which has become something of a pet peeve of mine. The invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq were and are two separate wars, with different justifications and circumstances. I believe it’s very reasonable to have strongly different opinions about the two wars, which I do, and I suggest separating them in discourse.
Brandioch Conner • March 3, 2010 12:44 PM
“It would be grisly, with impressive loss of life and great damage to our infrastructure and public confidence, but we would not stop being Americans and our country would survive and endure.”
“London survived the Blitz. That’s one city hit by thousands of tons of bombs.”
And all throughout history there have been worse attacks on weaker people but those people have survived.
At best, the people crying about how unstoppable the terrorists are are fools who do not know what they are talking about.
@Clive: “What is not clear is why H1N1 did not take hold in the same way. It could simply be we don’t have as much in the way of lung problems in the modern first world than we had 90 years ago.”
One word: antibiotics. Many of the people who died in the epidemic of 1918 died of secondary bacterial infections, such as pneumonia. Bacterial infections simply were not treatable at the time.
My daughter had the H1N1 flu this winter. She was treated with antivirals and started recovering from the flu, but developed pneumonia. Without antibiotics to treat the secondary infection, her chances of survival would not have been as good. I would personally be dead several times over by now if it weren’t for antibiotics. It’s easy to forget how short a time antibiotics have been widely available, and what a big difference they’ve made.
joslin • March 3, 2010 1:42 PM
For some reason the fear of terrorism discussions make me think of Stephen Dubner’s [Super]Freakonomics series. They reinforce the idea of rational thinking and deductive reasoning– why drunk driving is less dangerous than drunk walking, possible reason for reduced crime (abortion policy)…
Just remember to question what you read and hear. Throwing your TV (FUD-sets) out the window in favor of public radio helps too. Think people!
Trichinosis USA • March 3, 2010 3:11 PM
The difference between Bush and Obama is that Obama was left with a mess to clean up, while 9/11 was part of Bush’s duty to prevent.
Not only did he and his entire administration fail to prevent that event, they:
1) Refused to act in a competent and swift manner afterward – no jets were scrambled while Bush was reading his children’s book.
2) Covered up a large portion of the evidence, meaning there are still many unanswered questions today about what really happened on 9/11.
3) Started a war of aggression based on the lie that Iraq had anything to do with the attacks.
4) Deliberately outed a covert CIA operative’s identity as punishment for refusing to fabricate intelligence against Iraq.
4) Eviscerated our civil liberties and our Constitutional rights to the degree that our nation is two sneezes away from becoming a totalitarian police state.
I do not care if the bulk of the military agrees or disagrees with me. I am fully aware that for most military it is not in their best interests to question the actions of a Commander in Chief, no matter how suspect that person’s actions might become. I also know full well from experience what lies we are told and the conditioning we are put through while we serve. You can fool some of the people some of the time. I choose not to be a fool. What you choose to be is your problem.
HJohn • March 3, 2010 3:13 PM
@Trichinosis USA: “I choose not to be a fool. ”
Trichinosis USA • March 3, 2010 3:18 PM
The problem is not only right wing dominance of the American political and military spectrums, but also the part played by the corporate fascists who enable them. These corporations are multinational, and the movement you mention may have taken firm root in America but is also unfortunately well represented in other governments and their military branches. This is a much bigger problem than just America’s.
Trichinosis USA • March 3, 2010 3:21 PM
@ HJohn: “Opinions vary.”
I suggest you save yours for someone who cares. At least I don’t show up to the flame war without a fact or two to back mine up.
Mark W • March 3, 2010 3:27 PM
If you disagree w/ the Bush presidency on the basis of policy alone, you must, by necessity, disagree w/ the Obama presidency.
The war in Afghanistan, drone bombings in Pakistan, drone bombings in general, and the use of warrantless surveillance have all ESCALATED under Obama while the war in Iraq, Gitmo, and USA PATRIOT have remained more or less constant.
I think you’re blinded by our current emperor’s flashy clothes.
HJohn • March 3, 2010 3:37 PM
@Trichinosis USA: “At least I don’t show up to the flame war without a fact or two to back mine up.”
Your posts inflame far more than mine, which begs the question:
pot or kettle?
G-man • March 3, 2010 3:40 PM
They say in Hollywood that if the National Enquirer says that you have cancer, see a doctor immediately! 😉
Matt from CT • March 3, 2010 4:37 PM
What Tom doesn’t mention is Al “Hockey Stick” Gore would’ve captialized on fear just as much.
It’s a political thing.
The rare occasions it’s not flown up on the flagpole and instead burnt on the courthouse steps is when a leader has a solid following already and doesn’t want that solidarity broken up.
FDR and Churchill had true dangers to face and could play the “don’t be afraid” card.
Most other times in our comfortable Western society, whipping up fear is more unifying then divisive.
Moderator • March 3, 2010 5:18 PM
“At least I don’t show up to the flame war without a fact or two to back mine up.”
I assume you had them written on scraps of paper, folded up inside the cover of your book of matches? Your rhetoric is consistently running hotter than that of the people you’re talking to; cool it down if you want to continue to comment in this thread.
Everyone, including new commenters:
It would obviously be impossible to keep politics out of this thread, since they’re already there in the articles Bruce linked to, but please make it a debate, not a shouting match. I realize this can be hard. If necessary, a quick walk around the blog before you start typing a comment is good for your heart.
Moderator • March 3, 2010 5:20 PM
That was supposed to be “walk around the block,” but the typo amuses me enough that I’m not going to fix it.
thecoldspy • March 6, 2010 8:06 PM
Why is every resistance effort labeled as terrorism or every resistance fighter labeled a terrorist?
That is what always gets to me, its almost as if the right wing establishes that anything that resists it needs to be labeled as a threat and given a tag called terrorism. Same as every resistance fighter is labeled as committing acts of terror and tagged as a terrorist. I never see it called anything else.
Somehow the right wing establishments seem to all agree that everything against them somehow needs to be fought so they can keep their regimes in power. You never see drone attacks with collateral damages of innocent men women and children being killed as terror when it’s the USA doing it or sponsoring it. But when a group or even an individual goes out and does the same thing, he is suddenly a terrorist committing terrorist acts. Why is that?
bob • March 8, 2010 10:00 AM
Here are a few natural laws of US politics, as inexorable as the law of supply and demand:
1.) Anything that happens rarely is “news” by definition, and will get reported heavily. (for example a fiery plane crash)
2.) Anything that happens frequently is not “news” and will NOT be reported. (for example a plane traversing the country safely and landing without incident [notice I didnt say “on time”])
3.) All politicians want press time and may adopt any current event as their own in order to to leverage themselves into the spotlight.
4.) Once elected, all presidents become a member of the set “presidents”, which has as a driving motivator “increasing presidential power” that no longer is required to bear any relationship to their own political party’s position on that subject or even their pre-election own campaign platform.
However, any validity Mr. Engelhardt’s positions may have had the potential to have are impeached and neutralized by his overarching blatant (bordering on the ridiculous) Bushbashing/ Obamatrumpeting.
Bruce Monk • March 8, 2010 11:06 AM
Whereas the facts in the first part are as stated, they are a little bit dated and references are not given. One persons’ “secure life” may be very different than another persons’
My concern is that the “fear” demonstrated by the politians actions is not directed toward concern over protecting the country, but rather directed toward preserving their political life.
The net result is not an improvement in security to discourage broader attacks and reduce the general risk. In fact it is intended to build a sense of security not a reality i.e. “Security Theater” as Bruce refers to it.
It is a major deception and is costing billions that are taken away from funding needed to make real improvements in security against terrorism and reduce the root causes of preventable deaths and injuries in the cases mentioned in the essay and in our healthcare system that allows 195,000+ deaths a year due to improper medication and 16,000+/year due to preventable staph infections (references on request). Oh, and by the way, it would save a lot of money as well!
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Sidebar photo of Bruce Schneier by Joe MacInnis.
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