Politics without fear is boring. It is fear that drives the passion within people. The fear of losing your job, healthcare, civil rights and common moral decency are the back bone to most political issues. The government plays the role of both justifying and easing such fears. Fear is used to both perpetuate and ease tension within the public, from Dick Cheney warning of an imminent nuclear attack in a major city if John Kerry wins the presidential election (oh, thank god we dodged that bullet) to FDR reminding us that we all we have to fear is fear itself (ummm, yeah, that a little group called the fuckin NAZI’S, Frank!).
Throughout our history it can be argued that many of these public fears have been justified. It is abundantly evident to all Americans that the political culture after the events of 9/11 has been saturated with fear to the point of absurdity. But who and what are we really afraid of? Are we justified in constantly taking every threat of sudden death seriously? Who really hates our freedom? What will be this rising doom set to destroy our world as we know it – global warming, nuclear weapons, religious extremists, economic collapse, American Idol, etc. etc. etc.? Through three current cases, I believe it to be that America’s ‘fears’ are perpetuated by their fear. America has always been number one! (duh), and when it comes to fear no one comes close to scaring Americans shitless quite like Americans.
It is no secret that the threat of Swine Flu was/is completely over-exaggerated by the media. Public opinion reflected this as the threat was constantly mocked in social circles. It was the new laughable threat that was going to destroy the world, just as Bird Flu, Y2K and 9/11 had been before it (…too soon?). Virtually no one is able to accept that the deaths from Swine Flu could ever outweigh the annual deaths that arise from the common ‘human’ flu, and no one has to fuck a pig or a bird (or however we’re told these things spread) to get the seasonal flu. I’d like to promise a dollar to all Americans if Swine Flu ever tops the 35,000 annual deaths from seasonal flu, and I would if I didn’t have a slight fear of losing all my money staying honest to a stupid promise written on a blog.
However, if some level of concern was not grounded the story would quickly vanish, instead of taking up daily headlines of its exponentially increasing threat to the world. Even though the chances of actually contracting Swine Flu were (1) so trifling that I didn’t even take the time to figure out exactly how many zeros would have to appear after the decimal point, but I can only imagine it’s more than ten and less than a billion. Instead of using simple prevention techniques like washing your fuckin’ hands and being cleaner than a 9-year-old Mexican boy on a pig farm, Americans took their fear into their own unclean hands.
As is relatively common-place with Chicken Pox; germophobic(2), overly-protective suburban mothers began throwing “Swine-Flu” parties for their children. (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/07/health/07part...) And here you thought you wanted to kill yourself while sitting through an office cocktail party. Instead of waiting around for a sickness that they probably would never have contracted anyway, these parents were willing to force themselves and their children to fall victim to the potentially deadly virus they had irrationally feared getting in the first place. They jumped the gun and were willing to give themselves a 100 percent chance instead of the minute percentage that I was too lazy to Google. Apparently it is equivalent to winning the lottery (but really isn’t everything?)
So while Americans were busy giving their kids Swine-Flu so the hysteria could continue they were also shitting a brick over the idea of ‘Waterboarding’. The American public has been shocked that this had been used against captured combatants being detained by the CIA (yep, that CIA) as an “enhanced inTerrOgation technique” or “haRsh inTerrogation” or “alternative set of procedUREs” or whatever you’d like to call it when you give someone the experience of drowning for a good half a minute up to 183 times.
There was a debate over whether this was productive in gaining useful and accurate information that will help make America more secure (2.5). After all, Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney claimed that the waterboarding of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed prevented a planned terrorist attack on Los Angeles. The plan for the attack was stopped in 2002, a year before K.S. Mo’(3) was captured in March 2003 (http://pr.thinkprogress.org/2009/04/pr20090427). This proves that waterboarding is so effective in keeping America safe that not even time can stand in its way.
It seems as almost every time the issue of waterboarding was debated, whether by Sean Hannity and Charles Grodin(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dMruiBVvt3M) or by Jesse Ventura and those wild and crazy kids on Fox and Friends(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8cyiD6rjX7Q), the discussion would revert to “oh, yeah? If it doesn’t suck then try it” “Ok, I will” “then, do it” “I will” “I love America” “I love America too” “if you don’t do it, you hate the troops” “Oh yeah?” etc. etc. etc. So as we became so fearful of this procedure and what exactly we were putting detained combatants through many journalists began willing being waterboarded. Virtually, every one of them would ‘bet’ (usually for a charity) that they could last 15-30 seconds and almost all of them would quite before 10 and come out shock and appalled by the procedure (4).Christopher Hitchens was the first major case, but he was soon followed by Fox News journalist Steve Harrigan, Playboy (wtf?) journalist Mike Guy, journalist and former Military officer Kaj Larsen and radio host Erich “Mancow” Muller (http://www.danlawton.com/2009/05/23/the-torture...). Apparently these guys might not jump off a bridge if everyone else is doing it but they will let their friends pour of gallon water up their nose. The important fact is that only 3 captured individuals (4.5) were subjected to waterboarding by the CIA. Thus, more American journalists have willingly undergone waterboarding than foreign enemy combatants have had it forced upon them.
The issue of waterboarding is, of course, a subordinate of what is arguably America’s greatest ongoing fear: Terrorism. While we have learned that it is easier just to ship Americans oversees and let them be killed out of sight and out of mind in Iraq or Afghanistan rather than on our own soil, the threat of a major terrorist attack on innocent Americans is one of the strongest fears guiding the direction of modern politics.
One of the major examples of a story that attempts to reinforce how well we are protected by the American Government is also one of the most ironic. The 2009 Bronx, New York Terrorism plot was a plot halted by the FBI, that used questionable tactics that can viewed as essentially being entrapment. The FBI had stopped four Muslims from a plan that involved shooting down military planes from an Air Force base and bombing two Bronx Synagogues. These four men were not affiliated with any foreign (or domestic) terrorist group and of them three were American citizens and the fourth was a Haitian immigrant who was bipolar and schizophrenic (According to the New York Times this dude kept bottles of piss in his apartment).
This terrorist plot started with an FBI informant….that’s right, STARTED with an FBI informant spreading the message of Jihad at a Mosque in Newburgh, New York. Since much of the congregation could easily spot that he was an informant they didn’t feel a need to report him to authorities. The informant did get one guy to bite, James Cromitie, then encouraged his anti-Semitism and dreams of martyrdom and let him form a small group of individuals who are all believed to have converted to Islam while in American Prisons. The four chose their own targets, I guess the FBI felt they didn’t want to all the work themselves, and began plotting. They received defunct weapons FROM the FBI, as well as a $700 pistol from gang leader associated with the Bloods. The FBI monitored the men and arrested them after the fake explosives had been placed at the synagogue.
The 24 hour news networks would now allow a gasp/sigh of shock/relief to run through wide-eyed Americans at both a confirmation of their worst fears and the satisfaction that the plan was thwarted before it happened. The FBI could now be applauded for successfully protecting Americans from an attack they helped put in place. Rather than stopping any real foreign enemies motivated by hate and/or extremism the FBI had lucked out by finding four crazy guys and giving them free reign to act crazy. Essentially as Americans fear terrorism from Middle Eastern Muslims, one of the FBIs biggest claims in the War on Terror involved 3 American men who’d converted to Islam in American prisons. This 3 out of 4 ratio is actually less comparatively than the number of 9/11 Hijackers from Saudi Arabia; a country that has seen almost no condemnation from the United States when it comes to terrorism (5).
The continuation and elevating of America’s favorite fears comes in all sorts of cases beyond swine flu parties, waterboarded journalists, FBI approved terrorist plots going even to the negative concerns involved with using Ethanol as an alternative fuel to stop the increase of global warming. It’s no secret that it doesn’t take much to make America shit a brick. BOO!! See how easy that was. At least you can take a nice deep breathe knowing I didn’t tell you your son has a boyfriend, which he just might.
With the Medias ever-growing obsession with latching on to and perpetuating hysterical newstories we must confront the fact that we are responsible for over-blowing how much concern these fears actually call for. It’s not that these fears are unjustified; the problem is that our fear of them blinds us and allows us to push the level of hysteria they cause to complete absurdity. There are many conclusions to draw from these examples at this point but none more obvious than this: America needs to stop acting like a dog that runs from a deadly threat from behind without ever realizing it’s its own tail. At the very least I can always assure you we’ll make it through today, because it’s already tomorrow in Australia (6).
1. I’m going to refer to Swine Flu as being in the past tense from now on, because let’s be honest: no one really cares enough to be scared anymore.
2. Interesting fact: the correct term for “germophobic” is “mysophobic”, yet Microsoft Word does not recognize either term. So in a sense Microsoft Word has no concept of a fear of dirt and germs.
2.5 Khalid Sheikh Mohammed has since stated that he lied and made false confessions to stop the torture….Surprise!
3. That’s right I’m starting this. So feel free to refer to him by this alias from now on. I hear he loves going by nicknames anyway.
4. This reinforces the old adage: As dumb as a journalist.
4.5 How do you like these P.C. ways to say "terrorist”? Not bad, right?
5. I won’t go into this now but it has very little to do with President Obama bowing.
6. Appropriated from a quote by Charles M. Schulz
America has nothing to be afraid of…yet it continues to perpetuate its own threats.