Thursday, September 14, 2006

Fear sells ....

Sep 12, 2006

via taken from

Fear itself
We have five fingers on each hand and five toes on each foot, so yesterday's fifth anniversary of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, was regarded as a bigger deal than last year's fourth or next year's sixth.

The occasion was marked by ceremonies in towns and cities across America, and by a media blitz from newspapers, TV networks and, of course, from al-Qaida itself, which despicably marked the occasion with yet another video release.

This last was predictable because our remembering 9/11 -- and staying scared -- is one of al-Qaida's major goals. This is what terrorists do: they terror-ize. Here, again, is the legal definition of "terrorism":

The term "terrorism" means premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents, usually intended to influence an audience.
The attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, were intended to kill a lot of innocent people, and they did, but all that hideous death was meant to serve a larger intention -- "to influence an audience." Specifically, they were meant to scare us and to keep us scared.

This was a gamble on al-Qaida's part. They were gambling that the America of the early 21st century, George W. Bush's America, was populated by a much weaker breed than was the America of the 20th century, FDR's America. Bin Laden surely remembered that Imperial Japan had tried this same gambit -- the devastating sneak attack meant to demoralize -- back in 1941, and that it hadn't worked out very well. But he was gambling that Americans nowadays were made of flimsier stuff.

And for the past five years, our so-called leaders have been tripping over themselves to prove bin Laden was right. From color-coded "terror alerts," to duct-tape panics, to the fetishizing of "security," to the idea that the Constitution, due process, legal warrants and the Geneva Conventions are "quaint" relics unsuited to these insecure times, our leaders have been working hand in hand with al-Qaida to make us scared and keep us scared.

John Rogers summed this up nicely:

I cast my eyes back on the last century ...
FDR: Oh, I'm sorry, was wiping out our entire Pacific fleet supposed to intimidate us? We have nothing to fear but fear itself, and right now we're coming to kick your ass with brand new destroyers riveted by waitresses. How's that going to feel?

CHURCHILL: Yeah, you keep bombing us. We'll be in the pub, flipping you off. I'm slapping Rolls-Royce engines into untested flying coffins to knock you out of the skies, and then I'm sending angry Welshmen to burn your country from the Rhine to the Polish border.
US. NOW: BE AFRAID!! Oh God, the Brown Bad people could strike any moment! They could strike ... NOW!! AHHHH. Okay, how about .. NOW!! AAGAGAHAHAHHAG! Quick, do whatever we tell you, and believe whatever we tell you, or YOU WILL BE KILLED BY BROWN PEOPLE!! PUT DOWN THAT SIPPY CUP!!
... and I'm just a little tired of being on the wrong side of that historical arc.

One place where FDR's spirit -- "nothing to fear but fear itself" -- seems to live on is in New York City, home to ground zero itself. New Yorkers -- those actually, personally, physically affected by the Sept. 11 attacks -- haven't confused vigilance with fear, they've simply gotten back to the business of being New Yorkers. ("There are certain sections of New York, Major, that I wouldn't advise you to try to invade ...") They've had to endure the president's reluctance to fulfill his promise of financial aid. They've had to endure the lies from their government about the safety of the poisoned air they breathe. And they've had to endure five years of lectures from red-staters thousands of miles removed from ground zero about how their refusal to vote for George W. Bush demonstrates that they don't "get" the "meaning" of 9/11 as deeply as do the terrified masses in middle America.

Al-Qaida hit New York City with its very best shot and New York is still standing. For those keeping score at home that's NY, 1; AQ, 0. Game over.

But the score reads differently in the rest of the country, in places far from the destruction of ground zero al-Qaida scored big and continues to score. Credit the Bush administration with the assist.

Both intend to influence an audience. Both want to keep us so scared we can't think straight. But neither has the power to take that which we refuse to willingly surrender. We have nothing to fear but fear itself.


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