Wednesday, February 12, 2003

Fear and Loathing in DC

I'm angry at the news and at my goverment. It's not a happy feeling. I'm angry that I'm angry.

The news has been broadcasting semi-hysterical reports on what you should stock up on in the event of a terrorist attack. These lists are presented in the same over-hyped manner in which they tell you what you should buy in the event of an expected snowstorm. They're not quite sure what kind of attack we're in for, or who will execute it, or where it will strike, but by golly, the government says that three days worth of water and a couple of rolls of duct tape will save your sorry ass from this undefined, but profoundly nasty, thing that may or may not go down IN YOUR OWN BACKYARD.

I don't really want to be a cynic. I don't really want to mistrust the government. But these reports are extremely frustrating and more than a little insulting.

The list of things to buy are a lot like the "Duck and Cover" drills of the 50s and 60s, in which the American public was led to believe that putting your hands above your head or ducking under a picnic blanket will save you from nuclear fallout. Will these things really protect your family?
How can you protect them if you have no idea what it is you're afraid of?

I understand that the failure of the government and the armed forces to forsee (or at least prevent) the events of September 11 needed serious rectifying. But creating a society based on fear and paranoia is not the way to do that. It's not a society worth fighting for. It's not a society I want to live in. Whatever happened to "we have nothing to fear but fear itself"? This is a society in which fear is marketed by the news for ratings and promoted by politicians who are desperate to push their agendas on a doubtful public. This is a society where fear is color-coded and categorized as though it were the weekly weather forecast:

"We're in for a few more days of orange, which will give way to yellow, which is characterized by a more general degree of fear than we're used to seeing in this area. The DC area can expect 4-6 inches of fear overnight, while Baltimore can expect a light dusting. You might want to take your umbrella and duct tape in the morning."

If the definition of terrorism is "the systematic use of terror especially as a means of coercion," then just who are the real terrorists anyway?