Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Only Thing We Have to Fear is Fear-Mongering

I was struck last night by the difference between the lead stories on MSNBC and CNN in their 8 p.m. news slots. The first 15 minutes of the liberal-leaning Lawrence O'Donnell show were devoted to the continued Assassination Celebration and the Obama bump. Over on (centrist? conservative?) CNN, Eliot Spitzer was giving full coverage to John Boehner's insane talk to the Economic Club of Wall Streeters in which he threatened no debt ceiling agreement unless tax increases are off the table. To his credit, O'Donnell did mention the Boehner rant later in his newscast, once he got the Obama as War Hero vs. The Bush Torture Failures out of the way.  MSNBC, you will recall, is owned by G.E., whose CEO is the Obama Jobs Czar, who has continued to ship more of those jobs overseas and all the while avoids paying taxes.

In light of nine percent official unemployment and as much as 25 percent defacto unemployment, the Democrats have deflected attention away from our domestic ills and embraced the Politics of Fear as their own.  Hope and change didn't work out all that well, so they have co-opted the tried and true panic button of the right to make fear of terror trump fear of job loss, fear of going hungry because of crazily rising food prices, fear of going homeless because of the continued foreclosure crisis and scandal, fear of getting sick because that much vaunted health care reform has somehow lost its luster now that more of us are uninsured and underinsured and jobless and broke than ever before.

They are milking the Bin Laden assassination for all it's worth.  It took a week of suspense for the president to give his exclusive interview to Sixty Minutes.  Dribs and drabs and thrilling details emerge daily.  Today The New York Times is breathlessly reporting that we almost got into a war with Pakistan over it!  We were ready to fight our way out, guns blazing.

Meanwhile, the terror level has risen to a new high and our politicians have sunk to a new low in the scuzzy art of fear-mongering.  Take my own senior senator from the State of New York, Mr. "I never met a camera I didn't like" Chuck Schumer, for example. Now he wants to establish a "no ride" passenger list for trains, since some of the senile ramblings of Osama contained explosive trainspotting fantasies.  So, Schumer apparently believes that terrorists who blow up trains via cell phone remote control or do it the old fashioned way and boobytrap the tracks, will then get on those very same trains to take a leisurely ride.

Conductor Chuck: "Papers Please!"

Actually, he doesn't really believe that.  He is not a stupid man. But he and his wealthy Wall Street buddies want to make us so afraid of "the Other" that we forget all about how Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley and Bank of America are still robbing us blind, and that none of the real terrorists -- the ones who gamble away the wealth of a nation with impunity -- get any unwanted attention.  The Democrats are using the very same tactics perfected by the Republicans.  Why not just call a spade a spade and rename Homeland Security The Ministry of Fear?  Because that's what it is.  Our bloated security state does nothing to keep us safe, as has been well documented in the cases of the Underpants and Times Square bombers.  It's usually regular citizens who thwart the bad guys.  The so-called terrorists our spy agencies actually "catch" are usually the victims of FBI provocateurship.

The Fear Crusade in the wake of the assassination appears to be working.  In New York City yesterday, the bomb squad blew out the windows of a van left idling outside a hospital because it contained some suspicious looking foam tubes.  It turned out the driver was a windshield installer who had rushed into the emergency room for treatment of a severe asthma attack, and the tubes were just tools of his trade.

On a New York to California flight Sunday, a Yemeni man pounding on the doors of the plane's cockpit was tackled to the ground by passengers.  It turned out he thought he was banging on the restroom door because he had to go, really bad.  In another instance, a pilot refused to take off because an Iman headed for a conference on Islamophobia was on board.  The cleric was kicked off the flight.

Of course, these events make for great pictures and must-see TV. The Patriot Act is coming up for review, and it needs some PR to keep moving. Paranoia is a great way to help us all feel connected. Forget about the class war here at home and feel as one with Lloyd Blankfein as we battle the evil menace from over there.

And Now He's a Sank Engine


Marina said...

A great column. If only it weren't all true...

Valerie Long Tweedie said...

Fear is a very effective tool for manipulation; it is so visceral. Combined with innuendo or outright misinformation, it is a powerful means of distracting the masses from the real issues.

This is an excellent blog posting, Karen. It is a shame that our media is so bought and sold that we rarely get to read a thought-provoking piece like this.

On a different - but somewhat related note - I am wondering if Denis, Kate and Janet are still reading this blog. If so, I miss your insightful comments.

Ciara said...

Karen, you have certainly hit the mark with this --
"[N]one of the real terrorists -- the ones who gamble away the wealth of a nation with impunity -- get any unwanted attention."

So true. Every word. This is the real story of our lifetimes, and none of the big media are telling it.

Anonymous said...

Great blog! Schumer should put undocumented aliens on his no ride list.

Karen Garcia said...

And anonymous commenters who want undocumented "aliens" checked should have the guts to self-identify.

Karen Garcia said...

Thank you too Richard and to all the commenters sharing your ideas here. Disagreement is fine as long as it's not disagreeable. I think we all have things to learn from one another too.

Valerie Long Tweedie said...

Amen to that!

And might I add, it is easy to shoot off a careless comment, especially anonymously. It takes intellect and an investment of time to read what has been written and to offer a thoughtful response.

Richard, are always welcome at my table.

Janet Camp said...

I just returned from a two week road trip--that's how much I didn't want to fly! Hey, gas is a bargain in Montana at $3.59/gal. While driving through a torrential rain in Minnesota with the slapping of the wipers driving me slowly insane, I hit on the idea of taking the train next time. Well, it looks as though Chuck, et al, have now ruined that!

Your thoughts on this were very welcome, Karen; my daughter-in-law and were having a similar discussion while I was visiting--shortly after the news of the assassination (revenge killing--whatever), and we concluded that we must be the only people who thought this way.

I am glad if grieving families are "comforted" by the demise of Bin Laden, but I've never understood how avenging a wrong makes people feel better. From what I've read of the videos the WH released, he was quite pathetic, so fine...kill him, but can we now move on? Apparently not. As you point out, the fear is only being ramped up. Looks like I'm in for more road trips if I want to see the grandkids without being frisked by the conductor.

It's nice to hear I was missed, Ms. Tweedie--and nice to get back to reading all of your thoughts, even no-last-name Richard.

Janet Camp

Karen Garcia said...

Welcome back Janet; good to know you made it home safe and sound and got to see a bit of Amerika while you were at it. As far as I am concerned, a vacation is no vacation if you have to be groped and/or x-rayed coming and going. Maybe a bus trip? Their bathrooms are truly state of the art, from what I can remember.

Denis Neville said...

The Only Thing We Have to Fear is Fear-Mongering reminds me of former British MP Tony Benn’s chilling words:

"Because people in debt become hopeless and hopeless people don't vote.... If the poor in Britain or the United States turned out and voted for people who represented their interests it would be a democratic revolution. So they don't want it to happen. So keeping people hopeless and pessimistic.... See I think there are two ways in which people are controlled. First of all, frighten people. And secondly, demoralize them. An educated, healthy and confident nation is harder to govern, and I think there's an element in the thinking of some people - we don't want people to be educated, healthy and confident because they would get out of control. The top one percent of the world's population owns 80 percent of the world's wealth. It's incredible that people put up with it, but they're poor, they're demoralized, they're frightened and they think perhaps the safest thing to do is take orders and hope for the best."

"Democracy is always a struggle for justice against the powerful." – Tony Benn

turnipseed said...

Yes, VLT, I am still reading--I was on a road trip for a couple of weeks and took a break from politics for the duration. Of course the Bin Laden deal made that impossible.

I look forward to your posts as well and am busy catching up on same. Sardoniky and Reality Chex are two of my faves.

Janet Camp