Monday, March 27, 2006

Fear Itself

TRD101: Fear Itself

by Michael Maynard

March 27, 2006

There are days where I don’t want to read the newspapers or watch the TV news. I force myself to do so because it my job to be informed on current events. But I’m tired of reading a new outrage every day and see nothing being done about it. I can write, I’m trying to develop a forum for myself and others to express their views, but I feel as helpless as you do. Helplessness leads to apathy and depression when you’re trapped in a situation you can’t do a damn thing about.

Today’s outrage is the Bush Administration’s refusal to comply with congressional oversight requirements from the reenacted USA Patriot Act. It’s obvious the contempt in which the Bush Administration holds Congress, especially the Senate. What’s equally obvious is the spinelessness of the Congress, especially the Senators, to do anything about this contempt of them and contempt and blatant breaking of laws.

Back when I was covering the Year 2000 Bug situation (Y2K), I had some access to the federal reports on terrorist threats pertaining to Y2K. There were dozens of very real threats involving blowing up of power grids and other acts to use the alleged results of Y2K. The public only found out about them because the situations were handled legally and quietly. As my friend, Russ Kelly and I said at the time, the biggest Y2K was terrorist attack, not what was going to happen to the computers.

These terrorist events were handled quietly and legally, the perpetrators brought to justice.

But what the many of the “Y2K experts” did was exploit the public’s fear and lack of knowledge of technology and combine it with the basic societal fear of lawlessness and disorder. Many made a lot of money in doing so, and they weren’t the first, nor will ever be the last to make a buck exploiting the fears of others. But it’s different when the President and his administration exploit the fears of the public for their own political and personal gains.

We are not a nation at war, no matter how many times Bush says so. A nation at war unites and makes collective sacrifices to support the war effort. Spending tax cuts is not making a collective sacrifice. What we are is a nation at fear.

Yes, 9/11/2001 changed everything because it meant our country was attacked by non-state actors, i.e. Al Qaeda. That Al-Qaeda are non-state actors makes their fear factor all the greater because they can’t be pinned down to one location which gives the impression “they’re everywhere”. In one sense, this is no different than the Red Scare of the Joseph McCarthy, finding cells of communists trying to bring down the government in government agencies, the artistic community and so on.

We are a nation at fear. Whenever this happens, the executive branch moves to restrict the freedoms that our forefathers sagely decided in the Constitution. These restrictions add to the fear. Your phone calls are wiretapped. Your e-mails are being read. Your ability to meet collectively is infiltrated. Your ability to protest leads to harassment and possible arrest. You're pulled aside at an airport, as I was, just because you’re wearing an all black outfit.

Each incident adds to the fears: I could be killed next. I could be pulled over and held indefintely for a crime I didn't commit. I could be the one accused of supporting terrorism. I could be the one ensconced in this Kafkaesque world.

But what if you’re innocent? You find yourself in an unknown detention center, not allowed to be represented by a lawyer. You’re labeled a terrorist, a threat to society, because you were in the wrong place at the wrong time. You gave money to a charity whose relief efforts support the suffering in countries that have been deemed enemies. You have a foreign sounding last name. You teach international politics or religion subjects in college and take non-politically correct views of the current war. Most recently, you paid off your credit card bill in full. And you become a suspect.

If you’re a baby boomer, like I am, this should be deja vu all over again - Vietnam and Watergate. Many of the same players involved in both are in greater positions of authority today and are bound and determined to repeat the past.

We are a nation at fear. Whenever the Bush Administration finds itself in hot water, Karl Rove sends out the message to the right-wing minions, play the fear card. The public responds by crawling meekly in their SUV’s to the mall to buy a new foreign-made TV so that they feel safe again.

TRD101 knows this: It’s not there is nothing to fear but fear itself, its when you let those trying to exploit your fear do so without putting up a fight. When you don’t, they’ll push your fear a little farther and a little farther until you’re finally give in to what they want. We're the frogs being dipped little by little into the boiling water.

And that is the Real Deal 101 for today, like it or not.

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© Copyright Michael Maynard, TRD101, March 2006.

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