Monday, September 5, 2011

9/11 and the Sway of Fear

Popular sentiment in England: Could America benefit from a bit of it? (Wiki Commons)

There is little doubt that the events of 9/11 were fearsome. Until the past ten years, the longest period in US history marked by fear was the lead-up to and duration of  World War II.  Amazingly enough, civilians were less frightened and more willing to pitch in during WWII than they are now. There are abundant very logical reasons for this difference. Most would cite the fact that, back then, the fighting and dying was all done on foreign shores, even if US GIs were dying, too, fighting for Europe's freedom.

Back then, the US government, in demanding sacrifices of consumer goods to support the war effort, rewarded the population with as much support as it could muster: “Feel good” movies were produced, rewards for heroic acts at home were bestowed, the opportunity to assist as plane spotters was created to involve everyone in the endeavor, and so on. 

In the current “fright theater,” the deaths that caused the problem were on US soil, but the government reacted in ways that made the horror even worse. This time, rather than demanding sensible sacrifices by civilians, the government simply ramped up the tax bite on the many and lowered it on the fewalways grand for morale. With the money--and more--it invaded sovereign states in the name of protecting America. This was the precise opposite of WWII, in which US GIs attempted to save sovereign states already invaded by a dastardly rogue government. In short, this time, instead of fighting to save others from fascism, the US acted like a fascist state and invaded for one simple reason; because its leader wanted to. Like Hitler. (The collusion between the Bush family and Hitler's Germany has been well chronicled by others; a simple googling of Bush-Hitler will give you more information than you can digest.)

Rather than giving the population work to do, such as WWII's plane spotting (a useful task in those days with those planes), it made the US into a nation of snitches and quaking whiners who feared a murderous Muslim lurked around every corner. “Report suspicious activity” flashed from overhead signs on every highway, making some of us who are at least casual students of history cringe at how reminiscent that was of the old USSR; students of literature knew that the ersatz world of Orwellian fiction had come to pass.

Bush: A decade of insufferably inferior leadership
The difference between the 1940s and the first decade of the 21st century resides first and foremost in who was sailing the ship of state. In 1941, it was a man who had faced a debilitating disease, polio, and coped with it before he won the presidency. He was wealthy, which no doubt made all things easier. But he was no stranger to pain, and no shirker of the hard choices and the difficult tasks. He was Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

In 2001, the putative leader was a man who had faced nothing in his entire life, George W. Bush. Bush was coddled through school, and passed on for his MBA despite lacking the intellectual rigor and basic honesty to earn the degree, according to his major professor. Yoshi Tsurumi, one of Bush’s professors at Harvard when Bush was shoehorned into Dad’s school’s MBA program, said Bush “showed pathological lying habits and was in denial when challenged on his prejudices and biases. He would even deny saying something he just said 30 seconds ago. He was famous for that. Students jumped on him; I challenged him.” 

(Aside: One has to wonder why no one in Congress challenged him. One need not wonder why Cheney did not challenge him; in Bush, Cheney’s pathology had found a perfect mouthpiece for Cheney’s own dark compulsions and biases. Bush famously said, in his Harvard class, that poor people need not be bothered with because they were lazy. Such intellectual laziness itself, and such incautious speech and cavalier attitudes alone, should have been enough to warn all and sundry that this was no fit person to led the free world. Unless one were equally unfit…and severalCheney, Rove, Yoo, Rumsfeldwere.)

Bush sat out his National Guard service god knows whereanywhere but on a military postwhile so many young men and women were suffering and dying in southeast Asia. The closest he had ever come to death was pushing the button on a record number of executions when he was governor of Texas, a state that illogically elected him despite his rather dubious dealings with sports club ownership in that state.

Fear explains it all
There is little doubt that when Bush wasn’t presenting the world with a vacant stare. When (we are told) Bush was informed by an aide of the Twin Towers disaster while he visited a second-grade class in a “safe place” for him--his governor brother’s state, Floridahe was whipping the nation into a frenzy of illogic based on a surfeit of fear. It is hard to think straight when you’re terrified out of your shoes. Bush’s every action post-incident was calculated to lead to an increase of the nation’s fears. A man with the agenda carried by the Bush family and supported by intelligent, rapacious, unscrupulous hangers on like Cheney and Rove would need a population frightened into witlessness to get away with it all, despite his well-documented ability to claim he hadn’t said what he said not 30 seconds earlier.

What he did spoke louder than what he said; it always does
At the moment, there is a catchphrase in England that should have been the motto for the reaction of the US post-9/11. That catchphrase is “Keep Calm and Carry On.”

Did Bush suggest anything of the sort? Not at all. Rather, he instituted a nerve-wracking system of colorful alerts, with red naturally being “Jeez, god, the Muslims are at the freakin’ door.” All the while, of course, Bush’s lips were moving like the proverbial lying lawyer’s, telling the world how tough America was even as he made it weaker. Bush was busy telling the rest of the world how tough America was as we failed over and over at bringing American justice to other cultures that had little, if anything, to do with what happened on 9/11. Unless, of course, American justice has descended to globally shooting and asking questions later. That's the hallmark of Texas justice, of course. So perhaps it is no surprise after all.

Bush apparently heeded well the words of a world-class crooner, Frank Sinatra. Sinatra quoted, in The Way You Wear Your Hat, as saying, “Fear is the enemy of logic.” Bush could not afford to have a thinking electorate, one to whom logic was as natural as turning on the stove to cook a meal. He needed an electorate so busy looking for the gas knobs and some sort of instruction manual, their heads down and getting hungrier by the minute, that they wouldn't notice that nothing Bush did made the slightest sense for the nation as a whole, but only for the small cadre of oligarchs whose aberrant psychology was in charge.

The second mistake
Thus misled and purposely confused, Americans followed the lead of a man in control of only one thing, his own escape from responsibility. If Bush simply instituted a system of alerts, his minions could post them without his interference and he could get on the plane to his ranch with a light heart and a goofy grin. And so it was. And so it became apparent rather quickly, despite the compromise of so much of the nation's intelligence by fear.

An excellent question: Why?
But why did we allow fear to continue to hold sway?  Because the Master Chef of Unreasoning Terror was not finished with the feast yet. He was cooking up more treats to deflect our knowledge of what was happening.

First, of course, there was the anthrax attack. That was fear-inducing….and it went on and on and on with swamps drained and a man under suspicion, but no resolution. Finally, supposedly, the man who did it committed suicide in 2008. The original suspect? He was exonerated, but the bugle wasn’t loudly sounded. If he was the culprit, then why was another man found to have killed himself over it?

Everything….EVERYTHING…about the anthrax scare suggests, in fact, that that is precisely what it was, a scare, and no perpetrator need ever have been identified as long as the population became more afraid. The first suspect, Dr. Steven Hatfill, was awarded huge monetary damages by the Justice Department, when charges against him were dropped. The award was so huge that neither he nor his heirs will ever have to work again, possibly an adequate payoff for the suffering and ruined reputation. 

Dr. Bruce Ivins, identified finally as the perpetrator, killed himself. Did he do it? Or did he react that way to being informed of an investigation by the Justice Department? Who can know?  But it doesn't matter. However the anthrax incident was contrived, it had the desired effect. The population was terrorized. To quote George W. Bush, mission accomplished.

“To him who is in fear everything rustles.”


While it was OK, after the suicide of the putative perpetrator, to give up the unreasoning fear of anthrax, how to keep the population afraid so that another fear-mongering Republican could be elected? The population's terror of anthrax was kept alive for seven years via the occasional announcement in the press about this or that additional finding, despite no additional biological attacks. But that fear had abated, and the popularity of the president could be measured most accurately in its absence.

A new flash point for fear had to be found. It wouldn't be terrorists, or at least not so much, because that would give the lie to all the extreme measures taken that the administration claimed kept the US safe from terror.

What to do?

AHA!  People with no stable employment are easily made fearful, aren’t they?

Do you really believe in coincidence? It will be difficult to, if you read this and think even half of it might be true.