Honey, honey, can't you hear?
Funny, funny music, dear
Ain't the funny strain
Goin' to your brain?
--Everybody's Doin' It Now,
One of these things is not like the others,
One of these things just doesn't belong,
Can you tell which thing is not like the others
By the time I finish my song?
--The Sesame Street Song
Why does the media spread hype about terrorism versus the actual facts?
The hype has perhaps seen its apotheosis being woven into the plots of most criminal television programs with the latest fad -- the terrorist takeovers of schools. Surely this is crime most heinous, yet it is naught but a hotch-potch of fiction seasoned by a smidgeon of outdated news.
But that is adequate to strike fear in the average viewer, who hasn't much time to fact-check before bedtime and the morning alarm. People watch these programs feeling uneasy that they are viewing something familiar ... and they are. But Hollywood is constructing this toxic brew serving to keep everyone all aboard the war bandwagon -- liberal Hollywood!
NCIS, Blue Bloods, The Unit and Flashpoint are each complicit in serving us this horrible fantasy: The terrorists are here, they're strac and they want your children, now.
What is the point of this fantasy? Is it the sublimation of exhausted, hyper-vigilant helicopter parents? The resolution always involve bloody fights won by assault teams. The program "Criminal Minds" gave the same unrealistic scenario, except with serial killers. Ranger predicts the next trend will be serial-killing terrorists.
These shows are so far from reality that they should be viewed after dropping acid, in place of a planetarium visit. There have been two isolated incidents of terrorists attacking schools: The 1974 Ma'alot Massacre off 22 Israeli students by the PDFLP, and the 1977 Moluccan hostage crisis in the Netherlands in which the terrorists did not kill any of their hostages, but two students died in a subsequent police raid.
Terrorists soon realized that attacking schoolchildren will not generate sympathy and erodes the aura of the group, and so this activity was not repeated. It is simply not conducive to gaining funds and new members, which is the goal of most terrorist activity. Also, terrorists will not waste their assets on a schoolhouse attack because there is no way to extricate their assets; a professional operative is not suicidal.
Terror has a purpose beyond the simple violence suffered by the target group: it is symbolic and aims to spread fear beyond the target audience. If it does not accomplish that goal, it is simply crime. What would any terror group hope to achieve by killing children on U.S. soil?
If the answer were as simple as the war hawk/fundamentalist crowd claims, we would imagine their purpose would actually be eradicating Americans. But that would an arduous way to go about the task of winnowing down a nation of 300+ million people; there are simply too many of us. (The 22 Israeli students killed was a far greater actual loss to a small nation like Israel, so the PDFLP attack could be seen as achieving both ends, though the publicity was a negative gain.)
These t.v. programs are simply hawking fear in the guise of machismo. The writers shamelessly conflate news of actual school murders -- like those in China, Scotland, Chechnya, Columbine and Pennsylvania -- taking the onus off the crazy one-off shooter and institutionalizing it in the form of a well-oiled generic terrorist machine; it just ain't the reality.
The U.S. media consumer is never exposed to the facts on terrorism, which can easily be found in non-classified United Nations or State department reports. Why? Put in perspective, so many more of your fellows are killed each year by auto accidents and medical mistakes as to make the actual threat of terrorism pale.
But that wouldn't generate the kind of mass paranoia that needs to be kept on a low simmer to fuel the complacency of the average citizen, Democrat and Republican, alike.