Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Liquid Fears

Our fears today are diffuse and hard to pin down.
They are "liquid fears"—fears about paedophilia,
for instance, which are amorphous
and which have no easily identifiable referent 
--Zygmunt Bauman 

You make me dizzy Miss Lizzy,
The way you rock'n'roll.
You make me dizzy Miss Lizzy,
When you do the stroll 
--Dizzy Miss Lizzy, The Beatles 

We got the bubble-headed-bleach-blonde
who comes on at five
She can tell you 'bout the plane crash
with a gleam in her eye 
--Dirty Laundry, Don Henley 

The Boston Marathon bombing was not a significant terror event, but it was a media feeding frenzy.  All of the talking heads stoke and feed on our emotions -- a salacious circus that does not add to our understanding but does encourage future terror hacks. Meanwhile, we sit dazed and confused, in a tizzy awash in a flurry of speculation.

It is a mutualism borne of power-madness -- the Terrorists feed off the media and vice versa, and we feed on the rotting corpse they present us, thinking it nutritious and capable of life sustenance. These productions have become our ultimate reality show in which the audience is the prey and any amateur videographer with a cell phone, our scribes. The commentators and the terrorists share the same goal, which is creating viewership and an aura surrounding the event. 

However, whether significant or not, despite the immediate casualties they will never be more than an irritant to the United States.  In fact, terrorism that produces significant casualties (as did the World Trade Center attacks) are often counterproductive to the terrorist's cause as world response is usually one of revulsion to such slaughter. 

What is significant is our emotional response to such events as Boston and the Sandy Hook shooting. These criminal acts which should be viewed in the harsh light of clear facts in order that they may be understood and hopefully thwarted in the future.  Belying any calls to "get on with it" is the 24/7 news coverage of the events. 

Instead of actually moving on, the U.S. suffers from a feeling of exceptionalism which imparts a false sense of entitlement to safety. When we do suffer calamities, we tend to memorialize them as they have been so infrequent, witness the Oklahoma City memorial and the Twin Tower memorial. The Amish razed the school which was the site of a mass shooting in 2006, so site destruction is often equated with expulsing the violence. 

But instead of token attempts at erasure, why not do the realistic work of a modern society, members of a violent world, and seek ways to reduce the incidence while accepting their periodic occurrence. The "shock and awe" response -- "Who could have imagined it" -- is getting a little long in the tooth. 

Our factionalized society which seeks to use each succeeding violent action as a way to scapegoat their particular bugbear is totally disingenuous. The question of Islamic radicalism is a red herring; we did not ask the religion of Timothy McVeigh or the Unabomber (Ted Kaczynski)). The facts we should seek include timely questions like, if the brothers were part of a larger terrorist cell, will there be follow-on attacks?

Instead we are stymied by our requisite collective outrage and distracting side streets of speculation regarding the bomber's mother's shoplifting record or Dzhokar's Twitter feed. 

The talking heads feed our emotions, insecurity and voyeuristic expectations of entertainment.  Director Bigelow's next Academy winner is knocking.

--Jim and Lisa

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Anonymous Moe said...

I couldn't agree more. The people who carry out the violence represent ONLY themselves and those helping carry it out despite what communities and struggles they profess, and pigeonholing them into serving your ideological bias whether it be on welfare, immigration reform or whatever does not help. It bothers me the tying of the suspects who were raised from childhood in America to foreign lands and cultural struggles. It also bothers me that the suspect's mother and family not known to be involved are dragged into the case, and their violence portrayed as because of becoming more 'religious' There are millions of immigrants (many who are Muslim) in the country who faced much greater hardships than the brothers Tsarnaev and did not turn to violence. There are many millions of Muslims that seek to better themselves spiritually and though some interpretations or practices may not be be understood or championed by those not sharing their faith, the fact remains that they do not carry out this type of violence. Leaks such as the 'suspect spoke about jihad' with his mother is simply character assassinating material, a whisper needed to create frenzy and confirmation bias that is unverifiable by definition. It is more complicated especially as jihad in Islam means 'struggle and striving' and in Islam the greatest jihad is said to be jihad an nafs ( jihad against one's self) and armed conflict is only a small aspect of this nuanced concept based on limited contexts that cannot be determined by random individuals. Terrorism and violence throughout history carried out by states and individuals often has righteous reasons given, that does not change the fact that it is a crime and must be dealt as such. I hope that a fair trial is given for the surviving suspect despite this trial by media, and that his constitutional rights are protected as breaking them for him is a step away for breaking them for everyone else.I hope important questions get answered such as why LE opened fired on the boat when it turned out later he was unarmed. Most importantly of all I hope for justice for the victims and that it may allow them to begin their healing.

Thursday, May 2, 2013 at 12:25:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...

Glen Greenwald did a good essay on the DOJ/police disallowing the surviving suspect from having legal counsel present at his questioning.
Does the concept of -fruit of the poisoned tree come to mind?

Thursday, May 2, 2013 at 8:37:00 AM GMT-5  
Anonymous Moe said...

I am not saying the mother isn't a conspiracy laden kook. But individuals are responsible for their own actions no matter how chaotic their home life is. No matter what community they hail from. I don't remember 'crazy eye' pictures of Tim McVeigh's mom or even hearing from the family of the shooter that attacked the Sikh temple. I am not defending the Tsarnaev's just commenting on the media's theme to make the suspect's for lack of a better word not white (they are literally Caucasian) and to equate their so called religiosity with anti American hatred. The message is Muslims are only ok as long as they aren't religious, otherwise watch out! I'd recommend this very short article that captures succinctly how American Muslims feel when anyone connected with their faith commits terror. We are sick of apologizing for those actions as if we are collectively guilty.

Thursday, May 2, 2013 at 10:20:00 AM GMT-5  
Anonymous PF Khans said...

I wonder what will ever happen if a terrorist targeted the media. Do you think the over the top coverage would increase to a point of absolute foaming at the mouth or would they abandon the effort entirely?

Thursday, May 2, 2013 at 12:35:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger Lisa said...


We would have reached the Singularity at that point ;)

Thursday, May 2, 2013 at 2:26:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger FDChief said...

In a sense, though, we've kind of seen what happens; there's some evidence that media reps outside the Western press were hammered pretty hard in Iraq during the latter stages of the occupation, and there was very little in the way of protest from the Western major media outlets. First they came for Al-Jazeera...

But I think that in the larger sense we are hardwired to get pretty freaky about the notion that "someone else" is out to get us. Hell, go back to the pogroms in central and eastern Europe; those damn Zhids, you know they were out poisoning wells or something. Or massacres of various schismatic sects or Protestants by the Catholic authorities up until the Enlightenment...

Or the various sectarian and racial squabbles, well, everywhere there ARE sects and races...we don't seem to need much in the way of encouragement to kack each other, eh?

That said, I tend to agree that the 24/7 news cycle does have a tendency to provide instant feedback and a reverb effect on the worst paranoiac interpretation of this sort of thing.

What's sad about that is that ISTM that we do have some fairly serious things we should be worried about, but we DON'T worry about them; environmental damage, overfishing, the potential for collapse of industrial agriculture through a process of narrowing the food-crop genotype, antibiotic-resistant disease. And various shenanagains in the financial "industry" with the potential to whiplash the global economy? Don't get me started.

Two guys with backpack bombs and we spin into a tizzy. But a ginormous investment banks playing the lottery with cash they don't have and potentially crashing the Western economies, throwing millions out of work and recreating the conditions for the rise of military fascist and communist dictatorships?

Ho hum.

Thursday, May 2, 2013 at 3:05:00 PM GMT-5  

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