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Friday, September 10, 2010

Fear Nation
Posted by Jill | 5:51 AM
I wonder: If the news about Park51 had broken in, say, February of LAST year, would it have become as big a story? I doubt it. With Jan Brewer showing the entire country just what "catch the immigrants" looks like in real life, Republicans needed a new scapegoat to keep Americans afraid enough to give them back the keys to the car -- and Park51 gives them the perfect scapegoat: Muslims. Even when the underwear bomber was apprehended we didn't see anything like this. There's been no new attack, no new threats, just the right whipping up a frenzy of anti-Muslim sentiment -- because it tends to work for them. Rachel went over the fearmongering in detail on last night's show (video to come shortly), but our status as a Nation of Fear didn't start with a community center planned in lower Manhattan. It's been going on for nine years, and as we head into the ninth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, I think we ought to take a look at ourselves and see just how much nineteen guys with box cutters succeeded in bringing a once-great nation to its knees, willing to sacrifice everything it stands for in order to achieve an illusion -- a delusion, if you will -- of safety.

The latest tactic in the whack-a-mole of anti-terrorism arose after the Attempted Underwear Bombing of 2009 in the form of full-body screening machines replacing the hodgepodge of metal detectors and pat-downs at airport security checkpoints. If you are going to fly out of many airports now, you must submit to a dose of radiation as a prerequisite -- or suffer the consequences:
f you somehow missed the hoopla, there are two types of machines being installed, which have raised concerns about privacy, health risks and even their effectiveness at catching terrorists. The more controversial “backscatter” devices project an X-ray beam onto the body, creating an image displayed on a monitor viewed by a T.S.A. employee in another room. The “millimeter wave” machines, which are considered less risky because they do not use X-rays, bounce electromagnetic waves off the body to produce a similar image.

Unlike metal detectors, these machines can detect objects made with other materials, like plastic and ceramic. But they can’t see anything hidden inside your body, or detect certain explosives.


The T.S.A. claims that the machines have been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health, the Commerce Department’s National Institute for Standards and Technology and the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory. But when I called these organizations to ask about their evaluations, I learned that they basically tested only one thing — whether the amount of radiation emitted meets guidelines established by the American National Standards Institute, a membership organization of companies and government agencies.

But guess who was on the committee that developed the guidelines for the X-ray scanners? Representatives from the companies that make the machines and the Department of Homeland Security, among others. In other words, the machines passed a test developed, in part, by the companies that manufacture them and the government agency that wants to use them.


Mr. Kimball said passengers can choose not to go through the scanner and opt for the metal detector and a pat down instead, information that is also on the T.S.A.’s Web site. But the message travelers are getting at the airport isn’t that clear.

“It definitely didn’t feel optional at all,” said Drew Hjelm, an Army veteran who recently encountered the X-ray machine at O’Hare Airport in Chicago. After asking to go through the metal detector, being turned down and even speaking with a supervisor, he was given other choices.

“The officer said, either you go through the body scanner or you leave the airport or we’re going to call the police and they’re going to come and arrest you,” Mr. Hjelm said. “After I went through the body scanner, they still patted my pants down.”

Since other passengers have said they weren’t given a choice, or were subjected to an aggressive pat down if they declined to be X-rayed, the Electronic Privacy Information Center has created an online form for travelers to report problems.

The advocacy group has also filed a motion in court to suspend the body scanner program, saying that it violates the Fourth Amendment (and other statutes) by imposing search procedures that are more intrusive than the courts have allowed for routine screening.

So this is what flying is now -- exposure to radiation by machines that have only been tested by people with a vested interest, automatic suspicion if you refuse to expose yourself to such radiation, and abuse by TSA personnel.

All in the same of quote-safety-end-quote -- safety that is, like the principles we used to stand for, only an illusion.

Nine years ago, Osama Bin Laden succeeded to a degree he could not even imagine. So when you observe the anniversary of the attacks tomorrow, by all means mourn the dead. But also mourn something else that died that day -- our very nation.

(Oh, and just as an aside -- these machines would NOT have detected the explosives carried by the so-called "underwear bomber".)

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Anonymous newbroom said...
Except for the rumors of explosives, I too felt that very day that whomever was behind the plane flights had succeeded beyond his wildest expectations.

Our national reaction was predictable. vengeance, retaliation, who the fuck do you think your messing with indignation...in fact...that's the word...indignation...that word describes a characteristic that many felt and that was cynically manipulated by the NeoCon ideology, war for oil.

Blogger Barry said...
This must be some kind of record -- I agree with three of your posts in a row.

The fact that the new screeners would not have detected the underwear bomber's explosives is par for the course. It's like whenever a disgruntled person shoots up a bunch of people with a 9mm, we try to make it harder to get AK47s.

And as for the crazy wingnut, the less said about him the better. Unfortunately we've made it international news when it shouldn't have been.

And the low savings rate doesn't merely devastate fixed-income people, but it seems to me it also deprives the economy of much investment that will be needed for long term growth.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
The Iman in charge of Park51 served as an envoy to the Muslim world under George W Bush. Does this controversy serve the Bush family and their motives for fostering dissent and hate in this country?