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Friday, September 09, 2011

Fear and terror and angry speeches, oh my!
Posted by Jill | 5:37 AM
There was one election year in which Mr. Brilliant and I were so fed up with electroal politics that we planned a Jamaican vacation for that week. Oh, we finally succumbed and watched a little bit of the election returns on our tiny TV while ensconced in a beachfront room at the old and alas now defunct T-Water Beach Hotel in Negril, but we managed to escape most of it.

I kind of feel that way about the approaching anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, but unfortunately I'm stuck here in New Jersey. It almost seems as if politicians and the nation's security apparatus are happy about this opportunity to once again fan the flames of fear and war once again. Yesterday we heard rumblings of, and today lots of mediaflogging about an "unconfirmed credible threat" against New York City bridges and tunnels this weekend, accompanied by the same footage we see over and over again of guys wrapped in what look like rags, "training" on children's monkeybars. It's astounding that after a decade and over a trillion dollars spent on wars that we were told were an integral part of the so-called "war on terror", we're still in a situation where a bunch of bewildered-looking cops with rifles are going to be posted all around the city looking for...what, exactly? Unless we're prepared to stop and search every vehicle using every bridge and tunnel in the city, how do you stop something?

And again -- a bunch of guys in rags training on monkeybars are going to be whipping people into a panic.

It probably won't be the denizens of the city itself. After all, they don't have the luxury of being afraid. What we ARE going to see, I suspect, is another rush of rhetoric in the flyover states and the south against sharia law, and probably a few anti-Muslim hate crimes as well. But in some ways, these dead-enders who still insist that Barack Obama is a Muslim terrorist and that the few hundred Muslims in their state are somehow going to turn their entire state into a caliphate, aren't all that different from the terrorists they fear. The world to which they want to return, the world symbolized by the conspicuous and radical Christianity of Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann, is gone and can never return. It won't be long before every suburban neighborhood has a gay couple raising their children and a house co-owned by five young people who aren't coupled off and a multigenerational immigarnt family living in it. They can promise to return us to their never-existed TV vision of the 1950's, but unless a Rick Perry is prepared to run the entire country by executive order of forced conversion and incarceration/massacre of those who do not conform (and I'm not saying he wouldn't), the forces of a freedom that isn't represented only to corporate greed are already in play.

Andrew Sullivan has a long essay in Newsweek this week that's part of his ongoing mea culpa about having been such an ardent Bushflogger in the early days after the 9/11 attacks. We can grant him his absolution or not as we please, but one tiny excerpt struck me:
From the streets of Tehran to Cairo, it appears that the young Muslim generation does not want to withdraw from the modern world into a cultural and intellectual blind alley forever. They are too busy on Twitter.

There have always been mass movements. Tiananmen Square took place in 1989, long before anyone even thought of something like Twitter. But social networking has certainly made it easy, and the things we viddy on a computer or iPad screen are a window to a different kind of world. In 2001, the web was still largely a "push" medium; today it's participatory and immediate. When young people can see a different world in front of them, it becomes more difficult to talk them into sacrificing themselves for a vague promise of 72 virgins after death. The terrorist dead-enders are still out there, but if we as a nation can just keep from fucking it up, it's just possible that we might be able to help the protesters and fighters in Egypt and Libya and Yemen and every other country that's trying to shake off the despots we've tolerated in the name of oil to pull their nations, kicking and screaming if necessary, into the present. And then our task will be to keep our own from slding back to the past.

I'm not going to be opining much about the 9/11 anniversary, other than just a comparatively dispassionate piece I'll put up on Sunday about my own experiences on that day, because frankly, after a decade of living in a nation governed by one party that is willing to use fear and terror to further its own agenda and another so terrified of that party that it refues to call the sky blue if the other one says it's yellow, I just don't want to relive the last decade. And while New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg has taken a lot of crap for limiting the invited guests to Sunday's memorial to the families of those lost, Sunday really should be for them, not for those of us who only had to watch it on TV and then get on with our lives.

And in the midst of all this, President Please-Like-Me was on the teevee again last night, doing another one of his quasi-populist bellowings in front of a Congress that predictably either sat on its hands of applauded furiously depending on which party they represent. The aforementioned Andrew Sullivan is so far into penitence mode that he actually used the name "Harry Truman" in his critique of the speech, so desperate is he to find something strong and resolute in this president. This was Obama's time to say, "You guys fucked this up, I've spent three years trying to fix it, and you've blocked me every step of the way. I'm sick of dealing with you, now here's what we're going to do." But instead he patronized the crowded under-bus crowd with a few crumb-words like "union" and "polluters" while talking about starving Social Security with "payroll tax cuts" (the better to gut it later in his quest to be Nixon in China) and making sure that already highly-skilled unemployed Americans have NO time to go on interviews for jobs that might pay a living wage by making them work for private companies for the pittance that unemployment pays. But hey, at least American companies will have access to cheap labor....and we'll see how many of them actually hire these people at even one penny more than unemployment pays.

Sullivan isn't the only one sold on the speech, but we know this guy gives good speechifying. But as Digby notes, after a bit of lip service paid to liberal ideals, the rest of it was all about cutting spending, making Medicare unavailable to people between the ages of 65 and 67, and tax cuts that are unlikely to get enough fuel into the demand side of the economy to get this stalled-out engine going again.

Happy Friday, everyone.

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Blogger Hugh said...
I stayed at T-Water some time in the early eighties. I especially the young boy who delivered, unsolicited, some excellent Ganja to my beach location ten minutes after we checked in.

Blogger Theo said...
The media is still airing the monkeybar video - good grief. Down here in Washington, D.C., the police are also on high-alert for the "unconfirmed credible threat". One of the local news stations said details about the planned car bombing were pouring into the station, but the news anchor only listed 3 or 4 vague "details".

Anonymous Anonymous said...
I'd like to hear one (any one) of the talking heads explain how a "threat" can be "credible" when it is stated to be "unconfirmed" . . .

Blogger casey said...
Hello jeg43,

In "Newspeak" it makes sense. We are the living embodyment of George Orwell's 1984.