Memo to the American media: Get a grip

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Memo to the American Media: Get a Grip

10/22/01

You have to give terrorists credit. They know how to maximize results for tiny investments. By scaring a few key (and rather pampered) people, they have accomplished a crafty objective.

The terrorists have succeeded in making the American media do a bang-up job of transforming itself into the cowering mouthpieces of unreasoning, disproportionate, over-the top fearmongering and unthinkable reprisal.

Let us, just for a moment, clear our heads and consider the facts. So far the dread Anthrax Plague of '01 has killed exactly one (1) victim. This happened because the victim did not know he had anthrax and therefore went untreated. More people will die today from high cholesterol than from anthrax exposures throughout the course of this war. Why? Because anthrax is a lousy weapon. It's easily treatable, hard to inflict on large populations without a sophisticated delivery system (and the US Mail ain't it), everybody is on hyper-alert for it, and you can even vaccinate against it.

I will say it again: Anthrax is a tempest in a teapot. But the teapot happens to include several figures in American media and government who have a vastly disproportionate influence on American public life. Send anthrax mail to Cedar Rapids, Iowa and you've worried people for a day. Send it to Tom Brokaw, the New York Times, and a few selected politicians, give a secretary a minor skin infection which is easily treatable, and voila! You've got everybody in the American media (who already believe the world entirely revolves around them) talking as though American Civilization is doomed and doing a bang up job of scaring the daylights out of the people (for a while anyway) with a media feeding frenzy.

Let's have some perspective shall we? The Blitz in London killed 40,000 people. The English responded with iron resolve and even good cheer and courage as they faced down the foe. Churchill's response was famous:

We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and the oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.

Weenie media types, in contrast, find that, a month into the war, some cowardly little creeps out there are conducting mildly unsettling attacks that are easily foiled or repelled. Instead of keeping their heads level under those expensive hairdos, they start writing execrable stuff like "America has entered the season of the witch. From his jagged lair, Osama Bin Laden was summoning up a swarm of demonic creatures to invade our brains. It will take more than the power of good, or the power of bunker busters, to knock this lord of evil off his Bald Mountain" (Maureen Dowd) or declaring a little poison in an envelope "the ultimate nightmare" (Tom Brokaw).

Message received: "Be afraid. Be very afraid." Thanks guys. Who needs a Taliban Ministry of Propaganda when Mo and Tom are ready to cave to the cave dwellers?

Worse still, the counsels of cowardice provoke the equal and opposite reaction of grotesque over-response from some quarters. Yesterday, I turned on the radio to hear voices suggesting that because "biological warfare" (that would be the one death in Florida) is being conducted, we are now completely justified as a nation in firing nuclear missiles at the offending state that provided the anthrax to the terrorists.

I personally have little doubt that Iraq is probably going to be found to be involved in this before it's over and I have no problem with the idea of finally destroying the regime of Saddam Hussein and jailing or killing him and his henchmen. But to say that one death and some mildly dangerous envelopes sent to a few media types and government officials justifies turning large portions of Iraq (and its civilian population) into ash is what Catholic theology, I am confident, would describe as a "disproportionate response." There is no way to justify such a position from a Catholic perspective.

What is needed here is plain and simple calm and courage. Calm allows something called "thought" to take place. Courage allows us to look evil in the eye and do our job without yammering out stupid things that are either defeatist or evil. And when that happens, we find several things emerge.

First, as I have already said, I think that on September 11, the enemy hit us with their best shot and that this is, in the long run, good news. It's now going to be much more difficult to steal airliners, hijack tanker trucks, or acquire the means to perform some spectacular act of destruction. The likelihood of mass death by anthrax is very unlikely (as this and as this article show).

Meanwhile, we are pounding the living daylights out of the Taliban and al-Quaeda and coordinating a massive and unprecedented worldwide dragnet for the Bad Guys. Does this mean that they can't hit us again? Of course not. But it does mean that we are fighting men, not some quasi-mythical omnipotent and omniscient "lord of evil." So our talking hairdos in the media should shut up and stop talking that way.

The bad guys are, I think, sending little envelopes full of poison because that's about the best they can do. As each day passes, we get a little closer to figuring out who and where they are and either locking them up or killing them. As each day passes, their ability to gain access to the technology necessary to deliver another devastating blow decreases. As each day passes, we come to realize more and more the need to prepare and the ways in which to do this well. And as each day passes, we get closer, not to the End of Civilization As We Know It, but to the destruction of the terror networks we have tolerated for too long.

As John O'Sullivan points out:In making war on modern civilization (a.k.a. "the West"), Osama bin Laden has taken on two forces that together are probably invincible the first is the patient, methodical, bureaucratic procedures of the modern state, the second the spontaneous organizing power of ordinary people in a democratic society.

What took Osama years of meticulous planning in his remote cave was rendered obsolete within minutes by the courage of a randomly selected group of American travelers. He may not know it yet; he may even score a few more victories; but the Cave Man is already extinct.

So instead of having hysterics and shouting out in panic or insane bellicosity,let's keep our heads, put one foot in front of the other, and do our work. Victory in this war is virtually assured, so long as we fight it to the end. Hysterics (and grotesque evil done in imitation of the enemy) is practically the only thing that can keep it from happening.

-- Swissrose (cellier3@mindspring.com), October 22, 2001

Answers

Excellent article. We are much stronger than the "talking hairdos in the media" would have us believe. We can easily survive this, even if it escalates to smallpox or some other creepy bug or chem attack. The people who died of anthrax (2 now) did not know they had it until it was too late. Fore-warned is fore-armed. Patience and deliberate, thoughtful actions do not bring high teevee ratings, but they are what will win this war.

-- Margaret J (mjans01@yahoo.com), October 22, 2001.

Thanks for the much-needed alternative viewpoint. It's good to know someone is still speaking out somewhere. Although I have nothing but sympathy for families of anthrax victims and possible targets, there are only 3 fatalities and a small number of suspected cases. Here's an India article to add proportion to America's obsession with anthrax:

At least 370 drown in shipwreck off Java GENEVA: At least 370 people, most of them illegal immigrants, drowned in a shipwreck off the Indonesian island of Java last Friday, a spokesman for the Geneva-based International Organisation for Migration said on Monday.

Another 44 people survived the tragedy, among them an 8-year-old child, IOM spokesman Jean-Philippe Chauzy added.

He said that the ship had left Java early last Thursday with over 420 people on board, principally Iraqis, Iranians, Afghans, Pakistanis and Algerians, but got into trouble the next day, sinking within minutes of the captain giving the order to abandon ship.

http://www.timesofindia.com/articleshow.asp?art_id=1022753395

Anyone care to guess how many other Afghanis are dead or dying today?

-- mouthpiece (jaynbarn@telusplanet.net), October 22, 2001.


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