spake Tom Ridge, whose haplessness is hardly reassuring. When
Ridge was appointed to head up this newest layer of the national
security bureaucracy, one official told the Washington
want to brand Tom Ridge. When people see him, we want
them to think: 'My babies are safe.'" With this, the third
nebulous alarm sounded since 9/11, now when people see him
they think: "Why bother having babies, since we're all
have wondered: why issue these endless warnings?
After all, if we aren't "alert" by now, we never will be.
And just what are we supposed to do, anyway: must I stand
guard at the Golden Gate Bridge (after all, it's just down
the street), and personally check out each passing auto? Should
I keep a 24-hour watch on the Arab grocers down the block,
hoping to catch them anthraxing their falafel? What could
possibly be the purpose of these nonspecific "terror alerts"
other than to spread fear and a sense of impending
doom? They've "branded" Ridge, all right as the harbinger
of helplessness in the face of horror.
how else is such an announcement supposed to make us feel
other than utterly powerless? At the core of each us, when
we look at Ridge's
puffy frightened face, is the secret fear that the government
is just as helpless as we are in the face of the oncoming
catastrophe. On the idiot box, our "patriotic" talking heads
hail the great victory of Kunduz and eagerly call for "phase
two" while we huddle in our homes, afraid to fly, afraid
to buy, waiting for the other terrorist shoe to drop.
gives a damn about the fall of Khandahar? What worries me
is the fall of the Transamerica
pyramid. The War Party wants us to go "on to Iraq," Syria,
Somalia, and perhaps even North Korea but what about
bringing those troops home where the real danger is
and stationing them in the streets of American
government claims these warnings are not based on thin air,
but on intercepted messages exchanged by the terrorists. This
raises all sorts of questions, the first one being: don't
the terrorists realize they're being eavesdropped on? Surely
they do. In that case, it seems this might be a tactic to
instill fear and demoralize the American populace. By trumpeting
these threats, Ridge is merely playing into their hands. Just
as the Bin Ladenites used our vaunted technology against us,
turning airliners into deadly weapons, so they are using our
own government as their trumpet of fear, turning government
bureaucrats and their ass-covering ways into potent psychological
FROM A READER
letter from a reader, Judy W., offers an explanation for the
otherwise inexplicable policy of fear-mongering:
it just me, or are the continued 'threats' to the American
public just a way for the President and the military to keep
us in fear so we don't question any of the ethics of this
war or the ever-decreasing civil liberties we once took for
Judy, it isn't just you: not anymore. Weeks ago, when attorney
general John Ashcroft issued the first terrorist advisory,
on October 11, it occurred to me that what you suggest might
indeed be the motive behind such an otherwise pointless exercise.
However, I immediately dismissed the thought from my mind:
after all, we're all Americans, and we're all in this together
aren't we? The man, I thought, is simply trying to
do his job, however ineptly: at least I hoped the feds
were trying to make up for having failed to prevent the 9/11
atrocity in the first place. But when California governor
Davis got in on the act, declaring the Golden State's
bridges to be in imminent danger, I began to have my doubts….
from just publicity-seeking, wasn't Davis's startling pronouncement
pooh-poohed by the feds a classic example of an
official following the first principle of government service:
cover-thy-derriere? But then came the second
and the third ominous warning out of Washington, and
one would think they were fully covered by now.
I fear you may be right: it appears, in retrospect, that I
was being naive. I really believed the administration was
putting politics aside, and, in the weeks after 9/11, even
took seriously all that "United We Stand" baloney, at least
to some extent: whatever our differences over foreign policy
matters, I thought all Americans would put America
first. What I didn't expect, as the World Trade Center came
crashing down, was that the "protectors" of America would
try to pull the Constitution down along with it.
probably wishes he had stayed in Pennsylvania, especially
when asked to explain the rationale behind this senseless
series of maddeningly amorphous "alerts." Okay, so what are
we supposed to do? According to the Washington Post:
"Mr. Ridge said he did not want Americans to cancel holiday
plans, but he also did not want them to relax unduly." In
other words: go visit your loved ones but go in fear.
apocalyptic warnings, delivered in such a manner, can only
be intended to create an atmosphere where the seizure of unprecedented
power by the executive branch seems almost inevitable. How
else will Americans stand by and give up their rights unless
they stand in fear of something worse than the loss of liberty?
LONG WAY DOWN
has been a long time since Patrick Henry's "give me liberty
or give me death" exemplified the American spirit: today,
if you believe the polls, Americans appear to prefer an illusory
sense of security over liberty by an overwhelming margin.
This hardly comes as a surprise: from the age of Jefferson
to the era of William Jefferson Clinton is a long way down,
and so this result the imposition of a police state
over only a few scattered protests was to be expected.
What was not expected, at least by me, is the speed with which
all this is coming about. The fear-mongering tactic is working,
and the American people are cowed not by Osama
Bin Laden, but by the pronouncements of their own government.
CROWLEY THEORY OF LAW
government is now confident that it can roll over the American
people. To paraphrase that
old fraud Aleister Crowley: as far as our rulers are concerned,
do what thou wilt
shall be the whole of the law. But they had better be
careful. If they go too far, too fast, there is likely to
be some kind of a reaction, at least from a remnant of the
population that retains its distinctively American orneriness.
This is especially true if Ridge and the Chicken Littles are
right, and we witness yet another terrorist horror on American
soil. For in that case, although this may give the coup plotters
a perfect pretext for completely abolishing the Constitution,
the State would also lose a great deal of its credibility
and, with it, the key to its power.
State can afford to lose the mystique of its invincibility
the true source of its legitimacy and hope to
survive for long. Which is why I hope the Powers That Be take
my advice, before it's too late, and bring our troops in Afghanistan
back home a.s.a.p. where the real threat to their power
of $50 or more will get you a copy of Ronald Radosh's out-of-print
classic study of Old Right conservatives, Prophets on the
Right: Profiles of Conservative Critics of American Globalism.
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