Enemies of the State

April 20, 2013

This has been a sad and frightening week for the United States. On Monday, April 15, a “terrorist attack” at the Boston Marathon left 3 people dead and 174 injured, when two bombs detonated near the finish line of the annual race.

On Wednesday, April 17, a fire and explosions at fertilizer plant in the town of West, Texas, killed 14 (in the latest account I’ve read,) injured around 200, with one or two still missing and destroyed 200 homes in a city of about 2,600 people.

As terrible as the deaths and injuries were in both of these events, what made them particularly unsettling for me was the way in which the two incidents were categorized, treated by the government and covered by the media.

The Marathon bombings were immediately designated a terrorist attack (whether foreign or domestic) by the government. And the government – federal, state and local – threw the full force of the trillion dollar security apparatus of that government – federal, state, and (increasingly militarized) local – into pursuit of those terrorists. The media covered the attack endlessly that day and over the following four days as an attack against America, complete with pictures of the smiling eight-year-old who died and the ashen-faced, bloody man in the wheelchair, with his legs blown off. And we were just as endlessly subjected to the, “We are Americans, our spirit will not be dimmed, the people of _____ are strong and we will stand together in the face of this tragedy” propaganda from the media and our leaders that has become so commonplace as to be virtually meaningless in nearly every tragedy since 9/11. Then, last night when the manhunt ended in the death of one of the alleged terrorists and the apprehension of the second, the scene – carried in excruciating detail on television – ended with people cheering and waving flags in the street. America was once again safe from terrorism.

I do not mean to make light of the genuine relief those people must have felt. But contrast all this with the way the press and, frankly, the government handled the equally tragic incident in West, Texas. And, the difference in the responses of the people involved in that tragedy.

Yes, there was some (comparatively) momentary coverage of the fire and explosion that followed. Yes, there were speculations that this, too, might have been a terrorist act. I’m sure the security apparatus checked out that possibility, too. And, there were the usual interviews of harried local police, firefighters, and frightened citizens on TV and internet news sites. Yes, the President assured the people of West, the government would stand behind them in this tragedy. Yet nowhere was it treated as anything more than a local tragedy. Nowhere did I see gruesome pictures of the dead or injured for days on end. The coverage I saw amounted to a quick bulletin on one or two of the national news stations and perhaps 30 seconds of coverage on the nightly news over the next couple of days, a flurry or articles in national papers, followed up by a few internet articles. Certainly we saw no patriotic scenes of the people of West, Texas waving flags and cheering the local police and firefighters after they triumphantly killed or captured any careless company owners who might have cut corners with safety regulations to save a few dollars.

And it is this difference in treatment of these two incidents – and all those like them, since 9/11 – that worries me and raises such niggling, persistent questions.

Back in 2011, for the tenth anniversary of 9/11, Reason Magazine ran an article entitled, How Scared of Terrorism Should You Be? http://reason.com/archives/2011/09/06/how-scared-of-terrorism-should Their conclusion? Not very.

Among other facts and figures the article pointed out in trying to answer that question, it stated:“Ohio State University political scientist John Mueller and Mark Stewart, an engineering professor at University of Newcastle in Australia recently estimated that the U.S. has spent $1 trillion on anti-terrorism security measures since 2001 (this figure does not include the costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan). Assuming that 2,300 Americans might have been killed by terrorists inside the United States, this implies a cost of more that $400 million dollars per life saved. Typically when evaluating the costs of protective regulations, federal government agencies set the value of a life at about $9 million.

“However, terrorism is especially frightening (that’s why they call it “terrorism”), so the average citizen might want to spend double the usual amount to prevent a death. But [this] still suggests that on a reasonable benefit-cost basis public and private spending is 20 times too much to prevent deaths from terrorist attacks. Now let’s retrospectively add the tragic 3,000 deaths from the 9/11 attacks to take into account the remote possibility that terrorists might be able to pull off another similarly spectacular assault; that still means that nearly $200 million is being spent per plausible life saved.”
Federal OSHA statistics show that, every year thirteen workers per day (4,609 in 2011 alone) die in work related accidents, with 4 million injured per year. While many of these are due to simple worker carelessness, many are due to deliberate decisions by company owners or corporate boards to save costs by cutting corners on worker safety.

Yet even in the most egregious cases, you do not see the full force of the government security apparatus come down on company owners or CEOs. The media does not speculate endlessly on the danger they pose for America. The FBI and other agencies do not flash their pictures across the televisions of the nation as dangerous criminals, or post them around the world for identification on social media, or send them to Interpol for evaluation. Swat teams or heavily armed police units do not hunt them down like rats in a barrel. Nor does the media cover them for days on end as threats to the very heart of the nation, their demise to be celebrated with patriotic jingoism and flag waving.

Why not? Both types of events are the result of people making deliberate choices that lead to (often massive) injury, death and destruction. Certainly, both lead to grief, uncertainty and, yes, terror in those who have gone through such an event. So why do we treat both the events and the perpetrators so differently?

Why do both the government and the media continuously encourage us to fear the terrorist and the next potential terrorist attack, but basically encourage us to “suck it up” and get on with our lives when similarly massive damage is caused by greed and corporate carelessness? Is one any less of an attack on “America” than the other? Perhaps not, but while the latter are certainly an enemy of the people, only the first have been declared an enemy of the State. It’s a distinction worth noting.

There’s a lot of speculation across the internet when one of these events occur – whether it’s a terrorist attack, a mass shooting or an industrial “accident” – as to whether it is actually a false flag attack, designed to promote fear and make people more dependent on the government for security. Well, the government has certainly proved itself capable of such actions – both here and abroad – through the years. And whether you believe 9/11 was a covert operation by our own government, or an act of accidental or deliberate “ignorance” by government officials, you cannot deny that it and other terrorist events have been used by the government – abetted by a compliant media – to keep Americans fearful and dependent on the huge security apparatus that has been put in place since then.

Which again raises the question, Why? Why do they need us to be fearful and afraid?

Personally, I think it has to do with the nature of State – especially Imperial States – as they begin to fail and enter collapse. Such States begin to lose the confidence of the people within them. It is the faith of the people in their government that supports a State. And even in the best of times, governments are not above lying and manipulating that faith to get support for the things it feels are necessary for it to do in its own best interests, by convincing the people that it’s in their own best interests as well.

However, as the State fails and the people lose confidence that the State is acting in their best interest and not its own, fear becomes an equitable substitute for confidence. For a long time, fear of the other will do the trick. Fear of the other can rally the people behind their government and distract them from the slow erosion of rights and the rapid development and maintenance of a security apparatus necessary to protect itself, as we’ve seen repeatedly since 9/11. As we’ve been encouraged to see in this latest “terrorist” episode.

Eventually, as the State moves deeper into collapse and even fear of the other is not enough to maintain control, fear of the other is replaced by fear of each other as the people, themselves, become the enemy. We are on the cusp of this right now.

Look at the turn of events over just the last five days. We were told a terrorist attack had occurred. The government and the media told us that five pressure cooker bombs had been set up in Boston, but that the police had found three and disarmed them. Two others exploded at the Marathon site. The media showed us a constant stream of horrific images; local, state and federal government officials assured us that, whoever did this would be brought to justice. The full force of the security system kicked into operation. All the rights we’d given up came into play. Security camera images, phone records, emails, private pictures and videos from the scene were requested or confiscated.

For two days we were urged, by the media, to speculate whether it was a known other like Al qaida or some sinister domestic other on a government watchlist that had done the dreadful deed.

A couple of days later, two young men – designated “white cap” and “black cap” were presented as suspects. Both carried big backpacks; one was seen in security footage setting his backpack down and leaving, shortly before the second bomb went off. Their images flashed around the world on social media as we were asked to be participants in identifying them and bringing them to justice. For a while, it looked like they could be any two American kids – not others, but each others.

At last, they were identified. Two young Chechnyan men, living and going to school here for the last eleven years; their parents, Chechnyan refugees. Not any of the known others, but somewhere in between an other and each other.And finally, over the next twenty-four hours, Boston and its suburbs went into virtual lockdown as these not-quite-others and not-quite-each-others were hunted down by the security apparatus. One dead; one barely alive.

Did we get the right people? I don’t know. Right now, it’s difficult for me to understand how two young men could carry five pressure cooker bombs in two backpacks past security, police and bomb-sniffing dogs and distribute them around the area without arousing someone’s suspicions, somewhere. But perhaps that, too, will be explained.

As I said, we are on the cusp, right now, between the other as enemy and each other as enemy. When the Occupy movement first began to gain momentum, they were harassed by local police and city and state authorities in almost every city where they protested, called terrorists by various national legislators and denigrated daily in the press and on television. These were our own children – exercising their first amendment rights, angry at what greed and hubris had done to millions of people across the country – designated as “others” by the government. We had blurred the line between others and each other, as to who might be an enemy of the State.

The next step down in the collapse of the Empire draws ever closer. Over the last ten years, we have been carefully schooled to see every other as a potential terrorist. Over the next ten years, we may be just as carefully schooled to see each other in that same frightening light. As in other dying empires of history, at some point in this collapsing Empire’s struggle to save itself, we may all run the risk of being asked to turn on each other. Will our faces be flashed across the social media so that our neighbors can help the government by identifying us? Will our neighbors cheer and wave flags while one of us is taken away as an Enemy of the State?

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18 Responses to Enemies of the State

  1. witsendnj says:

    You have almost certainly just published the most cogent, interesting, comprehensive, and relevant analysis of recent events.

    Kudos.

  2. graveday says:

    Agreed. And I’ll never look at our pressure cooker the same again. Hell, I was already afraid of it.

  3. theozarker says:

    Yep, grave, be afraid; be very afraid. (Not of the gov, of course, but of your pressure cooker. :D )

  4. catmaxximum says:

    Although I wholeheartedly agree with the overall point you’re making–that “Over the last ten years, we have been carefully schooled to see every other as a potential terrorist.” and all the loss of freedoms that has gone with that propaganda, I’m not so upset with the outcome in this instance.
    If these boys did not do the acts at all, then you are absolutely right about all the hubbub that has been paid, etc., and the possibility of subterfuge by the agencies involved in this man hunt and I really don’t think it was necessary for 24-hour coverage of this situation, especially as regards the hyping up of the possible ties to Al Qaeda-type terrorists. But perhaps Bostonians feel differently about that and wanted every bit of detail of where the hunt was happening because their lives were in danger, after all… no matter what the “real” story is. Those young men did have guns and were throwing homemade explosives at the police as they were chased.
    I don’t really think there’s much of a case for mistaken identity here . The use of surveillance cameras is becoming more and more disconcerting to me because of the loss of privacy for all of us, but doesn’t this case really show how effective they can be in the case of illegal activity? I think the police, FBI, whoever was involved did an amazing job of getting the 2nd perpetrator. Perhaps I have a different view because I’m a New Englander and identify with the terror the city was subjected to by this Boston Marathon incident..
    We need to be wary of our privacy and rights dwindling before our very eyes…true…and this includes the rights of this 19-year-old so-called terrorist to a fair trial and other rights for his protection. But we must also be wary of jumping to the being paranoid at every action the police may take. Had this young man been hiding in my boat behind my house, I’d be out cheering that he was caught, too… not because the two men were killed or hurt in the pursuit, but because the police worked hard to ensure the safety of me and my city.

    • theozarker says:

      Hi catmaxximum, welcome to the blog. And thank you for your comments. I do disagree that there’s not much of a case for mistaken identity. Hundreds of people at such events put down their backpacks and walk away momentarily and probably some of them within the area and time parameters as the young men whose pictures were subsequently flashed around the world. Why did the FBI zoom in on these two? And why ask the public for help identifying them if they already knew and had interviewed the older brother several times on behalf of a foreign government? I can’t say that they were or were not the perpetrators, but what a horrific ending to a horrific event if they were not.

      And in a burgeoning police state, such as ours seems to be, perhaps it’s not paranoid at all to question every action the police take in the wake of events like this. A major US city was put in lock-down and entire blocks of homes were searched at gunpoint without warrant (and apparently without any question or resistance from the citizens involved) simply by telling the people they were hunting the (alleged) “terrorist” involved. Why would we not question that?

      And, as I said in the blog post, I certainly don’t mean to diminish the relief those people must have felt, but we have been taught by government and media propaganda to see these relatively local events as attacks on “the very heart of AMERICA (wave flags and sing America the Beautiful here)”, when they are, in reality, attacks – however brutal and misguided – on the American Empire that has done so much evil of its own around the world.

      Again, thank you for sharing your comments here and feel free to add any further ones you’d like to make.

      • witsendnj says:

        I’m not so sure that the major issue is whether the two suspects did it, or acted alone – but what the response was. Ozarker, you might like this facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/PoliceStateUSA

      • catmaxximum says:

        Well, I don’t think anyone can speak with real confidence that they know all the facts of any case that comes to us through our media. So all of this is conjecture, IMO. As I said, those two men had guns and IEDs and engaged in battle with the police. All that was shown on television, so it’s not just reporting through the press. Would any of us drop our backpacks in the city street and expect them to be there when we return. Probably not.

        As I said, I do agree with you about our needing to be vigilant about the encroaching of a police state. I just disagree that this is really a dangerous example of overreach. I think it was pretty astute police work. Perhaps I’m prejudiced because I’m a fan of “Boston’s Finest.” Peace out!

  5. theozarker says:

    Wit, I agree and thanks for the link. Very interesting.

  6. theozarker says:

    Hi again, catmaxximum. You said, “All that was shown on television, so it’s not just reporting through the press.”

    Was it? Because I watched the capture of the second kid as it was happening and, later, some of the videos of the first and what I saw, since both looked like they occurred after dark and from a distance, was basically only what I was told by the media I was seeing. I would honestly have not had a clue as to what was going on in either case except for the media saying so. And in the case of the second capture, I switched stations several times trying to get a closer view of what I was told I was seeing. I’m not saying they were lying; I’m only saying that even with the videos, I did not actually see much of anything that would make me say, “Yes, I know exactly what happened there, by whom and to whom.”

    What I do know is that, in the lock down of Boston and that suburb, the forced removal of people from their homes and subsequent searches of those homes – without warrants and at gunpoint by either military or militarized police – the security apparatus was allowed to cross a new and dangerous line with nary a whimper from the people, because of all the fear deliberately engendered since 9/11.

    I understand that fear and I’m sure the average policeman or woman is as susceptible to those same fears and the gee whiz technology at their disposal since 9/11as the rest of us. But we all have to step back from the constant propaganda engendered by a failing Empire determined to maintain itself and its perks as long as possible, and question whether what we are told is going on is actually what IS going on.

    Right now, I can’t say with enough certainty to answer my own questions, that I have been told what was actually going on.

    Oh, and yes I’ve been at crowded outdoor even ts where people have set their backpacks down, sometimes saying, ” Would you mind keeping an eye on that for a minute” to complete strangers. I think there’s often a “communal” spirit at such events that make people do things like that without even thinking much about it.

    Again, thanks for your comments and feel free to add more.

    • catmaxximum says:

      I see you’re very invested in maintaining your POV. It is my preference to simply say we must agree to disagree. I saw enough for me to feel that the police figured out who had perpetrated the crime and took measures to find them. The lock down of the city was a bit extreme I thought, but it’s understandable on the other hand. I understand it’s possible it all could have been a hoax, but I just don’t think so this time. You could be right, but so could I. It’s interesting to see such divergent views, isn’t it? And still I agree that we must be vigilant about scare tactics and over militarization of our government. I’m certainly upset about the loss of civil liberties of recent times and the use of drones, etc. There’s a fine line, perhaps, between vigilance and paranoia. A little paranoia is good, though, because it may just be justified at times.

      • theozarker says:

        LOL, Cat, my POV is just that – a point of view. I don’t think such events need to be a “false flag” or hoax (though the gov is certainly not above using such means here and abroad,) to serve the interests of the State. It’s the massive propagandizing of such events to perpetuate and grow the security state that makes me wary (and yes, probably a little paranoid).

        But at 72, I tend to look at it from a “what’s the worst that could happen” perspective. If I’m wrong, the worst that could happen is that I’m dismissed as a dotty little old lady with a conspiracy bent. If I’m right … cui bono? Historically, when an aging Empire builds such a massive, elaborate security apparatus that increasingly encroach on personal freedoms, it ain’t us.

        Peace out.

  7. graveday says:

    Heh, newly arrived in a downtown London train/underground nexus around 1976 and needing to take a leak, I asked a dignified-looking matron if she might watch my luggage. She gave me this utterly horrified look and began to scuttle away as fast as she could. There were lockers, but they were welded shut, so I took the luggage into the loo with me. It was only later I realized the lockers were welded shut to prevent IRA bombs being left in them, and the lady thought I was a potential bomber. I took some umbrage at that, and some solace that her behavior made sense.
    I don’t know if the Brits are truly past this point, but I sure hope we get there.
    As to backpacks, the marathoners apparently had left tons of backpacks scattered around the side streets, according to the accounts discussing the increased difficulty of searching for other bombs because of them.

  8. graveday says:

    “Paranoia strikes deep, into your life it will creep.
    It starts when you’re always afraid, step out of line,
    The man comes and takes you away.
    It’s time to stop, hey, what’s that sound,
    Everybody look what’s going down.”

    Boy, that is an old song now, and prescient, and more relevant than ever.

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