Friday, August 21, 2009

The Real Threat of Domestic Terrorism

Tom Ridge, first Director of the Office of Homeland Security under George W. Bush, has just published a book entitled The Test of Our Times: America Under Siege . . . And How We Can Be Safe Again. In it, he charges that the Bush Administration—well aware that the president’s approval ratings rose significantly during times of perceived threats—manipulated the use of terror alerts for political gain.

Of course, it’s Ridge’s book, and he manages to make himself look somewhat innocent—if not faintly heroic—as one who resisted pressure from on high to raise the alert level for no valid reason on the eve of the 2004 elections.

Naturally, other officials of the previous administration deny these allegations by a former Republican Congressman, governor, and cabinet member. Ridge’s story, however, is entirely keeping with what we know about the win-at-any-cost philosophy of the Bush-Cheney-Rove administration.

To manipulate and control people through fear is terrorism. While psychological terror tactics are different in kind and degree from the use of snipers and bombs, I submit that morally, they fall into the same category. This kind of psychological warfare has been a major weapon in the arsenal of the GOP (General Opposition Party) for decades. In recent months, we’ve seen many examples—from Sarah Palin ranting about “socialism” on the campaign trail to Senators alleging that “health reform” would lead to selective murder of the elderly and infirm.

The so-called public servants who use such incendiary language are well aware that a healthy percentage of the American public is gullible and na├»ve enough to believe outrageous lies. There are those who shrug off blatant fear-mongering as “just politics.” In politics as elsewhere, they say, it’s “buyer beware"—“fool me once” and all that.

However, deliberately using lies, no matter how absurd, to stir up public outrage is anything but harmless. Anger is a secondary emotion, following closely on the heels of fear, and those stoking the rage of the ignorant—people like Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck and certain extremists in Congress—endanger us all by doing so.

Igniting political bonfires to create distraction (the idiotic "Birther" movement comes to mind here), halts progress by gumming up the essential work of the government. (Any lack of progress, of course, can be blamed on the Democrats, especially when Democrats are in power.) Beyond that, however, is the actual body count.

Victims of atrocities committed by right-wing extremists—from the bombing of the Federal Building in Oklahoma City to murder of a security guard at the Holocaust museum—are just as dead or traumatized as victims of Al Qaeda. For months, the Southern Poverty Law Center, which keeps track of such things, has been warning about an escalation of activity among right-wing militia groups and potentially violent extremists.

It's past time for every citizen capable of rational thought--regardless of political affiliation--to turn off FOX News and wing-nut radio and quit pretending that ends justify the means. If conservatives can't put forth ideas that stand on their own merit--regarding health care reform or any other topic worth discussing--then they need to shut up.

Someone--and the rest of us are that "someone"--needs to tell them to do that. Rather than meeting one outrageous lie after another with a plain and honest statement of the truth--an Obama strategy that hasn't been working too well lately--we need to work toward ending the kind of political correctness the prevents us from calling a spade a spade.


knwick84 said...

“Naturally the common people don't want war; neither in Russia, nor in England, nor in America, nor in Germany. That is understood. But after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine policy, and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is to tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country.”

Spoken by Hermann Goering. Sound familiar?

Idna said...

Dear Jane,
Just wondering, did you actually read Tom Ridge's book? Somehow I seriously doubt it. So basically you are sucked into the publisher's "controversial hook" to get people to even notice a book by Tom Ridge. As an author yourself, you should know how this works.

What is sad about your post is that not having read the book, you take some other Bush hater's interpretation of a hyped up statement and editorialize on it like it was absolute truth.

I also have not read the book. (Not out for public consumption yet) But I have heard and read that in an old New York Times interview, Ridge adamantly denied having had pressure put on him, to the point of saying, "Wire me up!" to a lie detector.

And supposedly, the damning line in the book is Ridge wondering to himself whether raising the terror alert was for political or security reasons after graphic videos from Osama and another one form the American kid who joined Al Quaeda. Funny, Ridge didn't seem to wonder about it so much when he didn't have a book to sell. And, by the way, what is so wrong with a thinking person WONDERING to himself. I would think that a person in power should wonder about things. That does not necessarily prove any wrongdoing.

This whole bruhaha reminds me of how we were all wondering when Bill Clinton used the military to bomb Libya, Serbia and other random countries in perfect timing with new discoveries during Monicagate. Did this upset you as much then? These terrorist acts of Clinton? Just wondering.

The second half of your post was at times fear-mongering against anyone who doesn't think like you, insulting and just juvenile (General Opposition Party - puleez! ... I could talk about the appropriateness of the Democrat party using an ASS as their symbol, but why belabor the obvious?)

I realize it's your bi-monthly rant against conservatives, but your call to 'shut up' all those with differing opinions is rude and insulting. As a Tea Partier, a critic of many of Obama's policies, a smaller government and capitalism proponent, I am one of those people you would like to shut up. At first I thought "Fine, I'm done with this blog. I don't have to waste my time on it ever again." But it's not my nature to shut up about things I think are important. So you got me back, Baby, like it or not!

Idna said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Citizen Jane said...

Hi, Idna!

First, the sources I used for my post had advance copies of the book and quoted it verbatim. Secondly, my "shut up" comment was not directed at you but toward conservatives who "can't put forth ideas that stand on their own merit." Just saying no and picking apart others' ideas doesn't qualify.

Six said...

Implying that the shooter at the Holocaust museum and the mCVeigh's of the world should be associated with the 'right-wing' is about as representative as saying that the Unibomber is representative of the extreme 'left-wing' groups. The undertone of your message is blatent and clear to insinuate that somehow right-wing = bad/decietful/dangerous and should be feared and need to be told to shut up. The talk-show extremists, "stoking the fear of the ignorant... endangering us all". The irony in your message here is too fun...

Conjuring up images of actions done by CRAZY people such as McVeigh is clearly designed to incite fear and characterizing them as somehow part of the right (or left) is horribly micharacterizing. "...escalation of activity among right-wing militia groups and potentially violent extremists" ...didn't we learn under Reno that threat was GROSSLY over-stated then? And yet, somehow here we are again more than a decade later still talking about, militia groups and 'potentially violent extremists' - whatever that actually defines. And under Bush, you would have thought the so-called 'left' would have taken to heart and learned the lesson that, as C-J puts it, "To manipulate and control people through fear IS terrorism" (a definition I disagree with). Now do you see the IRONY in your post? You're the pot calling the kettle black.

What the Bush administration did was criminal. However, President Obama is continuing to build on the Bush legacy of presenting his opposition as essentially treasonists'. As every day goes by, I seem to have a hard time discerning the differences between the two with a laundry list of broken promises from Obama... I mean, it's only a matter of time before Obama starts to adopt the policy of nationbuilding and occupation... oh wait, he's already working on that (Afg)...

Anonymous said...

Shut FOX up? Let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater. FOX has a lot of very good reporters: their reporters in the field (too numerous to mention, but Carl Cameron and Major Garrett are noteworthy for their even-handed political coverage) and anchors/contributors Brit Hume, Bret Baier, Bryan Wilson, Bill Hemmer (formerly of CNN), Shannon Bream, John Scott, Jane Skinner, Shepherd Smith (I suspect he’s a liberal), Chris Wallace, Juan Williams and Mara Liasson (both of NPR), to name a few.

During the ’08 election, FOX was the only news outlet that gave Hilary a fair shake, once everybody else had jumped on the Obama bandwagon. I notice she gives interviews on FOX quite often now – something the President won’t do.

Since FOX came on the scene, the notion of inviting people from both sides of an issue (fair and balanced) has increased by leaps and bounds. The idea was around --pioneered largely by William F. Buckley, I believe -- but it was the exception, rather than the rule. A few days ago, I even heard a “fair and balanced” discussion on NPR. Will wonders never cease.

When the quote from Ridge’s story broke, I listened to Andrea Mitchell on MSNBC. She had Jim Moran (D-VA) on and they lamented at some length this “proof” that the Bush administration had misled and misused us. On the same subject, I listened to Rick Sanchez (CNN) conduct a rant that equaled anything O’Reilly does. His message again was “now we have proof of how Bush misused and misled us.” It wasn’t until I got to FOX news that I learned that this quote was simply Ridge’s impression (no facts) that there might be political considerations involved. In addition, I learned that in at least two other places in the book, he emphatically stated that the terror warnings were never used for political reasons. And he has since stated publicly that he was not pressured to raise the threat level.

As far as some of FOX’s more flamboyant personalities, the free enterprise system that you so deplore may take care of things for you. I read this morning that some 13 advertisers are pulling their ads from the Glen Beck show. That’s why I’ll take the business sector over government any time. It’s far more responsive. They want their profits – as you have pointed out so many times. However, the politicians want power and that scares me most of all.

If you are concerned about toxin in broadcasting, may I recommend Chris Matthews, Keith Olberman, and Rachel Maddow, which is the afternoon programming on MSNBC. You also frequently mention how the FOX people are so angry. For sheer anger on CNN, I’d recommend James Carville and Paul Begela. Their passion is acceptable to you, however, because you basically agree with what they are saying.

I believe we have disturbed folks out there who can be inflamed by rhetoric from both the right and the left, just as we have sexual predators who can be inflamed by pornography and other sexual materials that we do not censor. The bottom line: We must carefully differentiate between those annoying folks with whom we disagree and those whom we think genuinely present a threat.

Anonymous said...

I am concerned, Citizen Jane, that you are taking the position that the only free speech is that which agrees with you, and that democracy is defined as doing things your way. Apparently anything else is wrong, mistaken, anti-American and dangerous. A few weeks ago you posted comments advocating a multi-arty system, but you really seem to want a single-party system. If you're not a Democrat get out of the way.

Well, I think there's value to the two-party system, and having an opposition party isn't a drawback, it's what makes democracy work. Think about it. And stop insulting people just because they disagree with you.