One of my dearest Friends lives in Boston, and I thought of her when I read about this a couple of weeks ago. Knowing at the time that it was a media circus, the original event report never made it to the blog. But now that someone has put into words the absurdity, it is time:
The 21st Century Sucks
By William Rivers Pitt
It took an astonishingly stupid bomb scare in my town last week to really make me feel old for the first time.
“Old” isn’t the proper word, I guess, since I am only midway through my 30s. I live in Boston, temporary home to nearly one million students from September to June every year, and so I am surrounded by kids all the time. I used to teach high school English to roomfuls of teenagers. Neither of these things made me feel old. The now-infamous Lite-Brite Bomb Fiasco of 2007 that unspooled here last week didn’t make me feel old either, so much as it made me feel out of touch, for the first time, with those who are ten or fifteen years younger than me.
The gulf between my feelings and thoughts that day, and the feelings and thoughts of the twenty-somethings I talked to about it afterward, could not have been wider. Not to put too fine a point on it, that whole thing scared the almighty cheese out of me. The reports started coming in around noon – “suspicious items” that had “wires” and “electronics,” which were found strapped to critical infrastructure all over the city, according to the news media – and for a few hours, I entertained the possibility that my darkest fears were becoming a reality.
My fears were inspired by all the stuff I’ve been trying to telegraph to people for the last several years. This Iraq occupation, I’ve been arguing since the fall of 2002, will inspire more terrorism. A ten year old girl in Baghdad gets blown sideways out of her kitchen, a mother gets blasted in a sectarian street-battle in Fallujah, a father has menstrual blood smeared on his face in a cement cage in Abu Ghraib by leering US troops looking to humiliate those of his faith, a son gets shot by a US sniper in Najaf … and the families of those people are going to pick up a gun and volunteer to die that they might kill.
Combine this manufacture of terrorists with the legal aftermath of 9/11, the evaporation of Constitutional protections put in place “for our safety,” and the rancid motivations of those in power, and you have a recipe for catastrophe. The terrorists we are manufacturing in Iraq are not going to the beach, or heading off to a camping trip at the local KOA. Play the tape to the end, and one has to operate under the assumption that, sooner or later, they are going to show up here. If and when they do, they will not need to take down buildings to create mayhem.
A few hand grenades at a mall in Duluth, a car bomb in St. Louis, or a few bridges blown up in Boston, and that’s the ball game. We will see a declaration of “Red Alert,” which is martial law, the suspension of habeas corpus, the suspension of posse comitatus, and the end of the rule of Constitutional law in America. This great experiment in government of, by and for the people, with all its flaws and all its strengths, will be shelved, and a great light will be, perhaps forever, extinguished.
That is what I thought I was watching here in Boston last week. The places they were finding these items – a main railway bridge, an overpass on the city’s main highway, the hospital a few scant blocks from my apartment – are precisely the kind of soft targets that, if destroyed, would create chaos. Attacking infrastructure is one of the oldest and most effective tactics of warfare, and here it was in my neighborhood, or so I feared. I thought I was watching the Last Day, and it sickened me in a place within that words cannot touch.
This was not, of course, the case. Once images of those stupid little cartoon things made it to television screens, I was able to relax. When it came out that the whole mess was an advertising campaign for a cartoon, I thought my brain was going to leap out of my skull. The rest of the country saw those things and had a hearty laugh at our expense, especially the twenty-somethings who recognized it immediately.
So, was my fear an over-reaction? It is easy to say so in hindsight. How can anyone think one of those Lite-Brite things was a bomb? Easy. You spend a few hours watching the TV news people natter about “wiring” and “electronics” and things strapped to bridges and hospitals, but you’re not shown the actual items by those same news people. It was hours before I saw what they were talking about, and in that simple fact, we find one of the central afflictions of our wretched estate.
That whole thing last week was of the media, by the media and for the media. An advertising agency pimps a television show, and the resulting nonsense becomes fodder for the TV news shows. Like Tinkers to Evers to Chance, this was the perfect example of the media serving itself at the expense of the people. If they had shown us one of those LED boards, no one would have thought twice. It served the news media better, however, to bluster about suspicious items for hours. Better ratings, you see.
Read all of it here.