Culture of Fear

Tuesday morning, you may have heard, there was an explosion in a maintenance shed at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport here in the Big Peach. It killed the power to Concourse D, so officials evacuated the folks there to Concourse E. When the power was restored, everybody went on their merry ways.

This photo shows the ATL airport evacuation in 2006, but that didn't stop many folks -- including local media -- from tweeting it out on Tuesday.
This photo shows the Atlanta airport evacuation prompted by a computer glitch in 2006, but no small number of Tweets — including some from local media — claimed it was a photo of Tuesday’s evacuation of Concourse D to Concourse E.

But lawdamursy, did Twitter ever light up. I used “Atlanta airport” and “Hartsfield” as my search terms … and you seriously wouldn’t believe all the “OMG WHAT IS GOING ON IN ATLANTA” tweets. Especially after some poor soul thought a minor explosion at the airport would make a good cover for calling in a bomb threat to the state capitol. Insert face palm here. The local media did a fairly decent job, actually, but that still didn’t stop dozens of tweets claiming things like a “massive” explosion, the entire airport was evacuated, a huge bomb blast, a full ground stop, we’re under attack again and a suspicious device found on Concourse D. None of that was true.

What was true was the fear. We’ve created a culture of fear. My beloved colleagues in Teh Media share much of the blame for that, along with folks who haven’t moved from the front of their television sets in the last 30 years.

My, but what a terrified bunch of whimpering wusses we’ve become. Seriously, I really laugh out loud at all the tough guy patriots who support all the gaping holes that have been ripped into our civil liberties to “protect” us from Evil Muslim Terrorists. Oh wait, that’s redundant.

“They” may all hate us for our liberties, but they’ve hardly touched us. I probably won’t be visiting Damascus or Kabul anytime soon, but I have no worries about walking around in broad daylight at airports and such here, or even running in marathons, if that were something I’d ever do.

Still, all those liberties “they” hate so much are rapidly circlin’ the drain. Before we know it, we’ll be just like “them,” so they shouldn’t hate us anymore after that.

And that’s got more than a few people up in arms, so to speak, although folks aren’t always all on the same page about that.

You should see Rand Paul’s latest fundraising letter. Rand and his daddy Ron are two peas in a Paul pod, a pair of the most prolific fear-mongers around. Neither have any qualms at all about spreading widely debunked talking points or just making stuff up. Not content to stir the Scary Muslims pot, Rand is all in a tizzy about the NSA “scandal” (there’s that word again) and goes after the Obama administration, using some tried and true buzzwords like Benghazi, the IRS and the Boston bombings. Then he says

What’s truly dangerous is if you and I allow this to go on.

How long until these spying capabilities suffer some “mission creep” and they start using the GPS feature in your phone to track whether or not you go to gun shows?

What if you go to the “wrong” church? Or read emails from or attend the rallies of the “wrong” candidate.

What if you go to McDonalds a little “too much?”

How long until Big Brother tries to “fix” you?

Notice how it’s only stuff conservatives do that could be targeted under Rand’s definition of “mission creep”. Oddly enough, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont (an actual socialist) is also pretty upset about the revelations of Edward Snowden, but I doubt he’d be using these particular talking points in a fund-raising letter.

Really, though, those are the wrong questions. So are questions like is Snowden a traitor or a hero? A leaker or a whistleblower? Brave or cowardly? An idiot who went running to that bastion of free speech, China, or a smart guy who figured the Chinese would really like him?

While Republicans are gleefully searching for a way to make this Barack Obama’s impeachable offense, Obama’s Justice Department launches a criminal investigation into a guy who told the media what we all knew anyway. Meanwhile, Teh Media is off to turn up every Reddit post, gamer profile and high school yearbook signature the guy ever made, because clearly, as one of my colleagues told me earlier this week, “He is the show.”

Um, no. The show is that we live in a crazy world where we’re either under attack or we’re not, where we’re the only nation with any integrity or we’re the scummiest of the scum, where we’re a city on a hill or about to get our asses blown off the hill. One from Column A, one from Column B. And neither tell even a fraction of the real story.

All.The.Wrong.Questions.

First, who among us is surprised that the government is data mining? That’s right, none of us. And if any terrorists are, then they’re pretty stupid terrorists. And don’t even get me started on the faux outrage some congress critters, like Sen. Paul for example, are drumming up.

Besides, Facebook and Google probably collect AND DISTRIBUTE more data on our online activities than the government does, not to mention Amazon and eBay. Yeah, we’re all being watched, all the time. Or, as a colleague of mine posted Wednesday morning on his Facebook page:

Two items that I included in a gift guide (which I never posted on Facebook) have since popped up in the ads on my page. Shocked (shocked!!!) that our online activity is being monitored.

And what about all the little tantrums over the government outsourcing its spying to the spy industry? Really? Nobody saw this coming? Halliburton, anyone? We outsource our security, our military, our intelligence … it’s just one more slog in the slow slide to privatization of our capitalism-run-amok country. Think about it. That’s what all this drive to reduce the size of government is about. It’s not to save money — it’s to make more money for the folks who already have more than enough. These companies aren’t in business to to help anybody but themselves, and of course, to line the pockets of their executives and shareholders. Just like, oh, say, insurance companies.

Welcome to the new CSA. The Corporate States of America.

But those aren’t the right questions either. Where we’ve been heading and where we are have been obvious to everyone but those aforementioned folks stuck in front of their televisions for three decades and maybe some of the more uncurious of my beloved colleagues in Teh Media.

Here’s the question: How the hell do we get out of this mess we’ve gotten ourselves into?

No, the answer isn’t “Stop being afraid.” There’s nothing wrong with fear. We run into trouble with what we do when we’re afraid.

Changing the dynamics starts with being mindful of who we are and where we are, taking everything in and not reacting to the first thing we hear. No more OMG IS ATLANTA UNDER ATTACK tweets. Just listen. Be part of the world, not a reaction to it.

If someone comes along and shoots an arrow into your heart, it’s fruitless to stand there and yell at the person. It would be much better to turn your attention to the fact that there’s an arrow in your heart. ― Pema Chödrön

For the record, no, Edward Snowden is not a traitor or a hero, a leaker or a whistleblower. He is neither brave nor cowardly, an idiot nor incredibly astute. He’s a human being who made choices and took some actions. That’s it. That’s all any of us are.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Photo ©2006 Tim Bond
KC Wildmoon

KC Wildmoon

KC Wildmoon is an accidental journalist who never even bothered to finish school since her accounting major was incredibly boring. Instead, she opted for being a minor rock star and annoying as many government officials as possible on a regular basis. After 16 years at CNN, she's now doing forensic journalism for Ireland-based Storyful.