Posts Tagged “9/11/2001”

'Every decent man is ashamed of the government he lives under.' -H.L. Mencken (PsiCop original graphic)I’ve blogged a few times about the ongoing scam that is anti-terror security in the US. Their actions are frequently extreme and misdirected, and often absurdly out of proportion with the risk being dealt with. The government’s excuses for all of this ridiculousness are legion: “An abundance of caution” is typically cited as being necessary, as well as the need to be vigilant because the terrorists are everywhere.

I concede there are terrorists working to attack Americans … as well as people all over the planet. It would be insane to say there’s absolutely no danger. What I’ve consistently questioned is whether what’s being done, actually diminishes that risk, as well as whether or not the measures that are taken, are worth the small increase in safety they might provide. I’ve long agreed with experts like Bruce Schneier that it’s all just “security theater,” or useless exercises intended to make people feel safer, without actually doing anything to make them safter.

In its review of New York City’s claim of success in contending with the threat of terrorism, ProPublica has examined the city’s record, and found its claims disingenuous (WebCite cached article):

The NYPD is regularly held up as one of the most sophisticated and significant counterterrorism operations in the country. As evidence of the NYPD’s excellence, the department, its allies and the media have repeatedly said the department has thwarted or helped thwart 14 terrorist plots against New York since Sept 11.

In a glowing profile of Commissioner Ray Kelly published in Newsweek last month, for example, journalist Christopher Dickey wrote of the commissioner’s tenure since taking office in 2002: The record “is hard to argue with: at least 14 full-blown terrorist attacks have been prevented or failed on Kelly’s watch.”

The figure has been cited repeatedly in the media, by New York congressmen, and by Kelly himself. The NYPD itself has published the full list, saying terrorists have “attempted to kill New Yorkers in 14 different plots.”…

Is it true?

In a word, no.

A review of the list shows a much more complicated reality — that the 14 figure overstates both the number of serious, developed terrorist plots against New York and exaggerates the NYPD’s role in stopping attacks.

ProPublica goes over this list of NYC anti-terror successes, and points how they’re really failures. I’ll leave the details up to them to explain, but I do urge you to look at them and see it for yourself.

I’m disappointed the mass media have reported on government anti-terror activities as uncritically as they have. It’s not as though the record on a lot of these matters can’t be verified … as ProPublica demonstrated. But it seems the mass media generally aren’t interested in checking it out.

Now, if I were a committed ideologue, I’d chalk this up to some sort of “media bias” (of whichever direction). But I need not appeal to anything that subjective. I think the reason the mass media have refused to examine the government’s anti-terror track record, is because reporters (outside of ProPublica!) are — quite simply — too lazy or too incompetent to bother doing it. This is not the only field they’re uncritical about … for instance, I’ve caught media outlets reporting uncritically on the paranormal. A lack of critical thinking on the part of reporters, is just one of many aspects of modern journalism that’s severely lacking.

Photo credit: PsiCop original, containing the wisdom of H.L. Mencken.

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September 11 Photo MontageToday is the tenth anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terror attacks that killed thousands in New York City, the Pentagon, and in a field in Shanksville, PA. The mass media are running story after story about the commemorations and remembrances and lots of other aspects of this milestone. For me, this event provides an object lesson in human nature and demonstrates conclusively where we go wrong.

First, all the 9/11 conspiratorialism demonstrates that any event that involves enough details is ripe to be plucked by sanctimoniously-outraged paranoiacs of every possible stripe. Rick Green of the Hartford Courant ran a column the other day about one particular crank named Wayne Coste who stands on Hartford’s streets, railing and wailing like a street-preacher about how “9/11 was an inside job” (WebCite cached article). He uses the fact that he was an engineer as a kind of credential that — supposedly — “proves” his insane jabbering must be correct. But it doesn’t. That he has an engineering credential (in electrical engineering, not in mechanical or civil engineering or in architecture) does not automatically grant his conclusions any veracity. Lots of engineers and scientists have looked at the same evidence he has, but arrived at very different conclusions from it.

Perhaps the seminal explanation of how the World Trade Center came down — researched and written by engineers and scientists with the same kinds of credentials as Coste — was done by the venerable magazine Popular Mechanics. It’s well worth reading for anyone with any interest in this matter. Another source of information is the “9/11 conspiracies” entry at the Skeptic’s Dictionary; it lays out many of the screwy scenarios that have been proposed and picks them off one by one. Yet, in spite of these and many other such “takedowns” of all the lunatic scenarios, the wacky 9/11 conspiratorialism (aka the “Truther” movement) is alive and well and populated by all sorts of animated wingnuts like Coste.

What’s really happening with “truthers” is that their laughable “theories” grant them what they perceive as a moral license to indulge their juvenile impulses and paranoiac brain patterns. Telling them they’re wrong only enrages them more than they already are, causes the person telling them so to be viewed as a willing and integral part of the “wicked conspiracy,” and they just dig their heels in harder and cling even tighter to their insane fantasies. As R.T. Carroll of the Skeptic’s Dictionary puts it in the subtitle of his article on the matter, the “truther” movement is, indeed, very much a “war on critical thinking.”

A second lesson shown by Americans’ reaction to 9/11/2001 is their insular, even selfish reasoning. Too many people in the US view this country as the sole target of Islamofascist terror. Nothing could be further from the truth, however. Among the other large-scale terror attacks that have taken place elsewhere in the world since then:

Note, this is only a partial list. There were many more Islamofascist terror attacks in the last ten years. The point is that none of these took place in the US, and Americans were not the targets. Other people in other countries were. The Islamofascist terrorists aren’t killing people in places all over the planet just because they hate the US and our “freedom” — or whatever. They’re doing it simply because they’re murderously religiofascist; quite frankly they don’t give a crap about anything else.

The third chief lesson of the September 11, 2001 attacks, more obviously, is that militant religiofascism can become deadly, and it must be stopped. In every one of its forms. Everywhere it occurs. All the time, every time, without letup, and without granting it any excuses. It’s one thing to have metaphysical beliefs. It’s another to believe that everyone else on the planet must adopt them. And it’s another beyond that to believe one is entitled to kill in order to make that happen. This is rather obvious; we certainly didn’t need 9/11/2001 to tell us so … but apparently there are lots of folks who genuinely were unaware of this fact — and sadly, they remain so, in spite of 9/11/2001.

A proper response to such events is for believers to concede that other people are not theirs to order around or kill because of their beliefs, and just leave them alone. What’s not acceptable is to respond to murderous Islamofascism by becoming militantly Christofascist in return and then launch a Neocrusade to eliminate Islam. This Neocrusade is merely the same sort of religiofascist impulse, just manifest within a different religion and in a different country. Of course, to the Neocrusaders, 9/11/2001 itself is the reason they think they’re entitled to destroy Islam … but this belief, while widespread, is just “two wrongs make a right” thinking and is both fallacious and immoral.

In sum, let’s all stop using events like 9/11/2001 to justify insular thinking, American exceptionalism, and “getting back at Islam” because we feel entitled to. It’s time for us all to grow up, stop “reacting” emotionally every time something bad happens, and start living like the mature adults we all ought to be. And by all means, let’s stop giving in to the idea that militant Christianism is an appropriate response to militant Islamism. It’s not. They’re really just the same thing, only packaged in different wrappers.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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PsiCop alteration of Dec. 24, 1998 file photo; AP Photo.At long last, after some 9.5 years of him hiding like a craven little sissyboy coward in the wilds of the Pakistan/Afghanistan frontier — being helped by local Islamist fundamentalists — the world’s current most-famous and infamous religiofascist has died. ABC News reports he was killed in a US military strike (WebCite cached article):

Osama bin Laden, hunted as the mastermind behind the worst-ever terrorist attack on U.S. soil, has been killed, sources told ABC News.

His death brings to an end a tumultuous life that saw bin Laden go from being the carefree son of a Saudi billionaire, to terrorist leader and the most wanted man in the world.

The rest of the article describes this horrific cretin’s putrid, sniveling life, but I need not go into that here. Details of this strike — or of bin Laden’s death — are also not offered, here or in any other breaking story I’ve seen so far.

This is the sort of news that speaks for itself, so that’s what I’ll let it do.

Update: My next blog post is a follow-up to this story.

Photo credit: PsiCop alteration of original AP photo via ABC News.

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Battle of the Vorskla River (1399 - Crusade against Tatars)This morning is the 9th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terror attacks. That means it’s “put up or shut up” time for all the latter-day anti-Muslim crusaders in the US — whom I’ve dubbed “Neocrusaders” — because today is the day they’ve chosen to “send their message” that Islam is bad and only their own religion, Christianity, is good. (As though it’s news to anyone that they think this way.)

And that, in turn, means all the media outlets are going to run stories about 9/11/2001 memorials right alongside stories about these juvenile, enraged vermin who’re convinced they need to be heard. Yeah, it’s going to be fun. Toward that end, the nothing-if-not-predictable Matt Drudge posted, at the title of his Web page, the following (here’s how it looked):

Drudge's whining lament that ISLAM CASTS SHADOW OVER 9/11

Here’s a question that really needs to be asked: Who, exactly, is responsible for this “shadow”? Is it really “Islam”? I agree that Islam bears a burden for what happened on September 11, 2001. That much is incontrovertible. But I wonder if it’s not Drudge himself — and the rest of the Neocrusaders in the Religious Right — who aren’t artificially propping up Islam, 9 years later, so as to cast that shadow that he’s whining about. I wonder if they aren’t continuing to demonize Islam so as to make Christianity look better (in their own eyes) and to distract people from what they want to do (which is to reshape the US into a Christian theocracy). When they make idiotic, laughable claims such as that Islam is not a religion (see this, cached, and this, cached, and this, cached … to provide just three examples), they are telling us much more about themselves than they are about Islam or about Muslims. And what they are telling us about themselves and Christianity as they see it, is not attractive at all.

The Neocrusaders are using the anniversary of 9/11/2001 like a tool, to construct their desired Christian theocracy. It’s a sham, it’s transparent, and it’s deplorable that they would use these attacks in such a way.

The time has come for them to finally grow the fuck up and stop beating people over the head with the supposed superiority of their religion. The truth about Christianity as the Religious Right practices it — the so-called “Religion of Love” — is that it is the opposite of “loving,” and far from having having any moral superiority over any other religion.

The truth about the Religious Right is that they are insane. Completely, thoroughly, and perhaps intractably insane.

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Hagia Sofia with Cloudy SkyDuring the last 9 years, folks have proposed building lots of things at or near the site of the World Trade Center, felled during the September 11, 2001 attacks. Few, if any, of them have ever been built … for reasons that are puzzling to just about everyone on the planet. Among the proposals, however, is construction of a mosque. That sparked a bit of outrage during a Community Board 1 meeting in New York City, as reported by the New York Post (WebCite cached article):

Angry relatives of 9/11 victims last night clashed with supporters of a planned mosque near Ground Zero at a raucous community-board hearing in Manhattan.

After four hours of public debate, members of Community Board 1 finally voted 29-1 in support of the project. Nine members abstained, arguing that they wanted to table the issue and vote at a later date.

All the raging and fuming, however, was in vain, because this board cannot really stop the project even if it wished to:

The board has no official say over whether the estimated $100 million mosque and community center gets built.

I suppose the sanctimonious anger is understandable, however, ultimately it should play no role in the matter. You see, all over the world, there are religious buildings constructed at places where those religions committed atrocities; for instance, there are Christian churches in and near Jerusalem, the site of a massacre perpetrated by (Christian) Crusaders in 1099, and at Verden an der Aller, the site of a massacre of pagan Saxons by Charlemagne’s forces in 782. By this same reasoning, neither of these places … or good many others … should ever have any Christian churches, either! I wonder if these same folks would go along with that … ?

Photo credit: Luke Robinson.

Update 8/15/2010:

For the longest time I’ve had this nagging feeling there’s a great, pithy literary parallel to the situation of the so-called “mosque” (well, no, it’s not really a mosque) at (well, not really “at,” it’s a few blocks away from) the former WTC site. I just hadn’t been able to think of it.

Until tonight. It finally hit me. Not all of you will know this reference, but I’m pretty sure some of you will.

That recent literary parallel is: The monastery at Mar Terrin.

For those not familiar with this, it’s from a 5-book fantasy series called The Belgariad by the late David Eddings. In it, there had been — millennia prior to the events in the book — a race known as the Marags who lived in their own country called Maragor. They were invaded and slaughtered by a neighboring race, the Tolnedrans. Maragor was left a ruined land where no one lived (not voluntarily, anyway), haunted by the ghosts of its former inhabitants. In one of Maragor’s ruined border cities, Mar Terrin, a few Tolnedran monks settled, praying and chanting, in an effort to ease the suffering of the dead Marag souls still lurking in Maragor. In the books, the monks of Mar Terrin — who aren’t very numerous, since the vast majority of Tolnedrans prefer not even to think about how they destroyed all the Marags — are called “the conscience of Tolnedra.”

Building an Islamic cultural center near the site of the World Trade Center would effectively be very similar to that. Make that, it COULD be. I’m not sure what the motives of its builders are; I haven’t heard they wanted to build it as a way of offering some kind of appeasement to those who fell there. But their motives pretty much don’t matter, so long as they go about the process legally.

At any rate, it’s bothered me that, so far, I haven’t been able to think of that. Now I have. Not that it matters much … but there you are.

BTW … if you haven’t read these books, I heartily recommend them. The five books can be purchased grouped into a two-volume set: The Belgariad, Vol. 1 (Books 1-3) and The Belgariad, Vol. 2 (Books 4 & 5). Yeah, I know, this series is stuffed full of all sorts of obvious tropes … but it’s nonetheless a fun read. Call it a “guilty pleasure,” if you must. It was followed by a sequel series of 5, The Malloreon, which is not as good.

Eddings also wrote another, different, series of 3 books called The Elenium, now available in a single-volume set: The Elenium. That trilogy had a sequel trilogy, too, called The Tamuli, but as with The Malloreon, it’s also inferior to its predecessor. And yes, The Elenium is its own massive romp through many tropes, but a lot of readers prefer it even to The Belgariad.

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