“I’m so bored. I hate my life.” - Britney Spears

Das Langweilige ist interessant geworden, weil das Interessante angefangen hat langweilig zu werden. – Thomas Mann

"Never for money/always for love" - The Talking Heads

Sunday, July 02, 2006

the curious case of the terrorist who barked in the night

One of the truly astonishing things about the past five years, all things considered, is the de-emphasis on crimes that make the Bush administration feel threatened. So, once it was apparent that the FBI was too disorganized to solve the anthrax case, the case disappeared from the news, generating less stories in all, than, say, the prosecution of Michael Jackson. And once it became apparent that the Bush administration strategy in Afghanistan was not aimed at destroying Al Qaeda, but preserving a remnant of it (terrorism-on-tap, a cynical and criminal tactic), the press fell into line, invariably describing Osama bin Laden as ‘on the run,’ and pretending that his whereabouts are a deep dark mystery. It is less deep and dark a mystery than what VP Cheney was doing at that ranch in Texas last autumn. And Osama bin Laden seems far less on the run than your average Hollywood starlet, always having to jet off to some new location. Al Qaeda’s structures are alive and vigorous in Pakistan, and have aligned with a whole network of Islamicist parties there. In the rural areas, they provide what little governance there is, if Stephen Coll’s articles in the New Yorker are to be believed.

However, delusions must be maintained. And so, for example, for the last two years, the London bombings were routinely described as home grown stunts – al Qaeda merely providing a distant, media accessed model. Within a week after the bombings it was apparent that this was nonsense, but only now is it starting to be acknowledged as nonsense in the press – hence this Peter Bergen article.

Of course, the governments that intentionally aborted military action against al Qaeda in the winter of 2001 and spring of 2002, preserving a manipulable threat to accomplish their other, unspeakably shabby foreign policy goals are playing a difficult game – on the one hand, periodically hyping the threat to garner support, and on the other hand, playing down the history of their non-response to the threat, in order to cover up their practical collusion in terrorism. The trick is as old as the bribed cop -- in order to maintain a lucrative beat, one needs a certain quota of arrests and a lot of bluff about law and order, while at the same time one is quietly bribed by the more prosperous criminal. The Blair government, which foolishly pitched in to help the U.S. in Iraq – unlike, say, the cleverer Labour government under Harold Wilson, which managed to avoid sending troops to Vietnam – recklessly made itself a target. In order to avoid the obvious – if British troops weren’t in Basra, there would have been no London bombing – we are fed ridiculous stories of self-administered teen mesmerism in today's version of the Victorian opium den -- the radical mosque (gasp) in which the fiends gather to denounce Israel and such. Issuing from these palaces of wickedness, we are then supposed to believe that boys who can 't get it together enough to hold down jobs as pizza delivery men are suddenly Hollywood like in their coordinated activity, coming up with arms and tactics themselves. Of course, as in the Miami case, sometimes you have to actually create the home grown radicals out of home room dropouts – but you have to produce your quota of threats from the materials on hand, no?


The pattern here is evident – when an event occurs in the “war on terrorism’ world, the first instincts of the press are to transmit the official line, no matter how cockeyed and contradictory that line is. Slowly, page A19 stories eat away at that line. Finally, two to three years later, we read some revelation that the official line was self serving bullshit. Luckily for the power structure, by that time, the majority of people have turned off. We live in the era of time lapse schizophrenia – the hottest news is always two years out of date.

This is the opposite of what we are usually told by the media theorists, who love to go on about the cultural meaning of reality shows and how the media has invaded reality and blah blah blah. Rather, it is a retreat to a pre-Vietnam mindset in which the interests of the state, or the pirate crew that roosts, at the moment, in the executive branch, is abjectly colluded in by media companies. Actually, the media era has passed – the era of independent media. The summit of that was in the sixties and seventies. The era in which the media organizations and their technostructure exerted such a monopolistic pull in the market that they were relatively insulated from the economic pressure that could be brought against them by the government. Instead of media taking over reality, reality has taken over the media. The absurd ROI expectations of investors and the fragility of once secure demographics, the new competition posed by international groups, like Murdoch’s News Corp, combine to exert an effect on the media corporations similar to the effect of Japanese car companies on Detroit. The NYT, the Washington Post, the network TV news programs really have, actually, no immediate need to fear the usual mob of angry rightwingers – that market demo is already wrapped up by Fox, Hustler, Guns and Ammo and the Southern Baptist Messenger. Guntoters in Valdosta Georgia aren’t going to stop buying those beautiful diamond necklaces advertised in the NYT Sunday Style section if the Times doesn’t apologize for revealing that the government is looking into our bank accounts. No, their fear is all about the extended well being of the corporation. Surely some Valdosta tv station is owned by a corporation with ties to the NYT. Michael Wolff, the New York media critic, has long contended that we are looking in the wrong places for answers to the curious paralysis of the media in the last five years, its compliance with the transparent lies of the current administration. The answer isn’t in this or that ‘wanker’ – the answer is in the holdings of the media corporations and their constant need for positive interaction with the government in licensing, in preventing competition from gaining entry to various markets in which they hold quasi-monopoly power, in the need, eventually, to get lucrative slices of the internet. In, another words, a dimension that is not filmed and is barely reported on, and that filters into the pre-emptive censorship of everything written in the press or put on tv. I know this first hand – I have often written reviews for conservative leaning newspapers, and I confine those reviews, mostly, to non-political topics. Or, stumbling onto politics, I liberally water down any smart ass crack I may want to make. And then the editor waters down any further remarks that have escaped me.

All the more reason, then, to fight tooth and nail against the executive usurpation of foreign policy. The executive prefers to act in a time frame in which the people are deprived of the information necessary to judge their actions. This is the temptation to which executive power invariably succumbs. Take away that power, reinvigorate the Congressional role as a balance on the executive, paralyze the ability of the War Department to shape U.S. policy, and we would have a more peaceful and prosperous country.

PS - there's a story in the Nouvelle Obs that will get no airplay in the US. Here is the first graf.

The death of Abu Mousab al Zarqawi, the former head of Al Qaeda, Iraq, which the American army has been congratulating itself upon, may owe nothing to the GI search. One of Zarqawi's wives, Oum Mahammed, told an italian magazine on July 2 that her huasband was 'sold to the Americans in exchange for a pause in the hunt for OBL, for he had become 'too powerful' in the eyes of Al Qaeda."

Myself, I don't believe her. I have doubts that OBL is really being 'tracked' that severely. But it is one voice heard from -- and of course this will not ever turn up on the American radar, although many a bogus D.C. expert, knowing nothing about the case, will be gravely quoted.


Le Colonel Chabert said...

nice post. The quid pro quo between gov and media has also become especially clear in the BBC's descent into absolute lapdog obedience due to the need for protection from murdoch's increased pressure and sway.

unrelated: did you see this map of the blogsphere? thought you might like it:


new york pervert said...

roger--this is wonderfully idiotic, as stupid a story as I've read in the Times since the Henke chronicles (I realize that's quite recently), or at least it's the first one in 3 weeks that echoes the same line of reasoning as hers did when she insisted that New York and Washington were top priorities in security projects, indeed quite unchanged despite 40% funding slashing. The 'Bin Laden department' made people 'uncomfortable', so someone may need to do a new name drawing thing. I still think whatever it is should help redeem Harriet Myers, that poor lady, yeomanry on patrol if ever I saw it. Or maybe it should just be Zizek, a personage who is such a movie buff he has morphed into becoming a series of short-subject films himself. He might be nominated in all categories of short subjects at the Oscars, and still nobody will care about that award except to get it over with (they may have already eliminated it.)


roger said...

Mr. NYP -- ah, what can I say, man? Dissing the Oscar on the 4th -even the ever intrepid LI won't venture that far!

I hope you do something fun for the holiday. In the interest of turning this site into a Bazooka Joe like pit of patriotic info, here's a 4th of July fact: did you know that Jefferson preferred shoe laces to buckles? Yes, our third president picked up the habit of wearing shoe laces in pre-revolutionary Paris (for those who knew the signs, the street sans culottes wearing those shoe laced shoes should have been a warning) and brought it over to these here states.

I like your crusade to rehabilitate Harriet Myers, partly cause I love the name Harriet. I wonder what she is doing now?

new york pervert said...

'I wonder what she is doing now?'

Well now, I think that li'l lady went raht back to woik--the very next day (or at least that same weekend)! But even if she di'n't, I know in my heart how much she is helping others...

I, too, like Harriet, it sounds like a bird somehow. I went in late 2002 to take a look at the rambling old Nelson house on Camino Palmero in Hollywood. It's close to beautiful Nichols Canyon. They lived there, and the house for the set of 'Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet' was based on it.

I'm not doing anything special, but I will have a fine time doing what I plan to, and hope you have a good holiday as well. The powers-that-be really got fucked up with this one, because 'July 4th' is what people are going to call it, not Independence Day, so that redoing it for 3-day weekends has not been an easy sell thus far. You still can't have July 4th on July 3rd--even with Dick Cheney's look of being totally crackers.

new york pervert said...

That was Runyon Canyon, full of dogwalkers. Nichols Canyon is west, between Runyon and Laurel. I see that a geographical mistake bothers me far more than other kinds of errors.

Le Colonel Chabert said...

"Yes, our third president picked up the habit of wearing shoe laces in pre-revolutionary Paris (for those who knew the signs, the street sans culottes wearing those shoe laced shoes should have been a warning) and brought it over to these here states. "

And we lived to see shoelaces in basketball shoes become counterrevolutionary, because prisoners are forbidden to wear them.

roger said...

ah, LCC, the polyvalence of the humble shoe lace seems to escape the crowd of interpreters eagerly finding Zizekian messages in Matrix! My source for shoe lace info, Edward Tenner, claims that Europeans tend to tie parallel laces across the instep, compared to the American cowboy's big bold X -ing. And, of course, there is the not tying of shoelaces at all -- a hip hop fashion that is what, 30 years old now? I favor it myself, sometimes, but unfortunately more out of absent mindedness than as a gesture to fuck the man.
There is something republican (small r) about shoelaces. Charles II replaced the good Cromwellian shoe lace with buckles as soon as he came back to England.

Tenner's shoe lace passage is only the start of a more considered essay on the techniques of walking, the rise of the sandal, and Mauss' theory of swimming (less heralded than the theory of giving). Might have some good, peripheral stuff for your notion of the rogue novel.

Le Colonel Chabert said...

"a hip hop fashion that is what, 30 years old now"

yes, this is what I meant; leaving them open if one has them at all or not having them at all; it derives from the way bball shoes are worn by prisonerzs, because they are not allowed shoelaces. goes with the saggy waist and underwear showing; in prison you can't wear a belt.

Le Colonel Chabert said...

someone needs to write a history of closures in clothing , frogs, button-buttonholes, laces with eyes, laces without eyes, wrap sash. I am sure there is reflected the the development of east-west divide in this....;^)