Monday, October 29, 2001

Week of 10/29/2001

Halloween’s Deadly Tricks
- by David Matthews 2

"We fear things in proportion to our ignorance of them." - Livy

They came pouring out of homes and parties. They clogged streets trying desperately to escape the horror. Some tried to load their cars up with as many personal belongings as they could. Others simply fled into the streets, covering their mouths with wet rags to avoid breathing any of the poisonous gas. Police stations were besieged with panicked citizens. Telephone switchboards were jammed with frantic callers trying to get information, as well as doctors and nurses calling hospitals to volunteer their services to areas affected by the attack.

Is this a hypothetical response to some new act of terrorism?

No, the response to this attack was very real.

The attack, however, was not.

Nor was the attack either "new" or the work of terrorists. These were actual accounts of people responding to the 1938 radio broadcast of H.G. Wells’ story "The War Of The Worlds", where New York and New Jersey were "destroyed" by alien invaders. But even thought it was a wonderful piece of radio theatrics… and a cheesy one even by their standards… its effect on the masses surprised everyone.

Halloween has always been seen as sort of the release valve for our fears, where we emerge ourselves in horror movies and ghost stories and haunted houses. And by viewing or hearing or reading about that which scares the crap out of us, we quite often feel a little bit better.

But this time of the year has also been full of haunting stories of a different kind. Stories of terror from the media, or from our politicians, or from special interest groups. People who don’t really want us to feel better… in fact, they quite often want us to feel so scared of our own shadows that we’ll be begging for their help.

Of course, it helps that election season is just a week or so away from Halloween that these spinmeisters can create all of these "tricks" tailor-made for government "treats." It’s a case of simple cause-and-effect for these folks. They create the need, then offer us the solution… and quite often only one solution… for us to take.

Our current Anthrax scare is no different in approach. Deadly? Oh yes it is. Even more wider-spread that once believed? No doubt.

But let’s get brutally honest here and start to put things in a little more realistic perspective. Unless you happen to work in the mail facilities that handle mail going to the major networks or to Washington DC, or if you happen to be working for either the major news services or the federal government, you’re probably NOT going to get Anthrax. The pig bastards responsible for this form of bio-terrorism just do not have the means to spread Anthrax to every citizen in America.

Nor to they have to, as has been evident in the hysteria surrounding this scare. These pig bastards really put some thought into where to send their poison to generate the maximum amount of terror. After all, what better way to generate mass hysteria than to hit members of the mass media?

And as much as we would not want to give these pig bastards the satisfaction, unfortunately, their efforts have succeeded. The minute the Postmaster General put his tail between his legs and publicly said that no piece mail is secure, and that the general public should take measures to protect themselves from Anthrax infestation, the terrorists won.

Adding to this hysteria are all of the numerous counts of fake Anthrax threats. Anti-abortion terrorists have taken it upon themselves to send threatening letters to hundreds of women’s clinics all over America with suspicious white powder in them. A mail facility intercepted a letter addressed to radio talk show host Neal Boortz with a suspicious white powder in them. No doubt from one of his not-so-cheerful "admirers".

And it has spread to the most absurd cases of outright hysteria. See some white powder on the table? Call the Center for Disease Control, get that table salt or coffee creamer tested! One boy in Cobb County, Georgia was arrested for simply putting foot powder in his shoes. Even though it was witnessed by other students, the hysteria was more than enough for the government to charge that boy with trying to commit an act of terrorism!

Look, folks, there is a difference between being vigilant and being paranoid. A person who is aware of what is going on and thinks things through is vigilant. A person who simply and mindlessly gives in to their fears is paranoid.

It is very easy to surrender to the hysteria generated by members of the media and our government. They are all power-mongers who don’t like being threatened by anything, much less a bunch of pig bastard terrorists. But that doesn’t mean that WE should give into their hysteria and further aid those pig bastard terrorists.

So the Postmaster General says that the mail isn’t safe. Hey, the mail has NEVER been safe! Our mail system has always been vulnerable to thieves looking to steal Social Security checks or credit cards. I’m more afraid of getting a paper-cut from opening junk mail than from getting anything even remotely resembling Anthrax.

Wash my hands after opening mail? Why not just jump into the shower? Emerge myself in antibacterial soap, scrub every pore of my body with steel wool, shave off all of my body hair, and seal myself into a plastic bubble? Guaranteed that will save me from any kind of biological threat, including contact with the biggest biological threat of them all – other human beings.

Look, the big thing about terrorism that people tend to forget is that it is mostly a psychological game. They don’t have to do anything to you in order for them to get to you. It is no different than the mind games carried out by members of the media and our politicians around this time of the year. The only difference is that terrorists don’t offer a ready-made government solution at the end of their threats.

Halloween has long been considered a time of celebration. It is a chance not only to remember the dead but to also celebrate the living. What a pity it is to know that our seasonal fascination with lost souls can be used against us not only for the sake of generating more need of government, but also simply for the sake of generating fear.

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