The non-panic about a Supreme Court bomb
The Michael Gorbey case is an interesting one in the quality of press coverage afforded to it. Mr Gorbey was discovered in the American government district in January.
It is in the public domain and does not prejudice his American trial that he had a long list of convictions for violent, arms related offences. He was found walking with a loaded shotgun near the Capitol. He had four knives, a samurai sword, and a flak jacket on his person, according to reports, and was on his way to the Supreme Court. In his van was a powerful bomb and many rounds of ammunition, according to the police. Had it exploded, the American Capitol district would have experienced the effects of a very powerful street bomb.
Mr Gorbey comes from Utah, and is currently based in West Virginia. He has a girlfriend. He is a representative American. He is white. The press is therefore struggling to make the story interesting.
Imagine if he had come, say, from Jordan, and had been of Arab extraction. It may seem a fatuous point, but the way that American news media are in a place far beyond objective reporting now has been on my mind for a few days.
I want to blog further later on the blatant one-sidedness of criticising Barack Obama for the out-of context words of Pastor Jeremiah Wright, for instance, (and it's the media and the Clintons both who are doing that), and not criticising the bigoted tribalism of McCain's backer, Pastor Jim Hagee.
There is actually an intellectual history and a context to Pastor Wright's words which anyone with any sensitivity to the black community in the US would understand; there is simply indulgence of fifth monarchist anticatholic apocalypticism from white preachers.
Mr Obama, to listen to American journalists, must now either specifically deny or require to prove an association with Harry Belafonte, Louis Farrakhan, Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, Jim Right and whoever else black they can think of who isn't Whitney Houston--maybe her husband--or allow the association by imputation. That is blatantly silly and yet another example of how partial the American public relations industry dressed up as pompous whiny journalists is.
Terror as a label is applied very expediently by the media. Like questions of religion, it is not deployed fairly, and sometimes obvious stories are not reported at all. Did they report this example of a young student being harassed by agents of the government for anti-American activities, for instance?
I suppose that the question is complicated by past incompetence. So many assassins and bombers have in the past slipped through nets that those who would give their lives for the American republic become heavy-handed. Their political masters and the media are supposed to keep them in check. But they don't, and instead worsen the problems. Why?
One of the ways that 'terror' has become an issue with salience in recent years--and I do not downplay real threats, I live in London after all--is that it has become financially expedient to prepare publicly against islamist terror campaigns.
Take the State of Nebraska, for instance. New York has identified some 30 key buildings or areas that may be on the list of anyone who wanted to cause panic, and some 5000 factories, state areas and so forth, and has received federal money for doing so. So have the 'targets'. Indiana and Wisconsin--not really on anyone's list--have identified 15,737 targets between them.
These include 'Amish County Popcorn' and stand alongside 'Jay's sporting goods in Michigan' and a petting zoo in Huntsville Alabama. Jay's sporting goods at least could conceivably be threatened for all the guns and ammunition it contains; but why the anti-cruelty society offices associated with the Mule Day Parade in Columbia Tennessee? The answer is of course the anti terrorism grants that are disbursed. In 2006, these amounted to $2600000000 dollars, a figure which has now risen by a billion of dollars or so.
All of the information garnered about these vitally important national businesses has now gone on a 'national asset database' belonging to the American people via the Department of Homeland Security. Given computer technology, this surveillance-driven version of google earth accessible only to the various governments of the United States, many and several, is much more intrusive than a national ID card scheme.
Of course, Lynne Cheney's point that the US has not suffered another 9/11 in recent years on home territory may show its efficacy. In 5 years, the Department of Homeland Security has become more successful than the CIA ever was in 50, if you look at things through a 'terror threat' lens; but with what distortions, and at what cost?.
How many rights and liberties are Americans prepared to give up for security, and how many stories like that of Gorbey will just be ignored by the mainstream media before people see that 'islamism' is being absorbed into America's main business, which is business?
Specifically, America's business is clearly now the combination of government-inspired support of the defense-security industry entwined with the audience-driven banality and competitive agenda of big media groups. All this while the trade deficit, the budget deficit and debt, locked into the embrace of the bond and derivatives markets, threaten the future of the republic as a sovereign state.
The Gorbey case is very interesting indeed. If you hear about it at all, it makes one ask what America is interested in, what some Americans have become, and what is really going on since people seem perfectly capable of not panicking when a mad white man is involved, but terrified if some demented islamic culture throws up predictable loonies.