“So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.”
These words from FDR, dating back to his 1933 inaugural address at the height of the Great Depression-era of desperation, are quite famous enough, but take on new significance in a post-9/11 and post-Sandy Hook-era of undue panic and fear of death and killing around every corner.
As usual, everything is blown completely out of all proportion.
Instead, the shock of response from authorities themselves has become an equal or even greater concern than the relatively rare acts of terrorists and school shooters.
Is our sense so lost that we can never find it again?
Take a look at what happened at a middle school in Winter Haven, Florida just days ago:
The disturbing event happened early in the school day at Jewett Middle Academy on Thursday, November 13th, 2014. Without explanation, the principal announced at 9:00 a.m. that the school was being put into lockdown.
Moments later, police officers swept through the school, classroom-by-classroom, with weapons drawn. The bewildered children and teachers actually thought they were in real danger.
“We actually thought that someone was going to come in there and kill us,” said 7th grader Lauren Marionneaux to FOX affiliate WTVT.
The event was an “active shooter drill,” which are becoming commonplace in America’s public schools, with varying degrees of realism and notification. Ostensibly promoted as a way to thwart school shootings, the controversial and dangerous drills also subtly shape the perspectives of young, impressionable minds.
The teams of officers were not carrying prop firearms. The weapons were real and they were loaded with real ammunition, police confirmed to the Washington Post.
Frightened children began to send text messages to their parents, sending them into a panic. No parent had been notified that the dramatic event was going to occur, nor asked permission, nor granted consent. The first official explanation came in an email, on the day after the drill. [emphasis added]
One student at this overly-realistic shooter drill told the press: “I’m panicking because I’m thinking that it’s a legitimate shooter is coming, that something bad is happening at the school.”
There is no doubt these impressionable school children, like thousands of others across the country, are being conditioned with fear. The students and teachers alike were not even warned that a drill would take place.
Police and school officials defended the move to keep the drill secret and burst into classrooms and hallways with the school unaware, ultimately claiming: “It really is to protect the children.”
“It’s very important that, when you do your drill, you do it without everyone knowing that it’s a drill,” Winter Haven Police Chief Charlie Bird said.
Apparently, practicing like you play is a good enough reason to scare the living crap out of everyone.
The Real Terrorists: Who Watches the Watchers?
But is this really for the greater good? Ancient wisdom says we must always ask the question: Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? or Who Watches the Watchers?
Today, we must also question whether the drills and training for catastrophic– but ultimately rare – events such as terrorist attacks and school shootings are helping police, responders and the public to prepare for the worst; or instead, whether we now face a problem of ipso facto, where the thing itself (the response) is a greater threat than the original problem as a source of fear and terror across the land.
The fear of terrorism during the Bush Administration – in the wake of 9/11 – was all too palpable. And, for anyone paying attention, it was also clearly goaded on by deliberate fearmongers benefitting from bumps in the polls and profiting from contracts for more war, more counterterrorism infrastructure and training, and for a while, some pretty sensational life-like television drama.
Yet, years after the fog of terrorism, it emerged that nearly every terrorist plot in the United States since 9/11 was literally provoked by an FBI informant. The very terrorists that made headlines were entrapped by the feds and often given money and weaponry to carry out their attack. Project Censored reported in 2012:
The agency has developed a network of nearly 15,000 spies to infiltrate various communities in an attempt to uncover terrorist plots. However, these moles are actually assisting and encouraging people to commit crimes. Many informants receive cash rewards of up to $100,000 per case.
Did you ever see director Terry Gilliam’s absurd but prophetic 1985 film Brazil? The movie depicts a scenario in a total nightmare police state, during which the government lost track of whether terrorist bombings were even being carried out by actual terrorists, or instead were set up by counter terrorism informants posing as terrorists (see clip). Sound familiar?
Similarly, the gun control lobby has been caught fudging statistics and funding media reports to exaggerate the danger of school shootings. While media coverage give the distinct impression that the level of violence and mass murder is steadily increasing, a sober look at the numbers reveals that the number of actual school shooting victims has remained fairly constant – at or around 45 deaths per year – since 1992.
The real number of victims of false perception and irrational fear, however, is much greater. Media-driven fear casts a much wider net than any number of evil doers ever can.
The statistical odds of dying in a terrorist attack are so ridiculously low that, not only does it not come even close to ranking among the most common causes, at 1-in-3,500,000 it is literally only slightly more likely than being struck by lightning. And those are conservative numbers.
Yet, the odds of being preemptively screened at an airport on suspicion that you might be a terrorist are nearly 100% for any travelers not wealthy enough to arrange for a private plane. And the chances of being filmed by a surveillance camera or watched by teams of undercover spies hired by the federal government in the wake of 9/11 are great enough to approach inevitability.
Likewise, the statistical odds of your child dying in school shooting, according to a Department of Education and Secret Service study, is less than 1-in-a-million.
These deaths are still very much a tragedy, but we cannot let society shake us out of our senses and shake us down for more irrational spending on (false) security and increased government power.
Of course, the definition of terrorism makes clear that it is the resulting effect of terrorizing which creates victims of fear and upset, whether or not the cause itself is justified:
So, who are the real terrorists?