Five Years Later

closePlease note: This post was published over a year ago, so please be aware that its content may not be quite so accurate anymore. Also, the format of the site has changed since it was published, so please excuse any formatting issues.

The terrorists are winning.

I want that printed in large, block letters on the front of a t-shirt so I can wear it through airport security whenever I fly.

As you well know, today marks five years since nineteen terrorists flew two commercial airliners into the World Trade Center towers in New York, one into the Pentagon, and one into a field in Pennsylvania. It was a tragic event in our nation’s history and one that should be remembered.

That having been said, I wish everyone would stop talking about it.

A culture of fear.

“Now, the way I see it, you can’t have terrorism without terror. The strategy of terrorism is to use isolated acts of violence to instill fear and confusion into the population at large. A small number of people can incapacitate a society by leveraging our inability to understand risk.

“As long as a small group of people can inflict mass panic across a large population, the tactic itself will remain viable. One way to deal a blow to the effectiveness of terrorism is to deal with the terror itself.” – Ze Frank

The problem is, we’re accustomed to living in a culture of fear. Advertisers play upon our fears to sell us products, media outlets report with an “if it bleeds, it leads” mentality, and our government over-hypes any and every risk in order to keep us complacent and unquestioning.

“Those who desire to give up freedom in order to gain security will not have, nor do they deserve, either one.” – Benjamin Franklin

For a long time, airport security has had us all walk though metal detectors. Okay, no problem. Too bad that’s not very effective.

Now we have to x-ray our shoes. Okay, I guess I can see that. It’s a little annoying, but I admit, before 9/11, I had considered hiding my Leatherman in my shoe after it was almost confiscated in LAX (I had steel-toe boots which sometimes set the metal detector off. I was never once asked to remove my shoes. I never did hide anything in my shoes, and in hindsight, I’m glad. Had I been caught, I would have been in big trouble).

Now we can’t bring liquids or gels onto the plane. What the fuck? Water? I can’t bring my own water onto the plane? Or lip balm? Or pudding? Why do we just roll over and give up our rights? Especially since banning liquids and gels is a stupid waste of time. What’s next?

“Well, there was a shoe bomber once, so no shoes are allowed.”

“Laptop batteries keep blowing up, so no laptops are allowed.”

“The liquid bombers were going to use an iPod or similar device to detonate their bomb, so no electronics are allowed.”

“Philips just came out with a fabric that has electronics sewn into it, so no fabric is allowed. This includes clothing of any kind.”

“Every terrorist plot we have seen so far has included having multiple terrorists on each plane working together, so passengers will no longer be allowed to interact with one another.”

See how stupid it could get? All of these are plausible concerns based on actual events. But at what point would people revolt? How much comfort and freedom are we willing to trade just to feel safe (even if we aren’t)? We’re already giving up all liquids, would you give up your shoes? Would you give up your iPod?

Would you be willing to stop flying? In my opinion, that’s what it’s going to take. We need to show the TSA that their bullshit security measures aren’t protecting us, they’re turning us away.

Now, unfortunately, I had already booked my flight to Hawaii before the shit hit the fan. And, to be honest, I probably wouldn’t have changed my plans if I had known then what I know now. But I will make every effort to boycott air travel whenever possible from now on, until things are done right. TSA rules outline what is and is not allowed on a plane, but even they admit that what gets through security is at the discretion of the screener.

According to the TSA’s website, their motto is, “Vigilant, Effective, Efficient.” I don’t think so.

Quinn has it right, “I think someone should try to blow up a plane with a piece of ID, just to watch the TSA’s mind implode.”

Business as usual.

Shortly after the attacks, New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani implored the public to go back to work and to return to the lives they once lead. He said that only by going back to the way we were could we defeat the terrorists. And he’s right.

Every time we look askant at someone with dark skin, we’re giving the terrorists what they want.

Every time we ban something from being allowed on a plane, we’re giving the terrorists what they want.

Every time we sacrifice a civil liberty in the name of security, no matter how secure it actually makes us, we’re giving the terrorists what they want.

The only way to fight back is not to get worked up about it.

But that’s not good enough for some people. Some people don’t want to forget. Some people want everyone else to remember. Some people want to make September 11th a holiday (actually, it already is), erect a memorial, and build the Freedom Tower.

All right. Fine. Whatever. If you want to give the terrorists what they want, I guess I can’t stop you. I agree that there should be some sort of memorial. The Freedom Tower? Penn & Teller will set you straight on that. But Patriot Day? Fuck that. Why don’t we have a special holiday on April 19th?

What? You don’t know what’s so special about April 19th? That’s the day when 168 people were killed in another terrorist attack on U.S. soil. In fact, before 9/11, it was the deadliest act of terrorism in the nation’s history. April 19th, 1995 was the day of the Oklahoma City bombing. Aren’t their lives important? How can we give some people a holiday and not others? How many people have to die before they get a memorial? How many does it take for a tower? How many for a holiday?

“Over the past five years, we have waged an unprecedented campaign against terror at home and abroad, and that campaign has succeeded in protecting the homeland.” – George W. Bush

How many terrorist attacks against the U.S. were there in the five years prior to 9/11? Oh, right, none. How many after? Also none. Is that because our government has “waged an unprecedented campaign against terror at home and abroad,” or is it just because, honestly, terror plots are few and far between? It’s probably a little of both.

Still, Bush would have us believe that there have been many successes in “the war against terror,” and that our civil liberties are not being sacrificed in vain. The media helps to perpetuate this facade with constant reminders of what happened five years ago, and by over-reporting every incident, no matter how insignificant.

That’s not to say that the liquid bombing plot was insignificant. But let’s not forget that the plan was foiled! British authorities knew about the terrorists and their plot well in advance! They only made their move because of pressure from the U.S. government, and as a result, half of the terror cell managed to escape.

Ignoring the obvious.

It’s time to let go. It’s time to move on. If we keep looking at what has happened, we’ll forget to look at what will happen.

I know the concept of privatizing the TSA is a controversial one, and perhaps I’m not thinking it through clearly, but it seems to me that it’s a good idea.

Why not let each airport have its own security team? That way, each airport could be run according to how large of a threat they think there is. Security at GEG (Spokane International) would probably be fairly casual, whereas at LAX, JFK, and ORD (Chicago O’Hare), security would be a bitch (and rightly so).

In fact, why not let each airline be responsible for security? There are already far too many airlines on the brink of bankruptcy, this would help whittle down the competition; especially if a terrorist is able to get past a particular airline’s security checkpoint.

Are liquids going to be banned forever? If so, what happens then? Civilians will be inconvenienced and the terrorists will just find another way.

Moreover, we’re only concerning ourselves with airports. Why is that? Because the terrorists used an airplane once? What about foreign airports? What about ship yards? What about buses, trains, and subways? What about medical supplies? What about stadiums, movie theatres, and shopping malls? What about hospitals? What about hotels? What about everywhere?

“But maybe the rain is really to blame, so I’ll remove the cause, but not the symptom.” – Dr. Frank-N-Furter, The Rocky Horror Picture Show

Instead of trying to solve the problem by fixing the cause, our government would rather spend its time and our money on protecting against things that have already happened. What a horrible mode of thought. Yet we see it time and time again. Airplanes are hijacked, so airport security is beefed up. A terrorist plot is foiled that involves liquid explosives on airplanes, so all liquids must be banned from the plane.

You know how the NRA says that guns don’t kill people, people kill people? It’s pretty much the same thing with terrorism. Sports drinks don’t blow up planes, terrorists do. So why the hell is the TSA so obsessed with looking for knives, guns, and bombs? I mean, yeah, it’s important to stop those things from making their way onto the plane, but it’s also imperative that we stop the terrorists from ever getting on the plane.

Take a quick read through this article about Israeli airport security. It’s interesting to consider that, because of how Israeli security is handled, no flight leaving Ben Gurion has ever been hijacked.

Nothing to fear but fear itself.

What happened five years ago was a terrible tragedy. Many tears have been shed over it and I suspect many more will. We should never forget that nearly three thousand innocent people were killed. But we shouldn’t be reminded about it every day, or even every year. We shouldn’t let it be a dark cloud hanging over us. Just as you must occasionally ignore a child, we must not give the terrorists what they want: our attention and our fear.

“Whether we like it or not, terrorist attacks on Americans are now part of the global reality. They will continue to happen. Many places around the globe have had to deal with a similar reality for years. India, Ireland, England, Spain, Russia, to name a few. In many cases, these societies have pulled together and not allowed isolated acts of violence to tear at their fiber. Like disease and the forces of nature, it’s a risk that we have to rationally come to terms with. The government’s responsibility is to make sure that fear and terror are not disproportionate to the reality of the situation.” – Ze Frank.

We must demand that our government change its foreign policy — the reason why al-Qaeda launched the attack — as well as take a proactive stance against terrorism that does not take away from our civil liberties. The president must be forthright with the public and stop trying to scare us into complacency.

But try telling that to three million people. I fear not the threat of terrorism, but the threat of my own government. I submit a quote, which I hope can make its way into the national conscience, “I do not fear evil itself. What I fear is evil purporting to be good.”

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  1. Fan-fucking-tastic post. Bravo.

    I was actually quite surprised when I took a train for the firs time that they not only don’t have ANY security measures, but they also don’t check your tickets! 🙂

  2. Feel free to Digg it.

    They don’t check your tickets, huh? I’m going to have to ride the train more often. -)

  3. I have commented on my blog about yours.

  4. Phoenix

    “Those who desire to give up essential freedom in order to gain temporary security will not have, nor do they deserve, either one.” – Benjamin Franklin

    I live in Japan, so I’m missing out on all the terror at home. Here, we only have the constant threat of earthquakes and volcanoes, and more recently, North Korea shooting nuclear missiles at us.

    No one here lives in fear though. Hmm. Maybe it’s a cultural thing.

    Remember that part in that Michael Moore’s movie, the animation that talked about how Americans live in constant fear? Always have, always will? Yeah.

    Now, you know I hate stupid people. That’s established. But there’s one thing I hate more than stupid people: people that try to KEEP people stupid. Like, American media, for example.


    Ze Frank needs to be on national television. If they had a five-minute segment on all major networks at the end of the day, just Ze doing his thing… “Ze Tucks You In” or “Ze Says Goodnight” or whatever. Him doing his calm, rational explanation of why we are the way we are… it would do a world of good.

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