The recent rash of terror warnings shows just how shoddy mainstream journalism has really become. Every major news network in the country ran the very same story of the “alleged” communication between Osama bin Laden and terrorist mastermind Abu Musab al Zarqawi without producing a scintilla of corroborating evidence. They simply flooded the newswires, airwaves and TVs with unsubstantiated, Pentagon-inspired gibberish and left out any supporting facts. The clear intention was to give a boost to Bush’s flagging polling numbers, but the effort fell flat and the media’s credibility took another well-deserved hit.
It’s not enough that American’s are forced to endure a daily infusion of the Crawford Fuehrer; his mangled English blaring on the morning radio, and his mottled visage peering out from the evening news programs. Now, we’re getting a daily dosage of uncorroborated theory, innuendo and conjecture masquerading as news. Promoting the war has become a full time job for America’s media and they’re getting more desperate every day. While Bush’s numbers dither towards the abyss, the press keeps dredging up the overused images of fear and intimidation hoping for some relief. Fortunately, the strategy is failing, which suggests that more aggressive measures may be in the offing. If the media can’t manage public perceptions then Rumsfeld’s “private contractors” will probably lend a hand.
Recent polls indicate the tenuousness of Bush’s present standing with the American people. In late Feb an AP poll showed that Bush’s approval rating was hovering at 46% compared with 50% just a month earlier. It also showed that his support on the issue of Iraq was down to 40%, the danger zone for politicians.
These findings were confirmed by the latest Zogby poll that showed that only 39% of Americans still believe the war “was worth it.” What is striking about these results is that in a matter of weeks attitudes have shifted dramatically from 52%, a full 13% margin of difference. “Iraq fatigue” is setting in and the media blather has had little affect on the public’s outlook. All the cheerleading for Bush’s vaunted trip “fence-mending” trip to Europe, and all the hoopla surrounding the Iraqi elections have amounted to nothing. The policy in Iraq is on the ropes. No one understands these downward trends better than the current poll-driven White House. The ground is being cut out from beneath Bush and he needs to turn things around or chart a different course.
Enter the Terrorists
The reappearance of the terror-duo was intended to send tremors through the country and whip up support for Bush. So far, that hasn’t happened. As a matter of fact, the threatening, unshaved mien of bin Laden is creating less distress than the George W’s plans for social security.
The fairytale collaboration between America’s dark nemesis bin Laden and his newest recruit Zarqawi is pure fluff; and although more than 150 stories appeared on Google covering the topic, not one article provided the name of ANY government official who would attest to the authenticity of the story.
Why should they? No one wants to stake his or her personal credibility on this claptrap. The “anonymous” official that most of the articles refer to is undoubtedly some third-rate fiction writer currently grinding out fantasies for right-wing think tanks.
The bin Laden al-Zarqawi Nexus
First, a little history: After the previous warning which was issued two weeks ago, I examined over 20 of the more than 150 articles dealing with this new and completely unsubstantiated alliance between al Zarqawi and bin Laden. Keep in mind that bin Laden has not been seen since the bombing of Tora Bora more than 3 years ago and, to this day, there has never been a verifiable sighting of al Zarqawi in Iraq (including the time he supposedly spent organizing the resistance in Falluja) Whether al Zarqawi is simply a “black-ops” creation of US Intelligence is simply unknowable. We do know, however, that perpetuating his existence coincides nicely with the Bush strategy to link Iraq to the war on terror. We also know that the Bush team invoked terror alerts 5 times in the run up to the presidential election with John Kerry, causing a sudden up tick in his polling results whenever Homeland security sounded the alarm. The question of whether or not the alerts are used for political purposes is largely a moot point. Most Americans now believe it is so.
The articles (of a bin Laden and al Zarqawi collaboration) are interesting reading for anyone curious about the well-oiled machinery of the state-run propaganda system. None of the articles confirms these basic points:
1) Whether or not bin Laden and al Zarqawi are still alive.
2) Any verification that communication between them in fact took place.
3) Any names of public officials who were willing to stand on record (or offer their names) in support of the allegations.
Without exception the stories read like dime-store murder mysteries; long on fear-producing hyperbole and short on facts.
The flurry of (nearly identical) articles speaks volumes about a media system so far out-of-whack that every bullhorn in the country can be employed to broadcast complete gobbledygook. The networks simply ingest whatever is fed to them from the White House and then regurgitate it verbatim on the evening news. Despite the endless terror warnings, the likelihood of falling prey to Islamic radicals is so slight it hardly bears mentioning. The average citizen is at greater risk crossing a busy street than he is from a terrorist attack.
Paving the way for an attack
This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be concerned about the potential for another major attack. Quite the contrary. On February 17, 2005 Bush’s top military and Intelligence officials warned that the terrorists are “regrouping for possible new strikes against the United States.” In a well-choreographed performance before the Senate, Donald Rumsfeld, Porter Goss (CIA) and Robert Mueller (FBI) provided grim testimony about the increased probability of an attack within the country with weapons of mass destruction. New CIA Director Goss added darkly, “It may only be a matter of time before Al Qaida or other groups attempt to use chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear weapons;” a point that met with general approval from his fellow officials. Needless to say, no supporting evidence was provided for any of the group’s disturbing claims.
So, Bush’s comments concerning bin Laden and al Zarqawi have to be considered in view of this build up of terror warnings. It may be that the warnings are genuine (albeit, unspecific) or, of course, it could be something more sinister.
Typically, the Bush PR team prefers to float ideas through the normal channels before taking positive action. They like to use the power of suggestion by alerting the public to some nebulous threat before anything physically takes place. It’s a good way to keep people on edge and, thus, compliant. In this case, it’s impossible to know whether the current warnings should be taken seriously or are just more of the same fear mongering. Even so, we can see that the various levers of repression have already been put in place; (Homeland Security Bill, Patriot Act, and National Intelligence Reform Act) clearing the path for an American police state whenever the ruling party sees fit. All that’s needed now is a tripwire to activate the new security regime that has been passed by the Congress over the last four years and, Voila, the new world order. The catalyst could be anything from an economic meltdown to a random explosion in a metropolitan area. But whatever the trigger may be, you can bet that the Bush team will be ready for a major crackdown.
But we should consider the comments of Justin Raimondo, author of “A Fascist America: How Close are We?” (Antiwar .com):
“We are not yet in the grip of a fully developed fascist system, and the conservative movement is far from thoroughly neoconized. But we are a single terrorist incident away from all that: a bomb placed in a mall or on the Golden Gate Bridge, or a biological attack of some kind, could sweep away the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and two centuries of legal, political and cultural traditions—all of it wiped out in a single act that would tip the balance and push us into the abyss of post-Constitutional history.”
“A single terrorist incident?”
Liberty hanging by a thread?
Sounds about right to me.
Mike Whitney lives in Washington state, and can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Other Articles by Mike Whitney
Challenging the Language of Violence