The Scripted Emergency

A week and a half ago Wednesday, three men with rifles shot up a conference room in a center for the developmentally disabled (try saying that ten times fast!) in San Bernadino, California, killing 14 and injuring about 20.  I found out about it at the gym that day: I was annoyed because I wanted to watch Judge Judy while on the treadmill, but all the major networks had been pre-empted.

The reporting came across as less of a news event and more of a manufactured pageant: the announcers regurgitating the same three sentences’ worth of facts while we saw the same shots of the outside of a building and distressed people.  It was, in brief, a scripted emergency.

Later the story changed: there were not three assailants but two: a native-born American citizen and his Pakistani/Saudi wife, conveniently shot dead by police.  One of the shooters just quietly disappeared from the narrative.  And on Friday, the news media were invited to rummage around the couple’s home, with all sorts of documents left behind by the FBI, barely two days after the event.

The story has been leading the network news programs ever since, even though there still isn’t much to tell.  The event has been labeled ‘terrorism,’ as if that declaring the event as such is somehow momentous.

Yes, the event is what we, today, call terrorism.  From what we know about the motives of the killers, we now know that it was an event of Islamic terrorism.  But this type of terrorism only has power to terrify if the people are told about it.  Does this event merit wall-to-wall coverage, when all we really know fits in a couple of paragraphs?

The news media are as much terrorists as the shooters themselves.

Sunday night, President Obama, our Dear Leader, addressed the nation, telling us nothing we didn’t already know.  He ducked out of the Kennedy Center awards to make a 13-minute Oval Office appearance, and then returned to the festivities.  He wants people who are on terror watch lists (‘no-fly lists’) to be denied the right to buy guns.

It’s a charming thought, but it wouldn’t have stopped the San Bernadino shooters, who had squeaky-clean records until last Wednesday.  And it flies in the face of our Fifth Amendment (no person shall be denied life, liberty, or property without due process): the process by which one is added to the terror watch list is a deep dark secret, with no way of finding out about it until you try to fly somewhere.  For all I know, I may be earning myself a spot on the list by writing and posting this essay.

The Dear Leader also wants us to embrace the hundreds of thousands of Islamic refugees that he proposes to bring from the Middle East.  What they are seeking refuge from is not entirely clear, given that the vast majority are Muslims.  We have no moral justification (a story for another day) to bring then here, and even though they may not be associated with ISIS or al-Qaeda or any of those groups, I can’t see how they can bring anything but trouble.

I don’t really know how a young American-born man and his Middle Eastern wife embarked on a path of terrorism.  I’m not sure it really matters.

But it’s clear to me that the government and the media are doing far more to advance the cause of Islamic terrorism than the terrorists themselves.

They should stop.

4 thoughts on “The Scripted Emergency”

  1. A few months ago, someone at work was fired for damaging too many vehicles. He threatened to take his supervisor hostage, but when he was overpowered by the supervisor, he threatened to kill himself. He was taken to the hospital and fired a few days later. This got no coverage because the company didn’t report it to the media. The only reason that I know about it is that it was part of my job to take such reports, usually employee illness or injury and follow up on them until they are resolved (i.e. person returns to work without physical limitations, person will be on light duty for six weeks, whatever the case was) . I don’t know the person’s name in any of these cases because the illness or injury is treated as a privacy issue.

    News has a huge power to distract. It is far easier to get people to react emotionally to something than based on factual information. Are you advocating a news blackout on incidents like the San Bernardino shooting? It is not a bad idea. There is a significant portion of murderers who like to see their incidents get media attention.

    One of the problems is the 24-hour news cycle and its need to fill time. When there isn’t that much news, you will hear the same stuff over and over again. Is the slogan of WINS radio still “Give us 8 minutes and we’ll give you the world?” This says a lot about how much is really newsworthy.

    Consider James Huberty, the McDonald’s shooter at San Ysidro, CA who killed 21 people and wounded 19 in 1984. This was the deadliest mass shooting in the U.S. until the Luby’s massacre in 1991, when 23 were killed and 27 were wounded by George Hennard. This is still the third-deadliest mass shooting (Virginia Tech and Sandy Hook were worse) .

    Yes, I had to look up all this stuff. My opinion is that we tend to overreact to these incidents because they have high consequences. I don’t feel terrorized by the reporting, because a lot of it is being in the wrong place at the wrong time, something that I can’t control.

  2. Here’s the reality and that is many (maybe most)of these refugees will be people we can do without. Some might be truly discriminated against like Kurds, Christians and small minority Muslim groups. That isn’t the case, in fact there have been stories of Obama deporting many Christians from the Mid East. Make no mistake, Obama is the most anti Christian president ever. It started with Obamacare and trying to push Catholic organizations to pay for birth control. Then of course there were the stories of bakeries forced to make gay wedding cakes. I couldn’t care less about birth control or gay marriage at all but this is the case of pushing an agenda. Then of course there is the issues of not allowing Christmas parties and the like. All seem silly but part of a bigger picture. Obama is a disgrace, and I am one who fell for change. I didn’t think it meant this. Meanwhile the change I thought it would be like jobs hasn’t happened. There is a video online that explains why Obama wants this to happen and all has to do with low income workers. Honestly I suspect it has to do with making this country more secular and less European.

    Should we allow them in? except for those I mentioned? no. Look at what is happening in Michigan. Recently Hamtramck Michigan elected the first majority Muslims council and guess what happened? They made a law no selling booze near the 4 mosques, they have signs in Arabic and the mosques have a call to prayer several times a day. I’m sure more will occur. Unlike other groups they don’t associate generally with non Muslims. I’m waiting for things like dress codes. Lots of creepy things are happening in Europe with Muslims and am afraid it’ll happen here.

    1. I have to question just how widespread the ban on Christmas parties is. I just retired from civilian employment with the federal government, and we had a Christmas party every year, at least an in-house potluck and about half of the time, an additional after-hours Christmas party at a restaurant. This was the case across three agencies and seven places of work. Could at least some of the ban on Christmas parties be holiday fatigue on the parts of parents and teachers or just being sick and tried of trying to please everyone?

      The lesson for the non-Muslims of Hamtramck is that they need to run for office. How far away a liquor store must be located from a mosque (or church or school or hospital) sounds like a zoning issue to me, not religious preference. If a town has clear business and residential districts, we don’t see zoning issues often because it’s been taken into consideration during the city planning process. If buildings that were once used for industrial purposes, like warehouses, are being converted to mosques, they needed a variance to the zoning regulations to be able to convert the warehouse. The deal that should have been made is that any existing businesses and their successors in that location would be made exempt from standoff (minimum distance away) requirements in return for the variance. A good Muslim would not be tempted by a liquor store 500 yards from his mosque.

      The dress code issue is pretty much a non-starter, and I will tell you why: it runs into other people’s First Amendment rights to freely practice THEIR religion. If they want to have a dress code for Muslims, they can do that, but I don’t think that non-Muslims will be wearing a burqa anytime soon.

      We are already “less European”, in the sense that we pay more for health insurance, get less time off, and have poorer workplace protections than at least our British and German counterparts. I believe that most of the current crop of “refugees” are economic migrants.

  3. Back during the holidays, I was at a government office building at lunchtime, having arrived early for a meeting. The conference room where the meeting would take place was given over…

    … to a full-blown Chanukah party! I had worked for the agency years before, and we always had a party on the last workday before Christmas. I don’t remember what we called it, but it was, unapologetically, a Christmas party.

    But it was a close-knit group, and we all thought of each other as friends.

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