The Los Angeles Unified School District received a threat against its schools. Today it proceeded to shut them all down out of an “abundance of caution”, that term with which we’ve become so familiar. Seven hundred thousand students have been locked out of their schools based on a threat which New York City public schools also received, but which the NYPD determined to be a hoax. Hundreds of thousands of students disrupted from their routine has a ripple effect, forcing parents to stay home, affecting the economy.
I’m old enough to remember when Osama bin Laden said that his strategy was to bankrupt America by making it do stupid things. Although he sleeps with the fishes, his successors seem to be sticking to that strategy.
It doesn’t help that fear isn’t being stoked solely by jihadists. Our politicians on the Right are quite content to go along with stoking that fear, seeing it as a sure road to victory in 2016. So what if the country becomes a shell of what it was? So what if hate crimes spike as a terrified populace searches for scapegoats? None of that matters. All that matters is that they terrify the electorate into voting for a party which thrives on nothing but fear, as it has no other program on which to run.
I will not hide it: I’m something of a pop culture maven. Not, perhaps, through active participation. But being at all aware in this culture it does tend to seep into you, if only through osmosis. And as a librarian, I make a concerted effort to keep abreast of things high and low, so that I can converse with and serve my patrons.
I’m certainly not one of those scolds who thinks pop culture has no place in the world. Most of us have grown up enmeshed in it, and have, for the most part, come out no worse for wear. I enjoy my sports, and I enjoy my movie spectacles.
However, we have entered a period of convergence, where the juggernaut which is popular culture collides with and circles around a concerted 50 year effort to make the electorate uninformed, apathetic, and downright hostile to its prime duty, which is to pay attention, educate itself, and govern itself.
Unless you’ve been under a rock for the past few weeks—and if you have, you may want to skip this and stay there where it’s safe—you may have noticed the media has a shiny new toy.
The Ebola outbreak which has reached our shores—infecting less than ten people—has our failed media experiment in a veritable apoplexy. CNN, looking for something to replace it’s 24/7 coverage of MH370 and recapture those golden days of summer, has joined MSNBC and Fox in providing a constant stream of information on the breakout. And by “constant stream of information”, I mean dialing the panic button up to 12 and reporting as if half of the country has been infected with the virus. Rather than a contained outbreak, this Ebola infestation is a new Black Death, scything through the population with grim glee.
Now, I know that it’s hard filling in the time between commercials. A news producer’s job is never easy. But there seems to be something disreputable about media organizations latching on to a very minor outbreak and building it up to be an existential threat to humanity. And, of course, the coverage was nowhere near as manic when the Ebola pandemic was restricted to west African nations. Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea are facing real catastrophic consequences to their economies and social fabric; but, they’re far away, and in Africa, so not worthy of foaming at the mouth coverage.
It may surprise you to know, but I have been wrong in the past. Dashingly wrong. Stupefyingly wrong. So wrong that the mistake could have threatened my future. So wrong that an immediate and heartfelt apology was all that would suffice.
I’m sure this has happened to most people. Humans are able to be counted on to, if nothing else, screw up spectacularly, in the most entertaining fashion.
An apology may or may not solve the issue. You may or may not be able to salvage your reputation, your relationships, your life. If you work hard enough, and are blessed with forgiveness, you may be able to do that.
But that’s for the real world, the place we proles inhabit. There’s another world much more rarified, where we’re not allowed, and where being “right” doesn’t count for as much as one would think it should.
It’s a peculiarity of the American ruling class that people who have been wrong time and again about, well, everything are still taken seriously. They’re still invited on “news” shows to give opinions. Various sectors seek their counsel. Rather than fading into penury, they reap the welfare circuit available only to those who muck up magnificently, but have the right connections.
How the constant chorus of ‘do something’ Obama foreign policy critics gets it wrong
There is a fun foreign policy game making all the rounds in Washington D.C. this summer: Pin the tail on Barack Obama.
Its appeal is not hard to understand; it’s so easy to play.
Step 1: Pick a foreign crisis that touches even slightly on U.S. national security interests. This shouldn’t be hard, because the United States defines practically everything in the world as being an American interest.
Step 2: Make clear that this is no garden-variety problem but rather “the defining crisis of [OBAMA’S] presidency”……
….. Step 6: Publish your condemnation in a major newspaper or news outlet. Wait for a phone call from a booker with a Sunday morning talk show.
There are no points for understanding how international relations work, how U.S. power is actually utilized or how other countries interpret their own interests. There’s no space on the board for tracking the real-life impact of your recommendations.
Foreign policy stewardship would be easy if it were as simple as playing this game. If, as President Obama joked recently, America “control(led) everything around the world,” there wouldn’t be much to decide at all.