“Nexus of Politics and Terror”

It was great to see that Countdown with Keith Olberman had a segment called “The Nexus of Politics and Terror” tonight that went over 10 (though they have 13 on the web site) situations where bad news about the Bush administration was followed by a change in the terror alert.

I realize that Olberman isn’t the first to make this connection (JuliusBlog‘s “Timeline of Terror Alerts” is the most cited, though I prefer his chart showing Bush’s approval ratings and terror alerts), but Olberman’s show appeared on a major cable news network (MSNBC), which makes it more likely to be seen by the masses.

I know that one could make the argument that all of this is just a matter of coincidence and that correlation does not imply causation, but it does raise the question: Is the Bush administration using terror level alerts to distract the public? As Olberman joked, if someone felt so inclined it would probably be possible to create a list connecting Wal-Mart openings with terror alerts, but with those two items there is no relation (well…) — but the terror alerts do help the Bush administration and make people convinced that they are actually doing something and that they should still be afraid.

I, for one, am convinced that there is something sneaky going on.

How To Stop The Avian Flu

Chicken being de-beaked
There has been a lot of news lately about the avian flu — scientists have recreated the strain of virus that caused the 1918 “Spanish” flu, Bush has called for production of new vaccine, experts are saying that nobody anywhere in the world is prepared for the flu, a man in Indonesia died from a strain, etc. etc.

I’m very skeptical of the whole thing. Every winter now for the past few years there has been some medical crisis that failed to materialize in any serious way: SARS, “bird flu,” contaminated flu vaccines, etc. None of them turned out to be as serious as “experts” told us.

(That is not to say that nobody has died or that I don’t think these are legitimate medical concerns. What really bothers me is the way the media and American public, in general, gets all worked up about these things. SARS and avian flu are a legitimate concern for Asia, yes, but in the U.S. I really think people need to stop freaking out.)

And now, again, as winter approaches the avian flu (the “politically correct,” it seems, name for the “bird flu”) is starting to freak people out again.

I’m not a biologist or anything, but first I just want to set one thing straight: The flu virus that everyone is afraid of doesn’t even exist yet. Right now, the avian flu that has killed people is just that — an avian flu. That is, a flu virus that affects birds. It has “jumped” to some humans, but even after jumping, the flu that has killed is still the avian flu. It has not mutated into a form that is transmissible from human to human.

Yes, if that happens it will be very bad because humans do not have the antibodies to fight a virus that originated in humans. The avian flu is unlike the common flu viruses that affect humans so we have no immunity against it.

So basically, while the media is hyping up the avian flu, keep in mind that what everyone is worrying about is something that doesn’t even exist yet. And it may never exist. I mean, lots of animals have different flu strains and I am sure there are random cases where those strains are passed onto humans but for the most part, those viruses haven’t mutated so that they can pass from human-to-human. From what I understand, we’re worried about the avian flu because it is especially deadly, not because it is especially prone to mutation (like the HIV virus).

That said, if people around the world are really as serious as they seem to be about stopping the avian flu before it becomes a major concern, it seems to me that the best thing to do would be to stop eating poultry.

And yes, I know that people don’t catch the avian flu from eating meat from birds with the flu.

These chickens are getting sick because they are kept in extremely close quarters with other chickens, which means it is much easier for the avian flu to spread. Plus, the conditions that these chickens live in are extremely unsanitary. Plus the chickens are constantly pecking at each other causing lots of wounds and bleeding (that is, if they haven’t been de-beaked). I’m more familiar with the situation of factory farm chickens in the United States, but I can only assume that situations are the same, if not worse, in Southeast Asia where the avian flu has broken out.

Remember that the influenza pandemic of 1918 was very likely made worse due to close quarters during World War I and the general malnourishment of people around the world due to various side effects of the war. Chickens are in a similar position now.

So if leaders around the world were truly concerned about a global outbreak and honestly wanted to do everything in their power to prevent it, perhaps they would suggest that we instate a moratorium on eating poultry until scientists have a chance to get a better understanding of the virus and/or the avian flu epidemic among the birds subsides.

It’s the same thing with Mad Cow disease. If people really wanted to stop it, they would stop eating meat.

Now I know that this comes down to personal choices and freedom and all of that, which I totally understand. What I dislike is that people say they want something to stop and they say they are afraid of it, but then they do nothing to stop it.

When HIV/AIDS became a very serious threat to the (especially) gay community in the late-1980s/early-1990s, for the most part, gay men took the threat seriously and made sacrifices of please (arguably) to practice safer sex. They may have enjoyed not using condoms, but make a conscious decision that the sacrifice was worth it. And for a while HIV infections plummeted. (The recent rise may debunk this argument, but that’s another topic…)

But I’m guessing that when it comes to stopping to eat meat, people aren’t that serious about stopping diseases directly related to those choices and that all this talk of “nipping it in the bud” is just empty rhetoric to make people feel better while at the same time keeping them at bay in fear.

Really, and this gets into a larger, broader discussion that perhaps I will open up later, this current “culture of fear” in which we are inundated with threat (terrorism, spyware, avian flu, gas prices, etc.) has no purpose other than to scare people. Rarely is insightful, helpful information provided by the government and/or media, and even less so are people actually called to action to change their lives in order to truly prevent the threat that we are so afraid of. I’m not sure (or, maybe I am?) what’s going on here, but it seems very disingenuine and manipulative.

Velvet Mourning

Kate Moss
Poor Kate Moss — and I am serious. I do feel bad for her. She was recently featured on the cover of the British tabloid The Daily Mirror doing lines of cocaine. After the image appeared, Moss lost her modeling contracts with numerous agencies, and it appears to be the end of her modeling career.

My interest in Kate Moss started in college when my friend Alicia made a comment about how when it came to models, Kate Moss was the only one she liked. I, of course, didn’t know who Kate Moss was, so we did a Google Images search for Kate Moss and eventually found the picture to the right. I’ve always loved that picture.

Then in summer 2003, one of my favorite bands, Primal Scream released Evil Heat. On Evil Heat Kate Moss joined the band to cover the old Nancy Sinatra/Lee Hazelwood duet, “Some Velvet Morning.” Hearing Kate Moss sing one of my favorite songs only cemented my love of her.

(In addition to Primal Scream covering the song, another one of my favorite bands, Slowdive covered the song on their Souvlaki album. In addition to all of that, Art Bell loves Nancy Sinatra, and “Some Velvet Morning” in particular, and often uses it as bumper music on Coast to Coast AM. The song is beautiful, and I highly recommend finding some version of it and studying up on the Greek mythology surrounding Phaedra.)

Along with the cool picture and her work with Primal Scream, Kate Moss also ushered in that rail-thin, junkie supermodel look, which, as much as I hate to admit it, I really am a huge fan of. I know that these anorexic-looking (and often anorexic) models are extremely dangerous when it comes to perpetuating unrealistic body images and cause all sorts of body image dysmorphia, but I cannot help finding that look attractive. Maybe it has to do with growing up in the ’90s and liking grunge and goth-type music for a long time or maybe there are all sorts of other personal reasons, but nonetheless, I like it… and I admire (???) Kate Moss for starting that trend.

So when she got in trouble the other week, I was a bit sad. But that was about it.

Then Salon.com (as they always do) had a great article about Kate Moss and her legacy that I highly recommend checking out: “The rise and fall of Kate Moss.”

As always, the media (with the exception of places like Salon) are focusing on the fact that drugs ruined Moss’ life and career and that drugs are bad and what is the fashion industry thinking promoting such unrealistic body image types. Yeah yeah. We all know that. But obviously there is something else going on here — otherwise that “heroin chic” would have starved itself years ago. Instead, Kate Moss is even considered “not that thin” compared to contemporary models. I smell some hypocrisy… and so does Rebecca Traister at Salon:

Now, 15 years later, in a set of circumstances that have exposed the hypocrisy and sanctimony of everyone involved, Moss and the fashion industry are becoming accidental and unwilling poster children for a new anti-drug message.

As Traister notes,

News that models do blow is akin to news that rock stars have casual sex: not news at all… The fashion companies’ professions of surprise are hard to believe. Would it be more embarrassing for them to admit they hired a model who they knew had done drugs than it is for them to admit to never having picked up a paper?

So if we know it is such a big deal already — and most of the agencies that she had contracts with could pretty easily assume that Moss was doing drugs often — why is it that when confronted with “proof” we are forced to change our minds. To me, this is an extremely reactive decision — and reactive decisions tend to be made in haste in order to save face rather than really address root issues.

The big hoopla going on in the news, then, is not about Moss’ drug problems, but:

Moss’ real error was in getting caught on tape

Again, the drugs and Moss’ waif, abused body is not of concern to people. Traister rightly points out:

the body that is appealing to designers — and thus to consumers — is a body that looks like it has been ravaged by drugs. In order to stay employed, models must maintain this shape; to maintain the shape they must do something besides eat right and exercise regularly. Whether it’s cocaine or speed or heroin or caffeine or cigarettes or anorexia or bulimia or some combination of the above, most adult women cannot get bodies that look like Moss’ healthily, because hers is not a healthy body.

In addition to Salon.com, Slate also considers Moss’ predicament. In “Kate Moss: The ironies of her downfall,” Amanda Fortini makes similar observations.

Fortini’s more interesting observation demonstrates why people like me seem to be fascinated with Moss:

The irony is that the rumors of bad behavior, the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle, have always been part of Moss’ allure. For years, the fashion world has courted, and profited from, her edgy, bad-girl image and her gaunt, post-hangover looks.

I’m not sure where all of this leaves us with Kate Moss as a person. She has, essentially, like many women (and it tends to be women — Lyndie England, Terri Schiavo, etc.) who have issues/ideas/criticism projected onto them. It’s like their bodies become empty shells in which the rest of us dump our cultural problems so we can hold these women up as non-human things and deprive them of their personhood.

Now, Kate Moss has become a symbol of the dangers of drug use and the vixen who brought us the trendy emaciated model.

Word of the Day: Fatalistic

I keep hearing people on the news use the word “fatalistic” to refer to someone who is being really negative/pessimistic about a situation.

For example, “Is the mayor of New Orleans being as fatalistic about the situation as the Army Corps of Engineers?” The person asking the question was trying to find out if the mayor felt the situation was dire and was going to be bad.

“Fatalistic,” however, doesn’t really mean bad/negative/pessimistic. A fatalistic is someone who believes in fate. For a situation to be fatalistic it would be wrapped up in fate or predetermined — not necessarily to be all gloom and doom. Granted, something could be fated to be bad (which is how “fatalistic” is generally understood), but it doesn’t have to be.

I’m not trying to be snooty about this — I didn’t know the difference until my friend was called a fatalist by her philosophy professor. We thought that it meant she was really negative, but really, it meant that she believed in fate.

Oh the fun of language!

As for the news broadcasters — I do sort of wish that they would be more careful of their use of language.

Gender Studies 101

Strangely enough, two of my daily reads, Salon.com and Slate, featured some “gender studies”-related articles yesterday. Reading them really made me miss college (which isn’t to difficult for me) and reminded me why I really should’ve been a women’s studies minor (which, it appears, my school has renamed to “gender studies”… there was a discussion we had during my senior year and it sorta of bothers me that it was renamed and may require a blog post in the future).

The Salon.com article, “Attack of the listless lads” is an interview with Benjamin Kunkel, who recently wrote a book called Indecision. Surprisingly, the interview was less about Kunkel’s book and more about Rebecca Traister’s (the writer of the story) desire to find out “what’s wrong with young American men” (and no, I do not take offense to that question).

Kunkel made some terribly fascinating points:

He suggests that dating around with the thought that it should lead to marriage (and doesn’t more than it does), has perhaps got men stuck in a vicious circle:

The idea is that dating should lead toward mating, and spread out before us is this array of choices that should lead toward a choice you can feel secure in. But I think the opposite happens. You become familiar with disposable relationships. So though they seem to be conducting you toward permanence and mating, in fact they’re just inculcating a habit of serial monogamy.

He also suggests that because women have made such gains in the workplace, that men feel inadequate and “unworthy” of dating the due to the “super-abundance of attractive, intelligent young women”:

I think men inherit — if from nowhere else than from the movies — the impression that in order to win the respect and love of a woman, you ought to be doing something meaningful in the world. And if you can’t hold your head up high in that sense, then why ask somebody to love you?

What I thought was the most interesting point he made had to do with consumer culture and the desire to always have something better. Instead of viewing love as a destiny, nowadays love is seen as a goal — a goal that can always be tossed aside once it has been achieved.

Kunkel explains:

Partly, a model of shopping has overtaken our experience of romance. Love, historically, has been associated with a sensation of destiny. It’s very difficult for us to attain a sensation of destiny where love is concerned anymore, because we think we can always look for something better, which is essentially a shopper’s mentality. There’s no destiny when it comes to buying pants or shirts or a dress. There’ll be the nicest thing you can afford this season. But then a new season will [bring] more attractive styles and you’ll actually be able to afford something better. I think that tremendous passion that we feel other generations had and that we missed was attached to a sense of destiny, and of permanent love that would survive changes in station and opportunity and fortune.

There is a bunch of other interesting cultural criticism in the piece dealing with things like bureaucracy, the “crisis of masculinity,” and “some mild sort of institutionalized promiscuity.” I’m not sure the interview makes me want to read Indecision, but it does sound like this guy has done a lot of thinking and has a fresh view on the male side of gender studies.

As for the Slate piece, what’s going on there is one of their Book Club discussions about Pornified and Female Chauvinist Pigs. (Pornified: How Pornography Is Transforming Our Lives, Our Relationships, and Our Families by Pamela Paul and Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture by Ariel Levy.)

Discussing the book are Wendy Shalit of ModestyZone.net, Meghan O’Rourke of Slate, and one of my favorite authors/cultural critics, Laura Kipnis (who wrote the amazing Against Love: A Polemic. Kipnis also wrote Bound and Gagged: Pornography and the Politics of Fantasy in America, which I read parts of for my Advanced Media Studies class, so I feel confident in saying that she knows her porn! Also, she’s somewhat of a Freudian Marxist — two of, I think, the most impactful thinkers on the 20th century.

(Note: The second day of the book club discussion has already been posted, but I haven’t read that yet, so this will just highlight parts from day one.)

Kipnis, of course, makes the points that I agree with the most.

In her brief introduction/synopsis of Pornified, she makes this extremely witty remark:

… she’s utterly blinkered about the rest of society, or history, or politics; it’s as if sexuality occupied some autonomous world of its own. (Like a porn set.)

I just love that she compares the “world of its own” vacuum of Pornified with the porn sets that, undoubtedly, Paul criticizes. So smart!

I also like how Kipnis immediately kills the suggestion that porn has caused men to treat women badly. She notes that well before porn men were pigs. Kipnis dares Paul:

So, when exactly was the golden age of relationship bliss that Paul thinks porn has torn asunder?

She also channels some Foucault by suggesting that the more we rally against porn and sex, the more prevalent we make it in society:

I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that the two [mainstreaming of porn and abstinence-only sex education] aren’t exactly unrelated: They’re both products of a culture that’s deeply conflicted and hypocritical about sex… What comprises the majority of Web sites, aside from porn? Religion and shopping. A seething cultural compost of sexual prohibition and compulsive consumption… Public virtue and private lechery are also long-standing features of American sexual culture… We’re a culture that hates and fears sex, but can’t get enough of it.

Another assertion that Paul makes that Kipnis totally blasts is Paul’s suggestion that pornography is ruining men’s ability to have relationships with their girlfriends. Apparently Paul interviewed a number of men with girlfriends who claimed that, if they had to choose, they would take porn. This reminded me of some documentary/20/20-like show we watched during my media studies course in which a bunch of men sat around comparing stories about how porn ruined their lives. Please. They ruined their own lives, and if porn wasn’t the “poison,” I’m sure something else would have been. Similarly, Kipnis asks:

Yet Paul seems convinced that minus porn, somehow these guys would be fulfilling all the intimacy needs of their partners. Sorry, but who’s the compulsive fantasist?

Shalit makes some interesting points about the potentially self-destructive and self-hating nature of the “female chauvinists” (of Girls Gone Wild, etc.). She compares these women’s behavior with that of immature, sexually-driven, young men:

True, there have always been men who objectified women, but society also encouraged them to grow up at some point. But today, even grown women are taking their cues from the most immature males.

When she re-tells some of Paul’s stories of husbands who ignore their children while watching porn and a 21-year-old who wants to dump his 16-year-old girlfriend because she won’t get as kinky as he wants, I just cannot see how this is porn’s fault — yes, porn may make the problem more visible, but there is obviously something else wrong with these guys. To reiterate the point earlier, if porn didn’t exist, the dad would still be a bad father and the 21-year-old would still be objectifying his jailbait girlfriend.

Shalit seems to agree with this, and reiterates what Kipnis notes earlier:

As porn consumers become increasingly desensitized to viewing sex online, Paul shows how their tastes turn to the odd, the young, and the violent… I read Paul as saying that the availability and intensity of Internet porn is what’s new, and that because porn desensitizes us, we’d better wake up and pay attention… Is she implying that without porn, these men would be perfect partners?

But then Shalit falls prey to Paul’s horror stories and suggests that porn is indeed the problem:

I thought she was saying something far more reasonable: that if men weren’t learning about sex from pornography at age 8, or 10, or 13, then at least they’d have more of a chance to forge real intimacy with women.

… Yes, if it weren’t for porn, these poor men who were exposed to porn at an early age might have a fighting chance to forge real intimacy. Yes, these poor men who just need a chance! (Ugh!!)

Without reading Paul’s book, I shouldn’t comment, but it sounds like she is definitely trying to scare people into hating porn, and obviously it works. Shalit even admits:

At any rate, I found Paul’s stories quite shocking.

Nonetheless, I did find this statement by Shalit to be frightening and potentially true:

It’s like some big cosmic joke: The people who are supposed to be “sex positive” and enjoying their cultural freedoms are actually lonely and having terrible sex, whereas studies have shown that religious marrieds are the ones enjoying themselves the most. What’s happened? Perhaps without emotions involved, sex becomes boring.

I do see this happening — but again, I don’t see porn or being “sex positive” as the problem. I agree with Kipnis that it has more to do with hypocritical attitudes toward sex and the feelings of shame, excitement, perversity, etc. that they cause.

O’Rourke enters the debate as a moderator, or so it seems. She immediately (and rightly, I think), points out:

What I was struck by in each was how difficult it was for the authors—for all of us—to get past their (or our) own assumptions about porn and sex… There are murky issues just beneath the surface of each book. Yet those of us reading them quickly split along ideological (or gender) lines.

She also makes a rather bold suggestion that when it comes to the porn debate, perhaps women are the ones trying to force unrealistic fantasies on men. She asks:

Is men’s use of porn necessarily destructive, or is it simply women’s relationship expectations that make it seem destructive? Reading Pornified, I sometimes thought the women were simply allowing an unrealistic dream of imaginative fidelity to shape their response to their partners.

Additionally, she plays the devil’s advocate (or maybe not?) and asks whether porn is really as bad and degrading as conventional wisdom suggests:

I’m merely questioning the conviction that pornography is inherently degrading. Likewise, what if women who flash their tits on Girls Gone Wild are enjoying themselves—if not all of them, then a select few? What then?

She also tries to find a middle ground between Kipnis’ social/consumerism as the root and Paul’s pornography as the root argument. O’Rourke notes that porn is becoming so much more prevalent and so much more intense, that it cannot be ignored, as Kipnis vaguely suggests:

Porn doesn’t exclusively produce the relationship woes and female insecurities she describes. But in its new form it presumably contributes to the ongoing shaping of how we see the world and affects the behavior of those who use it.

Between the Salon interview and the Slate discussion, there is a lot to digest here, and I think it’s interesting that there is overlap between the two. How are relationships between men and women changing? And even how is sexuality changing?

My major critique of both of the pieces is that they are extremely heteronormative. I know from Against Love that Kipnis’ argument encompasses all sexual orientations, but in the Slate piece it is very geared toward men/women relationships. Where do same-sex couples fit into this? And how is the consumption of porn different for lesbians and gay men?

Lots to think about. Makes us all wanna be gender studies majors, eh?

Blame Bush!

Speaking of exploitation, I want to “exploit” the current disaster going on around New Orleans due to Hurricane Katrina and defer blame not to nature but to President Bush.

(Yes, I am serious.)

Sidney Blumenthal has a great article on Salon: “‘No one can say they didn’t see it coming'”

My favorite quote:

In early 2001, the Federal Emergency Management Agency issued a report stating that a hurricane striking New Orleans was one of the three most likely disasters in the U.S., including a terrorist attack on New York City. But by 2003 the federal funding for the flood control project essentially dried up as it was drained into the Iraq war. In 2004, the Bush administration cut funding requested by the New Orleans district of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for holding back the waters of Lake Pontchartrain by more than 80 percent. Additional cuts at the beginning of this year (for a total reduction in funding of 44.2 percent since 2001) forced the New Orleans district of the Corps to impose a hiring freeze.

Upon further research, I found out that the third most likely disaster is an earthquake in San Francisco.

In addition to Blumenthal’s reporting, I also found “Katrina Proves Bush is a Failure” over at Swing State Project.

I really don’t think this is “exploiting” the situation, but rather highlighting why we must take as many points of view and ideas into consideration and understand the consequences of our actions.

Exploiting Who/What?

As far as I am concerned, life is based on exploitation. Everyone exploits everything, and that just seems to be how things are. The people who complain about that are totally missing the point.

I find it extremely disturbing and ironic that while people are attacking Cindy Sheehan for exploiting her child’s death, we have another mother who is vowing to stay in Aruba until she gets answers about her daughter’s disappearance. In the same month that Cindy Sheehan is accosted by the media for camping outside of Bush’s ranch (where all he seems to do — as made evident by a recent episode of The Majority Report — is clear brush!), Beth Twitty-Holloway confronts and harasses a young man who she thinks is somehow hiding information from the police. Rather than covering Holloway’s actions as disrespectful and possibly illegal (the young man is seeking a lawsuit now), the media covers it as “a mother out for answers”-type thing. She is hailed for her slightly unorthodox actions and excused because she is a mother in grief.

Yet when it comes to Cindy Sheehan, the media’s story (when it chooses to get critical — admittedly, most of the stories covering her actions in Texas are pretty lame and don’t ask tough questions of either side) is that she is exploiting the death of her son in order to advance her left-wing agenda. The fact that she is a liberal who lost a child in the Iraq War seems to mean that must hide her political views as she grieves and that since her son died in a war she disagreed with, that she must stop all political action in the name of her son. It’s ridiculous.

The administration has been exploiting military families this entire war. And not just military families — this entire war in Iraq and the war in Afghanistan before it, was waged in the name of those who died on Sept. 11. The U.S. wanted revenge and wanted to ensure that an event like Sept. 11 would never happen again. If the right-wing administration can exploit, what makes it so wrong for the other side to do the same?

Which brings me back to my first point — “exploitation” isn’t always so bad. Without “exploiting” the dead, we probably wouldn’t have made the same advancements we’ve made against fatal diseases, for example, because families who have suffered the loss of a loved one due strive to save others from the pain and fight for research and treatments and whatnot. If John Walsh hadn’t “exploited” the death of his son, America’s Most Wanted would have never existed — that show alone has helped apprehend 853 criminals and found over 40 missing children. (The America’s Most Wanted example comes to my mind because I saw John Walsh commenting on the whole Aruba thing last week.)

I think what Cindy Sheehan is doing is admirable and brave. I don’t think she is exploiting her son — or any other soldier. I think that she has turned her grief into action, and that is a commendable thing to do. In the face of horrible events, most people retreat inward and try to cope with what has happened. Cindy Sheehan lost her son. She is using that loss to illustrate the fact that he died for what is not a “noble cause.” She is trying to affect change, unlike (not to dis on her, because I am sure she is going through immense grief as well — it’s just that the media handles it differently) Beth Twitty-Holloway who is truly exploiting her daughter’s disappearance to be on the television and, well, I’m not really sure what her ultimate goal is, but I don’t think it is as selfless as Cindy Sheehan’s motives.

Where Is the Outrage?

The story about the guy from Brazil who was shot (8 times!!) and killed in London on Friday is probably one of the most upsetting pieces of news I’ve read in a long time… probably more upsetting than this whole Karl Rove scandal.

Thank god we have The Huffington Post‘s “A Death in London” to really put things in perspective and actually report the story. (I swear, it took me a long time to even find this story on U.S. media sources this morning — the fact that an innocent man has been killed has been trumped by the release of the “names” of more suspects is rather disturbing).

I quote from the “Death in London” piece:

So let us consider two truths about this incident. Jean Charles de Menezes would never have been shot if he didn’t have dark skin, because if he didn’t have dark skin, he wouldn’t have been a suspect. (This despite the fact that Brazilians look nothing like Pakistanis.)

What this basically says, and which I think is true, is that anyone who doesn’t have white skin is now considered a potential terrorist — not just middle eastern people anymore.

And people who might defend this by saying that it was done in the name of safety and all that… well, it’s bullshit. After the Oklahoma City bombing here in the U.S. we never would’ve buried a story involving police killing “innocent” white redneck skinheads.

I just don’t get how this isn’t upsetting more people. The ends (stopping terrorists) do not justify the means (killing non-white people who might be terrorists). I understand that they police were doing their job and whatnot, but it seem as if the U.K. isn’t even apologizing for this — they are trying to justify/rationalize rather than say they are sorry.

What I find most ironic about all this “they hate our freedom” rationale for the combating these people who “hate our freedom” is by limiting our freedom (“shoot to kill” and The Patriot Act and whatnot), there is far less freedom for these terrorists to “hate” us for.

I’m not sure what the solution is, but I honestly don’t think that killing people without certainty and saying that it was the right thing to do is going to make things better.

The night of Sept. 11 I went for a run for whatever reason (during college I often went on late night runs). I remember being afraid that night, but not because I was worried about terrorists or anything like that, but because I thought the police or military or who knows what would stop me and interrogate me about why I was running at night and whether I was connected to terrorists or whatever. Is that freedom worth hating?

News Alert: Ignore Iraq, Pray for Natalee

Over the past few weeks my co-worker and I have been commenting on the rather bizarre news events that have seemed to captivate the nation this summer. Granted, due to my job and all that, I might have a heightened awareness of the drivel out there, but really:

  • Yes, “Utah Boy” is a cute story and sort of sad, but is this national news? Kids disappear like this all of the time. Why is “Utah Boy” such a big deal?
  • Sure, this whole Natalee Holloway missing in Aruba thing is tragic: I really do feel bad for this girl and I understand why her family is freaking out, but, again, people go missing all the time. Why is her case so different?
  • And who can forget the Runaway Bride a.k.a. Jennifer Wilbanks. As the nation worried that she had been abducted by scary dirty Mexicans it turned out she ran to Vegas. My favorite part of this story was hearing a caller complain on conservative talk radio a few days later that he wasted his prayers on her since she turned up alive… umm… didn’t he get what he prayed for? Her health and safety and all that?
  • Now we have a summer of shark attacks (I’ve always hated Florida, so no comment here…)

Some would argue that the Michael Jackson case could be added to this, or even the recent marriage of Ben and Jen and who knows what else.

Point of the story: what the media has been hyping up this summer has been bizarre. Forget about the Iraq War, the worsening situation in Afghanistan, gay marriage spreading throughout Canada and Spain, mad cow disease, etc. News Alert: The father of the Dutch teen has been taken into custody!

Thankfully, Salon.com has noticed and, in particular, called out FOX News for hypocritically urging the country to go to war and then passing up war coverage for more shark attacks and whatnot. I highly recommend “War? What war?” which smartly points out that now that the war isn’t going as they expected, FOX has abandoned the war (either because it’s just not appealing to the public anymore or to make the public forget?) in favor of more sensational stories.

My favorite part of the piece is the analysis about September 11 and how “after September 11 everything changed” when really it hasn’t. Americans, again, could care less about international politics and would rather follow news items that have absolutely no impact on their lives.

Like I said, working in a media-related field might make me more aware of this (and frustrated at the same time), but I think the Salon article really strikes some interesting points.

Off the Wall

Michael Jackson
I’m sure everyone and their mother and grandmother and great aunt and puppy have an opinion on the Michael Jackson case. Yesterday he was completely acquitted of all of the charges against him, in case you are living on Zeta Reticuli.

As for my take: I think this case pretty much highlights all of the most disgusting aspects of human nature.

First, in child molestation cases, from what I understand, it is rather common for the molested child to not really be able to accurately recall the incident — even if it happened multiple times. Kids, in general, make things up in order to deal with trauma or things that they don’t understand. The jury noted that the prosecution couldn’t really create a timeline of the events — perhaps because the kid himself couldn’t really create a rational timeline? After reading Mysterious Skin I’ve been thinking a lot about this issue.

Second, Michael Jackson is a sexually ambiguous and racial ambiguous person. Of course he is going to be a target of criticism. If you ask someone what type of a person Michael Jackson is, 11 out of 10 people will say, “He’s a freak.” Of course he’s going to be a victim (yes, sorry for using this word) of accusations of the worst kind — he is an easy target. Since he blurs the boundaries of gender and race, which we tend to assume are static definitions, he makes people uncomfortable and therefore we need to continue kicking him down.

Finally, child molestation is, by far, the worst accusation to throw at someone. It seems, to me, that it’s a little too convenient to make such accusations against someone as freakish as Michael Jackson.

All that said, I’m not sure what happened. I’m not sure justice was served. The whole thing — every aspect of this case — makes me sick. What outcome do I think would have been appropriate? I really don’t know. I just know that this case is all around bad.

(On an unrelated note, I just recently heard his song “Off the Wall” and I totally love it.)