Friday, January 08, 2010

Fear factor: Reeling in the panic

ZOMG! Look at the second most super-important story in the whole world over at Fox! They're everywhere! It's too late for me ... save yourselves!

Here I will admit to having had a particular suspicion, so I clicked through to the story:

Armed police boarded a plane at London's Heathrow airport on Friday after a verbal threat was made by three young English men.

Sky News crime correspondent Martin Brunt said the men were described as "people who had too much to drink."

And things sort of clarified at that point: Drunks on a plane! Specifically, drunks on an Emirates flight from Heathrow to Dubai, whereon I once watched a marathon performance by the most obnoxious drunk British dude I have ever seen.* He harangued his neighbors incessantly about matters political, ethnic and sexual, even after the purser -- disregarding threats to his own safety and repeated comments about his mom, manhood and affection for goats -- cut off the drink supply. Last seen stumbling from the air bridge and coming to rest against a No Smoking sign, where he lit a cigarette as the Dubai airport cops converged to silent applause from the lot of us.

Lesson? Even in the post-9/11 world, drunks get on planes -- even planes headed to the Middle East -- and do stupid, obnoxious things. Somehow the world manages to survive. Sometimes, with great good fortune, people still manage to come to sensible conclusions about the threat of terrorism and how it affects their daily lives.

I bring this up because news stories never exist in a vacuum. "Three detained at Heathrow" gets its real punch -- it makes the sort of sense it's intended to make -- in light of the story next door:

With the U.S. economy showing signs of continued weakness and with the country still reeling in the wake of the Fort Hood massacre and the botched Christmas Day airline attack, economists are raising concerns that a "third strike" -- another terror attack in the U.S. -- could deal a crippling blow to the nation's economic recovery.

The whole country? Reeling? This must be what it's like to be a Freedonian here on an H1B visa -- you open the paper and see FREEDONIA REELING when a bomb outside some provincial capital has killed three people, and you think: Seventy million people? Reeling? From the same bomb? Look, I don't mean to speak for everybody who lives under the east-west approach to Metro Airport, but ... we're hanging in there! Really! It's pretty freaking normal! It finally snowed! Don't send lawyers, guns and money! OK, you can send some money, but no lawyers or guns, all right?

I spend some time with this because one of the few remaining reasons to consider journalism as something more than a really slow, boring version of Twitter is its (at least notional) ability to put risk into perspective. People who cling to the idea that Fox is a form of journalism might wish to ask why Fox seems bent on ensuring that the population is scared and stupid. Put more simply: Why does Fox hate America?

* Including the tube stop near Stamford Bridge with Chelsea** playing at home.
**
The Dook of the Premier League. (Sorry, Wayne.)

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2 Comments:

Blogger The Ridger, FCD said...

Scared people make bad decisions.

Terrified people can be stampeded into making really bad decisions. It's the point of terror.

Fox News is next door to being a terrorist organization. In a duplex.

10:48 AM, January 09, 2010  
Blogger Jan said...

Amen to The Ridger. And everyone should read "Undressing the Terror Threat," in today's WSJ, on why we are so panicked by this comparatively minor threat:
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB20001424052748704130904574644651587677752.html

11:10 AM, January 09, 2010  

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