May 1, 2012

Living in politicial madness

Sam Smith

After three decades of national policies damaging the average American, it is amazing that the reaction has been as calm has it has been. Highly deceptive propaganda, the collapse of liberalism, and the atomizing ipodization of ordinary life have all contributed, but even these can't permanently conceal the fact that most Americans are being badly screwed. And know it.

The arrest of "anarchists" allegedly plotting to blow up an Ohio bridge is a reminder that just because something is delayed doesn't mean it isn't coming. A reasonable expectation is that the number and intensity of violent reactions will increase substantially. And the reasons won't simply be public anger. It has been part of the strategy of our government since 9/11 to create fear in order to justify actions to protect themselves. One thing our leaders understand is that the anger is directed at them far more than at ordinary citizens. It was, after all, the World Trade Center and not Dubuque that was attacked.

The rise in public anger will vary from the heroic to the inspiring to the badly misguided. The corporate media will inevitably use the latter examples to characterize all of what is happening and to justified new police assaults on our Constitution and communities.

Hence we can expect to hear much about the Ohio bridge episode, even as we hear virtually nothing about the numerous bridges on the verge of collapse due to Republican greed and indifference. It is one of the characteristics of such times that only those with the power to enforce the law may violate it with impunity. Thus our president can murder at will, trash the law and never have to worry that those three reporters in the corner of the press room might actually be FBI agents.

In such times - when some are blowing up bridges and others blowing up the law  - a sense of chaos develops. A plethora of madness and a paucity of common sense.

Central to maintaining one's own sanity at such times is to not let the media, bomb throwers, the FBI or politicians define our world and situation.

Ignore that rule and you find yourself falling into a fantastical miasma. For example, consider this report by NPR:
The FBI announced this morning that it "has arrested five people on terrorism charges, accusing them of planning to blow up a bridge near Brecksville, Ohio," our colleagues at WKSU report.
The station says the bridge on State Route 82 "crosses over the Cuyahoga Valley National Park near Brecksville and Northfield." And it adds that "the FBI says the five were identified as self-proclaimed anarchists with no connection to international terrorism. They're accused of conspiring to get C-4 explosives that would be detonated remotely."

According to CNN, the FBI says in a statement that "the public was never in danger from explosive devices ... [the suspects were] closely monitored by law enforcement ... [and the explosives were] inoperable and posed no threat to the public."

Cleveland's Plain Dealer writes that, according to the FBI, the men had "planted what they believed were explosive devices under the Ohio 82 bridge ... as part of a May Day protest today."
Now, one might ask, where did they get these inoperable explosive devices? Based on past experience, the most logical source was the FBI. We might also ask, to what extent did the FBI encourage and create this enterprise in the first place? Did the agents con some not so intelligent "anarchists" into doing something they probably wouldn't have done if the FBI had never been there to show them how?

We won't know the answers, if at all, until a lot of other things have happened. But we do know that, as David Shipler wrote in the NY Times:
The United States has been narrowly saved from lethal terrorist plots in recent years — or so it has seemed. A would-be suicide bomber was intercepted on his way to the Capitol; a scheme to bomb synagogues and shoot Stinger missiles at military aircraft was developed by men in Newburgh, N.Y.; and a fanciful idea to fly explosive-laden model planes into the Pentagon and the Capitol was hatched in Massachusetts. But all these dramas were facilitated by the F.B.I., whose undercover agents and informers posed as terrorists offering a dummy missile, fake C-4 explosives, a disarmed suicide vest and rudimentary training. Suspects na├»vely played their parts until they were arrested.
Now count the number of laws that President Obama, law enforcement agencies, and public officials of all sorts have routinely broken. Then consider the anger this has created and the encouragement to meet fire with fire that it has caused. For every bomb that explodes or envelope of white powder that appears on the desk of someone in power,  ask yourself: would this have happened if those in power had operated within the law and with respect and sanity?

There is, of course, no way to sort all this out without the distance of history. But in the meanwhile, those seeking a road back to democracy and decency have to avoid getting caught in the cauldron  of craziness. Bridge bombers, much of the police and media, and many of our political leaders have enormous vested interest in chaos. The answer is not in judging righteousness of specific acts but in resolving the conflicts that created the problem in the first place.

The rest of us need to keep helping to build an alternative reality unruled by chaos and violence. We can not let ourselves be defined by the madness of others.


Anonymous said...

Nice, Sam, and very much to the point as usual.

But please, don't say things like "a sense of anarchistic chaos develops" when you just mean "chaos" or "disorder".

Equating anarchism (no ruler) with chaos is ruling-class propaganda.

As Rebecca Solnit and others have documented, real anarchists are extremely orderly -- we self-organise after disasters (Solnit's book A Paradise Built in Hell is an excellent introduction).

We need more anarchism (aka democracy) not less.

BARBBF said...

When I heard this reported this morning..I thought of the Mother Jones article of a few years ago:

"The problem with the cases we're talking about is that defendants would not have done anything if not kicked in the ass by government agents," Martin Stolar tells Mother Jones. Stolar represented the suspect involved in a New York City bombing plot that was set-up by FBI agents. "They're creating crimes to solve crimes so they can claim a victory in the war on terror." For their part, the FBI says this method is a plan for "preemption," "prevention" and "disruption."

The report also reveals that, of the 500-plus prosecutions of terrorism-related cases they analyzed, nearly half of them involved the use of informants, many of whom worked for the FBI in exchange for money or to work off criminal charges. Of the 158 prosecutions carried out, 49 defendants participated in plots that agent provocateurs arranged on behalf of the FBI.

Anonymous said...

I second Anonymous 4:25 p.m.'s comment. Read up on anarchism and learn something about it before making links between anarchism and chaos. The ruling elite can't tolerate anarchism because anarchists have no use for the ruling elite. It is in their best interest to sling all the mud they can find against philosophies that challenge their rule. Anarchism does that. A good place to start to educate yourself about anarchism is Robert Graham's anarchism weblog. Then, visit and read An Anarchist FAQ online.

Strelnikov said...

I agree with the others; these so-called terrorists are patsies set up by professional provocateurs in the FBI and certain police forces. This is a scam that has been going on since the COINTELPRO days, and people don't know about it because nobody teaches radical history. Possibly this will force future terrorists/armed radicals to become "lone wolves"* and strike out with their own dynamite, sniper rifles, etc.


* This is a concept promoted by the white supremacist nut Tom Metzger; he advocated that if young neo-nazis were going to do violence, they needed to do it on their own, to keep the Feds from cracking down on the hate groups.

Anonymous said...

Another strong column, Sam, but I'd strike 'Republican' in paragraph four.

Anonymous said...

To paraphrase Peg Millet, of the 'Arizona 5'.

The person who incites a nonviolent group to violence is the agent provocateur, and the one who can get the explosives is the informant.

Sam Lowry said...

We are living in the world depicted in Terry Gilliam's movie BRAZIL.

When contemplating the danger of terrorism it's worth remembering the most dramatic example was deliberately allowed to happen by the Bush Cheney regime and the media went along with the coverup (including the "alternative" media). Not all claims about 9/11 complicity are true - some are disinformation to discredit - but the fact it was preventable is proven beyond any reasonable doubt.


"In some ways she was far more acute than Winston, and far less susceptible to Party propaganda. Once when he happened in some connection to mention the war against Eurasia, she startled him by saying casually that in her opinion the war was not happening. The rocket bombs which fell daily on London were probably fired by the Government of Oceania itself, 'just to keep people frightened'. This was an idea that had literally never occurred to him."
- George Orwell, 1984