WASHINGTON – America is getting into the heat of its presidential campaign in a climate of hysteria created by Donald Trump, (would-be Republican nominee for the White House), most media and various terrorism experts who shout on a daily basis that the Islamic terrorists are already among us, and about to unleash a wave of deadly attacks. The San Bernardino killing spree is just the beginning.
Thousand of killers
Yes, America, in case anybody missed it, there are untold numbers of blood thirsty murderers about to come out of the shadows with the intent to kill all of us. Have you seen what happened in Paris? have you seen the San Bernardino massacre? Well, this is just the beginning.
This hysteria is what passes for balanced media coverage, analysis, and rational political debate these days.
Terrorism is the number one issue
And the daily media barrage has consequences. Millions of people apparently bought the story. Indeed, according to most opinion polls taken in the US, less than a year before critical presidential and congressional elections the most critical issue confronting America is terrorism.
Not the national debt, not the need to reform out of control entitlement programs or our taxation system, not the loss of economic standing, not our declining education standards with consequent erosion of our nation’s competitiveness. No, none of that.
Terrorism is the number one issue. And this is because after the Paris and San Bernardino attacks the media, cynical presidential contenders, and armies of terrorism experts have declared that we are all defenseless targets for super organized, highly disciplined murderers inspired by religious zeal.
Magnify the threat
But how can just a few episodes, however terrible, make terrorism into the number one national concern? Very simple. Because it is easy to magnify the extent of a real but undefined threat represented by an unknown number of people living in the shadows who are willing to kill and die for their cause. Indeed, all the terrorism experts interviewed on TV tell us that most likely the probability of more deadly attacks is bigger than we think. And why do they say this?
Because that’s how they make a living, as authors and consultants. They want to tell everybody that we are facing an existential threat, a real crisis, so that demand for their services grows. And some TV talk show hosts fan the flames by telling their scared audiences that right now for most Americans the issue on the table is sheer “Survival”. “Here is my advice to you –intoned one of them– go out and buy yourself a gun“. So it comes to this: shoot first before they shoot you. No kidding.
As for Donald Trump and others, it is quite clear that they want to portray themselves as saviors. “This is a historic crisis. But President Obama and all the Democrats are too weak and too inept to protect you, America. I am tough. I’ll take drastic measures. I’ll take care of this. Vote for me”.
Again, why all this fear mongering? Why do the politicians, the media and the experts behave so irresponsibly? Very simple.
Because this story sells.
Media managers get more people to watch their TV shows. And this means more commercials and higher profits. The experts paraded on TV get more attention and higher fees. And the tough-talking politicians get higher ratings in the polls.
Of course, if you want to scare people, terrorism is the perfect issue. We have a supposedly widespread threat represented by ISIL in the Middle East acting in concert with potentially “thousands” of seemingly normal people living among us who may turn violent at any moment and kill innocent Americans.
For some reasons, there is a peculiar fascination with lurking threats concocted by determined lunatics who are willing to kill and die claiming that they act in the name of God.
The plan to destroy America
And so, almost out of nothing, a spontaneous coalition of scaremongers, irresponsible media and cynical politicians created this narrative of a carefully orchestrated plan to destroy America and the West hatched by ISIL in Syria and Iraq, and supported here by a variety of rank and file believers and a coterie of “do-it-yourself”, home-grown terrorists.
This coalition screams every day that unless we do something drastic we are practically doomed.
And this constant drumbeat about imminent attacks got people really scared. “Oh My God…The terrorists are everywhere. In fact, they are already here…And any day they will come out of the shadows and try to kill all of us”.
Never mind that this is a wild exaggeration. Of course, there is some truth to it. We have had a few terror attacks: in Paris, in Turkey, in Africa, (Mali), and here at home. And terrorism is nasty business. But are we having repeated bloody killings across America on a daily or at least regular basis?
No, we are not. Not even close.
But it does not matter. Right now the accepted narrative is that the terror onslaught is unfolding, or about to unfold. Real facts and figures about the number of terror attacks do not matter.
Donald Trump to the rescue
Hence the surprising polls indicating that right now terrorism is the number one issue America is facing. And crafty politicians like would-be President Donald Trump have quickly figured out that it is to their advantage to ride this wave and play on the fears created by the media hype.
Yes, we should worry, Trump argues forcefully and dramatically. And he adds that for sure there must be plenty more “self-radicalized” people lurking in the shadows, ready to pounce on us. How many? Well, who knows. Possibly scores, may be hundreds, may be thousands. Therefore, let’s all go to battle stations. Let’s close the borders, let’s close the mosques. Let’s keep an eye on all Muslims living in America.
We want to be safe
And these over the top “policies” now are embraced by millions of people who are told that this is the only way to be safe. Yes, if there is an even remote chance that one or two terrorists may hide among Syrian or other refugees seeking asylum, or perhaps among regular visitors trying to come to America, this is a good enough reason to shut the door and keep everybody out. Why take any chances when our lives are at stake?
All about fear
Again, bear in mind that all this is irrational. It is all about fear. And this fear has been carefully created by irresponsible media that see their ratings go up while they run with this story, and by cynical politicians who see this manufactured crisis as an opportunity to make themselves into really tough fighters, and climb up in the polls.
No real debate
It would be nice if in this pre-election season if we could have a rational debate on sensible policy options, including how to face the terror threat.
Sadly, right now we are not having any serious debate about anything. We have crazy and hysteric reactions to a real problem that has been deliberately blown out of proportion, and is now presented to the public as a historic crisis.