February 16, 2004

Fear Itself

In The New York Times today, Edward Rothstein takes a gander at a wince-inducing conference entitled "Fear: Its Uses and Abuses." The keynote speakers and organizers, including Al Gore and the editors of Social Text, apparently do little more than trot out the usual accusations of fear-mongering against the Bush administration:

[T]he dominant idea was that, as the conference's thematic statement put it, fear was being "encouraged by our government and exacerbated by our media." It was compared with the irrational fear of Communism and the perversions of McCarthyism. It was described as part of a counter-constitutional coup by a radical right.
As Rothstein notes, a little perspective is in order. The terrorist threat levels, silly as they might be, are nothing compared to Nazi rhetoric against its enemies. The editors of Social Text may be surprised to learn that most Americans are intelligent enough to take 'Code Orange' for what it is: a semi-useless reminder that terrorism still exists, and the government is trying to keep tabs on things. Unless I missed mass outbreaks of hysteria somewhere in Skokie, IL, it seems like the country isn't really 'gripped' by fear.

On the other hand, it is true that the administration took advantage of the terrorist threat to advance its own domestic agenda. The extent to which this occurred is certainly worth exploring. But no one wants to hear frantic jabber about how 'the American government is using its war on terror "to justify the national security state."' Honestly, what purpose do these rants serve?

Update: Double goes for this guy...
-- Brad Plumer 1:00 PM || ||