Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

November 24, 2015

Fear and loathing

Filed under: Radicalization,Refugee Crisis,Terrorist Threats & Attacks — by Philip J. Palin on November 24, 2015

Saturday the Washington Post reported, “Americans more fearful of a terrorist attack, poll finds”.  The article claimed that fear has “risen sharply” since the Paris attacks on November 13.

The actual survey question asked on November 19 was, “How likely do you think it is that in the near future there will be a terrorist attack in the United States causing a large number of lives to be lost?”  The identical question has been asked periodically since December, 2001. Last week eighty-one percent of respondents considered the prospect “very” or “somewhat” likely.  This is the second highest result since the question has been asked, surpassed only by the 85 percent net likelihood found after the July 2005 London bomb attacks.

The survey did not ask respondents anything about fear.

Last week I had three friends check in on canceling their holiday trips to New York.  I received one of their calls while walking across Times Square.  A related email arrived while I was getting off the subway at Herald Square.  That morning many newscasts were leading with the ISIS video-threat against New York.

Clearly my friends were apprehensive.  I don’t perceive they were afraid.  Rather, each of them was probably contacting me precisely to strengthen their predisposition to persist with their plans.  My work has very little to do with counter-terrorism, but one of my friends wrote, “You make me feel safer, because I know you know more than most…”

My responses were variations on the theme: risk is persistent, death is inevitable, New York is a very big place, I’m having a great time.  This does not assert any special knowledge.

The Old English word (fær) from which fear is derived means “sudden attack” or “ambush”.  If I had been at or near the Bataclan I would have been fearful.  I am not confident I have the courage or grace to perceive the profound love reported, even there, by one of those trapped in harms way (thank you Vicki).

But fear is not an accurate description for what I currently feel or what prompted my friends to contact me.  Fear may be what Mr. Trump is trying to sell.  But it is not, necessarily, what the survey respondents were channeling.  Perception of an increased likelihood of terrorist attacks may not translate directly into increased fear of the same.

Yet… I have difficulty explaining inflexible and craven notions regarding “outsiders” unless many are afraid or feel themselves on the sharpest edge of fear and are desperately trying to avoid falling further into what they see as a imminent maelstrom.

How do we constructively deal with such wide-spread anxiety?

It is difficult to think aloud about these issues.  Objective analysis helps, but in another way misses the point entirely.  This is mostly about subjective projection.

A few lines cherry-picked from Auden’s long poem The Age of Anxiety:

All war’s woes I can well imagine.
Gun-barrels glint, gathered in ambush
Mayhem among mountains…
Ruins by roads, irrational in woods,
Insensitive upon snow-bound plains,
Or littered lifeless along low coasts…

Numbers and nightmares have news value.

A crime has occurred, accusing all.

The world needs a wash and a week’s rest.

Better this than barbarian misrule.
History tells more often than not
Of wickedness with will, wisdom but
An interjection without a verb,
And the godless growing like green cedars
On righteous ruins…

But the new barbarian is no uncouth
Desert-dweller; he does not emerge
From fir forests; factories bred him;
Corporate companies, college towns
Mothered his mind, and many journals
Backed his beliefs. He was born here. The
Bravura of revolvers in vogue now
And the cult of death are quite at home
Inside the City…

Do we learn from the past? The police,
The dress-designers, etc.,
Who manage the mirrors, say–No.
A hundred centuries hence
The gross and aggressive will still
Be putting their trust in patron
Saint or a family fortress,
The seedy be taking the same
Old treatments for tedium vitae,
Religion, Politics, Love…

Both professor and prophet depress,
For vision and longer view
Agree in predicting a day
Of convulsion and vast evil,
When the Cold Societies clash
Or the mosses are set in motion
To overrun the earth,
And the great brain which began
With lucid dialectics
Ends in a horrid madness…

We would rather be ruined than changed,
We would rather die in our dread
Than climb the cross of the moment
And let our illusions die.

Auden wrote this between July, 1944 and November, 1946.  I have lived my entire life in the shadow he so powerfully projects.  There is also evidence of such dread being fully confirmed: Between April and November 1944 585,000 Jews were deported to Auschwitz.  On August 6, 1945 an atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima incinerating at least 100,000.  Listing one dreadful example for each year since would not be difficult. Choosing only one would be the challenge.

Yet this is not the whole story.  Auschwitz was liberated, Japanese and Americans reconciled, in the last seventy years many ancient sources of oppression have withered. In the midst of these dreadful years, have you loved someone? Known the love of another? Experienced joy?

Reality taken as whole helps.  Reality is both brutal and beautiful (and more).  It is important not to deny its multiplicity.

Yesterday, Monday, the Washington Post had another story: Voters’ fear of terrorism changes the campaign.  This time individuals are quoted expressing specific fears.  In these explanations I hear something other than visceral reaction.  I hear self-interested choices.

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8 Comments »

Comment by William R. Cumming

November 24, 2015 @ 7:50 am

Another great post IMO! But perhaps since you know more perhaps I can sharpen the focus. We Americans [and most of the world following] have been leaders in professional risk analysis and risk management. Largely a product of statistical analysis the statistics don’t lie. But in general humanity does lie and in particular to itself.

Of course much of formal risk analysis and risk management is hidden from the population at large. And business thrives on then judgement that they can avoid regulators and even if caught can still profit.

But IMO it is not statistics that drives humanity in its personal attitude towards risk taking but the fear or knowledge of the pure randomness of violence either from intentional acts or even accidents.

Thus, many in the Public Safety business hope to better the statistics [lower losses of life and property] even while ignoring how the human mind works. Just like teenagers who are almost totally fearless even adults rationalize and say it will happen to others not to me.

After all e.g. is Social Media 2.0 a method of warning and alerting or risk management for its users or simply a more modern version of helping to inflict violence with even more randomness than in the past?

Comment by William R. Cumming

November 24, 2015 @ 7:57 am

Since major risk changes are not masked by governments and business how is risk conveyed to the public? One example, even now few people understand that the hydrogen bomb geometrically increased the damage that could be inflicted by an “atom” bomb thus raising the stakes even more so.

And now revealed the stupidity of the nuclear priesthood in testing two hydrogen bombs in air bursts [picked up by Soviet sensing equipment as indicated by their returning the favor] during the 13 days of the Cuban Missile crisis in 1962. Still unverified if JFK knew we had conducted these tests during this sensitive time.

Yes the lemming leadership now in place in most of the world and like the lemmings no idea of the meaning of a cliff.

Comment by William R. Cumming

November 24, 2015 @ 8:19 am

Some may wonder why I stated that ” major risk changes are not masked by governments” and wonder why?

In my judgement risk analysis is not conveyed because largely not conducted except when for reasons of profit or political gain and to avoid accountability.

Is climate change the best example.

Recently a friend and PhD working a FEMA issue, a trained economist, was visiting me and interviewing me. I told him of an incident in my checkered 20 year past in FEMA. I told him about MCL [Mathematics Computer Lab at one time located and working in Charlottesville, VA] and what it did. Its job was to model the impact of nuclear attacks on the USA and help with recovery. That organization composed largely of economic modelers was inherited by FEMA from the FPA [part of GSA] and shut down by OMB because it was ordered to do so for political reasons. Why? Stupidity. The stated reason such economic models were available from the private sector. No such private sector models were available then or even now.

Perhaps given the fact of NUCLEAR WINTER revealed by Dr. Carl Sagan, PhD, inn a SCIENCE mag article in 1983, this group could usefully have been involved in Climate Change modeling.

And in the meantime few scientists and engineers work in OMB.

Dr. Gilbert White, PhD, a geographer, who worked in the predecessor agency to OMB[and also to diminish reliance for flood damages on structural protection works} in 1942 and wrote his PhD thesis on HUMAN ADJUSTMENT TO FLOOD PLAINS used in part to just the federal land use program labeled the NFIP [National Flood Insurance Program] is an example of how technical brainpower should be housed in OMB.

AND GUESS WHAT? Almost no capability for risk analysis or risk management in OMB despite the fact that OMB houses the unit responsible for determining what statistics will be gathered by the federal government.

THUS THE GOLDEN RULE OF RISK ANALYSIS! What is not collected cannot be desseminated!

Comment by William R. Cumming

November 24, 2015 @ 10:52 am

CORRECTION: The Gilbert White PhD thesis was entitled HUMAN ADJUSTMENTS TO FLOODS!

Comment by William R. Cumming

November 25, 2015 @ 11:45 am

I have posted an interview with Dr. White by Martin Ruess of USACOE in 1985 and published 1993 where Dr. White discusses his life and seminal work as a distinguished geogrpaher unvarnished and including his contributions to climate science and NUCLEAR WINTER analysis.

Go to http://fas.org/irp/agency/dhs/fema/index.html

Comment by Concerned Citizen

November 25, 2015 @ 10:27 pm

Socrates and Political Courage Paul Woodruff Citizen Socrates: 5th Annual Platsis Symposium The University of Michigan September 29, 2006

“Because tyrants try to rule by means of fear, we who care for freedom must cultivate the courage to stand up for what is right, against fear. A tyrant is really a kind of internal terrorist. Then and now, the first defense against terrorism is to learn how not to be terrified by it. This is true whether the terrorists are our own leaders, acting like tyrants, or our external enemies” –

Comment by Concerned Citizen

November 25, 2015 @ 11:24 pm

As a Concerned Citizen, while our adversaries (illegal and otherwise) are taking advantage of our porous borders and the lawlessness and dismissal of our Constitution and responsibility by pledge in oath to enforce the laws of our nation, yes, to safeguard our good People, while this Oval Office could obviously give a damn when looking whether to the south or northern borders and who may enter and kill our precious and remain in sanctuary cities, enclaves for the wicked and demented and our politicians care little as demonstrated by the Reid without any vestige for the innocent (Kate’s Law) slain, the following for you to ponder:

America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter, and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.
~Abraham Lincoln

Make the lie big, make it simple, keep saying it, and eventually they will believe it.
~Adolph Hitler

Any excuse will serve a tyrant.
~Aesop

The welfare of the people in particular has always been the alibi of tyrants.
~Albert Camus

Unthinking respect for authority is the greatest enemy of truth.
~Albert Einstein

The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing.
~Albert Einstein

The next war … may well bury Western civilization forever.
~Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

Those who stand for nothing fall for anything.
~Alexander Hamilton

Those who give up essential liberties for temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.
~Benjamin Franklin

The deterioration of every government begins with the decay of the principles on which it was founded.
~Charles-Louis De Secondat

Name me an emperor who was ever struck by a cannonball.
~Charles V of France

We…are not really free if we can’t control our own government and its policies. And we will never do that if we remain ignorant.
~Charley Reese

True patriotism hates injustice in its own land more than anywhere else.
~Clarence Darrow

You cannot be on one hand dedicated to peace and on the other dedicated to violence. Those two things are irreconcilable.
~Condoleeza Rice

As a rule of thumb, if the government wants you to know it, it probably isn’t true.
~Craig Murray

Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised “for the good of its victims” may be the most oppressive.
~C. S. Lewis

Today the real test of America’s power and wisdom is not our capacity to make war but our capacity to prevent it.
~Dale Turner

Remember that a government big enough to give you everything you want is also big enough to take away everything you have.
~Davy Crockett

From fanaticism to barbarism is only one step.
~Denis Diderot

Conflict cannot survive without your participation.
~Dr. Wayne Dyer

We seek peace, knowing that peace is the climate of freedom.
~Dwight D. Eisenhower

A patriot must always be ready to defend his country against his government.
~Edward Abbey

Education is a better safeguard of liberty than a standing army.
~Edward Everett

I dream of giving birth to a child who will ask, ‘Mother, what was war?’
~Eve Merriam

The State acquires power… and because of its insatiable lust for power it is incapable of giving up any of it. The State never abdicates.
~Frank Chodorov

All governments suffer a recurring problem: Power attracts pathological personalities.
~Frank Herbert

The evils of government are directly proportional to the tolerance of the people.
~Frank Kent

In politics, nothing happens by accident. If it happens, you can bet it was planned that way.
~Franklin Delano Roosevelt

The military doesn’t start wars. The politicians start wars.
~General William Westmoreland

War is fear cloaked in courage.
~General William Westmoreland

Our enemies are innovative and resourceful…They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we.
~George W. Bush

Evil men, obsessed with ambition and unburdened by conscience, must be taken very seriously–and we must stop them before their crimes can multiply.
~George W. Bush

In peace, sons bury their fathers; in war, fathers bury their sons.
~Herodotus

When fanatics are on top there is no limit to oppression.
~H.L. Menken

Paramount among the responsibilities of a free press is the duty to prevent any part of the government from deceiving the people…
~Hugo Black, Supreme Court Justice

Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent.
~Issac Asimov

We believed ourselves indestructable… watching only the madmen outside our frontiers, and we remained defenseless against our own madmen.
~Jacobo Timerman

The means of defense against foreign danger historically have become the instruments of tyranny at home.
~James Madison

All men having power ought to be mistrusted.
~James Madison

If Tyranny and Oppression come to this land, it will be in the guise of fighting a foreign enemy.
~James Madison

The loss of liberty at home is to be charged to the provisions against danger, real or imagined, from abroad.
~James Madison

It is always more valuable to report the truth.
~Jean-Paul Sartre

I’m afraid, based on my own experience, that fascism will come to America in the name of national security.
~Jim Garrison

There is danger from all men. The only maxim of a free government ought to be to trust no man living with power to endanger the public liberty.
~John Adams

The real fabric of American society is not all those flags you see on people’s cars…it’s in the Bill of Rights and in our constitutional form of government.
~John Adams (composer)

It is harder to preserve than to obtain liberty.
~John C. Calhoun

We are not afraid to entrust the American people with unpleasant facts, foreign ideas, alien philosophies, and competitive values.
~John F. Kennedy

A nation that is afraid to let its people judge the truth and falsehood in an open market is a nation that is afraid of its people.
~John F. Kennedy

All mankind…being all equal and independent, no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty or possessions.
~John Locke

Those who suppress freedom always do so in the name of law and order.
~John V. Lindsay

The sword of murder is not the balance of justice.
~Julia Ward Howe

The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in the insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well meaning but without understanding.
~Justice

Man is the only animal that is cruel. It kills just for the sake of it.
~Mark Twain

Each man must for himself alone decide what is right and what is wrong, which course is patriotic and which isn’t.
~Mark Twain

Be loyal to your country always, and to the government only when it deserves it.
~Mark Twain

Social order at the expense of liberty is hardly a bargain.
~Marquis de Sade

Nothing good ever comes of violence.
~Martin Luther King, Jr

If you succumb to the temptation of using violence in the struggle…your chief legacy to the future will be an endless reign of meaningless chaos.
~Martin Luther King, Jr.

Politics and crime are the same thing.
~Michael Corleone (from “The Godfather: Part III”)

The enormous gap between what US leaders do in the world and what Americans think their leaders are doing is one of the great propaganda accomplishments.
~Michael Parenti

There are only two powers in the world: the sword and the mind. In the long run, the sword is always defeated by the mind.
~Napoleon Bonaparte

When the tyrant has disposed of foreign enemies by conquest or treaty, and there is nothing to fear from them, then he is always stirring up some war or other, in order that the people may require a leader.
~Plato

One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors.
~Plato

This and no other is the root from which a tyrant springs; when he first appears he is a protector.
~Plato

Violence is not power, but the absence of power.
~Ralph Waldo Emerson

The tyrant always talks as if he’s preserving the best interests of his people when he actually acts to undermine them.
~Ramman Kenoun

Power is usurped from the people, first by implementing fear, then it is maintained by slandering as ‘unpatriotic’ those who refuse submission.
~Ramman Kenoun

The more corrupt the state, the more numerous the laws.
~Tacitus

A coward is much more exposed to quarrels than a man of spirit.
~Thomas Jefferson

I know of no safe depository of the ultimate power of the society but the people themselves.
~Thomas Jefferson

Nations, like individuals, are punished for their transgressions.
~Ulysses S. Grant

Comment by William R. Cumming

November 28, 2015 @ 9:18 am

Wonderful quotes IMO.

A myth exists that wars can be won or lost may well destroy humanity.

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