Thursday, March 23, 2006

NeoCons and the Terror Bounce

Commentary by Martin Kelly
October 14, 2004

One of the neoconservative movement’s most commonly used tools is scaremongering, in particular, predicting that the USA will suffer a terrorist attack in the homeland prior to the Presidential election. This tool has been used recently by the theologian and ultima neocon Michael Novak when slavishly reporting the pearls of the failed politician and proven liar Jose Maria Aznar, who told the neocons gathered round his ankles at a breakfast meeting of the American Enterprise Institute on September 24 that the USA will suffer ‘a major destructive action’ before November 2 (see ‘The Neocon and the Liar’).

Yeah, dude. Like he would know.

Why do the neocons do this? After all, what possible advantage could they get out of implying that the billions of dollars that have been spent on Homeland Security since 9/11 have been to no avail, and that their boy will be just as useless at protecting Americans as Aznar was at protecting the Spanish?

According to a piece of research published on September 30, the answer is very simple. It might help to keep George Bush’s poll numbers up.

That day Robb Willer, a Ph. D. student in Cornell’s Department of Sociology, published a paper called ‘The effects of government-issued terror warnings on presidential approval ratings’, in ‘Current Research in Social Psychology’. Willer’s conclusions are telling – for each terror warning that is issued by the government, the President’s approval ratings increase. Not merely do his personal approval ratings increase, but his ratings on economic performance also improve.

So that is why they do it. They think that every time they say there will be an attack, there will be a chance that it will provide a boost to Bush in the same way the official alerts do, and help to cement the impression that the American homeland is under constant threat. Although personally, I’m a small government guy, it’s hard to see how, in the wake of 9/11, the President could have done anything other than spend heavily on shoring up mainland America’s clearly shaky defences. Perhaps it was necessary to reinforce to citizens that globalisation, and the global movement of people, had brought the USA fully into the world, and that the world was neither as safe nor as sane as America.

But where the neocons fall down is in trying to instil a climate of fear. Climates of fear are the hallmarks of tyranny – nobody should feel afraid of getting on a bus in America, the way I’m sure many embattled Israelis feel when they get on the bus to go to work. Americans are entitled as Americans to go about their business unmolested by the blandishments of snooping cops and jobsworth civil servants, poking their noses where they don’t belong. Although the neocons, like the controversialist and absurdist John Derbyshire, will defend the right of the rich and powerful not to talk to the cops if they don’t feel like it, like Martha Stewart tried to do, they are not so vocal in their condemnation of those controversial parts of the Patriot Act intended to stop terror but which instead can be used for other law-enforcement purposes against old John Q.

The great argument for creeping police powers is, of course, you have nothing to fear if you’re blameless. But that’s not the point – as a non-American who reads a very great deal of American journalism, one thing about America that some Americans, and certainly almost all neocons, don’t understand is that America is not like other places. America even fights its wars according to a Constitution first committed to paper 220 years ago, and which has undergone remarkably few alterations since. This is not the norm – in fact, it is unique.

By trying to instil a climate of fear, the neocons are trying to advance their agenda of turning America into the sort of country that suits them, one that is not unique but instead globalised and homogenised, one where they are served and everyone else does the serving. They are Trotskyite entryists – they infiltrate the most influential agencies, assume the top jobs and then start promoting other entryists to advance their common agenda. Their weapon of choice in this case is fear – fear of the dreadful lapses that let Atta’s cadre of medieval savages, kin to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi’s neck-smiting SOB’s, into the flying schools of Florida and onto the tarmac at Logan. It may happen again, and it may happen before the election, in which case I will be eternally sorry – but the amount of money that taxpayers have spent since 9/11 on preventing such an event predicates that the possibilities of it happening are very remote indeed.
When they speak this way, they are trying to generate a terror bounce for George W. Bush. Bounce them back to AEI. And be very, very wary of Orange Alerts in the last week of October.