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 anarchistic 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 naïvely 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.