The ever-renewing terror threat
A Congressional hearing last week on terror threats facing the U.S. was covered by the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, both of which told the identical story: the U.S. is at serious danger from domestic, homegrown terrorists. Left out of the coverage entirely was the more newsworthy statement during the hearing by the director of the National Counterterrorism Center that Al Qaeda is no longer capable of carrying out a 9/11-style attack on U.S. soil. The omission of this fact and the emphasis instead on the alleged domestic terror threat is a classic example of terror porn, which works to maintain a never-diminishing level of paranoia about Islamic terrorism. Every time I have asked a neocon friend if we ever get to ratchet down our evaluation of the terror risk as years go by without a major incident, the answer comes back: No. There are many interests contributing to this insistence, among which are neocon geopolitical concerns as well as massive economic and institutional pressures. Though thousands more Americans are killed and injured each year through garden-variety criminal violence than Islamic terrorism on American soil, we now have an entire bloated federal agency dedicated to combating the alleged terrorist threat, pushing reams of paper by the hour in the effort to look crucial. To date, no major federal agency has ever been dismantled, so there is no reason to think that the Department of Homeland Security will be, either. But we still need to continue verbally justifying its existence. Thus the whack-a-mole nature of the terror threat and the always scary rhetoric around it.
“In some ways, the threat today may be at its most heightened state since the attacks nearly 10 years ago,” Janet Napolitano, the secretary of homeland security, told lawmakers.
Really? Why does that statement feel overdetermined to me. Have we ever heard an official say: “The threat is diminishing” or “The threat just isn’t as great as we thought it was.”
Last year, there was a spate of predictions echoing throughout the neocon press chamber about imminent biological threats. Anyone remember them? Like all such predictions over the last decade, none have panned out, yet their proponents will never be called on their abysmal record of accuracy.