Wednesday, January 06, 2010


As I stood with fellow travelers in the DC bus station on the way to New York, we watched the terrorball game on the TV machine. Everyone around me seemed completely non-plused. Granted, I'm probably projecting, but there was a pervasive sense that this spectacle had nothing to do with us and in addition to being dumb, boring, and absurd had officially become tiresome and tedious. The contrast between the excited near hysterical tones of the broadcasters and the flat affect of the audience was striking. The TV kept cutting to the still shot of the terrorist, a semi-candid photo of a youngish black guy in a white t-shirt looking exactly like 80% of the people in the station. No one seemed alarmed or compelled to tackle themselves. Paul Campos sums it up nicely :

Our national government and almost all of the establishment media have decided to play a similar game, which could be called Terrorball.


...in the week that began with a terrorist incident in which no one other than the pathetically incompetent aspiring terrorist was hurt, approximately 47,000 Americans died. Around 13,000 of these people never reached old age, including nearly one thousand children.

Indeed over the past seven days approximately 350 Americans were murdered. About twenty of these murder victims were women killed by their husbands and boyfriends, while something like 35 were children who died as a result of abuse. Several hundred Americans committed suicide between Christmas and New Year’s Day and several hundred others died as a direct consequence of not having any medical insurance.


On one level, Terrorball can be understood as a product of straightforward cynicism: Both politicians and media moguls know that fear can be exploited for power and profit. But the rules of the game have another source as well.


Another reason has to do the imaginative capacities of our elites. The typical Congressional subcommittee chairman or cable news anchor or syndicated columnist can’t really imagine not being able to afford to take his child to a doctor, or being wrongly convicted of a crime, but he is quite capable of imagining being on a Paris to New York flight that’s blown out of the sky. And while it’s true the risk he faces of suffering this fate are very close to zero, they are not, as they are for a poor person, literally zero.


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