Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Looking for a new bogeyman

Almost immediately after the death of former terrorist bogeyman Osama Bin Laden, news reports started popping up all over speculating on who would replace him as the Terrorist-In-Chief. Here are a few examples. (a) (b) (c)

There is no conspiracy to keep us living in fear of terrorism. It all develops as naturally as any other public issue meme. However, it's undeniable that memes benefit some more than others. The meme of our society living under the threat of collapse due to the efforts of a relative few fanatics is of great benefit to the existing power structures; political, military and industrial power structures.

The economy of the United States is highly dependent on defense spending. For those Americans who love to chant "We're Number One", well, you can't deny that they are right - at least when it comes to advanced weaponry, computers, spy tech, personnel training and maintenance, etc. Over 40% of the world's military spending each year is done by the U.S. The second leading country in military spending is China, and they spend roughly 15% of what our country does. The 2009 U.S. budget called for nearly $700 billion in defense spending and that was before the extra $75 billion of emergency funding for the war efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

This obscene level of spending has to be justified somehow. With the fall of communism as a viable threat to sell us on, the Nineties left a chasm that needed to be filled and "the worldwide threat of global terrorism, primarily emanating from the Middle East in the form of Islamic Jihad" provided a flimsy cover. At least at first. Then came 9/11/2001. You could almost feel the collective sigh of relief coming out of the military/industrial complex.

So now, with Osama Bin Laden an historical footnote, the search is on for a new bogeyman to haunt our dreams and allow our government to go unchallenged in spending outlandish amounts of money to insure that you don't die this year in cataclysmic attack. Feel the fear, and don't ask questions. Your life may depend on your obedient acquiescence. It would be better if you question the $1 billion spent on women's reproductive health or the half billion dollars earmarked for public broadcasting.

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