Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Pseudo-patriotism in American journalism

In an article entitled "Bin Laden Couldn't Change US Character," posted at the website of CNN, journalist Bob Greene writes:
Sometimes over the years we complained about the long security lines at airports, and about the body searches that were becoming increasingly intrusive -- so, yes, bin Laden was able to add to daily frustrations and irritations that way. Sometimes we raised our eyebrows and joked a little about the color-coded security-alert levels, wondering aloud whether the system was really helping anything. They wouldn't have been there were it not for bin Laden.

Yet very few among us did not understand the need for the stepped-up procedures, and, in the end, although everyday living felt a little different from before, for most there were few genuine hardships. The stores were still full of merchandise, the sports leagues continued to operate as always, new movies arrived in theaters every week, the television networks did their standard best to provide entertainment that would amuse us. In almost every way, ours did not feel like a nation under siege.

Except for those who were overseas in uniform, or preparing to go there, and except for the grieving families of those lost on that September day...
At first I thought: what a logically deficient, utterly vapid article!  Then I realized it was satire. The writer, Bob Greene, was making fun of the kind of mindless drivel that Americans are fed on a daily basis by their news media.

"They wouldn't have been there were it not for bin Laden," Greene writes of the various post-9/11 security measures.  Since when did TSA officials or US Air Force generals take their orders from Osama bin Laden?   You can blame bin Laden for the worst terrorist attack in US history, but not for how America reacted to it.   (This ludicrous statement tipped me to the realize the article was intended as a parody.)

By the same token, the title of the article, "Bin Laden Couldn't Change US Character," is not a false declaration.  Bin Laden could not have changed it.  A change in US character is something that Americans could only have done to themselves. 

What anyone who has given serious thought to the matter can see is that Osama bin Laden gave free reign to the worst elements in American business and politics to pillage America. Since 9/11 the American government has stripped the people of precious freedoms (such as the right to private phone conversations), reinvented the security state (the country now has 17 intelligence agencies), asked young members of the military to give their lives while the rich got tax cuts and the middle class raked up mortgage debts, invited companies to offshore to China what little remained of America's manufacturing base, and encouraged Americans to live in a state of fear (through such tools as pointless multicolored "Terror Alert" warnings).

Greene is making fun of the worst, most insipid type of American journalism. He's mocking that which seeks to obscure historical travesty; a kind of journalism that has had the audacity to overlook an unmitigated financial, moral, and institutional tragedy borne of the inept, farcical, and self-interested execution of the so-called Global War on Terror.  Given the extent to which the American public has been exploited in the name chasing bin Laden, what could possibly justify the brand of "feel good" pseudo-patriotic journalism Greene parodies?   Ultimately, it serves to defend those who have lined their own pockets at the expense of their countrymen.  It nudges the public to turn a blind eye to the systematic degradation of the quality of American institutions, values, and lived experience. 

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