The Weird Geography of Fear

Lots of a-fearing going on out there. I believe I’m seeing something that happened in the weeks and months after September 11 also. Well, in the years after September 11. And that is, the further away from an actual or likely target of terrorism, the more hysterically fearful people were about terrorism. I wrote about this in 2006:

If you understand the fear issue, then what I call Erin’s Paradox (named for my daughter because she noticed it, not because she has it) becomes more understandable. Erin’s Paradox says that the further away Americans live from any likely terrorist target, the more fearful they are of terrorism.

After 9/11 I kept reading about people out in the Midwest stampeding to buy firearms during the infamous Anthrax episode, for example. Yes, that does not make sense. I was working on Madison Avenue at the time and could see Rockefeller Center — where at least one actual anthrax letter was delivered, as I remember — from my office, yet somehow I was not struck with fear that I would be next.  Anyway, the 2006 post continued,

“Likely terrorist targets” are urban, and city dwellers learn to be comfortable with multiculturalism. If you live in some homogeneous little town out on the prairie, however, it’s more likely you are not comfortable with multiculturalism at all. Thus, dusky Islamic terrorists from unfathomable foreign places scare the stuffing out of them, much more so than the potential Timothy McVeigh wannabee next door.

 See also: White supremacists more dangerous to America than foreign terrorists, study says.

Of course, I’m spending most of my time in a temple with like-minded people, but I’m not personally seeing people having fear meltdowns. But, apparently, some are.

Charles Pierce looks at some of the hysteria out there.


20 thoughts on “The Weird Geography of Fear

  1. what Badfinger would have come up with had they recorded “Derp After Derp”

    Hey, now. Everyone knows Badfinger’s Best Song Ever was “No Matter What You Derp.”

    OK, to be serious– although at first it may not sound like it– I still believe we are witnessing what I’ve come to call “Jihad by Beavis and Butthead.” I first noticed it with the Tsarnaev brothers, and those a$$clowns in London who murdered a British soldier who was walking back to his barracks. The first known fact about any French citizen involved in the Friday the 13th attacks was that he was (paraphrasing) “a petty criminal with a long rap sheet who had become radicalized.”

    In other words: “I am bored and I know where to get illegal guns and I feel like randomly killing people… so whatcha got?”

    600,000 refugees have crossed from Turkey through Greece into Europe. So far, one has turned out to be a terrorist. These are better odds than gathering together 600,000 white male Republicans and trying to avoid the angry, assault-rifle-totin’ mass murderers among them.

    It occurs to me that no power-mad homicidal maniac has ever aspired to be “King of Nothing.” But, with all the sane humanity pouring out of ISIS-held territory as fast as they can lift their children onto their shoulders, the Beavises and Buttheads of ISIS are left with exactly that: vast expanses of empty landscape, whistling in the wind. If “Western Civilization” forces all the sane humanity back to their homes, we’re giving ISIS hundreds of thousands of parents to kill and toss into mass graves, young girls to rape, and young boys to indoctrinate.

    Yeesh. As Paul McCartney once said: “Hey, Derp.” Take a sad song, and make it better.

  2. “Lots of a-fearing going on out there”

    Yeah it seems a bit over the top, horrible attack for sure but not much different than what goes on in middle eastern countries on a regular basis? The Mumbai attacks in 2008 were very similar in size and scope yet I don’t remember the freak out being as pronounced? Maybe because it happened after our election or maybe cause the victims were mostly brown with funny names and even funnier accents? This attack is certainly being exploited by the GOP clown car with the willing participation of our corporate media, maybe that why?

  3. After 9/11 and the Anthrax attacks, back when I was able to exercise by walking, and lived in Chapel Hill, NC, on weekends as I did my 3-4 miles in the mornings , I watched whole families, and contracted workers, wrapping their McMansions in giant rolls of plastic wrap.
    I laughed.

    After a while, all of the hardware stores ran out of plastic wrap – and, boy-howdy, were people upset!

    I laughed, because if you wrapped your house well enough so that no Anthrax spores could get in, neither could O2!
    I imagine the parents in the afterlife, telling their kids, “Good news, and bad news. The good news is that we didn’t die from Anthrax. The bad news is, we did such a good job wrapping our house, we all died from asyphixiation…”

    And now I ‘m so sure that I’d bet on it, that the folks in Paris, TX, are probably more terrified than their city’s namesake, in France.

  4. Remember after 911 when the French were persona non grata and the butt of endless stupid jokes by rightwingnuts?

  5. I do remember how the residents of Alabama cleaned out the gun stores when they heard that Russia invaded Georgia.

  6. I remember when members of the US Congress had “French fries” in their dining room changed to “freedom fries” or somedamnthing. A gathering of old idiots, then and now.

  7. A few days ago, you posted a piece on “Why I Blog”. This article by Marianne Williamson gets to the heart of why I write.

    ..America, we have some atoning to do. We didn’t cause all of what’s happening now with ISIL, but our part in creating this disaster is enormous.

    We can atone in our hearts for the part that our own country played, through deeply misguided foreign policy, in destabilizing the Middle East. We can atone in our hearts for the huge amount of suffering and death caused by attacking a country that had not attacked us, our own Security agencies expressing doubts at the time about the veracity of claims that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. We can atone for having so casually gone along with a thinly veiled propaganda campaign, waged by our own government and practically unquestioned by the American press, surrendering so easily to the war fever then taking hold of the American mind. On behalf of our country, we can atone for the sin of an astonishing arrogance, shallow thinking on almost all our parts about something as deeply serious as war, and our almost unquestioning assent to the use of violence against those who had done no violence to us….

    How can we ask God to save us from violence now, when we have countenanced so much of it done so irresponsibly in our name? The invasion of Iraq unleashed a storm in the Middle East doing inestimable damage. It has caused and continues to cause immeasurable suffering. It has maimed and killed thousands of our own brave servicemen, and maimed and killed thousands of more people from another part of the world. Until we understand this, allow ourselves to truly feel the horror of it and humbly ask for forgiveness, then there will be no miracle. For only when we re-align ourselves with God will miracles occur.

    Recognizing this is hardly naïve. Quite the opposite: what’s naïve is to believe that anything less will change the deeper trajectory by which America is now reaping some horrible seeds that we ourselves have sowed.

  8. For today’s GOP, the question would have to be the following:
    Or, Depend’s?’

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