Why All the Fear?

I’ve never thought of myself as a particularly brave or courageous person. Plenty of things make me a little bit nervous at the very least. But the overt fear many claim to have felt since Sept. 11, 2001 really hasn’t been part of my thinking. Let me make it clear: I was angry and sad after the 9/11 massacres. But I didn’t feel afraid or fearful; my attitude was always along the lines of “We have to find the people responsible, prevent them from doing this again, and let justice take its course.” And I never wanted to gratutiously hurt someone. Related to this, Josh Marshall, whom I often agree with, writes something very perplexing:

Now, here’s the point I want to focus in on. I want to make a basic distinction between the things we might think or feel impulsively when in the grip of fear and things we really think ought to be done. I never thought we should be torturing people or rounding people up. What I am saying is that I remember the atmosphere of those days just after 9/11 and the primal gut instincts that made part of me wish those things were happening.
It now seems that even this London bomb plot may not be all it’s cracked up to be. But it did give me a moment of that gut level fear. And in that moment, as much as I’ve thought what I’ve thought about Iraq, I’m not sure I ever felt as clearly how completely beside the point Iraq is from the real threat we face of deracinated Islamic radicals (in the Muslim world and sprinkled about the West) trying to perpetrate mass terror attacks.
It hit me like a sort of epiphany even though it was a realization of something I and countless others have been saying for years.
I’m curious to know whether anyone else experienced something similar and even more whether anyone else’s mind (about Iraq) actually may have been changed.
Is there anyone in the country who can say honestly, in their heart of hearts, that when that moment of fear hit them after the recent reports out of London, they said to themselves, “God, I’m glad we’re in Iraq”?

I’ve included the last bits because Marshall should get credit for pointing out something that’s obvious…once somebody actually recognizes it (like many things in science, actually). But “my primal gut instincts” never led me to want to torture someone, or round up Arabs indiscriminately. Maybe it’s because I have lived in a country where terrorism was a part of daily life (regrettably), so you just learned to ‘carry on.’ Maybe it’s because I spent my formative years in the blast zone of the original ground zero: a nuclear strike on DC. Maybe it’s because I come from a long, distinguished line of short, stubborn Jewish people. I really have no idea.
But I didn’t have a “moment of fear…after the recent reports out of London”. Had more attacks actually occurred, I would have been worried because it would mean we still couldn’t stop the attacks. But the plot was foiled (such as it was). To me, when it comes to terrorism, it appears that the farther right you go, the more fear of terrorism there is. Not concern or planning, but out and out fear.
I don’t get this at all. It’s as if many Americans, and not solely those on the right, almost need to be afraid. Or even want to be afraid. And that is very sad. Properly prepared, yes. But why all of the fear? Compared to the threat of total nuclear annihilation, or fighting actual facists who had conquered much of the globe through military might (not ‘Islamofacists’), we as a country have faced far worse.
an aside: Glenn Greenwald documents some standard conservative fear-based hyperventilation:

Also today on Malkin’s site, “Allah” screeched that an international flight from London to DC was diverted perhaps because, “Allah” speculated, of a “Note referencing Al Qaeda?” This cautious alarm was shortly thereafter followed by excited “confirmation” — the jackpot: “All right, this gets the red font: Fox just said the woman had a note referencing Al Qaeda, along with “vaseline,” matches, and a screwdriver” (emphasis added).
In fact, the plane was diverted because “an apparently claustrophobic passenger” engaged in bellicose behavior, and “federal security official for Logan said there was no indication of terrorism and denied reports that the woman had a screw driver, matches and a note referring to al-Qaeda.”

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2 Responses to Why All the Fear?

  1. Gerry L says:

    I think you’re right about people wanting to be afraid. Why go see scary movies? Why pay to barf up lunch on scream-inducing amusement park rides?
    The terrorism threat is so much more edgy because you can’t fast-forward through the really bad parts, and you don’t know when it will end. Personally, I’m not someone who likes to be scared witless — and, like you, was saddened rather than frightened by 9/11.
    An aside: during the post-9/11 anthrax scare, some people in my company got all freaked out by the powdered sugar left on a conference room table after a morning meeting.

  2. bad Jim says:

    The last time I encountered real fear was in a small Fokker commuter plane from San Sebastian to Barcelona. It bounced around a bit, and while I was thinking “Wow, it’s been decades since I felt this, I never knew how much I liked it”, my travelling companion was digging her fingers into my arm nearly to the point of pain. She was not amused.
    Being on a peak in a thunderstorm, lightning striking everywhere, is scary. Meeting a bear on a mountain trail is interesting. Terrorist plots in London are very old news. Another friend had the privilege of experiencing the IRA’s bombing campaign way back when. She and her fellow Londoners just carried on, making our fellow citizens look bad in comparison.

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