STATESBORO, GEORGIA – This past weekend was a forty-eight hour period of mourning and despair, a perfect example of what happens when Tragedy meets Politics meets Mass Media. Beginning at roughly midnight Saturday, CNN, MSNBC, FOX News, and virtually every major news outlet gathered in the streets of Paris to broadcast live from the scene of a horrific crime that has so far left more than a hundred people dead and hundreds more injured. Since then they have speculated wildly while bemoaning how “terrified” Parisians are and showing regular clips of panicking crowds sprinting away from perceived attacks.
“There’s no explaining how scared people are here,” Anderson Cooper said late Saturday. “There’s just no way to put it into words.”
The round-the-clock news programs tripped over themselves to portray the most frightening portrait of Paris as they could while French citizens flocked to demonstrations with placards reading “Not Afraid” and sang the national anthem. Meanwhile, on FNC, cellphone footage streamed of a herd of them storming through a makeshift memorial.
Back home the campaign shifted into a new phase as the race was on to capitalize on tragedy. Ted Cruz took the lead in a way only he could, stoking xenophobic fears that every immigrant could be a potential threat while Donald Trump faulted France’s gun laws and called for investigations into every mosque in America. Not to be outdone, all of the candidates released somber videos in which they stared into the camera and promised total annihilation.
Saturday night’s Democratic debate received a last-minute makeover when CBS decided to focus most of the show on the attacks, a pivot that allowed both Hillary Clinton and Martin O’Malley to run circles around Bernie Sanders by competing to one-up one another into how deadly of a response the attacks called for and what kind of war was needed. Sanders towed the company line by shifting to economics whenever he could, but it was obvious by the half hour mark that this is the moment where his campaign is officially DOA. There’s not going to be talk of tax cuts or income-inequality for the next year, maybe two to three years, as we are ramping up into full-blown War Mode, a designation where nothing is as important as Supporting The Cause and Dropping Bombs.
To her credit, Clinton shined in this new format. As a former Secretary of State her foreign policy bonafides are second to none and she highlighted it by plowing through CBS’s questions as to the makeup of ISIS and possible scenarios moving forward. She was polished and adept, a fact that must’ve surprised most of her Republicans critics and might’ve even won over a few converts. She even managed to pull the ol’ Rudy Giuliani in evoking the attacks of September 11th when explaining her unnaturally close relationships to big banks and Wall Street.
Struggling, Sanders did something unheralded as he pushed Clinton when it came to ISIS’s very existence. As past votes and positions were being plumbed, Bernie noted that ISIS wouldn’t even exist had there not been an invasion in Iraq, an invasion that Clinton not only voted for but trumpeted as a senator from New York. It was a deft political move and simultaneously accurate, a one-two blow that would’ve landed hard had we not been in the grip of a terrorist hangover.
There would be no ISIS and probably no Middle East turmoil, at least not this particular brand anyway, had we not removed Saddam Hussein from power under false pretenses. It’s the dirty secret of current geo-economics climates as the Strong Man Theory – or the idea that a despotic ruler in a region keeps everyone in line – is generally accepted as true, especially in the Iraqi region. By falling the Hussein regime and allowing a vacuum, and especially in failing to harness the capabilities of the remaining Iraqi Guard in the wake of that invasion, those responsible for the Iraq War are culpable to our current crisis in Syria.
That won’t matter though in the near future as all talk will be reactionary moving forward. This is the reality of war-time politics as nobody wants to talk the past for the past of the United States is to meddle in world affairs and then react in shock as that meddling’s consequences come home to roost. For the next year, or two or three or four or however many this war will take, we’re looking at a renewal of Patriotism, or rather the shade of xenophobia that wraps itself criminally in the flag while it stamps out everything the flag is supposed to represent.
We’re not talking tax cuts or stimulus programs now, we’re talking military output.
We’re not talking equal rights now, we’re talking constriction of privacy.
We’re not talking immigration now, we’re talking closing our borders.
And make no doubt about it: in the next month we’re going to see a marked turn in polls as the Republicans will benefit tremendously, primarily Cruz, Rubio, and maybe even Trump, as an angry and insecure public turns to the GOP that created the problem for safety. And with them, Clinton will more than likely solidify her position as Assumed Nominee and finally wipe the Sanders Insurrection from the board. There’s no room for all that economic nonsense now, they’ll say, as we’ve got missions to run and targets to bomb.
It’ll take shape in the next month, more than likely, as France has the option to invoke NATO’s charter and call to arms every nation member for retaliation. The target is now visible as terrorism now has a state to call its own, a landmass the size of my home state of Indiana that is ripe and ready to be both the subject of airstrikes and full-scale invasion. It’ll make the recent decision by Obama to put advisors on the ground seem like child’s play before it’s all said and done, and it’ll be an arm’s race by the presidential contenders to see who is most hawkish and who is ready to press the button.
This is the start of a new era of fear and anger that will only pale to the few days following the attacks of September 11th, an era that will see us decide once and again how we react to these types of things and whether we embrace the very freedom and tolerance they despise or if we give them the satisfaction of returning their hatred in kind. But make no mistake, we are either a free society or we are a society powered by fear. There are no other options, no other ways to be. We either aspire to be free or we are subject to the whims of maniacs who are able to best wield terror and destruction as a means of control. Never have the differences been starker.
Photo by victortsu