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Saturday, May 22, 2004

Terrorism as Entertainment

This article was written on September 14, 2001,  three days after the Al Queda destruction of the World Trade Towers and the attack on the Pentagon.  At that time, I doubted that the Baby Boomer public would support a war on terrorism for more than a few months.  While their support has lasted longer than expected, we have now reached the point at which the public wants to surrender to Al Queda and get back to more pleasantly entertaining pursuits. 

Once again, this article is timely.  The intensely emotional division in public opinion reflects the fundamental animosity between the natural-law concepts of human nature that prevailed in 1776 and the liberal-socialist, intellectual view that government regulators can redefine human nature and impose harmony on the world if we will just follow their orders.  In the liberal view opposing the war on terror, social justice (defined as the right to wallow in hedonistic pleasures at the expense of “rich” tax-payers) outweighs old-fashioned ideas of doing the right thing.

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Terrorist bombings of Manhattan?s World Trade Center and the Pentagon three days ago on September 11, 2001, prompt some thoughts and questions about the United States?s political and social culture.

The tone for these reflections is set by the incredibly ironic timing of a New York Times feature article that appeared the very day of these terrorist acts.  That article is headlined, ?Life With the Weathermen: No Regrets for a Love of Explosives,? and its opening sentence reads, ?“I don’t regret setting bombs,” Bill Ayers said. “I feel we didn’t do enough.”  The Times adds, ?Between 1970 and 1974 the Weathermen took responsibility for 12 bombings?? and also helped spring Timothy Leary (sentenced on marijuana charges) from jail.?

Bill Ayers and his wife Bernardine Dohrn were the two most notorious spokesmen for the Weatherman group of 1960s student radicals.  The Times article says that, ?Mr. Ayers, who in 1970 was said to have summed up the Weatherman philosophy as: “Kill all the rich people. Break up their cars and apartments. Bring the revolution home, kill your parents, that’s where it’s really at,” is today distinguished professor of education at the University of Illinois at Chicago.?  Bernardine Dohrn is director of the Legal Clinic’s Children and Family Justice Center of Northwestern University.

With ?distinguished? professors like Ayers and Dohrn common on university campuses over the past three decades, one need not wonder what college students are being taught.  William F. Buckley?s “God and Man at Yale” documented the nearly 100% advocacy, among the faculty and in the standard text books, of secular socialism and the anti-religious amorality of ?social justice? that prevailed as early as 1951.  Since that time colleges and universities, with their politically-correct special studies courses and speech-and-behavior codes, have openly and effectively aimed to radicalize their students.

Holding beliefs indistinguishable from the declarations of Osama bin Ladin, how can Baby Boomers simultaneously vow to wage war on terrorism?  After all, they were adamantly opposed to fighting for their country during the Vietnam war.

One may ask where is the moral fibre and stamina that will be required to sustain the necessary effort and to endure the likely military and civilian casualties that will result over the next months and years?  Will the outpouring of patriotism seen everywhere on TV be more than the fad-of-the-moment, forgotten in a few weeks?

How did we come to this? 

Baby Boomer radicals were just recycling the anarchism of the 1890s to 1920s that had preached the virtues of dynamite, killing and wounding hundreds of innocent people across the nation in the name of ?social justice.?  The same sort of hare-brained pseudo-intellectualism recently has produced riots and looting from Seattle to Europe by students protesting the World Trade Organization.

In addition to dynamite, anarchists and socialists historically have favored any behavior, such as sexual promiscuity and indulgence in drugs, that challenged accepted standards of social and political conduct.

Thus, after the riots, burnings, lootings, and bombings of that period, the Boomer ethos metamorphasized from terrorist action into self-absorbed sensual gratification.  Dropping out and doing drugs became a replacement for dynamite in the war to destroy old ideas of civic virtue. 

Among what the New York Times calls mainstream thinkers the only ?virtue? became toleration, that is, the absence of all standards ? anything goes, and the more entertainingly outrageous the better.  This was facilitated by a so-called educational system that produced students ignorant of history and devoid of understanding about the ethos underlying the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.

In our era of instant, mass communications, the media have concluded, not without reason, that a public absorbed in hedonistic sensual gratification wants only to be entertained by ?experiences.?  Hence novelty has become the only currency of value in contemporary culture.  In pursuit of novelty, movies and TV must descend ever deeper into the cesspool of vulgarity.  No social, moral, or religious standard must be left undefiled.  The New York Times, in another September, 2001, feature article, noted that TV and movie producers are planning in the new fall run of shows to move the boundaries a notch farther out and introduce foul and offensive language hitherto prohibited by network and movie executives.

The scramble for ratings and box-office revenue focuses on vulgarity, from reality TV to South Park?s in-your-face use of the four-letter word for excrement 168 times in a show whose biggest audience is teenagers.  Producers declare this a benefit to society because it attacks the taboos of puritanical morals.  Breaking down all standards, coarsening the public taste to the point of insensitivity is called free speech.

Given this pervasive ethos, the current public outrage about the World Trade Center bombings is all too likely to become just another fleeting item in the parade of novelty.  Like Roman citizens watching gladiators fight to the death and lions devour Christians, the public will soon become bored, particularly since the last two generations have been exposed to movie special effects that show scenes of Armageddon-like destruction in far more interesting and graphic detail than the videos of the World Trade Towers collapsing.  The War on Terrorism will be far less titillating than the latest episodes of Sex in the City. 

Most Americans, reared on video games, will expect that dealing with terrorists should be little more trying than pushing the right buttons to win a quick session of Mortal Kombat.  When it becomes evident that real blood, sweat, and tears are required, they are likely just to switch channels.