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Monday, January 14, 2002

Keep the Change
The New America

by CLINTON FEIN

On September 11, 2001, a group of indoctrinated lunatics operating under the tormented belief that Allah would provide them with virgins, victory and vindication hijacked four commercial airplanes and executed the worst coordinated terrorist attack ever on American soil. Within hours, New York’s most identifying structures – the twin towers of the World Trade Center – were a crumpled, simmering heap of twisted concrete, steel and blood. An outer edge of the Pentagon suffered a similar, albeit less dramatic fate, and the fourth plane lay smoldering in a remote field in Pennsylvania.

For most of America, and indeed most of the civilized world, these few explosive hours – for a moment in time – forced people into facing the most daunting reality to be faced in this lifetime. Only if we are to believe the death and genocide that permeated and defined the last century was something we had somehow transcended as we entered a new one.

With a few undesirable exceptions, the world seemed to collectively reel as the enormity of the events seeped into the fortified walls of denial we had erected with assiduous determination. There were those in places most of the Western world has at least heard of, for whom these shocking events represented nothing more than perhaps a tremor in a synapse or two deep in the recesses of the brain of human consciousness.

Death and rubble is hardly a new phenomenon. America, however, was not used to the role shift -- the submissive bombee at the mercy of bombers they did not understand and bombs unlike ones they were familiar with dropping. For the first time, the false sense of security America had been lulled into through escapism and selfishness and an ever increasing obsession with celebrity, money, greed, entertainment, and instant gratification came collapsing down along with the concrete, glass and planes leaving people naked, shattered, vulnerable, scared confused and unmasked.

September 11 was the day President Bush appeared to truly represent America for the first time in his infant presidency simply because he looked and acted like a panic stricken deer caught in the headlights. By the time Air Force One touched down in Washington DC that evening, Americans had already begun picking away at the rubble with bare hands and aimlessly erecting the collapsed walls of denial in the fervent hope that the simple act of resurrection might bring about the remotest possibility of understanding. Without so much as a blink, a disastrous concoction of anger, blame, grief, revenge, resolve and good intentions was blended into a toxic mixture by America’s relentless media conglomerates and served fresh as a tonic, with an excess of patriotism, platitudes and a twist of political grandstanding.

The clichéd notion of a world forever changed, a media perpetuated paradigm we’re still stuck in, was as dubious September 11 as it is now. There is nothing inherently wrong or unnatural about expressing anger, pointing fingers or a healthy dose of denial. It is fundamentally human. It is the inability to look with enough depth at the underlying causes of events and history that will doom us to make the same mistakes over and over. Instead of a period of even the most perfunctory of introspection, or at least the pretense of one, the Gary Condit scandal disappeared as quickly as the sharks off Florida’s coastline to be replaced with a saturation of stars and stripes sentimentality that show no signs of slowing down.

Anti-depressant prescriptions skyrocketed, boosted by the threat of anthrax in the mailbox (along with the electric bills that didn’t seem to reflect the miraculously averted energy crisis). Drug Enforcement Agency goons and customs officials began and continue to grapple over what emphasis to place on which suspicious white powders -- ones that once would have been welcomed by the current resident of the White House or ones that were forcing current members of congress to vacate en masse. The confused cacophony, coupled with plummeting employment statistics gave rise to a cornucopia of pharmaceutical opportunities.

While biotech patent holders high-fived one another, beefed up security measures in airports -- provided by the newly formed Office of Homeland Security -- facilitated the deployment of inexperienced and untrained members of the National Guard brandishing M16A's and confiscating toenail clippers and tweezers. It provided a useful message to the public that all was well – until, of course, unsavory passengers with unclipped toenails and bushy eyebrows began sauntering onto planes with bombs in their Nikes and Berettas in their briefcases.

Op Ed columnists like The New York Times’ Maureen Dowd became momentarily thoughtful and sensitive even while projecting peculiar Oedipal complexities onto buff firemen, whilst glossy magazine editors such as Vanity Fair’s Graydon Carter demonstrated, with remarkable irony, the meaning of his pious words about the death of irony and our fundamental shift, as a nation, from a focus on shallow celebrity and frivolity by simultaneously slapping Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise, topless, onto the December 2001 and January 2002 covers respectively.

Boeing scored big time in a government bailout in the form of a $26 billion lease agreement with the Air Force that made Enron officials Jeffrey Skilling and Kenneth Lay’s unwitting employee funded campaign contributions to George W. Bush, John Ashcroft and other thieving misfits look positively pitiful. The energy crisis California managed to somehow avert -- as rolling blackouts were replaced by armed National Guardsmen on Bay Area bridges while cars and trucks potentially carrying bombs drove onto them unhindered -- turned out to be the wrong energy crisis after all. While Enron squandered the life savings of its employees as insiders sold their shares raking in $1.1 billion, (selling 17.3 million shares from 1999 through mid-2001, according to court filings based on public records), and made urgent calls to the Treasury Secretary, assholes like MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, Wall Street Journal’s John Fund, Fox’s Bill O’Rielly and the rest of the self obsessed media dregs, gorged at the trough of narcissistic puffery for staking out Gary Condit’s apartment all summer.

Whether or not names like Skilling or Lay appear on the much sought after documents that Dick Cheney won’t turn over to the General Accounting Office remains to be seen and the potential fallout is poised to be a far more severe energy crisis -- one that floundering buffoons like Ari Fleischer will need a lot more than prayers by Allah-hating Reverend Franklin Graham to spin out of. Hopefully for this administration, California won’t remember the cavalier “It’s your problem” attitude the White House took pre September 11 when there was a seeming energy crisis.

The American flag was desecrated nearly as much as the constitution was by John Ashcroft as San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown’s office dished out posters displaying American flag shopping bags announcing “America: Open for Business” that were dutifully placed in windows from prime real estate retailers like Kenneth Cole on Union Square to Seven Elevens in the Mission. A tawdry patriotism emerged that had once taste conscious yuppies plastering gaudy American antennae flags and stickers on their ten-mile-per-gallon SUVs. Skin-headed, rednecked bigots masked their racist hate in Bushist jingoism that had old antiwar hippies slapping them on the back in jolly camaraderie and turning theocratic isolationists like Pat Buchanan into moderates overnight.

A propaganda campaign to prop up a President and placate the population was part of the problem, which owing to nauseatingly dangerous and obsequious corporate controlled media compliance was successful enough to goad most Americans into believing the President had it all together before the attacks. This in spite of his raving like a demented greenhorn about crusades and wanted dead or alive posters.

Television, print and radio became nothing more than a prosthetic larynx for a shrill tightly orchestrated White House propaganda campaign spearheaded by Karen Hughes and Charlotte Beers that had fat cat media slime like Tim Russert and smarmy politicians like Joe Lieberman giggling nervously with washed out radio personality Don Imus. As he and his pathetic crew of sexually confused brownnoses spewed preadolescent epithets with enough self righteous bumptiousness to make even the sincerest of pacifists guiltily Hail Mary for daring to contemplate the remotest of possibilities of what might have been accomplished by one more plane in early September.

The solemn, soul-searched, media-declared New America gave witness to a new respect among media companies that had packaged the tragedy in enough gauche, overproduced bunk to please Jerry Springer replete with a tacky cat fight between CNN and Fox News. Fox parent company News Corporation’s Rupert Murdoch called CNN’s prize war correspondent, Christiane Amanpour, a “war slut” (as opposed to the more rhythmic “wanton war-torn haughty whore”) while CNN paraded Paula Zahn -- the anchor Fox News chairman Roger Ailes fired for negotiating with CNN before her Fox contract was up -- as prime time pussy in a promotion that dubbed her “just a little bit sexy”.

Fox, having stolen from CNN, the less ‘sexy’ anchor, Greta Van Susteren, (she who dug her unfashionable heels into Nicole Brown Simpson’s barely cooled back to launch her career) to replace Zahn poured fuel onto the inferno. Kevin Magee, Fox News’ vice president of programming was able to divert his eyes from a jack off session over Temptation Island II to call CNN’s cheap promotion of Paula Zahn as a “sign of desperation,” mocking CNN’s hollow admission -- characterized by Chairman and CEO Walter Isaacson as “a major blunder by our promo department.” Perhaps Enron can learn something from that.

Amidst this high-class spectacular battle of the titans, MSNBC sought to titillate their viewers into buying what they really needed to sit through any more couth Ashleigh Banfield Live from Ground Zero newscasts by broadcasting hard liquor commercials. (A Johnnie Walker Black Label on the rocks to nurse whilst watching MSNBC’s answer to Christiane Amanpour greet and interview a plethora of digital-video-armed curiosity seekers, tastefully whooping and franticly camera waving from their block-long lines waiting to mount newly erected viewer platforms to gawk at -- and film -- weary rescue workers inhaling asbestos). And then have the audacity to question the tastefulness of Ground Zero caps and postcards being hawked at the same people she’s interviewing between Ovaltine commercials.

The President, with the pharmaceutically anti-depressed zombie puppet he calls his wife in tow, took to the streets to position education as a top domestic agenda item at the same time signing legislation that would shroud his every dark deed in secrecy, away from the prying eyes of the few journalists who actually care -- let alone are aware of the very legislation -- and retard the historical and educational value of independent overview and documentation.

This is it I’m afraid. This is what 2002 has in store for us. This is what the benefit of having changed, as a nation has to yield.

A pompous, arrogant twat in the Oval Office who is single handedly executive ordering away every safeguard democracy and history put in place to protect us from him; a deranged Attorney General that would cluster bomb his own mother to strip away another constitutional protection; a pork stuffed congress that must have Thomas Paine and Abraham Lincoln cart wheeling in their graves; a terrified and disillusioned populace that has come to the gripping realization that they can’t tell the difference between coke and anthrax or a taxi driver and a terrorist and regards anyone darker than a shade of lily white with suspicion (conveniently and absent mindedly forgetting just how white Tim McVeigh was); a Treasury Secretary richer than God although not as rich as George Bush Senior; a Vice President with a bionic heart that was probably paid for by Enron; a deranged madman as Secretary of Defense making more sense than the cabinet, congress and the media combined and a media environment that engenders about as much respect globally as a seductive Lucianne Goldberg pinup in an al Qaeda cave in Tora Bora.

If this is change, America, give it back.

 
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