What’s the most frightening thing about UFO’s — Unidentified Flying Objects? After all, it’s common to look up and see birds, aircraft, clouds, and other things flying in the sky.
What’s frightening is the first word in the acryonym: “Unidentified.” We’re scared because certain objects perform maneuvers unlike other things we see in the sky and we don’t know what they are.
Remember the phrase “Going postal?”
According to the Wikipedia article the expression originates in a series of more than 20 workplace rage cases between 1986 and 1997 where United States Postal Service (USPS) workers shot and killed managers, fellow workers, and members of the police or general public in acts of mass murder.
Despite my libertarian suspicion that working at a government post office would be such a bureaucratic nightmare — akin to the 1985 satire Brazil — that psychotic violence is predictable, Wikipedia informs us that postal workers actually have a lower rate of workplace violence than in comparable private-sector jobs. Nonetheless, the phrase entered popular usage to mean a stultifying job site where explosive behavior is understandable. See the hilarious 1999 Mike Judge movie Office Space.
One week ago 14-year-old high-school student Ahmed Mohamed was arrested after bringing a science project to school showing the inner workings of a digital clock. Never mind that the device had nothing in its workings that looked like a bomb — no sticks of dynamite, no liquids like in Die Hard 2 that appeared to be explosive when mixed, no cell phone that could have remotely detonated a charge left in his locker. It was enough that it looked like a clock, a necessary component shown in dozens or hundreds of movies and TV episodes for any time bomb. Zero tolerance, you scared the crap out of us, kid, bring out the handcuffs. In the years after Columbine High School, that a student’s device was “Unidentified” — plus the kid had a Middle Eastern name — was sufficient to assume the kid was going postal.
It’s September 2015, fourteen years after September 11, 2001. The United States has never recovered from what happened that day. It’s still a benchmark for every political discussion about what the government should do to “keep us safe.” Since 9/11 the Bill of Rights — once considered the constitutional centerpiece of American civil liberties — has been made about as irrelevant in practical politics and jurisprudence as the Magna Carta. Congress passes laws, the President issues executive orders, and the courts ignore massive violations of what except for wartime — the Civil War, the two World Wars — would have been unthinkable violations of individual privacy and freedom.
But in terms of the number of U.S. troops deployed in active combat zones, the United States is closer to being at peace than at any time in recent memory. Yet the operations of government are not only premised on being in a state of heightened alert but assume that embedded among the civilian population are enemy saboteurs waiting to repeat 9/11 … or worse.
It has turned our major news media into war propaganda media, not censored by a government office but defining what is an approved talking point — an allowable subject for discussion — entirely as if such a censor had his finger on the dump button.
Orwell’s Big Brother State in his prophetic novel Nineteen-eighty-four would have been overwhelmed by the challenge of running a propaganda operation like the Fox News Channel — FNC — an acronym which might as well stand for the Fox National Committee akin to the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and Republican National Committee (RNC).
This was my response when my friend Brad Linaweaver told me he thought the Republican Party was more responsive to FNC’s Chairman Roger Ailes than to RNC Chairman Reince Priebus.
The events of September 11, 2001 — and every day of violence since then — have ultimately left the American people — and often other people outside our national borders — with what I’ll now call Unidentified Post Traumatic Stress Disorder — UPTSD.
Something is Out There. We do not know when it will attack us and bring on an Apocalyptic Day of Judgment. We’re so scared we can’t think straight.
Our movies and TV shows reflect our obsession with Living Dead who still look vaguely human but are in truth hideous monsters living among us.
Our news shows — the commercials on news shows — report on topics that when I was young could not even have been imagined, much less discussed on television. Same-sex marriage? Transgendered people? Pills that produce erections? Fetal body parts? Orgasms?
In the 1960’s Walter Cronkite or Huntley-Brinkley would have been thrown off the air if they had done a story on any of these. Even Paddy Chayefsky’s and Sidney Lumet’s brilliant 1976 movie satire Network — with fictitious news anchor Howard Beale’s on-air screed against “bullshit” — is comparatively tame compared to an average hour of 2015 television.
A comedian such as John Oliver is today as respected a source of investigative journalism as former WW2 foreign correspondent Edward R. Murrow was on CBS News in the 1950’s — this now when there are three domestic cable news operations, four major broadcast networks, and a World Wide Web with 24/7 ability to cover news.
Call this social insanity what authors before me have.
Heinlein writing science-fiction in the 1940’s called it “the crazy years.”
Futurist Alvin Toffler called it “future shock.”
I’m calling it UPTSD — a general social malaise in which ordinary people have a shortened attention span in which eternal verities are buried under the 24-hour news cycle and in which even totalitarian brainwashing has to be refreshed on a daily basis because yesterday’s brainwashing is already history.
Brad Linaweaver sees that as the Death of Western Civilization and the Enlightenment.
Me, I take that level playing field, where their ever-changing daily propaganda is no less crazy than my own anarchist rantings, as good news.