Mostly Fertilizer

What do you say we take terrorism out of Media World and look at it in the real world as it really is? What you will find is that terrorism is not the threat it’s portrayed to be in Media World and by politicians.

First of all, a terrorist attack is a media event. No terrorist in the world is so stupid as to believe that blowing up a few buildings and people is going to bring down a government or even change its basic policies. What gets blown up and who gets killed are really not that important. What is important is media attention. What the terrorist wants to do is publicize his cause and send out a recruiting message that the big, bad enemy can be hurt.

It’s fortunate for the terrorists that we live in a world of 500 TV channels, the Internet and the 24-hour news cycle. The fact is, there isn’t enough news to fill one station 24 hours a day, given how stingy the corporations are in terms of hiring reporting staff.

Secondly, Media World, like Disney World, is all about stories. There is a big difference between a story and a report. With a report, you merely answer the questions: Who? What? When? Where? Most events can be reported in relatively few words or a short amount of airtime. In London, for example, at a certain time on a certain day four bombs exploded; three were on subway trains, and one was in a bus; 52 people were killed; 700 were wounded; police are investigating. That’s it.

But if you want a story, then you drag it out; talk to witnesses or even to people who weren’t witnesses; talk to experts; indulge in speculation; gab, gab, gab endlessly; and, if you’re TV, repeat the same video to the point of nausea — and all of that attention greatly benefits the terrorists. If we were wise, we would cover a terrorist attack for one day, at the most two days, and then drop it. You frustrate terrorists by ignoring them.

What about the risk? Dearly beloved, you are in greater danger driving your kids to school or crossing a busy street. The odds of any one of us being the victim of a terrorist attack are minuscule. I infuriated one of the TV fearmongers once by pointing out that in 2001 our own criminals killed four times as many Americans as the attacks on Sept. 11 did.

The terrorists killed 3,000; homicides totaled 12,000. Moreover, that year, about 101,000 Americans were killed in accidents. About 2 million died of natural causes. Why sit around fretting about terrorists when flu and pneumonia in 2001 killed 62,000 Americans. As hard as it might be to believe, in 2001, more than 15,000 Americans were killed in falls, most of them in and around the home.

The only thing you need to do to protect yourself from a terrorist attack is be someplace else. In a country of 3 million square miles, 99.99 percent of us will always be someplace else. As a threat to human life, terrorism ranks somewhere close to snake and spider bites.

What you have to realize is that the few terrorists who actually exist are supporting a large industry in the United States. President Bush bases his whole administration on it. There are hundreds of self-proclaimed experts on terrorism. The media are fascinated by it. The bureaucracy has exploded, and every law-enforcement agency and fire department in the country is latching on to the gravy train. Private industry is thriving selling gadgets and alleged expertise.

But it’s all a racket. Do you think if the U.S. government were really concerned about terrorists that it would continue to allow more than 1 million illegal aliens to cross our borders every year? To paraphrase Winston Churchill, never have so few been lied to so often by so many.

Finally, I would remind you that mortality for our species is 100 percent. We’re all going to die one way or another, so there is nothing a terrorist can do to us that isn’t going to happen anyway. Do not live in fear. Do not let a bunch of opportunistic politicians, greedy entrepreneurs, burned-out Hollywood screenwriters and brain-deficient television people scare you into one minute of discomfort. The war on terrorism is 99 percent fertilizer.

Charley Reese [send him mail] has been a journalist for 49 years. Write to Charley Reese at P.O. Box 2446, Orlando, FL 32802.