Wednesday, March 10, 2010

you live in china and who is joseph stack?

I find the recent terrorist attack by pilot, and US consumer, Joe Stack to be absolutely fascinating, but let me be clear from the beginning of this post that I don't share his beliefs or condone his actions. It's more accurate to say that the media coverage of the event is what fascinates me; the fact that there has been nearly none. You may be asking yourself, "Who is this Joe Stack he's talking about?" Clear your mind for a second and then answer me this, does the following sound like a story that the 24/7 US newz media could get all wrapped up in?

Austin TX (AP) -- A Man in Texas published to the World Wide Web a blistering verbal assault on the US government before setting fire to his own home and then flying an airplane into an Federal building in Austin, Texas killing one person and setting the building ablaze.

Boring Huh?

And yet, this story was buried without due ceremony within 48 hours of the incident. My first thought was to question why it wasn't getting more press. I couldn't help but wonder out loud, "Is it because his skin wasn't brown enough or because he didn't pray five times a day?"

So I watched with disbelief as everything unfolded or didn't unfold as it happened. And I was somewhat shocked by the scant coverage because it was mostly about semantics. The people charged with bringing us news (like stuff about people trying to destroy Federal buildings with airplanes) instead started a name-game about what to call Joe Stack. Was he a Terrorist? Was he a Domestic Terrorist? Nope, it turns out he was a 'Suicide Pilot.' This is where I called bullshit on the newz media coverage of the event.

So here's another question. If you live in China, and your Internet service is censored, how do you know it's censored? That is, if you can't see what you can't see, how do you know what you're missing. I ask this because I hear people here in the US touting their free press and their lack of censorship and yet I see a more devious form of censorship taking place in the lack of coverage of this story and others. It's not that the story of Joe Stack and his attack was banned- physically excluded from the Internet (more on that in a minute) but the censorship regarding this attack did come, only in a much more subtle form. It was simply avoided attention and therefore did not show up on the radar of average Americans who trust the US media to let them know when terrorists fly planes into buildings.

China has in place barriers which prevent certain websites from being displayed to Chinese Internet users. They apparently have not yet mastered the much more refined art of censorship through control on content. Did someone in the US government call American media outlets and ask them to downplay the Joe Stack Attack least he be copied by the increasing number of angry Americans joining the tax resistance movement? Or did they sense intuitively that talking about it might not be in the best interest of selling advertisement spots? Maybe they didn't want to tarnish the feel-good Olympic circus- the American medal count was up after all. But I thought if it bleeds it leads. And wasn't the media simultaneously going on and on about some guy pleading guilt to a NYC terrorist attack he never actually committed even while the Austin IRS building burned?

Nidal Hasan goes on a shooting rampage at Fort Hood and it was all over the front page. Joe Stack does his rant/fire/plane crash and gets no news coverage. What does gets newz coverage at that moment in time? Answer: Tiger Woods slept around and Glenn Beck turned library learning into a CPAC clown act. I guess we can finally put to rest that crap about a liberal media.

And actually there was some ineffectual direct censorship. The website where Mr. Stack published his anti-government rant was yanked down immediately; and then promptly revived by dozens of other websites. It's worth a read. Again I don't support what this guy did but I am amazed at both the lack of actual control of the story- it's out there if you know where to look- and the blatant attempt by someones to reduce dissemination of the information about Joe Stack and his attack on the US federal government. Amazing.

I don't know why the mainstream media didn't cover the Joe Stack terrorist attack in more detail (the only story about it up at the moment is that the widow of the IRS employee killed in the attack is suing Joe Stack's widow- how very American). But one thing has become very clear. The US media isn't going to cover the slow slide of decline that America is facing. The MSM newz organizations are all just a brand now, just like the US government and branding is about image not about substance. The substance of the media in this country and it's governing body have been hollowed out and papered over with logos, endless banter and spin.

You might as well live in China now (sweatshops and all) and you're going to hear very little about the others who get angry and lash out.



Aimee said...

I was similarly stumped about the lack of coverage on this story. The conclusions I came to are that

1) the american people don't want to hear about American terrorists. You can't ignore something like the Oklahoma city bombing, obviously, but apparently we can ignore this. One guy - no conspiracy - falls into the category of lone psycho. Nothing to do with all the anti-government rhetoric coming from the hard right. Course not. It's a lot more comfortable to believe that all threats come from "without."

2) I totally agree with you about the liberal media myth. The spin-meisters in this country are clearly Republican - or maybe even harder right than that. My main source of news is NPR radio - a source which has been successfully labeled as hard-left or even communist (didn't that go out with McCarthy?) but which I, as a trained critical thinker and holder of a research-oriented degree, find the most objective around.

3) the most subtle (and probably effective) kind of censorship is that which manipulates what people choose for themselves. Somehow, the American people have been convinced that the most fascinating news has to do with celebrity peccadilloes. Americans have apparently collectively decided that politics, science, and foreign policy are "boring" and "too complicated." Either Americans are actually dumber than citizens of other countries (something I don't believe) or we have been deliberately manipulated into choosing to put our attention into inanities rather than issues of substance. Who benefits from the inattention of the public?

Thanks for the great post.

Nim said...

I live in Austin and pass by this building every day. It's at the intersection of 2 of our 3 main roads. The building still sits there, burnt out and with most of the windows missing. Half of Austin can't miss it.

Our local news didn't even cover the event much, except for the traffic navigating around the place.

The best theory I've heard is that 9/11 changed America's definition of terrorism. Now you have to be brown, in an organized group, and kill some big number of people. That number may vary. Our little Austin attack "only" killed one and severely burned another.

Of course, those families and anyone who witnessed the plane hitting the building (plenty of eye-witnesses around) were probably terrified adequately enough to call it terrorism. I was and I do.

jewishfarmer said...

I have been having similar thoughts - and I thought it was fascinating to see that Al Jazeera was asking whether this was America's first suicide bomber - whether America had reached the point where the populace felt so powerless that all they could do was kill themselves and others. I honestly think "suicide pilot" may be more accurate than "terrorist" here - we may be at the beginning of an emerging suicide culture, arising from a sense of utter powerlessness.