We recently remembered the 9/11 attacks from 20 years ago. Just under 3,000 people died then, including the attackers.
COVID-19 came to the U.S. in January 2020. Since then, approximately 660,000 Americans have died. As I am writing this, we have had an average of more than 1,100 deaths each day.
In the number of deaths, we have averaged a 9/11 attack every three days since COVID-19 arrived here.
Believe me, I am not diminishing the horror of 9/11, but why is there such a profound difference in our responses to both of these catastrophes?
sum it up in one word: Terror!
In fact, we use that word to describe those who planned and committed the 9/11 attack: “terrorists.” We didn’t call them attackers or perpetrators or bad actors. Terror is a state of immediate and intense fear.
Terror, and its little brother, fear, are weapons used by our government and the media.
In the early days of response to 9/11, the government created color codes to identify the level of “terrorist threat” – red, yellow and green, I believe — for any given day. They said that on red days we should be on high alert – extremely cautious and suspicious. But they were quite vague about what or where the danger was, or what to be cautious or suspicious about. The underlying message delivered was: “Go through your day being very afraid!”
These insidious messages were meant to keep us in a state of terror. Why? They allowed the government to do anything it wanted to retaliate. That fear allowed us to agree to two useless wars far worse than what happened on 9/11. Extreme fear creates extreme anger.
We started a war in Afghanistan to try to get rid of the Taliban who supported Al-Qaeda. Unfortunately, what I just said in the last sentence was our entire game plan. We had no idea of exactly what we wanted to do, how we were going to do it, how we would know if we achieved it, or what we would do after it. The results: The Taliban were more firmly in charge when we left after 20 years.
In the war, 6,294 U.S. military and contractors died, which equals two 9/11 attacks. Total deaths, including civilians, were 172,000 — which equals 57½ 9/11 attacks. According to a Forbes article, we spent $300 million a day to finance that war for more than 20 years, a total of over $2 trillion.
Secondly, we attacked Iraq and pursued that war from 2003 to 2011. The administration yelled “Iraq has weapons of mass destruction; we must attack!” and we forked up $2 trillion for that war as well. It worked, though.
After seven years the war ended, and Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction. It was easy to achieve that objective, however, since they didn’t have those weapons to begin with! (Oops!)
US. casualties in that war are estimated at 4,500, or 1½ times more than the 9/11 attacks. Total death estimates range from 150,000 to 400,000. The midpoint, 275,000, equals 92 9/11 attacks.
As I said, I am not diminishing the 9/11 anguish we felt. However, that terror allowed us to bring terror and death to perhaps half a million people! This is not what America is about! Yet, that’s the way we operate. Why?
Part of the answer lies with the media, especially TV news networks. Did it ever occur to you that there is not enough news in the whole world to fill in 18 hours of news broadcast time every single day? Fifteen minutes used to be adequate, then a half hour, then an hour.
The news stations have to do something to attract us, to bring us in. They have to tell us a story, one that engages our emotions. They must produce fear and anger, sometimes terror — and once in a while, love. Why? Because viewers like that! Kill the bad guys! Save the good guys! Oops, more bad guys. We hate it. But we keep tuning in.
I suspect that network management sits down every day to decide: “Will today be a fear day, or an anger day, a terror day or a hope day?” They throw in “hope,” otherwise eventually nobody will watch. They then manage content accordingly. They structure the news/entertainment for the same goal that every other business strives for: to make money.
I am switching from The Beatles (“I read the news today, oh boy!”) to John Prine (“Blow up your tv, throw away your paper, go to the country . . . eat a lotta peaches”).
The author lives in Santa Barbara.