We Have Been Warned Of The Many Forms Of An Emerging World-Wide Wave Of Extremism
Side note; imagine if law enforcement would visit me the next days. They would probably get the wrong idea and think I was a terrorist … The old saying; "if you want something done, then do it yourself" is as relevant now as it was then. More than one "chef" does not mean that you will do tasks twice as fast. In many cases; you could do it all yourself, it will just take a little more time. AND, without taking unacceptable risks. The conclusion is undeniable.
I believe this will be my last entry. It is now Fri July 22nd, 12.51.
Sincere regards, Andrew Berwick Justiciar Knight Commander, Knights Templar Europe, Knights Templar Norway
Should We Worry About Attacks Like Norway's In The US?
I predicted that right wing Christians will unleash terror here in America too. I predict that they will copy Islamic extremists, and may eventually even make common cause with them. There is a growing movement in America that equates godliness with ...
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There is a growing movement in America that equates godliness with hatred of our government -- in fact, hatred of our country.
…”To understand the extremism coming from the right, the fact that there are members of Congress who seem to be genuinely mentally unhinged leading the charge on the debt ceiling, you need to understand that this hatred of all things government has theological roots that have nothing to do with facts.
Theology is -- by nature -- not about reason but about faith. If God's will is to be served then so be it if America is plunged into chaos! This debt ceiling fiasco is just another chapter in the "culture" wars.
The extreme language of Evangelical/"pro-life" rebellion has now been repackaged in the debt ceiling showdown. It is the language of religion pitted against facts.
And the anti-government charge is being led by people who are either true believers, thus unable to reason, or people catering to the true believers so that they can remain in the good books of the Tea Party, which is nothing more than the Evangelical far right repackaged and renamed.
Some people took the next step. The night of December 14, 2008, Bruce Turnidge was in handcuffs and sitting next to an FBI agent in Turnidge's farmhouse in Oregon. He was ranting about the "need" for militias and cursing the election of an African American president. Hours earlier, his son, Joshua, had been arrested for allegedly causing a fatal bomb explosion.
"Bruce started talking about the Second Amendment and citizens' rights to carry firearms," said George Chamberlin, the FBI agent. "Bruce talked at length that the government should fear the people and that the people should not fear the government."
In February 2010, a little more than a year after Obama's inauguration, Joseph Stack, a fifty-three-year-old software engineer, piloted a plane into an IRS building in Austin, Texas, and killed one man and injured several others.
Before killing himself, Stack posted an online suicide note railing against the federal government and expressing grievances similar to those Dad had enumerated.
A Facebook group celebrating Stack had thousands of members sign on almost instantly after he was "martyred for our freedoms," as one contributor called it. The site featured the Gadsden flag (the flag with the logo "Don't Tread On Me") and these words: "Finally an American man took a stand against our tyrannical government that no longer follows the constitution and turned its back on its founding fathers and the beliefs this country was founded on."
In March 2010 the so-called Hutaree Militia, a right-wing, biblically inspired fundamentalist group, was alleged to have hatched a plot to kill police officers. Members of this outfit had planned attacks on police officers as a way of acting out their hatred for the government as well as a way to launch the civil chaos "predicted" in so-called End Times biblical prophecies. The day the plotters were arrested, I checked their online homepage. Here's what I found as their mission statement (misspellings in the original post, which has since been taken down, as has the site):
"As Christians we all are a part of the Souls of the Body of Christ, the one true church of Christ. . . . This is the belief of the Hutaree soldier, as should the belief of all followers in Christ be."…
Why seeing the world in black and white is so dangerous.
Meet the firebrands stirring up anger and hate against the 0.6% of Americans who are Muslim. READ MORE
By Robert Steinback / SPLC Intelligence Report
Koch-Funded Tea Party Heavyweight Tim Phillips Spoke at Norweigan Killer's Political Party Event
The Norway Massacre and the Nexus of Islamophobia and Right-Wing Zionism
By Alex Kane | Mondoweiss
OSLO — The Norwegian man charged Saturday with a pair of attacks in Oslo that killed at least 92 people left behind a detailed manifesto outlining his preparations and calling for a Christian war to defend Europe against the threat of Muslim domination, according to Norwegian and American officials familiar with the investigation.
For Campers, Island Turned Into Fatal Trap(July 24, 2011)
Times Topic:Anders Behring Breivik
As stunned Norwegians grappled with the deadliest attack in the country since World War II, a portrait began to emerge of the suspect, Anders Behring Breivik, 32. The police identified him as a right-wing fundamentalist Christian, while acquaintances described him as a gun-loving Norwegian obsessed with what he saw as the threats of multiculturalism and Muslim immigration.
“We are not sure whether he was alone or had help,” a police official, Roger Andresen, said at a televised news conference. “What we know is that he is right wing and a Christian fundamentalist.”
In the 1,500-page manifesto, posted on the Web hours before the attacks, Mr. Breivik recorded a day-by-day diary of months of planning for the attacks, and claimed to be part of a small group that intended to “seize political and military control of Western European countries and implement a cultural conservative political agenda.”
He predicted a conflagration that would kill or injure more than a million people, adding, “The time for dialogue is over. We gave peace a chance. The time for armed resistance has come.”
The manifesto was signed Andrew Berwick, an Anglicized version of his name. A former American government official briefed on the case said investigators believed the manifesto was Mr. Breivik’s work.
The manifesto, entitled “2083: A European Declaration of Independence,” equates liberalism and multiculturalism with “cultural Marxism,” which the document says is destroying European Christian civilization.
The document also describes a secret meeting in London in April 2002 to reconstitute the Knights Templar, a Crusader military order. It says the meeting was attended by nine representatives of eight European countries, evidently including Mr. Breivik, with an additional three members unable to attend, including a “European-American.”
The document does not name the attendees or say whether they were aware of Mr. Breivik’s planned attacks, though investigators presumably will now try to determine if the people exist and what their connection is to Mr. Breivik.
Thomas Hegghammer, a terrorism specialist at the Norwegian Defense Research Establishment, said the manifesto bears an eerie resemblance to those of Osama bin Laden and other Al Qaeda leaders, though from a Christian rather than a Muslim point of view. Like Mr. Breivik’s manuscript, the major Qaeda declarations have detailed accounts of the Crusades, a pronounced sense of historical grievance and calls for apocalyptic warfare to defeat the religious and cultural enemy.
“It seems to be an attempt to mirror Al Qaeda, exactly in reverse,” Mr. Hegghammer said.
Mr. Breivik was also believed to have posted a video on Friday summarizing his arguments. In its closing moments, the video depicts Mr. Breivik in military uniform, holding assault weapons. Rarely has a mass murder suspect left so detailed an account of his activities. The manifesto describes in detail his purchase of chemicals, his sometimes ham-handed experiments making explosives and his first successful test detonation of a bomb in a remote location on June 13.
He intersperses the account of bomb-making with details of his television-watching, including the Eurovision music contest and the American police drama “The Shield.”
The manifesto ends with a chilling signoff: “I believe this will be my last entry. It is now Fri July 22nd, 12.51.”
Indeed, the operation appeared to have been extremely well planned.
According to the police, Mr. Breivik first drew security services to central Oslo when he exploded a car bomb outside a 17-story government office building, killing at least seven people.
Then he took a public ferry to Utoya Island, where he carried out a remarkably meticulous attack on Norway’s current and future political elite. Dressed as a police officer, he announced that he had come to check on the security of the young people who were attending a political summer camp there, many of them the children of members of the governing Labor Party.
He gathered the campers together and for some 90 hellish minutes he coolly and methodically shot them, hunting down those who fled. At least 85 people, some as young as 16, were killed.
The police said Saturday evening that they expected the death toll to climb. There were still bodies in the bombed government buildings in Oslo, and at least four people missing on Utoya.
The police also said that unexploded munitions were still in some downtown Oslo buildings, and they had not ruled out the possibility that Mr. Breivik had accomplices.
He was equipped, the police said, with an automatic rifle and a handgun; when the police finally got to the island — about 40 minutes after they were called, the police said — Mr. Breivik surrendered.
The police also said he had registered a farm in Rena, in eastern Norway, which allowed him to order a large quantity of ammonium nitrate fertilizer, an ingredient that can be used to make explosives. The authorities were investigating whether the chemical had been used in the bombing.
Besides the manifesto, Mr. Breivik left other hints of his motives.
A Facebook page and Twitter account were set up under his name days before the rampage. The Facebook page cites philosophers like Machiavelli, Kant and John Stuart Mill.
His lone Twitter post, while not calling for violence, paraphrased Mill — “One person with a belief is equal to the force of 100,000 who have only interests” — suggesting what he saw as his ability to act.
Those postings, along with what was previously known about Mr. Breivik publicly, aligned with but hardly predicted the bloody rampage he would undertake on Friday.
Before then, he had been a member of the right-wing Progress Party, which began as an antitax protest and has been stridently anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim.
Joran Kallmyr, a member of the party who is now Oslo’s vice mayor for transportation, said he met Mr. Breivik several times in 2002 and 2003 at local party meetings. “He was very quiet, almost a little bit shy,” Mr. Kallmyr said. “But he was a normal person with good behavior. He never shared any extreme thoughts or speech with us. There was absolutely no reason to expect that he could do something like this. We’re very shocked.”
Mr. Breivik quit the party in 2006, apparently disappointed by the party’s move toward the center.
“He didn’t like our politics, I guess, and moved on,” Mr. Kallmyr said.
His Internet posts also indicated contempt for the Conservative Party, which he accused of having given up the battle against multiculturalism.
But on Friday he directed his firepower at the center-left Labor Party, which leads the coalition government.
“Breivik feels that multiculturalism is destroying the society and that the enforcing authority is the prime minister and the Labor Party, the lead party of contemporary Norwegian politics,” said Anders Romarheim, a fellow at the Norwegian Institute for Defense Studies.
But the attacks, along with what appear to have been years of preparation for them, raised questions about whether the Norwegian security authorities, concentrating on threats of Islamic terrorism, had overlooked the threat from the anti-Islamic right.
“This is the Norwegian equivalent to Timothy McVeigh,” the right-wing American who bombed a federal building in Oklahoma City in 1995, said Marcus Buck, a political scientist at the University of Tromso in northern Norway. “This is right-wing domestic terrorism, and the big question is to what extent Norwegian agencies have diverted their attention from what they knew decades ago was the biggest threat” to focus instead on Islamic militants.
The unclassified versions of the last three Norwegian Police Security Service reports assessing national threats all played down any threat by right-wing and nationalist extremists. Instead, the reports emphasized the dangers posed by radical Islam, groups opposed to Norway’s military involvement in Afghanistan and Libya, and others.
The 2011 report, released early this year, concluded that “the far-right and far-left extremist communities will not represent a serious threat to Norwegian society.”
Even after the attacks, that appeared to be the official position.
“Compared to other countries I wouldn’t say we have a big problem with right-wing extremists in Norway,” Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg told reporters at a news conference on Saturday. “But we have had some groups, we have followed them before, and our police is aware that there are some right-wing groups.”
Even if the authorities had focused on right-wing groups, it was unlikely that they would have noticed Mr. Breivik.
Kari Helene Partapuoli, director of the Norwegian Center Against Racism, said Mr. Breivik did not belong to any violent neo-Nazi groups that she was aware of, and his Internet postings, before those of last week, did not espouse violence.
“The distance between the words spoken and the acts that he carried out is gigantic, because what he did is in a different league of what the debates have to do about,” she said.
Arild Groven, secretary general of the Norwegian Shooting Association, a sports group, confirmed that Mr. Breivik had belonged to Oslo Pistolklubb, one of the 520 clubs in the association.
“We all read and watch the news about the shootings in the United States,” Mr. Groven said. “But it doesn’t happen here.”
Mr. Romarheim said in some ways the homegrown nature of the attack made it harder for Norwegians to accept. “With 9/11 in America, people could ask, ‘Who are they?’ and could pour their rage out on someone else,” he said. “But we can’t disavow this person, he’s one of us.”
Steven Erlanger reported from Oslo, and Scott Shane from Washington. Reporting was contributed by Elisa Mala, Michael Schwirtz and Matthew Saltmarsh from Oslo, David Jolly from Paris, Nicholas Kulish from Berlin and Christina Anderson from Stockholm .
UJALA SEHGAL10:25 AM
As Norway struggles to recover from the horrific attacks that left 93 dead on Friday, the media has struggled to explain the motivations of the massacre's perpetrator, the Christian fundamentalist Anders Behring Breivik, who apparently carried out the mass murders fueled by anti-Islamic sentiment. The Foreigner reports from Norway on Breivik's 1,517-page manifesto, much of which was copied from the Unabomber, that he published the day of the attacks.
In the manifesto, Breivik writes that Oslo Muslims "have transformed my beloved Oslo into a multicultural shithole.”
Breivik writes that writes he began planning the attacks nine years ago. He was an active member of the Far-Right Progress Party’s youth movement (FpU) at the time.
Norway is still in shock. CNN reports that for Norwegians, "there is a sense they have woken up in a country that has 'lost its innocence,'" adding that "with a population of 4.7 million concentrated in the south, Norway's people pride themselves on their progressive, open society." Siri Gulestad, head of clinical psychology at the University of Oslo, told CNN that she doesn't believe that Norwegians will respond to the attacks by calling for police to be armed or by calling for tighter security measures: "We won't be asking for extra security -- that would have been much more the case if it (the attacks) had been linked to international terrorism."
But, countering this vision, the New York Times has published a report on a much darker side to Norway -- and Europe in general -- focusing on the rising right-wing extremism and Islamophobia. "Last November a Swedish man was arrested in the southern city of Malmö in connection with more than a dozen unsolved shootings of immigrants, including one fatality. The shootings, nine of which took place between June and October 2010, appeared to be the work of an isolated individual. More broadly in Sweden, though, the far-right Sweden Democrats experienced new success at the polls. The party entered Parliament for the first time after winning 5.7 percent of the vote in the general election last September."
What has contributed to the rise of right-wing sentiment? According to the Times, there are a few factors. For one, increased migration "helped lay the groundwork for a nationalist, at times starkly chauvinist, revival." Moreover, in recent years, "far-right statements have appeared to lose much of their post-World War II taboo even among some prominent political parties." Finally, there is a focus (in both Europe and the U.S.) on Islamic terrorists, which has led to overlooking domestic radicals.
The jarring thing about far-right sentiment is that it has entered the political mainstream, in places such as Denmark, the Netherlands, Finland, and throughout Europe. Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel President Nicolas Sarkozy of France and Prime Minister David Cameron in Britain "all recently declared an end to multiculturalism. Multiculturalism 'has failed, utterly failed,' Mrs. Merkel told fellow Christian Democrats last October, though stressing that immigrants were welcome in Germany." France has a ban on Muslim girls wearing a headscarf in public schools. And earlier this month, "the daily newspaper Berliner Zeitung reported that neo-Nazis were attacking the offices of the far-left Left Party with increasing frequency."
It is yet to be determined whether or not Breivik in Norway acted alone, as he has claimed, according to the BBC.
"Norway has had problems with neo-Nazi groups in the past but the assumption was that such groups had been largely eliminated and did not pose a significant threat, says the BBC's Richard Galpin." Whether or not Breivik acted alone, or is a madman, the rise of far-right beliefs in mainstream politics will have its own dire consequences. "I think he's realized what he's done, and he views himself as sane," Brievik's lawyer said. "He's stated that he went to Utoeya to give the Labour Party a warning that 'doomsday would be imminent' unless the party changed its policies."
Want to add to this story? Let us know in comments or send an email to the author email@example.com. You can share ideas for stories on the Open Wire.
Norway Attacks Put Spotlight on Rise of Right-Wing Sentiment in Europe, Nicholas Kulish, New York Times
Breivik: ‘My beloved Oslo has become a multicultural shithole’, Michael Sandelson, The Foreigner
Norway wakes changed after nightmare , Mark Tutton, CNN International
Norway Killer Espoused New Right-Wing, Pro-Israel Philosophy
Jewish Telegraphic Agency
BERLIN (JTA) -- The confessed perpetrator in the terror attack in Norway espoused a new right-wingphilosophy allied with Israel against Islam - a trend in European populist and far-right movements that has Israel worried. In numerous online postings, ...See all stories on this topic »
“Anders Behring Breivik is charged with detonating a car bomb outside Oslo’s government headquarters, which houses the office of Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg, and of shooting and killing at least 85 mostly young people at a political summer camp on nearby Utoya Island. The July 22 massacre reportedly was the the worst attack in Norway since the end of World War II.
In numerous online postings, including a manifesto published on the day of the attacks, Breivik promoted the Vienna School or Crusader Nationalism philosophy, a mishmash of anti-modern principles that also calls for "the deportation of all Muslims from Europe" as well as from "the West Bank and the Gaza Strip."
According to the manifesto, titled "2083: A European Declaration of Independence" and published under the pseudonym Andrew Berwick, the Vienna School supports "pro-Zionism/Israeli nationalism."
Breivik listed numerous European Freedom Parties and neo-Nazi parties as potential allies because of their anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim stance, and mentioned that right-wing populists like Dutch politician Geert Wilders "have to condemn us at this point which is fine. It is after all essential that they protect their reputational shields."
Among the potential allies he listed for Germany were the three largest neo-Nazi parties -- the National Democratic Party, Deutsche Volksunion and Republikaner. In Holland, Wilders' Freedom Party topped the list, and the British National Party topped a long list of potential supporters in the United Kingdom.
European right-populist parties increasingly have been waving the flag of friendship with Israel, as well as expressing vehement opposition to Europe’s multicultural society…”
by Charles Lemos, Sat Jul 23, 2011 at 12:52:25 AM EDT
Eighty-seven dead is the latest toll from Friday's twin attacks in Norway. Seven died in the bombing of the government buildings in Oslo and another four score, almost all teenagers, died at the summer jamboree of the governing left of centre Norwegian Labour party in Utøya, some 25 miles northwest of Oslo. All at the hands of a single gunman, a 32 year old right wing conservative Norwegian Christian named Anders Behring Breivik. Thus, it's time to round up all the right wing Christians.
Clearly, I'm not serious but had yesterday's attacks been perpetuated by Islamists there would have been incessant calls from the right, here and abroad, to deprive Muslims of their rights. In fact even before all the facts were established, right wing bloggers like Michelle Malkin and William Jacobsen of Legal Insurrection were doing all they assign blame on Islam as a whole and engage in willful hateful misinformation. I can only imagine what the vile Pamela Geller had to say.
Neither sanity nor reason are hallmarks of the American right wing, but the rush to judgment based on unadulterated hate is.
It was fairly evident to me from the start that the bombing in Oslo was not the work of Islamist jihadis, notwithstanding a claim of responsibility by a group called Ansar al Jihad al Asam. Theirs is more wishful thinking that perhaps some lone jihadist had acted. However, Islamist jihadis tend to blow themselves up in executing their perverse acts of terror. They also tend to attack civilian transportation targets. Neither was the case in Oslo. From the start, the bombing reminded me more of Oklahoma City, a car bomb against a government target. That, of course, was the most devastating terrorist attack on American soil before September 11.
We will learn more today about the gunman and his motives but one thing is for certain. On both sides of the Atlantic right wing Christian populism is a threat that must be confronted. I suspect that in Europe they will rise to that occasion. Indeed, Norway's Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg was unbowed stating that "our answer to violence is more democracy."
That should scare the bejesus out of the Christian right.
Read On! Woman Against War Criminals
Thanks to our blogreader Anne-Marie Bilodeau, at Amnesty International in Canada, for news of a new book of note: Zones sensibles, une femme contre les criminels de guerre (2011). The "woman against war criminals" who wrote the book is Céline Bardet, an international affairs consultant whose prior posts include Head of Legal Department, Brčko, for the Office of the High Representative in Bosnia and Herzegovina. (book cover credit)
In her recent discussion of the book with Marine Deffrennes -- posted as an interview at Terrafemina, an online, French-language women's magazine -- Bardet related that her interest in international criminal law was piqued by the work of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. She wrote a thesis on the Erdemović case, and eventually worked with ICTY President Claude Jorda; these experiences led to the Bosnia work that composes the core of her book.
Touching on one of the subjects of her book, Bardet expressed concern about lingering impunity in Brčko, site of numerous atrocities during the 1990s conflict in the Balkans:
'Beaucoup de victimes croisent leur ancien bourreau au marché ou au détour d’une rue. Les gens se connaissent et n’osent pas témoigner, parce que tout se sait, ils ont peur de l’effet boomerang.'
'Many victims run into their torturer at the market or at a bend in the road. People are aware of this and and do not dare testify, because it will be found out, and they fear repercussions.'
Like the interview, the book looks to be well worth a read. And the message in the quote -- that many perpetrators are likely to remain free notwithstanding the entry this week of the ICTY's last fugitive, Goran Hadžić, into custody at The Hague -- is well worth pondering.
Joe Weisenthal | Jul. 15, 2011, 8:54 AM | 106,272
Yes, the rest of the world is watching this embarrassing debt ceiling nonsense, and it is growing dismayed.
Der Spiegel has a roundup of commentary in German newspapers about the fight, and the universal message is this:
The US is holding the entire world hostage, and it's the Republicans that are playing with fire.
Hard to accuse the Germans (who are no fans of fiscal profligacy) of being motivated by politics, or of having some inherent reason to attack Republicans. This is just the reality of what they're doing.
Here's the passage from Bild, the populist newspaper of the masses:
"Playing poker is part of politics, as is theatrical posturing. That's fair enough. But what America is currently exhibiting is the worst kind of absurd theatrics. And the whole world is being held hostage.
"Irrespective of what the correct fiscal and economic policy should be for the most powerful country on earth, it's simply not possible to stop taking on new debt overnight. Most importantly, the Republicans have turned a dispute over a technicality into a religious war, which no longer has any relation to a reasonable dispute between the elected government and the opposition."
"If it continues like this, the US will be bankrupt within a few days. It would cause a global shockwave like the one which followed the Lehman bankruptcy in 2008, which triggered the worst economic crisis since the war. Except it would be much worse than the Lehman bankruptcy. The political climate in the US has been poisoned to a degree that is hard for us (Germans) to imagine. But we should all fear the consequences."
In ways little and huge, it is clear that we live in a nation, a culture and a society that is terminally ill.
The latest outrage -- the execution of a Mexican convicted in Texas of the brutal slaying of a 16-year-old girl in blatant violation of a universally adopted international treaty that requires that as a foreigner he be able to notify his home country’s consulate of his case -- is evidence of this sickness, which appears to have both physical and mental aspects.
As a journalist I have traveled widely in the world, often in police states like China or Laos, and I have always been confident that if I ran afoul of those police, at least I could count on the fact that the authorities would be legally bound to notify my embassy, so that I could get international attention and, hopefully, legal assistance.
This point was made, belatedly and not particularly assertively, by the White House in the case of death-row inmate Humberto Leal Garcia Jr. in Texas, but the politically ambitious governor of Texas, Rick Perry, who is contemplating a run for the Republican presidential nomination, figured killing Garcia was a good career move, and he just ignored the president. The Supreme Court, meanwhile, declined to intervene, claiming, absurdly, that it hasn’t got the power to order a state government to halt an execution.
That’s just pathetic--the kind of illogic you expect from the likes of Antonin Scalia. The Constitution clearly states that only the federal government can negotiate and sign international treaties, and that once a treaty is signed and voted on by the Senate it is the law of the land, ergo the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations is the law of the land. The state of Texas is in violation of that treaty, having arrested, tried, convicted and today executed Garcia without notifying his consulate of these actions. Clearly the state broke the law of the land, and the federal authorities had the right to call a halt to this atrocity. Yet none of the three branches of the government acted--a shameful ducking of responsibility to uphold the law. This means that any American who travels abroad, anywhere (and especially in Mexico), is at grave risk of being caught up in a dangerous legal situation, with the foreign government under no obligation to notify US authorities. (I'd sure think twice about traveling to Mexico now if I were a Texan!)
Then look at the Casey Anthony case. The woman, just acquitted by a Florida jury in a capital murder case where she was charged with murdering her daughter, never should have faced first-degree murder charges in the first place. Criminal neglect maybe, but not murder. The prosecutors had no evidence--not only of how the child had died, but that would have linked Anthony to the body. But this is America. Prosecutors want big trophies that are to be won in big media trials, and this one was a classic of the genre. The media piled on, ghoulish crime stalkers camped outside the courthouse trying to get a seat at the witch trial. Everyone outside the jury box was convinced she was guilty, guilty, guilty. And she walked.
Why? Because in the one redeeming chapter in this sick saga, the jurors did their duty, and decided, in relatively short order, that the prosecution’s case was shot full of holes, and they could not say with a straight face that Anthony’s guilt had been proven “beyond a reasonable doubt.”
I would say that verdict makes me proud to be an American, but for the fact that a) the jurors are mostly being condemned by the public for doing the right thing and b) in most murder trials jurors are railroaded by lying, overly-aggressive and simply unprincipled and ambitious prosecutors who see their job as winning, not seeking justice. The conclusion of this case was shocking precisely because it was so unusual.
What kind of people would accept the idea of 44 million desperately poor fellow citizens?
Here in Philadelphia, for example, the practice for decades has been for prosecutors to seek the death penalty in murder cases, even where it is wholly inappropriate, both in hopes that the mostly poor, and poorly represented, defendants will cop a plea to escape almost certain death, and because by making it a capital case, they get to pre-select a jury of people who are okay with the death penalty. Many studies have demonstrated that such pro-death penalty jurors tend to believe police witnesses, sympathize with the prosecution, and to not believe in the concept of innocent until proven guilty--making the prosecutor’s job easy.
I wrote a few days ago about the sickness of a government that would openly encourage a client state, in this case Israel, to attack, injure and perhaps even kill its own citizens -- precisely what Secretary Hillary Clinton and the Obama White House have done with regard to the Americans aboard the US-flagged ship “The Audacity of Hope,” a part of the Freedom Flotilla seeking to sail from Greece to the open air prison camp called Gaza.
But it’s not just the US government that’s sick. As a people we are sick. What kind of human beings, after all, will accept the idea of 44 million of their own countrymen and women and children living in grinding, unremitting poverty?
We know we have this many abjectly poor and that the number has actually risen by four million over the past year, yet most Americans -- not desperately poor--appear to want to cut support for those suffering people, out of simple greed. Cutting taxes is more important to most of us than helping our neighbors--even their children.
We are, as a people, also singularly indifferent to the welfare of the rest of the world. How else to explain our yawning indifference to the massive number of civilians who are being killed in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Libya, Yemen, Iraq and Somalia by our bombs and rockets, not to mention by our armed men and women on the ground in Afghanistan? I should also add the millions of victims in Gaza and the West Bank, as their suffering is a direct result of US military aid to the nation of Israel.
We are sick as a nation in another way. It is clear to all except the willfully ignorant, that the entire Earth is dangerously overheating, and that absent dramatic actions to change our horrendously wasteful economic system with its obsession with endless “growth,” and our prodigious use of carbon-based energy, we are going to destroy not just ourselves, but most life on the planet. Yet polls show that roughly half of us don’t believe it’s happening (a percentage that is growing!). Never mind that the north polar ice cap is disappearing before our eyes, that the seas are rising at a record, and rising, rate, that the past decade has been the hottest on record, that violent weather events once seen only every hundred years, are now annual occurrences, that the seas are becoming dangerously acidic, threatening the whole plankton-based ecosystem, and that the icecaps on Greenland and in Antarctica are melting faster than any of the predictive models anticipated. Americans don’t even want to require the auto industry to make more gas-efficient cars. Look at the roads and the auto dealerships: People are choosing to buy big, gas-guzzling SUVs, though not one in a hundred will ever use them to drive off-road.
How can one explain the almost complete lack of concern and urgency among Americans about this looming disaster which threatens the very survival of our grandchildren, and perhaps even our children? How is it possible that the Big Issue in American politics today is concern about a budget deficit that is both readily solvable (by raising taxes on the rich and cutting outlandish military spending) and in any event not really a serious problem for another few decades, when we’re only perhaps at best a decade away from a runaway climate disaster that will be unstoppable?
What is particularly disturbing to me is the open celebration of ignorance that we have in this country. As I drive in the morning around my middle-class suburban neighborhood of Upper Dublin, just north of Philadelphia, I notice from the newspapers in the driveways, when there even are newspapers tossed there, a preponderance of a local suburban rag, the Intelligencer. It features local crime stories and other local stories, with almost nothing national, and except on the rarest occasions, nothing international. Few people seem to subscribe to the Philadelphia Inquirer, which itself is a god-awful paper anyhow these days. I read in a recent Pew study that nationwide, newspaper readership is down to 31% of the public, from 56% in 1991, and remember, those remaining newspapers have shed over 13,000 journalists over the 2007-2010 period, and are just shells of their former selves. (The Middletown Press, where I began my own career in Connecticut, once a renowned example of small-town quality journalism, has been converted into a free advertiser, with no journalists and no news content at all, and that’s a college town!)
Even the percentage of people who watch TV news for their information has fallen from 68% in 1991 to 58% today. And that’s not really all news either, or even mostly news. People are counting as news Fox News (a joke that) and CNN (not much better), and talk programs, including comedy shows, which are really opinion, not news. What does it say when an admittedly funny comic like John Stewart, and a blustery buffoon like Sean Hannity, are considered to be part of the newsmedia? Even the supposed bright side--an increase from 24% in 2004 to 34% today in people who get their news from “the Internet” or, god help us, from Twitter or on their cell phones, is not that great. Much of what is in the online media is rumor, is factually challenged, or is simply lies, and a lot of the rest is derivative opinion about news gleaned from the old-school media.
When I was a journalist in China, I spent a fair amount of time in the countryside and in smaller back-country cities, where I met and interviewed peasants and ordinary working people. I was struck by how much they knew about actual goings on in China, and even about the wider world. These people had a refreshing cynicism and a long-practiced ability to read between the lines of the official propaganda that they were spoon-fed by their state-owned newspapers and television. This is what is profoundly lacking among Americans: that down-to-earth realism and cynicism. Instead, we have here in America a lot of sheep who believe what they hear, and then a lot of others who, disbelieving the official line, turn to irrational conspiracy-mongering, much of which predisposes them to inaction and despair, instead of to resistance and rebellion.
How else to explain the stark contrast between the reaction of Greeks to the effort by the banks and the dominant European economic powers to steal their country out from under them (a national strike, riots in front of the parliament, major confrontations with the police), and the passivity of Americans as our own economic elite and their cronies in the two political parties engage in the same kind of theft here?
When I think back to the 1950s, ‘60s and early ‘70s, when Americans in their tens and hundred of thousands took serious action in the streets to end American apartheid, and to oppose its criminal wars, I can only shake my head in despair at how far we have fallen as a nation, a culture and a society.
I suppose if I were a Roman looking at my country back in 100 BC, I might have been saying something similar, and could have comforted myself with the thought that at least it would all eventually come crashing down, sparing the rest of the world the horrors of our malignancy.
Unfortunately, in this case, while America too will surely come crashing down, destroyed by the limitless greed of its ruling elite, by its military hubris, and by the self-indulgence and ignorance of its citizens, in this case there can be no sense of relief in witnessing its self-destruction, as America will likely drag the rest of mankind and the world down with it.