This is an e-mail response I sent to a listserv of the University of Southern Maine replying to a discussion on terrorism versus freedom of expression after yesterday's "scare" in Boston.
First thing, Free speech is a right, not a privilege. A privilege is your driver's license. However, if the Bush admin. had its way, we'd all need a license for the First Amendment.
On the marketing campaign, these devices were up in every other major city for weeks without a single person calling in. Even after the initial call (when authorities did the right thing by checking it out), the bomb squad should have had enough training to realize that the contraption didn't have any explosives. Yes, they really overreacted and the arrest of the two numbnuts (who made complete asses of themselves) was a CYA move by the Boston police. Even the judge at the arraignment questioned the validity of the charges. Plus, as Stephen Colbert pointed out, if you want to really get people's attention, you'd use Frylock instead of the mooninites.
So, this leaves the question of freedom of expression (even in advertising) versus national security. How much of our freedoms are we willing to sacrifice to feel safe? I think it's funny that there has never been a "there's nothing to fear but fear itself" speech out of this President, but there has been plenty of action to suppress free speech. Of course people are scared. Our government and the press has done nothing to quell these fears. Response to terrorism: attack Iraq - which had nothing to do with Al Queda. In fact, bin Laden hated Hussein and others like him inside the Arab world more than he hated the United States. Misinformation, lack of information and ignorance fuels fear. Take Iran. Right now, the neo-cons are salivating over the chance of invading Iran. But they refuse to tell us, or what they refuse to believe is that Iran is made of a very intelligent population that is ruled by a small group of sadistic, wrong-headed, despiteful, evil, oppressive, scum sucking, idiotic islamic priests. It is the only theocracy in the world. Even President Ahmadineja has very little power, as much as we tend to think differently. But, the majority of Iranians do not like their government. Over the past ten years, protests have ballooned in numbers, people are more outspoken. This has all been met with terrible retribution by the priests to further squash the opposition. But the Iranian people are on the verge of forcing change themselves - as long as the US doesn't fuck it up, which is definitely the road we're on. Diplomacy and openness would be a far better alternative to bombs, as the Baker Commission suggested (and Bush is completely ignoring). But it is the people in power in both Washington and Tehran who manipulate with fear. In the US, it is the fear that terrorists will somehow defeat us (fat fucking chance of that happening); and in Iran, it is the fallacy that Israel (with US backing) will sweep through the Middle East and treat every Arab and Persian as they do the Palestinians. Don't forget that the horrible reign of the (US backed) Shah is still in the memory of many Iranians - the foundation of much of the hatred toward us. Mao said that religion is the opiate of the masses, suggesting faith can be used to manipulate society; but I say fear is the opiate in this new century.
How do you fight this new opiate? Information. And not only within the social sciences, but with culture and the arts. When books and movies cross the borders, the people (not the governments) begin to understand one another. For this reason, those in power continue to squash freedom of speech, because the free flow of information is not in their best interests if they want to control their people. So, it is much easier to blame the Aqua Teen Hunger Force for scaring the shit out of people than it is to blame themselves - and leads one step closer to suppressing the scape goats and red herrings of fear, then stopping themselves.