Wednesday, September 24

Clarion Fund Yelling "Fire" in the Theater?

When I first posted this story, I had no idea the intense reaction that would come from the blogosphere. I do not profess to be a full-tilt (or even half tilt) investigative reporter and this story truly needs at least one serious (does this for a living) journalist (Seymour Hersh, Bob Woodward, hello!) to dig to the bottom of this mess. Still, it is gratifying to hear reactions to it both positive and negative--believe it or not.

Now, for the record, I do not disregard the dangers of "fanatics" of any stripe. I believe there are organized fanatics out there who could/would do people harm--and they may as likely to be Evangelical, Christian, Jewish, or any other group except perhaps, Buddhists and Quakers, as they are to be Muslim. But, just as likely, there are people with hidden agendas that run around like Chicken Little telling us the sky is falling. Respectfully I say, we've already seen what telling a lie over and over can get us-- Good Morning, Iraq!

However, and not to be flippant at all, since we are talking about the biggest fear that people can imagine--terrorists trying to kill us where we live, it doesn't hurt to use mathematical logic to point out the statistical likelihood of this happening.
President Bush likes to point out that there have not been terrorist attacks in the US since 9/11/2001. That is slightly over 7 years ago. Before that, the last terrorist attack in the US was in 1995 (not a Muslim but an ex-U.S. Army private, Timothy McVeigh in Oklahoma City). Before that, the last organized attack by a radical Muslim was in 1993 (masterminded) by Ramzi Yousef at the WTC. In all three of these episodes, the total number of persons killed was 3390. Of course, on a purely sociological level, this is 3390 people too many.

However statistically, this means that the likelihood of a person being killed by a terrorist in the US for this 15 year period has been .001115% or 1.1 people in 100,000. For comparison, put this side-by-side with dying an accidental death (The Center for Disease Control nomenclature for traffic accidents, poisoning [mainly drug-related], falls, and suffocation) in any state in the US (which varied by state between 1999-2004 between by20 to 68 in 100,000).

I haven't seen a DVD being sent out to warn people of the "terrorism" of bath tubs, garden hoses, or plastic dry cleaning bags. Center for Disease Control, have you no decency?

And what about this group's right to say what they say? Yelling "fire" in a theater when there isn't one has been ruled by the Supreme Court as a reason to limit free speech. The storyline from the film does its best to convince us that the US "theater" is in clear and present danger from radical Islamic "fire". Is it true, is it not true--that is the unknown. But propaganda is allowable free speech, just as beer ads implying the foamy stuff will make you popular or sexy is okey-dokey.

Free speech tends to err on the side of doubt. So while I do appreciate the St. Louis Dispatch and the Greensboro News and Record who have chosen not to distribute the film-- I would rather a modernized Fairness Doctrine that addresses the print media, so that the papers who ran this "advertisement" would be obliged to provide other sides of the story (and I don't mean flaming letters to the editor)-- pro bono. After all, newspapers may try to protect free speech, but they don't feel bad for charging for it either!

And there are people trying to dispell the myth of the movie. Thanks to a comment I received from regarding my earlier blog entry, there is another place to learn more about the Clarion Fund's "Obsession" film. I certainly applaud the efforts of this diverse, mostly religious group to address the fiction and hate that is framed in this "documentary".


montag said...

Interesting little film.
It seems that the main thrust is to maintain the fiction of a classic-type war against a monolithic enemy requiring plenty of defense spending and tax dollars.

I await the sequel "Wall Street: Radical Finance's War Against The West."

Richard said...

Thanks for your research on this little bit of micro-marketing.

My rule of thumb for 'things to be scared of' goes like this:

If someone is spending oodles of money trying to convince me that I should worry about something, they're probably lying.
Anything really scary usually takes some effort to learn.

I also found the timing of its dissemination conveniently coincidental as it mysteriously coincides with the US economy's furious attempt to vanish in a puff of smoke.

Somehow Islamic radicals don't seem to be as pressing a threat as watching the little US currency I have transform back into the useless paper that it is.