MEDIA REACTION TO A TERROR ALERT: KILL THE MESSENGER!
By Paul Walfield
In this article, I discuss the absurdity of the criticisms and point out the one government- al study done on the subject of self-protection, in the event of a WMD attack, contra- dicts the pundits and journalists alike.
I can remember a time when it wasn't against the law to ride a bicycle without a helmet or drive a car without wearing a seatbelt. It's not that those times were necessarily better; they were, depending upon your perspective, freer or more naive, or both.
As we became less naive and more "worldly," do-gooders decided we needed to be pro- tected from ourselves. We needed the government--in this case, the state and local units of government--to decide that, if we didn't know enough to strap in when we got in our car, or don a helmet when we rode our 10 speed, we needed a hefty fine to remind us we are loved and cared about.
When the laws regulating fun were enacted, no one began decrying the "hysteria" that engulfed parents everywhere when they went to Wal-Mart or Target or the corner bi- cycle store to buy a helmet. No one in the major newspapers wrote about the futility of wearing a seatbelt in a car, in the event of a crash. Not one of the major networks had a story about the silliness or ineffectiveness of helmets on kids when they rode their bi- cycles.
More to the point, no one blamed the government officials for the danger to bicycle riders or drivers of cars when they hit the road.
Seatbelts work, as do helmets, to keep you safer in the event of an accident. The fact that they are now mandatory doesn't change that truth. The people who pointed that out, the messengers, are not blamed for enlightening everyone to methods, means, and equipment to help keep folks safer.
Terrorists are real and they do real damage. When the government enlightens everyone to the danger, they are simply speaking a truth. When the government suggests practi- cal steps everyone can take to help minimize the danger, the government gets trashed, as do their suggestions. Why is that?
Whether it is the New York Times or the Washington Times, whether it is pundits on CNN and most of the major networks or on Fox News, duct tape and plastic are scoffed at, and the government is accused of creating "hysteria" by actually telling us about the real dangers that may befall Americans.
The Washington Times claims "Hysteria Runs Riot," the New York Times claims in an op-ed that we need more than duct tape and a news story entitled "Duct Tape and Plastic Sheeting Provide Solace, if Not Security." The bottom line in the mainstream press is its contention that telling the American people of the danger from terrorism and what we can do, as individuals, to protect ourselves has created such panic and caused such a frenzy among the populace that, according to one pundit, the government's advice causes more deaths in traffic accidents in going to the store than would be prevented by the use of items purchased to protect one's family.
The story in the New York Times asserts idiotically that having duct tape, while not doing anything to actually protect someone, still might calm one's nerves. Yeah, we need to know that.
What are the real facts here? A study by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, (FEMA) has said that "Duct tape and plastic sheeting (polyethylene) were chosen be- cause of their ability to effectively reduce infiltration and for their resistance to permea- tion from chemical warfare agents." The FEMA study, in addition, stated that "duct tape appears to be a useful expedient material to provide at least a temporary seal against permeation by the agents.
In other words, contrary to the "feelings" of the detractors, duct tape and plastic sheet- ing, according to a governmental study, can help protect you, in the event of a chemical attack by terrorists, at least for a while. However, FEMA has also cautioned that, if you use the products, you need to do it right, not just for proper protection, but also to pre- vent suffocation. The study called for the covering of an entire window with plastic and sealing with duct tape, among other requirements. You need to read the whole study to gain insight into what it takes to protect oneself the best you can.
While the Left and some on the Right have been clamoring for the government to give specifics about an impending attack and about what to do when the Alert System changes color, when the government actually does this, all it gets is grief.
From just about everyone who has had something to say on the subject, comes criticism, whether it is the claim that the government is not doing enough to eliminate the need to buy duct tape, or whether the criticism is expression of the erroneous belief that not acting helpless (actually doing something, like using duct tape and plastic) is a futile gesture which doesn't warrant the effort to do the shopping.
The bottom line is, when it comes to terrorists, we are all on the frontline and we are all targets. The least any of us can do is make it harder for the terrorists to succeed in their vile plans.
While the government is doing all it can to prevent terrorism here at home and hunting down the evil doers wherever they are in the world, the Feds can't do everything.
While some in the U.S.A. have fallen under the mistaken belief that the government can do it all, and don't want to be bothered to do anything themselves that might spoil their day, even when it comes to saving their own skins, the rest of us can do something and not be helpless victims.
Paul Walfield is a freelance writer and member of the State Bar of California, with an undergraduate degree in Psychology and post-graduate study in behavioral and analyt- ical psychology. He resided for a number of years in the small town of Houlton, Maine and is now a California attorney. &bsp;His articles appear in numerous periodicals and on numerous Internet websites. Paul can be contacted at the following email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
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