July 2, 2002

Rapture of Innocence

The dear New York Times, so reassuring, so genteel, so well-meaning! So disinclined to embarass or to appear to be making insinuations about Our Leaders! Worthy citizens and upholders of all that is good, of the way life is supposed to be, the natural order.

In an otherwise worthy, probing article by Nicholas D. Kristof, we find this: "Whoever sent the anthrax probably had no intention of killing people; the letters warned recipients to take antibiotics. My guess is that the goal was to help America by raising preparedness against biological attacks in the future."

Oh dear God. The New York Times is telling me that man who sent the anthrax to a number of democratic legislators right at the time the Patriot Act was getting rammed through Congress without debate, was trying "to help America by raising preparedness against biological attacks in the future."

I'm all for giving everyone the benefit of the doubt, but actually twisting that horrendous incident into an act of "help" is evidence to me of how far the mainstream consciousness can go to accommodate atrocities committed by those in power. The distortion of reality could easily be classified psychotic if it were in the context of normal life, instead of the environment of the major corporate media institutions.

Think about it. If someone sent an agent of chemical warfare to your house and you said you thought their intentions were benign, people would say you suffered from a severe mental disorder.

But was there an outcry? Did anyone even bat an eye? That is the state of our mainstream media, and in reflection our national consciousness. It's Alice in Wonderland.

Why would a columnist in the Times not show more outrage against a crime perpetrated by someone with access to government developed chemical weapons, for which no suspect had been arrested several months after the attack, while hundreds of Arabs have been held without being charged since Sept. 11? Why is the same vigilance and the same outrage not applied to this crime with leads that run right into the Defense establishment? Does it have anything to do with the fact that it would be extremely embarassing to the Bush administration and the FBI?

It's not really an indictment of Mr. Kristof that he included this disclaimer: "Perhaps it's a cheap shot for an armchair detective to whine about the caution of dedicated and exceptionally hard-working investigators." This is just a reflection of the dominant media environment. He could not appear in that environment without that disclaimer.

Ah, but the Times! So reassuring! No matter how crazy things get, you are there assuring me of the the changelessness of our great traditions. The great institutions will endure! The Times is a timeless monument of reliability, an immortal symbol of our culture. Like Mount Rushmore, the Statue of Liberty! Like the World Trade Center ... used to be.

That world is gone. -- By David Cogswell

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