Of Disasters And Playing The Fear Card: Did You Notice?

Wednesday night, as the tragedy of the bridge collapse in Minneapolis played out in prime time, gave what (at least for me) seemed a potent example of how badly the media, especially hopelessly partisan and misleading venues such as virtually anything and everything Rupert Murdoch owns like Fox News, the Department of Homeland Security, AND the Bush Administration serve us in times of tragedy.

I've addressed my complete disgust with the Bushies on this subject in earlier posts today, so let me turn to the rest, starting with the Department of Homeland (Incompetence and In)Security, which took rather long Wednesday night to say they doubted terrorism was at fault for the devastation.

From what I could tell, more than 90 minutes elapsed before the DHS managed to say that probably Osama bin Laden - or a liberal blogger, for that matter - was responsible. Now that might not sound too bad, but this message came SIGNIFICANTLY AFTER one cable TV news source, notably Keith Olbermann doing live coverage on MSNBC, bothered to check the Minnesota DOT's Web site and learned important details like the fact significant pile-driving, which can cause fierce vibration and therefore could be a major contributing factor to such a structural failure, was to take place that very night. I flipped between MSNBC, CNN, and Fox for the better part of three hours, and I have to say Olbermann's crew was almost always not just ahead of the game, but putting out important and verifiable details that put the disaster in much better perspective. For example, they seemed the first to report that this bridge had been considered at only 50% of its structural best several years ago and was on a list with tens of thousands of other bridges throughout the country in dire need of repair or replacement. In Bush's America especially, little things like basic safety take a huge backseat to getting Halliburton ever greater unprecedented profits thanks to no bid contracts awarded by the Bushies. Was this information magically available globally to the World Wide Web somehow not available to the idiot DHS director Michael Chertoff and his band of corrupt incompetents calling themselves by a department name they aren't fit to wear? So yes, I wonder if the slowness by them wasn't convenient to the fear campaign.

Fox, on the other hand, at best behaved almost hysterically and at worst... well, I have to say that I seriously wondered whether they were deliberately playing into the fear card as part of the great leadup to the nonstop terror scare fest we must expect as we edge closer to the 2008 presidential election. It seems to be part of the Republican playbook to scare the bejesus out of everyone with the silliest of potential terror events (exploding cheese and grandmas with bombs in their Reeboks, for example) while completely ignoring the gravest of present dangers like the Bushies and Fox News. At one point, Shep Smith filling in for O'Reilly was as breathless as a scared schoolgirl talking about explosions and all but suggesting that Osama bin Laden had decided that the way to hurt America most was to make it tough to get to Minnesota's Mall of America. They had a terror alert banner running that seemed suspiciously like something to be used to scare the not-so-bright into thinking al Qaeda wants to win its war one structurally unsound American bridge at a time.

Folks, we're being played and for far worse than mere fools. Fox plays us, the Bushies play us, and our own desire to not worry about all this "pesky political stuff" also plays us directly into the hands of those who want to peddle fear while reaping huge profits for doing nothing more than none too talented sleight-of-hand, hoping you're too busy watching American Idol or the latest ball game to notice.