Friday, September 25, 2009

The Burger King Must Be Stopped!

D Magazine’s FrontBurner blog is allowing comments again and just in time. You see, we all almost died. Bet you didn’t even know until you heard about it on the news yesterday evening, huh? As a disclaimer: no, I don’t think terrorists or mass killings or even one killing or maiming or slight inconveniencing for your cause is noble or anything other than really really stupid and cowardly. I also am not a “truther”, as I was accused of being on FrontBurner. In fact, I went to a screening of Alex Jones’s documentary about what he thinks was the US government’s involvement in 9/11. I left thinking, “Well, that was weak.”

So in case you don’t live in Dallas or your converter box coupon hasn’t come in the mail yet, the big news story yesterday was that the FBI arrested a 19 year old Jordanian who was here illegally for trying to blow up a big office building downtown. They also arrested a man in Illinois named Michael Finton, who choose quite possibly the most unoriginal Islamic name to go by….Talib Islam. Kind of like changing your name to Joe Name or something. Not too creative. Then again, when you take a look-see around his Myspace page, you will find not a hardened jihadist but a guy who has a picture of himself wearing the paper Burger King crown and exclaiming that he IS the REAL king! I’m assuming he 86’ed the bacon on his Whopper Deluxe.

Why am I acting so flippant about this? Because the whole thing stinks of TERRORISM PANIC!!!!!!!!!!!! Like, “Hey, you guys started to live your lives with only a modicum of fear of strangers so let’s rattle your cage a little bit and remind you that EVERYONE IS OUT TO BLOW YOU AND YOUR CHILDREN UP!” I wrote a thing about how the two big stories that sell tabloid daily papers in the UK is either a story about a suspected terrorist sleeper cell or about how fat Britons are getting because of American fast food chains. Anything to do with terrorism is always put people back on edge. Do I think that people should be apathetic if they see some dude lighting a stick of dynamite on the DART green line? No. But this seems to smell pungently of sensationalism.

I have said this before and I will say it again. I’m a freedom-loving American who adores her ability to blog about something like this without impunity or the threat of incarceration. That being said, I don’t think the average fear-rattled American realizes how tight our security has been and how lucky we have been to have avoided terrorist attacks like we have. I remember the first time I ever went to Britain. This was after the IRA had almost completely shuttered their radical front. There was no active war in which they were involved. And yet, when I stepped off the plane at Gatwick, I saw that some of the security officers at the airport were armed. With machine guns. And were wearing fatigues. It was shocking to me because I had never seen that before. Then my teenage brain put it together that Britain realized that certain people (the IRA, any number of countries that they had colonized in the centuries before, Islamic radicals who hated their relationship with Israel) did not like them and were actively trying to attack them.

America has a long exhaustive list of enemies. Gone are the days when America was hailed as the liberators of death camps and the innocent victims of Pearl Harbor. America has made enemies. Just like how our country grew on a foundation of capitalism, we have made enemies similar to how a booming corporation makes enemies by undercutting the competition or running them out of business. It’s the price you pay for being a superpower of the Western world.

But these arrests were not the infiltration and ambush of a powerful group of sleeper cells. These arrests were the result of the FBI finding disgruntled people who wished to commit violent and deadly acts. It should come as no surprise to anyone that these people were found on the internet (slogan: “Come for the porn, stay for the extremism and false sense of camaraderie!”). Just as the FBI could have found a message board for disenfranchised youth who idolized the Columbine killers or extreme environmentalists who worshipped the Unabomber and wanted to carry out similar attacks to the ones orchestrated by their heroes, they found two young men who were Islamic and looked up to the 9/11 bombers. And just like how the FBI could have gathered enough evidence to arrest the kid who wants to blow up his high school by posing as sympathizers and like-minded extremists, they sent in a team of agents posing as Islamic radicals who could help these young men carry out their dream attacks.

Do I think for a hot second that either of these idiotic kids would have gotten any further than the computer in their mom’s basement with these “plans” without any outside assistance? Not really. But I’m willing to bet that these kids were lonely, socially outcast morons wanting to prove just how vigilant and committed they were to their particular pet cause. These kids were out to prove something, though I don’t believe that their hatred of the US was the biggest point they were trying to make. Their approach was amateurish and filled with poorly-veiled braggadocio.

But I don’t think the FBI was wrong in their approach at all. I actually support the FBI in this but hate the way it’s being reported and the reactions that it is garnering. What I took out of the whole thing was that, while Al-Qaeda would like you to believe that they have thousands upon thousands of well-trained and incredibly adept terrorists-in-waiting hiding out all over America, this shows me that is not the case. These kids are the online equivalent of the boy in school who tells everyone about how he “totally killed a cat in the woods the other day” to make people think he’s far out and freaky and dangerous. These were not men who were training in flight simulators and studying chemistry to develop explosives that can evade airport security detection. If anything, these were the William H. Macy and the two hitmen from Fargo.

What I think we should take from this whole incident are the following facts:

a) the internet is rife with dumb kids filled with angst over girls or fantasies of unrestrained hooker murder like they play in Grand Theft Auto daily
b) they will respond to encouragement of these activities with gusto
c) the FBI has sent a message to actual terrorist cells that they cannot know for sure that the “jihadNow69” that they have been chatting to about their “death to America” platform is who he says he is. Could be an FBI agent. That’s a very good thing.

So before I am rounded up, McCarthy-style, and put before the UnAmerican Activities Committee: Part II (“This time it’s personal!”), stop for a second and ask yourself how close you think these kids would have ever come to blowing up a park bench much less a huge office building without any outside help? Or do you, like me, think that this was a case of cocky kids with big mouths digging themselves into an awfully big hole? I just don’t see the Burger King of Springfield carrying out anything grander than a large Meat Lover’s pizza with two orders of breadsticks for a big night of playing Halo in his bedroom at his mom’s house.


Anonymous said...


Grandpa Walton said...

It sounds as if your feelings about this issue are as ambivalent as your account of it.

"But I don’t think the FBI was wrong in their approach at all. I actually support the FBI in this but hate the way it’s being reported and the reactions that it is garnering."

If it all only could not have been.

Goodnight, Amanda