Boston Will Stigmatize Athletes

Violence at Sporting Events like Boston Marathon Stigmatizes Athletes

Violence at Sporting Events Stigmatizes Athletes

By Dave Ferraro

All across the globe, sport unites and inspires and attracts crowds. Thus, unfortunately, it will always be a potential target for evil people looking to inflict pain, division, and turmoil. It started in 1972 during the Olympic Games in Munich, Germany and since 9 other sporting events have been targeted.

In 1976 I was watching the Montreal Summer Olympics on television, thinking I’d love to compete in an Olympic Games. I had been an athlete my entire life, including track. In Jr. High I did the 100, 220 and pole vault. In High School I did the 440 and long jump. I was fast, but not world class fast. I had endurance but not long distance endurance. The 800 meters could be my race. Just get in shape enough to run at 80% speed for 700 yards and then accelerate to the tape. I’d spend a year getting in shape, then a couple years entering AAU track meets so I could get a try out. I’d win the trials, go to Moscow in ‘ 80 and run to Olympic glory on international television. I’d be 26 years old. Perfect.

Well, I never got in shape. I never entered races at track meets. As life unfolded it got by me. Could I have actually made the Olympic Team? I doubt it, but I was disappointed in myself for not trying, until in 1980, our then president almost unilaterally pulled the entire rug out from under our Olympic hopefuls by boycotting the Moscow Games in protest over the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. I imagined having gone through all of that and then getting it ripped from my grasp. I hadn’t gone through all that, but the world class American athletes who had, got their work, opportunity and dream – ripped from their grasps – due to a useless political “statement”. They were at the pinnacle of their athletic life. Many of them would never get another chance.

This all came back to me the other day as I watched the news on television. I was watching replays of 2 explosions near the finish line of the Boston marathon.

Of course my first thoughts were of horror and sorrow for the senseless carnage. Shattered limbs and lives that will never be the same. Questions like why Boston, and not Chicago or New York. Why a sporting event such as a marathon, and not a World Series final or a Basketball arena? What could be the message? So many questions stranded in senselessness. Beyond that though, I saw world class athletes and rank amateurs looking forward to complete the running of their 26.2 mile dream.

They trained endlessly. Made lots of sacrifices to be in top shape. They had saved their money to book flights and accommodations to be part of it. They raced but….many did not even get to finish line because some deranged monster lit up the street ahead of them with explosives.

Why? We don’t know. Obviously not to create awareness for a cause, since no-one came forward yet to claim the atrocity. Terrorism is by definition violence or threats used to accomplish a goal – like free prisoners or make some vague, often barely thought out political statement. British scholar and terrorism expert Paul Wilkinson once remarked that “Fighting terrorism is like being a goalkeeper. You can make a hundred brilliant saves but the only shot that people remember is the one that gets past you.” This one definitely got past us, while it’s hard to imagine that it was the action of one deranged individual.

Since 9-11 we have learned as a nation that a measure of protection is needed to be somewhat safe against acts of terror. And we have learned to pay a price for that.

But this senseless act was just evil violence against the randomly unsuspecting. This was an act of violence against all of us, just because they had the opportunity and means.

Criminally insane and deranged actions are part of our world as it unfortunately has always been, whether defined as terrorism or unprovoked criminal violence. Thinking in this case it was probably the latter. I’m with the FBI agent in charge in Boston who said: “Someone knows who did this. The person who did this is someone’s friend, neighbor, co-worker or relative.” He omitted to include parent or child in this line up.

In other words, the person who did this is somehow part of a social circle, however small. Social control theory proposes that people’s relationships, commitments, values, norms, and beliefs encourage them not to break the law or to commit deviant acts. Consequently lack of social control may create the opposite.
After the ongoing atrocities in school-, church-, theater- and freeway shootings and bombings, it just may be time to start paying closer attention to the social circles that surround these sick individuals, so over time we may be able to spot irrational or deranged behavior, prior to individuals committing these unforgivable acts of violence.

A Practical Approach to Terror and Terrorism

Was it FDR or Churchill who said:"We have nothing to fear but fear itself"?

Getting the last parts of my Holiday Season discussions out of the way, I found this magnificent article from my new favorite informant on Global Politics, called STRATFOR. Since irony is reportedly a big NO NO in 2011 trend predictions I felt it would be good to have an American point of view on the very real threats posed by terrorism, versus the growing loss of freedom the US as a Society has been suffering since 911, rather than giving you my US transplanted opinion, as I have been arguing over the holidays.

Scott Stewart does actually a beautiful job in explaining why terrorism at this point in the game does not need a real act of violence to claim victory. Just the mere mention or misguided effort is enough to terrorize a nation that has not learned yet that giving in to terrorists is akin to dying a slow and painful mental death.

Separating Terror from Terrorism

By Scott Stewart

On Dec. 15, the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) sent a joint bulletin to state and local law enforcement agencies expressing their concern that terrorists may attack a large public gathering in a major U.S. metropolitan area during the 2010 holiday season. That concern was echoed by contacts at the FBI and elsewhere who told STRATFOR they were almost certain there was going to be a terrorist attack launched against the United States over Christmas.

Certainly, attacks during the December holiday season are not unusual. There is a history of such attacks, from the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 on Dec. 21, 1988, and the thwarted millennium attacks in December 1999 and January 2000 to the post-9/11 airliner attacks by shoe bomber Richard Reid on Dec. 22, 2001, and by underwear bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab on Dec. 25, 2009. Some of these plots have even stemmed from the grassroots. In December 2006, Derrick Shareef was arrested while planning an attack he hoped to launch against an Illinois shopping mall on Dec. 22.

Mass gatherings in large metropolitan areas have also been repeatedly targeted by jihadist groups and lone wolves. In addition to past attacks and plots directed against the subway systems in major cities such as Madrid, London, New York and Washington, 2010 saw failed attacks against the crowds in New York’s Times Square on May 1 and in Pioneer Courthouse Square in downtown Portland, Ore., on Nov. 26.

With this history, it is understandable that the FBI and the DHS would be concerned about such an attack this year and issue a warning to local and state law enforcement agencies in the United States. This American warning also comes on the heels of similar alerts in Europe, warnings punctuated by the Dec. 11 suicide attack in Stockholm.
So far, the 2010 holiday season has been free from terrorist attacks, but as evidenced by all the warnings and concern, this season has not been free from the fear of such attacks, the psychological impact known as “terror.” In light of these recent developments, it seems appropriate discuss the closely related phenomena of terrorism and terror.

Propaganda of the Deed
Nineteenth-century anarchists promoted what they called the “propaganda of the deed,” that is, the use of violence as a symbolic action to make a larger point, such as inspiring the masses to undertake revolutionary action. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, modern terrorist organizations began to conduct operations designed to serve as terrorist theater, an undertaking greatly aided by the advent and spread of broadcast media. Examples of attacks designed to grab international media attention are the September 1972 kidnapping and murder of Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics and the December 1975 raid on OPEC headquarters in Vienna. Aircraft hijackings followed suit, changing from relatively brief endeavors to long, drawn-out and dramatic media events often spanning multiple continents.

Today, the proliferation of 24-hour television news networks and the Internet have allowed the media to broadcast such attacks live and in their entirety. This development allowed vast numbers of people to watch live as the World Trade Center towers collapsed on Sept. 11, 2001, and as teams of gunmen ran amok in Mumbai in November 2008.
This exposure not only allows people to be informed about unfolding events, it also permits them to become secondary victims of the violence they have watched unfold before them. As the word indicates, the intent of “terrorism” is to create terror in a targeted audience, and the media allow that audience to become far larger than just those in the immediate vicinity of a terrorist attack. I am not a psychologist, but even I can understand that on 9/11, watching the second aircraft strike the South Tower, seeing people leap to their deaths from the windows of the World Trade Center Towers in order to escape the ensuing fire and then watching the towers collapse live on television had a profound impact on many people. A large portion of the United State was, in effect, victimized, as were a large number of people living abroad, judging from the statements of foreign citizens and leaders in the wake of 9/11 that “We are all Americans.”

During that time, people across the globe became fearful, and almost everyone was certain that spectacular attacks beyond those involving the four aircraft hijacked that morning were inevitable — clearly, many people were shaken to their core by the attacks. A similar, though smaller, impact was seen in the wake of the Mumbai attacks. People across India were fearful of being attacked by teams of Lashkar-e-Taiba gunmen, and concern spread around the world about Mumbai-style terrorism. Indeed, this concern was so great that we felt compelled to write an analysis emphasizing that the tactics employed in Mumbai were not new and that, while such operations could kill people, the approach would be less successful in the United States and Europe than it was in Mumbai.

Terror Magnifiers
These theatrical attacks have a strangehold over the human imagination and can create a unique sense of terror that dwarfs the normal reaction to natural disasters that are many times greater in magnitude. For example, in the 2004 Asian tsunami, more than 227,000 people died, while fewer than 3,000 people died on 9/11. Yet the 9/11 attacks produced not only a sense of terror but also a geopolitical reaction that has exerted a profound and unparalleled impact upon world events over the past decade. Terrorism clearly can have a powerful impact on the human psyche — so much so that even the threat of a potential attack can cause fear and apprehension, as seen by the reaction to the recent spate of warnings about attacks occurring over the holidays.

As noted above, the media serve as a magnifier of this anxiety and terror. Television news, whether broadcast on the airwaves or over the Internet, allows people to remotely and vicariously experience a terrorist event, and this is reinforced by the print media. While part of this magnification is due merely to the nature of television as a medium and the 24-hour news cycle, bad reporting and misunderstanding can also help build hype and terror. For example, when Mexican drug cartels began placing small explosive devices in vehicles in Ciudad Juarez and Ciudad Victoria this past year, the media hysterically reported that the cartels were using car bombs. Clearly, the journalists failed to appreciate the significant tactical and operational differences between a small bomb placed in a car and the far larger and more deadly vehicle-borne explosive device.

The traditional news media are not alone in the role of terror magnifier. The Internet has also become an increasingly effective conduit for panic and alarm. From breathless (and false) claims in 2005 that al Qaeda had pre-positioned nuclear weapons in the United States and was preparing to attack nine U.S. cities and kill 4 million Americans in an operation called “American Hiroshima” to claims in 2010 that Mexican drug cartels were still smuggling nuclear weapons for Osama bin Laden, a great deal of fearmongering can spread over the Internet. Website operators who earn advertising revenue based on the number of unique visitors who read the stories featured on their sites have an obvious financial incentive for publishing outlandish and startling terrorism claims. The Internet also has produced a wide array of other startling revelations, including the oft-recycled e-mail chain stating that an Israeli counterterrorism expert has predicted al Qaeda will attack six, seven or eight U.S. cities simultaneously “within the next 90 days.” This e-mail was first circulated in 2005 and has been periodically re-circulated over the past five years. Although it is an old, false prediction, it still creates fear every time it is circulated.

Sometimes a government can act as a terror magnifier. Whether it is the American DHS raising the threat level to red or the head of the French internal intelligence service stating that the threat of terrorism in that country has never been higher, such warnings can produce widespread public concern. As we’ve noted elsewhere, there are a number of reasons for such warnings, from trying to pre-empt a terrorist attack when there is incomplete intelligence to a genuine concern for the safety of citizens in the face of a known threat to less altruistic motives such as political gain or bureaucratic maneuvering (when an agency wants to protect itself from blame in case there is an attack). As seen by the public reaction to the many warnings in the wake of 9/11, including recommendations that citizens purchase plastic sheeting and duct tape to protect themselves from chemical and biological attack, such warnings can produce immediate panic, although, over time, as threats and warnings prove to be unfounded, this panic can turn into threat fatigue.

Those seeking to terrorize can and do use these magnifiers to produce terror without having to go to the trouble of conducting attacks. The empty threats made by bin Laden and his inner circle that they were preparing an attack larger than 9/11 — threats propagated by the Internet, picked up by the media and then reacted to by governments — are prime historical examples of this.
In recent weeks, we saw a case where panic was caused by a similar confluence of events. In October, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) issued the second edition of Inspire, its English-language magazine. As we discussed in our analysis of the magazine, its Open Source Jihad section pointed out a number of ways that attacks could be conducted by grassroots jihadists living in the West. In addition to the suggestion that an attacker could weld butcher knives onto the bumper of a pickup truck and drive it through a crowd, or use a gun as attackers did in Little Rock and at Fort Hood, another method briefly mentioned was that grassroots operatives could use ricin or cyanide in attacks. In response, the DHS decided to investigate further and even went to the trouble of briefing corporate security officers from the hotel and restaurant industries on the potential threat. CBS news picked up the story and ran an exclusive report compete with a scary poison logo superimposed over photos of a hotel, a dinner buffet and an American flag. The report made no mention of the fact that the AQAP article paid far less attention to the ricin and cyanide suggestion than it did to what it called the “ultimate mowing machine,” the pickup with butcher knives, or even the more practical — and far more likely — armed assault.
This was a prime example of terror magnifiers working with AQAP to produce fear.

Groups such as al Qaeda clearly recognize the difference between terrorist attacks and terror. This is seen not only in the use of empty threats to sow terror but also in the way terrorist groups claim success for failed attacks. For example, AQAP declared the failed Christmas Day 2009 “underwear” bombing to be a success due to the effect it had on the air-transportation system. In a special edition of Inspire magazine published in November following the failed attack against cargo aircraft, AQAP trumpeted the operation as a success, citing the fear, disruption and expense that resulted. AQAP claimed the cargo bomb plot and the Christmas Day plot were part of what it called “Operation Hemorrhage,” an effort to cause economic damage and fear and not necessarily kill large numbers of people.

As we’ve noted before, practitioners of terrorism lose a great deal of their ability to create terror if the people they are trying to terrorize adopt the proper mindset. A critical part of this mindset is placing terrorism in perspective. Terrorist attacks are going to continue to happen because there are a wide variety of militant groups and individuals who seek to use violence as a means of influencing a government — either their own or someone else’s.

There have been several waves of terrorism over the past century, but it has been a fairly constant phenomenon, especially over the past few decades. While the flavors of terror may vary from Marxist and nationalist strains to Shiite Islamist to jihadist, it is certain that even if al Qaeda and its jihadist spawn were somehow magically eradicated tomorrow, the problem of terrorism would persist.

Terrorist attacks are also relatively easy to conduct, especially if the assailant is not concerned about escaping after the attack. As AQAP has noted in its Inspire magazine, a determined person can conduct attacks using a variety of simple weapons, from a pickup to a knife, axe or gun. And while the authorities in the United States and elsewhere have been quite successful in foiling attacks over the past couple of years, there are a large number of vulnerable targets in the open societies of the West, and Western governments simply do not have the resources to protect everything — not even authoritarian police states can protect everything. This all means that some terrorist attacks will invariably succeed.

How the media, governments and populations respond to those successful strikes will shape the way that the attackers gauge their success. Obviously, the 9/11 attacks, which caused the United States to invade Afghanistan (and arguably Iraq) were far more successful than bin Laden and company could ever have hoped. The London bombings on July 7, 2005, where the British went back to work as unusual the next day, were seen as less successful.

In the final analysis, the world is a dangerous place. Everyone is going to die, and some people are certain to die in a manner that is brutal or painful. In 2001, more than 42,000 people died from car crashes in the United States and hundreds of thousands of Americans died from heart disease and cancer. The 9/11 attacks were the bloodiest terrorist attacks in world history, and yet even those historic attacks resulted in the deaths of fewer than 3,000 people, a number that pales in comparison to deaths by other causes. This is in no way meant to trivialize those who died on 9/11, or the loss their families suffered, but merely to point out that lots of people die every day and that their families are affected, too.

If the public will take a cue from groups like AQAP, it too can separate terrorism from terror. Recognizing that terrorist attacks, like car crashes and cancer and natural disasters, are a part of the human condition permits individuals and families to practice situational awareness and take prudent measures to prepare for such contingencies without becoming vicarious victims. This separation will help deny the practitioners of terrorism and terror the ability to magnify their reach and power.

“Separating Terror from Terrorism is republished with permission of STRATFOR.”

It is He who is Dead and not I

A Sign of Blasphemy if there ever was one

A Sign of Blasphemy if there ever was one

An Ohio man says he bulldozed his $350,000 home to keep a bank from foreclosing on it.
An Austin Texas man last week was so fed up with the IRS that something snapped in the man’s head and he burned down his house before getting into his small plane and then flew it into the local IRS building. Domestic terrorism?

A long time ago, some 33 years to be exact, I was private council and boardmember to a large Asylum in my hometown. My main function was to write stories and interview people, patients, doctors and staff for evaluations. In one conversation with the director of the Institute, a top expert in psychiatry, he explained to me the theory of the out-of-tune piano string. The brain is like a piano he said, most of the time you play in the medium ranges, which sound beautifully in tune but as you learn and get better you also get more adventurous and start using ranges in upper high and low keys and one day you may hit the key that is so screechingly out of tune with the rest that it makes everything fall apart, without foreboding or warning.

Life in America kind of reflects that scenario in recent years.

Look at some of yesterday’s news headlines :

– Target’s 4 Q profit rises 53.7%
– Wall Street bonuses up 17%
– Toyota facing criminal charges
– Home Depot moves to a 4Q profit
– Macy’s returns to 4Q profit helped by lower cost (read less employees)
– Sears profit more than doubles in 4Q
– Medco profit jumps 24% on clients and drug prices
– Consumer confidence falls sharply

Every day Life is laid down in Statistics

Welcome to the world we live in, where every day a number of people will hit the out-of-tune piano string and go off the deep end, far beyond the realization that the victims of their uncontrolled outbursts, are almost always innocent to the cause of their anger. Domestic terrorism…of course. Terrorism is an act of fundamental fanaticism on one hand or it is an act of total disengagement from life and society, that as a result of being longterm powerless, balancing your life has become impossible. I would think that recent domestic terrorism acts would fall in that last range.

Add to this the growing queasiness that we are being held hostage by the implanted fear of terrorism, rather than the reality of actually becoming a victim of terrorism and we have the perfect foundation for a wave of hysteria that has overrun our government.

Even though our government and nation is entirely organized, operated and administered by statistics, our government seems to govern based on incidents rather than statistical threats. There is no way that any legitimate government can ever declare a war on terrorism, especially not if the roots of this nation are anchored in what the British at the time called Terrorism in the New Colonies. The pure nature of terrorism is anchored in the fact that it will never cease to exist. There will always be the disenfranchised who seek to make their point through random violence.

Treating Americans like idiots and cowards is not going to take away the fact that we live in an open society and even though it may be a tad unrealistic to expect the average citizen to have a base understanding of statistical risk analysis, there is nothing misunderstood about two basic facts:
(1) The US is a country of 310 million people, who in the next 75 to 80 years will all perish and

(2) The chances that you’re directly subjected to a terrorist attack can, for all practical purposes, be calculated as zero.
Case in point, if 3,000 people die in the Twin Tower atrocity than that calculates into less than 1/1,000th of a percent of the population, or virtually zero.  Of course one person dying in full view of the media is a tragedy; a major symbol of our way of life and culture coming down with 3,000 deaths in full view of the media is a travesty that needs to be revenged, swift and hard.
But to expose the rest of a great nation to a lifetime of fear and cowardice demands a look at statistical realities.

Consider that on this very day, like yesterday and tomorrow, about 11,000 Americans will die. If you want to verify that, than just divide 310 million people by 78 years and divide the result by 365 days and you’ll find the truth. Tolstoy said: “It is he who is dead and not I”, and it is by that motto that we live our lives.
And Tolstoy was right, we don’t really want to be reminded of death every day, so why do we accept the nation being told daily how dangerous it is out there. I don’t think our Terrorism alarm color has been less than orange since 2001 and that is no way to live.

The Hard Facts

Here are some statistical facts you may not want to hear, but they nevertheless define all our insurance premiums and social security payments and have a huge impact on our quality of life through legislation and national commitment.
Around 9,000 Americans will die of “natural” causes, but 1,900 of the Americans who die today will be less than 65 and about 140 will be children. Some 50 Americans will be murdered today, including several women at the hand of their husbands or boyfriends and several children who will die from abuse and neglect. Around 88 of us will commit suicide, and another 120 will die in traffic accidents. Sad statistics.

Yet, no amount of statistical evidence, will make any difference to those who give themselves over to almost completely irrational fears.
And many of us today are the real victims of terrorism because of the irrational fears that our government loads on top of us everyday. We pay in real economic terms, we pay in social terms, we pay in terms of lifestyle and peace of mind. It is almost pathetic that a nation with a heritage of a George Washington, Susan B. Anthony and Martin Luther King decides to whimper behind false rituals that are part of a misnomer called “Security Theater”, which is sucking us dry financially and socially.

Our country’s murder rate is six times higher than that of most developed nations, yet (because?) we own collectively more than 200 million firearms in our homes. No matter on what side of the gun control issue you are, I think it’s safe to tell the government that we can take care of our own security and let them go back to what they are supposed to do, which in the current circumstances is providing the economic foundation that will give us jobs. JOBS is what we need, so that people can safely spend a dollar here and there. Put equal energy in getting the banks back in line and loan to companies that deserve it and can add to job building.

I’m definitely not the first one to write these lines and most certainly not the last one, considering that politically highly influential people like Zbigniew Brzezinski, former security advisor to the US wrote in the Washington Post of March 25, 2007: Constant reference to a “war on terror” did accomplish one major objective: It stimulated the emergence of a culture of fear. Fear obscures reason, intensifies emotions and makes it easier for demagogic politicians to mobilize the public on behalf of the policies they want to pursue.

Endless Wars are Nonsensical

After spending hundreds of billions of dollars and imprisoning millions of people in a 25 year War on Drugs, it’s only now slowly dawning that fighting a necessarily endless drug war in pursuit of an impossible goal might be a bad idea. How long will it take to admit that an endless war on terror, dedicated to making America a terror-free nation, is equally nonsensical?

Government has to stop treating us as infants and let us accept that of all the risks we’re facing, terror is a minor one, and by putting it on the front burner of our national security, it will guarantee that the terrorists will always win, even if it is only because success for them starts already with a paralyzed nation and a self imposed loss of our lifestyle. Who cares about bin Laden videos and audio tapes, yet we seem to whimper every time one gets airtime. Pathetic, I have no other word.

Maybe that’s why I love living here on Amelia Island, because it seems a world away from the fear that has enveloped this nation.

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