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Bruce Schneier Blasts Politicians, Media 562

An anonymous reader writes, "In his latest newsletter, security author Bruce Schneier delivered a scathing critique of politicians and the media for promoting fear and ultimately doing exactly what the terrorists want. Citing several cases of false alarms, Schneier writes: 'Our politicians help the terrorists every time they use fear as a campaign tactic. The press helps every time it writes scare stories about the plot and the threat... Our job is to think critically and rationally, and to ignore the cacophony of other interests trying to use terrorism to advance political careers or increase a television show's viewership.' Are the terrorists laughing at us?"
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Bruce Schneier Blasts Politicians, Media

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  • Machiavelli (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Itchy Rich ( 818896 ) on Friday September 15, 2006 @08:39AM (#16112438)
    Dissent gets stifled using anti-terror legislation... government fuck-ups get buried beneath terror headlines... people are given an enemy, and a reason to be obedient. Terrorism makes it easy for politicians to get their own way. Considering the mind-bogglingly small impact of terrorism, why wouldn't they want to encourage it?
    • Re:Machiavelli (Score:4, Insightful)

      by $1uck ( 710826 ) on Friday September 15, 2006 @08:48AM (#16112521)
      That's down right sinister. I'm not disagreeing (or agreeing) that this is happening. However I believe a sort of Social/Group Darwinism happens in significantly large complex organizations (like governments). Unthinking beauracracies evolve into whats best for the "beast" and not whats best for doing its job. Someone wrote a blog recently about whether the government agencies are grossly incomptent or "divinely comptent conspiracies" (not sure the quote is precise but its close enough). I prefer to think of it as both.

      Where's the frontier where one can escape the thumb of large business and large government?
      • Re:Machiavelli (Score:5, Insightful)

        by IAmTheDave ( 746256 ) <basenamedave-sd@ ... minus poet> on Friday September 15, 2006 @09:18AM (#16112714) Homepage Journal
        Where's the frontier where one can escape the thumb of large business and large government?

        Buy an island. Or maybe move to SeaLand.

        As long as there is money, there will be greed and corruption. As long as there are humans, there will be a desire for power and control. Since the human race currently reigns the planet, and international cooperation is almost entirely based on money, all four (greed, corruption, power, and control) exist.

        They also all feed off of eachother. Greed breeds a desire for power and money. Greedy desire for money breeds corruption. Corrupt people with reems of money can buy control and power.

        What's interesting is that despite greed, and the desire for ultimate control, said corrupt greedy controling individuals DO ban together - if pushing forward the collective enhances the individual. So as corruption grows inside of a large group, it's bound to effect (often in a positive money sense) the individual seeking said money and power. As a group becomes more powerful, the individual gains more power inside the group, which gives the group and individual more control.

        It's vicious, rampant, and all-too-difficult to keep in check.

        So the idealism held by a few true blue men (the founding fathers) was bound to fail, as is any new government set up today. (Although, I should point out, or at least not pretend to deny, that almost all the important founding fathers were all men who held positions of power and control in said new government, and were all pretty well off financially too. Best way to gain control of a country? Make one up.)

        It's the crux of why all governments fail - and the crux of why, despite how perfect it looks on paper, communism is a dismal failure as well.

        The democracy... sorry... republic... in which we live (US) is, to many, the best that we have come up with as a species thus far. To which side it leans can be debated forever, and whether or not more socialism is a good thing is also debatable. But we're far from a perfect society, and I dare say that we won't see one... ever.

        Or, at least not as long as greed, power, corruption, and money are in the equation.

        • Re:Machiavelli (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Hijacked Public ( 999535 ) on Friday September 15, 2006 @09:55AM (#16113030)
          You'd have to buy an island that no one wants. And I think SeaLand burned half to the ground and isn't going to be able to resurrect itself without help, which means some government or corporation somewhere is going to earn themselves some leverage by providing it.

          The important thing to remember is that things aren't the way there are simply because humanity willed it so. Our true blue, slave owning, whore fucking founding fathers didn't just get to draw up a consitution and the country birthed out of that and everybody went around respecting everyone. They ordered thousands and thousands of common people to march face first into the outstretched bayonets of our enemies. When all the boides were finally piled up and counted, more of their guys were killed than our guys, so we could call this place our own and go back to being eaten alive by bears and half starving to death until we recuperated enough strength to go on a murderous genocidal rampage against the people who were here when we arrived.

          So no, buying an island won't do. You'll need a massive economy to produce airplanes and rifles and metal hats to ward off all your bloodthirsty neighbors. You'll then need to develop a culture that resists encroachment, otherwise you'll wake up one day and there will be shops on every corner selling shitty hamburgers and piping your money back across your borders, so that the hamburger vendor's homeland can pay for more machine guns to open up more markets to peddle hamburgers in so they can pay for more machine guns.

          And if you discover gold or copper or oil or anything else of any conceivable value on your island, even sand, shoot yourself in the face in preemptive capitulation because someone will have already developed a cleverly named campaign, "Operation Friendly Help" or the like, that involves a boat the size of Rhode Island parking 15 miles off your shore and hurling bombs at you continuously for months on end.

          Thing are looking pretty bleak for sovereignity in general.
        • Re:Machiavelli (Score:5, Insightful)

          by tbannist ( 230135 ) on Friday September 15, 2006 @10:47AM (#16113454)
          Unthinking nationalism is another way in which the U.S. controls it's citizens. Americans need to really think about by what measures the U.S. is "the best we have come up with as a species thus far". For most of those measures you'll find other countries ahead of you. The Japanese are healthier [], the French get more action [], the Venezualans are prettier [], Denmark is happier [], Luxembourg is richer [], Finland is clearner [], Canada is more libertarian [], more educated [] and has a higher quality of life [], China has more people [], Russia is bigger [], and Kuwait is safer [].

          The U.S. does have the largest christian population [], one of the highest teenage pregnancy rates [], one of the highest divorce rates [], one of the highest prison population rates [], but that's nothing to be proud of.
          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            Wow, interesting site, thanks!

            One surprise, USA is not #1 in TV watching. I was floored to discover we need 3.5 more hours a week to catch up with Thailand. Come on people, step up! USA #1! We're behind Egypt, damnit!
        • Re:Machiavelli (Score:4, Insightful)

          by TheWizardOfCheese ( 256968 ) on Friday September 15, 2006 @02:02PM (#16115184)

          As long as there is money, there will be greed and corruption. As long as there are humans, there will be a desire for power and control.

          So what? As long as there are humans, there will be love, gratitude, kindness, and self-sacrifice. You don't even need the humans; you can observe all of these behaviours in animals too. Any philosophy that tries to pretend that humans have no "good" attributes is just as nutty as a philosophy such as communism that tries to pretend they have no bad ones.

          But we're far from a perfect society, and I dare say that we won't see one... ever.

          Well, of course not! But that's hardly the point. Making things worse is easy, making them perfect is impossible. But just making them better is not impossible, even if it's hard work. At this point, it would be progress just to stop making things worse.
      • Re:Machiavelli (Score:5, Informative)

        by Silverstrike ( 170889 ) on Friday September 15, 2006 @10:04AM (#16113098)
        This is probably a little offtopic, but I've heard that bastardization of a concept, "Social Darwinism", one too many times lately.

        Let's set the record straight.

        Social Darwinism is a concept popularized in the late 19th century after Darwin published the Origin of Species.

        It has no basis in Darwin's writing or theories, although it remained popular until after the Second World War.

        Why is that? Because it was used as a scientific basis for racism.

        So please, think of a better phrase for what you mean, or better yet, do some research in sociology before spouting about what was essentially science twisted for evil.

        Refernece: []
    • I'm 100% with Bruce on this one, well said that man. For an appropriate response to terror tactics, see London during the blitz.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Dobeln ( 853794 )
        I really think you would want to check out what kinds of measures the British government took during the Blitz before making those kinds of statements.
      • Re:Machiavelli (Score:4, Interesting)

        by TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Friday September 15, 2006 @11:14AM (#16113709) Journal
        After reading about the latest plot, I wish they had let the terrorists go ahead with it. It sounds like the most likely outcome would have been a few people would have blown themselves up in a toilet trying to mix an unstable explosive. Imagine how effective Al Quaeda would be if every article about them began 'Al Quada, whose operatives blew themselves up in a plane toilet last year...'

        The only down side is that being stuck on a plane for 7 hours with the lavatory out of operation would have been quite far away from fun; particularly if there were small children on board.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by cp.tar ( 871488 )

      Are you saying politicians and terrorists are somehow... cooperating?

      Surely you jest.

      • Not necessarily (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Opportunist ( 166417 )
        At least not directly (i.e. politicians and terrorists plotting together for the next big stunt), but terrorist attacks further the goals of both groups. Terrorists want to spread terror (hence the name) and get "revenge" on those who they deem as the enemy, spread fear and force us to invest into security, thus weaken our economy because we can't spend on other things that we'd need.

        Politicians get the agreement on otherwise unpopular restrictions on civil liberties and freedom, in other words, control.

      • Re:Machiavelli (Score:5, Insightful)

        by russ1337 ( 938915 ) on Friday September 15, 2006 @09:36AM (#16112871)
        Its 'mutualism symbiosis' [] at its best. It is much like the Movie stars and the Paparazzi - the movie stars loath the Paparazzi, but need the publicity they give them; and the paparazzi need the movie stars to stay employed.

        Politicians NEED the terrorist threats to push through legislation giving themselves more power. (If there was no threat, there would be no Patriot Act). They politicians may not like them, but it is the terrorists that enable the politicians. (Here is the redundant bit, but it proves the point:) When the politicians use the terrorist threats to gain said power, they are spreading the word of the terrorist, giving them more power..... thus fueling the terrorists ability to enable fear, and so on....

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by gfxguy ( 98788 )
          I like the Paparazzi analogy... the problem is that 50 years ago celebrities loved it, but then the paparazzi grew more and more intrusive and most of them simply became parasites feeding off the celebrity...

          The thing about terrorism is we didn't like it, but based on our reactions from the early eighties up until the Bush administration, we simply ignored it.

          Everybody complains about the government taking too much power; but if it wasn't taking power one way, it'd be taking power another way (universal hea
        • Re:Machiavelli (Score:5, Insightful)

          by radtea ( 464814 ) on Friday September 15, 2006 @10:07AM (#16113131)
          Politicians NEED the terrorist threats to push through legislation giving themselves more power.

          Nothing illustrates this better than George W. Bush's citing Osama bin Laden's belief that "we are engaged in a third world war" to bolster his (Bush's) claims that the U.S. government needs to be able to ride roughshod over the fundamental liberties Americans have fought and died for over centuries.

          When I heard Bush say that it suddenly made perfect sense: two sides, both of whom have an interest in a war that is by definition practically unwinnable. And the leader of the most powerful nation on Earth claiming the blitherings of a man hiding in a cave constitute a creditable attack on our world-spanning civilization. Neither is interested in victory. Both are interested in pervasive warfare and fear. That is what secures their own power-base.

          It is time for the rest of us to say we are tired of this make-believe war that is only in the interests of the nutters who want to lead it. Ordinary police work has been and continues to be an effective tool for fighting the minor threat that terrorism presents. We know terrorism is a minor threat because major threats actually kill people, whereas death by terrorism was negligable in 2001, much less 2006.

          Ordinary police work, within the strong framework of rights and liberties that is fundamental to Anglo-American law, and not "security theatre", is what has kept us safe for decades. And even depending on ordinary police work did mean we were a little less safe, I personally am willing to trade a little bit of security in favour of liberty for myself, my compatriots, and my children.
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by aminorex ( 141494 )
            > When I heard Bush say that it suddenly made perfect sense: two sides, both of whom have an interest in a war that is by
            > definition practically unwinnable. And the leader of the most powerful nation on Earth claiming the blitherings of a man
            > hiding in a cave constitute a creditable attack on our world-spanning civilization. Neither is interested in victory.
            > Both are interested in pervasive warfare and fear. That is what secures their own power-base.

            This is well-described in the book 1984, by
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      I've never heard a more idiotic comment that was hoping so badly to sound intelligent. You obviously don't live in New York. I do. The impact of 9/11 was decidedly not small. Have you even read Machiavelli? Have you even read Bruce Schneier's blog?
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by drew ( 2081 )
        OK, so you live in New York City. So do 8 million other people (including several close friends of mine when the attacks happened). 288 million Americans do not live in New York city. I'm going to repeat what I said yesterday in response do a different conversation.

        How many Americans have died in terrorist attacks in the last 5 years (plus three^Wfour days)?
        How many Americans die every month in automobile accidents?

        I'm not trying to invalidate your feelings or those of anyone else who was directly affect

      • Re:Machiavelli (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Itchy Rich ( 818896 ) on Friday September 15, 2006 @12:28PM (#16114408)

        You obviously don't live in New York.

        The USA can never kill all the terrorists without creating more, the terrorists can never seriously damage the USA, and neither side is likely to back down any time soon.

        You can shove your little NYC victim mentality right up your arse. It's exactly that mentality that has allowed Bush and his cronies to drag the world into a "war" that's unwinnable by either side and results in wars, hatred, and an authoritarian wet dream.

        • Re:Machiavelli (Score:4, Insightful)

          by n00854180t ( 866096 ) on Friday September 15, 2006 @02:33PM (#16115429)
          About time someone said this. Seconded. The victim attitude is pathetic and ridiculous. More people died in car accidents in two weeks following the "terrorist" attack than in the actual attack. The impact of terrorists on citizens is so absolutely minor when compared with the millions of other ways you could conceivably die NOT involving terrorists. It's far more likely to trip and break your neck/back or get run over by a car than it is to be attacked by something as nebulous and insubstantial as "terrorists". People that allow themselves to be frightened and herded like sheep over something this riduclously minor do not deserve to live in a country called "the home of the brave". And for all the trolls that undoubtedly will call me a "liberal" (since they apparently don't know how to make any logical arguments), I am not, was a former military servicemember and indeed hold very dear the TRUE ideals of the country (personal liberty and freedom, not the oppressive fear mongering garbage that so many cowardly people want).
    • Re:Machiavelli (Score:4, Insightful)

      by theStorminMormon ( 883615 ) <> on Friday September 15, 2006 @12:55PM (#16114628) Homepage Journal
      I'm glad you got a +5 Insightful. We'd hate for people to have to actually read an article before responding to it. Most Slashdot posters operate by a pretty simple switch statement;

      if (gotfirstpost == true)
          Case (topic = terrorism)
                Bush is evil! America is evil! Terrorism is just an excuse to take our rights!
          Case (topic = MS)
                Down with the evil empire! M$ is the great, white Satan!
          Case (topic = linux) ...
      end else

      Having actually read the article, I thought I'd talk about that. And I find that the contention that terrorist attacks are simply a means to an end, and that the end is terrorism, is outright stupid. You'd think someone concentrating on separating means from ends would be smart enough to follow the chain all the way. Terrorism itself is a means to an end. Let's keep this discussion in perspective. The ultimate goal is not to make airline passengers wet themselves, it's to bring down the American/Western Empire and instate a medieval religious empire founded on some perverse version of Islam.

      If you focus on the corruption of US politics to the exclusion of that real threat, you're ignoring the rock. If you focus on so-called "islamo-fascism" and ignore the very real blights in US/Western politics and culture, you're ignoring the hard place. You have to keep your eye on both (a skill radicals from either side are notoriously deficient with.)

      In addition, if you treat "terror" as the ultimate measure of the success of terrorism, then why not simply instate severe censorship? If the ultimate goal is to prevent terror - then just ban any reporting about terrorism. That's pretty simple isn't? Saying that the main objective of this fight is to not get scared is like saying that if you have to fight a grizzly bear, the only thing to worry about is not getting eaten. Not panicking is a great idea, but you might want to also figure out how to avoid getting eaten.

      Obviously terror isn't the ultimate measure of this conflict. I don't want to be a US citizen living in safety without any fear if that means I've lost the liberties that made America America. And that's exactly what this article - implicitly - advocates.

      The reason radicals like to fixate on one end of the spectrum or the other is simple: it makes the problem easy. Trying to figure out how to balance safety concerns and civil liberties, idealism and realism, is difficult. It doesn't lend itself to grand rhetoric, dramatic action, and so on. It's easy to die for a cause if you really believe in that cause, it's harder to actually find a cause that you can rationally support and continue to muddle through your life supporting that cause without the convenience of a world view that bestows black-and-white contours to your environment.

      If you ask me, the real danger isn't terror. It's not civil liberties either. It's becoming what we face. And I don't mean we're all in danger of becoming radical Islamic fundamentalists. I mean there is a very real danger that the stressfulness and ambiguity of the present conflict will lead increasingly large numbers of Americans to radicilize. To seek emotional and mental respite from complexity by turning a blind eye to either the rock, or to the hard place.

      That is the danger that we face. Because in reality we are between a rock and a hard place, and the only way to see this true is to keep one eye on both.

      • there is no rock (Score:3, Insightful)

        "If you focus on the corruption of US politics to the exclusion of that real threat, you're ignoring the rock "

        what threat from the actions of terrorists?? there is no real threat.

        I dont have the exact statistics at hand but the chances of you or anyone else suffering from the actions of 'terrorists' are vanishingly small. You know this and I know this, ie more chance of dying driving to work in the morning,etc.

        Al qaeda is nothing in the scheme of real threats that you face in your day to day life

  • Possibly. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by FatSean ( 18753 ) on Friday September 15, 2006 @08:41AM (#16112451) Homepage Journal
    I mean, remember the ban on LIQUIDS and GELS on US aircraft? Despite all the improvised explosives experts stating how freakin' hard it would be to succssfully hide and then deploy explosives packaged in a tube of hair gel or other consumer packing?

    Yeah, they're probably laughing. As we slowly give up our freedoms and rights bit by bit for some safety that nobody can prove we actually have.

    I can quantify the infringements on my rights and freedom...can you quantify how much safer we are?
    • Re:Possibly. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ResidntGeek ( 772730 ) on Friday September 15, 2006 @09:01AM (#16112607) Journal
      can you quantify how much safer we are?

      Yes. Every infringement you can quantify is another warm fuzzy feeling among the masses. Since fear is about the only thing they're in danger of from terrorism, they're safer.
    • Re:Possibly. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by kfg ( 145172 ) * on Friday September 15, 2006 @09:02AM (#16112617)
      As we slowly give up our freedoms and rights bit by bit for some safety that nobody can prove we actually have.

      And here is the irony of Franklin's dictum; it cannot be proved that we actually have some more saftey as a result of giving up rights, since giving up rights merely transfers the source of the threat from one party to another.

      I have many friends and acquaintences who were blacklisted during the McCarthy era, a few of them even cited for contempt of Congress. I have lived through the hottest phase of the cold war and the social termoil of the 60s; and for the first time in my life I find myself actually afraid on a day to day basis , not of the external terrorists, who are no more a real threat to me than they ever have been (and I'm a native New Yorker) , but from the internal terrorists.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      remember the ban on LIQUIDS and GELS on US aircraft?

      Remember? Why, yes, I had to deal with it just last weekend. I went on a one-day trip for a meeting and decided to only take my one carryon bag. I didn't take any toothpaste or deodorant with me since it would be confiscated anyways (I relied on the hotel for soap/shampoo). After getting to my hotel I spent an hour wandering around trying to find a place that even had any toothpaste or deodorant left. I sure am glad the TSA is keeping me "safe."
    • by DG ( 989 ) * on Friday September 15, 2006 @10:29AM (#16113293) Homepage Journal
      A few years ago, the US Dept of Homeland Security was advising people to buy plastic sheeting and duct tape to seal their houses against chemical weapons.

      I'm a Canadian who works in the US. I'm also a former Regular Force soldier who is now a Reservist. Part of my baliwick at one point was unit Chemical Warfare Officer.

      So I come to work the day after that particular announcement was made, and I find a group of my co-workers discussing a plan for the one guy who owns a pickup truck to stop off at Home Depot and stock up on plastic sheeting and duct tape. The plan was to buy in bulk, and they were working out the details for how much to buy, how to deliver it, etc etc.

      I wound up delivering a little ad-hoc class on the properties of chemical weapons to about 30 people, the high points of which were:

      1) Yes, modern chemical weapons are ludicrously lethal. Exposure to as little as a pinhead-sized drop of certain nerve agents can kill you, which means that a litre of agent has the potential to kill hundreds of thousands of people.

      2) The *reason* that these agents are so stupidly toxic is that **DELIVERY** of agent is really serious problem. It is so difficult to arrange exposure of soldiers to agent AT ALL that you need tiny exposures to be incapacitiating or the stuff just doesn't work. If you have (say) 300,000 lethal doses in a litre of agent, try getting a lethal dose of that agent to 300,000 people - it's a nontrivial problem.

      3) The people who invested most heavily in this equipment (the USSR and the USA) had access to MONSTER delivery systems, and the targets were expected to be densely packed. We're talking hundreds of tubes of artillery, and aircraft-based delivery systems that for all intents and purposes were giant crop dusters. We're not talking a couple of litres of agent here; we're talking about tanker-truck quantities.

      4) The primary military objective of chemical weapons isn't to kill the enemy; they are a nucience and area denial weapon. As soon as you deliver a chemical strike, you force everybody in the area to get into their protective gear - bunny suit, gas mask, "Boots, Rubber, Clumsy" which is a serious pain in the ass and interferes with combat effectiveness. A chemical strike can channel the enemy, slow him down, induce fatigue and stress, forces him to take time to decomtaminate - but it rarely inflicts serious casulties.

      5) The golden example of this is the Sarin attack on the Japanese subway a few years ago. Of all the places in the world to do a chemical strike, that's the best - stupid high population density maximizes the exposure pur unit volume of agent, limited ventallation reduces the amount of agent burned off, few exits maximizes the time the target is spent exposed to agent, and the agent itself was reasonably modern.

      It SHOULD have been a slaughterhouse, according to conventional wisdom. But in reality, the amount of casulties due to agent was tiny; they inflicted more casulties through panic and stampeding than due to agent exposure.

      Chemical weapons JUST DON'T WORK unless delivered in huge volumes - and the ability to deliver in huge volumes is limited to large, well-equipped state armies. A chemical strike is well down the list of potential threats to the civillian populace.

      A skilled and motivated sniper is far, far more dangerous than a dozen nutballs with a litre of VX.

      The fact that the Department of Homeland Security was advising people to buy plastic sheeting to protect themselves against chemical attack is completely ludicrous... and while I have a hard time buying into anybodies' tinfoil-hat conspriracy theories (never assume malevolance where stupidity will serve) that sure looks like fear-mongering to me.

  • by farker haiku ( 883529 ) on Friday September 15, 2006 @08:42AM (#16112461) Journal
    The surest defense against terrorism is to refuse to be terrorized. Our job is to recognize that terrorism is just one of the risks we face, and not a particularly common one at that. And our job is to fight those politicians who use fear as an excuse to take away our liberties and promote security theater that wastes money and doesn't make us any safer.

    I'm more afraid of the politicians than I am of the terrorists. I can't refuse to be terrorized by them, however.
    • by dido ( 9125 )

      "We must remember that we have more power than our enemies to worsen our fate." From "It's Not Another World War []" by Ted Galen Carpenter.

      You can refuse to be terrorized by them. Get them out of power. Soap, Ballot, Jury, Ammo. If you care about your country you'll use them.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 15, 2006 @08:42AM (#16112463)
    Are the terrorists laughing at us? Yes they are. 9/11 was a tragedy but it killed only few thousands, what happened after (and its not over yet) killed freedoms of entire nation. By far the most damaging was what 'happened after'.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    When the bad guys pull off an attack and kill a lot of people, we demand that the government "share more information with us." When the bad guys don't pull off such an attack for a few years and all we have is warnings, we demand that the government "stop trying to scare us." We can't have it both ways.

    Frankly, hearing about plots and arrests and suspects every week doesn't scare me. Just the opposite. It makes me feel like at least somebody's still doing their goddamned job. Maybe that's false security, bu
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Taking false security IS burying your head in the sand.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by RAMMS+EIN ( 578166 )
      ``When the bad guys pull off an attack and kill a lot of people, we demand that the government "share more information with us."''

      Who did?

      ``When the bad guys don't pull off such an attack for a few years and all we have is warnings, we demand that the government "stop trying to scare us."''

      Who demands that?

      I think you will find that these are different groups of people. I, Bruce Schneier, and others have been warning against blowing the threat out of proportions since the get go. We've also been warning aga
  • Naive (Score:5, Insightful)

    by October_30th ( 531777 ) on Friday September 15, 2006 @08:44AM (#16112475) Homepage Journal
    He's naive if he thinks that the politicians don't realize that. Fear mongering serves politicians' interests as well -- especially if you'd like to exert more control over the public.
    • One of the best examples of that fearing serving a political end is Germany pre-WWII. This is where a group sent out thugs to get laws passed that would stop the thugs. More the power was condensed to stop the thugs more the power grew until the one very small group was running it all.

      Just other we had Bill Frist, TN helping getting the wire tap laws to mean nothing.

  • I would say that it isn't just politicians that are using terrorism... look at the news and see just how much they are using it these days. If a plane is diverted to land somewhere because somebody got too drunk or whatever else the case, you can expect 50 news stations spouting about the latest "possible terrorist" on the plane.

    The article has alot of good information and seems to use alot of fact to back up what it is saying. I've only read the first porton of it, off to read the rest, hopefully it won't
  • by BadAnalogyGuy ( 945258 ) <> on Friday September 15, 2006 @08:45AM (#16112486)
    Here's what the terrorists care about:

    1) they don't want the US to have such economic and political power over their countries
    2) they are pretty miffed that the US supports Israel
    3) some of them want Islam to be the dominant religion all over the world
    4) they don't like the US propping up regimes that suppress their brand of religion
    5) they don't like the US propping up regimes that treat their citizens inhumanely
    6) they want to be taken seriously
    7) they want to act on equal terms with the West

    They don't care whether or not we are squandering our freedoms. That is a cop-out and jingoism that makes it seem like there are all these external forces that are causing us to give up our freedoms. It's a way of appealing to our nationalist nature instead of our patriotic nature.

    We are losing our freedoms because we are letting it happen. Period. This has nothing to do with terrorism or terrorist wishes except that politicians on both sides use appeals to our emotions to take those freedoms away on the one hand and to lamely protest their usurpation on the other.

    I have no analogy for this. It doesn't need one. So why do all these pundits keep spouting these hackneyed bad analogies? Because they don't think you're any smarter than that.

    I think you're smart enough to see through it. It is my fervent hope that we (the true intellectual elite) can move this country forward without jingoism and without nationalism, racism, and religious intolerance.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Dobeln ( 853794 )
      "I think you're smart enough to see through it. It is my fervent hope that we (the true intellectual elite) can move this country forward without jingoism and without nationalism..."

      Good luck - without nationalism, you don't have a country to move forward anymore.
      • by cp.tar ( 871488 ) <> on Friday September 15, 2006 @08:58AM (#16112593) Journal
        without nationalism, you don't have a country to move forward anymore.

        Instead, you have a world to move forward.

        Then again, who cares about the filthy foreigners, right?

        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by Dobeln ( 853794 )
          Problem is, you don't have a lever to move anything with anymore. Nationalism is the (so far) by far most successful attempt at binding people together for large-scale collective action ever concieved.

          I really don't see that changing anytime soon. Destroying nationalism is most likely just going to shift the loyalty hierarchy downwards, back to clan and family - entities that are notoriously difficult to "move forward". Why? Well, loyalty to everyone is loyalty to no-one. And that tends to be kind of a hard
          • by cp.tar ( 871488 ) <> on Friday September 15, 2006 @09:28AM (#16112799) Journal
            Nationalism is the (so far) by far most successful attempt at binding people together for large-scale collective action ever concieved. I really don't see that changing anytime soon. Destroying nationalism is most likely just going to shift the loyalty hierarchy downwards, back to clan and family - entities that are notoriously difficult to "move forward".

            Well, sorry, I may be a moron, but I see no substantial difference between a clan and a nation.
            Or a football[1] club, for that matter.

            Nationalism cannot be "destroyed" - but it can be grown out of. Just as soon as people realise that many conflicts would be resolved more quickly if people weren't bickering like kindergarten kids about who started it.
            Given the history of religions... no, nationalism will almost certainly never be destroyed. Or grown out of.
            Except by the enlightened few.

            </idealistic rambling>

            [1] Soccer for you Americans.

        • A world government terrifies me. All large-scale governments inevitably become police states, and France 217 years ago is the only time I know of where a police state was brought down from within. They're always taken down by another government, and with a world government there is no other government.
    • I am not saying your post is false, but you forget a lot of terrorist : the intern one like mc veigh, IRA, separatist corse, separatist bask, tchecheyn (some of them at least have used arguably terrorist way, remmember the russian school), red army faction for the older one of us, etc...etc...

      All those could not care less shit about "islam", "US support to Israel" and a few of your other points.

      What I want to say is that because in the last 5 years the US was only attacked once by some ismlamist, you f
  • Hasn't this been well known for a while? The US always has their scapegoats that politicians use to get elected. Witches, Communists, Terrorists, and I'm sure there's many others. A quick peek at US history would have revealed to anyone that this was merely the most recent scapegoat.
    • The irony is that for the most part these groups pose no real threat; therefore, politicans never really need to solve the problem as they can spin what is happening as an improvment or worsening of the problem to suit their needs.
  • by Aladrin ( 926209 ) on Friday September 15, 2006 @08:46AM (#16112494)
    "Are the terrorists laughing at us?"

    Have they bothered attacking us in the last 5 years or so? Not really. They attacked some airplanes in other countries that were headed here, but that's about it.

    I think that in itself tells us something. Either they are Running Scared, or Pleased As Punch.

    They believe it is their duty to terrorize us, so I seriously doubt they are scared at all.

    No, I think they are probably tremendously happy at how they've made us all cower in fear and totally redirected the majority of our President's efforts towards a completely unfruitful campaign against them and a huge backlash on us denying us the very freedoms we are supposed to be fighting for.

    Go us! Whoo! -sigh-
  • parcel post (Score:3, Interesting)

    by SimonInOz ( 579741 ) on Friday September 15, 2006 @08:46AM (#16112495)
    Bruce has hit the nail on the head.

    Just the other day I went to Ausatralia Post to send a small packet. The postal folk wanted me to show them some photo id before they couold sent it. No, they didn't copy it or anything, just looked at it.

    How absurd is this? Do they seriouosly beleiove any self respecting terrorist would not have some sort of photo id - even, just possibly, fake? And what in heck was mildly annoying millions of people sending parcels going to achieve?

    The mind boggles.

    I'm flying to London next week. Let me see ... no eye drops, no hair gel, slip-on shoes .. it's going to be great. If the terrorist want to drag us back to the middle ages, I guess this is a small step in the right direction.

    • In Singapore, i had to let them take a copy of my passport, my P-2 Card AND had to pay them by credit card, before they agreed to let a shipment of DVDs to my sister who was working in Nigeria.

      Yeah they refused cash, because credit card allows them to legitimize me.

      In 2000, in Australia all i needed to show to the Post office to collect a parcel from Amazon was the pink letter left by postman and some other mail addressed to me.

      Prepare for Dental Scans and cavity searches if you want to board public tran

  • Wha...whaaaaat? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Lumpy ( 12016 ) on Friday September 15, 2006 @08:47AM (#16112509) Homepage
    From the article... "Our job is to think critically and rationally, and to ignore the cacophony of other interests trying to use terrorism to advance political careers or increase a television show's viewership.'"

    what rock has this guy been under? I have never EVER met a journalist that was not out to further themselves at the expense of others. Every interview I have given or was with a friend or co-worker that was interviewed had their words rearranged and mis-quoted to "crank up" the drama.

    Journalism has been pretty scummy for a long time, I guess that comes from the fact that if it's not sensational it does not get published.
  • Bruce is our canary (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    People like Bruce are the canary. As long as people like him can say things like this, there's hope that no matter how bad it is at that moment, it can still be fixed. When he's shut down, however, we're in far deeper than we can get back out of.
  • Obviously (Score:5, Insightful)

    by retrosteve ( 77918 ) on Friday September 15, 2006 @08:50AM (#16112537) Homepage Journal
    What surprises me is that more people aren't speaking up like Schneier. It seems to me that the role of the press and politicians in promoting terror is very much like that of oxygen and fuel in promoting fire.

    If you don't feed the spark, it goes out.

    If you doubt this, look at other, more important issues (affecting much more than a few thousand people) that routinely die out in the press because they're ignored.

    Not to hijack the thread, I'll give a tiny sample, and ask politely that you don't reply to the examples, just to the general principle

    * Voting machine irregularities and bad faith at Diebold
    * Retraction of whistleblower protections in the US Federal Government
    * Increasing exemptions to the US FOIA
    * FCC regulation changes making it possible for 2 media giants to completely control any given local market.

    The impact of these little stories is far more interesting than which 10 or 100 people will be killed by a terrorist attack someday. As someone just recently put it, more people are killed every year by peanut allergies than by global terrorism.

    The War on Peanuts awaits.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Bob_Villa ( 926342 )
      What I find fascinating is how I've read posts from people in other stories that live in England or other countries that have endured regular and frequent terrorism before 9/11. They didn't give up all of their freedoms and stop going to pubs and other places that were being bombed. They would rather keep doing the things they want, rather than let the terrorists win.

      Here in America we just seem to roll over now and give up every bit of freedom we have. I mean, the airport screening officials even tr
  • Hell yes.
    As a liberal (no, not the redefined american meaning*) I cry a little every day. People call for harsher punishment, more control and less freedom for the individual. So yes, the terrorists and the gorvernment are laughing at us, in unison. They use and need each other to control us, and they are succeeding at it.


    (*) Redefined as americans redefined football to mean a game where you use your hands to play with a ball.

  • by JasonBee ( 622390 ) on Friday September 15, 2006 @08:59AM (#16112594) Homepage
    It's not that we're aiding and abetting the terrorist's fear mongering agenda by spreading fear. Perhaps he's saying that the spread of fear is totally intended, and that the effect has been welcomed...although not by most of society. Fear is control. It's also a great method of cover in case we start questioning things.

    The reason the fear tactic keeps getting brought up is because there is something to be gained by keeping everyone fearful. The trick is to follow that intent and then maybe we can clearly see where we're being taken.
  • by MECC ( 8478 ) * on Friday September 15, 2006 @09:00AM (#16112599)
    "Much of our counterterrorist efforts are nothing more than security theater: ineffectual measures that look good"

    No kidding. 6 months after 9/11, I accidentally left a box cutter in my jacket pocket on a flight to LA. Jacket went through the airport X-Ray scanners - it had nothing else at all in it. I left the airport, reached in think I had may wallet in that pocket, and found my box cutter. But, then again, I'm white.

    The more you panic, the less effective you are. Thanks to fear-mongering politicians, our society is in a state of constant muted panic.

    That whole "we have nothing to fear but fear itself" is actually right.

  • by vrtladept ( 674792 ) on Friday September 15, 2006 @09:04AM (#16112626) Journal
    We have followed this advice in USENET for quite some time. Don't feed the troll, it's what they want. (Terrorists are just real world trolls if you think about it)
  • Doesn't he know, that we are fighting for our very freedoms here? Doesn't he know that if we refuse to fight the islamofascist killer robots, our great way of life will be destroyed? We cannot ignore this threat, for they will just follow us home and kill us in our sleep. We must fight them over there, so they can't fight them over here.

    Praise the Lord! If not for our great wise President, we'd all be speaking Islamofascist German!

  • by Bones3D_mac ( 324952 ) on Friday September 15, 2006 @09:10AM (#16112658)
    Instead, those involved have simply left us so messed up in the head that we end up terrorizing ourselves. We've become obsessed with finding an enemy we can't see, turning over every rock on the ground, just in case. We see monsters in our closets and under our beds, when they're really nothing more than shadows that make us feel a little uneasy in the dark.

    The best way the terrorists can win, is to simply not show up ever again. As long as there is no closure... no justification for our own irrational behavior, we'll continue to degrade ourselves until there is nothing left to defend.

    People just need to get over it and accept that they can be wrong. The terrorists got the best of us, and our instinct is to take on a "never again" attitude. Until we lose this mindset, we'll just continue to scare ourselves into submission.
  • I'm laughing (Score:3, Interesting)

    by smooth wombat ( 796938 ) on Friday September 15, 2006 @09:13AM (#16112677) Journal
    Are the terrorists laughing at us?"

    If they're not, I am. As others have said, every time we go apoplectic whenever someone leaves their briefcase lying around an airport or someone gets antsy because because the guy next to them doesn't have white skin and looks funny, I just shake my head.

    It's one thing to be vigilant and try to prevent attacks. But when you force herds of people into lines waiting to pass through the metal detectors, you're just giving anyone whow wants to cause havoc a juicy target to hit. Forget the planes. I'd be worried about someone around Thanksgiving strapping themselves with explosives and standing in line with me.

  • by Secrity ( 742221 ) on Friday September 15, 2006 @09:47AM (#16112971)
    US politicians lost their boogey man when the Iron Curtain crumbled. They have found that terrorists make a dandy substitute.
  • by oahazmatt ( 868057 ) on Friday September 15, 2006 @09:53AM (#16113013) Journal
    I point the responsibility towards the people who are succumbing to these notions of fear and submitting their rights to the government in exchange for peace of mind. I was having dinner with my parents the other night, and my mother, who had MSNBC on in the background, was preaching GWB and how the war on terrorism was going to work and bring democracy to Iraq.

    I suggested to my mother that Iraq might very well be the victim of a strong power vaccuum once (or if) the US ever removes its presence completely from the region. My mother countered by saying that wont happen if we set up their democracy correctly. I asked her why we're setting up their democracy for them. She said it was because they deserved it. I said that may be well and true, but you can not lead someone who lacks their own motivation into a battle and then leave. The will and effort to change the government has to come from the people oppressed by that government, not someone else egging them on for change. That is not a true foundation for that people's government.

    Also its my mothers belief that democracy will eradicate all terrorist activity. She said once all countries have a democracy that everything would be harmonic and peaceful. I countered by asking about countries with democracies that chose not to go to Iraq with the US and she countered by saying those countries didn't know any better. I then suggested that a government such as ours and a democratic but Muslim-faith-based government may never see eye-to-eye. She retracted to her previous point of democracy being able to eliminate all internal terrorism. I then name-dropped Tim McVeigh as proof of that theory.

    My mom is one of many people who believe warrantless wire-tapping is fine. She says she has nothing to hide. I asked her to tell me her current checking account balance. She got angry and told me no. I asked why she would give me that information and she replied it was none of my business. Then I asked her to tell me about all the phone calls she made last month to anyone who wasn't in our family. She told me again it was none of my business. I asked her why it was none of my business yet she had no problem letting the government know all of that information?

    She got this nasty look on her face and told me GWB is going to save this country.


    1 ticket to Canada, please.

    Apologies for spelling and grammar.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by pjkundert ( 597719 )

      1 ticket to Canada, please.

      For the first time in my 40 year life, I am proud to be a Canadian. We have a leader who doesn't spout mealy-mouthed political double-speak, and is willing to go in person to collect his citizens from danger.

      However, there are still issues that you from the U.S.A. may find surprising. Such as a maniac marching up a Montreal street and into a school, shooting innocents as he goes, while the entire free public runs squealing before him.

      I daresay that there are some areas of

  • by davecb ( 6526 ) * <> on Friday September 15, 2006 @09:54AM (#16113021) Homepage Journal

    From Canada, and certainly from publiations from Britain and Europe, it certainly appears that the terrorists have terrified the "United States".

    That doesn't necessarily mean my american cousins, but it certainly does mean the government and press...

    I fear more than the terrorist are laughing: friends and enemies both have lost respect for the US. Not a good thing.


  • Of course we are (Score:3, Informative)

    by metamatic ( 202216 ) on Friday September 15, 2006 @09:56AM (#16113046) Homepage Journal
    We played right into their hands. Al Qaeda even endorsed Bush for the 2004 elections [].
  • by Electric Eye ( 5518 ) on Friday September 15, 2006 @10:49AM (#16113471)
    And I hope the voters teach these low-life scumbags a lesson in November. It disgusts me every time I hear some liar like Dick Cheney saying if we pull out of Iraq, we're going to find terrorists in our supermarkets.
  • by oohshiny ( 998054 ) on Friday September 15, 2006 @11:34AM (#16113905)
    A majority of Americans elected Bush and the current Congress. If you elect a politician like Bush, this is the predictable result. Bush was already using FUD extensively during his campaign with pushbutton issues like crime, defense, safety, religion, and morality. Furthermore, because he obviously didn't have much of a political agenda besides funnelling as much public money as possible to his buddies in industry, so when the terrorism issue landed in his lap, it was ideal for spreading further FUD.

    American voters evidently like to be scared, and Bush is delivering. Boring politicians that merely want to take sensible defense measures, fix budget deficits, deliver health care, fit into the international community, and do not too much damage to the environment don't stand a chance in comparison.
  • live free or die! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by TheGratefulNet ( 143330 ) on Friday September 15, 2006 @01:37PM (#16114976)
    again, I have to state the NH state motto (its a whole lot more serious and relevant than, say, idaho who has 'famous potatos!' as their license plate motto) ;)

    we americans have lost the VALUE of freedom. freedom USED to be worth dying for. that's the heart of the NH motto and also to the heart of what made america the SYMBOL of freedom across the world.

    now, we are cowards who are afraid of our own shadows. and liquid substances.

    we are also afraid of cameras! I am a photographer and I follow all the new 'restrictions' that the figures of authority have (decided on their own) to place on us. no more taking pictures of bridges or trains or buildings. "you could give info to the terrorists" is their reply. tell me - what can my photo give that google-earth doesn't already give?

    I just don't accept the fact that taking pictures on public property (which is STILL technically legal) is 'helping the other side'.

    anyway, it has to be said - a life lived in fear is no life at all. its NOT what america used to stand for.

    there have always been risks in everything you do. you could get hit by a car if you cross the road. if the republicans had their way, they'd have road.nannies at every intersection "to keep us all super-safe". how much invasion in our lives do we need for the government to be a life.nanny for us all? can't we just assume the world is a very dangerous place (always has been!) and just deal with that as a fact of the modern world?
  • Poor reasoning (Score:3, Interesting)

    by SiliconEntity ( 448450 ) on Friday September 15, 2006 @02:44PM (#16115505)
    I thought this was a relatively poor article and was not well thought out.

    First of all, it starts off listing various events where planes were diverted or passengers forced to disembark. This means to imply that it is an overreaction to the bombing threat. However what it ignores is the media tendency to report on stories that have a news hook. Remember a few years back all we heard about was shark attacks, when in fact shark attacks were not any worse than at other times. In the same way, airline disruptions due to security threats are routine and happen all the time. It was just that they were being reported that week when otherwise they tend to get ignored. So right off the bat we are exposed to a false premise in this article.

    Then we have his claim that by adding scrutiny at airports we are helping terrorists to win. Others here have debunked that well. The idea that a terrorist would think he is pleasing Allah by making Westerners take off their shoes unnecessarily is not only ludicrous, but actually insulting to terrorists.

    This leads to this utterly bizarre claim:

    Imagine for a moment what would have happened if they had blown up ten planes. There would be canceled flights, chaos at airports, bans on carry-on luggage, world leaders talking tough new security measures, political posturing and all sorts of false alarms as jittery people panicked. To a lesser degree, that's basically what's happening right now.

    To compare what is happening now to what would be happening if ten planes had been blown up is beyond comprehension. If that attack had happened we would see a reaction commensurate with what happened after 9/11. The disruption and effects would be 10 or 100 times worse than what we see today. People would be rounded up and arrested all over the world. New legislation would be passed that would make the Patriot act look like it was sponsored by the ACLU. President Bush would get his secret prisons, his torture laws, his secret police, his NSA surveillance. The world would be unrecognizably different from what it is today, just as much as things changed after 9/11. Suggesting that basically the same thing is happening now shows a total lack of appreciation of the magnitude of such an attack.

    I'll mention one other issue. He says it's "doubtful their plan would have succeeded." But in the very next essay, he writes, "However, the threat was real. And it seems pretty clear that it would have bypassed all existing airport security systems." So which is it? Was it a real threat that would have bypassed airport security? Or is it doubtful that the plan would have succeeded? It seems that he shifts his position as needed to make his political points.

You can measure a programmer's perspective by noting his attitude on the continuing viability of FORTRAN. -- Alan Perlis