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Reinforcing the Conservative Archetype of the "Culture War"

Reported by Marie Therese - June 24, 2006 -

The pathological hubris of FOX News never ceases to amaze me. On Hannity & Colmes last night, during an oh-so-polite-and-gentlemanly-discussion, a panel composed of four rich white men, moderated by Alan Colmes, also rich and white, continued the public relations charade engineered by the Department of Justice against seven poor blacks from Miami. Why was there no person of color on the panel? Because that would ruin the archetype of the "culture war" that lies the core of FOX News' belief system. It's "us" against "them" and "they" will win if we don't fight back hard, even if means giving up sacred freedoms.

You might ask why I discuss archetypes in a report about an opinion show? Because, while researching for the documentary Outfoxed, we learned that FOX News deals in archetypes, right down to the colors it chooses for its logos and backgrounds (largely black and red, the colors of death and blood), the sounds it produces (heavy emphasis on military drum beats) and the racial and gender makeup of its hosts (almost all white, a few well-behaved ethnics and a lot of blonde women with pouty glossy lips).

There is little that is random, spontaneous or uncontrolled. Liberals are always weaklings. Conservatives are always strongmen (even when they're female). Occasionally a liberal guest like Jeremy Glick or Phil Donahue might disrupt the well-oiled propaganda machine - but those minor outbreaks are quickly glossed over and the machine purrs on, offering its conservative viewers assurance that George is in his heaven and all's right with the world except for the nasty people who hate our leader and make up stories to bring him down.

One of the cardinal precepts of the right-wing world view is that poor populations provide a fertile ground for "terrorist recruiters" (in the 1930s it was "communist agitators" and "union organizers"). Inexplicably, the fat cats who hold this opinion also vehemently oppose raising the minimum wage and become apoplectic at the thought of universal health care, social security and medicare - all of which, were they in place, would remove many of the socioeconomic pressures that drive people to a life of crime. They prefer, instead, to build more and bigger prisons to house the criminal element and actively campaign for liberal use of the death penalty as a deterrent - despite the fact that study after study shows that killing people that kill people doesn't reduce the murder rate.

Last night's Hannity & Colmes was a microcosm of this reactionary world view, containing all the important conservative archetypes: Rich-white-male better than poor-black-male. Terrorists are dumber than the rest of us. Thinking about a crime equals committing the crime. The internet is dangerous and must be controlled. Government agencies are righteous and must be given all benefit of the doubt.

At the beginning of the show, reporter Steve Gehlbach reported from Liberty City, a 1930s shantytown that somehow has not been rehabilitated.

"GEHLBACH: ..the ringleader of this plot called this building here 'The Embassy' (points to a run-down pink building behind him). It's where they planned and met - planned these attacks. The neighbors here in the Miami neighborhood of Liberty City say this yard, this fenced yard here - they saw some very strange activity, some late night exercising, what one neighbor called a military style boot camp. But they had no idea what was going on inside. That's where prosecutors say they were planning attacks greater than 9-11. Some neighbors say they never saw these guys at any time. Others say just late at night and one neighbor says that these men - young men - lived in this windowless building. One man knew this group as 'The Seed of David'. They said they never drank, never smoked, never were violent and actually were a good influence on the kids in this tough neighborhood and they did not call themselves Muslim. And one man says it was a hybrid religion made up of Islam, Judaism and Christianity. And when Federal agents raided and swarmed on this property last night, they did not find any weapons, any bomb-making materials and, just from looking at the yard here tonight, it looks like they collected mostly junk, so the plot didn't get too far."

Host Alan Colmes then appeared in a central box surrounded by his four white male guests, each in his own box, floating in a sea of blue, rather reminiscent of "Hollywood Squares". They were former Republican Senator from Slade Gorton of the 9-11 Commission, self-styled terrorism expert Steve Emerson, former Democratic Senator from Florida Bob Graham and former Assistant Director of the FBI Bureau Bill Gavin.

Bob Graham applauded the FBI for its due diligence in thwarting this crime before it occurred, after making a pat statement about Al Qaeda's presence in the country. Graham did get in a little dig at the FBI, pointing out that prior to 9-11, they ignored information from the landlord of two of the 9-11 hijackers.

Slade Gorton chimed in to say that "Al Qaeda can, on occasion, lead, which is what it did in connection with 9-11. In this case it simply inspired and I think that we're going to find that taking place not only in the United States but around the world for many years to come. ... This was a wonderful job of anticipating a crime and stopping it before it could harm Americans."

Comment: I beg to differ with Mr. Gorton. "Al Qaeda" never "inspired" these young men. An agent, possibly paid, operating on behalf of the FBI pretending to be a member of Al Qaeda "inspired" them.

Bill Gavin explained the intricacies of infiltration: "It's the magic of the informant himself. They're very imaginative people. They can go in there and assume the role and let them believe - let these other individuals believe that they are representative of Al Qaeda and, therefore, be able to gain their confidence and furnish the law enforcement authorities with everything that they're sayin'. ... And I absolutely agree with what's been said so far. The proactive role of law enforcement, in general - and this was a law enforcement deal - it wasn't just FBI - did do just a super job now in preventing these things from happening, not reacting to the blast going on."

Colmes then said "... I don't know what kind of a brain surgeon asks someone he hardly knows for boots, uniforms, machine guns, vehicles, radios and $50,000 in cash and he didn't quite know that the person he was asking wasn't really a member of Al Qaeda."

Comment: How about a guy who needed money and thought he'd work a con on the stupid Al Qaeda dude, then turn around, sell the stuff and disappear with the cash?

Steve Emerson responded by praising the informant and claiming that "the members of the cell thought he was Al Qaeda, they pledged loyalty to Al Qaeda and they ultimately wanted to carry out those attacks that would have exceeded the casualty levels of 9-11. They subscribed to the jihadist philosophy and it's a philosophy and a movement that can be downloaded on the internet, it can be brought in by local imams or clerics in the United States. I believe it's far more prevalent in terms of the hatred toward the United States that exists within parts of the Muslim community than has been reported on by the regular media."

Comment: Wow! Now Al Qaeda - the whole movement - can be downloaded via the deadly internet! As for these men being Muslim, apparently, some, maybe all, are not. In fact, O'Reilly had a segment just before H&C aired in which family members said one of them is a practicing Catholic! Emerson must have missed Steve Gehlbach's report stating that the men were not Muslims, but practiced a hybrid religion.

Baby-faced Rich Lowry, substituting for Sean Hannity, appeared in the center square and mentioned that some people had already begun to ridicule this case. Lowry said that Timothy McVeigh wasn't all that smart but he managed to kill a lot of people. Bill Gavin responded that "you don't have to be the brightest bulb on the tree to get that job done. If, in fact, they had been able to obtain the ingredients to make an ampho bomb - which is a very easy thing to do - you can just get the formula right off the internet. You can buy the material anyplace practically without any recognition bein' taken. There should be something done about that in the near future I would hope. ..."

Translation: Terrorists are congenitally stupider than the rest of us. And ya' gotta control that nasty ol' internet by keeping it out of the hands of bad people.

Slade Gorton asked "What do the critics want? To wait until they have a stick of dynamite in their hands and are ready to toss it?" He then went on to equate this bust with the round-up made by the RCMP last week in Canada. "The real concern we ought to have is a parallel between these people and those who were arrested recently in Canada," Gorton said. "These are citizens of the United States, citizens of Canada to a large extent. They don't have the profile that we have associated with the foreign Arab terrorist by any stretch of the imagination, but through the internet, through thought processes, through examples, they've turned against their own country ... It's gonna take great law enforcement, it's gonna take great intelligence in the future to see to it that have the kind of successes that both we and the Canadians have had in the last couple of weeks.

Comment: Aha! There's that scary internet again! Something really has got to be done about that dangerous information superhighway. And isn't it great that this bust shows the world that our FBI is just as good as the RCMP at catching terrorists? As for those nefarious "thought processes," rest assured that the government is working overtime to figure out how to read your mind more effectively!

After this, FOX devoted another four-minute segment to this same topic, with the same group of rich white men making essentially the same arguments as before.

Steve Emerson once more pushed his idea of the proliferation of home-grown terror cells, a concept upon which his entire past, present and future income depends.

Slade Gorton, who must be living in a lead-shielded bunker, made the preposterous assertion that no one takes very much notice of the fact that there have been no new terrorist attacks since 9-11!!

Comment: The poor man - I felt sorry for him. I think his best days are behind him. Otherwise, he couldn't have made such a patently absurd assertion. As anyone who watches FOX or CNN or MSNBC knows, administration apologists constantly make that self-same argument!

Then, just in case the audience might have missed it in the earlier segment, Gorton went on make sure that he reinforced the archetype of the low IQ, stumble-bum terrorist, saying "We certainly know we haven't ended terrorism. We've seen it in Indonesia. We've seen it in Jordan. We've seen it in Great Britain. And those were bumbling fools, too, until they killed 40 or 50 people on buses and subways in London."

Alan Colmes finally got around to noting that this idea of home-grown terrorism puts the lie to the administration's argument that we're fighting "them" over there so we won't have to fight "them" in the United States. Gorton agreed, claiming that the good work of the revamnped FBI and DHS has "displaced" the terrorists, not dismantled them.

Colmes tried to make an argument against the war in Iraq by accepting the legitimacy of this current bust.

COLMES: "Senator Graham, we are fighting them over here. We may fight them over here. We will fight them over here. And we have these kinds of cells of people who really want to destroy us from within. Isn't that a much more serious problem than fighting a war and throwing billions of dollars somehwere overseas that's not as much of a threat?"

Graham, one of only a few Democrats who voted against the war on Iraq, said: "Well, I think we need to be fighting them both places and I particularly think we need to be fighting them in places where Al Qaeda actually exists."

In a remarkable departure, FOX brought the same panel back again for a short third segment. They began with a clip of the distraught mother of one of the "terrorists" falling on her knees and shouting that he did not have the "heart to shoot" someone. It was a powerful image, first aired on The O'Reilly Factor, and clearly FOX felt the need to reinforce the government's case.

Consequently, while Bill Gavin was reiterating his earlier points, they made sure to air yet another of their stock "terrorist training film" videos, complete with hooded instructor, masked and camoflaged trainees, rocket launchers and an easel with diagrams outlining - well, who knows what? The obvious implication to the viewer was that the Florida group must have been conducting classes with rocket launchers in that tiny shack in Miami.

Steve Emerson really had to scramble when Colmes mentioned that these guys didn't fit the "profile" that Emerson has so adamantly hyped since 9-11. He finally just conflated the Toronto and London cases with this one, saying "But they had one common denominator. They subscribe to a jihadist ideology and they were Muslim and that is the commonality that makes profiling a somewhat acceptable technique when it comes to law enforcement, even though it's unfair to the larger community, you have to protect the larger society."

FOX once again aired a brief clip of the terrorist training video. Emerson conveniently forgot that the evidence to date shows that these men are NOT Muslims.

Rich Lowry tried to make the argument that al-Zarqawi was in Iraq before the war, but Bob Graham shot him down effectively by arguing that, if the administration had proof that al-Zarqawi was conducting terrorist activities inside Iraq, it would not have needed to go to the Congress and ask for a war resolution because "we had already passed an authorization to go to war with anybody who had any connection with Al Qaeda. The administration must not have felt there was a sufficient evidence of such connection because they did, in fact, ask for a separate authorization to go to war ...." Lowry cut him off and tried to argue, but Graham persisted and finally was able to point out that in addition to the Iraqi urban insurgency which did not exist before the war, there are still terrorists in the Pakistan and Afghanistan and Somalia and Yemen, just as they were before the war.

As the only Democrat present, Graham managed to "outfox" Lowry. Had it been Hannity, no one would have heard what the Senator had to say, which is why Sean gets the big bucks.

Lowry ended by getting confirmation from Slade Gorton that the main reason the 9-11 Commission gave the administration high marks on counterterrorist financing was its secret program to spy on international transactions. Surprise, surprise!