Dispatches > The Buzz

QuickTakes

Issue: "War in the shadows," Oct. 6, 2001

A GARRISON STATE? The 9/11 disasters created immediate havoc on the airline industry, with booking declining as officials scramble to improve security. Some of the policies-such as banning knives, ending curbside check-in, and the possible banning of carry-on bags-may be ineffective overkill, economist Walter Williams said in his syndicated column. For one thing, he believes, terrorists won't ever use knives on planes again. Part of the surprise on 9/11 is that passengers thought they'd be flown somewhere and held for ransom. "The new air safety regulations are consistent with today's anti-crime strategies," he said. "If people commit crimes with guns, call for gun control; if people commit crimes with knives, call for knife control. Current law prohibits pilots from having guns to protect their crew and passengers. That law should be changed." Dallas Morning News columnist Bill Murchison wrote about his trip to Los Angeles and New Orleans where airport security took away tweezers, a corkscrew, and a pair of scissors. While he congratulated the airlines for keeping air travel as normal as possible, he said he was worried that America is in danger of closing its open society. "We are in, it would seem, the overreaction phase of our present crisis, when everything-a pair of tweezers, a highly screened airplane flight-can seem risky," he wrote. "Let's hope the war on terrorism shows early results. We don't want to live this way indefinitely. America isn't a garrison state. Yet the talk now is of possible chemical and bacteriological warfare and of national ID cards and camera surveillance." BEYOND GLIBNESS: Hollywood is still shaking from the shock of 9/11, remarks columnist Brent Bozell, and American pop culture has been radically, abruptly altered. To wit: Glibness is passe. The extreme, unthinking cynicism, addiction to irony, and disdain for America's roots has been rendered irrelevant. "The humor we need, be it bawdy or witty, is grounded in the substance of real life, in human nature and character," Bozell noted. "Glibness is quite different. It's determinedly insubstantial, irreverent. Its ultimate meaning is that nothing matters enough to matter. Over almost two decades of largely carefree affluence, it's been an easy attitude to adopt." The media critic said he hoped our culture creators learned a valuable lesson-and that the rush to patriotism and charity reflects more than "the passion of the moment." HACKER ATTACKS: With America launching a new war, will the conflict tempt hackers to create havoc on the world's computer systems? Officials at the FBI's National Infrastructure Protection Center (NIPC) warned that the agency "expects to see an upswing in incidents as a result of the tragic events." One week after the WTC attack, a worm appeared similar to "Code Red," which infected many computers several months ago. Known as "Nimda" ("Admin" spelled backwards) experts said the virus slowed thousands of computers as websites and corporate networks were knocked offline. Attorney General John Ashcroft dismissed the idea that Nimda is related to the attacks in New York and Washington, but the FBI is investigating the worm. Officials also warned of a hacker group called the Dispatchers, which had made plans to attack America's communications and finance infrastructures. They did not say whether the Dispatchers are connected to international terrorism. TERRIFIED OF OFFENDING TERRORISTS: How can journalists cover a war on terrorists if they can't use the word terrorists in print? That's what UPI editor-in-chief John O'Sullivan wondered in a Chicago Sun-Times editorial. He referred to Reuters' decision to ban use of the word to describe those behind the 9/11 tragedies. The service's news head, Steven Jukes, cited the political maxim that "one man's terrorist is another's freedom fighter." Mr. O'Sullivan said he understood one part of the decision, that the news agency does not want to put its staff in harm's way. Yet he said that reporters should not be forced to soften the truth in order to appease local rulers. "What word or phrase, after all, will Reuters use to describe them?" he wondered. "Mass murderers?" The editor also criticized the aforementioned canard about terrorists, calling it sophistry. By not calling these criminals by their proper name, Reuters takes a step away from showing the force of their evil. "A terrorist murders indiscriminately, distinguishing neither between innocent and guilty nor between soldier and civilian," Mr. O'Sullivan wrote. "He may employ terrorism in a bad cause or a good one. We may want to defeat his political cause or see it triumph. For his methods, however, the terrorist is always to be condemned."

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