The Architects of Fear

It’s extremely important to Homeland Security Advisor Michael McCaul that the terrorists win.

By Jim Knipfel

If the Department of Homeland security is to remain a relevant and dominant force in the American social and psychological landscape, it is absolutely essential they convince us to freely and willingly give up fundamental freedoms and civil liberties, just hand the whole damn thing over to an increasingly militarized corporate State, stay inside, and be satisfied with browsing pleasant and inoffensive porn sites on the Internet. The easiest way to do that is to keep us all quivering in paranoid horror at the eternal and unpredictable threat of Islamic terrorists who could strike at anytime, anywhere. If they can make that happen, have us all believing this is simply the new reality, everything will be just fine. Sure it means the terrorists win, but that was all part of the original agreement, as I’ve come to understand it.

Toward that end, DHS advisor Michael McCaul has just published a new collection of eight frantic, fear-mongering scenarios “written in the style of Tom Clancy” (!). Taking its title from the official intelligence explanation for the 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center, Failures of Imagination presents fictional but plausibly silly scenarios of realistic and deadly terrorist attacks on (among other high-profile targets) the Mall of America, the Academy Awards ceremony, and DisneyWorld. Oh my!

In the Disney tale, for instance, a female terrorist named Fatima wanders innocently among the throngs of happy tourists with a hand-held fan that sprays a mist of cooling water. As she strolls down Main Street and around Sleeping Beauty’s Castle, she sprays herself, doorknobs, toilet seats, strangers, and the air around her. It all seems, yes, innocent enough until you realize the water in the bottle is infused with...SMALLPOX!

Yes, well. I guess it makes sense. If you want to make sure the terrorists win with the least muss and fuss, and by so doing solidify your grip on power — in short if you’re following Goldstein’s book to the letter — the best way to do that is to pound home endless nightmare scenarios in the most simplistic and ham-fisted of terms, Plant them deep in the day to day consciousness of the American public, warning them these things will most certainly happen if we don’t let Homeland Security have whatever it wants. When it simply becomes the standard mindset (which it pretty much already has) then all you need to do is offer up occasional reminders like this, come up with a few new stories (“A terrorist might be wearing exploding underpants on your next flight!”) and you can keep the sheep properly cowed without actually having to blow anything up ore make a mess. Even if it doesn’t work neatly and easily as designed, at least it’s a quick way to pass along a few suggestions to those fucking backward half-wit terrorists, who seem to be running a little dry on the imagination and pizzazz front. If you can get them thinking along more James Bond terms, well then that’d just be cool. Whichever way, and whatever works.

I do see one problem with McCaul’s approach here, though. If he’s trying to keep us all tense and itchy by laying out horror stories about attacks on DisneyWorld, the Super Bowl, the Oscars, and some massive shopping mall, what does he do about those of us who hear that and think, “Well...okay. Sounds good to me. And maybe they could hit Times Square too while they’re at it. Fucking hate that fucking place.”

Published January 21st, 2016

Jim Knipfel is the author of Slackjaw, The Blow-Off, These Children Who Come at You With Knives, and several other books.