Meet the Press asks: Is America ‘Living In Fear Of Terror?’

Are we living in fear of terror? What an insipid question. What is terror? It’s extreme fear. So did Meet the Press really ask if we are living in fear of fear? — I think through reduction we could simply say, we are indeed living in fear.

NBC News Special Correspondent Ted Koppel was a guest on this week’s Meet the Press. And it would seem, at least from this television appearance and a Wall Street Journal op-ed, that we are on the same page when it comes to America’s (over)reaction to 9/11.

Ted Koppel (“America’s Chronic Overreaction to Terrorism“) — The Wall Street Journal — Will terrorists kill innocent civilians in the years to come? Of course. They did so more than 100 years ago, when they were called anarchists—and a responsible nation-state must take reasonable measures to protect its citizens. But there is no way to completely eliminate terrorism.

The challenge that confronts us is how we will live with that threat. We have created an economy of fear, an industry of fear, a national psychology of fear. Al Qaeda could never have achieved that on its own. We have inflicted it on ourselves.

In that Wall Street Journal piece, Koppel said the purpose of terrorism is to “produce overreaction,” saying it is how “the weak induce the powerful to inflict damage upon themselves.” And oh what damage we’ve inflicted. It seems, at times, we live in a total fear state. Just look at the incredible and excessive lockdown of Boston four days after the Boston Marathon bombing. And for what? To capture two young suspects that in many ways were no more dangerous than other violent offenders in Boston and other cities? They were still just two human beings, but it seems our law enforcement reaction was to treat them as if they were cybernetic organisms sent back from the future to annihilate everything in their path. Their act was heinous, but shutting down an entire city to locate and capture two criminals would be farcical if it wasn’t so disturbing. Such is the norm in a post-9/11 fear state known as the home of the brave, the United States of America.

Ted Koppel had a really important statement in Meet the Press. It’s one of those times when someone is able, with a few words, to completely change how you look at a situation.

Ted Koppel (Meet the Press) — Take a look at what’s been happening over the past week. With a “conference call,” al Qaeda has effectively shut down 20 U.S. embassies around North Africa and the Middle East.

How ya like that for a new perspective? And he’s 100% right. We overheard a conversation between two high-ranking members of al Qaeda, and we respond by closing a bunch of embassies. Seems al Qaeda knows exactly what to do to defeat us. Get us to defeat ourselves.

After all, why do we call it terrorism in the first place? We throw around the term so loosely. We call people terrorists in practically the same way we label people of other nationalities. But the original reason we called them terrorists and we called it terrorism is because it was an act designed to produce fear. But what we didn’t realize is that we got the definition wrong. As Koppel said, it’s actually an act designed to produce an overreaction out of fear. It’s the overreaction part that we left out in our definition, and it’s the overreaction part that will be our undoing if we don’t wake up, and put an end to politics of fear.

We need to stop living in a constant state of fear over the potential of an act of terror. And we need to stop allowing politicians and elected officials to define how we should react and behave. And we need to do this because these acts, as scary as they might be when they happen, are much less likely to affect us compared to much more mundane everyday things, like slipping and falling in the shower. And I’m not about to start a War on Porcelain.

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