Friday, July 13

Weapons of Mass Marketing

I are...a sailor...

NEARLY lost in the shuffle of Cabinet-level gastro-intestinal seers and the resurgence of the al-Qaeda Division of SPECTRE (it was simply amazing to hear how this news was received and relayed by the same teevee hairdos who have been dutifully using "al-Qaeda" as a generic term for "anyone in Iraq we're shooting at who shoots back" since the beginning of The Surge. Of course they're resurgent. We've been helping them with branding for the last six years. My god, don't we even understand the things we do well in this country anymore? ) was the GAO "Dirty Bomb" sting of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. It's a shame, too. The damn story has it all: the ham-fisted conflation of "dirty bomb" with "nuclear device", the solemn intonation about terrorists "expressing an interest in obtaining nuclear material" (from the US, now that they've been thwarted in Niger), the seeming afterthought-mention that such a bomb wouldn't actually damage anything or contaminate anyone, followed by that but... ("but it could have serious economic consequences"). I remind you that this is a country which had a long "serious" debate over the reality of second-hand smoke.

The GAO created a dummy company, got the NRC to approve the purchase of industrial equipment containing americium-241 and cesium-137, forged the security-free documents to permit the purchase of dozens of the gizmos, then arranged for purchase from two suppliers.

Now might be a good time to mention that this is same NRC which, prior to that little misunderstanding at Three Mile Island, wanted to put a nuclear power plant at the end of your block. It's the successor to the Atomic Energy Commission, the guys who, in the days of above-ground testing, used to assure us in the Midwest that no radiation had been detected east of the Mississippi, without adding that no detectors had been detected there, either. I would also add that in these post-9/11 times, when you can buy pre-urine stained pants at Sears ("look for the Perma-Pist™ label"), it might be helpful if the American Industrial Equipment Sales and Rental industry took it upon itself to examine security-challenged typewritten sheets authorizing the sale of potential terror bombs for, I dunno, signs of tampering? Hell, we've been known to throw bartenders in jail in this state for accepting fake IDs. Don't businesses tend to ask who's placing the order? Set up new account information? I can't even put money into my bank account without showing my driver's license.

But then, of course, the point wasn't to examine a potential terror problem which ranks right up there with shooting laser pointers into pilots' eyes or toppling the Sears Tower with a couple of Roman candles. It was to scare people who read only headlines into incontinence.

And I dunno about you, but what it did for me was make me wonder if there was anyone out there who still imagines that Karl Rove is an evil genius or that this stuff comes out specifically timed to counteract bad news (say, for instance, last weekend's revelation that Rummy prevented a black-op against al-Qaeda, Div. of SPECTRE, Ltd.? As if our intel has been picture-perfect in that area? Damn, we had 'em!). You might care to argue that, well, it's just all gone to hell for them (who could've predicted?), but I suggest it points out that there's so much love and such enormous profits involved that most professionals, and a passel of dedicated amateurs, no doubt, don't even have to think twice about it. Which, of course, is the real problem: these are the people who've been running the War on Drugs for forty years. It would no more occur to them to ask why a potential baddie would want to go through all that rigamarole--for what turned out to be a 50% chance at getting a coveted NRC permission slip--in order to accomplish little if anything beyond what the explosives themselves would do than it would occur to the Coca-Cola™ board to ask themselves if Pepsi™ really does taste better. The money's in sales, kid. Reality's for chumps.


joel hanes said...

only the smoke remains
clouding my great crystal balls

Was there anything you didn't understand about your future, Mr. uh ... Mr. Barney?

Christopher said...

My theory is that they really miss Cold War Paranoia, and they're constantly depressed that they can't scare people with cool retro style Bert the Turtle style film-strips about how we all could be blasted into ash at any second.

They're trying the best they can, but somehow fear-mongering just doesn't have that same glitz it used to.

I imagine they sigh wistfully when-ever they watch one of those cable-access shows where cheesy hosts show public domain movies, or whenever they see a Devo video.