Over the last year or so, I've almost stopped following the mainstream news. Occasionally I scan newspaper headlines, but that's about all I do unless I happen to be listening to the now ubiquitous “news/talk” radio (with the emphasis on the talk) to find out what tomorrow's weather will be.
An outside observer might have expected my disinterest to change last Sunday when I heard that the United States had assassinated Osama Bin Laden. Such an observer would have been disappointed.
To be sure, I picked up small scraps, bits and pieces of the story. I guess U.S. operatives were supposed to have located and shot Mr. Bin Laden this past Sunday, and to have buried his body in the sea. Bin Laden has provided the U.S. with a convenient excuse for some interesting policies and actions on the international stage over the last decade. These policies and actions have led to the destruction of two national governments, the death of over a million civilians and the attempt to steal the oil of at least two countries.
Now it seems that his death offers more political and propaganda capital than his life did for the leaders of America. What better way to commemorate the ten year anniversary of the September 11 attacks than to announce the death of the so-called perpetrator of those attacks? This will be a big year for the wealthy and powerful leaders of American society, as well as their media mouthpieces. I am sure they will make all sorts of appeals to patriotism via carefully choreographed propaganda stunts and commemorations. Their message will be, “God bless America! And let no one question the sustainability or morality of the American way of life: the unrestrained freedom to pursue material wealth! Support our troops, for they fight to maintain the American way! And let no one question the morality of their fight or the rights of those against whom they are fighting!”
Pardon my skepticism, but the story of Bin Laden's death seems to hold a lot less water than a corpse buried at sea should. “The operation to remove him was so hush-hush, see, that we can't release any photos of his corpse...” For the last few years, Bin Laden has seemed to me to be merely a manufactured distraction from one of the main real issues facing this country, namely the insistence of most of the nation and of all of its wealthiest and most powerful members that America is entitled to control and consume all of the world's resources, regardless of the cost to other peoples or the fact that those resources are now running out.
This issue seems to be too painful for us to bear looking at it for very long. So we look for distractions as we have been trained to by our media, and the media happily dishes up distractions. A week ago it was a certain wedding of two extremely spoiled people in England. (I don't give two cents and a stick of chewing gum about the “Royal Wedding.” He's not the prince of Oregon, is he?!) This week it's Bin Laden. But I'm not distracted.
I care far more about things that our mainstream media continues to ignore – questions like, what's a sievert? How many sieverts does it take to kill you? How many millisieverts does it take to ruin your health for good? How many millisieverts have we in the Pacific Northwest received since the 11th of March? Will the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster ever be satisfactorily mitigated? How many people know about the gasoline shortages sweeping many parts of the globe right now (including shortages in parts of Georgia and Pittsburgh in the U.S.)? What geopolitical games of robbery will the United States play as global resource shortages intensify? Who will be the next chimera?