Last week, our nation’s capitol was declared to be under a heightened state of security and in danger of a possible terrorist attack. We had gone into “code orange,” and as a result, they began aiming machine guns at the sky to ensure the safety of inhabitants in the District. The question, however, is why. What made that particular day different from any other this year so far, causing the leaders of our nation to proclaim an elevated state of national security? Why the ambiguity? Some would argue that, while the public has a right to know how the government plans to ensure their safety at times like these, it would be foolish to release specifics on their operations as it would cause unnecessary panic and potentially jeopardize possible future investigations.

I spent the day listening to, reading and watching various news sources in order to formulate a theory as to why we would be any more susceptible to an attack that day than any other time before that. And, that night, as I was considering turning in the towel, I found my answer on the evening news. “What D.C. residents are doing to prepare for a possible terrorist alert,” she (the evening news anchor) was saying. This was followed by images of people loading the trunks of their SUV’s with enough supplies and food to feed a small village for a week. Instantly, images from ichael Moore’s Bowling for Columbine began flooding into my mind.

What does a film about American gun control have to do with threats of attacks on the U.S.? Very little, save one key concept that the documentary presented. According to Moore, the media brings panic to the American people as a means of stimulating the economy. In other words, the more paranoid you are, the easier it will be for them to convince you to consume.

There is, undoubtedly, an interdependence between the government, the media and the business sector. To fully explain its role in our daily lives would require an entirely separate article. To illustrate my point, however, I look back in history to a time when a similar state of paranoia was paralyzing American society. To a time when the phrase “duck and cover” really meant something to children nationwide and Soviet was synonymous with evil. During the 1950s, many were building bomb shelters in fear of possible nuclear warfare. While we may not have yet reached this stage of panic and paranoia, how much more would it take to get there?

It is clear that the American economy needs a quick stimulus, but is this really the answer? This seems almost a desperate attempt by the government to raise funds as we approach war with Iraq. The list of “necessary items” proposed by the evening news included things like nonperishable foods, a lot of water and duct tape. Duct tape? Perhaps a steel dome could serve some purpose during a nuclear blast, but duct tape?

Furthermore, viewers were being urged to put more money in the bank – you know, just in case. Sure it seems like the practical thing to do in case of any emergency, but, like us, when the government is facing financial deficits (as it is now) it borrows money from the bank. Wars are costly. To fight this one, they would need much more than they currently have. The more you put in, the more they would have available to borrow.

So this brings us back to my initial question – why panic, why now? While the government may not need the moral support of the people to initiate this war, they certainly need our funds.

Prisca Milliance is a sophomore in the College.

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