Hungry and Powerless in the Empire State
Hurricane Sandy has come and gone, and the people of the US East coast, in particular those living on the NY and NJ coastlines and the people of NYC itself, are left to pick up the pieces.
Right now, 250,000 people in lower Manhattan are without power. The prognosis for reconnection is not good. As the sea pouredÂ over the banks of the East River near the ConEd electricity substation on 13th Street, the transformer blew in spectacular fashion.
With the underground circuitry still under water, those 1/4 million people are looking at 10 days without power, despite promises that it would take just three days. Among the powerless are many elderly and disabled people on medication. Brooklyn resident, Jonathan Maimon, provided the following report on the situation in his area:
Virtually every retailer, restaurant and grocery store south of 38th street is CLOSED….There is no food, other than what you have in your refrigerator….
There is no running water or flushing toilets for people living in the Jacob Riis Houses and surrounding NYCHA buildings on the Lower East Side. In my estimate, this is roughly 20,000 people….
I did not witness a single Red Cross Truck or FEMA Vehicle or in lower Manhattan. Recall the assistance these agencies provided after 9/11 – this is NOT HAPPENING. There are bound to be hundreds of elderly people, rich and poor, who live on the upper floors of buildings with elevators that are now disabled. IF POWER IS NOT RESTORED, THIS WILL MOVE FROM BEING AN ECONOMIC DISASTER TO A HUMANITARIAN DISASTER.
At times like these, before, during and after a natural disaster, the most politicians seem able to do is to point out the obvious and try to create the impression that it is they who are mostly responsible for ‘getting the country back on its feet’. Obviously, this is bullshit. It’s the ordinary people of any society or country that drive the bulldozers, manually pick up the pieces, rebuild homes and fix damaged infrastructure. Yet politicians would like us all to believe that, without their leadership, nothing would get done. Obviously, this is more bullshit. Yet people believe it, mainly because the media provides them with images of Presidents taking to the skies to survey the scenery and polls stating that x% of people think that the President or Mayor “did a good job” in “dealing with the crisis”. They do a good job at capitalising on a crisis, but that’s about it.
The truth of the matter is that, more often than not, in exercising their power in such situations, politicians impede the most effective, efficient and humane response to a disaster. The reason is clear; politicians do not, and never have worked in the public interest. They have their own vested interests and those of their corporate cronies that always come first.
In NY, one result of such cronyism is that, while tens of thousands of people in lower Manhattan are running short of food and water, a few miles away in Brooklyn the following scenes are unfolding:
The above image shows shopping carts full of “food damaged by Storm Sandy” at the Fairway supermarket in the Red Hook section of Brooklyn in New York. Notice the many unbroken jars in the foreground. Where is it all going?
It’s going into the back of the dump truck you see in the picture below:
This scene is probably being repeated many times across the coastal areas of NYC.
What makes such waste even more infuriating is the fact that people in the East Village area of Manhattan are being forced to rummage through dumpsters to find food.
The US already wastes vast amounts of food every year, food that could be used to provide for the millions of Americans who live below the official poverty line. How many people, including the many homeless, in the NYC area could make use of the perfectly good food seen in the images above? The order to dump it all was almost certainly came from ‘on high’, or at least, the order to NOT dump it did not come from ‘on high’. That’s the kind of ignorant and obtuse ‘leadership’ provided by today’s psychopathic politicians.
The ‘Perfect Storm of the Century’
While Hurricane Sandy was undoubtedly devastating to many people, the mainstream media seemed to give themselves free rein to dramatize the event to the max. Headlines like “Frankenstorm” and “End of days” were more hyperbole than sober and accurate reporting, and seemed to have little to do with any genuine concern for the feelings or needs of the people in the line of fire. We could argue that the media’s task is to inform the public of serious issue that impact their lives, and that it was simply trying to bring people’s attention to the threat to their lives from the hurricane and to encourage sympathy for the victims in an effort to ‘bring the country together’. Or we could, (more cynically), argue that media corporations are in the business of making money, and sensationalist news coverage makes lots of money because it draws so many viewers. Then again, these two arguments are not mutually exclusive, maybe the media was just trying to inform the public, encourage national sympathy for victims and make money?
But if this is the case, why are so many other crises in American society overlooked? For example, why is the media not making a fuss about the serious problems of poverty, unemployment and homelessness in the USA. Surely that fits the bill as an issue that impacts the lives of Americans. What about the pathetic state of healthcare, or the mass poisoning of just about every American, first via toxic foods and then via the pharmaceuticals that treat the symptoms of the resulting illnesses? Even better (from a sensational story point of view) is the horrific fact that the number of suicides among the US military in 2012 has eclipsed the number of combat deaths in the same year. Surely this is a front page story worthy of serious debate and much sympathy from the American people. Surely a public debate over the fact that so many US soldiers are taking their own lives after tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan would sell many papers. Wouldn’t encouraging the American people to consider that each suicide by a US soldier is probably directly linked to the murder of several other Iraqi or Afghan civilians that the soldier in question either witnessed or participated in fulfill the supposed goals of the mainstream media? The discussion could go so far as to posit that, for each soldier who kills himself because he killed or witnessed the killing of innocent civilians, there may be 4 or 5 others who witnessed or participated in similar atrocities and yet feel just fine about it.
Any of the above topics are worthy of, and could be remedied by, encouraging national sympathy and would sell papers
But maybe those topics are ignored because they don’t directly involve a threat to a large enough percentage of the American public? Well, if it’s the potential for mass fatalities that is needed, why not a front page blurb about the HUGE increase in fireball activity and other really strange weather events over the past few years? Or why not a story pointing out the compelling evidence that a meteorite or comet fragment recently hit the ground in Louisiana causing a major explosion? That’s Weekly World News material but with hard evidence!
Obviously the problem is that, while the US media clearly has an agenda to whip up public emotions in response to disaster (specifically the emotions of patriotic pride and human mortality), they are very selective in which crises get the green light for this special treatment. All of which suggests that there is another agenda at work here. And it isn’t just about bringing people together or selling papers
American Exceptionalism and Patriotic Illusion
From the cradle to the grave, US citizens are subjected to severe mind-programming about their country and the role it plays in the world. Most US citizens have been led to believe that America is an exceptional nation among nations, a shining and unrivaled defender of freedom and democracy. The fact that the truth about the modern USA is precisely the opposite is not the point. The point is that this patriotic programming has caused most Americans to become emotionally invested in and identified with an illusory image of the country in which they live, with the result that Americans ignore the very different and disturbing reality on the ground, even as it unfolds before their eyes.
One example of this delusional patriotism that can invariably be seen around the US in the aftermath of a crisis is the image of some proud American draping the stars and stripes on some destroyed building or structure. Most Americans are probably unaware that they are the only people in the world that ‘instinctively’ do this. When faced with the trauma of a disaster, Americans seem to automatically look to the idea of the nation for solace and comfort, and the most obvious symbol of the nation is the US flag. The problem here is that the US flag is also a concrete symbol of the US government. Indeed, for most Americans their nation, their flag and their government (the institution rather than any individuals) are virtually indistinguishable. This kind of programming works in the interest of the US government because it ultimately engenders misplaced loyalty to a system controlled by the elite. And the elite serve only themselves.
TheÂ patriotism-infused news coverage of disasters provided by the mainstream media plays a central role in subverting the emotional energy of the American people and directing it towards ‘sympathy’ for and identification with, the abstract idea of a faceless and nameless American nation ‘in need’. The result is that the true and persistent face of the American nation in need – the millions of US citizens that are suffering in many different ways at any given moment -Â are largely ignored.
Since the destruction caused by hurricane Sandy is still front page news, perhaps the mainstream media could help to open a public debate on whether or not it is possible to make ‘value judgments’ on the deaths of Americans. A question could be: ‘which death merits more sympathy: a American who dies by being hit by a falling tree during hurricane Sandy, or an American who takes his own life because he is tormented by the fact that he participated in the murder of an Iraqi family?’ A follow-up question could be: ‘In both cases, why is public sympathy for dead Americans ultimately redirected towards the illusion of ‘America’ and manifested by hoisting a flag outside American homes?’
As Hurricane Sandy approached, mainstream media reporting also focused on the significant threat to the lives of millions of people that the storm posed. Figures like 60 million were thrown around in the same sentence as “killer storm”, which undoubtedly had the effect of reminding people of their own, potentially untimely, deaths. In the end, Hurricane Sandy killed at least 90 people in the US. I’m not saying these deaths should not be reported by the mainstream media, but when 152 US soldiers committed suicide in the first six months of this year, I have to wonder why the media is largely silent about it.
One explanation for a hidden motive in emphasizing the threat to human lifeÂ during a disaster can be found in a sentence from the book ‘Thinking Fast and Slowâ€™ byÂ professor emeritus of psychology and public affairs at Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School, Daniel Kahneman:
â€œThe evidence of priming studies suggests that reminding people of their mortality increases the appeal of authoritarian ideas, which may become reassuring in the context of the terror of death.â€
Emphasising the ‘terror of death’ is only useful to the media and government in a certain context however. The point seems to be that, when America is attacked by an ‘enemy’, be it by a ‘Frankenstorm’ or ‘terrorists’, emphasizing the deadly threat to American citizens is the way to go because the government stands ready to ‘save the day’ and ‘bring the country together’ under the flag.
However, when there is a threat to American citizens that originates with the actions or policies of the US government, then the threat must be downplayed or ignored. If the US media were to give proportionate coverage to the threat of military suicides for example, it would be informing the American people in a way that would not only not benefit the US government, it could ultimately cause it serious problems in terms of public order, or rather, public obedience to the dictates of the state. Similarly, the threat of an imminent ice age or cometary impact does not provide the government with the opportunity to claim that they can ‘save they day’, because there is nothing they can do about those impending catastrophes.
If we look back at another disaster that happened in NY about 11 years ago, we find a lot of media hype that caused widespread hysteria, panic and concern. That particular disaster – the 9/11 attacks – and the outpouring of public emotion that was largely fueled by the media coverage, was later used as justification to not only invade two countries and launch a never-ending ‘war on terror’, but to strip the American people of most of their cherished freedoms. And it was all done in the name of ‘protection’.
Having considered all of that, have a look now at what has been going on, behind the scenes, in the grand old US of A over the past few months and years:
Homeland Security graduates first Corps of Homeland Youth
On September 13, 2012, the Department of Homeland Security graduated its first class of FEMA Corps first-responders. While the idea of having a volunteer force of tens of thousands of volunteers scattered across the country to aid in times of natural disasters sounds great, the details and timing of this new government army is somewhat curious, if not disturbing.
Over the past two years, President Obama has signed a number of Executive Orders suspending all civil and Constitutional rights and turning over management of an America under Martial Law to FEMA. Also in that time, domestic federal agencies under DHS, including FEMA, have ordered billions of rounds of ammunition as well as the corresponding firearms. Admittedly, these new weapons and ammunition aren’t to be used in some far-off war or to fight forest fires in California, but right here on the streets of America.â€
Strange domes to line the Texas coast in preparation for something to come
â€œThe government has also offered to cover 75% of the cost on structures over 20,00 square feet in size. A facility of this size would cost around $1 million.
What is interesting is how recent reports vary in nature. Some say that the domes are to protect citizens from hurricanes while others say that FEMA equipment will be held in the domes.â€
You may also remember that, about one month ago, legislation called the Mass Fatality Planning and Religious Considerations Act was introduced on the floor of the US House of Representatives. The name of the bill speaks for itself. I should also mention the 2012 ‘National Defense Authorization Act‘ that makes it legal for the US government and military to designate any American citizen a ‘terrorist’ and imprison them without trial indefinitely. A little well known fact about FEMA is that it was created in 1979 to assure the survivability of the United States government in the event of a nuclear attack. It was also tasked with coordinating government response during times of domestic disasters, such as earthquakes, floods and hurricanes. Today FEMA forms part of the DHS. The above-mentioned ‘Mass Fatality Planning and Religious Considerations Act’ is currently being passed around between FEMA and the DHS for consideration. FEMA also handles ‘Emergency Preparedness, Response and Communications’ so the passing of the bill from one committee to another is mostly for show.
While it’s still uncertain precisely what the near future holds for the American people,Â what seems beyond doubt is that, regardless of who is in the White House, the US government and its agencies have been preparing for some kind of major crisis on US soil that will involve massive popular ‘unrest’ and the need to ‘house’ large numbers of displaced (and perhaps angry) US citizens.
2 thoughts on “Hungry and Powerless in the Empire State”
Great article, thanks.
A Very insightful article. It has opened my eyes to new, disturbing realities marred creatively by media and the government.