Boston: Republic of Fear
One of the protestors near the Fleet Center. Note the dump truck behind him. All were manned by cops.
Before I get into exactly what I saw, I know you're all waiting with baited breath, I want to discuss the whole Republic of Fear installed in Boston this week. It is, without question, one of the dumbest things I have ever seen. There wasn't just security at the Fleet Center, but at the Cambridgeside Galleria for God's sake. Did they really think someone was going to blow up the nearly empty Sears on a Monday afternoon? What? Was a rampaging cell of AQ members from MIT going to rush over and start the jihad?
I know keeping Boston safe is not a joke. I remember seeing an F-15 fly right over Central Park on 9/11. Jen, who lived in downtown Brooklyn at the time, remembers seeing Blackhawks, Little Birds and Apaches over downtown Manhattan across the river. So security is no joke to me, and I understand the need for it. You can bet the Spanish wish they had better intel and security before March 11. But what is going on in Boston is silly, and as Kos said, security for show. In any other time, the city and state police would have been more than enough. But to not only bring in MP's, but Navy and Air Force personnel as well, without regard as to how they would act in a crisis. Imagine the scene if there was a shooting, not even terrorism, but just a knuclehead armed robbery. I would be scared shitless of being shot by teenaged MP's. Most cities don't arm their part time cops, yet hundreds of MP's are wandering around Boston, armed. They're nice kids, polite, well-meaning, but it will be a miracle if they don't overreact. One we should all pray for.
Not all of their precautions were stupid. Closing the highway and subway near the Fleet Center was sane and rational. All it would take is one stolen gas tanker or a few pipe bombs to kill a lot of people. It is reasonable and rational to prevent traffic near the Fleet Center.
But if I were an Afghan-trained jihadi, who was sucidially reckless, there are so many clumps of bullshitting, chatting, coffee drinking and brownie eating cops, I could make my point with a grenade and a Ruger Mini-14 in Copely Square or Boston Common. They aren't on patrol, they aren't checking people, they're chatting up fellow MP's, saying hello to other soldiers, planning how to spend their massive overtime on top of their 14 percent raise (Boston cops make $80K a year), that any serious people could wreak havoc.
They closed the second story of Faneuil Hall after five o'clock, which to me seemed, well, silly. What are they afraid of, Lee Harvey Oswald II blowing off the back of Chris Matthews head? Anyone with a nand grenade could get close enough to do that. Again, security for show. As was the fence around the building. What did they expect? A North Korean human wave attack?
By the time Delta (who is on call, as they are for all major national security events) arrives, the crazy jihadi has either fled or been killed. The question is how many civilians are shot by panicking cops and MP's in the process?
Security officials say that they are always doing things behind the scenes. Well, sure, but the massive display of force could have been toned down. AQ now stands poised to force the US to spend millions without cause over internet and cell phone traffic. It's more effective than 100 attacks. What better way to keep the country on edge, but with this constant fearmongering and hype. It's cheap ( the cost of a phone call or internet connection), it doesn't have any risk attached to this, and it doesn't expose what sleeper cells there and, oh yeah, AQ gets to see how US security for large events work. They can note the units deployed, how they're deployed and which attacks might work best. They can do this for years to come. And when they do finally strike, they know where the holes are and how to find them.
The Republic of Fear mentality created by Mayor Mennino is at it's height at the protest prison, protest cage, whatever. Not only is it literally a cage built around the North Street T stop, the speaker's stage faces the highway, behind a pillar. So when you enter, you can't see the speakers on stage. This is the most unsafe conditions for protest imaginable, except for carrying a Babe Ruth poster around Fenway in a Yankee jersey.
But you know why this condition exists? Because the protesters are not serious people. Serious people would not have tolerated this crap for 10 seconds. Despite the sometimes clownish demeanor, if Al Sharpton was leading a protest, that cage wouldn't have been a cage, because he would have shut the city down otherwise. The protestors are all theory protesters, the are enraged about things which don't affect their lives.
When I was in the protest cage, some woman was ranting about the Palestinians. And I knew instantly why I hated the ANSWER crowd. Because they are so fucking patronising. You have decent, concerned people, protest groupies looking for a new way to piss off their parents, and waspy anti-semites. But none are serious, not about protest, the Palestinians, or anything else which is more complex than Bush Lied.
While I don't want to divert the conversation, my point is that anyone who genuinely cared about the Palestinians would be as outraged about the endemic corruption in the PA as the occupation. Why does Arafat's family live in luxury in Paris while people live in slums in Gaza and Ramallah? Why does he control the police? Israel doesn't run these things. The PA does. And while I oppose the occupation, I am disgusted with the corruption and the resulting misery created by the PA. Running around, making anti-semitic statements doesn't make much difference if you're a Palestinian kid in the West Bank who just wants a job and a decent life for your family. It's easy for rich, white Americans to patronize these people, and use them as a cudgle in the fine tradition of WASP Jew hatred. Because if it was about more than that, they would decry corruption along with the occupation. Because if the PA is corrupt, the IDF will be replaced with an equally brutal, equally violent PA police and Army. And that means just exchanging bosses.
Serious people, like the fire widows and cops in New York, would never tolerate this kind of restriction. Forget free speech for a minute. Just the physical conditions are so dangerous, and so stupid, should have enraged the protestors to ignore it. As most are. Boston has 400 years of political activism. Restricting it to a cage shames not only Meninno and the city, but all of us. People need to check it out, walk around in it, describe it. Because it is wrong on its face and dangerous to boot.
It's nice to play protest, to march around and play anarchist, as long as you get to stay at Tuffs or Brandeis and keep your scholarship or have the 'rents pay the bills. But it isn't a joke in the West Bank, it isn't a cheap cause. It's people's lives. And while it may be cool to wear an "end the occupation" T-shirt, for most of these people, it's an ideological exercise, or a political temper tantrum. Which is why the tolerated the cage. And I give the anarchists credit. They may be rich kids, but they have heart and some brains, by refusing to participate in the protest prison. Unlike the ANSWER crowd, some of whom still think like undergrads,even at 50, at least these folks listened to their Harvard professors and know what free speech is. I think much of what they're doing is wasted motion, but at least they're doing something more than cheap sloganeering by challenging this nonsense.
It won't be so easy next month.
posted by Steve @ 12:21:00 PM