Stoking Fear of Terrorists


by Barbara Nevins Taylor

The much-admired novelist writes bravely, fearlessly about sex and women, but here in this pale, monochromatic living room overlooking Fifth Avenue and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, she seemed to shrink from the wealthy art patrons standing in small clusters around her sipping white wine. She leaned in to us and whispered, “We live in terrible times.”

The terrorist attacks in Paris shook her as they did us all. But instead of getting angry, she got scared. “I keep wondering if I should grab my granddaughter and take her to the country,” she said. 

My husband Nick looked perplexed. We had ridden the subway, walked in crowds, driven on the FDR under the U.N. right after the attack. “We can’t worry all of the time,” he said.  I smiled and said, “Anything could happen anywhere. We can’t flee.” She considered us. Finally, she sighed and said, “I suppose I’ll write about it.”

And of course, that’s the thing. 

The video and photos from Paris show Parisians at sidewalk cafes. They’re mourning, yes. But they’re also living as they say, “No!” to the terrorists.

Here in the U.S., we can’t escape the drum rolls of panic played by Donald Trump, Marco Rubio, Ben Carson, Ted Cruz and others who would have us close our borders, batten down the hatches and live in a heightened state of isolated hysteria. They continue stoking fear of terrorists and it keeps us in a heightened state of tension.

They pluck the chords of our very real concerns about personal safety, our children and everyone we love. But their appalling cynicism aims to control us, to steer us with demagoguery to the conclusion that we can’t be safe unless they take charge. 

Isn’t that a fascist call to arms? 

Surely we do have reason to worry. On Sunday, Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel said a state of high alert would continue in Brussels because intelligence indicated terrorists plan to carry out attacks like those in Paris. A suspect in the Paris attacks, Saleh Abdeslam, is thought to have crossed from France into Belgium

 The Daily Telegraph reports that the government sealed off downtown Brussels. And the Prime Minister urged people to stay inside and said schools, universities and public transportation in the city will remain closed as the hunt for the terrorists continue. 

Intelligence, not irrational fear, provoked the warnings. At least three of the Paris attackers, including the man who planned the attacks, 27-year-old Abdelhamid Abaaoud, were from Molenbeek, a Brussels neighborhood. 

Here in the U.S., despite the political rhetoric, the story appears different. U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson urged Americans to remain calm and continue with their plans for the Thanksgiving weekend.

On “Meet the Press” he said, “We have no specific credible intelligence about a threat of the Paris type directed at the homeland here.”

In New York, three million will gather at the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade and NYPD Police Commissioner William Bratton continues to describe the city as safe and prepared.

Also on “Meet the Press,” Bratton called upon Congress to block people who are on the terrorist watchlist from buying guns. “If Congress really wants to do something instead of just talking about something, help us out with that terrorist watchlist–those thousands of people that can purchase firearms in this country, ” he said.   

Courtesy NYPD
Courtesy NYPD

On Sunday, the NYPD conducted what it calls an active terrorist drill in a subway in lower Manhattan. Police, firefighters and other first responders participated in a simulated shootout and one involved a fake suspected terrorist wearing a suicide vest.

The police officers used new equipment including GoPro cameras to coordinate with others. Mayor Bill de Blasio praised the drill, saying, “This was an impressive display of the capacity of this city to respond to an incident.”

Courtesy NYPD
Courtesy NYPD

But none of this seems to matter to the demagogues running for President who, to make themselves stand out, use the power of the spotlight to continue to scare us all and shout about the need to halt legal immigration into the U.S. 

They echo the angry and ugly rhetoric of their ideological antecedent Father Charles Coughlin. In the 1930s during the Great Depression, when people were down, millions listened to his radio shows, read his sermons and newspaper Social Justice. His attacks on the rich appealed to them. (An irony here for Trump). But things changed as he became virulently anti-Semitic. He claimed the Jews started World War II and expressed his support and admiration for Mussolini and Hitler. 

In the 1940’s, the Catholic church finally pulled the plug on him and threatened to defrock him if he didn’t stop his political activities.

Wow. If only someone could control the Trumps, Rubios, Cruzes, Carsons and all the same way.

Maybe we wouldn’t be so scared.







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Barbara Nevins Taylor

As the winner of 22 Emmy Awards and a slew of journalism honors and awards, I created to give you the straight story about complicated stuff. Tell us what you want to know and we'll get you the answers.

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