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terror in the skies, terror in my email

I didn't address the Annie Jacobsen issue over the weekend because I didn't feel like it. And I suppose that's the upside to not doing this for a living. I can write whatever I please whenever I damn well please. As I mentioned yesterday, I received a boatload of emails (24 at latest count) from people asking if I would write once again about Terror in the Skies, giving consideration to some of the updates bouncing around, the most significant update being that someone thought Jacobsen was an hysterical, shrieking woman (description taken verbatim from email). Several of the emails demanded a retraction in light of that description of Ms. Jacobsen. Several of them applied that description to me. So, will I retract? In a word, no. Go back and read my original post on the story and show me where I took Jacobsen's story as wholly, completely accurate. Alas, you can't. So, no. I want to move on from the whole Terror in the Skies thing now, thank you. I'm sure the basic themes within that story - security, fear, ethnic profiling, terrorism - will come up time and again here but for now, there's no need to spend an hour rehashing what's already out there. If you have a specific question on this matter, I'd be happy to answer it honestly. However, if you're just barking up my tree for no other reason than to get me to apologize for some perceived wrongdoing on my part (which makes me believe that your reading comprehension skills are a bit lacking), go find another yard to make noise in. Your bark is not at all that intimidating and is, in fact, irritating. And please keep in mind that being concerned about the health, welfare and safety of your family does not automatically equate to being a shrieking, hysterical woman (and I'm sure some of those comments stem from my security moms post). What is it with guys who think that the minute a woman raises her voice in concern, she's gone apeshit? Are we supposed to be good little women and leave the big, scary concerns to the menfolk? Give me a break.


I was just surprised at how quickly the story went from utter obscurity in a publication I'd never heard of to some Rohrschach test that proves some still undefined psychological theory.

I think it's more of a tension between the immediacy of the internet and blogging and the default level of critical reasoning which would normally occur if we were communicating this information person-to-person.

Regardless of political stripe, something really really really has to sound too good to be true before treated with the appropriate level of digital skepticism.

From the article.

"Air marshals’ only tactical advantage on a flight is their anonymity, the source said, and Jacobsen could have put the entire flight in danger."

Based on the write up that the original story got over the internet its ironic that the follow up did not have the same level of attention from those who blogged the original story.


Don't know what blogs you're reading but everyone from MMM on down DID do a lot of follow up.

"Are we supposed to be good little women and leave the big, scary concerns to the menfolk?"

I hope not.
Personally, I'm looking for a skirt to grab onto...but that might be for a different reason.

Frankly, I was impressed by your balanced take on the whole thing, especially since not long before that you had blogged about just how nervous you were about...stuff.

I've read the initial report and the follow-ups and the claims that Jacobson was "endangering" things by "attempting to identify air marshals" are a complete crock of crap spewed out by people who are busy covering their asses for their complete and utter failure to deal with a highly suspicious situation in any effective manner whatsoever. Thank god we still have citizens willing to do something instead of stumbling around in a PC coma.
I'd like to know why some people think that it was so unreasonable to detain the Syrians for a couple hours after the amazing parade of highly suspicious behavior, when everybody knows so much as a feeble jest about a knife or bomb in a security queue will damn sure guarantee you a few "fun" hours with the TSA?
Or are we back to the same old stupidity of cavity searching Iowa grandmothers while letting Akbar and his shifty-eyed pals on board without a quibble because their random number didn't come up?
I was detained at SFO last year for over 90 minutes (missing my flight) because I was carrying some scuba gear in my carry-on bag, and none of the TSA geniuses knew what it was (isn't it their job to know this kind of thing? Oh, yeah--they're government employees. Never mind, sorry I spoke.). So they buggered around for over an hour without any detectable plan before requesting (as I had asked as soon as the problem arose) over their radio net if any TSA agent on site was a scuba diver and could they look at this "weird stuff"...? When the gal finally showed up 25 minutes later and confirmed it was indeed scuba gear they finally let me go. Where is the liberal outrage over my experience? Oh, right...I'm not a "person of color," so it was just reasonable and proper security.
As the head of El Al security once said in disgust "The United States does not have [an airport] security system, it has a system for bothering people."

I, too, have read both the original story AND the followups and I still don't get why people are upset with Jacobsen. Jesus, Mary and Joseph, she's a writer, and most writers I know are highly attuned observers. She saw a suspicious situation, lived through it, was not getting answers that she deemed satisfactory and therefore wrote about it.

Excuse me if I now get suspicious about the efforts to denigrate and dismiss Ms. Jacobsen.

I've often thought that if we were really serious about airport security, we'd just look at whatever it is that El Al does, and do that.

We've been having a lot of fun with this over on the liberal blogs.

Orcinus has a serious article about it, detailing the similarities of the Annie Jacobsen hysteria with the hysteria that led to the internment of the Japanese on the west coast during WWII. One of the headlines from back then was "Caps on Japanese Tomato Plants Point to Air Base."

It turned out to be completely bogus. They were a band traveling with Syrian singer Nour Mehana. I suspect most conservatives still haven't heard that the story was totally debunked.

Anyway, we liberals got a nice laugh out of it.

If you're laughing, you're missing a BIG point about this whole thing.


What was "hysterical" about Jacobsen's piece? Specifically, give me an actual quote that shows "hysteria."

And I will buy you dinner if anyone having a giggle over "hysteria leading to Japanese internment" even knows what the h*ll they are talking about.

Nice cheapshot, worthy of learning "history" exclusively from tv.

Riesz, do you actually sit back and look at what you've written? And I'll bet you're one of those "liberals" who are always going on and on about the importance of "nuance" too. Anybody want to cue Riesz in the the nuance of what he just wrote? [/IRRITATION]

Anyway, word up, Michele and Toren.

Darleen: What was "hysterical" about Jacobsen's piece? Specifically, give me an actual quote that shows "hysteria."

From the piece that Michele linked to above:

Jacobsen’s husband Kevin told KFI NEWS he approached a man he thought was an air marshal after the flight had landed.

“You made me nervous,” Kevin said the air marshal told him.

“I was freaking out,” Kevin replied.

“We don’t freak out in situations like this,” the air marshal responded.

The article goes on to say that agents monitored the band's act at the casino and they checked out all of the men in the band.

Darleen: And I will buy you dinner if anyone having a giggle over "hysteria leading to Japanese internment" even knows what the h*ll they are talking about.

From David Neiwert's book Strawberry Days: The Rise and Fall of Japanese-American Community:

For a war-happy press anxious for a local angle on the conflict, the prospect of a West Coast invasion made great-selling copy. The Los Angeles Times ran headlines like "Jap Boat Flashes Message Ashore" and "Caps on Japanese Tomato Plants Point to Air Base." Pretty soon, everyone was getting into the act. Reports of "signals" being sent out from shore to unknown, mysterious Japanese boats offshore began flowing in. One report, widely believed at the time, came from someone who heard a dog barking somewhere along the shore of Oahu, and believed that it was barking in Morse code to an offshore spy ship.

I want to emphasize that the Japanese internment was not funny, but you've got to laugh at some of the hysteria leading to it. I mean, a dog barking Morse code? That doesn't make you laugh?

Anyway, are you going to come here to Flint to buy me dinner? Maybe we could invite Michael Moore. :-)

Michele, God knows you can write anything you please (I actually enjoy most of it) but in all your Jacobsen coverage you seem to have missed the salient point.

The system worked. These people were determined by the pre-flight screening not to be a threat, the professionals on board made the same call and Jacobsen was overwrought -- as it turns out, over nothing. There is a case to be made that she acted irresponsibly and risked causing a panic, based on her interpretation of the situation, and hence did far more to endanger the passengers on that flight than anyone else. Part of being vigilant involves risk assessment and Jacobsen strikes me as poorly suited to make the distinction between annoying people and being dangerous.

As far as being a 'security mom' goes, I hate the cutesy little name and cheesy t-shirts, but anyone who isn't concerned for their families saftey is an idiot. As much as we disagree, you never struck me as stupid. We all have to define our level of acceptable risk and take the steps we feel necessary, as parents, not to exceed it.

That's hysteria? Hey, everyone: remember to speak in low, even tones and make no sudden movements when Riesz is in the room.

Whether the LATimes was into a bit of sensationalism (god, they haven't changed much, have they? You should have seen their 'coverage' of the CA recall and Arnold's election), what you don't know is what it was on the ground in California post-Pearl Harbor. I have the stories of my grandparents and parents. And still, whatever wacko stories were in the Times, you haven't shown any causal relationship between those writings and interment.

And funny how the LATimes of that time has no resemblence in neither tenor nor style to Jacobsen.

Let's start back at the beginning with Michelle Malkin:

"I am what this year's election pollsters call a "security mom." I'm married with two young children. I own a gun. And I vote."

"Nothing matters more to me right now than the safety of my home and the survival of my homeland. I believe in the right to defend myself, and in America's right to defend itself against its enemies. I am a citizen of the United States, not the United Nations."

We've heard all about Red States and Blue States, conservatives and liberals (or "leftists" if it floats your boat higher).

What it all boils down to over issues such as "security" is that "we" know who "we" are and "they" know who "they" and "they" are either addled lunatics or contemptible wimps.

This is all good, clean, family-friendly fun, but speaking as one of "they" looking over at the cadre of security moms among the "we", Michelle Malkin should have added, "And everyone is America's enemy until proven otherwise."

Well, given that gun, and Michelle's concerns about illegal immigrants, I'd say her neighbors had better make sure their garden help has green cards.

But, then, like leader, like followers, and the head of all the "we's" over there in Washington had put similar sentiment into action, at least beyond our borders if not at them, that Michelle has put into words.

So here we sit, looking for enemies in all directions, waiting for them to prove themselves friends before we let them pass, and wondering why, if they are not enemies, they are all so shy of us and our gun.

But it remains as true as ever that we have the moral right to defend ourselves only when we have the wisdom to know when to exercise the right justly.