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July 07, 2005

Plans to stir get shaken

(Posted by Eric Magnuson)

As a guest host who wants to be viewed as courteous and attentive, I got up extra early today on yet another beautifully foggy San Francisco morning. I intended to offer my contribution to the already robust discussion of writing we've seen here in the past week. I've been reading closely, as I expect you have, and even as an as-yet-unpublished writer, I've got some logs to throw on the fire. But as we've all come to dread on some barely-hidden collective level, the news of the day invaded like the marauding barbarians in those seldom funny CapitalOne ads. London has been hit with coordinated bomb attacks during morning rush hour - reports now say 3 explosions at stops in the Underground causing an evacuation of the entire system and 1 blast that destroyed a double-decker bus. The news networks are wetting themselves in carnivorous glee as the video pours in and they anxiously fill their scrawl writers' coffee cups and bring them extra donuts. Blair gave a morosely statuesque "we will not be shaken" speech with the other G8 leaders and their important guests arrayed behind him...just before he hopped a copter and said "ta-ta" to any hope of success from the conference intended to address poverty and global warming. Dubya has been quoted as asking Americans to be "extra vigilant" (practice your own imitation while mouthing that phrase). All of Europe, the DC transit system and all manner of other national systems are on high alert. Crazy reports are trickling in through always dubious avenues such as the Drudge Report - he posted an AP story that claims Israeli Finance Minister Netanyahu got a warning of the attacks from the British police minutes before the blasts. And a previously unknown al Queda group has claimed responsibility for the attack. So what's a self-aware news junkie like myself supposed to do? Shelve plans for a more thoughtful post, hunker down for a bit, have a second cup of coffee and try to make some sense of all the static. But I'd love to hear what reactions those of you have to this unsettling news. If you have a moment, post a comment. Vent. You know you want to do it.

I'll get more up later in the day, but I wanted y'all to know that I'm here to host and try to hopefully elevate the dynamic just a smidge on occasion with a few thoughts. Thanks for reading. Hug your kids, pets, and/or plants for me. Rock on.

Posted by at July 7, 2005 08:22 AM

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Comments

LC9er | July 7, 2005 09:56 AM

NPR has just informed me that we are all in a "heightened state of vigilence". Great. What the hell does that mean? I don't expect much from Fox news, but I'd hope at least NPR would resist buzzword news - argh.

Typing vigilently,
Bri

Guy Matthews | July 7, 2005 10:13 AM

Speaking from London allow me to say: "*YAWN*". Yeah, we noticed it happened, we're not impressed and we'd like to get on with our lives now. Many sympathies to the injured and their families, but that aside the only real annoyance about this incident is that it didn't happen a couple days ago, BEFORE the IOC vote. Would have spared us getting saddles with an Olympic event that only the politicians want as the preparations to it will pretty much destroy our lives for the next 7 years, far more effectively than any terrorist attack.

Rich G. | July 7, 2005 10:41 AM

NPR isn't above using buzzwords when the people giving them can't provide a better explanation as to what they mean. The local folks (MN Public Radio) were bandying the "heightened state of awareness" phrase about rather sarcastically. It was quite entertaining.

Dawn B. | July 7, 2005 12:57 PM

PS: For those people wanting to *do* something today to make a difference: Give Blood. If you're an American it won't get to London, but there are plenty of people here who need it. I can't (sick) but it is always a good idea.

Tom | July 7, 2005 01:15 PM

Thanks for the comment, Guy. I wonder how many of the people who are rushing to label this "London's 9/11" remember that Britain endured IRA bombings for decades.

Brian Greenberg | July 7, 2005 01:19 PM

Eric - thanks for the post.

Guy - your cavalier response to this absolutely floors me. It did not occur to me to react to a terrorist attack based solely on how it inconveniences my own life. In any case, I guess I'm glad you can sleep at night...

Re: NPR & buzzwords - I don't listen to NPR (or much radio at all, for that matter), so I don't know what they said. I do work in midtown Manhattan, and I can tell you that changes to threat levels actually are visible here. When the threat level rises, there are national guardsmen posted at the train stations, more police on the street, and additional security at major office buildings (e.g., security badges checked outside the building, as opposed to allowing people to approach the reception desk in the lobby). These things would mean a lot more to people who work in the security/protection industry than they do to the rest of us. Once you realize that, then people who think it's all a big joke just look like idiots...

As for actual news, my colleagues in London are telling us there are 2 dead (in London, not at my employer), thousands injured, relative calm among the people, the entire Underground is shut down (as a security measure, not due to damage) and security is, of course, heightened. People are working out how to get home, and how/if to go to work in the morning. Business Continuity plans kicked in and seem to be working properly.

Two other thoughts:
1) The biggest aspect of this news (in my opinion) is that Al Qaeda is still capable of pulling something like this off. We'll know more about how elaborate a plot it was, but the coordinated nature of it suggests that there's a command & control structure in place that we thought we had damaged or destroyed.

2) The events of the last two days were an excellent example of how news delivery has changed in our world. When I woke up this morning, the TV was talking about the attacks and the Internet was filled with photographs, on-the-scene reporting & blogging. At the train station, an hour later, I saw the front page of the New York Times, which had a large picture of Londoners celebrating in the street because they were just awarded the 2012 Olympics. Tomorrow's newspaper accounts will be more accurate & thoughtful than the talk-as-we-go nature of the TV & internet news today, but someone who relies on the papers for their news thinks that everyone in London is in a good mood today.

More on this topic here.

Eric Magnuson | July 7, 2005 02:15 PM

As with most fast-flowing stories, the Wikipedia (and the associated Wikinews link on the story) offers a great resource to track and modify what is being said about an event in almost realtime. I strongly suggest that if you're looking to fill in some blanks on the London bombings, you look there.

Ted Lemon | July 7, 2005 02:15 PM

I really recommend going to the American Friends Service Committee web site and watching their Wage Peace movie. Obviously don't do this if you think war is groovy and are offended by namby-pamby peaceniks. The reason I mention it is that of course the violence in London is awful, and the actions of the people who planted the bombs were deplorable, but there are other places in the world where this kind of violence is part of the daily routine.

Andrew Wade | July 7, 2005 04:05 PM

Brian wrote:
> Guy - your cavalier response to this absolutely
> floors me. It did not occur to me to react to a
> terrorist attack based solely on how it
> inconveniences my own life. In any case, I guess
> I'm glad you can sleep at night...
I dunno, his response read like a big *neener neener* directed at the terrorists to me.

No I don't think the terrorist will have won if we respond or anything like that. Yes we got rid of Saddam Hussein[1], but we also turfed the taliban, and despite the mess in Iraq it's not likely to turn into a theocracy. So all in all a big loss for Al-Quaeda. That's not likely to change.

[1] Secular leader of a moslem-dominated country, and so hated by OBL & Co. Yeah he started making guestures towards religiousity in his later years, but the regime was still pretty secular, and remember that OBL & Co are a bit nuts; skuttlebutt I heard was that they were schisming in past decades because they weren't meeting each others insane standards.

> The biggest aspect of this news (in my opinion)
> is that Al Qaeda is still capable of pulling
> something like this off. We'll know more about
> how elaborate a plot it was, but the coordinated
> nature of it suggests that there's a command &
> control structure in place that we thought we
> had damaged or destroyed.
Hrrm, just because the perpetrators are calling themselves "Al Qaeda" doesn't mean they have much to do with the "Al Qaeda" we're inconveniencing in Afghanistan. I agree that the existance of a C&C structure that can pull this off is news, and not good news either. That doesn't mean that our activities in Afghanistan are for naught; heck no! We may not know if "Al Qaeda"'s activity is much less than if we did nothing, but it seems likely.

Guy Matthews | July 7, 2005 04:46 PM

"I dunno, his response read like a big *neener neener* directed at the terrorists to me."

Andrew got it, Brian didn't. I am glad though that, so far, out of maybe 30 people who have commented in a couple locations I posted similar remarks only 2 have assumed I'm trying to disrespect the dead or somesuch.

Brian, we all mourn, Londoners just aren't interested in allowing this sort of barbaric behaviour to disrupt their lives. We've got a LOT of very real present and future problems that may actually be solvable, and we're going to get on with dealing with those rather than sit around moping.

You want to break down and cry for hours over something that hasn't actually happened to YOU, do it on your own time, we're moving on, and to quote a pretty cheesy cliche, thus the terrorists lose :P.

Tom Nixon | July 7, 2005 08:48 PM

AP is now saying that there are at least 37 dead and over 700 injured.


Soni | July 7, 2005 10:49 PM

Guy's comment seems like a typical response, actually. I have a client who lives just outside of London and once she made sure that a close friend (who normally rides that particular bus in the morning) was okay, so was she. Basically, it was "Well, that sucks. Now, where were we?"

If I had to guess, I would say it probably has a lot to do with what Tom brought up, that the English have been dealing with bombs and such for a long time. It would be like terrorists trying to bring New York to it's knees by unloading a bus full of homicidal maniacs onto the streets. Yes, it would be a bad, bad thing, but a bad thing with which the citizenry know how to handle from long experience.

OTOH, what Guy said about the Olympic venue doing more damage to day-to-day life has got to be true. It's rather like when the King or Queen would take their whole entourage and squat for a week in the ancestral home a "favored" member of nobility, driving the luckless host to bankruptcy and eating him out of house and home. On the surface, it's an honor, but behind the facade lies utter ruin. Hard to make a dent, terrorism-wise, in the citizenry and economy that just got nailed with the "honor" of hosting the Olympic Games. Ouch.

Brian Greenberg | July 7, 2005 11:59 PM

Sorry for the misunderstanding, folks. To me, there's a big difference between "we're moving on with our lives, unafraid" and "this is no big deal - the Olympics will be worse."

Living & working in the New York area, I'm very familiar with refusing to be terrorized by terrorism. In fact, I took the PATH and subway trains into/out of the World Trade Center station just this morning. Life moves on, if for no other reason then because we have no choice.

None of that merits a "YAWN" reactionn though (IMHO). It IS a big deal, regardless of how it affects your day-to-day life. It speaks to the size & immediacy of the threat, and informs our decisions about how we handle it.

I agree with Andrew Wade - our actions of the past few years have made the world much less friendly for organized terrorism. In fact, I read just the other day that the preferred mode of illicit communication in the Middle East has become physically transferring CD-ROMs via motorbike between locations - a far cry from the open use of cell phones and web sites that existed before 9/11. The fact that anyone (original Al Qaeda or not) is able to effectively coordinate such an attack doesn't mean our efforts have been for naught, but it does suggest the need to redouble our efforts.

Ted Lemon | July 8, 2005 01:51 PM

Er, just a point of order here. Unloading a busload of homicidal maniacs in Manhattan would be a big deal. The crime rate in Manhattan, particularly violent crimes, is quite low. About half that of San Francisco, last time I checked. This is somewhat irrelevant, but I just felt I had to correct this very typical New York stereotype.

Scott | July 8, 2005 07:02 PM

It's rather like when the King or Queen would take their whole entourage and squat for a week in the ancestral home a "favored" member of nobility, driving the luckless host to bankruptcy and eating him out of house and home. On the surface, it's an honor, but behind the facade lies utter ruin.

It's kind of my understanding that governments chase the Olympics because it's an economic WIN for them. Sort of.

At least, to the extent that they get to eat up a huge amount of land for a gigantic public works project, which pays for half of itself eventually when the Olympics occur, and then earns all sorts of urban renewal benefits later.

Olympians eat a lot of food.

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