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Anxiety Over Possible ISIS Attacks in US Expected to End When CNN Grows Bored with Fear

Screen capture of CNN newscast inviting all Americans to be very, very afraid for no good reason at all

Screen capture of CNN newscast inviting all Americans to be very, very afraid for no good reason at all

All throughout the week prior to the Fourth of July in the United States, CNN, as well as other media outlets, incessantly repeated vague threats about ISIS launching terrorism attacks during the holiday.

On June 30, CNN quoted unnamed US officials who claimed “symbolic July 4th celebrations coinciding with the Islamic holy month of Ramadan will further embolden ISIS supporters in the US to unleash attacks.” The media organization, as well as other outlets, spread the contents of a bulletin from the Department of Homeland Security and FBI, which warned law enforcement agencies of the potential for attacks in advance of the holiday.

The bulletin was titled, “Holiday Celebrations Remain Attractive Target.” It was sent to 18,000 law enforcement agencies in the United States and warned Independence Day celebrations and activities that “appear to defame the prophet Mohammed” would “likely result in threats or plans to conduct violent extremist acts.”

It is July 5, the day after “lone offenders” were expected to strike a decisive blow somewhere in the so-called home of the brave.

Former FBI assistant director Thomas Fuentes, who now works as a CNN law enforcement analyst, said this morning, “I think there have been a lot of people hyper ventilating over the last couple of weeks of what was to happen.”

Fuentes added:

…[T]he fact that some crazy ISIS follower chose not to grab a butcher knife and go out the door and attack somebody is not because they chose not to, not because of the measures that were taken. All the security measures are designed to contain an attack, minimize it, but really are going to be in response to an attack. So, if someone or a small group of someone carries out an attack, the police are there to stifle it so that no further attack is made. But people are still vulnerable up to that point.

So, yes, we’re not going to be able to stop, we’re going to be talking about this next year on July 4th and the year after that and the year after that, because we can’t contain the message ISIS puts out and the ability of people to track that message on the Internet and then the ability in their crazy brains to follow it…

Essentially, no matter how many bombs the US-led coalition drops against ISIS in Iraq, no matter how many sting operations are launched by the FBI against alleged ISIS supporters, the US cannot stop ISIS propaganda from spreading. So long as the propaganda can reach individuals on the internet, there is a potential for someone to launch an attack. (Note: Some of ISIS’s propaganda calls out US atrocities against Muslims and security officials likely recognize that resonates with some people because the propaganda contains a few grains of truth.)

Remarkably, Fuentes admits that the US can take whatever security precautions. It may grow and expand whatever domestic police state and reinforce its imperial, global security state. That will not prevent attacks. The only thing the country’s officials can truly do is deploy extra security forces to “stifle” an attack when it happens so that its effects are limited. Of course, that presumes US security agencies are capable of figuring out where the next attack will happen.

Most importantly, as Fuentes stated on July 4th, it is hard to discuss a response to threats because there was nothing “specific received this holiday regarding any particular attack related to the holiday.” Plus, anchors and analysts were constantly repeating the post-9/11 slogan, “See something, say something,” as best answer to this non-specific threat.

A recap: There was no specific threat, and only a vaguely understood aspiration on the part of ISIS to inflict trauma on a holiday for celebrating America. Even if a specific threat had been intercepted or known, security agencies and law enforcement would only have escalated actions to limit the impact of an attack because they still would not have known who or which cell was going to carry out an attack. The only thing Americans could have hoped is that, if someone truly planned to commit violence, some fellow citizen managed to help stop the attack before it killed people.

A reasonable person not wanting to live in a constant state of hysteria and who also has an appreciation for freedom would find this all to be ludicrous.

Both media and current and former security officials, who fuel news reports replete with hyperventilation over amorphous security threats, admit citizens are the best guard against any threat. The security theater that goes on in airports and other mass transit centers, as well as parts of major cities, should be abandoned so citizens can all live more open and freely. That would be the best way to show extreme terrorist groups like ISIS that they will not win; we will not close off society and respond to every vague Twitter message with the faint hint of a potential attack with delirium.


Consider what happened in Fayetteville, North Carolina, in the week prior to the Fourth of July. Lieutenant General Mark Hertling appeared as analyst to address the sole arrest of a person for bringing a rifle to a mall for the purpose of taking photos with it:

KOSIK: Now, earlier this week CNN reported on a solar arrest for carrying AR-15 rifle into a North Carolina mall. Officials say Brian Wolfinger brought the rifle in order to have pictures taken with. He was charged with going armed to the terror of the public.

So here’s my question to you — how does an incident like this affect directives that we hear all of the time, see something, say something? You know, how do you — how do you sort of, you know, comprehend how to do that knowing that he was just walking in to take a picture?

HERTLING: Yes, I hate to say this, Alison, but soldiers have a term for this kind of action, it’s called case of the dumb ass. This happens all of the time with young people, not really understanding implications of their actions. And in this in case, I’m sure the company commander and the first sergeant of that young soldier certainly had words with him afterwards.

But it also goes to the fear that we have in our country today of the things that are going on. This is something that would have been considered an incident and probably not made it out of Fayetteville, North Carolina, just a few years ago. But today, because of this overwhelming fear that someone with a weapon is going to do something untenable, you have these reactions on a national basis.

It’s unfortunate, but it’s the environment we live in and I think all of us really need to take a deep breath and say that ISIS is not as big as we think they are, as they are being portrayed, and we have to control our fears about this organization.

Media organizations like CNN completely lack self-awareness or do not want to show they are self-aware because they do not have any intention of changing. Clearly, they are responsible for this “dumb ass” being accused of “going armed to the terror of the public.”

As journalist Adam Johnson detailed for Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR), a media watchdog group, the FBI and Homeland Security are at least zero for forty when it comes to previous warnings about impending terrorism attacks against alleged targets in the United States.

“Has the FBI ever successfully warned, or foreshadowed in anyway, a terror attack in the United States?” Johnson said journalists should ask. “Because so far the count is 0 for 40+, and I’m curious what makes this time different,”

Media should “put the burden of proof on those who are attempting to scare us, march our men and women off to war, and line their private security firm’s pockets. Don’t demand ‘FBI warning skeptics’ disprove those in power; make those in power justify their own consistently discredited ‘warnings.'” And, Johnson added, how many “false positives” are required before media stop spreading this propaganda?

ISIS does not need to have a media arm when it can count on a major media organization like CNN to constantly blast out alerts that Americans should beware of attacks on some non-specific group anywhere at anytime but especially during holidays, like Independence Day celebrations. Its army of propagandists does not have to do any work. The message is already out to all supporters: ISIS is on the offensive, and, if anyone wants to join, now is the moment because US officials are panic-stricken and scrambling.

If media only reported threats when analysts and reporters could confirm through sources that they were credible and specific threats, there would be far less “breathless anticipation of crisis,” as one CNN anchor put it. But that would not serve the US global security state, which needs citizens to be scared to justify a vast apparatus geared toward counterterrorism that has stark implications for the liberty of American Muslims as well as those who engage in acts of dissent.

The government needs CNN to keep pumping out this message to citizens to justify war abroad.

There is no penalty for false alarms over non-existent terrorism threats. CNN can constantly blast warnings about impending attacks on the Homeland. It can determine when the anxiety over impalpable threats should come to a halt because it—and other media outlets—have direct control over how often they push out such warnings in newscasts.

The anxiety could end now, but CNN remains committed to spreading fear-inducing news reports. When CNN gets bored or disinterested with whipping up unsubstantiated fears around ISIS, the extra anxiety will die down considerably. Until then, all Americans will constantly be reminded to be afraid of whatever CNN and its analysts can conjure during their maddening discussions of ISIS and terrorism.

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Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure."