Time, Terror and Plain Bad Narratives

 What Time Is It In Lockdown?, asks Edward Curtin.

A fine choice of title. Time, as imposed on the worker, is George Woodcock's The Tyranny of the Clock (1944). Its hands are the perfect representation of order and direction and yet the clock face also resembles the dotted circumference of a coin that can be clipped to diminish value, to elide, stretch and appropriate the Lives of Others.  

The clock should be the impartial witness yet it is in Switzerland, the home of squirreled, secreted, unearned and sometimes stolen or laundered wealth, that the obsession with timeliness reaches its apogee. The hands switch places like a card sharp, up becomes down; black, white; and the swivel-faced tool of fraud and deception.

Salvador Dali, Profile of Time (licence

Our society uses time in a variety of ways to pattern behaviour, to warp our perceptions as much as Dali melted his clock in The Persistence of Memory (1931). Gabriel García Márquez illustrated similar with One Hundred Years of Solitude (1967) in which the repetition of names and allusions to events acquire a hypnotic impetus of their own, constantly updating and overwriting memory.

Timing has the power to imbue events with meaning, as synchronicity, to propel the mind into action or to freeze it, convulsed or confused. Time as panic, shattered, haphazard: no longer steadying the pace but jarring the peace.

This is the variant of time that attempts to appropriate, to replace or make permanent a new normal like French Revolutionary Time: "not my time, this is my time". Or the spine-tingling tocsin of a new Pearl Harbor that will bring opportunity to the master of ceremonies in the shadows beside the stage. We should pay attention to the resonance of such time, not embrace it but beware.

No sooner Christmas than another elision of realities, a compression of consciousness, the reduction of possibilities: the tolling of a bell; the words "evacuate now"; again the ring of that sustained funeral note; again the relentless, triggering, androidic voice.

As a writer and imaginer, the symbolism jumped out at me, as it surely must for many readers and listeners. This is the twisted creativity of a struggling novelist à la Howard Hunt; the bent mind of a failed scriptwriter -- an idea springing half formed from the psychology of a sociopath that knows how to jangle the nerves but cannot perceive the counterpoint of joy that would make the movie whole. He is confined to writing the dark scenes as the tool of state terror. At least he gets the kick of seeing his drama worked upon real lives. 

"That's when she heard the announcement from the RV turn from a warning to playing the 1964 hit Downtown by Petula Clark. Moments later the explosion hit."

“This is going to tie us together forever, for the rest of my life,” Officer James Wells, who suffered some hearing loss due to the explosion, told a news conference. “Christmas will never be the same.”

Did I mention a bad screenplay?

No wonder the mayor of Nashville was laughing

The cover story is little better: yet another white male in late middle-age consumed in a ham-acted, arch demonstration of pointless rebellion. So far no manifesto, just a bunch of assumptions: "probably" a conspiracy theorist, "probably" suspicious of 5G, "probably" had some past history with AT&T. 

What was inside the Nashville AT&T building? William Binney, whistleblower and former National Security Agency officer explains at 28:00 minutes into this video. 

And then the dangler, that part of the cover story we are invited to indulge: like the Las Vegas "shooter" Stephen Paddock the protagonist of Nashville owned numerous homes and gave two to a female acquaintance. The very haziness of this part of the story allows the audience to project one's own character: a good person turned bad, a user and a loser, a gambler, a money launderer, a mysterious income or double life, a lonely man, lost and desperate, a last will and testament.

Predictably this soap opera is the part of the story that fills the column inches and the six o'clock news. They will not notice the disconnect: a man about to throw everything away may tie up loose ends but as to crafting a warning tape, with an oppositional, automated woman's voice punctuated by the toll of a funeral bell and finishing with an obscure pop song which alludes to the downtown location of the bomb attack (it's unlikely to be a reference to his lost youth as Anthony Quinn was aged seven at the song's debut in 1964)... is... stretching credulity.

So, bye-bye, Miss American, why?
Drove my Chevy to the levee, but the levee was dry

One word makes the difference.

(After Don McLean)

Do you see how this badly-drawn man draws the attention away from what should be obvious questions even to the willfully oblivious:

  • The contents of those buildings
  • AT&T's building is said to be a bunker
  • AT&T as NSA contractor
  • AT&T as owner of CNN
  • The resulting network blackout
  • Including of airspace
  • The extent of internal damage
  • Outward versus inward force of blast
  • Other buildings damaged at same time
  • The role of narrative in this event
  • The motive of distraction

Back to the bell. Time shapes our lives through the patterning of events, never more than when the bell tolls. The metronome of humans killing humans. It is a trigger the invites response, whether action or dismay. During the eight years of the Obama administration, mass shooter and terror events were a regular and depressing occurrence in an era that promised "hope and change". With the exception of the Las Vegas shooting just as Trump came into office, somebody seems to have hit the pause button. Even if you disagree with me that some of these events are manipulated by the state as a pretext for gun control you must still account for the decline in frequency. 

Did these lone wolf narratives increase because of the Smith-Mundt Modernization Act of 2012, which legalized the propagandizing of the population?

To those who purr that "the government wouldn't lie," this was the law that makes it legal for state bodies to lie to the people. It gives officials immunity if they misinform and deceive.

Caution is necessary as there is no agreed official definition for mass killings (since 1980, four deaths classify as "mass" under the FBI's definition). Common sense suggests a mass killing involves a crime scene that looks like mass deaths. 

Terrorist spectaculars have become common in Europe, with fewer casualties offset by gruesome staging. There is rarely a spectacular totally devoid of death. Generally the protagonist dies, leaving the narrative, unchallenged as the state's exclusive franchise. Before you criticize my line there are plenty of examples where terrorists by the knife are executed rather than arrested. 

Surely the definition of a terrorist implies the intention of some degree of political success and thus a network of survivors. Keeping the perpetrator alive would seem to be a priority and the best guarantee of preventing a repetition. Yet it is the norm today to execute perpetrators of terror on sight. The excuse being the threat of suicide bombers. Strangely the terrorists nowadays provoke their own annihilation by wearing fake explosive belts and vests.

Why fake? Ask yourself the logic. If you intend to go out with a blast, why wear a fake vest which you know will be used as justification to shoot you sooner rather than later? And yet... the fake vest has become a meme.

This is narrative: a lone wolf, self-radicalized, thus no need to look for a broader network. Sporting the fashion for fake suicide vests, thus inviting his own immediate annihilation and the justification for executing the perpetrator on the spot and avoiding a trial that would provide the terrorist with a platform for his cause.

Doesn't really stand to reason, does it? 

The Carnegie Institution asked itself in 1908 "Is there any means known more effective than war, assuming you wish to alter the life of an entire people? And they conclude that, no more effective means to that end is known to humanity, than war. So then, in 1909, they raise the second question, and discuss it, namely, how do we involve the United States in a war?" (“Transcript of Norman Dodd Interview” by G. Edward Griffin, 1982).

So this is Covid
And what have you done
Another year over
A new one just begun

And so this is Covid
For weak and for strong
The rich and the poor ones
The war is so long

(After John Lennon.)

Clearly we have the classic definition of the goose step, a balanced stepping, slow march, one Prussian patent leather boot piercing you in the arse, identifying anyone in the domestic population as a terrorist and thus an enemy of the state. 

And central to it all, the narrative. Most of all it brings back the tick-tock of the clock in the crocodile's stomach... the sound of approaching doom. 

We draw some hope. Peter Pan was "liberated" from his family but he did ultimately cut off the hand of the pirate and would-be child abductor Captain Hook. And the child, representing the eternal dreams of us all, set the relentless approach of doom upon the pirate who would enslave him. 

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