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October 12, 2009

Entertainment/Mass Murder Nexus Still Going Strong

By: John Caruso

As I sat here listening to the Blue Angels putting on their annual Bay Area advertisement for airborne destruction this weekend, I couldn't help but recall a recent episode of Mythbusters investigating whether or not a sonic boom can break glass.  A question I'm sure we've all asked ourselves.  And where did they get this idea?

"I came up with the idea of getting 'Mythbusters' to test the theory about a year ago," said Capt. Tyson Dunkelberger, Blue Angels’ public affairs officer. "They were busy filming at the time, but we tried again six months ago and now we’re finally here working with them." To test the myth, the crew built a small shed with a window, parked a car nearby with the windows rolled up and set up glassware on a table. Two Blue Angels F/A-18 Hornets then zipped over the test area, directing the sonic boom toward the ground as they passed. [...]

Events like this are part of the Blue Angels public relations mission. "Our role is to represent and promote the Navy and Marine Corps in the best possible way," said Dunkelberger. "An event like this is a great public relations opportunity. If we can inspire someone watching the show to think about joining the military, then the Blue Angels have done their job."

Hey, it sure was helpful of the Mythbusters to produce a prime-time recruiting video for the Pentagon.  And it's also fortunate that these F-18s weren't too busy blowing up mosques in Fallujah to do the show with them.

While I can appreciate their dedication to the scientific method, though, the Mythbusters could have saved a lot of time by going to the Gaza Strip and asking anyone on the street about this "myth", since the Israelis have made a regular practice of terrorizing the entire population there with sonic booms:

Israel is deploying a terrifying new tactic against Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip by letting loose deafening "sound bombs" that cause widespread fear, induce miscarriages and traumatise children.

The removal of Jewish settlers from the Gaza Strip opened the way for the military to use air force jets to create dozens of sonic booms by breaking the sound barrier at low altitude, sending shockwaves across the territory, often at night. Palestinians liken the sound to an earthquake or huge bomb. They describe the effect as being hit by a wall of air that is painful on the ears, sometimes causing nosebleeds and "leaving you shaking inside".

The Palestinian health ministry says the sonic booms have led to miscarriages and heart problems. The United Nations has demanded an end to the tactic, saying it causes panic attacks in children. The shockwaves have also damaged buildings by cracking walls and smashing thousands of windows.

Tonight on Israeli Mythbusters: we know sonic booms can break glass, but can they also shatter the human psyche?  Stay tuned!

As much as I wish it would happen, though, I don't think we're going to see a Gaza followup episode.  There's just not nearly as much entertainment (or recruitment) value in Palestinian children wetting their beds and having night terrors as there is in showing brightly-painted F/A-18 Hornets screaming through the sky against a bad heavy metal soundtrack.

[ Previous Fleet Week-related thoughts here. ]

— John Caruso

Posted at October 12, 2009 08:16 PM

Quit buying them jet fuel. No fuel, no fly.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at October 12, 2009 08:33 PM

Excellent post.

Posted by: N E at October 13, 2009 12:49 AM

It was the Nazis, and by some accounts Hitler personally, who came up with the idea of outfitting Stuka dive-bombers with sirens to further terrorize the populace.

So the Israelis learned from the best.

As for Mythbusters, when I used to watch it I sometimes found it fascinating, but I was always turned off by their fellatiatory attitude toward law enforcement and the military.

I understand that the show requires lots of police and fire cooperation, but they go way beyond basic respect into absurd supplication.

And of course their childlike attitude toward guns, explosives, the military as such, and technology in general (i.e. completely unanchored from any historical, social, or moral context) is basically fascist.

Posted by: Russ at October 13, 2009 09:04 AM

Great anti-war article by Laurence Vance, on "Obama the pacifist," and how the true life blood of modern-day American conservatism is not love of country but war.

Posted by: Oarwell at October 13, 2009 09:38 AM

Oarwell: Nobody reading this site things Obama is a pacifist. I doubt the Rush cult even thinks that, though since thinking isn't what they do that ends up a weird question.

Obama campaigned on the importance of military success in Afghanistan, so all the jingoes are really doing is branding him another Democrat wimp who favors treaties and negotiations and all that. It's bullshit except in the sense that the jingoes truly would like more war and more violence than the internationalist crowd, and the jingoes know Obama will drag his feet because he, and more importantly the forces behind him, favor using power differently, though still by no means bloodlessly.

The article is mostly fine, but it seems premised somewhat on the mistaken idea that Presidents are calling all the shots, no pun intended. For example, it states: "Just days after taking office, Obama killed his first victims in Pakistan via predator drone."

That obviously isn't literally true. The author presumably knows that someone in the CIA killed those people in Pakistan by launching the missile from the Predator, and I presume the attribution to Obama is based on Obama's campaign statements about the continuing importance of the war in Afghanistan. Which is to say, there's no reason to think those killings are inconsistent with what Obama wanted.

Fair enough, but the military is perfectly capable of doing something like that against the President's wishes or even in open defiance of Orders. For God's sake, that sort of thing happened more than a few times even to Eisenhower, our great military hero and former Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, with the U2 incident being one example

and the Quemoy and Matsu Taiwan Straits crises another example.

If you want details on these shenanigans by the Admirals and the Generals and Langley in connection with precipitating these conflicts (or the saborage of incipient arms talks in connection with the failure of Gary Powers' mission), read Peter Dale Scott's The War Conspiracy, recently reissued, or Frank Schurmann's The Logic of World Power. Both cover those incidents and plenty more. The same sorts of events also happen consistently in other periods of our history.

I don't mean to nitpick, but the implications of our military not consistently being under effective civilian control would be far-reaching if the citizenry ever became aware of it. It certainly might erode the high public approval of the military that exists. Perhaps, just perhaps, that might get them to back off.

Despite the fairly common misinterpretation of my theme, a bullet in the head is not the first or only limitation on Presidential control of the military. That obviously isn't common, whereas insubordination and disloyalty sometimes amounting to treason are common throughout the last century. They just aren't ever on the news.

But hey, we have an internet, and it isn't yet wholly controlled by megacorporations. Thus, my quibbling and comments.

Posted by: N E at October 13, 2009 11:07 AM

Great post, John. Had thoughts along the same lines during the Chicago Air Show a while back. Those machines are terrifying, and the only way one can "enjoy" them is by being old enough to explain away the visceral terror they bring up, yet immature enough not to wonder what it must be like to be on the receiving end.

At least Mythbusters--which I have always found stultifying--isn't on the History Channel. That's nothing but military porn, 24/7.

Something's happened to the culture of this country since I was a kid, and I resent it.

Posted by: Mike of Angle at October 13, 2009 12:54 PM

"Something's happened to the culture of this country since I was a kid, and I resent it."

See Andrew Bacevich, The New American Militarism: How Americans are Seduced by War

Posted by: N E at October 13, 2009 01:13 PM

N E: Complacency, apathy, inaction, laziness, poor public education.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at October 13, 2009 01:51 PM

Mike Meyer:

That's certainly true, but people aren't born complacement, apathetic, inactive, and lazy. So why are they?

Maybe it has something to do with the purpose behind that poor public education they get:

Posted by: N E at October 13, 2009 04:59 PM

Interest in explosions and such isn't necessarily fascist--if it is then I'm fascist. I feel so ashamed. Childish I'll grant. If it is fascist then we also have to extend our suspicions to all those astronomers (and the TV shows about them) that focus on supernovas, gamma ray bursts and the Cretaceous-Tertiary boundary event. There's a (okay childish) fascination that lots of us have with things that go bang that's behind much of what happens on Mythbusters. There aren't enough of them where I live now, but I used to go into fields and watch thunderstorms on the horizon 50 miles away for the same reason I like watching volcanoes on TV and computer simulations of large asteroids hitting the earth, and yes, manmade explosions too. (Including Tsar bomba Which should never have been conducted, but darn it, since it was I'm going to go to Youtube and watch it).

But yes, the culture is consumed with armchair militarism (not that many people actually volunteering if they don't have to AFAIK). War opponents genuflect to the troops (as opposed to merely avoiding the mistake of showing them disrespect) and one of the leading liberal bloggers always used to genuflect to the greatness that is General Petraeus.

My favorite example of how our culture has gone downhill is the TV show MASH, which was great, but which would be very different if it were made today. The show generally was sympathetic to the ordinary soldier without making them all out to be heroes or "warriors" (I hate that word, unless we're talking about someone who fights with a spear). And it didn't portray all regular army types as jerks--Colonel Potter was a good guy. But all or nearly all the generals were morons of one sort or another and the CIA guy was a lunatic.

Posted by: Donald Johnson at October 13, 2009 05:15 PM

I presume the attribution to Obama is based on Obama's campaign statements about the continuing importance of the war in Afghanistan.

N E please don't do this! The attribution to Obama is based on the fact that Obama was asked for his approval of the airstrike and gave it (see President orders air strikes on villages in tribal area ). He did this knowing that these airstrikes were mainly killing children and other innocents - I knew, so I presume the president of the US knew too.

You might think what he did was right. If so, say so and we can argue it. Or not. I think this was the wrong thing to do. You might think otherwise. But regardless of your opinion and mine the fact of his approving the strike remains. Please stop trying to distance Obama from his actions. Obama is not a moron. He went after this position knowing full well what it entails. He is responsible for HIS (sorry Mike) actions - like approving an airstrike.

Posted by: empty at October 13, 2009 06:40 PM

You've got quite a lot of faith in reporters when you want to, empty. And you're right that Obama is certainly not a moron.

Posted by: N E at October 13, 2009 07:38 PM

"He went after this position knowing full well what it entails."

And that's the crux of the matter. How can anyone who spent this much effort angling for the position be anything but another enabler of the death and destruction? The problem is the system, not the man.

Posted by: BMiller at October 13, 2009 07:41 PM

BMiller: The problem is the system, not the man.

They're not exclusive. The problem with Nazism was the system too, but that doesn't mean it was wrong to hang the fuckers.

Mike: At least Mythbusters--which I have always found stultifying--isn't on the History Channel. That's nothing but military porn, 24/7.

There's a solution to this problem, and it's called basic cable.

Something's happened to the culture of this country since I was a kid, and I resent it.

I'd say what's happened is that corporations understand and consciously manipulate the levers of psychological control much more than they did in the past, and you can see the results of that on many levels. I'm glad I grew up when I did, because I think it's far more difficult for Kids These Days to escape the influence of corporate programming.

Posted by: John Caruso at October 13, 2009 08:32 PM

Super Raptor Jebus N E, its the Gaurdian! If this paper carries the musings of a terra-ist.

Then its with the greatest restraint that it admits your hero's complicity in murder.

Didn't Obama say he supported the Gulf War effort and was a fan of Mr. Bush Sr. in a PULBlIC SPEECH.

You couldn't of missed that.

Posted by: Nikolay Levin at October 13, 2009 08:59 PM

Sorry, what I meant to say is that you can't cover-up that.

Posted by: Nikolay Levin at October 13, 2009 09:02 PM

Basic cable? Not if I want to stay married--wife works in TV. Plus, will it come with Sunday Ticket?

Do you like fireworks Donald Johnson? Weakness of mine, I'll admit.

Posted by: Mike of Angle at October 13, 2009 09:31 PM


Et tu? Obama isn't my hero. Don't turn dumb on me. The generals are mad at him right now, and that's encouraging, but we'll see. I think his ears are shrinking, which is good.

I'm a little skeptical about Obama ordering up a Predator attack two days into his administration on his own initiative, even if the Guardian says so, OMG. I kind of think, you know, that was somebody else's idea who was maybe a little closer to the situation and had a little more time on his hands just then. I don't know why on earth I might think that. But it really doesn't matter.

My point is that the National Security State is the problem so talking about our wars like they are all about Obama isn't helpful. I'm becoming intrigued by why people prefer to think of the wars that way. It certainly does personalize them.

Posted by: N E at October 13, 2009 10:08 PM

Fireworks? Oddly enough, not so much. The imaginary ones in LOTR (dragons over Hobbiton) would be appealing. But give me a good thunderstorm at night, 50-100 miles away. Several years ago I got caught in the wind blast way ahead of a squall line while running outside looking at what seemed to be lightning at a safe distance--turns out that sometimes the strong gusts are many many miles ahead of the storm front. I ended up running very fast that night.

"My point is that the National Security State is the problem so talking about our wars like they are all about Obama isn't helpful."

Not harmful either, though, because there's nobody who talks about Obama that way that thinks the Pentagon is full of uniformed Gandhis. I saw some mainstream liberals treating Petraeus with awe and respect when he became a celebrity pushing the Surge, but not any lefties of the sort who would engage in Obama-bashing. The main problem with liberals is the way they think Obama is some hero come to save the country--lefty bashing of him is a reaction to that, not a complete theory of Why We Engage in Imperialist Wars.

Posted by: Donald Johnson at October 13, 2009 10:56 PM

" The main problem with liberals is the way they think Obama is some hero come to save the country--lefty bashing of him is a reaction to that, not a complete theory of Why We Engage in Imperialist Wars."

When called on this, liberals I know deny this. Yet, they still talk about how Obama is going to end the wars and give us health care etc. etc. etc. :)

It does feel strange to be sharing a dislike of Obama with the loony right wing!

Posted by: BMiller at October 14, 2009 11:20 AM


Posted by: Mike Meyer at October 14, 2009 01:09 PM

N E, I'd like to trust Obama, I really do. But then I'm reminded deep inside that as soon as the POTUS achieves presidency, they leave the best part of themselves behind.

I surmise, likely correctly, that whatever they do, all the politicians of power end up doing is fighting over how to better serve the miltary-industrial complex and thats both sides of the aisle.

If the fate of too many presidents mean anything its that the only thing keeping Obama in power is his maintenance of the net profit of the military-industrial complex. The only possible reason for Obama's lack thereof would be if that was at all threatened.

I.F. Stone's Korean History tome was proof enough. The government element supporting avoidance of nuclear holocaust won out, but the insanity of the MIC remained.

Can we agree on that?

Posted by: Nikolay Levin at October 15, 2009 12:28 AM

Continuing a theme here, of sacrilegious denunciation of the Obomb, of course he's not the prima causa of any war, and he isn't plotting tactical maneuvers any more than Dubya flew bombing runs over Iraq, but he is complicit, and even talked about expanding the war into Pakistan before he was formally hired. And how do you know, NE, that the generals are mad at him, except by reporter accounts? How do you know that isn't just a show, a political concession on the part of the brass?

The point again is to try to make Obamaniacs and Lesserevilists understand that voting for someone who was been anointed by warbankers, as seen in the advertising funds Wall St. spent on him, is not a recipe for change. That he is an impotent talking head I don't disagree. But his regime is chock full of blatant warmongers, Clinton, Holbrooke, Emanuel, I'm sure you know all the names, so how are we to believe that he opposes in any significant way the war machine?

So one can look at it as the president leading the war machine, or being hostage to it, or oblivious to it, but if the outcomes are the same then the perspective is irrelevant. If the president is not responsible (and by your reasoning Republican presidents should be held no more responsible than Dems, though you don't seem to arrive at that conclusion) then the Office and the advertising campaigns that fill it are a sham. That's what voters don't understand or don't want to face.

Criticism of Obama is criticism of his mindless legions. If there is to be any opposition to the permanent corporate military regime, then more people must be disillusioned of their Hope, not just for the Obomb, but for the pull-a-lever and sleep soundly method of subservient living. The man himself is a nonentity.

Posted by: Marcus at October 15, 2009 08:30 AM

So British military sources are saying that the Obomb has approved a 45,000 troop splurge for Afpak. Must be the difference in time zones that keeps that from having occurred here yet, because the mouthpiece for the mouthpiece, Gibbs, is denying it. I bet those generals are really pissed off now, they asked for 40,000 pieces of cannon fodder and Barry said, no, take 45,0000, I'm a man of Peace.

Posted by: Marcus at October 15, 2009 09:18 AM

"So one can look at it as the president leading the war machine, or being hostage to it, or oblivious to it, but if the outcomes are the same then the perspective is irrelevant. If the president is not responsible (and by your reasoning Republican presidents should be held no more responsible than Dems, though you don't seem to arrive at that conclusion) then the Office and the advertising campaigns that fill it are a sham. That's what voters don't understand or don't want to face."

Yep. My only disagreement with your post is that I read N E as believing exactly this, not being an Obama supporter.

"I bet those generals are really pissed off now, they asked for 40,000 pieces of cannon fodder and Barry said, no, take 45,0000, I'm a man of Peace."

Nah, his truly peaceful nature will become eviden only once our current campaign of terrorism against the Iranian State (funding separatist guerillas, for example) becomes an active "hot war." Or if we send weapons to Israel once they start such a camapaign.

Posted by: BMiller at October 15, 2009 02:09 PM


Posted by: Mike Meyer at October 15, 2009 03:29 PM

Will Obomba kill bin Laden? I don't know whether he's been invited into Binny's secret hiding place, the Crawford Ranch. Probably, but only for the Beer Summit you didn't hear about.

Posted by: Marcus at October 15, 2009 10:45 PM

Well, i don't look at something for a while and it gets interesting, and everybody is mentioning poor old "N E" every so often, and my ears didn't even burn. Here's my composite response:

Nikolay: I disagree with your statement that Presidents "leave the best part of themselves behind." My opinion--which is based mostly on looking at the history of Presidential conflicts with the military, militarists like Henry Cabot Lodge, or corrupt private power such as oil interests--is that many Presidents have tried hard in office to carve out some independence, but it is very difficult. The system as well designed by the revered Founding Fathers to thwart ambitious attempts to improve anything, and the evolution of the National Security State has added a host of other obstacles a President has to overcome. JFK could have been mistaken for a warmonger during the 1960 campaign, and he went to heroic lengths to prevent the US from committing genocide on an unprecedented scale. (Just read some Ellsberg to get a feel for the scale.) The problem certainly was NOT that he left the best part of himself behind. Even Nixon in some ways rose above his fundamental rottenness to do some good things, so it would be more accurate to say he left some of the worst parts of himself behind.

Nikolay, you don't need to and shouldn't trust Obama. I never said anybody should trust him, and I don't know why anybody would trust him, especially because he doesn't have all that much latitude to do what he thinks is right. If the mob hires a conscientious hit man, there's still reason to be afraid. (That's an inflammatory analogy that I know someone will like.)

Donald Johnson, I do think it matters whether the problem stems from the President or elsewhere. For example, LBJ was widely credited with the Vietnam war, but he wasn't really the driving force behind it. Had Goldwater been elected in 1964, there really could have been a nuclear war--that wasn't just outrageous rhetoric. The navy and other parts of the National Security State really were clamoring to attack China, which in addition to being commie had just successfully tested its first nuclear weapon. So getting rid of LBJ ran a real risk of nuclear war even though LBJ got us into a huge land war in Vietnam, largely to avoid an even larger and possibly nuclear war with China and becoming a casualty himself,as jfk had. Knowing where the impetus for war is coming from can avoid reaching bad conclusions that actually make matters worse.

Marcus: It has been widely reported that Obama's generals are mad at him, as anyone would expect, because they are largely ideological alligned, and probably members of, the GOP. More importantly, Obama has balked at granting McChrystal's troop request as quickly as he wanted it. Obama is under pressure to do what McChrystal has asked, both from the military (McChrystal giving speeches like he is Macarthur), the GOP (notably McCain), the Dems (Senator Inouye), and the media, and he hasn't done it yet.

I stated on another thread that Obama certainly couldn't get all US troops out of Afghanistan by next year even if he wanted to. My position rests on my sense of the ease with which the National Security State would thwart any withdrawal plan and ruin Obama politically if he were to try a political reverse like that. One of the things I said could happen was a bunch of bombs going off or other terrorist activity suddenly making Obama's position untenable, which it certainly could do.

Well, I also added on that threat that even just not agreeing with McChrystal quickly enough might be having that effect. Things were blowing up in Pakistan and Afghanistan yesterday, and that sort of thing doesn't make it look to most Americans like it would be prudent for the President to change course there. Maybe the timing of the attacks is a coincidence, but the military and intel agencies ultimately have almost complete control over theater operations and how they are reported. If they want to, it is fairly easy for them to create incidents that require a response. That is pretty much what happened at the Gulf of Tonkin.

I agree with Nikolay, I believe, that the National Security State, or what he calls the Military Industrial Complex or MIC, is firmly in control. My perception is that the National Security State remains supremely powerful. I think it will be a struggle for Obama to control it, and he certainly had to take positions in the process of getting elected from which he now will or would it hard to retreat, such as the necessity of the war in Afghanistan and Pakistan. I don't know what he will do, or what he is contemplating, and leakers often are part of the National Security State and have an agenda, so it is hard to know what to believe.
I hope he listens to Bacevich, but the National Security State has power, and Bacevich has only principle on his side. Fingers crossed.

Posted by: N E at October 16, 2009 04:43 PM


What I was trying to say before was that there ARE infact competing interests in the Establishment, its just all they ever disagree with was in the method the elites profit.

Its interesting that you mention Bill Clinton in the Peace Prize comment section, he was a perfect example. The Clinton administration did everything the sane imperialist way. It used economic pressure, inter-ethnic provacation and mostly airpower to subdue Yugoslavia. This is the method George Soros supported to gain title to the Trepca mines.

People the author of this site (and I) call insane imperialists prefer appeals to nationalism, threats and invasions to that alternative and some elites (like Soros) don't like that. George Soros hated Bush and spent a good deal of his fortune opposing his re-election. Soros liked imperialism, just not the neo-conservative kind. Infact, this rift in philosophy is generally what passes as liberalism in Washington, puzzlingly called "neo-liberalism".

If Obama recruited Soros to help run his campaign then whose side do you think he's on?

Posted by: Nikolay Levin at October 18, 2009 03:43 AM


Please don't cite that Larouche crap. It makes me actually feel kind of slimey. And it takes so long to check the facts in that crap, because they lie a lot.

Yes of course we have factions within our elites with their own differing interests, and we have natioanlists and internationalists and mixes of the two and crass opportunists who will cut a deal with anyone, notably oil companies.

of course Soros is a capitalist and not just a believer in open societies. Apart from the moral benefits of open societies, they can be bought. Then again, so can dictatorships. Ach, it's all so complicated and simple at the same time. Maybe it's dialectical!

Posted by: N E at October 18, 2009 09:54 PM

Well all I know is if you take a look at Obama's and Soro's philanthropy and rhetoric, you believe these are great people who are trying to challenge the status quo. Then you get to their political views, and they turn out to differ little with their opponents after all. They still believe the masses should follow orders from their masters its just that they disagree over how to rule. I guess that strikes a middle-ground between Caligula crazy and Martin Luther King Jr. righteous but the results don't sit well with me.

Even Wikipedia cites the money Soros indirectly gave to Obama (through Moveon). Just the OFFICIAL amount is staggering. Whatever the case, even if a National Security apparatus was in place it seems Obama wouldn't be one for holding the overclass responsible. At least I don't think the donor would approve without even mentioning Goldman Sachs and Haliburton.

Posted by: Nikolay Levin at October 19, 2009 03:32 AM