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Change the Channel

Whether you watch CNN or FOX, one can easily list the international threats that loom on the horizon. Anxiety is at an all-time high as we see the unrest on a global scale like Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, China’s growing boldness as an adversary, Iran’s new climb to power across the middle east and of course there is always the mysterious and psychotic North Korea. Unlike unrest in decades before, each and every one today seems to hold specific consequences that could shake America to its core. In the meantime we are dealing with ransomware and cyber attacks on critical infrastructure, banking and healthcare services almost daily.

Violent extremism seems to be the rage (pardon the pun) from Africa to Southeast Asia, Afghanistan, Somalia and Yemen not to mention a little closer to home such as Portland, Minneapolis, Atlanta and Chicago.

So, what is the real threat of the day? While we are being forced to play whac-a-mole with all these threats, is there one specific one we should be watching more than the others?

While we are still concerned about al Qaeda and ISIS, these groups have slid to the back of our minds and are no longer our focus like in years past. Perhaps this is fatigue that has caused this lack of attention as we got tired of the messaging, the warnings and the threat reports to the point of rolling our eyes when we saw that strange black flag on the news because it was just old. Old news.

We are a hungry nation; hungry for not just information but for action and drama. If there are no major hurricanes in the southeast for a season, the needs of those still struggling because of last year’s horrendous storms slip our minds. If al Qaeda goes dark for three years, we assume they got cancelled like last year’s sitcom.

Maybe that is the problem, eh? As a country we watch television to the point that we expect life to imitate the television. We watch in mock horror as events dramatically unfold live before our eyes but if the plot slows down or a better event occurs, we are quick to change the channel and become fans of the next “show” even though, if we stopped to pay attention, we would realize most are the same show with the same cast of characters and just a different plot.

We are impressionable as a population. Our focus is easily manipulated. Two years ago, as al Qaeda began it re-birth, we binge-watched “Mask Wars” which was a low-budget comedy centering on two American presidents and Doctor.

When that show ended, we just changed the channel. Nobody even mentioned that al Qaeda had a new show.

The truth is that unlike twenty-one years ago, the American public today is more likely to experience a terrorist attack by an individual attacker than a highly structured terrorist organization.

Normal people being attacked by random strangers with no plot?

Nope. Not interested.

Want proof?

As an experiment, I watched the news all day today. Just two days after the shooting at Michigan State, there was not one story about the shooting. News reporting the criminal background of the shooter quickly leapt to the online apps but never made it to the screen today.

What dominated my day was two new shows, “99 Luft Balloons”, a rather sad afternoon drama about a confused elderly gentleman who is terrorized by strange UFOs and “Snakes on a Plane”, the story of new IRS agents flying to their new offices across the country.

You can stop laughing because it really isn’t that funny. We are constantly allowing the media and administrations to influence our focus. While we mindlessly watch these poorly written shows, the lone actors and single extremists right here on our own soil are concocting new and unpredictable ways to wreak havoc and cause as much pain as possible.

According to studies and investigations, these individuals mobilize to violence independently without direction from specific groups.

Since 9/11, we have experienced no less than thirty-seven attacks that were INSPIRED by al Qaeda or ISIS and only eight attacks that were directly related to the groups.

Most of our recent attacks have involved individuals with personal issues, personal agendas or an individual need to be heard. There were no flags, no months of planning and often, no specific targets like the other night in Michigan. We are living in a violent time filled with violent speech and so, violence erupts.

It is a horrible story line and too hard to follow if you just want to watch and tune out. It will never be a popular show and there are no characters to fall in love with or sides to pick. It is real life and real life sucks sometimes.

It is real life and real life involves preparing for the unexpected. This life calls for the revival of See Something Say Something and a whole lot more. This life calls for us to be vigilant like our parents were during the Cold War. This life may call for acquiring a new taste in entertainment sources because you will not get this on your regular news channel. This is pay-per-view only and you are going to have to pay the price of being uncomfortable if you intend to watch it.

Your life is in danger. My life is in danger. My children’s lives are in danger. Real life sucks and we need to start watching what matters and…well, just watching out period.

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