Tuesday, January 12, 2010


In a profile published in The New York Times this weekend, Roger Ailes described his vision of a possible terrorist attack on Fox News, and said that, in the event of such an attack, he "will fight." In response this morning, Tapped's Paul Waldman wrote:

When Ailes says "I will fight," he seems to have envisioned himself as Bruce Willis in Die Hard, engaging in furious hand-to-hand combat with kaffiyah-wearing operatives before he cracks their necks one by one, then finally finishes off their team leader by tossing the dastardly terrorist through his office window, watching as his foe is impaled on an American flag 30 stories below. Perhaps he's even thought of the quip he'll toss off.

The vision of al-Qaeda as being capable of doing things like invading Fox News headquarters, or busting Khalid Sheikh Mohammed out of a supermax prison in Illinois, is very romantic for those who imagine themselves personally fighting terrorists, but it's at odds with everything we know about the group. They're not Cobra Command from
G.I. Joe, they're not SPECTRE from Dr. No, and they're not KAOS from Get Smart. They don't have billions of dollars, a secret underwater lair, and teams of operatives with mad martial arts skillz and Muslim Heat Vision. They don't have sharks with frickin' lasers on their heads. The best they can come up with at this point is to have a guy put explosives in his underwear.

But, see, Ailes here isn't just expressing his fears -- he's expressing his fantasies. He wants to see himself as a guy al-Qaeda would like to target, and he wants to see himself as a guy who'd kick al-Qaeda's ass. It's fear, but it's also daydreaming.

I see this among gun zealots -- some people simply like guns, or like hunting, or legitimately need a gun for protection, but then there are those who utterly savor the notion that marauding hordes of criminals (1980s version) or jackbooted big-gummint fascists (modern version) will invade the Real America, and only handguns will prevent Good People from having to submit to Evil. This fantasy was dangerous enough a generation ago when it was just a law-and-order pipe dream; now, in its politicized form, it's practically the entire belief system of the tea party movement, with the caveat that the teabaggers might not need to lock-'n'-load if the next couple of election cycles go the right way. But it's all about imagining yourself as a hero, as a tough guy, as someone whose life has real meaning. It's boy thinking. And it's a major undercurrent of our politics.

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