In Today's America, The Paranoia of Legislators and Citizens is a Small Victory for Terrorists

It has been over a decade since the attacks of 9/11. While the effects the attacks had on our domestic and foreign policy are apparent through legislation and government practices, the effect on the American psyche is harder to measure or detect. Yet since the attacks, there has been some evidence of increases in doomsday scenario planning in the U.S., likely promoted from a fear of similar or more aggressive attacks in the future. Sales in bunker houses, panic room installations, gas masks, survival gear, firearms, and sales of gold are all indications that more Americans are preparing for the worst. While this would be a worrying development were it confined to citizens, legislators now seem to be adopting similar paranoid mindsets, something which the terrorists can claim as a small victory.

The Wyoming Tribune recently ran a piece on a new “Doomsday Bill” which has been proposed by members of the Wyoming House of Representatives. The bill would put in place a group made up of state officials who will develop contingency plans for the collapse of the U.S. Plans that have been proposed include the creation of a Wyoming currency and a Wyoming military, including an aircraft carrier. Why a landlocked state with a population less than that of Washington, D.C., would need an aircraft carrier is beyond me. It is especially bizarre when one considers that the largest lake in Wyoming, Yellowstone Lake, is over 7,000 feet above sea level, has an average depth of 139 feet and is right in the middle of one of America’s most famous National Parks. That such a proposals is being seriously considered is evidence of the damaging and counterproductive effects domestic terrorism is having on America’s political and cultural attitudes.

Wyoming is not alone. Legislators from six states have tried and failed to establish state currencies. These sorts of plans indicate a worrying attitude that concedes victory to terrorists, and serves to only to over exaggerate the threat terrorism and economic worries pose to the United States.

It is perhaps a frustrating truth, but in many ways the perpetrators of 9/11 and other terrorists since have accomplished some of their goals.

True, the U.S. still has military bases in foreign countries and a global Islamic caliphate is yet to be realized, but small and subtle victories can be claimed by terrorists, and are seen all the time. Every time we visit an airport, we undergo a level of humiliation that is not only demonstrably ineffective but also a small homage to the fear terrorists have instilled in government officials. The PATRIOT Act, a piece of legislation that did away with basic rights that cost blood to win and centuries to establish, is perhaps one of the terrorists’ greatest achievements. If the goal of the terrorists is in part to disrupt our political and legal culture and to instill fear, it is hard to think of a greater tool than the PATRIOT Act.

There is no chance of terrorists defeating the U.S. militarily or through terrorist attacks. What should worry Americans more than terrorist attacks is the overreaction government, local and federal, can have to a struggling economy and the threat of terrorism. The threat of terrorism in America is tiny, and while the state of the economy is very worrying even in some of the more worrying scenarios discussed by policy makers and economists it is hard to imagine Americans abandoning their national bonds and resorting to state based militaries and local government for security and economic stability.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons 

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Matthew Feeney

Anglo-American currently working as Assistant Editor of Reason 24/7 at Reason.com. Before coming to DC I worked in London at the Institute of Economic Affairs and at the headquarters of the Liberal Democrats. I write mostly on economics, civil liberties, and foreign affairs.

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