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Sulfnbk Syndrome, Media Consumption, and the Dry Run that Wasn't

By BlackStripe in Media
Sat Jul 24, 2004 at 09:26:07 AM EST
Tags: Internet (all tags)

Remember when emails were flying around about the sulfnbk.exe virus? It began on the internet, spread like wildfire, and eventually made it all the way to the cable news channels. It turned out, of course, sulfnbk.exe wasn't a virus. It's a program that backs up long filenames created by Windows, but few people bothered to look it up before deleting it. As a result, the more unfortunate victims were puzzled to find some DOS programs had rendered many of their file names illegi~1. Less a computer proficiency deficiency than an aversion to independent thought, the sulfnbk syndrome seems to repeat itself with unfailing consistency. The story you're about to read is just the latest permutation.

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Written by Annie Jacobsen of WomensWallStreet.com, the story is quite extraordinary. After boarding a plane with 14 Middle Eastern passengers, Jacobsen and her husband proceed to have a nervous breakdown when the men relieve themselves with suspicious frequency and talk in their own language. When she frantically conveys these harrowing events to the staff, the flight attendants pass notes among one another and then whisper to her that there are air marshals all around them ready to jump into action.

Jacobsen writes that the men continued standing up and sitting down with a frightening degree of coordination, in what one envisions as an airborne, hydrophobic version of synchronized swimming. They spoke loudly in Arabic and wore jumpsuits with large calligraphic lettering on them, suggesting that this particular cell slept through a few obfuscation lessons at Camp Qaeda. At the end of the flight, after one of several trips to the bathroom, the last to emerge from the head ran a finger across his throat mouthing the word "no." Funny, that.

Is she sure it wasn't laa? Since they had been talking exclusively in Arabic the whole time, it would stand to reason that maybe, just maybe, they would have mouthed their secret terrorist messages in Arabic as well. If she made up the "no," then the hand across the throat takes on a different meaning entirely. If she made up the finger across the throat bit, she probably mis-lip-read naam which is, of course, Arabic for "yes." Except nothing blew up. Finally, and perhaps least ridiculously, the gentleman may have actually run his finger across his throat and mouthed naan, emphatically expressing his desire to avoid the South Asian leaven bread cooked in a Tandoor-- Indian food from the previous night being responsible for his frequent trips to the lavatory.

Think this stuff is out there? Well here's another gem from Part II of the story: According to Jacobsen, pilots have come out after the first piece was published and confided in her that daily terrorist dry runs are a "dirty little secret" of the airline industry. Apparently these pilots didn't feel it was worth making a big deal about terrorists executing dry runs on their airplanes until a bourgeois menopausal schizophrenic published a glorified blog piece to an obscure financial website.

Back in the real world, after being detained for several hours at Jacobsen's insistence, the 14 men all turned up clean-- a few innocent musicians unfortunate enough to be caught on a plane with the wrong passenger.

Here's a parallel that the less geeky among you might appreciate more than something with .exe in the title: Does the name Johnelle Bryant ring a bell? For anyone who doesn't remember this one, she was the USDA employee who fabricated a story about how Mohammad Atta had come to her office for a loan. Atta supposedly wanted to finance a plane that could be outfitted with chemicals and explosives in every inch except for the pilot's space. When she said it would take a few days to process, he threatened to slit her throat. He then proceeded to ask her about the security at various tourist attractions. Noticing a picture of the Pentagon on the wall, Atta offered to pay her money for it. When she declined, he got angry and asked her how she would feel when it and other American landmarks would be blown up. He told Bryant that Osama bin Laden would very soon become the world's great leader.

Bryant claims she had never heard of that person (bin Laden, not Atta) before 9/11, so she couldn't have recognized the name. After the terrorist attacks she came forward and told her story with the hope that other Americans would take action where she hadn't, blaming her negligence on an effort "to help him make his relocation into our country as easy for him as I could." In a similar vein, this latest piece from Annie Jacobsen takes as its thesis that America must pursue a more ambitious racial profiling strategy because "if 19 terrorists can learn to fly airplanes into buildings, couldn't 14 terrorists learn to play instruments?"

Bryant's tale made it not only to the cycle-driven cable news networks who have begun picking up this more recent version, but to a prime time interview with ABC. It will come as no surprise when Jacobsen makes the rounds in the days to come. Their stories are clung to by the same people for the same reasons, and have the same driving argument. Putting the civil liberties debate aside, let's just say that this isn't exactly the most useful case in point. People are more than welcome to debate the merits of racial profiling, but this case-- just like Johnelle Bryant's-- isn't one they would want to use.

These stories exist at the awkward intersection of ego and agenda, and in the often perilous information frontier that is the internet. Bryant was not simply recalling an event, but aggressively urging fellow Americans to "pick up the phone and make the call that I didn't make." Jacobsen is attacking what she sees as "the heart of the matter" behind the terrorist threat in America: "political correctness." What is troublesome is when these stories evolve from acceptably biased and exaggerated attention-grabs into legitimate news. Important to note is that this was not a product of the corporate media, but emerged instead from that most chaotically democratic of free presses: the internet. While experienced browsers tend to be the medium's greatest skeptics, the newsgroups and chat sites where these stories percolate are quick to forward trivial tracts like "Terror in the Skies" until the Annie Jacobsen's of the world are bona fide instapundits.

This phenomenon of disseminating unsubstantiated claims without any effort to confirm them is certainly not limited by political ideology. Everyone remembers the widely spread hoax that CNN had aired decade-old footage of Palestinian children celebrating in the streets to fan post-9/11 racism. In fact, the footage was real, and the myth had mushroomed from a single erroneous email by a college student in Brazil. And what became of Johnelle Bryant's story? As it turns out, Mohammad Atta wasn't even in the country until several months after Bryant said he asked her about landmark security and threatened to slit her throat. And the sulfnbk.exe "virus?" It's still there, sitting on millions of computers, waiting for those stupid enough to delete it.

Additional Commentary

  • Salon.com: "The Hysterical Skies"
  • National Review Online: "The Syrian Wayne Newton"
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    The most troubling aspect of the "Terror in the Skies, Again?" phenomena is...
    o The author uses the Eurocentric term "Middle Eastern" 2%
    o The author quotes Ann Coulter 21%
    o The author is a woman 10%
    o The author is a capitalist 4%
    o The story is ridiculous and unsubstantiated 20%
    o The public disseminates it blindly 10%
    o The news media disseminates it blindly 30%

    Votes: 94
    Results | Other Polls

    Related Links
    o virus
    o wasn't a virus
    o WomensWall Street.com
    o the story
    o a different meaning
    o Part II
    o a few innocent musicians
    o Johnelle Bryant
    o a prime time interview
    o "pick up the phone and make the call that I didn't make."
    o "political correctness."
    o instapundi ts
    o the widely spread hoax
    o a single erroneous email
    o Mohammad Atta wasn't even in the country
    o "The Hysterical Skies"
    o "The Syrian Wayne Newton"
    o Also by BlackStripe

    Display: Sort:
    Sulfnbk Syndrome, Media Consumption, and the Dry Run that Wasn't | 102 comments (46 topical, 56 editorial, 0 hidden)
    Accepted (1.00 / 26) (#28)
    by New EviI Fascist Editor on Fri Jul 23, 2004 at 04:57:53 AM EST

    This article has been provisionally accepted for display on Kuro5hin.org.
    Wannabe. (none / 3) (#30)
    by pwhysall on Fri Jul 23, 2004 at 07:17:55 AM EST

    I think you'll find that you are but a guttering candle to my supernova of editorial nazihood.
    K5 Editors
    I'm going to wager that the story keeps getting dumped because it is a steaming pile of badly formatted fool-meme.
    [ Parent ]
    Annie Jacobsen could have put flight in danger (3.00 / 13) (#31)
    by grouse on Fri Jul 23, 2004 at 07:45:50 AM EST

    according to a federal law enforcement source, as quoted by KFI News:
    The source said the air marshals on the flight were partially concerned Jacobsen's actions could have been an effort by terrorists or attackers to create a disturbance on the plane to force the agents to identify themselves. Air marshals' only tactical advantage on a flight is their anonymity, the source said, and Jacobsen could have put the entire flight in danger. "They have to be very cognizant of their surroundings," spokesman Adams confirmed, "to make sure it isn't a ruse to try and pull them out of their cover."

    You sad bastard!

    "Grouse please don't take this the wrong way... To be quite frank, you are throwing my inner Chi out of its harmonious balance with nature." -- Tex Bigballs

    Accepted (1.00 / 25) (#37)
    by New EviI Fascist Editor on Fri Jul 23, 2004 at 12:46:02 PM EST

    This article has been provisionally accepted for display on Kuro5hin.org.
    Jacobson (2.22 / 9) (#44)
    by kitten on Fri Jul 23, 2004 at 03:14:32 PM EST

    Is either lying or an idiot, but I suspect it's both. I'm not going to look at the story again right now (I read it before), but I do remember a few examples of complete and total idiocy/falsehood.

    First is an obvious one: Flight attendants do not know who the air marshals are, and in fact, neither do the pilots. And even if they did, they certainly wouldn't go round telling the passengers about it. What's the story here? I report, you decide.

    Then she goes into histrionics because the guy didn't smile at her when she tried to catch his eye. Fancy that -- he isn't in a good mood when half the passengers are whispering and passing notes about him?

    So the Arabic dudes got up at the same time. Frankly, my first assumption would be that they were going to pray -- don't Muslims do this five times daily, at the same time? Didn't these guys go through airport security? Exactly what is she worried about? (Yes, I realize that airport security is a joke, but she doesn't.)

    I also recall that she blathers on at length about how one of the guys had a McDonald's bag and later it was empty. Could it be that there were explosives in that bag and he planted them in the bathroom? Or could it be that the bag contained food and he ate it? Is she suggesting that he strolled through security with a bag and nobody checked it?

    Idiots. I swear.
    mirrorshades radio - darkwave, synthpop, industrial, futurepop.
    Oh, and also (3.00 / 5) (#45)
    by kitten on Fri Jul 23, 2004 at 03:15:29 PM EST

    She claims she did some "research" by reading Ann Coulter. I think that says it all.
    mirrorshades radio - darkwave, synthpop, industrial, futurepop.
    [ Parent ]
    and there's a poll item in there just for you ;) (none / 0) (#47)
    by BlackStripe on Fri Jul 23, 2004 at 03:30:11 PM EST


    [ Parent ]
    You are wrong on one thing (none / 1) (#62)
    by grouse on Fri Jul 23, 2004 at 07:23:39 PM EST

    Flight attendants do not know who the air marshals are, and in fact, neither do the pilots.

    That would make a lot of sense but that's not the way it's done. Frequently the federal air marshal will even have a briefing for the flight crew before boarding.

    If you are the first passenger on the plane it is pretty easy to figure out who the air marshals are.

    You sad bastard!

    "Grouse please don't take this the wrong way... To be quite frank, you are throwing my inner Chi out of its harmonious balance with nature." -- Tex Bigballs
    [ Parent ]

    Not according to my sources. (3.00 / 4) (#64)
    by kitten on Fri Jul 23, 2004 at 10:43:06 PM EST

    In this case my sources are my father, a Delta pilot, and my stepfather, an American Air pilot. (Yes, my mother does seem to have a thing about pilots.)

    If you are the first passenger on the plane it is pretty easy to figure out who the air marshals are.

    Maybe. On the other hand, most people don't think much about this sort of thing, and will come to some other, more obvious conclusion, about how they're special passengers, have some kind of handicap, or got on ahead of time somehow, or whatever else. Having observed and been through boarding procedures about a billion times, I'd say most people don't even pay attention to the order in which they get on.

    All that aside, my main point stands, which is that even if the flight crew is privvy to that information, they wouldn't tell the passengers. The whole point is to keep the marshals' identities as inconspicuous as possible. Passing notes around and telling your passengers who has a gun and a badge doesn't exactly do it.
    mirrorshades radio - darkwave, synthpop, industrial, futurepop.
    [ Parent ]
    Well, it is according to mine (none / 3) (#67)
    by grouse on Sat Jul 24, 2004 at 06:05:35 AM EST

    Who are several flight attendants. Maybe your daddy and stepdaddy just fly routes that are less likely to have FAMs on them in the first place?
    [M]ost people don't think much about this sort of thing, and will come to some other, more obvious conclusion, about how they're special passengers, have some kind of handicap, or got on ahead of time somehow, or whatever else.

    Yeah, but those who are looking for the FAMs like hijackers will not have a very tough time telling if there aren't any. Especially considering that the FAMs are known to wear a business suit, short hair "uniform" to look more "professional." Of course this could just be a ruse, and there could be many more FAMs who don't dress like that. Who knows?

    In any case, I agree, the flight crew should not reveal the identity of the FAMs but sometimes people go off their approved policies. Dunno whether it happened here or not.

    You sad bastard!

    "Grouse please don't take this the wrong way... To be quite frank, you are throwing my inner Chi out of its harmonious balance with nature." -- Tex Bigballs
    [ Parent ]

    Undercover (none / 3) (#72)
    by hans on Sat Jul 24, 2004 at 02:53:21 PM EST

    I just hope they're better disguised than undercover cops.  My school had a hemp rally a couple years ago.  Aside from all the neo-hippies, there was one strangely out of place leather-clad motorcyclist.  Even his facial stubble was too clean.  I guess his Harley was in the shop that day, for he was driving a nondescript dark blue Crown Vic

    [ Parent ]
    Heh (none / 1) (#77)
    by grouse on Sat Jul 24, 2004 at 04:36:29 PM EST

    They are probably even more poorly disguised. Check out this story about their dress code.

    You sad bastard!

    "Grouse please don't take this the wrong way... To be quite frank, you are throwing my inner Chi out of its harmonious balance with nature." -- Tex Bigballs
    [ Parent ]

    If you live (none / 0) (#99)
    by Sesquipundalian on Wed Aug 04, 2004 at 02:43:32 PM EST

    in Winnipeg Manitoba Canada, I know that guy.

    Don't worry, he's just a schmuck that lives on Spruce Street and wishes he was a cop. He loooooooves his ferns though. ~heh.

    Did you know that gullible is not actually an english word?
    [ Parent ]
    Supporting evidence (none / 1) (#78)
    by grouse on Sat Jul 24, 2004 at 04:39:17 PM EST

    Here's a story about a day in the life of a FAM:
    On the day that Nightline followed the team, John got on the plane first, boarding through the back door before the passengers.

    Once aboard, he identified himself to the crew, telling them where he and his partners would be sitting, and that they were there for the flight's protection. He asked the crew to notify them if they saw anything unusual.

    You sad bastard!

    "Grouse please don't take this the wrong way... To be quite frank, you are throwing my inner Chi out of its harmonious balance with nature." -- Tex Bigballs
    [ Parent ]

    IAWTP (none / 0) (#90)
    by alby on Mon Jul 26, 2004 at 08:09:38 AM EST

    My Dad's a pilot.

    [ Parent ]

    Re: Jacobson (none / 2) (#79)
    by gidds on Sat Jul 24, 2004 at 07:30:01 PM EST

    So the Arabic dudes got up at the same time. Frankly, my first assumption would be that they were going to pray

    She did say 'several times', didn't she? So unless it was a circumnavigatory flight, I doubt they were all prayer stops...

    Still, isn't it interesting -- if a little hypocritical -- that if umpteen women go to the loo together, no-one bats an eyelid, but if guys do, then they must be terrorists? (Either that, or people make unnecessary comments about their sexuality...)

    [ Parent ]

    That might change soon, though... (none / 3) (#83)
    by skyknight on Sat Jul 24, 2004 at 08:59:20 PM EST

    There is, for some moronic reason, a push to require that sky marshals wear suits when on duty. So, if you're planning on riding an airplane, don't wear a suit, because the suits will be the first ones to die in a hijacking, hacked to pieces by nail clippers purchased in airport convenience stores.

    It's not much fun at the top. I envy the common people, their hearty meals and Bruce Springsteen and voting. --SIGNOR SPAGHETTI
    [ Parent ]
    white women are lying idiots from hell (1.00 / 13) (#60)
    by folker on Fri Jul 23, 2004 at 06:50:06 PM EST

    film at 11

    bias (none / 2) (#63)
    by yoders on Fri Jul 23, 2004 at 08:24:08 PM EST

    You know, I guess there isn't any reason for an article on k5 to be unbiased.  I mean, to be truly objective is impossible because we all have feelings about things, and whether we go with those feelings or try to supress them, it's a bias.

    But the poll is another story.

    Think about it this way... a new movie comes out, and you know it's a bomb, and you "know" most people will agree with you.  You decide that you want to take an exit poll to get some stats to see if you are right or not.  you poll at one of the theatres and these are the choices:

    I would rate this movie:
    a) terrible
    b) really, stinky bad
    d) I am stupider for having seen this movie

    Pretty one sided, wouldn't you say?  Well, I guess that's okay for an article.  After all, you are expressing your opinion, which has to be biased, or it wouldn't be an opinion at all.  But the poll is a different story.  You are asking for user input, but only allowing them to say things that back up your opinion.  

    Seems shady to me.

    I guess now that we're voting on it, it's too late to change... I wish I had noticed it sooner.  But at least I get to express my opinion in the comments.


    poll (none / 0) (#66)
    by BlackStripe on Sat Jul 24, 2004 at 12:12:16 AM EST

    Polls here are usually very tongue-in-cheek. This one is along those lines as well (woman, capitalist, etc.) The poll options are a bit of a joke in most cases, so they should be taken lightly. In this case they aren't as narrow as you suggest. If you disagree with the premise of some poll options (ie "ridiculous and unsubstantiated") there are others that are still totally palatable (blame the media, blame the forwarders). All in all it's really not that big of a deal, and polls are usually not taken seriously.

    It's just like politics in the real world: you're probably going to have to pick from a bunch of crappy choices at the ballot box, but there are a myriad of other ways to participate meaningfully in the process (run, protest, write, etc.) At k5 you can comment or, if you're really upset, write a meta article.

    Do you have any other criticims of the piece? I'd definitely enjoy a discussion on something, I'm just really not interested in spending much time dealing with the poll.

    [ Parent ]

    dry runs (none / 3) (#68)
    by adimovk5 on Sat Jul 24, 2004 at 09:43:53 AM EST

    According to Jacobsen, pilots have come out after the first piece was published and confided in her that daily terrorist dry runs are a "dirty little secret" of the airline industry.

    In a similar vein, this latest piece from Annie Jacobsen takes as its thesis that America must pursue a more ambitious racial profiling strategy because "if 19 terrorists can learn to fly airplanes into buildings, couldn't 14 terrorists learn to play instruments?"

    It is highly improbable that there will ever be another attack like 9/11 in the United States - fully fueled commercial aircraft used as missiles. The "perfect storm" of circumstances cannot reocccur. It would once again require pilots to hand over control of the aircraft and passengers to sit passive and fearful.

    The next target will be softer. The terrorists will not go where their enemy is looking for them.

    As for dry runs, I hope the terrorists are foolish enough to continue to travel in groups. I also hope that our flight crews are wise enough to report suspicious groups to law enforcement. Then investigators could track the groups and find all their terrorist associates.

    cameras (none / 1) (#69)
    by shokk on Sat Jul 24, 2004 at 10:39:46 AM EST

    We have cameras in banks and shopping centers.  Why don't we have them in the passenger cabins of what can potentially be a highly destructive weapon.  A minute of video showing the behavior of these suspect passengers would have cleared it up one way or the other and we wouldn't be left guessing.  How much electronics would have to be put into black box flight recorders to record from four cameras placed around the inside of an airplane to take occassionaly shots (1 every 2 secs?) for surveillance footage that survives a crash.  If such a system had been in place on flights on Sept 11 we would have immediately known what happened on Flight 93, and we wouldn't be left guessing.  

    Privacy issues?  If you're on an airplane with 300 other people you're as good as in public.

    "Beware of he who would deny you access to information, for in his heart, he dreams himself your master."

    Oh great. (none / 3) (#74)
    by mcc on Sat Jul 24, 2004 at 03:43:08 PM EST

    Between the total lack of personal space, the low oxygen levels, and the noise, airplanes are already an incredibly unpleasant place to spend time. Now I get to add to that as I sit in the airplane, I know every moment that there's going to be file footage in the basement of the Department of Homeland Security for the next 30 years of me picking my nose. Just great.

    [ Parent ]
    Even better... (none / 0) (#94)
    by nollidj on Tue Jul 27, 2004 at 09:18:46 AM EST

    Film the insides of the aircraft bathrooms. That way we can fund anti-terrorism initiatives by selling recordings of those trying to join the Mile-High Club on the Internet.

    [ Parent ]

    note that the musicians left via Detroit (3.00 / 7) (#70)
    by insomnyuk on Sat Jul 24, 2004 at 11:39:25 AM EST

    If I was on a flight from Detroit to anywhere, and I saw a large number of Arab men on it, I would not be particularly concerned, simply because Dearborn, Michigan has a population that is 30% Arab.

    It is also interesting to note that this woman Annie Jacobsen, at least on a professional level, does: Creative Writing, Dreamwork, and Individual Psychotherapy.

    To me, Annie Jacobsen's story reads like bad internet fiction, at best.

    "There is only one honest impulse at the bottom of Puritanism, and that is the impulse to punish the man with a superior capacity for happiness." - H.L. Mencken

    Oh, shit (2.20 / 5) (#71)
    by Wah on Sat Jul 24, 2004 at 01:08:58 PM EST

    You can bury your head in the sand if you want, but after reading the story and agreeing with Ms. Jacobsen's position and paranoia, I am fairly certain that what you meant to say is that Dearborn, Michigan is 30% PROBABLY TERRORISTS!!!!

    We should call someone.
    umm, holding, holding...
    [ Parent ]

    er... (none / 2) (#80)
    by chacho on Sat Jul 24, 2004 at 07:33:13 PM EST

    all arabs arent terrorists, idiot.

    [ Parent ]
    that's right, chacho (none / 2) (#82)
    by Wah on Sat Jul 24, 2004 at 08:25:53 PM EST

    my bad.
    umm, holding, holding...
    [ Parent ]
    Yeah, that's why he said PROBABLY TERRORISTS. (none / 1) (#84)
    by cburke on Sat Jul 24, 2004 at 10:28:54 PM EST

    Either you missed the sarcasm, or my understanding of irony on the internet fails at the insulting straight-man.

    [ Parent ]
    You missed the latest guidelines [nt] (none / 1) (#89)
    by alby on Mon Jul 26, 2004 at 07:46:53 AM EST

    [ Parent ]
    what about thier prayer? (3.00 / 10) (#73)
    by Vilim on Sat Jul 24, 2004 at 03:11:00 PM EST

    Perhaps the reason that the Muslim men all had to go to the washroom at the same time was because they are required to pray 5 times a day. They probably figured that the best place to do it privately was the washroom

    I would imagine that all 14 Muslims beginning to pray simitaniously in the cabin would have made her think that they were praying because they were about to commit suicide. I know a few Muslim's and they are always very discrete about thier prayer practices.

    Her article boils down to the ramblings of a racist, xenophobic woman who is another victim of the "war on terror".

    I don't see what peoples fixation on planes is. Terrorists are oppertunitists, with the September 11th attacks they saw an oppertunity in lax airport security. If there is to be another terrorist attack it will surely not involve an airplane because the worlds focus is now on airport security.

    Technical requirements for Prayer. (none / 0) (#81)
    by Matt Oneiros on Sat Jul 24, 2004 at 08:08:46 PM EST

    Of course I don't there's anywhere on a standard commercial jetliner suitable to perform prayer (unless they had deluxe type bathrooms where a fellow could stretch his torso and arms outward).

    On the Saudi Mecca-Jets (for the Hajj) they have what seems to be the little drink and what-have-you areas the flight attendants use, modified as in-flight prayer areas cordoned off with curtains.

    Although I suppose one could pray in the aisles with adaquate space but that would tend to violate certain requirements for placement and privacy.

    If the bathrooms were large enough and clean enough (particularly) it would seem to be quite an adventageous spot for midflight prayer. I highly doubt they were adaquate though.

    But hey, way to look past the xenophobia and foolishness and to think for youself Vilim!

    Lobstery is not real
    signed the cow
    when stating that life is merely an illusion
    and that what you love is all that's real
    [ Parent ]

    Praying In The Bathroom (3.00 / 4) (#86)
    by EraseMe on Sun Jul 25, 2004 at 02:45:51 AM EST

    Muslims only pray in clean areas, and bathrooms are not considered clean, even if they are well kept. All Muslims I know perform a modified prayer, a version that requires no bowing or prostrating, in their seats while aboard an airplane, unless the plane has a large reserved prayer area, like Saudi Airlines does. However, Muslims do have to perform a ritual washing before they pray, and this may explain why all the men went to the bathroom at nearly the same time.

    [ Parent ]
    indeedy (none / 0) (#87)
    by Matt Oneiros on Sun Jul 25, 2004 at 03:24:26 AM EST

    I'd never been taught about the upright prayer, I'd been told to just wait and do the appropriate prayer at the most fortuitous time.

    Also worth noting that the prayer for travelling is significantly shorter.

    Lobstery is not real
    signed the cow
    when stating that life is merely an illusion
    and that what you love is all that's real
    [ Parent ]

    repost by request (2.66 / 9) (#75)
    by codejack on Sat Jul 24, 2004 at 04:19:29 PM EST

    Note: Reposted by request of BlackStripe.

    The format is fine, no problem with structure, it's just more like stream of consciousness than a coherent story; What exactly was it about? I saw some bits about a virus that wasn't, and airplanes, and a woman getting freaked out over some arab musicians (or were they terrorists practicing for their next suicide attack?) on a plane. Then the whole bit about the guy trying to buy a plane; I am assuming that this was a Monte Python-esque skit from somewhere as it seems to go something like this:

    Mohammad Atta: "Hi, my name is Mohammad Atta, and I am not a terrorist. Can you give me a loan to purchase a plane that would be good to carry large quantities of chemicals and explosives?"

    Johnelle Bryant: "Why certainly, Mr. Atta, won't you take a seat? We'll need to fill out some paperwork, and it will take a few days to process."

    Mohammad Atta: "What?! How dare you not accept my credit at once, infidel bitch?! I will slit your throat and drink your blood! I could do it right here! Is the security guard around? Is the security in this building anything like at Disneyworld? Hey, nice picture of the Pentagon; I'll give you fifty cents for it."

    Johnelle Bryant: "I'm sorry Mr. Atta, but it's not for sale."

    Mohammad Atta: "Another insult? You will rue this day, heathen scum! How will you feel when the pentagon and other American landmarks are blown up? First the pentagon, then disneyworld, then we shall find the site of the next "survivor" show, and blow it up, too! Osama Bin Laden will be the world's next great leader!"

    Johnelle Bryant: "Who?"

    Mohammad Atta: "What?! Only Satan's handmaiden would not recognize the name of the great Osama Bin Laden, scourge of the world trade center!"

    Johnelle Bryant: "You mean the guy who tried to blow up a skyscraper with a truckload of manure and fifty gallons of mid-grade?"

    Mohammad Atta: "You've heard of him?"

    Johnelle Bryant: "I remember something about it, yea."

    Mohammad Atta: "Excellent! Then all our work has not been in vain! I must be going now."

    Johnelle Bryant: "Of course. If there's anything I can do to make your relocation into this country easier, just let me know."

    Mohammad Atta: "Of all the unbelievers in this festering sore of exploitative capitalism, you have been the nicest. We shall try to kill you last. Speaking of which, you're not planning any trips to New York anytime soon, are you? Say early fall?"

    See what I mean?

    Please read before posting.

    Summarising the Jacobsen story. (3.00 / 5) (#85)
    by For Whom The Bells Troll on Sat Jul 24, 2004 at 11:29:11 PM EST

    "OMG, I saw a couple of Middle Easterners on the plane!!!11!!! They look like oSama!!! I'm afraid!!! :-(((( WHy doesnt the government do anything about it?"

    The Big F Word.
    Of course, it works both ways. (none / 2) (#88)
    by Zerotime on Sun Jul 25, 2004 at 05:48:26 AM EST

    Thank you, Jeffrey Rowland.

    "I live by the river
    With my mother, in a house
    She washes, I cook
    And we never go out."

    Utter bullshit (none / 0) (#92)
    by mcgrew on Mon Jul 26, 2004 at 09:22:35 PM EST

    I got as far as "I continued my research by reading an article entitled Arab Hijackers Now Eligible For Pre-Boarding from Ann Coulter (www.anncoulter.com):" and knew this was as far as I needed to read. Anyone who seriously quotes Ann Coulter has an IQ slightly lower than my daughter's house cat. I read on anyway.

    "No one inspected the contents of the two instrument cases or the McDonald's bag. And no one checked the limping man's orthopedic shoe."

    Is there anyone here who actually believes this is in the least bit credible?

    "But I wonder, if 19 terrorists can learn to fly airplanes into buildings, couldn't 14 terrorists learn to play instruments?"

    Well, they didn't blow up the fucking plane, did they? Then they must not have been terrorists! Of course, you can't expect anyone who reads Ann Coulter to be smart enough to figure THAT out any more than you would expect a house cat to read the New York Times.

    "The entire neocon movement is dedicated to revoking mcgrew's posting priviliges. This is why we went to war with Iraq." -LilDebbie

    But maybe... (none / 1) (#93)
    by Zerotime on Mon Jul 26, 2004 at 09:40:36 PM EST

    They were terrorists, and were cleverly foiled by the angry glarings of a paranoid upper-class American woman! Occam's freakin' razor, man!

    "I live by the river
    With my mother, in a house
    She washes, I cook
    And we never go out."

    [ Parent ]
    Not quite (none / 0) (#101)
    by xria on Fri Oct 01, 2004 at 09:42:42 AM EST

    one should not increase, beyond what is necessary, the number of entities required to explain anything If we look at the two hypotheses you have: a) the men were not terrorists or b) they were terrorists, they noticed her glaring at them, and this was enough to stop them trying to take over the plane for some reason. The simplest explanation is the first, so according to the razor this is the most likely one.

    [ Parent ]
    A Comment (none / 2) (#95)
    by emwi on Tue Jul 27, 2004 at 12:20:31 PM EST

    From here.

    Would the story have been as compelling without the inner dialogue? Almost certainly not. It is not unusual to see groups of people from a certain country when you fly - I have seen soccer teams, orchestras, school tours, and more from all parts of the world. These groups hang out together (big surprise), have in-jokes, rituals, and generally behave differently from other passengers.

    Is there a story here at all, aside from the inner dialogue? The nervousness on seeing passengers from the middle east is real. I felt it when I flew just a few weeks after September 11, I felt it when I shared a plane with the Tunisian soccer team just recently. It's hard not to feel it, because we have been subjected to a barrage of media warning us about Arabs or middle easterners.

    But fearing Arabs and middle easterners is irrational. It is irrational because most such people on our airlines are not actually from the Arab word and the middle east; they were born and raised here and no more connected to terrorism than you or I. It is irrational because the vast majority of people from the middle east are not interested in being a terrorist and wouldn't know how. And it is irrational because radicals and fundementalists of all races commit atrocities.

    Would it make sense to start profiling white people? Lee Harvey Oswald, James Earl Ray, Timothy McVey - all white. But it would be ridiculous to profile white people, because it would do no good. So why do people think profiling Arabs would help? Perhaps they never see Arabs in their small towns or lily white suburbs. But there are Arabs, lots, and the airlines are not segregated. It makes no more sense to profile Arabs than to profile white people.

    They say your true colours show when you are under pressure. I believe that this was the terrorists' ultimate intent, to force Americans to show who they really are. To commit an atrocity and let American outrage overwhelm the facade. We hear a lot about freedom and democracy and all that good stuff. But when push comes to shove, the terrorists believed, America would be revealed as fundamentally evil - a nation of bullies and thugs, of torturers and murderers, a nation that doesn't really believe in human rights, a nation of racists.

    It would be sad if the terrorists were proven correct. It would be sad if you allowed yourself to get into that mindset where you believe, you really believe, that some dark skinned people are out to get you. You must resist this, even if you see it in the media every day. Because if you don't, if you fall back into racism and start detaining people merely because of the colour of their skin, the terrorists win.

    This writer, and the people supporting her, are fanning the flames of racism, not squelching them. They are helping the terrorists win. Never mind Osama. These people will do his work for him.

    Racial Profiling (none / 0) (#96)
    by kielbasa on Tue Jul 27, 2004 at 03:08:00 PM EST

    I don't have a problem with racial profiling (or any type of profiling for that matter) as long as it meets two criteria:

    First, the decision about specific groups to be searched and the frequency of searching have to be driven by a statistical breakdown of past offenders, and nothing else . Second, once a profiling program has been established, it must be shown that it works, i.e. more criminals are apprehended with the profiling program than without it.

    Of course, I'm not holding my breath waiting for this type of profiling program to be set up.

    What about the feelings of the tiger? (none / 0) (#97)
    by vectro on Sun Aug 01, 2004 at 01:26:30 AM EST

    An economics professor once made the following analogy:

    You see a fierce Bengal tiger. This is a species that is known to attack and kill humans. What is your response? Presumably you are not going to go up and shake the tiger's hand; you will seek cover.

    This is fine and good; on a statistical basis, tigers are to be avoided. But what of the feelings of the tiger?

    Well, of course, tigers are not people and so it's OK to treat a tiger differently just because it's a tiger. But when it comes to someting like race, we can and should concern ourselves with the feelings of the affected group. Arabs already receive more attention at airports, but I would hate to travel in the US as an arab if there were an official policy.

    There are some other important considerations here as well. Seeking out some particular group will inflate the apparant number of offenders in that group. Additionally, being subject to constant harrassment will serve as a severe economic and social inhibitor; profiling encourages fear of the profiled group.

    “The problem with that definition is just that it's bullshit.” -- localroger
    [ Parent ]

    So, (none / 0) (#98)
    by Sesquipundalian on Wed Aug 04, 2004 at 02:22:23 PM EST

    (Internet + Bloggers) == (North American Housewives + 1920's backyard fences)?

    Did you know that gullible is not actually an english word?
    Laugh if you want ... (none / 0) (#100)
    by cdguru on Fri Aug 06, 2004 at 12:07:46 AM EST

    • Airport security is a joke. They are just as likely to let someone through with a pistol as some of the other things I have seen. If it is outside of their procedure, forget it - it will not be caught.
    • While it might not be "nice" to focus on certain groups, let's face it - Americans are a pretty obvious target and we're getting fatter, dumber and lazier every day. Does anyone really think we can be the country of choice for immigrants and travelers and not let the occaisional terrorist in?
    • Something funny was going on on that flight. From what I've read the "musicians" were all on expired visas and nobody can be found that can corroborate their being musicians. Terrorists? Probably not, but what?
    We have spent the last fifty years exporting our "culture" around the world and people have finally figured out they would rather not have American movies, American fast food and American music. Especially American fast food. So, can you blame them?

    The "solution" to the problem isn't being nice to the people that dislike our culture and want to get the McDonalds off their street. And, it isn't to open a Pizza Hut next door either. We are currently trying to export our idea of government as well as hour idea of healthy food and it isn't going to take too long for people outside the US to figure out that if they kill enough people and scare the rest we might just leave them alone and forget about the plan for putting a Dunkin Donuts in next door to the Pizza Hut and McDonalds. And let them keep their dictatorships, theocracies and other forms of government we don't like here. I hardly think we've seen the last of the efforts to deter our economic intervention elsewhere in the world.

    While it might be a nice idea, "full bellies" aren't going to solve the problem either. Outside of some small parts of the world, people are ruled by domination and the dominators (political or religious) are unlikely to give up the hold they have had for centuries. Are we going to fight all of the world's leaders for their people? I don't think so. I wouldn't say we have had stunning success so far, even counting from Grenada. We didn't succeed with Korea and Vietnam before that, either.

    No, I think the US is just going to have to face the fact there are some people that are going to fundamentally disagree with the US system of government, economics and religion and everything that goes with it. They, at least according to them, have every right to fight back against the (supposedly) corrupting influence and their weapons are very limited. They can't (yet) threaten us with nuclear war, and they can't put an army on their border to keep American dollars out. So, all they can do is try to stop it the only way they can. It is perfectly understandable, but facing up to it isn't something most people are prepared to do. Certainly not most of our so-called leaders.

    Facing up to it does not mean checking baggage for things that look like box cutters and letting machetes go through, but that is exactly what the TSA people are doing. Someone forgot to put a machete on the chart they refer to when checking luggage. And they didn't include an ice axe. Or about a thousand other things that could be used as a weapon. Having a by-rote trained human isn't much more effective than a chimpanze - both lack much imagination, but the by-rote human has had any imagination drilled out of them by endless procedures. Meaningless procedures designed to insure that no box cutters get through. The chimp at least as a chance.

    One way we might be a little bit safer is if we treated air passengers more like El Al. Everyone hates them, but they have never had a hijacking. Or any other sorts of problems on airplanes. Will the next "problem" on an airplane be a hijacking that ends up crashing the plane? Probably not - that is unlikely to work again. You can use your imagination to come up with something that would work - and currently we're not protecting against most of the possibilities. I think our so-called leaders want to put on a good show but understand the magnitude of the problem and can't make hard decisions that would have real impact. This is why we have to put up with the TSA folks and know there are people just waiting for the right moment to try to scare us out of opening any more McDonalds.

    Here's a good example... (none / 0) (#102)
    by Morphine007 on Wed Feb 09, 2005 at 11:26:24 AM EST

    ... A friend recently came back from tour in Afghanistan. He took a commercial flight back to Canada. He made it through all the security checks without any problems and mid-flight realized that he had left his bayonet in his carry on luggage ;-)

    [ Parent ]
    Sulfnbk Syndrome, Media Consumption, and the Dry Run that Wasn't | 102 comments (46 topical, 56 editorial, 0 hidden)
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