What? Al-Qaeda didn't Blow up the I-35 Bridge?

by Laura Snedeker

Interstate 35W in Minneapolis collapsed Wednesday during rush hour, sending hundreds of cars into the water, and neither the government nor the media cursed al-Qaeda and warned us to stock up on supplies. For the second time in a month, the mainstream media got right to work on rightfully blaming America’s failing infrastructure.

The exact cause of the disaster is still unknown, as is the number of dead. Did construction work temporarily weaken the bridge’s structure? Did a passing train cause earthquake-like bad vibrations? One thing is certain: Only an hour after the event occurred, both MSNBC and FOX News reported in their headlines that it was not an act of terrorism. Even the Department of Homeland Security was quick to dispel any rumors.

Thank goodness. I was ready to assemble a posse to hunt Mooninites down by the Charles River.

Perhaps the Department of Homeland Security is tired of being the laughing stock of the United States’ intelligence community. It hasn’t been taken seriously since Tom Ridge invented the color-coded alert chart and warned us to smother our houses in duct tape and plastic sheeting. After the last two bogus terror warnings, we almost expect the government to point its finger at Osama when anyone so much as steps on a rusty nail.

On July 10, Homeland Security Chief Michael Chertoff ominously warned about the possibility of a spectacular terrorist event this summer. He had not even the vaguest intelligence to suggest so, only a “gut feeling.” And if the three attempts in the UK are any indication, the terrorists are not well organized enough to properly detonate a car bomb, much less carry off a devastating attack.

Then there were the fake “dry runs.” Last week, the TSA warned airport security officers to look out for people practicing to carry explosives onboard airplanes. Again, the government had no credible intelligence, and it turned out that the warning was based on items recently found in passengers’ bags during normal screening.

Why so cautious this time? After all these false alarms, it starts to look a little suspicious when the government keeps warning us about nonexistent terrorism. And when it’s obvious that the nation’s infrastructure is failing (perhaps because the government is using up money to fund agencies like, oh, the Department of Homeland Security?), it looks criminal to blame America’s shortcomings on the monster under the bed.

The mainstream media are tired of being duped into reporting fake terror warnings that cast doubt on their ability to distinguish government hype from real news. While the explosion of an 80-year-old steam pipe in Manhattan caused instant panic and prompted comparisons to 9/11, the media investigated the state of the pipeline system. And now, instead of focusing on the what-ifs, the media have been quick to report that the interstate bridge system is in desperate need of repairs that current funding doesn’t cover.

There is only one good thing that can come from such a disaster. The outrage over the response to Hurricane Katrina died down, but it’s hard to ignore two events so close together. Now that the public is refocused on the state of the nation, the federal and state governments will have to face the media if another accident occurs. First time’s a tragedy, second time’s negligence, third time’s murder.

(Photo of the aftermath of the bridge collapse by ares2000 via Flickr, using a Creative Commons license.)

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