Monday, October 20, 2008

The Siege of San Francisco (Butler Shaffer)

Butler Shaffer on the blatant displays of power known as airshows:

I was in San Francisco on a recent Sunday, my visit coinciding with the U.S. Navy’s annual "Fleet Week" show of a portion of its arsenal of destructiveness. The most annoying part of this demonstration consisted of a prolonged buzzing of the city by at least five "Blue Angels" FA-18 fighter-bombers. This was not one of those common air-shows conducted at an airbase where Boobus Americanus could pay an admission fee for a show: in San Francisco, the entire city was the grandstand. Whether you cared to enjoy the simulated attack or not, you were subjected to the noisiest screeching, roaring, and ear-shattering sounds – with an occasional sonic boom thrown in for good measure – as these planes flew at housetop levels for a few hours. We had to keep covering our ears as these howling menaces flew a hundred feet above our heads. These planes fly in very close formation – they pride themselves in maintaining eighteen-inch separations from one another – which, on some past occasions, have led to deadly crashes. Had this occurred in San Francisco that day, hundreds of innocent people might have been added to the growing list of fungible victims of American air power throughout the world. The irresponsible nature of this undertaking was evident to any intelligent observer.

To characterize this air show as a form of entertainment is to misjudge its intended purpose. Like the annual May Day military parades conducted by the Soviet government, the objective of this exercise was to remind people of the disproportion of power that the state exercises over them. Should you harbor any sentiments of disobedience to state authority, this is what government officials have at their disposal to bring you back into line.

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