Stateside With Rosalea: Does W get Wired?
By Rosalea Barker
It doesn't take a rocket scientist to guess the question that leapt to mind when I was told the space shuttle had exploded over Texas: "With the Israeli on board?" The first image that came to mind, however, was quite different - giant mutant spiders roaming Texas like spindly-legged spacecraft from the cover of a '40s sci-fi paperback. That was pretty much all I knew about the current space station mission - first Israeli in space; experiments with Australian spiders. Heck, maybe they're headed for the presidential outhouse in Crawford as we speak. Redbacks, that is, not Israelis.
I learned of the Columbia's end from a fellow chorister at about 10:30 am Pacific Time. "I suppose you know about NASA," she said as she arrived for class. A couple of us didn't. One of them had been at elementary school when the Challenger failed. In fact, her class were in the midst of writing a song about the Challenger when someone came in to tell them of the disaster. Later, her school was one of several that chose 'Endeavor' as the name of the new shuttle in a nationwide competition for schools.
Well, we all just got on with choir class, and when I got home I turned on the radio to the public station I contribute money to, just as it started a live broadcast of the news conference being held in Houston "we've got a problem" Texas. My subscription to the local public station, KQED, includes a programme guide, and I was all set up to record 'As American as Apple Pie: How Segregation and Terror Lost, 1940-54' at 1pm, but the silly old station decided that the deaths of seven people doing a high-risk job was more important so they stuck with the Houston press conference instead.
Now, that's just a peachy-fine start to Black History Month, that is. The space shuttle's demise is going to dominate the news throughout February I suppose, flooding the airwaves with rural East Texas Baptists and butt-covering rocket scientists - neither of which I have any particular gripe with, but it leaves little airtime for a look at the Republican Party's sorry state of having not one - not one - African American elected to either the US Senate or House of Representatives.
Even if it doesn't become a dominant theme of news coverage of the Columbia tragedy, that first thought in everyone's mind about whether it was a terrorist attack will linger. So I'd like to propose an entirely other conspiracy theory: maybe the US military did it. Here's a quote from February's edition of 'Wired' magazine (which, coincidentally, used a picture of the Hindenberg burning on its cover to go with its stories about the fall of the music industry):
"There are ways of psychologically influencing the leadership of another state. I don't mean information warfare, but some demonstration of awesome effects, like being able to set off impressive explosions in the sky. Like, let us show you what we could do to you. Just visually impressing the person."
The quote is from an interview with Andrew Marshall, "the Pentagon's 81-year-old futurist-in-chief" whose "star proteges" include Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Wolfowitz, and who is drafting President Bush's plan to upgrade the US military. Also in 'Wired' this month is an article about how many US federal (including military) operations gets outsourced to private firms. Not just materials, but operations.
The real tragedy would be for the deaths - as a result of equipment failure or damage by debris - of seven people doing their job to be used as a way to psychologically influence the people of the US and the rest of the world into accepting a simplistic scenario like: explosion equals terrorists plus Iraq so let's go to war. It is important, therefore, for science's essence - a search for facts - to be in tandem with journalism's first obligation, which is to the truth. (And it's at times like these that I wish I was a journalist.)
Also, it's probably not my place to say this, as I'm making an assumption that might not be true, but wasn't it a tad disrespectful of President Bush to quote the Bible in his statement about the astronauts' deaths?