The Myth of Bio-terrorism

by Daybreak newspaper Friday, Dec. 07, 2001 at 10:40 PM PO Box 14007 Minneapolis MN 55414

Is Bio-terrorism really the threat that authorities want us to believe?

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The Myth of Bioterrorism

For the last few weeks the media has been shocking us with alarming images and warnings about the dangers posed by bio-terrorism. Bio-terrorism brings up images of clouds of poison gas and horrible scabby mutant people, but how much of a threat does it really constitute?

Instead of informing viewers about the realistic dangers of bio-terrorism the media has manipulated and sensationalized our fears for the benefit of Bush's "New War." What you will never hear on the news is that, while bio-terrorism might be a scary word, it is hardly a realistic mass threat.

Watching the news or reading the paper I feel like every letter I open is going to bring a powdery death, but the fact is that only five letters have been found and out of the thousands of people exposed to the anthrax spores, thankfully only twelve have gotten the disease. Undoubtedly, these few letters have created hysteria and sadly resulted in a small number of deaths, but there is no question among experts that Anthrax is not the threat that it's being made out to be in the media. As Dr Simon Whitby of Bradford University says: "the general view [among experts] is that most terror groups do not have the technical expertise or resources to carry out a biological attack." Considering the cost and risk of creating Anthrax, it is not likely that a large amount would have been produced.

In addition, this form of anthrax must be physically communicated. In contrast the much more effective and volatile airborne form has only been successfully developed by governments like the US and Britain.

Because of its properties anthrax is not a realistic weapon against large numbers of people. In order to do that you would need to first produce significant quantities by using expensive, dangerous, and complicated procedures. Dr Whitby suggests that, "they would also need to develop a mechanism to disperse this strain of the organism in sufficient quantities in an aerosolized cloud of lung-retention-sized particles." Experts speculate that this is probably beyond the scope of terrorist organizations. Even reporters realize that this is being hyped out of its real size, Tom Abate, Bio-technology reporter for the San Francisco Times noted that "As far as anthrax, and most of these biological agents, they have to be kept alive. If they go out into the air they die unless they're protected." This would require a high level of biotechnology and is probably only within the scopes of governments, which is why a worldwide treaty against chemical weapons was attempted in the last few years. However, the United States England and Israel refused to sign it, making war even more of a horrifying threat.

The second type of bio-terrorism that's being talked about is smallpox. Older people remember the smallpox vaccinations that were commonplace in the US until about 1972. Vaccinations were discontinued because it was no longer necessary as the World Health Organization declared smallpox eradicated worldwide in the 1970's. The only known stores of the virus reside in the hands of the US and Russian governments. Smallpox cannot be manufactured or found in nature. However, supposing that anthrax obtained, to what benefit would it be to a Third World terrorist to release it in the United States knowing that smallpox would quickly work its way back to the Third World

Why is this hysteria still being circulated? Undoubtedly the media lazily regurgitates misinformation rather than looking for credible sources. However that does not fully explain the constant fear mongering saturation coverage they have subjected us too. Obviously the media's penchant for melodrama has drawn them to spectacular scandals that feed their profit.

More importantly it seems that much of their information comes directly from military authorities. An irrational hysteria would seem to play multiple purposes for them. It first draws attention away from civilian death and suffering in the war and reaffirms that all our enemies are evil. Second, it makes Americans feel personally threatened. It makes us want to kill the bastards putting our children and us at risk, which gives the politicians a proxy of fear to do whatever they want. Third, it covers up their internal repression such as the fact that 1,100 Arab-Americans are being detained without being charged or the fact that law enforcement has dramatically increased repression. Bio-terrorism, while important to be aware must be viewed with the knowledge that it is used to distort events and extend the powers of authorities.

Original: The Myth of Bio-terrorism