The Architecture of Intimidation, Pt. 1: Detained at O'Hare

The Architecture of Intimidation, Pt. 1: Detained at O'Hare

by Kevin Barrett,

It seems I am back on the slow-fly list.

Returning on Friday from my speaking tour of Belgium and Germany, I was detained by the US Immigration and Naturalization* (sic) Service for roughly two hours. My colleague Dr. Suleyman Kurter and I had our passports confiscated as we attempted to clear Customs at the O'Hare Airport checkpoint. We were forced to remain seated, under observation, without the right to make a phone call or even to use any electronic devices such as telephone or laptop. So we were unable to notify the person who was picking us up that we had been detained. When we asked our captors why we were being held, they told us that they didn't know.

After about ninety minutes of false imprisonment under nonexistent pretext, we were summoned separately to submit to interrogations: What is your profession? Where do you work? How did you get that job? What were you doing in Europe? Where did you go? Who did you see? And so on.

There are basically two ways to deal with this situation. One is to say "Fuck you, this is the United States of America and I'm an American citizen who hasn't done anything wrong, so either charge me with a crime or let me go and kiss my ass." One drawback of this strategy, of course, is that the agents would undoubtedly decide to prove that they did indeed have the right to detain us as long as they wanted, and we'd probably end up sitting there till doomsday. The other strategy, the one I opted for, was to use the occasion as a teachable moment.

I told the interrogators that my profession is "currently unemployed college professor and 9/11 truth activist." They wanted to hear the details, so I obliged. They grew fascinated by my story, which probably is more interesting than what they usually get to hear in the course of their duties. When I got to the part about how I discovered the clear and obvious evidence that 9/11 was an inside job, and faced the choice about whether or not to try to do something about it, they asked what evidence I thought was strongest. I told them about Building 7. One of the agents said he had heard that the owner of the World Trade Center was under suspicion. I gave them the rundown on Larry Silverstein, including his alleged mob connections, his close friendship with Netanyahu, his bizarre decision to buy the WTC just months before 9/11 when it was facing a ten-billion-dollar asbestos-removal court order, his doubling of the WTC terrorism insurance and changing it to cash-payout, his collection of five billion dollars from insurance companies and demands for over ten billion more, his apparent confession to demolishing WTC-7, and the fact that he and his family members always had breakfast at Windows to the World at the top of the North Tower except on 9/11, when Larry suddenly was reminded to visit his dermatologist...Meanwhile, I said, my friend William Rodriguez, the famous 9/11 hero and whistleblower, lost all his friends in Windows to the World that day.

The conversation somehow became exceedingly cordial, and I began to suspect that these guys were 9/11 truthers disguised as Customs agents! I ended up giving them DVDs of Blueprint for Truth and Sifting and Winnowing: Kevin Barrett at U.W.-Madison (the student-made documentary about my academic freedom struggle) and accepting their obviously sincere apologies. These guys, after all, were only doing their job. It was the higher-ups in DHS who had fingered us because we had been in Europe on a truth-speaking tour...and because we were Muslims. So much for freedom of speech and freedom of religion.

As we left O'Hare, I remembered a similar experience on the first leg of our journey. As we were going through security at O'Hare en route to Brussels, I told the DHS cops - as I always do - that I am morally allergic to carcinogenic naked body scanners, so go ahead and give me an enhanced patdown...but please get it over with quickly, because I am exceedingly ticklish, and I would hate to start rolling on the floor screaming in hysterical laughter during such a serious national security experience. But before I could get halfway through my rap, the DHS interrupted me with, "Sssshhh, don't tell anybody, the machines are out of order, just walk over there with the others." And lo and behold, he was right -- people were walking around, rather than through, the infernal machines!

Based on those two experiences at O'Hare, I think we are seeing a covert rebellion by ordinary low-level DHS and Customs agents, who are (understandably) tired putting up with the BS foisted on them by their superiors. The whole effort to turn airports into prison-like labyrinths of intimidation à la Piranesi, with multiple checkpoints, naked body scanners, mandatory partial disrobing (shoes and belts off -- oops, there go my pants!), and PA systems blaring that the threat level has just been raised to orange may be finally wearing out its welcome.

 * * *

* The name suggests that immigrants can become "naturalized" citizens US. This is a very strange word to use in this context. What in the world is "natural" about this process or its result? Political borders themselves are entirely unnatural, as I learned at age four by crossing the border from Wisconsin into Iowa and discovering that there was no black line across the road and that even if Wisconsin was mostly green, Iowa was not as pink as the map would have you believe. And the idea that when people become US citizens they are "naturalized" -- it's almost as idiotic as believing that everything in Iowa is pink because the map says so! In reality, when people come to the land of the freeway and the home of the Braves, Indians, Redskins, and other athletic teams condescendingly named after genocide victims -- the land of squalid shopping malls, paved earth and almost-identical mcmansions sprawling across what once were fruited plains -- it would be more accurate to say they are becoming unnaturalized. That is, they are joining a culture that fears and loathes nature, including human nature, to the point that corpses are preserved semi-eternally in pancake makeup and formaldehyde, and the official national biological formation is the uniformly-trimmed lawn.

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