On ricin

Well, I have often thought that the threat of domestic terrorism is much greater than the threat from abroad. That’s not because I have some sort of fuzzy-minded notion that no one outside of our borders hate us. Hey, I’ve traveled on Eurail, where everyone is a Canadian. No, it’s more that the opportunities and abilities inside our borders greatly exceed what is present outside. We have very capable proto-terrorists on our own soil.

Or at least that’s what I used to think. Now enter Mssrs Frederick Thomas, 73; Dan Roberts, 67; Ray Adams, 65; and Samuel Crump, 68, our new grey terrorism band, who apparently wanted to bring freedom to our shores by killing people. Yes, it doesn’t make sense to me, either.

They were apparently inspired by Faux News and its minions, which should also come as no surprise to anyone who has watched that network degenerate into a slugfest of stupidity. From Media Matters (http://mediamatters.org/blog/201111020009):

“Fox News is now actively concealing a link between an Alabama-based blogger repeatedly featured on the network as an expert and allegations of a domestic terrorist plot. This morning on America’s Newsroom, Fox News ran an extensive report on yesterday’s arrest of four Georgia men accused of plotting an attack on federal employees and U.S. citizens using explosives, guns, and the biological toxin ricin. At the end of the segment, correspondent Jonathan Serrie pointed out that one of the defendants “allegedly cited the online novel Absolved, which discusses small groups of citizens attacking U.S. officials,” with the defendant allegedly “saying that the attacks would be based on events in that novel …. But Fox’s report neglected to mention the allegedly inspirational novel’s author, who is no stranger to Fox viewers. Indeed, the author, Mike Vanderboegh, has been mainstreamed by the network, which has repeatedly featured him as an expert on the ATF’s failed Operation Fast and Furious. Fox has identified Vanderboegh as an “online journalist” and an “authority on the Fast and Furious investigation,” and has consistently failed to acknowledge his extremist views, actions, and affiliations.”

But beyond the warped insanity of modern American ‘journalism,’ you have to ask yourself: why ricin? What was the point? Despite their apparent descent into some sort of Teabagger Alzheimer’s, these guys really should have known better. Various of them previously had jobs with the Navy, the USDA, and the CDC (although this latter was as “maintenance work” (http://www.ajc.com/news/atlanta/georgia-militia-plot-affidavit-1214918.html).

But cutting to the chase, here is the lesson of the day for proto-terrorists everywhere: ricin sucks. Ricin is a crap bioweapon. Yes, it’s easy to make, and if you’re a Bulgarian with an umbrella it’s Hell on wheels. But, seriously, dissemination? Production (I mean, you want to make some serious ricin, you need bacterial overexpression constructs like ours)? Communicability? You can take out your local salad bar, but not much more. And before someone jumps all over me for supposedly enabling the enemy, there is much more enabling information in the Washington Post Blog that I’ll cite below.

In the end, the point of terrorism … is terror. As the New York Times so very helpfully tells us:

“”It makes of the most mundane object, death: a doorknob, a handshake, a breath can become poison. Like a nuclear bomb, the biological weapon threatens such a spectacle of horror — skin boiling with smallpox pustules, eyes blackened with anthrax lesions, the rotting bodies of bubonic plagues — that it can seem the province of fantasy or nightmare or, worse, political manipulation.

Brett Giroir, a former director at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, told the magazine that advancements in laboratory technology had made that fantasy much closer to real possibility than ever before.

“What took me three weeks in a sophisticated laboratory in a top-tier medical school 20 years ago, with millions of dollars in equipment, can essentially be done by a relatively unsophisticated technician,” Giroir said.” (from: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/blogpost/post/ricin-plot-charges-four-ga-men-accused-of-planning-bioterrorism-attack/2011/11/02/gIQA0YuZfM_blog.html). Yay, Brett! Scary stuff.

Here’s another point, not for the terrorists, and one I’ve made many times before. QUIT SCARING THE HELL OUT OF EVERYONE. Seriously, what good does this do? We all go to sleep looking for umbrellas under our beds? We wonder if the sneeze guard will fully protect us from aerosol bottles of a ricin concentrate? Now, that is not to say we shouldn’t defend against the very real threats posed by bioterrorism. But I do wish the press and its enablers would quit giving the terrorists an easy win by making ricin into smallpox, which is in essence what the damn NYT article cited above did. Terrorism is at root psychological warfare, and the amplifier of the press is really what it feeds on.

And one final point, sort of a Mobius strip of logic: OK, the government is dedicated to keeping us safe. Go, government (I mean that sincerely, amongst all the snark)! And here we have former government employees wanting to kill us. That is not out of the norm, there are whackjobs everywhere. Just look at Lehman’s crash if you want to revisit something truly delusional. But sneaking-up-on-the-point-here-it-is … why are the government whackjobs, who should presumably know better, ’cause they’re working with or are the folks that are trying to protect us … using ricin? If everyone from me to the Washington Post blogging staff knows that ricin is a crap bioweapon … WTF?

There are two explanations for this discrepancy, mine and Alex Jones’: mine is that the government is still sadly incompetent in many ways. Alex Jones’ would be: the government is purposefully seeding the minds of its own disgruntled employees with low-level, incoherent, and incompetent terrorist plots, so as to incur multiple, random false flag events that will further enable the command-and-control structures that the brave Truther-Birther-Teaparty movement combats by frothing on the radio every day. Like much with Alex, the thought starts off in a sort of interesting way and then … winds down. Much like this post.


- originally posted on Thursday, November 3rd, 2011