Al-Qaida has allegedly taken responsibility for The Blackout. They claim, “The Americans lived a black day they will never forget. They lived a day of terror and fear…a state of chaos and confusion where looting and pillaging rampaged the cities…. The strikes were aimed at hitting the major pillar of the US economy, the Stock Exchange.”
Very nice language. Also very wrong. The Stock Exchange wasn’t affected because trading had finished for the day when the power went off at 4:11pm ET on Thursday. When it re-opened on Friday morning, the electricity was flowing again and everything operated normally.
As for the “looting and pillaging,” that didn’t happen, either. Even in Detroit, where they’ll riot to celebrate the fact that it’s Tuesday, there were no reports of anything out of the ordinary. Frankly, the only Americans who “lived a day of terror and fear” are kids who had to start school and, on the first day, had a teacher hit them with a pop quiz to start the new year!
While we’re still not 100% sure what caused the lights to go out, I’m fairly sure that whoever wrote this al-Qaida communiqué got that wrong impression from our television networks. They all went into immediate media coverage overkill, playing up The Blackout as a huge disaster that was bringing America to its knees.
If you didn’t know better — and 80% of the nation did know better, because we still had power! — you would have thought we were under attack and half of us were stuck in a subway or elevator. Far from it. In fact, here in the Middle Of America, the attitude was, “Okay, it’s not terrorism. Now, what’s for dinner?”
Even after announcing that it wasn’t a 9/11 repeat, the news networks kept pounding the story to death, entirely because they’re headquartered in New York. So, if it was happening to them, it must be important to all of us. Not so!!
If the blackout had affected all those other cities (Cleveland, Akron, Pittsburgh, Detroit, etc.) but not Manhattan, would there have been wall-to-wall coverage? Doubtful. Instead of the northeast, what if the lights had gone out in St. Louis, Kansas City, Des Moines, Omaha, Tulsa, New Orleans, and Memphis? We’d be lucky to have Dan Rather give it a quick mention, with some amusing aphorism attached.
As a matter of fact, Memphis did go without power for several days earlier this month. Bet you never even heard about that, because it didn’t get any play outside the region. On the other hand, there’s no reason you should have, because it didn’t affect you any more than Times Square going dark affected us.
We were able to maintain this perspective not just because we don’t care that Diane Sawyer had to walk a few blocks to work and dry her hair with a towel instead of a ConAir 3000, but also because we know what it’s like to go without power for awhile. It’s not unusual for thunderstorms to knock out electrical service to tens of thousands of homes here every spring and summer, with occasional ice and snow storms in the winter wreaking havoc with the power lines. Somehow, the world goes on — without 72 hours of continuous coverage.
As for al-Qaida’s claims, they’re obviously bogus. Later on in the communiqué, they claim responsibility for several other recent events: the California recall circus, the Phoenix gas shortage, and Albert Pujols going on the DL in the middle of a consecutive-games hitting streak. Notice they don’t take credit for “Gigli” — there is a limit to their horror, after all.