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Pure Imagination

March 16th, 2014 - 1:48 pm

Sometimes fiction is the key to truth.  The imagination runs ahead of reality and draws a map; never an exact one but more akin to glimpse. But it returns to us and reports what the future holds. A writer at the Telegraph recalls a book he read four years ago which helped him understand the mystery of MH470 more than any other of the tin-foil hat theories current.

As the story of MH370 unfolds, becoming more mysterious by the day, I keep being reminded of a thriller I read four years ago. Bolt Action, a novel by Charlie Charters, is set on board exactly the same plane – not just a Boeing 777, but a 777-200ER. In addition, the plane belongs to the national carrier of a Muslim state, though in Bolt Action’s case it’s Pakistan not Malaysia.

The thriller poses the question: What if a plane is hijacked but no one can regain control because the cockpit door is locked? Since 9/11 all passenger jets have bolt armatures fitted to the cockpit door (the Bolt Action reference in the title). The door remains locked during flight and it’s virtually impossible for anyone to get into the cockpit unless the pilot or co-pilot chooses to open it. The locked door is designed to withstand a hand grenade being detonated right outside, a 9mm clip being fired into it at point blank range – even an axe attack. In Bolt Action, the terrorist is a member of the cabin crew, which allows him to access the cockpit where he poisons the pilot and co-pilot, and then bolts the door. The flight in question is from Manchester to New York, but the hijacker has no intention of landing the plane. Rather, his aim is to force the US Air Force to shoot the plane down, martyring everyone on board and advancing the cause of global jihad.

Chris Matthews of Time recently wrote a piece called 4 Real Life Events Predicted by Tom Clancy. One of them, you might be interested to remember, was 9/11. “In Debt of Honor, Clancy imagines a scenario where an economic dispute between the United States and Japan boils over into a military conflict. Though recurring hero Jack Ryan is able to outmaneuver the ruling Japanese cabal, the conflict results in the death of a Japan Air pilot’s son and brother. The pilot, driven insane with grief, flies his Boeing 747 into the U.S. capitol during a joint session of Congress.”

Fact surely inspires fiction. But does fiction also inspire fact?

Wolf Blitzer of CNN actually asks “Do Terrorists read Tom Clancy’s Fiction?”

In 1994, he wrote a thriller called Debt of Honor. Long before the terrorist attacks of 9/11, Clancy had a character fly a Boeing 747 into the U.S. Capitol.

Clancy’s The Teeth of the Tiger, published in 2003, features a man named Mohammed who has a network of Colombian drug cartel thugs who plot evil deeds against the U.S.

His newest book is entitled Against All Enemies. A major plot line has Taliban terrorists joining hands with Mexican drug cartel killers to launch attacks in the United States.

A friend who’s read all the Clancy books alerted me to this when he heard of the Obama administration’s accusations that Iran plotted to have members of a Mexican drug cartel kill Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the United States, Adel al-Jubeir.

“Seems like terrorists are big Clancy fans,” my friend suggested – probably just joking.

But there’s more….

So maybe it does. Well of course not.  As a serious notion it would probably be dismissed as just another tinfoil hat theory by experts who will never admit to reading anything more lowbrow than Proust’s Remembrance of things Past.  Sober experts would never be caught dead quoting Bolt Action or Sum of All Fears.  And to demonstrate their seriousness whenever Hollywood adapts a Tom Clancy story for the screen they make sure to change the villains from Jihadis to Nazis, or in one case to Russian Orthodox Christian extremists.

But we’ve all heard of copycat crimes. Those actually do exist, but why do they exist? “A copycat crime is a criminal act that is modelled or inspired by a previous crime that has been reported in the media or described in fiction.”

A psychologist, Richard Amaral, believes copycat crimes are committed by those seeking attention — what he calls “sensationalized aggression”.  But I’ve got another theory. Many copycat crimes are committed by people who are just too stupid to think for themselves and who need the stimulus of original thinking to get them going.  Not everybody is Dr. No, but nearly everyone has heard of Dr. No, even if Julius No never actually existed.  Criminals hear a story about something … someone … somewhere has done … and they get to thinking: can I do that? As Richard Amaral put it, “we all copy something”. And what do wannabee terrorists copy?  Not the Remembrance of Things Past. Amaral writes:

In some way or another, I think we all copy something. Twenty years ago, my sideburns were just like Jason Priestly’s of Beverly Hills 90210. I wanted to look cool and get girls’ attention, and I thought copying Jason’s style would help me with that (and it did… until the show ended ;)).

From deciding what to wear, what gadgets to buy, what to read, we are all influenced in some way or other by social and commercial media.

Chris Warren actually thinks the bad guys are improving their game by watching crime dramas.

A number of prosecutors and police officers do believe that crime shows that focus so much on the importance of forensic evidence have also made some criminals keenly aware of the need to erase it [source: Farquhar]. Wayne Farquhar, a police officer with nearly three decades of experience with the San Jose, Calif. Police Department, does believe at least some criminals are learning.
“I see crooks more aware of protecting themselves against leaving DNA, whether it’s by using gloves or masks, or the way they wipe things down and clean things,” he says. For example, Farquhar remembers an instance when a criminal scrubbed a car down with bleach, assuring that no DNA evidence would be found. Although not a TV show, the movie “The Town,” about a group of Boston bank robbers, featured similar techniques that would have given helpful tips to observant criminals. It showed how they avoided detection by using bleach and burning getaway cars to destroy evidence [source: Farquhar]. “You won’t get anything out of a torched car,” Farquhar says.

Warren thinks fiction affects juries too. And maybe the public as well, who expect something dramatic to happen when a man identifying himself from the FBI shows up at the door. The Malaysian police, not so much. Recently an official Chinese newspaper wrote a scathing editorial blaming America for not solving the MH370 by now. Either what they called “the intelligence superpower” would by now know where the plane is or they aren’t trying.

You can only entertain conspiracy theories where some level of competence, imagination and intelligence is assumed. Which only goes to show that there are advantages to being the Federal Bomoh of Investigation rather than the original Bureau.  Why? Because the Bureau must live up to its legend.

RIP Tom Clancy. Who knew that Gilbert and Sullivan inspired Star Trek? How soon before someone takes over a plane this way?


Did you know that you can purchase some of these books and pamphlets by Richard Fernandez and share them with you friends? They will receive a link in their email and it will automatically give them access to a Kindle reader on their smartphone, computer or even as a web-readable document.

The War of the Words for $3.99, Understanding the crisis of the early 21st century in terms of information corruption in the financial, security and political spheres
Rebranding Christianity for $3.99, or why the truth shall make you free
The Three Conjectures at Amazon Kindle for $1.99, reflections on terrorism and the nuclear age
Storming the Castle at Amazon Kindle for $3.99, why government should get small
No Way In at Amazon Kindle $8.95, print $9.99. Fiction. A flight into peril, flashbacks to underground action.
Storm Over the South China Sea $0.99, how China is restarting history in the Pacific
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Top Rated Comments   
So Ali Bama is angry because of slavery and British colonialism. He can’t be a bigot because he has more than a drop of African blood and he is in league with the devil because the Democrat Party, his people’s former masters have poisoned him and his race against their fellow man. Especially against Republicans whose party was formed to oppose slavery. The party of Lincoln, the party of Martin Luther King, the party who voted against the Democrat laws of Jim Crow, the party that fought against segregation, the party that overwhelmingly voted against Democrats to support equal rights. But masta got his slaves back by mollycoddling them and explaining to them that it was the Republicans who were actually the Southern slave holding Democrats all along and here, have some sympathy and welfare a forty onza and a packet of condoms. It’s OK and anybody who doesn’t like it a racist, or worse yet, a bible clinging Christian.

Grieved and excused eternally for never being wrong or racist themselves, any behavior is justified because… all built on the gigantic lie, the lie that Satan doesn’t exist.

Who gives the right to kill babies, murder the weak, lie cheat and steal? Satan does. Satan is the great enabler. You want to do it? Satan says go ahead. Vote for me in the upcoming.
49 weeks ago
49 weeks ago Link To Comment
A good police procedural uses the comfort of technique to establish credibility so as to showcase the characters. Serious academics have loved detective novels. Dorothy Sayers made more money from advertising and writing the Lord Peter Wimsey stories than from being an Oxford Don. Given the temperament of the scholarly class and the popularity of the Detective Morse stories it is a wonder that anyone is left alive in Oxford. Hopefully Aristotle was right and the drama purges the emotions of fear pity and grief.

Perhaps it does get harder to catch criminals who have been told to wear gloves and wipe things down. The masterminds who are brilliant psychopaths probably have all that planned in advance anyway. They really are very rare. Most criminals are stupid and impulsive and sloppy.

People watch to much television and think that criminals and police act like what they see.
The reality of dull greedy people and bureaucratic routine would never sell.

The public think that the edgy hipster goth genius tech wizard assigned to every squad just fires up their computer and tells the crime fighters where the bad guy's cell phone is. They think they can then take a photo of any spot on earth and in 2 minutes read the license plate of any car parked near a suspect address, and get the owner's girlfriend on the phone with him for everyone to listen to. They think that.

In truth not only would each step take time but little things like warrants matter. Anyone want to guess how many satellites we have up there at any time that can read your mail and license plate? How long do you think it takes to schedule its use? Fearless crime fighter and his edgy assistant can submit a request, someone will get back to them.

When we do catch a criminal we do not run down all their associations and expose infinite layers of complicity. We cauterize the problem and move on. Eventually everyone is connected to everyone else. If someone sold Kevin Bacon a counterfeit CD in 1996 would you want the town clowns to come knocking on your door to inspect your hard drive today?

Reality is boring for a reason. That is what allows most people to get by with just good enough behavior. When things get spectacularly unstuck, as is happening now in the FSU, the cost of restoring a functioning society is severe. The bad guys know that and like all good parasites they calibrate their predations to keep the reaction below a level that would hurt the host society more than their crimes do.
49 weeks ago
49 weeks ago Link To Comment
One of the most interesting things about MH370 is that, if it proves to be a conspiracy, it will constitute an attack not on aircraft access, but an assault on air route security protcols. It's like a hack into the network security system, the network in this case being the air traffic system rather than an electronic computer.

If the 9/11 hijackers demonstrated a mode of taking over an aircraft, MH370 is showing aviation authorities how vulnerable the air traffic control system really is when faced with an active, intelligent and malevolent threat.

It's not clear whether the problem can be fixed by screeners. How do you get inside the mind of an airline pilot? Perhaps the best response is to do nothing, rather than invent some security theater. I am afraid the authorities are going to mandate psych tests or something similar, which will add to inconvenience but do nothing to actually prevent a recurrence.

We're going to have to accept that life is dangerous. Or more dangerous than we thought.
49 weeks ago
49 weeks ago Link To Comment
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All Comments   (51)
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I'm surprised none of you has posted this:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JwrqAipON2w

The Great Gate at Kiev.
49 weeks ago
49 weeks ago Link To Comment
We have known for many years that the only real power the EU has is its dominion over those subjects in its member countries who are not appointed bureaucrats within the organization.

The one strength they have demonstrated amply is their collective ability to generate rules and exhaustively itemized regulations. Their alleged "constitution" for Europe and the mushrooming library of diktats, directives, decrees, and otherwise enforceable pronouncements would have impressed the Ayutollah Ruholla Khomeini. Though he spent his exile detailing rules to his followers in pre-revolutionary Iran even the minutiae of bathroom hygeine, he was clearly a raw amateur in the brow-beating trade.

Indeed, even the merest apparatchik of one of our own federal bureaucracies seems to have the ability to generate Proustian volumes of targeted protocols designed to mire any productive human activity.

The difference between the ineffectual EU and Russia is that Putin is ready to spill blood if he must in order to achieve his goals. The Army of empowered clerks running the EU may be devoid of any compassion for the victims of their collectivist compulsivity. But they have been able so far to enforce their un-elected agenda on a population tamed to servility by their experiences of the last century. As happened in both world wars, a large fraction of the population simply cannot grasp the readiness of their adversaries to kill in order to triumph.

Forget about TRIUMPH; they kill just to get your attention.

In that, the long defense of Europe by the troops and weapons of the United States is widely thought to have had the unintended effect of allowing four generations of Europeans to grow up ignorant of the true cost of exercising their own choices. Those born since WWII take peace, comfort, and choices for granted. The chaotic and bloody developments unfolding recently seem to put the commissioners as far out of their depth as the subjects.

Obviously, I'm not saying anything new, except to express astonishment that this late in the game the EU still doesn't seem to decipher that most of the world doesn't give a damn about their rules. The same is true for a lot of people still asleep in North America.
49 weeks ago
49 weeks ago Link To Comment
On 9-11-2011, I was just finishing up an adventure novel in which Pakistani pilots being trained in the US plotted to crash their jets into nuclear reactor cooling ponds. Unfortunately, I don't remember the title or author. It was certainly timely, though.
49 weeks ago
49 weeks ago Link To Comment
http://news.yahoo.com/state-tv-says-russia-could-turn-us-radioactive-212003397.html

Moscow (AFP) - A leading anchor on Russian state television on Sunday described Russia as the only country capable of turning the United States into "radioactive ash", in an incendiary comment at the height of tensions over the Crimea referendum.

"Russia is the only country in the world realistically capable of turning the United States into radioactive ash," anchor Dmitry Kiselyov said on his weekly news show on state-controlled Rossiya 1 television.

Kiselyov made the comment to support his argument that the United States and President Barack Obama were living in fear of Russia led by President Vladimir Putin amid the Ukraine crisis.

His programme was broadcast as the first exit polls were being published showing an overwhelming majority of Crimeans voting to leave Ukraine and join Russia.

He stood in his studio in front of a gigantic image of a mushroom cloud produced after a nuclear attack, with the words "into radioactive ash".

"Americans themselves consider Putin to be a stronger leader than Obama," he added, pointing to opinion polls which then popped up on the screen.
49 weeks ago
49 weeks ago Link To Comment
orcarl.
OTOH, it's possible that all possible plots have been conceived one way or another and anything a terr tries is but a repeat because there are no new ones.
49 weeks ago
49 weeks ago Link To Comment
“Wouldn't then EVERY crime that was not a lone act...one that required a "conspiracy theory" to describe it?”

Conspiracy is considered so pernicious that being caught in one in the commission of a misdemeanor is a felony.

I was thinking about the evidence of the suit case and thought that they might have tossed a bunch of stuff and people out to make it look like the aircraft went down.
49 weeks ago
49 weeks ago Link To Comment
I'm not convinced that the "bad guys" are unable to concieve of plans and plots that are novel. I think that by reading of an interesting plot, one they too may have had, they have their thinking validated and decide to give it a try.
49 weeks ago
49 weeks ago Link To Comment
From time to time, pop culture needs a war. In the Thirties, there was a movie with a young Henry Fonda about building powerlines across the southwest. Had the war themes: Young man trying to get his act together to be accepted by the pros. Danger. Difficulty. In-group language. Male bonding. A transcendent goal.

After the Korean War had worn off, we had not only a slew of movies, but of television series about WW II.

And after the Viet Nam war had worn off, we had the regrettable genre of the "military technothriller. Clancy was a terrific practitioner of the genre. But "Sir John Hackett, August 1985 The Third World War" did a reasonable job, as well. Tom Cruise's "Top Gun" was pre GWOT. And there was a short-lived series with Cliff Potts about an airborne arty unit in garrison, along with Craig T. Nelson in "Call to Glory", about test piloting in the early Viet Nam era.
As awful as most of these were--the weapons had more character than the characters and the action might be interrupted for three paragraphs on the radio in question--the writers did one thing well. They got plausibly from the here and now to the actual war. It was logical, rational, and the reader could follow it and even become apprehensive at how much sense it made, i.e. how possible it was.
Unfortunately, not many wars in history make sense in their beginnings. The Falklands War started because some Caudillo types wanted to get the population behind them instead of against them. WW I.....?
The issue here is there are lots and lots of books out there talking about ways and means and likely results and so forth. And good sized library could provide--although many of the books involved have probably been culled--a good deal of information, especially if, as seems to have been the case, the writers did at least some homework on the subject.
49 weeks ago
49 weeks ago Link To Comment
Are acts in concert to aid or commit a crime a conspiracy.

Wouldn't then EVERY crime that was not a lone act...one that required a "conspiracy theory" to describe it?

The denigration that is now attached to tinfoil hats has unnecessarily branded as "silly, inane and unworthy" virtually all ponderings about how crimes involving two or more have been undertaken...before apprehension.

A conspiracy theory then is only admirable...after the fact.

Sleuthing is secondary to reporting. At least that's what a politically totalitarian and revisionist cabal wants submissive people to believe.
49 weeks ago
49 weeks ago Link To Comment
The are many strange chemical reactions when a mind is given powers of sort. A binary azeotrope is smaller in volume than the sum of its parts it collapses upon itself.

Pee Wee Gaskins started his crime spree after suffering as a victim of buggery.

And so Mathew Brady the confused homosexual leaks a trove of information to WikiLeaks, as does Edward Snowden.

Al Gore loses an election then essentially becomes a criminal master mind as the DNC with the puppet minstrel.

What did these would be master minds all have in common? Access to the keys of power.


Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah and co-pilot Fariq Abdul Hamid don’t sound like the kind of chaps that would be up to no good. Zaharie Ahmad Shah had logged something over 18,000 hours. That is a lot. He was 53. Not the typical criminal. But who knows. He could appeal to all of his compatriots on the basis of Jihad though money and fame was probably involved. Some people just don’t want to shuffle off their mortal coil until they have done something spectacular, even if it meant hatred of half of the world it would mean celebration by Muslims the world over.

Ali Bama is perfectly comfortable screwing the majority of Americans as is his satanic acolytes. It is just what evil does. First it justifies by citing grievances, than it exempts behavior that is evil, then it makes common cause with others who have different reasons. All that is left is to get into positions of power and wait.
49 weeks ago
49 weeks ago Link To Comment
So Ali Bama is angry because of slavery and British colonialism. He can’t be a bigot because he has more than a drop of African blood and he is in league with the devil because the Democrat Party, his people’s former masters have poisoned him and his race against their fellow man. Especially against Republicans whose party was formed to oppose slavery. The party of Lincoln, the party of Martin Luther King, the party who voted against the Democrat laws of Jim Crow, the party that fought against segregation, the party that overwhelmingly voted against Democrats to support equal rights. But masta got his slaves back by mollycoddling them and explaining to them that it was the Republicans who were actually the Southern slave holding Democrats all along and here, have some sympathy and welfare a forty onza and a packet of condoms. It’s OK and anybody who doesn’t like it a racist, or worse yet, a bible clinging Christian.

Grieved and excused eternally for never being wrong or racist themselves, any behavior is justified because… all built on the gigantic lie, the lie that Satan doesn’t exist.

Who gives the right to kill babies, murder the weak, lie cheat and steal? Satan does. Satan is the great enabler. You want to do it? Satan says go ahead. Vote for me in the upcoming.
49 weeks ago
49 weeks ago Link To Comment
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