The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Friday the 13th terrorist joke in Florida

Sep 23, 2002

On Friday September 13th, three Muslim men were pulled over east of Naples, Florida and detained 17 hours. The entire interstate highway was closed, while more than 100 cops descended on what's called Alligator Alley.

This all was prompted by a report from a woman who said she overheard the men speaking as she was eating breakfast at a Shoney's restaurant in Georgia. She thought she heard them talking about September 11. And since the men appeared Middle Eastern, and one had a long beard and a skull cap, she decided they might be terrorists about to attack Miami, and so wrote down their license plate and car description and called it in.

That set in motion a frenzy of media coverage and government officials grand-standing. Governor Jeb Bush announced the report came from a credible witness. Other officials and politicians said that the men had run a blockade or at least a turnpike toll gate. Dogs supposedly sniffed out something "suspicious."Seventeen hours later, the men were released – nothing was found – no explosives, no plans, no terrorist links. Even after the men were freed, John Blankhead of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, said, "We're looking into what laws might be applicable. These people are going to learn a lesson." What lesson? That you shouldn't be out if you look "Middle Eastern"? That you certainly shouldn't speak?

The woman who reported them may have been a little hysterical. But the authorities who feed this kind of hysteria do it knowingly – aiming to line us all up behind them. And that's exactly what this whole affair was – a lot of hype, a lot of scare talk.