The panic-driven aftermath of 11th September, 2001, is perhaps the best and most immediate example I can think of it
illustrate this point.
Within six months of the attacks on Washington D.C. and New York City, the US government, with the willing, if not entirely
knowledgable, consent of much of the US public, had passed the Patriot Act, created the Department of Homeland Security, and
had gone into Afghanistan to smash Al-Qaida and its Taliban hosts. Along the way, especially in the first days and weeks
after the attacks, some American Muslims were attacked, and even some non-Muslims who appeared to be so, like the unfortunate
Phoenix Arizona gas station owner, who was a Sikh, who was murdered only a few days after those events by a man who called
himself, "a damn American", when arrested by police for his crime.
Many others were detained, some for quite lengthy periods, and, following former Vice-President Dick Cheney's cue about the
US "going over to the dark side", a network of secret prisons and arrangements with other nations, like Egypt, Jordan and
even Syria, in which detainees were flown from the US and other parts of the world, placed in prisons in those countries and
All of this is now well known, as well as the use of the residual fear left from 9/11's aftermath by the Bush Administration
and the Republican Party to essentially either stifle debate, or, at the very least, restrict it to certain "safe"
parameters, both inside and outside of the governing classes, push through what would become the expensive, gruesome
misadventure known as the Iraq War, and begin chipping away at constitutionally guaranteed rights and freedoms in the name of
The Bush Administration and the GOP would go on to use this fear to win two key elections, the Congressional one of 2002 and
the Presidential one of 2004, and it wouldn't be, at least in my opinion, until the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and the
dismal performance, on all levels of government, but especially the Federal government, in September, 2005, that much of that
fear which had many Americans in its thrall, would start wearing off.
By that time, and in the intervening three-plus years until the November 2008 Presidential elections, the deteriorating
conditions inside Iraq, especially in 2006 and 2007, combined with the beginnings of the sub-prime crisis that would
eventually result in the current economic mess we are in now, further eroded whatever remaining credibility the Bush
Administration and its supporters had with many members of the American general public.
Try as they might, neither the Administration, the GOP, nor its political and media allies could maintain the kind of fear
generated by the 9/11 attacks, at least outside of much of their political bases, to retain control over Congress, which they
lost in 2006, nor the Presidency. By that time, too much of what the Bush Administration and its supporters had said had
turned out to either half-truths at best, or outright lies at worst, and the McCain-Palin campaign simply couldn't overcome
the disgust and revulsion felt by many Americans at those half-truths and lies.
But, certainly it wasn't just the Bush Administration and the Republican Party who fell down on the job. Much of the
mainstream media, particularly in the first three or so years after the 9/11 attacks, failed to adequately provide the kind
of investigative journalism that the aftermath of those attacks, as well the US government's policies and practises, and
especially the build-up to the Iraq War, demanded, but didn't really get, from the majority of the US mass media.
There are many factors behind this, media consolidations, fear of looking "un-patriotic"(a fear which also paralysed, or at
least disabled, many Democrats as well), shrinking budgets for foreign news desks, etc.
But, even when one takes these factors into account, the fact remains that, when the American and world public needed solid,
truthful, information the most, much of the US mass media stood down.