What's the deal with all these "Al Qaeda" websites I keep hearing about? Are there actually message boards where terrorists can go to chat about their latest plans and have off-topic discussions about Brittany Spears?
It seems to me that if such sites existed the U.S. government (at least) would be able to shut them down very easily. If America wouldn't, then I'm sure Russia would want to shut down whatever supposed Chechen rebel websites there are. I find it hard to believe that anyone in Chechnya has a website, let alone the rebels. The server must be made of rubble. Besides, I did an exhaustive search, and chechenrebels.ru and chechenrebels.com aren't taken. I have my doubts about these apparent terrorist hang-outs.
Some bonehead Americans who must've been huge Fox News fans were able to shut down Al Jazeera's site last year for a few days with a DDOS attack. I can only imagine what the government could do if they felt like knocking a few computers off the internet.
So, what's the story?
I went for a walk down to Broadway, where the lights are much brighter (literally), and where you can forget all your troubles, forget all your cares...until you get mugged. Actually, I don't think it's that bad except that everyone I see gives me the evil eye. My guess is that they are, in fact, afraid of me, but they show it differently.
At any rate, I found a wallet on the sidewalk and walked up to an idling Crown Vic to return it to some not-quite-undercover cops because I am a goody-good do-gooder. I said, "Are you cops?" (probably not a good question to ask at night if you're carrying a suspicious looking camera bag). Hesitantly, they said yes. I think they felt less on edge when I gave them the wallet rather than pulling a gun or blowing myself up. As I walked away, they called me back and asked what I was doing here. I said, "I'm a photographer!" as if that were reason enough to stroll around downtown at night. The cop warned, "You know, this area has the highest crime in the city." to which I replied, "Well, I figured with all these bright lights, it can't be that bad."
He said that I was a "crime of opportunity" because it would be so easy to steal my camera stuff. I didn't say anything, but "crime of opportunity" sounds like a good thing. If anything, Lawrence needs more opportunity for young people, though I suppose it would be better if it weren't the criminal kind. At any rate, he told me to be careful before I scoffed at the suggestion and skipped away into the night.
One big problem with Lawrence is that everybody is afraid of everybody else. The fear builds on itself and probably leads to a lot of pointless crime. I wonder how many people have been killed or injured because someone was afraid that the other person would hurt him first.
If I'm walking on the sidewalk in Lawrence, people on the sidewalk stare at me as I pass, and cars at intersections anxiously pull away before I get too close to the car -- apparently everyone is a potential car-jacker here. And if I'm driving down a street, especially the Arlington area, people on the sidewalk constantly look over their shoulder and watch me as I drive by. I should drive around yelling, "I'm not going to shoot you! Don't look so worried!", but I don't think that'll help.
It's disconcerting to be a minority in my city, but in one way it might help. It seems like most white people don't walk around town much; they try to speed through the city with their windows up and their doors locked. So, it's kind of unusual to see a cracker on the street (unless he's looking for crack). My theory is that if I'm walking around, non-white folks probably think I'm crazy or dangerous (because who else would do such a thing??). As a result, they won't want to bother me. It's like reverse psychology. Of course, I'm not going to press my luck and hang around downtown all night. Reverse psychology can go only so far before a "crime of opportunity" knocks.
I've been advised to remove that post about my experience (for now, anyway). So, pretend that you never read it. In fact, pretend that you're not reading this either.
You can read a similar, though much more detailed, account from Emmanuel Goldstein. There are pictures of the pier at The Memory Hole.
Although the aforementioned prison experience wasn't particularly traumatic, I've been having dreams ever since. It's not every night, but I've had several prison-related dreams (nightmares?). They usually involve being stuck in jail without any hope of release, but the other night I dreamt that I escaped from prison and was on the run from the cops.
I'm sure they'll eventually fade away. They always do -- even the good dreams.
In a few hours I'll be heading off to New York for five days of mayhem and sightseeing.
Bush and Dick are going to get a warm welcome...