Monday, July 30, 2007

The FBI Meme : Anonymous, Incompetent, Criminal

Gathering together images of the FBI taken in the aftermath of the attack on the Pentagon on September 11, 2001, especially those showing some variation of the persnickety "linked line" phalanx hunt for evidence--what we in an alternate lifestyle call a Rockette kick line--searching for bits of debris from an American Airlines 757 jet-airplane, is instructive. It tells us that, the anonymous FBI teams depicted are incompetent bad actors who have shed any vestige of plausible deniability that they weren't, in real life, key co-conspirators to the massive federal crime we call 9-11.

My favorite image maker, Luke Frazza, is one of only two professional news photographers who maintain a shred of credibility after photographing the amateur theatrics in Arlington. This Agence France-Presse image, found at the Getty archive, is the very definition of picturesque, meaning, according to Ruskin, I believe, "a pleasing variety, but not excessive dissimilarity," in the attitudes, from what we can discern by the kinesics of the butts. But as news, it is telling us only one thing: that they are finding nothing. It is a posed meme routine, a classic, but badly ham handled.

The following anonymous image, numbered 8324, is from a massive data base housed at and it has everything going for it: a ridiculous, insensible use of yellow crime-scene tape, separating a closed highway from an exit ramp, a particularly amusing stream of hose water that appears to emanate from a sedan parked on the highway, a partially obscured man standing on a road divider who may be holding up a cue-card, and several men wearing FBI jackets carrying empty brown paper grocery bags. If they didn't know how to pantomime carrying an imaginary heavy load, why didn't someone just put lumps of coal in the bottom of each bag for verisimilitude?

As its name might suggest, the archive primarily concerns itself with events in New York City that same morning, but nonetheless, the Pentagon section has 402 images in it. It is delightful to find an archive maintained over time without government interference, even if the federal government was the original source for most of the Pentagon images. At least they haven't been picked over after-the-fact, as so many other archives have, narrowing the informational breadth into a blah uniformity.

The game, as it's played, when it comes to 9-11 image research, by the quite massive force set up by the perpetrators to monitor and direct the subsequent "9-11 truth movement," is as new issues arise and the collective consciousness is tapped, previously unreleased images will suddenly appear, to make a point, or perhaps to reinforce a new meme, while publicly available images that no longer serve their purpose, in fact, might have become counter-productive, are withdrawn from the internet, even from the personal hard drives of individuals who down loaded them.

A section there on firemen has 462 images and none are from Arlington, sending some sort of message of distinction between the two cities.

The following image, number 8083, looks like a scene from an Eugene Ionesco comedy, although all the blame can't be placed on the FBI, as they have been mixed with other uniformed-service members, who have all been surrealistically blocked and directed. Here, the FBI man looks particularly focused, or maybe it's just our sense of privilege, in that we see almost a full profile of a handsome face! But the bags remain empty.

"Investigators from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Arlington County and
Virginia State Police search for evidence and personal effects outside the Pentagon."
Photo by Michael Garcia

A particularly galling photographer was 23-year-old amateur, Michael Kleinfeld, who took a score of images that went out on the UPI wire. It stinks that someone with no credentials received such highly privileged access while actual news professionals were being placed in handcuffs by the FBI. The following image has a caption at odds with a verdant lawn--and with the truth about causalities.

WASHINGTON, DC, USA: An FBI agent walks amongst the rubble of the Pentagon the morning after a plane hit the side of the building in a terrorist attack September 12, 2001 in Arlington, Virginia. Official fear that some 800 people have been killed in the attack. cc/cc/Michael Kleinfeld UPI

But Kleinfeld got one good shot--of a dowsing rod! Maybe it's to beat back garden snakes. This team is apparently moving at quite a clip. No time for bagging at all. All it took was an orange-capped star with a bit of business! Viva star power!

The following image is from a different source, which gave it only three numbers: 050 is all my file says. In it, there's a jungle-fatigued military man, and someone with a blond ponytail in a copycat law-enforcement jacket to confuse matters. No plane debris, it seems.

The history of the following image is also unknown to me. What could have been a standout shot of three men in a huddle over something, is spoiled by a young man in the foreground whose mother forgot to teach him not to stand with his mouth hanging open like a dumb Kennedy. Boooooo. Back to the academy for him!

If we just changed the foundational context a bit, the following image could just as easily be of an Easter egg hunt, given the mix of earnest effort with maximum repose. The young man in shades looks ambitious opening such a big paper bag. He's in it to win, we can tell.

Ron Edmonds, working for the AP, and published in USAToday, captures an action moment, with one man in a jackknife lunge that even the East German judge would award a score of 9.9 to. As for the rest, well, it isn't easy looking dignified when you're hunched shouldered and prominently featuring your big ass.

Luke Frazza captures a couple of downward-cast gazes and some bending, if not a lot else.

The Baltimore Sun gave us the following shot, with a tag team of beefy butts front and center, just the way the home market likes them. A women agent carries what looks to be a brown paper Jiffy mailer. Empty, of course.

Which is not to say they didn't find something, on occasion. This crew is struggling to carry a heavy load of something.

And of course, if you just knew where to look, bright shiny aluminum, painted with letters, so you can play Wheel of Fortune, were right there, just waiting to be discovered.

This pair of glabrous Mormon missionaries are busy, but they forgot to wear their gloves. In Lithuanian, to be balding is called plinkantis, and in ancient Greek, it's called φαλακρός

I tried to figure out the color coordination worn by the different branches of law enforcement and disaster management teams but I gave up. If the FBI was wearing white with yellow booties...

...does that make these men FBI? Even with a black-shirted National Emergency Response Team member interjecting himself? But isn't that a black guy in white with yellow booties over at the fry tent? He must be wanting some of that good fried funnel cake the ladies are serving up for noon-day lunch on 9-12.

The men sitting in the shade may be guarding the contents of the blue-plastic hoop-house. The FBI is good at getting the other guys to do all the heavy lifting. The guy carrying something at center looks extremely harried.

Which finally brings me to the point of my silly blog. My mother tells me, that from her perspective as a former journalist, we are still nowhere near the level of extreme upset and fear that permeated the culture in the revolutionary year of 1968. Somehow I doubt her comparison--she being a relatively innocent 31-year-old then and a jaded old know-it-all now (you can do the math.)

But the following series of three images put me in mind of that year in a funny way. As society was becoming undone with revolutionary fervor, sweeping conservatives, at least, off their feet, popular culture responded by dumbing down, becoming more inane and zany than ever. That was the year that Barbara Streisand in Funny Girl had to share the Best-Actress Oscar with Katherine Hepburn in A Lion In Winter. Think of it!

But the real kicker was Rod McKuen, who won Best Song for Jean, from the great film, The Prime of Miss Jean Brody. He both wrote it, and sang it.

In the following sequence, I couldn't help but view these two young women, caught up in the drama of that day, as perhaps falling in love with one another. Starting slowly, paired in tender hindsight...

Moving on to the over-reacting pose of "Wow," as a shapely buttocks works its quiet magic.

Finally to end up walking a tad too close, if you know what I mean. Love blossoms in the most unlikely setting. Clipboards mean nothing.

And I'm singing all the words to... "'re young and alive....come out of your half-shell....Jean!" Things could be worse.

On edit Dec. 19, 2007: My homo credibility is shot. Jean was nominated in 1969, and lost to "Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head," from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969) - Burt Bacharach (music); Hal David (II) (lyrics) I am crushed. Desolate. Maybe the FBI man in the polo shirt in the following shot can expiate my sins for me.

I have to close with the following shot, mostly because Flickr! wouldn't upload it--because, it said, it wasn't a JPEG, although I knew it was--a clean JPEG at that! But a lot of powerful dynamics are going on here. From the prissy suit, without a drop of perspiration or a smudge of soot on him, being debriefed, to the guy with the high-and-tight being manhandled, to the piercing stare of at least one FBI agent who looks like he could get to the bottom of things quickly. That agent is also the spitting image of one young sexy billionaire I once worked for. The man was so handsome and dynamic, and so very, very rich, that it was said, even the straight boys on staff fell in love with him. The association leaves me feeling overwrought. So, come and get me G-man! I'm ready for you copper!

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