Normalizing FEMA

Not in my movies!


I’ve been thinking this over for a while. Whether or not to confront this topic, but as I’ve seen it thrown in my face over and over again I have to fight them off. My literature, and the visual media that spawns from it, will not be used to normalize FEMA.

Don’t know what FEMA is? No worries. How many of us remember the Carter years? If we don’t remember those years I wonder how many people remember FEMA. I’ve been seeing it often nowadays. It’s been around since 1979, but up until now it’s never been portrayed as a normal government institution. It may have (if at all) hung in the background, but now I’ve noticed them attempting to normalize what is still a very sketchy topic.

The government has always used media and literature as propaganda to sway public opinion. During World War II most comic book heroes were fighting the Nazis or the Japanese Empire, and during the Cold War they were adamantly against communists/communism, which means an anarchist like myself would have been the enemy. So yes, we have been used as a tool for state propaganda, but readers like myself remember Captain America disillusioned with the state becoming the character known as Nomad, the hero with no country. Or the Green Lantern/Green Arrow series that questioned the racial dynamic of the time as well as drug problems. The establishment has used our worlds to attempt to normalize foul ideas, but we have also used them to counter them.

I saw FEMA in the second episode of Arrow‘s second season, when the villains are stealing medication from FEMA to sell in the black market; they can be seen in the recent Godzilla film, out in full gear responding to the disaster left behind by the creatures; they are mentioned in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes as a group that left behind a stockpile of weapons. The manner that they are mentioned and incorporated into the story are as though they need no back story. After all, it’s FEMA! But what the hell is it?

FEMA’s website states that the organization’s goal is to “prepare for, prevent, respond to and recover from disasters with a vision of ‘A Nation Prepared’”. This was what President Carter was hoping to create, but the intention doesn’t make up for the harm.

In an article written by Mike M. Ahlers, “Criticism of FEMA’s Katrina Deserved”, FEMA’s failure to respond and help in what was arguably the worst natural disaster in US history is spoken about. FEMA had many years to prepare, but failed. The article describes “manpower problems, a decline in planning for natural disasters as attention focused on possible terrorist scenarios, and confusion over the roles and responsibilities of officials in responding to disasters.”

Now the underlined text is scary. Their attention as an institution was on possible terrorist scenarios, but one man’s terrorist is another’s freedom fighter. The story of FEMA thus takes a different turn. The rhetoric of national security has been used to beef up surveillance on American people, this was no different. It has been used to criminalize dissent, this is no difference, and it has been used to rationalize murder, this may be no different.

Former Minnesota governor Jesse Ventura has a show called Conspiracy Theory, and in it he had a very well-documented episode called “Police State”. It revolved around FEMA and their accumulation of information about American citizens who didn’t follow the status quo. One such person was a female who was participating in Ron Paul’s election campaign. (Not very radical in my opinion, which makes it even scarier.) The FEMA camps, which claim to be safe havens when disaster strikes look a lot like prisons. Something that Jesse brought to their attention to much hostility. Lastly, the video shows a mass grave site. It indicates that FEMA believes it will have massive amounts of dead bodies.

The episode is chilling, but I am happy to see that there are many people questioning what FEMA is. I am sad to see that Jessie Ventura’s episode was pulled out of circulation, and frightened to realize that their recent cameos in our visual media is their attempt to build some good PR and win the public’s trust.

If FEMA wants some good PR they should help the people they’re supposed to, they shouldn’t worry about political dissenters who are the backbone of democracy. I guess the question is, are FEMA building American death camps? I don’t know, but until I do I would prefer they stayed out of my space.

Richard Larios
About Richard Larios (43 Articles)
Richard Larios is an anarchist organizer working out of Los Angeles. He is the owner of Feral Publication, which publishes zines. He also contributes regularly, under his pen name “Until Victory or Death”, for the Black Flag Newsletter, which is put out by the Free Association of Anarchists.

2 Comments on Normalizing FEMA

  1. Great article, Richard! I definitely agree with your overall premise of comics being used as propaganda, but I’m not sure I’d class Nazi-hunting as one of those “foul ideas” you mentioned. I might be a traditionalist, but I still think fighting the Nazis was a good call on the part of the Allies, and keep in mind that at the time Simon and Kirby had Captain America punch Hitler, America hadn’t entered the war, and the idea of the US intervening in the European conflict was very much an unpopular one with both the establishment and the public. But McCarthyism and the like is another topic altogether, and Wertham’s witch-hunt only made creators and publishers more timid about anything that might be seen as “radical.”

    I think FEMA’s attention to terrorism in the Katrina-era context was (as is appropriate) oriented toward responding to a large-scale disaster like 9/11. Disaster response needn’t pass moral judgement on whether the disaster was caused by “terrorists” or “freedom fighters”; helping people who have been injured or displaced is a morally neutral activity, at least as far as the actions of the perpetrators (if that’s the right word) are concerned. Their gathering of information is definitely cause for concern, though, much like the recent NSA issues.

    The “camps” are an interesting subject, and there are a lot of perspectives on what their real purpose is. I’d encourage anybody interested to really look into the topic; it’s quite complicated and, IMO, no one should take either Jesse or the government at face value.

  2. Richard Larios Richard Larios // August 2, 2014 at 4:03 am // Reply

    True, and thanks for the mail. I totally agree with the Nazi fighting being a good call I apologize if I sound as though I am apologizing for them. I refer to the demonization of all Germans although there were many who fought against Hitler, and all Japanese being demonized in a racists manner. It seems like after that we agree with most of the points. Question everything.Thanks for comment.

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