The End of “with Jon Stewart”

I have only fuzzy memories of the late nineties, but I can clearly remember finding out way back in 1999 that Jon Stewart was taking over for Craig Kilborn, and actually thinking…this guy’ll never be able to replace Craig. And he didn’t. Instead, he reinvented The Daily Show as many of us have known it for the last sixteen years: a pop-culture platform for reframing in humor what many of us experienced as the––insert your own hyperbolic adjective here––of coming to adulthood against the backdrop of the Bush years, 9/11, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the economic meltdown of 2008. For me, The Daily Show, and later The Colbert Report, operated as cathartic performance art that challenged traditional notions of the real/fake binary.

Family Watching TVWhen I was growing up, traditional news programs were a staple in my family. I have clear synesthetic memories of the smell of breakfast cooking as my Dad got ready for work, my brother and I in pajamas, the family conversation overlaying the familiar babble of the local news station as it played in background. As a child, I remember trusting those talking heads because they seemed so official, so possessed of “capital T” Truth.

After the clusterf*ck that was the 2000 election (the first I was old enough to vote in), I found myself increasingly kerfuffled every time I tuned in to traditional news outlets. The Daily Show represented a way to stay connected to current political information without disintegrating into a puddle of panic. As time marched on, and the aggravation of the 2000 election was overshadowed by the horror of 9/11 and the ensuing madness of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, Stewart’s, and later Colbert’s, humor transmuted the shock and sorrow of those difficult years. I found myself trusting The Daily Show in a way that I could no longer trust other sources of news, and I was not alone. Many of my friends had turned away from traditional news outlets, preferring to get their information from the Internet, each other, and Comedy Central.

The trust that my generation has placed in Stewart and Colbert has evoked nervousness and ire from both sides of the political spectrum. And while it’s easy to accuse The Daily Show and The Colbert Report of diffusing activist outrage and fizzling real feelings of political discontent, I have to (sheepishly) admit that the majority of my “outrage” tends to manifest as paralyzing terror. So, while perhaps some people’s political momentum was arrested, The Daily Show and Colbert Report kept me in the world, kept me in the pipeline of information, and forced me to laugh at the insanity instead of hide from it. Is this the most effective strategy for political change? Probably not. Has it kept me involved in a certain way, yeah.

In their Salon article “The day Jon Stewart quit: Why ‘The Daily Show‘ isn’t the satire America needs,” Jamie Kilstein and Allison Kilkenny come down hard on Stewart and Colbert’s 2010 “Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear” which brought together folks who “don’t like shouting” for a spectacle of “reasonableness.”  I saw the rally as a type of performance art designed to draw attention to the all-too-invisible subjectivity at work in the red/blue binary. Kilstein and Kilkenny completely miss this point, instead adhering adamantly to the binary, stating that the “division’ [Stewart] dismisses is literally the only fight that matters.” If the division between red and blue is all that matters, then each of us becomes subject to the binary-driven political narrative, created in its image. Rather than simply satire, or a rejection of activism, the rally strove to disrupt the seeming solidness of a system that gives two pre-defined options and calls it a “choice.”

It’s too easy to pick apart these shows, to blast them for what they did or didn’t do politically. Or to compare them to more politically subversive comedians from the past. But The Daily Show and Colbert Report have done more than just amuse and distract, they’ve drawn attention to the absurdity of the political and media simulacra that’s been right in front of our faces all along. Like Magritte’s “Treachery of Images” forces the issue of representation vs. reality, just raising the “is it a ‘fake’ or is it a ‘real” news program question makes visible that all politics and media are a construction (and, if you want to go down a rabbit hole, that all reality is itself a construction).

The Treachery of Images by Magritte

Ceci n'est pas une News Program.
Ceci n’est pas une News Program.

If anything, complicating the real/fake binary provides a productive space for challenging established structures. By replicating and adapting the genre conventions of the “trusted” News program, and remixing it with absurdism, humor, and cartharsis, The Daily Show and The Colbert Report are neither real nor fake, neither humor nor news, but something that calls attention to the power of both.

As a rhetorical appeal, humor can be seen as a form of pathos, an emotional appeal. Make someone laugh, and they’re more likely to like you, and therefore more likely to be persuaded by you. But that’s too simplistic a notion for the role that Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert have played in many of our lives. Rather, it seems that their humor was enacting an alchemical process of transmutation; as we sat with our sorrow, frustration, and anger, horrified by the unfolding of events that we felt little power to halt or effect, humor cathartically transmuted those feelings, providing instead a way to feel interconnected, and, through the process of posing the question: is it real or fake? granted us agency through awareness of the simulacra.

Though it may have couched itself as a “fake” news show, The Daily Show has provided a very real space for transmuting a generation’s frustration, anger, and disappointment. Where we have felt disenfranchised in many areas of our lives, the sheer force of Stewart and Colbert’s ability to get folks to act en masse has been vicariously thrilling during times when a lot of people have felt unheard. Stewart and Colbert have shown us that smart and geeky can be powerful, that wit can win, that the pen is mightier than the sword. Or at least, reminded us of these things for an hour a day, four days a week.


Forcebook, the Jedi, and May the #kairos be with you

If you don’t not think too deeply about being unshallow, it’ opaquely clear. And as long as you follow Jedi recommendations to “Feel. Don’t think,” you won’t force this idea beyond transparency: Star Wars’ Force is a form of social media.

Here are a few reasons to imagine the Force as Forcebook.forcebook

  1. The Force is made up of midichlorians, which are basically Wi-Fi connections. The more midichlorians you have, the more bars or the better access you have to feel the Force.
  2. The Force has a search engine. You just have to tap into the midichlorians and “search your feelings.”
  3. The Force is a network of information.
  4. The Force can allow you to predict the future. It’s sort of tells you if clickbait or triggers are working through midichlorian analytics.

And I like imagining the Force as social media. Using the Force as a trope helps me appreciate the cool of digital social media. It helps me see some of the ways the Force really sucks.

  1. Yoda the Hutt
    To use the Force, ya gotta be part of an elite club.  You either have midiclorians or you don’t. Unlike with digital social media, you can’t really join the Jedi club through research and practice unless you’ve got midichlorians. There is NO such thing as Screen Shot 2014-06-30 at 10.50.14 AM
    midichlorian toothpaste for helping strengthen your Force.  Access to digital media is certainly an issue for a lot of people but tapping into the Interweb is much more accessible than being one or talking to one of the, like, thirty Jedi able to use the force and protect the galaxy.
  1. Force Bubble
    The Jedi only use one search engine – the Force.  Jedi Pariser makes a good point about digital media filter bubbles and how search engines are algorhetorical (algorithmic rhetoric) engines mediating the information we see and how users become shielded from alternative perspectives on issues: search engines game the information you see by providing results that reinforce your ideology or way of thinking rather than complicating and questioning it.  Or you may just get results for some businesses and not others – Dark Side/Sith businesses rather than Jedi run establishments. The Force, though, is even worse. It is THE only search engine in the Galaxy. There is no Duck Duck Go or Bing or even Alta Vista, which is Yahoo!. It is as if there is just Google.  There is only one bubble. And Jedi can’t even agree that they are feeling or seeing the same thing. Yoda might see something Obi-Wan doesn’t. And while it could be argued that such differences in Force use offer different or alternative perspectives, the perspectives are based on access to information. In other words, both Yoda and Obi-Wan can’t “read” the same tanner-binks“article” of the Force and compare notes or discuss the situation more completely.  At least, I could say, “Yo,Yoda, Obi-Wan. Check out this article from Harlot about how Jar Jar Binks and Stephanie Tanner are similar. It argues that this might be a reason Jar Jar was so hated by fans.  You know, because we were tired of Full House. Thoughts?”
  1. #kairos
    The Force doesn’t even let users participate very easily in a #kairos economy: that change or the difference between that regular old kairos that the Jedi utilize and what we use in social media. #kairos happens when you are always connected to your midichlorians or are always on the web when you carry your smartphone. It is the omnipresent and omnispace – it’s the always on possibility of being able to have that agency for a propitious moment in a propitious digital space.But propitiousness can’t happen as easily with one network to tap into. The Jedi just don’t have a very good network for #kairos. Jedi Rheingold Screen Shot 2014-06-30 at 10.50.52 AMhelps explains #kairos’ importance: “”In previous eras, it may have been true that ‘it’s not what you know but who you know.’ Today, how you know who you know matters as much as who you know, and one of the most valuable traits a person could have in a twenty-first-century organization is a knack for knowing ‘who knows who knows what’” (From @hrheingold‘s Netsmart 24). And to amend and add to his explanation, there is also a knack for knowing when to know when to know what and where to know where to know what. I hope here and now and know is a where to know what to know when to know what.I just Dr. Seussed or Yoda, did I? At any rate, the flows of information along numerous networks are opportunities for users to create value (informational, social, and emotional) in just right spaces and just right times.  The Force limited these opportunities because of its limitations. Jedi had Forcebook.  They didn’t have Twitter, Reddit, Pinterest, YouTube, or Yahoo! Pipes.

In more, other, and our words, Jedi, it’s time to “Think. Don’t feel.” Forget the Force. May the #kairos be with you.

This is an excerpt from an article I’m writing with @CateBlouke.

Tweet Yourself to a Maven

Just got back from two cool conferences: Rhetoric Society of America Conference and HarlotTweets Twitter HeaderComputers and Writing Conference. Learned a lot about rhetoric and humor from @cateblouke; rhetoric and algorithms from @johnmjones & @jaykirby1; rhetoric and reproduction from @lbdehertogh, @kristinarola, & @maseigel; and learned about Google glass from @Zombieranian  – even got to try them out, which was really cool.

By “cool” I mean the presentations were thoughtful and engaging. In other words, I thought about things I ain’t never thought before. Besides the thoughtful and engaging presentations, another cool of the conferences came from the Twitter backchannels (#RSA14 and #CWCON) for discussin’, commentin’, and quotin’ presentations. In other words, I participated in ways I ain’t never done before because of my meatspace phobia and my lack of short term memory.

Though there was a lotta cool, there was one part of the conferences that was discool, uncool, or non-cool: the Twitter backchannel was rarely incorporated into the meatspace or live discussion following the presentations. Sorta made me feel like my participation was ignored. So I’d like to propose this cool idea for future conferences, though I’m not sure if it is possible or if there is an infrastructure for it:

Social Media mavens for conference presentations

Cool proposal: Social media mavens for conference presentations.

What I mean is, I think it would be cool, in addition to having a presentation chair, to have a social media maven who monitors and participates in the Twitter backchannel of presentations.

Here’s why it’s cool –

  1. Cook meatspace phobias – A maven can help bring the virtual conversations, comments, and questions, which are real conversations, comments,and questions into discussions following presentations for those with meatspace phobias. A Twitter backchannel is inclusive for those, like me, who don’t want to face-to-face and feel Meatspace is stressfulextreme stress (especially f starting conversations or discussions) when participating in discussions following presentations. The Twitter backchannel provides access to discussion for those with such fears.
  2. Honor the social media skill set – Having a social media maven monitor the Twitter backchannel will honor social media expertise – of collecting, reading, and synthesizing ideas quickly and getting a bead, a feel, the gist of backchannel questions and comments. A maven will even be able to add this to his/her CV.
  3. Include the online audience – A maven would ensure that ideas are “voiced” from audiences attending the conference online who are following social media conversations, comments, and questions through a Twitter backchannel.
  4. Remember in the moment ­– A maven is mnemonic. A Twitter backchannel is a @twitter allows presenters to record and share a thought before forgetting the thought they thinked at the time they thinked it.pretty public recording device that helps us remember the fleeting nature of oral presentations. And a lotta times, it seems like the last presenter’s work is discussed the most because it’s remembered. During an oral presentation, an audience may forget what was said (even in the most engaging presentations) when it was said and the context of what was said when. Backchanneling lets an audience converse, comment, and question a presentation in the moment. It allows presenters to record and share a thought before forgetting the thought they thinked at the time they thinked it.
  5. Take the pressure off chairs and presenters – A maven could take the pressure off of chairs and presenters to monitor the backchannel. During a presentation, the chair and other members of panels are understandably preoccupied with their performances. They may not have time or the skill set to respond to the Twitter backchannel. Though it can be done as @jennykorn showed in her savvy inclusion of Twitter backchannel conversations, comments, and questions, I know, however, this is really tough to do and I ain’t got the ability cuz I tried when I presented and #failed.
  6. Remove the #awkward – A maven could open up dialogue and crack the conversational seal that happens following presentations during the 15 minutes of discussion. You know, that awkward pause that occurs when a chair asks, “Are there any questions?” At this point, I usually look at my phone or laptop because I feel like I’m gonna be called since the presentation format is so lecture, school like. Conversely, when I present as a chair and ask that klutzy question, it feels like an awkward forever. If there isn’t a discussion because the room is full of meatspace phones like me or there is a looooong moment before questions, I feel sorta sad. The performance becomes out of sync, and I get the feeling my ideas weren’t really worth anything. All the time I spent on my presentation was wasted.  Feedback is love even if it’s critical. Seriously.

“Social Media Maven” may not be the coolest word for the addition I am proposing to presentation formats, but the idea has some cool, right?

Philosophical Spanish Lessons

Yesterday, my Spanish teacher and I were discussing Martín Fierro (1870s), a culturally significant epic poem in Argentina because of its depiction of gauchos. (If you’re not aware, gauchos are kind of like Argentine cowboys. At the time the poem was written, they were a sort of “sub-class” because they were multi-racial, being a mixture between the colonizing Europeans and the indigenous people. Traditionally, they weren’t land owners themselves, but worked with the cows and horses for other ranchers throughout the Pampas region of Argentina). Essentially, Martín is a gaucho who is drafted into the Argentine civil war, but doesn’t want to be a part of it. So, he runs away and escapes into the southern part of Argentina (Patagonia, really) until he is able to reunite with his children.

So, when Martín runs off to Patagonia, the book describes this by saying that he goes to “el desierto.” In some cases, based off of context, this could refer to a desert as we think of it in English–a place with sand, heat, and not a lot of water. However, in this context, it refers more to wilderness–a place which is “deserted.” (And, in fact, Patagonia is known for being extremely cold.) But herein lies the question: deserted by who? The poem itself describes how Martín and another gaucho, Cruz, spend their time with the indigenous people there. Obviously, this means that it was not truly deserted, only deserted by the European colonizers.

So, this prompted my teacher to pull out a hundred-peso bill. On one side is a picture of Julio Argentino Roca, an army general and president of Argentina in the late 1800s. On the other was “La Conquista Del Desierto,” the conquest of the desert (or wild as the case may be).

La Conquista del Desierto

The image itself depicts Roca and his men expanding and “uniting” Argentina, which pretty much meant killing or displacing the indigenous people living there and allowing more ancestral-Europeans to settle.

Why am I telling you all of this? Because my teacher made this point: these bills are being phased out. In 2012, the Argentine government started to make new bills depicting Eva Peron instead of Roca:

Evita on 100 peso bill

I (and my Spanish teacher) find this to be a fascinating indication of cultural priorities and the change thereof. Personally speaking, I was always aware of how commercials, newspapers, political campaigns, etc. were parts of a society that spoke to its greater cultural needs and how those cultural elements connected to the rhetoric performed in addressing those needs. But, the money. The thing that I carry in my pocket every single day. That had not occurred to me. The money itself–what we choose to put on it to represent our national identities–is symbolic for what we want to say about ourselves. And the changes to that imagery is important too. In Argentina (as in many other places), people are no longer persuaded by “the conquering forces.” Not only that, but choosing Evita is important. This is the first woman to be on an Argentine bill in over 200 years. Is that an indication of cultural priority? Are Argentines becoming more open to women in positions in power or is it Evita’s connection to social programs which speaks to the nation (even though Peronismo is a highly contentious subject here)? And when, for heaven’s sake, will there be a woman on a U.S. bill and not just being relegated to an unused coin? (Susan B. Anthony / Sacagawea, anyone?)

In the wake of tragedy, rhetorical reflections…

I don’t have much to say in the wake of Sandy Hook’s tragedy.  And of the little I think I could say with passable confidence, I’m going to reserve, and instead take the moment to ruminate—turning over the ideas, opinions, and arguments again and again to make sure they’re properly digested.

Here are three of the most useful pieces I’ve encountered in reflecting on some of the rhetorical elements at play in this awful situation.  Well, there are two pieces directly relevant to the massacre, and one to help pull you out of that pit of gloom you are probably curled up in if you’ve watched more than an hour of media coverage.

1.  I’ve linked to Charlie Brooker’s rhetorical genius before on Harlot, so perhaps some of you are already familiar with his work in breaking down the formulas of mass media.  From what I’ve witness on television in the past twenty-four hours, however, the lesson bears some repeating:

2.  Nate Silver knows as well as any other politically astute fellow that you don’t win any long-term argument without first shifting the key terms of the debate in your favor.  In his post, “In Public ‘Conversation’ on Guns, A Rhetorical Shift,” Silver has an introductory paragraph that should make just about any rhetorician shiver with gratitude:

Friday’s mass shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., has already touched off a heated political debate. Opponents of stricter regulation on gun ownership have accused their adversaries of politicizing a tragedy. Advocates of more sweeping gun control measures have argued that the Connecticut shootings are a demonstration that laxer gun laws can have dire consequences. Let me sidestep the debate to pose a different question: How often are Americans talking about public policy toward guns? And what language are they using to frame their arguments?

3.  Straight and simple: Buzzfeed’s, “26 Moments that Restored Our Faith in Humanity.”  There are plenty of uplifting stories in here, and more than a few tear-jerkers, so be prepared.  I made it through most of the way with a grateful grin and welled eyes, but I’m a hopeless dog lover, so I pretty much lost it at #23:

When John Unger had suicidal thoughts after a breakup, it was his dog Shoep who brought him back from the brink. This photograph shows Unger cradling his friend in lake Superior to soothe the dog’s arthritis.


Recommended Reads: Politrick-or-Treat Edition

Happy Halloween. Hope everyone out east is safe and sound on solid ground. After gorging myself on Frankenstorm footage for three days, I’ve decided meteorologist Jim Cantore should run for president. He’s got the face for it. Plus, we’d know we’re in for a national crisis when he breaks out his dry suit. You wanna talk ethos? The Weather Channel may be the media’s last bastion of good will, practical wisdom, and virtue. Maps with colors other than red and blue. Storms with no patience for polls. Justified hype. And no faux holograms.

Since there’s no rain delay in politics, it’ll be a hoot watching the campaigns tiptoe to Tuesday’s finish line. But today’s for trick-or-treating, so here are some election-flavored reads for your sweet (sour?) tooth.

Slate looks at one party’s advantage in microtargeting the ever-elusive persuadables.

Libertarian journalist and good-tempered man Julian Sanchez proposes a required university course in basic argumentation to counter the tone of outrage politics.

For data-viz enthusiasts, xkcd draws an illustrated history of partisan and ideological trends in the U.S. Congress.

Playboy interviews political satirist Stephen Colbert. Bonus treat: Kathleen Hall Jamieson on the frailties of fact-checking from this spring’s Truthiness Conference.

Binders full of women, Big Bird, and bayonets: Nathan Jurgenson explores meme-literacy and the lulz-filter’s effects on political narratives.

Four debates, not a single question. Behind the haunting silence.




GoonSwarm, Sadly, In the News

A sobering footnote to the piece Matt Howard and I wrote for the issue #7 of Harlot on the rhetorical practices of GoonSwarm, a group of players in the EVE Online MMO: One of the casualties in the recent violent outbreak in Benghazi, Sean “Vile Rat” Smith, was a central member of GoonSwarm. The GoonSwarm community has been mentioned in news coverage of the event by several outlets, as guild members were among the first to confirm Smith’s identity as one of the State Department casualties. See The Huffington Post‘s coverage of the story here.

Language Intelligence: A Non-Academic’s Take on Rhetoric

Not really a book review (because I haven’t read it, duh!), but more of a heads-up: political blogger Joe Romm (from ThinkProgress) has just released his book Language Intelligence: Lessons on Persuasion From Jesus, Shakespeare, Lincoln, and Lady Gaga. As you can tell from the subtitle, it’s more or less a pop take on rhetoric, partly a “what to look for” and partly a “how to” manual… Romm delves into politics (naturally), but also into areas like scientific discourse and popular culture. I’ve glanced at some blog posts about the book, and from what I can glean, it delves heavily into matters relating to style (lots of references to “the figures of speech”) and oratorical performance. Maybe worth a read?

The Age of Persuasion

Here’s the route of today’s discovery: reading about Philosophy Talk‘s recent award at the New York Festivals International Radio Competition => peruse former winners => see that last year’s winner is a piece on how advertising created the “Happy Housewife” image => look into who made it => discover “The Age of Persuasion,” a Canadian news program that “explores the countless ways marketers permeate your life, from media, art, and language, to politics, religion, and fashion.”

A quick survey of past episodes reveals a treasure trove for those interested in the persuasive tactics of marketers, mad and otherwise.  The archive dates back to 2008 and lists so many provocative titles (such as “Marketing the Invisible,” “Sun Tzu and the Art of Persuasion,” and “Man Women: The Great Women of Advertising“) that I’m overwhelmed and not sure where to start.  A lovely predicament.

Head over to The Age of Persuasion and check it out for yourself!

The Rhetoric of Eco-Terrorism

Here are some selections from Will Potter’s book, Green is the New Red, that chart the genealogy of eco-terrorist rhetoric.  Regardless of where you stand with regard to environmentalism or monkey-wrenching, it’s nevertheless important to understand how the  term terror is being specifically deployed in an age increasingly defined by such a label.

The mainstreaming of animal and environmental concerns, combined with tiers of lawful and unlawful groups, was undeniably a threat to the corporations [they] targeted.  [Corporations] needed to displace activists from their moral high ground.  A key development in orchestrating this fall from grace was the decision to wield the power of language.

“Whoever defines the issue controls the debate,” says Timothy Cummings, a clinical professor and poultry veterinarian at Mississippi State University.  Instead of saying “bled to death,” Cummings advises farmers to say “exsanguinated”; rather than “killer,” say “knife operator.” For those who break the law in the name of animal rights or the environment, industry groups would change the language from “monkey wrencher,” “saboteur,” or just plain “criminal” to the much more powerful “terrorist.”

Indeed, it’s a far more powerful phrase, but the difference is that now such a label has salient consequences for law enforcement, governmental policy, and judicial proceedings.  So when I read, say, Rick Santorum’s recent sweeping claims about environmentalism, I get anxious on a whole lot of levels.  At a campaign stop in Oklahoma City, Santorum argued that environmentalists are using fracking as “the new boogey man” to needlessly scare you about a perfectly safe practice.  But what’s really happening here, Santorum claims, is that “they will use this [fear] to raise money for the radical environmental groups so they can go out and continue to try to purvey their reign of environmental terror on the United States of America.”

(The irony of Santorum scaring potential voters and donors with phrases like “reign of environmental terror” and denouncing those seeking to implement a radical agenda is so rich I’m going to use it to ice this cake I just made.)

Here’s some history on the use of “eco-terrorism” from Potter:

Government official slowly incorporated the term into their lexicon and change how they spoke of sabotage [toward the end of the ’80s].  After a 1987 arson at the University of California at Davis, the FBI labeled an animal rights crime “domestic terrorism” for the first time.  The next year, Senator James McClure introduced the term eco-terrorist into the Congressional record (oddly enough, by comparing the tactics of drug lords to those of environmentalists).

Despite these linguistic victories, eco-terrorism was not a top governmental priority.  Ron Arnold’s organization [the Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise] and the anti-environmental “Wise Use” movement operated on the fringes; the eco-terror meme remained loosely confined to this niche of free-market true believers, and sympathetic media portrayals continued through the late eighties […] This began to change when politicians got involved in the issue.

Use of the “eco-terrorist” label picks up substantially throughout the nineties, especially following the well-reported arson of a Vail ski resort in 1998.  It was 9/11, however, as the phrase goes, that changed everything.  Greg Walden, a Republican Representative from Oregon said on September 12 that the Earth Liberation Front was a threat “no less heinous than what we saw occur yesterday here in Washington and New York.”  Before the steel of the towers had even stopped smoldering, “Industry groups hired PR firms to insert eco-terrorism into the national security dialogue,” writes Potter.  Since 9/11, “the eco-terror language went viral, replicating by spreading from host to host.”

But this is not a conspiracy, Potter is right to point out.  It’s framing.  It’s the introduction of and normalizing of key terms that shape attitudes and perspectives.  “The shift was gradual,” he writes, “slowly merging the rhetoric of industry groups with that of politicians and law enforcement.  Eventually, what was once a fringe argument became official government policy.”

If that isn’t enough to boggle the rational mind and quicken the passionate heart, there’s this:

Examining top-tier newspaper articles from 1984 through 2006, [Travis Wagner, professor of environmental science and policy at the University of Southern Maine] found that terrorism rhetoric appeared throughout the timeline, but its frequency increased dramatically after September 11th and has continued climbing since then.  Wagner notes that this increase in ecotage-related stories accompanied a decline in actual crimes.  According to the North American [Animal Liberation Front] Press Office–not one to downplay ALF and ELF attacks–crimes decreased by 47 percent after 9/11.  As warning of eco-terrorism made headlines, the threat itself waned.