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Legal Weed, Evil Hackers, and More Things Americans Were Terrified of This Week

More proof that we're a nation of scaredy cats.
December 21, 2014, 1:00pm

Welcome back to the Fear Digest, where we rank the top ten paranoid fantasies of the collective American unconscious. Read last week's column here.

10. Weed
The United States is a nation of Chicken Littles in the best of times, and this wasn't one of our good weeks—we cried about the sky falling at every little piece of news that came our way. Our various governments weren't immune from creeping panic: This month Oklahoma and Nebraska filed a lawsuit to put an end to Colorado's legal recreational weed market. The attorneys general for both states say that their neighbor's blossoming marijuana industry is causing a lot of fire-ass chronic to (predictably) flow across their borders. "Federal law classifies marijuana as an illegal drug. The health and safety risks posed by marijuana, especially to children and teens, are well documented," said Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt. "The illegal products being distributed in Colorado are being trafficked across state lines thereby injuring neighboring states like Oklahoma and Nebraska." Good to know that there's still some old-school drug warriors fighting the good fight!
Last week's rank: Unranked


9. A Missile Attack
Also in government paranoia: The US Army is about to launch some fancy blimps over the nation's capital to help the military detect incoming cruise missiles. It doesn't seem as if a cruise missile attack is imminent, but hey, if we've got these big-ass blimps lying around, we might as well use 'em.
Last week's rank: Unranked

8. The Islamic State
One thing that the blimps won't have to protect us from is the Islamic State, which this week continued doing awful things in Iraq and Syria ( it just executed 100 people for "desertion") but fell out of the headlines, partly because they didn't behead any Western captives, but partly because there was just so much other stuff to panic about.
Last week's rank: 4

7. Pregnant Mothers
One of those things to panic over was the disturbing case of Tamara Loerstcher, a pregnant Wisconsin woman who got sent to jail because she was using drugs—like several states, Wisconsin has essentially made it illegal for moms-to-be to use drugs. This attempt to protect fetuses looked pretty horrific, as Feministing noted:

During her time in jail, Loerstcher didn't have access to prenatal care and when she was experiencing cramping, she wasn't allowed to see her regular doctor. She was told she'd need to see a jail-appointed doctor who demanded she take a test to confirm the pregnancy—even though the only reason she was in jail in the first place was because she was pregnant. When she refused, she was thrown in solitary confinement and threatened with a taser.


Last week's rank: Unranked

6. Russia
When the ruble abruptly fell in value this week thanks to a combination of sanctions and a decline in oil prices, President Vladimir Putin reacted with his characteristic restraint:

"Sometimes I wonder, maybe the bear should just sit quietly, munch on berries and honey rather than chasing after piglets, maybe then, they would leave it alone?" he said according to the Guardian. "But no, they wouldn't, because they will always try to chain it up. And as soon as they chain it up, they will pull out its teeth and claws."

It's only natural that leaders bluster and project confidence when their economies suffer. It's just that Putin's brand of bluster is a little more… threat-y? than most. At least he gave the Drudge Report a good headline.
Last week's rank: Unranked

5. Cuba
International tension decreased elsewhere, as the US normalized relations with Cuba after more than a half-century of semi-open hostility. This was thanks to a major diplomatic undertaking that involved the pope and clandestine meetings in Canada, reported the New York Times. This made a bunch of Republicans really upset—Florida Senator Marco Rubio vowed to stop anyone from ever becoming ambassador to Cuba. Never mind that this was a regime that had stayed in power through decades of embargoes and that the old diplomatic strategies weren't exactly reducing the Castro regime to its knees. Any time the GOP gets to complain about Obama's "appeasement" of the Bad Guys, it's going to. (Reason's Matt Welch has a thorough rebuttal of the Republican party line, if you're interested.)
Last week's rank: Unranked


4. The Cops
If the right has visions of communist invasions dancing in their heads this holiday season, the left has a creeping fear of the police. You had the above beating of a black kid in New York, you had Cleveland Police Union President Jeffrey Follmer going on MSNBC and insisting the shooting of 12-year-old Tamir Rice was "justified," and you had CNN's #AskACop hashtag turn into a place for anti-cop activists to vent their frustrations. This week New York police union leader Pat Lynch told a roomful of cops to use "extreme discretion" when doing their jobs. That could presumably be taken to mean, "Don't try too hard on patrol or stick your neck out"—then again, at this point a lot of people might be happier if the cops slacked off a bit.
Last week's rank: 1

3. The Existence of Racism
Undergirding the fear of the cops is a fear of racism and racists, which isn't all that unreasonable considering the centuries-long history of slavery, genocide, and race-based hate in America. But we're not just afraid that people will hate us for the color of our skin. We're afraid of the notion that people will think that we harbor racism in our hearts, or simply afraid that the US is fundamentally a hateful place. At times, this expresses itself in a fear of even talking about racism—that's how you get conservatives dismissing the Obamas' anecdotes, shared with People, about being treated differently because they're black. That's also how you get Whoopi Goldberg and Rosie O'Donnell yelling on The View about who gets to call what racist (or something). As of press time, America remained pretty dang racist.

Last week's rank: Unranked

2. People Who Hate the Police
On Saturday evening in Brooklyn, a disturbed man shot two police officers through the window of their cruiser, killing them instantly. He then ran to a subway platform and shot himself. According to the authorities, Ismaaiyl Brinsley had killed an ex-girlfriend of his in Baltimore before driving to New York specifically to kill cops; on Instagram he had claimed that he was out to avenge the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner. That turned a tragedy into a political issue—Brinsley isn't being regarded solely as a crazy person but as an incarnation of left-wing rage. "There is blood on many hands tonight. Those that incited violence on the street under the guise of protests that tried to tear down what New York City police officers did every day," Lynch said according to Capital New York. "That blood on their hands," he added, "starts on the steps of City Hall in the office of the mayor."
Last week's rank: Unranked

I think it is disgraceful that these theaters are not showing The Interview. Will they pull any movie that gets an anonymous threat now?

— Judd Apatow (@JuddApatow)December 17, 2014

1. North Korean Hackers
Want final proof that we're a nation prone to wild accusations and panic? How about the whole response to a hacking attack on Sony Pictures supposedly perpetrated by a North Korean regime unhappy about how it was depicted in The Interview, a comedy about Seth Rogen putting things in his butt. The hack led to the release of a bunch of leaked emails and, eventually, a threat that scared most major theater chains from showing The Interview; then Sony decided to shelve the film indefinitely, even though the threat was, many experts say, complete and utter bullshit. The people who weren't panicking about the idea that unnamed "terrorists" would bomb cinemas were getting on their high horses to talk about what a "dangerous precedent" this set—according to that line of thinking, this will lead to more threats against controversial movies about Seth Rogen putting things in his butt, which will lead to those movies being cancelled, thus setting up a system of fear-based censorship. This isn't a slippery slope, however, this is a few executives at some large corporations being overly cautious and fucking up as a result. If anything, the tidal wave of bad publicity Sony got over the movie's non-release will convince studios in the future not to follow its example. Don't worry guys, I'm sure we'll be able to see Seth Rogen insert objects into his anus very, very soon.
Last week's rank: Unranked