Friday, August 27, 2004

How Long Can the Country Stay Scared?

I came accross a collection of essays by Bruce Schneier, revolving around terrorism and security. The one titled "How Long Can the Country Stay Scared?" is particularly interesting.

The DHS's threat warnings have been vague, indeterminate, and unspecific. The threat index goes from yellow to orange and back again, although no one is entirely sure what either level means. We've been warned that the terrorists might use helicopters, scuba gear, even cheap prescription drugs from Canada. New York and Washington, D.C., were put on high alert one day, and the next day told that the alert was based on information years old. The careful wording of these alerts allows them not to require any sound, confirmed, accurate intelligence information, while at the same time guaranteeing hysterical media coverage. This headline-grabbing stuff might make for good movie plots, but it doesn't make us safer.

This kind of behavior is all that's needed to generate widespread fear and uncertainty. It keeps the public worried about terrorism, while at the same time reminding them that they're helpless without the government to defend them.

I guess I'm not the only one that wants to ask, "What does that even mean?" when the media trots out the terrorism mood ring. It seems to me, as a Canadian and a person without cable tv, that people seem to be catching on. That people are starting to realize that what is happening is not what they want to happen. That strip searching an 90 year-old grandma in a wheel chair is not only stupid, it is actually harmful to society. That arresting someone for taking pictures of a bridge in New York is not only rediculous, but useless because across the street from where they are taking the picture postcards of the exact same picture can be purchased for $0.25.

It's like the book I read awhile ago, "Defying Hitler", it seems as if the German people just sort of realized that Hitler was a loon, and that not everyone actually supported him as much as they wanted to avoid appearing as if they didn't support him. As time passed real and halfhearted support died off and the war ended.

Time is going on now, and although people seem to have been polarized quite a bit, hopefully people will be able to do the things they need to (vote?) that will all everyone to retain day-to-day freedoms. Freedoms that are useful to Grandma and Grandpa when they are traveling via an airplane to visit the grandkids, and not just drug-dealer's right to privacy or terrorist's right not to be racially profiled.

-Gary Milner

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