Friday, January 21, 2011

The Scariest Videos You Will Ever See

Or not.

Jones is freaking over a trio of PSAs put out by the Department of Homeland Security as part of its anti-terrorism "See Something, Say Something" campaign. An Infowars article by Paul Joseph Watson claims that in the videos, "ordinary everyday activities are characterized as signs of potential terrorism".

I don't really have a problem with the DHS releasing videos like this. For one thing, they're chock-full of duuuuh information that the average, moderately functional person will not really need. They cover very basic security measures for hotels, malls, and stadiums.
For another thing, the DHS has an annual budget of over $55 billion and should damn well be doing something with all that lucre, even if it's just pumping out cheesy PSA vids for morons. They're spending a paltry $13 million on this effort, according to a Huffington Post article.

Give them a view (here) and decide for yourself. Personally, I would not call any of the following activities "ordinary" nor "everyday":
- Paying in advance for several weeks' stay at a hotel. In cash.
- Parking your car smack in front of the hotel entrance, then walking rapidly away from the hotel while bellhops and valets shout at you.
- Presenting false ID.
- Strolling into a hotel kitchen to take pictures with your cell phone, or covertly filming mall walkways for no apparent reason.
- Leaving bomb parts strewn around your hotel room for the maid to find.
- Calling the mall to find out how many security guards are working.
- Purposely leaving your stuff in an open spot and never coming back for it.
- Hanging out in employee-only areas even though you don't know any employees.

While I definitely don't want to foster paranoia in anyone, I don't think there's anything wrong with vigilance, either. Being aware of your surroundings and following your gut are called "survival instincts" for a reason, and that's basically all the DHS videos are asking you to do. It's not "Stasi-like" to report something funky.
Though the media has all but ignored it, a backpack bomb was found and defused along the MLK Day parade route in Spokane, Washington, last week - thanks to citizens' vigilance. They saw the pack in an open place, wondered how it could be "lost" in such an obvious spot, and reported it. There was plenty of time for the parade to be rerouted and the bomb removed.

Tomorrow I'll discuss the other scary part of the "See Something, Say Something" campaign: Thousands of "telescreens" in public places.


Highland Host said...

In the UK 'DHS' stands for 'Department of Health and Safety', and that's what these videos feel like, health and safety videos to make employees aware of what constitutes suspicious behaviour. I hate to break it to Mr. Jones, but people have been trained in this way for years! In the UK we had such training long before any of this happened in the US. Why? Northern Irish terrorist groups. That's why there are no litter bins in busy rail stations in the UK - bombs in bins was a popular IRA tactic.

This is just the reality of a world where there are such things as terrorists. When I worked in a UK department store, we closed half the store because of a suspicious package that turned out to be a shopping bag someone had forgotten about!

S.M. Elliott said...

And I'm guessing that the lack of bins and the extra security did not make you feel like you were living under a "Sovietized" or "Stasi-like" police state?

Highland Host said...

Basically no. It just made railway stations a whole lot messier, since litter was just dropped on the ground! You learn to live with it, and if it had been a bomb outside our store, then closing half the store (big store) would have saved lives rather than cost us money. Now, it could be argued that absent-minded people forgetting to pick things up IS a normal activity, but in this case, if the item is harmless, well, the person who left it is not inconvenienced - everyone else is!

Of course, in the case of the store where I worked, the bag was left outside the main entrance, and so outside the most profitable part of the store!

squealpiggy said...

Alex would invariably claim that any bomb found in this sort of situation was planted by the nefarious nebulus that secretly rules the world in order to engender fear among the sheeple.

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