Monday, March 10, 2014

Racing Against Common Sense

It's been nearly a year since the terrorist bombings at the Boston Marathon. Today, announcements were made about new security procedures for this year's race in the interest of safety. And what were these new magic safety measures? Banning backpacks and pretty much any container, satchel or bag of a decent size. They'd prefer you carry everything in little clear plastic bags. This strikes those in charge as completely reasonable, despite the hassle for commuters and other spectators who might come into the city just to watch the race. What if you come with your kids? Does this mean no diaper bags or things of that nature? Are they going to ban or search woman with large purses? These aren't just rules for spectators either; all racers are banned from over-the-shoulder bags too. There are a few other "safety" measures in place, but it mainly comes down to banning bags. Why? Because the last bombs were put in backpacks.

This is just like after the London train bombings in 2001, when the MBTA decided to seal up the trash receptacles on all the commuter trains because the London bombs were in the trash bins. Did this prevent bombs? More likely, it just made trains messier.

For some reason there is this supposition that if it happened one way, it will happen the same way again the next time. But conventional logic would suggest that terrorism is about the shock and surprise, so the next tactic would be something least expected. Let's inconvenience everyone in the name of safety, right? Sounds reasonable to the anxious mind that sees terrorists around every corner. But I would suggest the Tsarnayev brothers were successful precisely because they didn't call attention to themselves. The object of terrorism is to promote terror. So I'd say that usually means either making a threat of an explosive or something that doesn't actually exist, so as to disrupt life and scare people; or it means actually detonating something with no warning at all, so as to disrupt life and scare people. But nobody is going to copycat a pressure-cooker in a backpack immediately precisely because that's the type of thing they'll now be looking for.

They've also banned spectators from coming in "costumes or masks". Why? So we can't see their faces? Because that's suspicious, right? But the Tsarnayevs weren't masked or disguised. They just strolled in looking like regular schmucks in hats. There is no indication anyone in a costume mask (let's be clear, no on is going to the marathon in a ski mask) has ever or will ever set off a bomb. There are also a number of other ways one could attack the marathon route if one really wanted to do so. But instead, we promote "safety measures" which do little more than placate the general public who thrive on media fear-mongering. Oh, and they've pulled that "if you see something, say something" slogan out too. You remember, the one that was so useful in harassing poor innocent men with umbrellas mistaken for guns. Twice.

Why am I talking about all of this? Because I just know that nothing is going to happen on Marathon Day. I know it. Nobody is going to try something the very next year. It's just common sense. What frustrates me is that I also strongly suspect after it's all done and there's no threat the media and the police and everyone in charge will be patting themselves on the back for the effectiveness of the new safety protocols. They'll talk about how security this year was successful in keeping everyone safe. But it won't be true. Nothing will have happened because nothing was ever going to happen. Let's not create a narrative where reactive fear-based government intrusion is our savior. Instead, let's not narrow our focus, but open our eyes to subvert and stop terrorism where and when it will actually strike next.

1 comment:

  1. Great post and so true. So much of our liberty is being sucked away under the guise of security. One of our founding fathers said something to the effect that if you trade liberty for security you don't deserve freedom.