August 10, 2006

In light of the news this morning, I thought I’d provide some outside perspective. For those of you who didn’t hear any news this morning…preferring instead some sort of music or, *gasp* silence, during your morning rituals…”a plot to blow up trans-Atlantic flights” was foiled at Heathrow airport this morning. Police arrested 21 people in connection with the plan “suggestive of an al-Qaeda plot.”

Now for those of you who are leaning a little to the right this morning, your first reaction was probably: “See, we told you so.” For those of you leaning a little to the left this morning, your first reaction was probably: “What? This is just the right trying to divert our attention from what’s really going on in Israel and Iraq.” For those of you who were about get on the planes to fly across theAtlantic, plot or no, we’re glad you’re safe.

So, now we’ve raised the terror-alert level to RED!It seems to me that if we had the intelligence for this in order to stop it that our terror-alert level should have been in the red a few days ago. Reminds me of the old maxim, closing the barn door after the horses have gotten out. Why raise the level when the threat has been cancelled? Is there more “intelligence” that suggests that other plans of this nature are to be carried out in days to come? Why doesn’t Homeland’s Barney Fife nip it in the bud?!

But, are we being alerted to terror for our own protection or simply to scare us into giving up more of our rights as humans? I direct your attention the following Cato institute paper by Ohio State University’s John Mueller (PDF…if you do not have the capability to read PDF, download Adobe Acrobat Reader for free, here). For those of you in a hurry, this excerpt via BoingBoing

Much of the current alarm is generated from the knowledge that many of today’s terrorists simply want to kill, and kill more or less randomly, for revenge or as an act of what they take to be The shock and tragedy of September 11 does demand a focused and dedicated program to confront international terrorism and to attempt to prevent a repeat. But it seems sensible to suggest that part of this reaction should include an effort by politicians, officials, and the media to inform the public reasonably and realistically about the terrorist context instead of playing into the hands of terrorists by frightening the public. What is needed, as one statistician suggests, is some sort of convincing, coherent, informed, and nuanced answer to a central question: “How worried should I be?” Instead, the message the nation has received so far is, as a Homeland Security official put (or caricatured) it, “Be scared; be very, very scared — but go on with your lives.” Such messages have led many people to develop what Leif Wenar of the University of Sheffield has aptly labeled “a false sense of insecurity.”

I’m bound to get email about this, and that’s fine. It would be nice to get an exchange. If you’re angry, or in agreement, I’d love to hear from you. If you’d just like to know about my red image of Bush, that would be fine too.

We’re still going to Paris in December damnit! Terrorists can bugger off!

See you in the funny papers!

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