Sunday, October 3, 2010

US to Citizens: Walk in Fear

Just reading this news item. Relevant of course because I'm going to Germany in two weeks. All I'm going to see are airports, hotels, and convention halls.

October 3, 2010

The State Department alerts U.S. citizens to the potential for terrorist attacks in Europe. Current information suggests that al-Qa’ida and affiliated organizations continue to plan terrorist attacks. European governments have taken action to guard against a terrorist attack and some have spoken publicly about the heightened threat conditions.

Terrorists may elect to use a variety of means and weapons and target both official and private interests. U.S. citizens are reminded of the potential for terrorists to attack public transportation systems and other tourist infrastructure. Terrorists have targeted and attacked subway and rail systems, as well as aviation and maritime services. U.S. citizens should take every precaution to be aware of their surroundings and to adopt appropriate safety measures to protect themselves when traveling.

What the hell does all that even mean?
Honestly, if I'm in the same area as a guy with a bomb or an AK-47 or spitballs or bad language, exactly what the hell am I supposed to do about it?

Here's my plan if I'm in the area of a terrorist attack: Scream like a little girl and run around in a blind panic. I think that's a good and realistic plan that's easy to implement and suitable for almost any dangerous situation without needing adjustment and it requires no advance preparation. It's fool-proof!

As if it's not enough that I'm probably going to have to go through body scanners and have my nuts X-rayed by the airport equivalent of mall cops, now we're supposed to worry about this unspecified vague threat over an area as large as Europe? What kind of worthless CYA announcement is this? There is no information here that anyone can act on. They're not warning against travel, they're just saying, "Go about your business, citizen, but do so in fear."

No thanks.

Maybe I should be a conscientious traveler and report to the authorities any suspicious looking person I see. At a gaming convention that has attendance more than 20% of the population of the hosting town. That would be hilarious ("Officer, there were these guys talking about nuclear weapons and the differences between assault rifles! I think they're planning something under the code name 'Twilight 2000!' I think it's some sort of plot against Poland. Come quickly!"), but I wouldn't get much work done.

Anyway, if I do get shot or blown up, you'll be sorry if you haven't bought a box set yet because prices will go through the roof...


  1. I don't know James, if I remember right you look pretty buff. You could probably take 'em.

  2. Not buff. Trust me. I could *maybe* buy intimidating if I'm in a bad enough mood, but not buff.

    And I've never been in an actual fight before so even if I was buff I'd be spectacularly useless should trouble arise anyway.

  3. Surely the box is thick enough to absorb a blast anyway?

    I live in Europe, well Britain, and I've heard nothing about this, until this morning, when there was a story in the paper about Americans being warned about being blown up when in Europe. So count my government as one that hasn't "spoken publicly" about this stuff which may or may not be happening.

  4. I'm fairly certain YOU are going to be the suspicious looking one in most groups.

    Try not to clench during the body cavity search; they HATE that.

  5. Awww yeah, I got my box-set signed, that means extra cash when selling it on eBay after you get blown to pieces!

  6. Seems like a chance to recommend Frank Furedi's Culture of Fear Revisited: Risk-Taking And The Morality Of Low Expectation, readily available on Abebooks.

    Or, Zygmunt Bauman's Liquid Fear if the cultural critique is already familiar ground.

  7. Hmmmm. I guess the purpose, if one puts political manipulation aside, is to get the info out there, and let people who may have the option of rescheduling do so. I mean, if the govt has creditable info on increased risk, I'd rather that they put it out there, rather than keep it secret to avoid looking silly.

    On the other hand, its not like it hasn't been misused in the past. I guess I just have more doubt that its a cynical attempt to look watchful than before.

    Still, having been raised with duck and cover drills, and classes on how to take cover if shooting starts("be a turtle, keep your feet, keep somthing between you and the noise, etc etc)") maybe I have a different reaction.

  8. Look at the results from the government's point of view:

    Good: If the the warning does out and somebody does get killed, it look like they've got their shit together since they told you so.

    Neutral: If the warning goes out and nothing happens in the near future, everybody quickly forgets about a routine false alarm.

    Bad: If there's no warning and an incident, then the government is left looking like they dropped the spying ball. Bad PR.

    So issuing these warnings whenever you can is always the best way to go, since it eliminates the possibility of the Bad result should an attack happen.

  9. They've been dishing out these vague-to-the-point-of-uselessness warnings here in the UK too.

    One day we're supposed to be scared of the IRA again ("Sooooo 80s!"); the next we're meant to be frightened that the French have evacuated their national meccano toy; and a day later we're informed that the UK terror threat level has gone up although the security services says there's no *actual* threat.

    It's nothing but security theatre designed to keep us alarmed at the swarthy [Eur/East]asian menace (with whom we have always been at war) while the looting and gutting of our culture continues...

    On-topic: have fun with those wacky, laugh-a-minute Germans. ;)

  10. @ Raggi: Well said.

    Hopefully I'll make it back to the US from Europe this week so I can mail some more books myself. I WILL be on the same Madrid Metro rail tomorrow that got bombed already, but lightning doesn't strike twice in the same place, right?
    ; )

  11. I stopped being afraid of the Bogeyman when I was about 10 years old. We all have a FAR greater chance of getting killed in a car accident than we do of getting killed by the Government's Bogeyman of the Month.

  12. Here in Asia, we've been getting those updates for years. They always say pretty much the same nothing as the one you posted.

    And nothing's ever blown up (near me, anyway).

  13. I dunno... If the folks in Mumbai had had an inkling that such an attack was in the works, maybe they might have been a little more spry about getting out of the way of the terrorists. Even a minute or two of not wondering "what the hell is that loud noise?" might have saved a few lives.

    And if you're looking for more specifics:

    Hope you weren't planning on staying at the Adlon Hotel in Berlin...

  14. Just heard from my contacts at the World Security Bureau, Hamburg office, that they are on the lookout from someone codenamed 'Dungeonmaster' due to arrive in Germany in a couple of weeks. Hope that isn't you, mate. :)

  15. As a civil servant that tends to get these updates from the feds more often then the general public the intent is to raise awareness. Better they tell us and nothing happens (as the bad guys hold off as the heat is on them) then not tell us and have something happen.

    In either case they get shit for it. The public will only be satisfied IF they are warned and IF something happens - this is the only result that proves the feds were aware and were attempting to prevent. Then again, in this case, the feds failed even with info and warnings.

    Hmmm... no matter what they say or do, the public will never be happy.

  16. Given that the Germans just paid off their war debt from 1917, perhaps they will have a little extra cash on hand.

  17. Fortunately I already hve a boxed set. My only worry is whether I should have a spare. :-)

  18. Anybody listening to the American media would think that Americans are afraid of their own shadow. Then again, anyone looking at American lawmakers over the last decade would *know* that Americans are afraid of their own shadow.

    Enjoy the convention. All the roleplayers I've met from Germany are a top notch group.

  19. All fundamentalist totalitarian regimes rule by fear. The US is no different in this aspect.

  20. Allegedly, during the days when the IRA was active, a guy who was playing a postal game of Diplomacy in England sent the message "Attack on Liverpool agreed."

  21. To survive "When in danger or in doubt, port your helm and come about." NOT "When in danger, when in doubt, run in circles, scream and shout."

  22. Joseph, that link's from the News of the World, so there's at least an 80% chance that it's a complete fabrication. It's like the National Enquirer, but fewer batboys.

  23. I do not bow to the threats of terrorists and would not give them the satisfaction. If they are going to do something, they will and if they are willing to attack us here, where is safe? Can we threaten them here then? Isn't that fair?

  24. Back in the USA without nary a hitch! Yay!
    : )