Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Also box cutters

In addition to the several falsehoods  listed here that propagated after previous incidents of terror, I can add that the 9/11 hijackers did not, in fact, use box cutters as so many people continue to believe.

Myths like these often contribute to the development of unnecessary and onerous policies enacted in order that law enforcement agencies and security contractors can pretend they are "keeping us safe." It's why you couldn't take things like razor blades or shampoo on an airplane for a decade. We were only just beginning to wake from that fever dream before the Boston bombing.

Now it will be something else.  Probably you won't be required to remove your shoes before running your next marathon but it could be something as absurd. Maybe there will be a crackdown on pressure cookers. That would come at an especially bad moment for the currently "hip" kitchen appliance.

It's also worth pointing out that none of the falsehoods spread after 9/11 or the Oklahoma City bombing happened because of evil people using Twitter which, on balance, probably does more to debunk rumors than it does to spread them.
Twitter beckons us to join every compressed news cycle, to confront every rumor or falsehood, and to see everything. This is what makes the service so maddening during the meta-obsessed election season, where the stakes are unclear and the consequences abstract. And it's also what makes is so valuable during fast-moving, decidedly real disasters. Twitter is a fact-processing machine on a grand scale, propagating then destroying rumors at a neck-snapping pace. To dwell on the obnoxiousness of the noise is to miss the result: that we end up with more facts, sooner, with less ambiguity.

 So naturally the thing to do is shut it off.
Police shut down cellphone service in the Boston area on Monday to prevent remote detonations of explosives, according to the Associated Press.

The Boston Police Department did not respond to a request to comment.

At least 2 people were killed and 23 were injured in explosions at the finish line of the Boston Marathon, according to police.
Just a few years ago the President was asking Congress for the authority to kill the internet in the case of an emergency such as civic unrest or... undefined... something like this, maybe.  The Mubarak government in Egypt appears to have implemented just such a strategy prior to its toppling.  Apparently the response to the Boston bombing involved something like a "kill switch." 

New Orleans, as we all know, is home to more than its share of heavily concentrated outdoor gatherings. To my great consternation, I didn't have enough free time to get out to this year's French Quarter Festival.  According to a dubious counting system, my absence didn't prevent the fest from drawing over half a million participants. Maybe it wasn't actually that many but.. it was a lot of people.

FQF 2008. (I don't have a photo of this year's because I wasn't there. Yeah, I'm a little bitter.)

If I had been down there, though, and God forbid something frightening had happened... like maybe a low flying helicopter or something... I and many others would have benefited from a fast and convenient way to get a handle on what was happening so we could make informed decisions about how to react. In fact, it's difficult to imagine a more panic-escalating move authorities could make in such a situation than the simultaneous disabling of everyone's communication device.

But it's precisely the sort of decision made by people who can't imagine Twitter being useful for things other than just trying to make it into this week's Y@ Speak. Maybe if they'd  use less imagination on impractical and unlikely uses for box cutters this sort of thing wouldn't happen.

1 comment:

Evan Banned said...

Good points. Communication is what makes us most human and to take that away in any respect is criminal in its own right.