Last modified: 7:58 AM Saturday, 14 January 2017

Watchwords of suspicion

There are times when to see something and say nothing is almost a crime unto itself. And there is no doubt that the Times Square vendors who saw and reported a smoking SUV successfully prevented an explosion that could, if unnoticed, have inflicted grievous harm on many. More often than not, people — particularly in big cities — are afraid to “get involved” and therefore let crimes go unremarked. To this extent, the slogan “If you see something, say something” should always be borne in mind, and applied when there is cause for it.

Words of hypervigilance

Words of hypervigilance: Do we really want to become
East Germany?
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My concern about propagating such a motto is that to do so is to charge the atmosphere with still more mutual suspicion, which lends itself all too well to the purposes of a growing police state. And since the phrase was born of the events of 9/11, and is principally concerned with terrorism, to put it into universal practice strikes me as distinctly disproportionate to the actual prevalence of that threat, which is so low as to make the risk of being killed in a terrorist attack far less than that of drowning in one’s bathtub — not to mention Grover Norquist’s.

I think there are already too many jumpy, hypervigilant post-traumatic stress sufferers in the wake of 9/11, thanks in large part not to the act itself, but to its interminable reiteration in the media. In fact, it is probable that most of America is afflicted with this “9/11 Syndrome.” To adopt and promote this Orwellian slogan only further — and disproportionately — darkens our view of one another, and for this reason I cannot endorse it.

Originally published as an adverse review of a New York Times article promoting fear-fostering slogans.

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