Terror Alert Risin'

- Wade

I expected a line outside Lyndale Hardware looped through the parking lot. Despite the face-numbing cold, Richfield residents would follow the latest bit advice from their federal government. The advice? Buy duct tape.

No luck. No line. Driving by, I wondered aloud whether Tom Ridge holds stock in 3M or another duct tape manufacturer. While my town's response looked lukewarm, both Lowe's and Home Depot in Alexandria, VA, sold out overnight. Along with everyone's favorite adhesive, Ridge recommended Americans store up water, food, radios and first aid kits. What, no gas masks?

These recommendations were made after the Department of Homeland Security raised the "national terror level" (whatever that is) to orange. Orange isn't as bad as red, but better than yellow or green or blue. Ridge, along with John Ashcroft and Robert Mueller, explained that the increase was due to an increased level of chatter among al Qaeda operatives.

Chatter? I envision bin Laden on al Jazeera saying things like "heeeeeyy Bushy-Bushy-Bushy swiiiiing Bushy" or "easy-out Ashcroft, easy-out Ashcroft" in an Arab accent. Anyone else?

Once again, citizens hear that credible terrorist threats are being made. And again, we get no details-- just another request that we change our lives based on a nebulous and vague warning. Hey everyone: be more vigilant in a general sort of way.

What do I change in my daily life, then, to adjust to this elevated level of risk? Be prepared? How can I not be prepared? I wish I could unprepare myself for the next attack. I work downtown-every time I hear a plane flying overhead, I look up and assume it'll crash into a building. I often feel like I'm waiting for the other shoe to drop-- with so many threats and increasing levels of risk, isn't it a matter of time before 9/11 happens again?

Actions such as raising the national terror level are pointless, unless your point is agitating an already-agitated public. I'd bet that no one changes their day-to-day activity due to this increase. So why do it? I see two potential negative consequences. First, this will not spur the economy-- a nervous, distracted public isn't likely to increase investing (duct tape companies notwithstanding.) Second, we will arrive at a point where these warnings don't mean anything. (Assuming, God willing, that the record of no subsequent attacks holds up.) It becomes a "boy who cried wolf" situation. What good is a warning if you're constantly living under a warning?

If the administration really wants us to act, share some of the credible information gathered from the chatter. You're still scaring the population, but it's something concrete that people can prepare for. Could the motivation for the warnings be political in nature? I've been trying to tame cynicism, but the question should be asked. It's an easy way to distract and to build support. I don't believe this theory is true; yet I still am unsure of what raising the national terror level accomplishes.

And, can someone explain to me what the duct tape is for?



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