Ever since the members of a fictitious terrorist organisation DP'd the World Trade Center with a pair of Boeing 767s and murdered 366 heroes of the New York fire and police departments — and incidentally killed 2,453 non-heroes — the US has seen an increased focus on talking about security while doing unrelated things. No longer is it sufficient for the government to merely go about its business. Now, every routine action from annexing sovereign nations to undermining the constitution has to relate, somehow, to telling people they are being made more secure.
Whether it's an added hoop in the airport obstacle course or a longer wait at the border, people can feel more secure knowing that Something Is Being Done™. It's the fundamental idea behind Security Theater: if you're always in the news Doing Something™, no one will question your $40 billion budget or the $3 billion you gave to farmers to "preserve our resources in case of attack."
And like all other drama fags anywhere ever, security thespians get really pissy if you look behind the curtain. After all, if you knew just how short Sylvester Stallone really is, you wouldn't believe he could shoot down that Russian Mi-24 Hind with a sidearm. And then you wouldn't feel safe anymore.
In a clever twist, they don't just show you the tiger repellent and point out that there are no tigers around; in addition, they've created a colour-coded tiger warning system. Presumably, when no tigers appear during a period of orange tiger-alertedness, it means that your tiger repellent is working extra hard and you should probably buy more so you don't run out just when the meter hits red.
While the Homeland Security Theater Department may have a near-monopoly on protecting people from non-existent threats, there is no shortage of institutions competing for the other half of its mandate: failing to protect us from real threats. For example, credit card companies like to talk about identity theft and claim to be doing various things to protect you from it both online and off. But fundamentally, the system is only as strong as its weakest link, and that link is made up of teenagers and immigrants making minimum wage who are mentally counting down the seconds till their shift ends. It doesn't make for good security, but does make for an amusing read. If you only click one link today, make it this one.
In a related vein, there's a player on the recently eliminated University of Cinncinati Bearcats named Jihad Muhammed. I don't know whether his parents gave him that name or if he chose it for himself, but either way it was stupid. I can only think of a few things you could do to get put on an FBI watch list faster than naming yourself Jihad, and most of them are felonies in their own right. Then again, he's Muslim — he's probably already on the list.
It sure seems like the sort of name you'd choose on a dare after a weekend-long frat kegger, like Terrorism Roberts or Rapes Young Boys McKenzie. But maybe he just likes the thought of millions of people screaming his name, even if it has nothing to do with him or his actions on the basketball court. Or else he wasn't feeling oppressed enough just for being black.
There are people who constantly exhort all who will listen to "Think of the children(!)". Well, the FBI is finally taking heed, and I can honestly say that never in history has the public been this well protected from poorly plotted zombie fantasies and preteen goth art projects.
Maybe they're hoping that the terrorists will get fixated on the hand-waving too, and won't look too hard at the hat the rabbit is supposed to come out of. Or maybe they know that the terrorists are all kicking back in the desert with a glass of koumiss and a copy of Newsweek, enjoying the show, safe in the knowledge that they really, truly, have already won.