A nation of over-reactors


The predictable result of somebody jumping over the White House fence and running up to the front door has been, of course, media hysteria. Rather than the Secret Service being commended for their restraint in that they captured the intruder without killing him, some are seeing even that as a failure and saying that the intruder should have been killed. Why? Because this is America, dammit, and anyone who goes on someone else’s property without permission must be shot dead.

Petula Dvorak says that this incident should not be used to extend the security cordon around the White House and make it even more of a fortress, when simple measures could improve the security.

The security gurus think they might want to keep people off the sidewalks around the nation’s most famous residence. Or maybe screen tourists a block away from the White House. They want to Anschluss even more public space to expand The Perimeter around 1600 Pennsylvania, amping up the fear and paranoia that already pervade the heart of our nation.

Given their druthers, of course, the security mafia would close downtown Washington entirely. Tourists could watch a slick “Inside the White House” video clip (in HD) at Reagan National Airport and pose in front of a cardboard cutout of the White House. Same thing for the Capitol and the Supreme Court.

But she is asking for too much. American is a nation of hyperventilating, easily panicked people, where any potentially dangerous action by any disturbed individual is cause for a massive armed over-reaction.

Comments

  1. md says

    Personally I’m glad the intruder was not killed and condemn people who say he should’ve been. That said, it is nice to see what a fence on the White House border and some armed guards can do for White House border security – round people up and return them across the White House border alive.

  2. lorn says

    I was asked what I thought about the guy climbing a fence and getting into the white house. I don’t think it is a problem. The optics seem bad if you imagine that white house security is a matter of the building being an impregnable fortress where any intruder represents a grave threat to national security. That sort of static defense of otherwise unimportant locations went out with the 50s.

    The Secret Service is charged with protecting the president, his family, and, only way down on the list, the white house itself. The building, besides its importance as national landmark, isn’t considered very important because the building itself is not vital to the presidency or command continuity. The presidency is mobile and all duties can be shifted and remain operational while moving.

    The president and his family had left hours before so security was considerably more relaxed. The front door and areas he accessed are common tour routes for hundreds of visitors most days and are not sensitive.

    In one interview an ex-secret service man was asked ‘why wasn’t the intruder shot?’ , he answered that ‘we don’t shoot people for trespassing’. Quite so.

    It is a conspiracy theory trope that the police come along, announce ‘nothing to see here’ and tell you to ‘move along’ as a plot is covered up. It is something to watch for. But in this case there really is nothing to it. The optics are bad, and actively made worse by the usual pack of baying hounds for whom nothing Obama or his administration does is good enough but, in this instance, security functioned pretty much as expected. Even as it worked in a way most people didn’t expect because they don’t understand how security works or what its priorities are.

  3. says

    Meanwhile, a white cop shoots a black man for reaching into his pants…AFTER the cop told the man to reach into his pants for his driver’s license.

    http://gawker.com/trigger-happy-cop-shoots-unarmed-driver-in-just-release-1638993749

    Surprisingly (and likely only because of the video) the cop has been fired and faces criminal charges.

    Those who talk about a “culture of lawlessness” should take a good look at those who believe they are above the law.

  4. jonap says

    It’s interesting that someone who doesn’t get shot by security, and a cop who gets in trouble for shooting an unarmed victim are news worthy.

  5. lorn says

    I … AM … REACHING … FOR… MY … WALLET. It isn’t just a joke. It is a survival strategy.

    Then you move very slowly while maintaining eye contact to re-confirm that the policeman isn’t feeling threatened or anything but completely aware of everything going on and in control.

    The cop has a gun and it is pointed at you. If anything goes south, even things that might be seen as insignificant in other situations, odds are you get shot and odds are you will be dead or maimed. This is not the time to act casual, play the fool, debate constitutional law, or do anything but acting as compliant, non-threatening, and as reassuring as possible. You do not want them to feel any confusion or uncertainty as to their control. If you have any complaints, make a mental note of them and tell them to the judge. Your only job is to survive the encounter.

  6. says

    It isn’t just a joke. It is a survival strategy.

    This is not the time to act casual, play the fool, debate constitutional law, or do anything but acting as compliant, non-threatening, and as reassuring as possible. You do not want them to feel any confusion or uncertainty as to their control.

    Right. Because police are autonomous robots? Good to know!

  7. says

    In one interview an ex-secret service man was asked ‘why wasn’t the intruder shot?’ , he answered that ‘we don’t shoot people for trespassing’. Quite so.

    Ah, to go with your points at 4, it would seem we need to start replacing the robotic police force with the secret service!

  8. lorn says

    Robotic police might have some advantages. Robots are not biased if not programmed to be and robots don’t have bad days. Always remember that the cop you disrespect is both armed and may be having a very bad day.

    Police are prone to have problems because they work odd hours in a high stress job where they are surrounded by people who despise their authority and/or demand an inhuman compliance with a complicated set of non-interlocking arbitrary standards. The police tend to trust other police or emergency workers. Which is why cops so often marry cops, EMTs, firefighters, ER doctors, Etcetera.

    Throw in a kid crying all night, a cold coming on, a supervisor telling you to arrest more people, a minor street gang trying to show their chops by disrespecting the police, and a couple of drunk frat boys that think they are constitutional lawyers, and you have a bad day. A fraction of a second of inattention, and a suspect doing something you didn’t expect and …

    Typical initial after shooting interviews, the few transcripts I have read, tend to be confused. The people involved really don’t know what happened. It all happened so fast and everybody is caught up with what they thought was going on at the time that little note was made of the actual events. Observers at a distance, both physically and mentally, if you edit out their bias, often have a better idea of what physically happened than the people in the middle of it.

    A robot doesn’t get distracted, doesn’t have bad days, records everything and makes judgments without making assumptions, has no fear of being injured or dying, never worries about their reputation or being embarrassed, and strictly complies with arbitrary rules. On the other hand, if you get shot by a robot cop the robot feels nothing. Whereas the human cop will feel really, really bad about it.

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