Friday, June 01, 2007

Credible Threats

How many bomb threats called in actually turn out to be real? The best answer I could find to that question is somewhere around 1%, and that only related to schools where bomb threats and pipe bombs seem much more prevalent than in the general public. So what is it that got the City to take yesterday's very rare and likely non-credible call about a bomb in a Parkway tunnel so seriously as to close down two tunnels right at the peak of rush hour?

The caller had a foreign accent. Maybe.

First off. . . you're morons. The South Side, source of the hoax call, is full of foreign accents. Many of those accents are from native, second generation residents. It's an integral part of Pittsburgh neighborhoods. Giving a threat credibility only because of an accent is racist. Second, hennyone kan easily fake an accent. Dere are even vebsites dat kan help hyu. Or chust vatch enough bad action films vith schtereotypical bad guys. Third, the South Side has more bars per capita of any neighborhood in the country. That should give you a clue as to the type of calls you might get from there. Fourth, only a cut-rate amateur terrorist would phone in his bomb threat an hour before it was set to go off. Terrorists prefer to, you know, terrorize people, and while being backed up on the Parkway for an hour with the tunnel closed may be inconvenient, it doesn't quite qualify as terrifying. Fifth, any foreign terrorist who had successfully gotten into the United States would not plant his bomb in a Pittsburgh tunnel. The tunnels might seem vitally important to us but in the international list of important things worth blowing up, the Squirrel Hill Tunnel is small potatoes. Very small potatoes.

This sort of nonsense is driven by fear. Not the fear of a terrorist by the general public (though there is too much of that as well), but the fear officials have of loosing their jobs should the rare call actually turn out to be true. Or rather, if the public finds out that some idiot made a prank call and the authorities didn't treat it like the real thing. They say they err on the side of safety but they are actually erring on the side of their own continued employment. That's why the Mooninite scare in Boston was such a clusterfuck.

We need to get on with our lives, not because it defies the terrorists (a common politico catch phrase) but because there aren't actually many terrorists to begin with and the world really isn't all that different than it was before 9/11. I'm more likely to get run over by a car or slip and fall in the shower than I am to be a victim of a terrorist bombing. Hell, odds are I'll be struck by lightning before I'm caught in a bomb blast so quit wasting my time and tax money by blowing up every gym bag left at a bus stop.

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