What to do if you smell a terrorist

Do you smell a terrorist? Did you know that "terrorism is a crime?" This iWatch PSA stars a cast of pretend-earnest actors encouraging you to rat out your neighbor, "if you see, hear, or smell something suspicious." Don't hesitate -- "let law enforcement determine if it's a threat, (says this fellow, who plays a sex-crazed Mr Pringles when he's not playing a fear-mongering alarmist)" and "let the experts decide." Be sure to report on anyone drawing important buildings, a favorite tactic of terrorists with an artistic bent!

Here's Fox News' pretend news story that explains iWatch.

Do you recognize any of the other actors in this waste of money PSA?

UPDATE: Am I wrong, or is the guy who says he's "Chris Matthews" in the iWatch campaign (left) the same guy who calls himself "Michael Busch" at UCBComedy (right)? It seems suspicious. Should I let law enforcement determine if it's a threat, and let the experts decide?

iWatch PSA



    1. Sure, but your suspicions are illegitimate. You dirty rat!

      Only rich coddled white people’s suspicions count.

  1. Sure, but that’s Los Angeles. Something like that could never happen here…….

    ….hold on, some one is knocking on my door….

  2. I’m confused. Is this satire or not?

    If it’s satire it’s too subtle for me. If it’s not satire it’s damn scary. They’ll be starting Hitler Youth… I mean iWatch Youth camps next.

    1. I agree about the iWatch youth camps.

      Actually that kinda reminds me of this japanese Trilogy I’ve been watching & the mangas I’ve been reading called 20th Century Boys. In the second movie they had “Friend” camps. They brain washed kids @ the camp.

  3. I’m not sure how “I watch my street, I watch my city, I watch my community” I supposed to be reassuring. Sounds bloody scary to me.

  4. all of those “people” with a slight, but noticeable distortion to their faces encouraging me to be scared and tattle? they all seem a tiny bit alien. that’s kind of suspicious. maybe even terrorist suspicious.

    is there someplace i can report these fearmongers to?

  5. Just because they’re all paid actors doesn’t mean they aren’t genuinely concerned citizens. Think Ronald Reagan ratting out suspected commies for Joe McCarthy.

    1. Reagan basically told HUAC that his personal enemies in the SAG were all dirty commies, while admitting that he could provide no actual proof. Oh, yeah, there’s an American hero worth naming an airport for! Watching the video of his bootlicking performance is sickening. I have to watch Paul Robeson as an antidote to Reagan’s smarm.

      Here’s Robeson in transcript: http://historymatters.gmu.edu/d/6440

  6. So Michael Busch’s name is Chris Matthews? Why would he be using an alias on this public endorsement? Sounds pretty suspicious to me…kinda terroristy. If only there was some place I could report him…

  7. Wait wait wait…

    This isn’t a joke?

    iWatchLA is the official LAPD website?

    But they said smell. That’s funny! I don’t get modern art.

  8. First off: load of shit.

    Secondly: I agree about the slightly distorted faces, blurry edges, etc., being creepy. It gives the whole thing an otherworldly, slightly nightmarish quality that gives me the heebie jeebies. I hope to never see it on my big high def tv.

    Thirdly: load of shit.

    Has no one read 1984? Farenheit 451? Uh…I can’t think of any more references…but you guys know what I mean. Paranoia doesn’t help anything – it’s one thing to be AWARE and it’s another thing to make people so scared of each other that we lose our individual liberties.

    1. You don’t get it. They’re not using slightly distorted people to further scare you, it’s to instill trust. If they used perfectly gorgeous people, even us idiots would know they are paid actors and not real, honest to goodness people.

      They have agencies specializing in asymmetrical, ‘real-looking’ actors, you know, precisely for this sort of BS.

  9. Yikes! Is this what life is like in America? The big brother state is “iWatching” you? How can one claim that the USA is the “free-est country in the world”? Yes, I think I’ll stay safely in my little socialist Canada, where the Privacy Act would prohibit the creation of something like “iwatchla.org” — Good Grief, people !!!

  10. How are terrorists supposed to smell?

    I would imagine that Tim McVeigh and Terry Nichols smelled of diesel fuel and fertilizer at some point. “If your swarthy neighbor smells of diesel and fertilizer, please contact the LAPD.”

    I once worked with a guy – IN CALIFORNIA – who claimed he could smell if a given woman was menstruating. Fortunately, soon after that revelation he was arrested for indecent exposure and drug possession. It’s been a number of years – I wonder if he’s still doing time at Santa Rita? If not, maybe the LAPD could hire him to help sniff out terrorists.

  11. Interesting how the people get progressively closer in view (i.e. in your face) and crazed as it plays; switching more are more rapidly between people as if they are swarming you. Disturbing.

    Who knew Airport Security Theatre would have be starting an improv, travelling, show?

    P.S. “I’m afraid of Americans” should have been the soundtrack.

  12. The best, most meta-ironic part of this entire conversation is the little red REPORT button to the right of each and every comment.

    (Dear readers, please stop reporting this comment — Rob)

  13. The blond woman with tied-back hair plays the makeup artist in 30 Rock (Liz steals her baby, in season 1).

  14. I noticed the distortion and blurring, too.

    My guess is it was shot with a camera like the new Canon 5D Mark II which can shoot high quality HD video through the optics of a high end DSLR – for not a huge amount of money (compared to the HD cameras of a few years ago)

    Low light. Wide lens. Close camera. Wide aperture.

    We are going to see a lot more of it.

  15. Thanks 1984:

    Under the spreading chestnut tree
    I sold you and you sold me
    There lie they, and here lie we
    Under the spreading chestnut tree

  16. This would be one of those things that I don’t watch, on the reasonable suspicion that it would make me TOO DAMNED ANGRY. Enjoy your paranoia and deprivation of civil liberties, US-icans. *waves*

  17. Is it time to leave the country yet? It’s so hard to time these things. Too soon, and you miss out on the heady days of Weimar. Too late, and, well, it’s too late.

  18. Is it time to leave the country yet? It’s so hard to time these things. I’m still kicking myself for leaving Berlin in 1931, when I totally could have waited a couple more years.

  19. Mark, it’s because I smell like a terrorist, isn’t it? As a Simian American, I have the SAME RIGHTS AS EVERYONE ELSE.

  20. People who buy into this thing will be conditioned to think “I am not an expert.” After all, the experts are — by definition — someone else.

    Another form of this conditioning is: Let the “authorities” handle it… or Let the doctors decide…

    The list of examples goes on.

    The main topic of this post is alarming enough. But the message also contains the recurring subtext of relinquishing our own authority to big brother.

  21. re: Micheal Busch – sure looks like the same guy to me! And the REALLY ironic thing, for anyone familiar with the old UCB (Upright Citizens Brigade) show is that the whole premise of the show was that there were these secret agents whose sole purpose was to CREATE CHAOS with their weird behavior (thus leading into many, many hilarious comedy sketches).

    COINCIDENCE or COSMIC PLAN? Maybe he did the commercial as part of his requirements to create chaos, see?

  22. I can’t decide if it’s Orwell or Kafka.

    Maybe Orwell if you’re reporting and Kafka if you’re reported…

  23. And in a few weeks, we’ll see the following on Boing Boing: “FBI surveillance team surrounded by SWAT after being reported via iWatch by the drug dealer inside the house they were observing.”

  24. I wonder how many people who know things about psychology might be shaking their heads at this. Available heuristics. Everything is, of course, “more likely” to happen if it’s covered on the media more.

  25. I worked with the first dude at Disneyland. He once told me I smelled funny. I understand what he meant now.

  26. I love the smell of Terrorism in the morning! Smells like…failed foreign policy/zealotry/fresh-baked bread.

    kind of a lingering odor.

  27. While the optimist in us might think that anyone would exercise a reasonable degree of judgment about when to call the cops on something suspicious, some people are probably going to need encouragement.

    Consider the flipside– Kitty Genovese.

    1. Reports of bystanders’ non-responsiveness to Genovese’s cries of “Murder!” were greatly exaggerated. People stabbed through the lungs, and who die from the asphyxiation caused thereby, don’t scream “Help me!” for an hour before expiring.

      And it’s one thing to bemoan callousness in the face of an actual crime while it’s being committed: quite another to digitally deputize an entire city as amateur spies and information-gatherers.

      I mean, Rorschach claimed the Genovese murder as a reason for his vigilantism: not the guy we want to follow here!

      1. Tdawg, I have had both lungs punctured on separate occasions, once resulting in haemothorax (which is a fancy way of saying you’re drowning in your own blood) and once in pneumothorax (commonly called collapsed lung). In neither case was I unable to shout, although it became progressively more difficult, tiring and painful when my lungs were filling with blood. In the case of the pneumothorax it didn’t cross over to the other lung (which was lucky since I did not have it treated for about four days).

        Based on my experience, I have no trouble believing that Kitty Genovese could have shouted for help for an hour with punctured lungs. It would have hastened her death significantly and she would have become progressively quieter as the amount of oxygen available to her chest muscles and diaphragm decreased, but it’s still quite believable. You don’t actually need functioning lungs to shout, you just need them to breathe, and both haemothorax and pneumothorax are quite slow ways to die (except in the case of a tension pneumothorax, which is quick but almost never caused by stab wounds.)

  28. why is that pringles video on a comedy site? I only got through the first 50 seconds but it was not funny at all. Is this something else fronting as a comedy site? Terrorists put up fronts too, I better get an expert to decide!

  29. It’s a smartly directed advertisement, designed to promote the brand and distract you from the cruddy script.

    The blurring is merely an effect of a large-aperture lens. It gives things a “cinematic” feel while also hiding small skin blemishes — just like the heavy makeup all the actors are wearing. I think it’s to give the actors a squeaky clean image while at the same time ticking all the boxes for token Asian, token Indian, token whitebread hipster, etc.
    What concerns me more are the wide-eyed stares and subtly-wide-angle-lens employed to “get in your face” and promote alarm.

    I have to wonder if this is genuine or a subversive ad-slot for a Paul Verhoeven film.

    By the way, what does terrorism smell like? Stagnant water? Or does it come in child-safe mint and lavender scents?

  30. Since 9/11, there have been an extremely limited number of credible terrorism threats in the US. Even the FBI is reduced to picking up low-rent wannabes like the Fort Dix Six, but according to this ad, it’s a huge problem. Apparently, there are all kinds of terrorist activities, heretofore undetected, so many that we *need* to have a bunch of citizen Barney Fifes digging through their neighbor’s garbage–if we don’t the terrorists win!


    The funny thing is that these ‘real people’ look like a veritable Rainbow Coalition, however, the one group missing is the one most likely to participate; old, paranoid white folks. Can’t you just imagine the rush to action if this ad were to run during the Glenn Beck crazy hour?

  31. Also guys, don’t worry. Even though there are some people who love rat fink programs like these, this is America and there are alot more people who will use legal, legitimate, and hilariously ironic means to make this program too expensive and/or too despised to continue.
    All it takes is reporting of suspicious behaviors supposedly committed anyone connected with a celebrity or politician. Eventually the important people of LA will get sick of losing 3 hrs every day due to their limo drivers and charter pilots being picked up & interrogated, and they will pull some strings to get the program stopped.

  32. “I watch my street, I watch my city, I watch my community”
    And so should we all….

    What happened to takun??

  33. “Can you smell what The Terrorist is cooooookin’?”

    Seriously, I’m not the only one whose mind went to professional wrestling right off the bat, was I?

  34. This has to be a sham. Nerdboy proves it really, if not then well “Let the revolution be televised”.

  35. I
    I have
    I have
    I have ge
    I have genital herpes
    It’s about suppression

    When will this format die? I freaking hate the melting pot montage where we’re all different BUT WE’RE ALL THE SAME! ::Teardrop::

  36. Also-

    Report This Video as Inappropriate–>
    Infringes My Rights–>
    Invades my privacy

    I mean, just for fun.

    1. @ValueDrug’s advice of: “Flag–>Report This Video as Inappropriate–>Infringes My Rights–>Invades my privacy”

      This gives me the message:

      “In order to process a privacy complaint we need more information from you. Please refer to our Help Center for more information and the form to submit.”

      Followed by a several page form.

      Can’t talk more… irony pain…

  37. @Mark “They vere chust followink orders, ja!”

    So you take complete responsibility for everything you’ve touched? This could be fun.

  38. “So you take complete responsibility for everything you’ve touched?”

    I’m interested in what kind of alternative you propose.

  39. The next story on BoingBoing will be about some citizen getting harassed or worse for something perfectly innocent based on an IWatch report. Mark my words.

    Also, when is Apple going to sue for infringing on the trademark they have on the letter “I”. Or is that only the lowercase “i”?

  40. mr policeman my nextdoor neighbor is a terrist i know because they leave dog poo onmy lawn obviousone day they will make a BOMB and make it look like poo and they stole my gardenhose and replaced it with one just like it only it was a lighter green and cracked

    if you want i have a binder where i have ritten down evry time they come and gone since 1998 when they were recruited by Yasser Binladen adn movedin

    ps theyre food smells weird maybe makin poopboms or meth

  41. What a travesty!

    Most of those actors/people were clearly displaying aspects of Reptilian shapeshifting.

  42. “I got a chapter into it and then Amazon deleted it. How’s it end?”

    this might be spam, but COMMENT WIN. I laughed out loud.

  43. “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself- nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to advance” F.D.Roosevelt 1932.
    So it is written so let it be done!

  44. What creeps me out the most about this is at the end when they say, “Think about the power of that.” I mean they are aiming directly at every little petty wanna be cop in the country. Basically they are targeting even fetishising this program to the people who would abuse it the most.

  45. disconcerting [ˌdɪskənˈsɜːtɪŋ]
    causing a feeling of disturbance, embarrassment, or confusion; perturbing; worrying

  46. We need an iWatch video against robots infiltrating humanity. SUSPICION BREEDS CONFIDENCE!

    Seriously, I could get behind an iWatch targetting bent cops, embezzling executives, politicians hiking the Appalachians when they should be at work, etc.

  47. The sad thing about this is that these people are obviously unaware of the ‘them what smelt it, dealt it’ protocl* and its repercussions.

    * commonly abbreviated smlt-dlt in technical manuals and smelt-dealt in jargon.

  48. In Germany’s Third Reich people with that mentality were assigned the position of a “Blockwart,” a block watch. They watched their house, their street, their neighbours and reported them to the secret police, the Gestapo. Hey, this is also our country, and we don’t want it to be turned into a fascist police state! Wait, is it too late?

  49. While I fully expect backlash for this, I’m going to play devil’s advocate.

    Does the government and security groups fear monger? Yes.
    Do they exaggerate a lot of things? Yes.
    Is there really no threat? Absolutely not.

    Speaking as someone in the emergency services field – the old intelligence saying is very true – Our successes are private, our failures are public. We as an isolated nation are very spoiled and take for granted our security. Personally, I agree with Benjamin Franklin when he said ‘They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.’ But what liberty are we being asked to give up? None, the ad simply encourages proactive involvement in our safety. If you replaced terrorism with gang activity in the above ad, everyone would support it as an expansion of the Neighborhood Watch Program, designed to protect our streets, our homes, and our families.

    Has the U.S. Government taken steps to limit our liberty? Yes. Yet I don’t see people here taking to the streets to protest violation of second amendment rights or silencing of the press. We are a lazy society, we expect to be able to make change without putting any real time and effort in. We expect expanded security without added cost, enhanced safety without added manpower, more action without occasional mistakes.

    Instead of sitting on your soapbox and complaining that this ad is fear mongering, take it as it was intended – pay better attention to your surroundings, be more aware of the people around you, learn to recognize when something is wrong – be it a terrorist or a burglar. The fact that people get outraged more by putting a camera on a dangerous PUBLIC corner than by the people harmed or killed there shows the true colors of our society.

  50. All of you seem determine to lure the terrorist into a false sense of security. I’m not sure if that’s going to work.

  51. Like George Orwell vision, about the totalitarian régime, an oligarchical collectivist society where life in the Oceanian province of Airstrip One is a world of perpetual war, pervasive government surveillance, public mind control, and the voiding of citizens’ rights.

  52. Think about all the stories of house burglars joining the local Neighborhood Watch patrols. It seems that if the “concerned citizens” in this PSA were using false names, then they very well could be terrorists, or [gasp] terrorist sympathizers trying to find a way into the American anti-terrorism apparatus. For all we know, the whole shebang could be a terrorist front!

    (or we could all calm the f**k down, recognize that the US has had the strength over the last two centuries to withstand Imperial invasion, massive internal treason, and two global wars (we’re damn strong, and we should not be panicked with fear), that the Constitution was, in fact, designed to work even in times of war and threat (and has proven itself during such events) and deal with the potential of terrorist threats with level heads and clear eyes.)

    While I was writing this I realized that for time to time some sort of “terrorism” is going to happen in the US, whether it’s “al Qaeda” or home-grown racists, or counter productive “environmentalists”. There are too many jerks and nuts to be able to stop everyone. How much of this “be afraid of the threat next door!” stuff is an effectively partisan set-up?

  53. My city just implemented this about a month ago. I signed up to receive emails. Never once did they mention that this was a structured program to catch terrorists and I don’t think it is according to the statement located on the city website.

    “For the past five months members of the Orange Police Department have been working with
    Highpoint inc. to develop i-Watch. The Police Department will be using this internet based
    system to connect with residents and businesses in the City of Orange.

    is a free, subscription based system that will allow Police personnel to e-mail various
    notifications ranging from public service announcements to crime alerts. The system will also
    allow our personnel to e-mail individualized messages to specific neighborhoods that may be
    experiencing crime trends or suspicious activity. The messages will alert residents or business
    owners to the activity and advise them of crime prevention techniques.”

    Maybe this is just a coincidence

  54. @Mark “Would you feel good about being in this PSA, Church?”

    As aired? No. But I could totally see myself filming a portion of it without realizing what the final edit would be.

    Sort of like finding myself in a communal blog with someone who has an affinity for the memory hole. I might not like it, I might actually find it abhorrent, but it’s not in my power to stop them.

  55. “Sort of like finding myself in a communal blog with someone who has an affinity for the memory hole. I might not like it, I might actually find it abhorrent, but it’s not in my power to stop them.”

    Gooble gobble, gooble gobble, we accept you, one of us!


  56. This is such a good idea. We’ve started a neighborhood watch where I live. We have rotating shifts of 4 adults patrolling the streets. We write down all license plates of all cars and keep a database so if anything happens we can give this information to the police. We also document when people go to bed at night. If we see that some ones lights are off but they don’t turn on a porch light, we will knock on their door and politely ask them to turn it on. It’s just safer that way. The people feel safer because they don’t have to think about it when they’ve got reliable people taking note of everything. It’s met a very warm reception amongst the members of the community.

  57. Check out the pdf guidelines for hobby shop owners. Watch for people faking an interest in hobbies, they could be dangerous!

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