If you see something, say something: Liveblogging from a lecture about terrorism, security, and visual narratives


46 Responses to “If you see something, say something: Liveblogging from a lecture about terrorism, security, and visual narratives”

  1. Cowicide says:

    Could we have prevented this if we had been paying better attention to people and things that were out of place?

    That tends to look at the symptom instead of the cause, doesn’t it?

    Granted, there’s always going to be people doing crazy shit no matter what we do… but wouldn’t it be wiser if we take a closer look at ourselves as a pro-torture-drone-bombing-resource-exploiting nation?

    Maybe ask what we could do better in our foreign affairs to perhaps lessen the motivations of other people wanting to hurt us?

    Instead, just by saying this many will scream that “I blame ‘merica” and that’s the end of the discussion.

    Sorry, but I’m seeing something and I’m saying something.

     Disclaimer for idiots: I don’t think terror is ever justified.

    • Stooge says:

      There’s nothing wrong with trying to push your nation towards being, well, nicer, but what makes you so sure there’s a correlation between US foreign policy nastiness and terrorist attacks on the US? It can’t be a simple relationship because the US has been objectively much more brutal in the past without terrorist consequences.

        • Stooge says:

          Your links merely reinforce my point: according to your source there were no suicide terrorism attacks anywhere in the world between 1945 and 1980, yet US foreign policy was worse in that period than it is now. If US action abroad is the cause now, why wasn’t it back then?

          • Cowicide says:

            US foreign policy was worse in that period than it is now

            You really think so? Prove it with sources. You’re also comparing apple and oranges in many respects. Terror capabilities haven’t always been the same. You can get away with a lot more when the people you piss off are helpless because of dire poverty and lack of access to information, travel, communications, etc.

            Your links merely reinforce my point

            No, they didn’t at all. They showed over and over again that there’s a solid correlation with U.S. foreign policy and terrorism. Not sure how you could have possibly missed that unless you’re trying to do so on purpose for some reason.

            according to your source there were no suicide terrorism attacks anywhere in the world between 1945 and 1980

            That doesn’t mean there wasn’t any terrorism. Did you miss the word “suicide”?

            And, once again, without cherry-picking and selective memory, anyone can see that those articles make clear correlations with foreign policy and terrorism.

          • Stooge says:

            For worse foreign policy, see my reply to Antinous :)

            The point about the poverty/lack of resources of America’s enemies sounds like it should have some merit to it. Given the notoriously low tech approach in many of Al Qaeda’s attacks though, I suspect it’s not so much a question of resources as of knowledge, and the Internet is playing a big part in allowing anyone who feels the urge to become an effective terrorist.

            I don’t know why you object to me quoting figures for suicide terrorism rather than all forms of terrorism: of the 5 links you brought to the discussion one is about the counter-productivity of drone strikes and the other four all based on Pape’s study exclusively of suicide terrorism. If you don’t like the data, blame your source, not me.

            As for those counter-productive drone strikes, I agree that they are, as the article suggests, counter-productive. And? Killing civilians from the skies is hardly a new trend. The US and others have been doing it for decades, often deliberately. Why would this constitute a driver for terrorism now that the US is doing so less indiscriminately than it ever has?

          • Cowicide says:

            For worse foreign policy, see my reply to Antinous

            I have and it was an incredibly inadequate false equivalence to modern foreign policy. The modern “War on Terror” dwarfs those numbers.

            And, once again, you’re comparing apples to oranges anyway because you are dredging up a time where there was no Internet, cell phones or hardly any mass media that reached these victims of deadly foreign policy.

            Do you not see the difference between a peasant in a rice field without access to any communications outside their village to a person in a time with cheap cell phones, Internet and access to mass media? Seriously?

            you brought to the discussion one is about the counter-productivity of drone strikes

            You should have read the article more closely. Yemen scholar Gregory Johnsen wrote: “Each time they kill a tribesman, they create more fighters for Al Qaeda.”

            If you don’t like the data, blame your source, not me.

            I blame you for continuing to blatantly ignore the fact that all those sources consistently point to how our foreign policy creates terrorists/terrorism.

            One very extensive study also showed that it’s not religion or “hatred of our freedoms” that drives terrorism, it’s occupation (in other words, once again… our foreign policy).

            What do you suggest is the motivation for terrorism? A harem of virgins after death? Proper research (as I’ve shown you) says NO. It’s occupation. It’s killing civilians.

            Now go ahead and compare modern times to some other time where most of the dynamics are different, but it still won’t change this reality that (in modern times) it’s our foreign policy that drives most terrorism. And, if you really attempt to comprehend my links, you’ll see that.

          • Antinous / Moderator says:

            …yet US foreign policy was worse in that period than it is now.

            That’s not true. In the last two decades, we’ve been operating on the “kill it before it’s born” anti-terrorism doctrine, which has led us to commit innumerable human rights violations and war crimes against populations whom we believe might be future enemies. The result being that we’re acting as a very successful recruiting tool for groups like Al-Qaeda and the Taliban.

          • Stooge says:

            I’m afraid it’ll take more than just your say-so to convince me that the last 20 years are full of stuff worse than, say, the Phoenix Program.

  2. nixiebunny says:

    In Soviet Russia, everyone watched everyone. Is that the world we want to live in?

  3. Scott Rubin says:

    My policy if I see something, like an abandoned bag or box, is to open it and get it out of the way before anyone notices or starts calling the bomb squad. I get that stuff to a lost and found fast. If I don’t, it will cause a hassle for thousands of people as there will be roads blocked off, subways stopped, etc. It will cause an even bigger hassle for the person who lost their bag for it to be blown up. 

    I’ll take the chance it is a bomb. If you think I’m kidding, I’ve done it 1.5 times already. There was a rolling luggage alone on a crowded sidewalk. I opened it. It was empty. I left it on the sidewalk open and empty so it was no longer suspicious. The other time it was a backpack I saw in the park while biking. As I was inspecting the contents, the owner, who forgot it, came running back from the parking lot and thanked me.

  4. grimc says:

    The failure point is “see something”. See what? An abandoned bag or box; sure, that’s pretty obvious. But aside from that? The “person of interest” – found to have no connection whatsoever, aside from just being a spectator – from last night was a brown-skinned guy that was tackled by a “citizen” because he was running from the explosion. Apparently, innocent people don’t run from explosions.

    True security can only be  based on constant, careful monitoring by law enforcement of extremist assholes here – which includes a serious definition of extremists, not the local peace group/book club – and not installing or supporting dictators abroad, or generally f*cking with foreign people because Americathatswhy.

    • Antinous / Moderator says:

      See what?

      The Daily Mail had an article yesterday with a grainy photo of A MAN STANDING ON A ROOF!!! Because nothing says “out of the ordinary” like someone standing on a roof to watch a big public event. Should probably raze the building just to be sure.

  5. anansi133 says:

    There’s an awful lot of attention paid to the weapons used by the bad guy. The Sandy Hook shooting has everybody looking at guns and how to keep them out of the hands of Bad People(tm). The last time Boston was in the headlines for terrorism, they were fighting the Aqua Teen Hunger Force publicity department.

     What I *don’t* hear in the discussion, is what the Sandy Hooks shooter has in common with the Boston marathon bomber, or timothy McVeigh, or the UnaBomber.  It’l like apples and oranges because one used a gun, and another used a bomb, and it’s their weapons we have to engage with, not their common cause.

     I don’t think it’s gun violence that’s the real topic here, or bomb violence. It’s violence. And excepting government sponsored violence, homegrown violent crime is declining, despite what we’re led to believe.

    There is currently a wave of bombings going on in Bagdad, setting the stage for the upcoming election. Are those lives really less important than the ones lost in Boston? Are they really so disconnected? I want to stop letting the newspapers frame this discussion!

    • nixiebunny says:

      I’ve met a lot more people hurt by automobiles (a dozen) than by mass-murdering wackos with guns (one, Unitarian church in Tennessee) or common criminals with guns (one, blinded by ATM robber gunshot).

      The point is, it’s not worth worrying about until it becomes so commonplace that it compares with our everyday violence level.

      • chenille says:

        I’ll let all the people with less common diseases know they aren’t worth curing, too.

        • nixiebunny says:

          It’s a matter of proportion. Creating a police state to fight a scourge that kills 0.1% of Americans isn’t a reasonable tradeoff, in my opinion.

          • chenille says:

            Of course it’s not, but it’s not like you’ve just been talking about the importance of not over-reacting, and how headlines don’t mean it should be the important thing for policy makers.

            You’ve been going on threads about people who got killed, all to shout about how much they don’t actually matter. If you think that avoiding the police state means you can’t show any empathy, you’re wrong.

          • knappa says:

            0.1% of Americans would still be over 300,000 people. I think some overreaction would be understandable in that case. (You would be almost certain to know someone who died.) For a sense of the appropriate scale, the 9/11 attacks killed less than 0.001% of the US population.

          • Origami_Isopod says:

            NB’s numbers are way off, yeah, but I do think there’s a point to be made about “acceptable risk.” If we were really that concerned about no life being unnecessarily lost, there are many other ways we’d change our society.

          • Navin_Johnson says:

            So edgy….

      • Navin_Johnson says:

        Again, you’re pulling this false accident vs. terror garbage. Christ what an a…..

    • TripleE78 says:

      >>Are those lives really less important than the ones lost in Boston? <<

      Yes.  For the same reason that nobody cares when a kid in the inner city goes missing, but if a pretty young white girl disappears on vacation, it takes over the news.

      I saw it on TV, so it must be true.

  6. Scott Collin says:

    I see a dude blogging. Get him!

  7. Sekino says:

    Reasonable vigilance is good, of course; but the problem with this is that if you wield a hammer, everything starts looking like a nail.

    I think many people would have a natural reaction to question or report something, if the behaviour was very incongruous or creepy,  without prompting. However, prompting first possibly makes people  more susceptible to make a bigger deal out of activities that wouldn’t normally alarm them- because they’re actually most likely normal. So I think this kind of effort makes communities more suspcious and fearful, not necessarily more observant (in an efficient way). Just my own impression though.

  8. David Karger says:

    Years ago, just after landing in Israel at 11pm, I was looking for my apartment and accidentally forgot my suitcase on the sidewalk.  When I came back 5 minutes later to get it there were two neighbors and two policemen inspecting it.  Obviously the neighbors saw something and said something.   I think this was quite rational behavior, and I enjoyed the feeling of safety it provided.

    • nixiebunny says:

      Yes, it was quite reasonable, and I saw a similar thing in London. Trouble is, Americans take it to the point where a family’s girl is nearly taken from them by CPS when she’s permitted to walk a few blocks by herself.

      • Antinous / Moderator says:

        Unlike the UK, where a woman was shaken down by CPS when a pharmacist reported her for not taking her daughter to the ER when she was coughing. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2309362/Social-services-search-mother-Kiya-Pasks-home-Boots-pharmacist-reported-her.html

      • Actually, I think the issue is more that we’re not only being encouraged to look for suspicious objects, but also suspicious PERSONS. What is a suspicious person? What do I use to decide that someone is “out of place”, as opposed to something? I don’t really think there’s anything wrong with being like, “Boy, that bag is just sitting there by itself. Better tell somebody about it.” 

        I do think there’s a problem when we start trying to decide whether a person should or shouldn’t be someplace or whether that person is a threat to us. Because those judgements are totally bound up in biases that basically ensure we will ensnare innocent people. 

        • Nikodemos says:

          Biases will always ensnare the innocent, that’s why they are considered innocent until proven guilty. You want to minimize the number of the innocent ensnared, laudable. How much risk should the whole of society bear in order to accomplish this? But why, as a scientist, would you look to the anecdotes and theories of an English professor?? All their jargon and unsubstantiated theories: they are the homeopaths of American academia.

          • Origami_Isopod says:

            Because not all The Answers™ are found in the “hard” sciences. The liberal arts give us plenty of food for thought, which is why right-wingers want them eliminated.

          • Some things can’t really be figured out with quantification. These inexact conversations about the things we don’t notice are important. Pretty much any scientist will tell you that the thing science understands the least is people. In this case, it is actually pretty damn useful to call upon the expertise of somebody who studies narratives for a living. 

        • Antinous / Moderator says:

          I’m clinically non-suspicious. I can walk through any security barrier anywhere without even being noticed. I also spent much of my 20s hanging with people on the FBI’s most wanted list for trying to overthrow the US government. Suspicion is not a science.

  9. Lemoutan says:

    I imagine that the two types of people in this world, those who aren’t bothered by speaking out in public, and those who don’t feel comfortable speaking out loud, will probably go on being one of the two types of people in this world.

  10. rrh says:

    “Very similar messages were disseminated in South Africa during apartheid, she says.”

    I would be very interested to see/hear some of these materials.

  11. gtronsistem says:

    if the bag they are showing in the news this morning April 17 (beside the Mailbox?!) on the ground right behind/beside the long line of police and volunteers, and right under the noses of many spectators, DOES turn out to be one of the bombs, then OBVIOUSLY no one is looking at suspicious objects.

    • Or, possibly, suspicious objects only actually look suspicious in retrospect. 

      • gtronsistem says:

        sorry to disagree, but it’s been common knowledge and widely accepted that ‘suspicious packages be reported’ at least since 9-11, maybe longer. Suspicious objects (an unmarked bag in a crowded area) are not “only suspicious in retrospect”. That it wasn’t noticed, is what I’m commenting on. I find it VERY odd that no cop (and there were lots right there) looked at that package and thought maybe it needed a further look. (Maybe they did and it was vetted.) I was in an airport in Canada three years ago and there was a bag in an odd place unattended, I reported it and moved to another area. This seems to me to be widely accepted societal behaviour, and not fear mongering. Your comment is sort of trolling, by definition, no?

        • Um no, not at all. That’s quite the leap to go from “thing I disagree with” to “you’re trolling”. Please simmer down.
          I am well aware that the idea of reporting suspicious packages is nothing new. You’ll note that I didn’t claim it was. What I was trying to point out is that, sometimes, it probably is totally obvious that you should be suspicious of a package. I think most of us would be suspicious of a bag sitting all by itself in the airport without anyone else around it. Heck, my husband and I reported a bag in an art museum in Amsterdam. We saw a guy walk in, carrying the bag, and go right past the ticket counter without paying. Then he came out again with no bag and the bag was left sitting in the gallery. That? Obviously sketchy. (Though it just turned out to be how some homeless guy stored his clothes, it was obviously worth saying something.) But that’s a rather different case from a bag that’s sitting on the ground in a crowd of people at an outdoor event. In that case,  it’s easy to say after the fact that the bag should have been suspicious. But in the moment .. if there’s a person standing in front of the bag and a person standing behind it and there’s nothing particularly weird looking about the bag itself and you didn’t see somebody come by drop it off and leave … it’s perfectly reasonable for most people to assume it belongs to one of the people near it. 

          What I’m trying to say is that it’s not always easy to identify which bags are suspicious until after one of them has exploded. 

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