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(2012-02-12) Do something – anything

The feeling of being powerless in a situation must be one of the worst feelings in the world. It’s the feeling you have when something is happening and you have no idea if it will affect you and your family or what to do about it. When you see a direct threat you have the age-old flight or fight response. That’s what we get for being simple beings relying on direct problem-solving. But recession, fear of illness, feat of losing your job or being attacked by terrorists are threats you can’t run away from or attack. When the fear cannot be handled by any direct action, we get anxiety as a result. Nothing is such a relief as someone offering to remove whatever is causing the fear and anxiety. When we feel that someone has an obligation to remove the threat, we feel anger towards them rather than against those that cause the threat itself.

We ask ourselves and everyone we know “Why are the people responsible of fixing those things not doing anything?” Here in Sweden the most common phrase of despair is “varför tar de inte sitt ansvar?” (Translated: “Why won’t they take their responsibilities?”). It’s not uncommon that we have no clear idea if there’s someone that should be responsible to remove the threat or who that should be. So, when crisis, real or imagined, strikes, taking control is the only way we can feel safe. But control must be regained even if we didn’t lose it in the first place or if we have no idea how to regain it. That’s why we have a word like “Security Theater”. Security Theater is what politicians, organizations, corporations or other groups use to make us all feel safe again. It could be installing more cameras because of a terrorist-attack, making data-retention mandatory for Internet Service Providers or disallowing liquids such a tooth paste on flights. The benefits of such actions are doubtful at best, but do provide way for those in charge to say “look, we did something. You’re safe now!”

It is not Security Theater if it’s actually is successful in removing or mitigating the threat without causing a larger threat/cost/problem by itself. It’s Security Theater if the core benefit is to stave of hysteria, fear and anxiety and If you see no problem in this, remember this:

- It has not solved any real problem at all.
- If there’s a real threat, it’s still out there. Only now we don’t think about it.
- We now have a bad habit of applying useless solutions to problems that may or may not be imaginary.
- Most of those solutions are “cover your own ass” rather than “protecting others”.
- We allow ourselves and others to accept easy solutions to unknown threats from unknown people. I think history has something to say about this.

Posted: 2012-02-12 by Erik Zalitis
Changed: 2012-02-12 by Erik Zalitis

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