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White house announces more silly and vague schema
March 12, 2002 8:41 AM   Subscribe

White house announces more silly and vague schema for defining terrorist threat. Ok, so how does going from the total unclear status of "everybody lookout, it's coming" to Yellow Alert which means "a significant risk of terrorist attacks" make things more clear? For that matter what's the point of Red Alert anyhow? Is that for when the Pentagon is already on fire?
posted by shagoth (39 comments total)

 
what's the point of Red Alert anyhow?

That's when we get to turn on the cool siren that goes "Whoop Whoop Whoop" and the flashing red lights, then we all lurch back and forth across the bridge of the Enterprise when the photon torpedoes hit!
posted by MrBaliHai at 8:45 AM on March 12, 2002


Yes, after several months of brainstorming the best they could come up with is a color-coded warning system. In another six months who knows what they can do…
posted by mmm at 8:46 AM on March 12, 2002


Did anyone else notice how...

The color code, in increasing order of threat, is:

Green
Blue
Yellow
Orange
Red

It obeys the order of the rainbow, except green and blue are reversed! Madness!
posted by scarabic at 8:57 AM on March 12, 2002


It's more informative than it was before, so we should probably be grateful for these small miracles.
posted by PrinceValium at 8:58 AM on March 12, 2002


I knew the Supreme Court voted for Bush for a reason. This is genius!
posted by Outlawyr at 9:00 AM on March 12, 2002


Oh give me a break. First everyone criticizes the administration for issuing a bakers dozen false "high alerts". Now, when they come out with a scheme for quantitatively (if subjectively) categorizing the perceived level of risk, they're being criticized for that, too.

Believe me, the last thing I want to be mistaken for is a Bush apologist, but at least give the guy a break. Cheeses.
posted by jammer at 9:09 AM on March 12, 2002


Of course, the usefulness of these warnings is predicated on the idea that i believe the government has ANY FREAKING CLUE when the next attack will come.
posted by milkman at 9:57 AM on March 12, 2002


It's ridiculous. Totally meaningless. Name one thing you or any other American could rationally do differently if the threat level moved from, say, Yellow to Orange.

Stay home from work? Eat only canned food? Refuse to open mail? Without some kind of information about the actual nature of the threat, this is just useless, irresponsible fearmongering.
posted by straight at 9:59 AM on March 12, 2002


This idea must have come out of those meetings with Hollywood producers Karl Rove held last year. "Honey, sweetie, you gotta spell it out for them! Use big, simple colors! Paint them a picture!"

Maybe Warner Brothers would be willing to sponsor the war in exchange for rights to the "Yellow Alert/Orange Alert/Red Alert" franchise.
posted by precipice at 10:01 AM on March 12, 2002


We're at TOMCON-3 (like DEFCON, only dumber).
posted by blackholebrain at 10:07 AM on March 12, 2002


Wolf! Wolf! Wolf!
posted by briank at 10:09 AM on March 12, 2002


I've got my own system. I'm currently running on plaid alert, recently downgraded from polka-dot alert. If all goes well, by next month I'll be on nice floral pattern with hints of chartreuse alert.
posted by Ty Webb at 10:35 AM on March 12, 2002


OK, let's summarize.

Government telling citizens about suspected attacks: bad.
BUT
Government withholding information from citizens: bad.

Double-bind ahoy!
posted by darukaru at 10:35 AM on March 12, 2002


I am on a paisley alert. Or so says my wife if I dare wear paisley again.
posted by adampsyche at 10:42 AM on March 12, 2002


Government telling citizens about suspected attacks: bad.

No, it's "Government telling citizens there is a threat without telling them anything about the nature of the threat: bad."

The Green/Yellow/Red system gives the illusion that they are telling us something, but it gives you no real information that might be of use to anyone.
posted by straight at 10:44 AM on March 12, 2002


What's surprising is how similar this alert system is to this satirical one.
posted by O9scar at 11:21 AM on March 12, 2002


straight, what exactly do you want -- access to streaming audio of the telephone calls they intercepted, so you can have your friendly neighborhood Arabic interpreter tell you what it really says? Remember, they often speak in code, like "Do you have everything for the party?" Do you think if they knew that Hoover Dam was going to be detonated that they wouldn't be trying to do something about it?

The most critical part of any intelligence effort to protect is in many ways not the information itself, but the sources and methods part.
posted by dhartung at 11:31 AM on March 12, 2002


Do you think if they knew that Hoover Dam was going to be detonated that they wouldn't be trying to do something about it?

Is that different than the current Yellow condition and results in an upgrade to Orange or is it pretty much the same as now? For that matter, what conditions are necessary for the Green condition that we won't reach for years? Are they expecting the total pacification of mankind?

If what they are trying to communicate is, "We as Americans have hosed so many people over that the threat of terrorism will always hang over our heads" than just say it.
posted by shagoth at 11:46 AM on March 12, 2002


dhartung: straight, what exactly do you want -- access to streaming audio of the telephone calls they intercepted, so you can have your friendly neighborhood Arabic interpreter tell you what it really says?

cummon, dhartung. you distort the argument to a non-existant binary.
Are you suggesting that the only possible alternative to a completely vague color warning system (which doesn't exist in relation to ANY concrete information, rendering the relative system totally useless) is source compromising, multi-media detail?
Nobody is asking (so far) for access to the file. We just want some kind of specific information so that we can know what the hell the levels of warnings mean.
But then again, that is all based on the assumption that the language our government uses -- and words in general -- matter.

posted by milkman at 11:56 AM on March 12, 2002


dhartung: straight, what exactly do you want -- access to streaming audio of the telephone calls they intercepted, so you can have your friendly neighborhood Arabic interpreter tell you what it really says?

cummon, dhartung. you distort the argument to a non-existant binary.
Are you suggesting that the only possible alternative to a completely vague color warning system (which doesn't exist in relation to ANY concrete information, rendering the relative system totally useless) is source compromising, multi-media detail?
Nobody is asking (so far) for access to the file. We just want some kind of specific information so that we can know what the hell the levels of warnings mean.
But then again, that is all based on the assumption that the language our government uses -- and words in general -- matter.
posted by milkman at 11:57 AM on March 12, 2002


I knew the Supreme Court voted for Bush for a reason. This is genius!

I'm not letting this shit slide...it ain't funny, it's completely irrelevant, and just further promotes an unsubstantiated idea.

I truly don't understand what the people in this thread want. If the govt. DIDN'T issue these warnings, and an attack came, ya'll would be rioting because the govt. withheld information. If the govt. does issue warnings, and nothing happens, ya'll riot because nothing happened. WE DON'T WANT ANYTHING TO HAPPEN. So when they issue a warning, and nothing happens, BE HAPPY!

They have to issue the warning as much as the weather service has to issue a 50% chance of rain. In this time of uncertaintly, we need to be prepared. Quit your bitching.
posted by BlueTrain at 11:58 AM on March 12, 2002


In this time of uncertaintly, we need to be prepared.

And how, exactly, does the goverment saying "Yellow Alert!" allow anyone to be prepared in any way?

I'm not saying the government can or should give us sensitive information that might reveal sources. I'm just saying they shouldn't pretend to be telling us something when they're really not.
posted by straight at 12:19 PM on March 12, 2002


I'm not saying the government can or should give us sensitive information that might reveal sources. I'm just saying they shouldn't pretend to be telling us something when they're really not.

Hey, do you have a better solution?
posted by BlueTrain at 12:22 PM on March 12, 2002


Oh, c'mon, BlueTrain, a fucking weather report would at least tell you the numbers. This color-coded scheme is so vague as to be useless.

"Can't go into work today - the scale's looking a little orange."

Is USA Today going to publish a color-coded map every day with the terrorist threat levels? Will there be something like a UV index?

Or is this, maybe just a way to condition a public with paranoia? In the 50s, it was nuclear war - now it's this background noise humming in your ear, the daily threat of terrorism? This scale implies that there is constant terrorist activity of varying degrees happening all the time. I didn't so much mind the occasional alert, you know? Granted, they were vague, but they had to be. But if the government says, "There may be an attack on San Francisco's bridges in the next few days," you know, I'm going to say that's a good alert. Even the vague ones about a "possible attack" implied that this was an aberration, and while the feds may have erred on the side of caution, that's fine.

What this does is creates a paranoid mindset, one of powerlessness and low-level panic in people. "Gotta check the terrorism scale today!" Now, before you label me as naive - because, of course, They Could Attack Anytime, what's accomplished by this? What's the point of keeping people fucked up and edgy like this?

And, you know, Perception Affects Reality. If people start believing that a terrorist attack may be possible every day, I betcha such attacks will become more and more commonplace until we turn into the Gaza Strip.

You'll forgive me, but I don't really trust this new color-coded scale. Actually, this whole thing reminds me of Paranoia - Stay Alert! Trust No One! Keep Your Laser Handy!
posted by solistrato at 12:22 PM on March 12, 2002


I honestly think that the govt. does this because recently we've heard evidence that 9-11 could have been prevented. That our govt. had knowledge of terrorist activity and did not act upon it. This type of warning system absolves the govt. of any guilt of withholding evidence. And with the weather analogy, weather is not a matter of national security. Terrorist activity...is.

Look, I consider the warnings as worthless as everyone else, but WTF do you propose? For all the talk here, I've yet to hear/see any solutions.
posted by BlueTrain at 12:30 PM on March 12, 2002


I truly don't understand what the people in this thread want.

I don’t want to be patronized with a simple concept that is presented as new and different. I understand that the government cannot and should not disclose sensitive information. If this is how information will be distributed fine, but please do not present a color-coded system as a new initiative. Especially a system that is as vague as, A blue alert would signal a "general risk" of attacks and put authorities on guard. How is in an individual not to mention a public official expected to respond to that?
posted by mmm at 12:43 PM on March 12, 2002


The argument, BlueTrain, is that this warning system does exactly what the (current) government wants it to do - keep us nervous and busy watching the bridges instead of the bribes - and not what we want it to do - which is give us any real information. I mean, this article doesn't even mention any sort of regionality. If New York is orange, is Memphis? And when was the last time the weather service issued a "yellow chance of rain?"
posted by chino at 12:58 PM on March 12, 2002


Oops. Note to self. Update, then post.
posted by chino at 1:00 PM on March 12, 2002


I honestly think that the govt. does this because recently we've heard evidence that 9-11 could have been prevented.

Yeah, just think how many lives would have been saved that day if the color-code warning system had been in place!
posted by straight at 1:41 PM on March 12, 2002


I think Bush and friends just like playing war, and this stuff is cool sounding to them. "Ok, Dick, I'm switching us to code blue!" "Ai ai, Dubya". It's fun! Look for the home version, in stores soon.
posted by Outlawyr at 1:49 PM on March 12, 2002


Good to see Tom Ridge getting ideas from USA Today.

Tax dollars at work!
posted by whoshotwho at 2:14 PM on March 12, 2002


I truly don't understand what the people in this thread want.

They want to attack George W. Bush and his administration, end of story.

An experiment for you, BlueTrain: The next time you read about a questionable action on the part of anyone in the Democratic Party, or even an action you merely disagree with, make a front page post about it. Use shrill, potentially-baiting terms such as "silly" to describe what they've done. Then sit back and see how long it takes you to be attacked many times over as a troll, and to have a MetaTalk thread started about you and your disruptive posting habits. You'll be amazed.
posted by aaron at 2:23 PM on March 12, 2002


I think some of the comments on this thread have moved Metafilter from the #006699 alert to a more cautious #0099CC level. MeFi'ers should be extra cautious for the next five days.
posted by DragonBoy at 2:54 PM on March 12, 2002


To quote Red Dwarf:
Kryten: Sir, are you sure you want to go to blue alert? It will require changing the light bulb...
posted by kaemaril at 3:07 PM on March 12, 2002


They want to attack George W. Bush and his administration, end of story.

Maybe. But I don't think this paper airplane would fly from President Clin-ton either.
posted by RJ Reynolds at 3:26 PM on March 12, 2002


I truly don't understand what the people in this thread want.

I want, what they want, and every other guy, who's came over here, spilled his guts, gave everything he had, wants. For our country to love us, as much as we love it. That's what I want.
posted by bingo at 4:07 PM on March 12, 2002


Go, Aaron! (No, I mean, stay, don't leave MeFi, but, y'know, "you go, boy"... er, something like that. [sigh])
posted by verdezza at 4:52 PM on March 12, 2002


When the IRA were active, in London we had a system very similar to this. They were a set of lights, like traffic lights, set up at the corner of major roads. Yellow for 'Walk Gingerly', Orange for 'Walk Faster' and Red for 'Run in the other direction'. It was amazingly effective and explains why only colour blind people got blown up.

To avoid the colour blindness problem you could have an audio warning to go with it. For example Johnny Cash singing for Green, Alanis Morisette for Orange and Rosanne singing the Star Spangled Banner for Red.
posted by dodgygeezer at 6:15 AM on March 13, 2002


Anyone else find the colors remarkably reminiscent of Candy Land? Doesn't look like they could figure out a way to include purple, though.
posted by dchase at 9:13 AM on March 13, 2002


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