Saturday, October 08, 2005

The Blame Game

This article, I think, epitomises one of the major problems that we have in a media-centric, round-the-clock news cycle world. Despite the fact that the experts on the matter considered the intelligence received of doubtful credibility, the possibility of a bomb attack on the New York subway system prompted the Mayor (in a re-election year, I believe) to announce publicly the threat and ask people not to carry bags on to trains for the back end of this week.

I don't blame Mayor Bloomberg for his course of action. If there had been an attack, and it had been demonstrated that the city authorities had seen intelligence to that effect, then there would have been hell on. "Why weren't we warned?" "City burns whilst Mayor sits on his hands." No-one wants to be blamed like that; few would be willing to stake their political career on such a judgement. And, let's face it, it's the mayor and the city authorities that would be blamed in a case like this (with the addition of George Bush, no doubt). The intelligence experts who cast aspersions on the accuracy of the information are too remote for the media bloodhounds to stick their teeth into.

Of course, the threat itself - whether real, dangerous, or not - contributes again to the climate of fear. It might not be a major victory for the terrorists, but getting people scared, and changing their habits, is what they want us to do. It paves the way for bald-faced lies from politicians claiming the need for ID cards, for example. But it provides the media with their insatiable desire for headlines, either way. The media circus is forcing politicians to make disclosures that they, in reality, shouldn't probably have to make. We should all know to be vigilant about security threats anyway, even if in practice we aren't. But making everyone suspicious of each other isn't going to help. That, however, is the logical consequence of creating a climate of fear.