Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Playing politics with the terror alert system 

I know I keep coming back to this topic quite a bit, but the thing that set me thinking this time was the new designation of Orange Alert, not everywhere, for the whole country, but only in specific locations -- in this case Manhattan, Newark and Washington. If I'm right, this is the first time that a terror alert level has been set for a particular location. This kind of location-specific alert should be setting off alarm bells, because it would be extremely easy to abuse this tactic for political purposes on election day. If the polls show a reasonably close election, all it would take is a few well-placed Orange or Red alerts in heavily Democratic regions of key swing states.

Imagine the effect of a November 1st Orange or Red Alert, accompanied by all kinds of dire warnings, applying only to the cities of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Detroit, Michigan; Palm Beach, Florida; Cleveland, Ohio; St. Louis, Missouri; and Portland, Oregon. They wouldn't even have to close the polls. All they'd have to do is scare enough people to cause a significant dent in voter turnout. Bush could lose the popular vote by 5% and still win the election.

I'm not accusing the Bush campaign of intending to use this tactic. Probably, even they wouldn't sink so low. Probably, we can rely on their basic decency and sense of fair play. But we can't let an election as important as this one ride on something as uncertain as the fair play of the Bush campaign. We should be ready for the worst. Fortunately, the best defense against this kind of scare tactic is spreading the word. Let people know it could happen, and tell them no matter what kind of warnings they hear, red alert or not, go to the polls. Vote.

If people are prepared for the possibility of an alert in their neighborhood on election day, and they know it's probably just a scare tactic, then the tactic won't work. In fact, people are probably more likely to vote if they suspect that someone is trying to scare them into staying home!

Of course, many people don't listen to "conspiracy theories," and might reject out of hand any notion that the Bush campaign would play politics with the alert system in such an underhanded way. For this reason, it's important to get another message across: It is your patriotic duty to vote no matter what the circumstances. If there's a terror alert in your neighborhood, that means al Qaeda is trying to disrupt our democratic process, and by not voting you'd just be giving in to the terrorists. This again plays into the "reverse psychology" that goads people into voting if they think someone (be it Bush or the terrorists) is trying to stop them.

Back to the Odd Hours main page
© 2004 Odd Hours
Reproduction permitted provided Odd Hours or the author of the quoted post is credited.