Sunday, September 25, 2011

Big Brother Joins You For Coffee

When does common sense security get pushed over the edge? When does vigilance become creepy? Homeland Security seems determined to find out. We've had it up to here with groping in the airport, wiretapping, and so on. We seem to be tolerating all of that, but they may have just gone too far. Now they're invading a semi-sacred institution, a refuge from life's roughness. They've stepped into the coffee shop. Or, if you will, into the corner cafe. "Big Brother is watching you while you drink your coffee, or at least imploring you to watch others while you drink your coffee," writes the Daily Caller. If you live in a city that has public transportation, you've probably seen those somber security-minded signs urging you to be vigilant. "If you see something, say something," they tell us. See that unattended bag in rear of the bus? It might be filled with nails, ball bearings and explosives. See that nervous guy in the middle of the subway car? Does he seem a bit too sweaty, and is he fidgeting with something inside his jacket? You better call 911, or talk to a transit employee immediately. There's nothing wrong with that, I suppose, in this era of random and unpredictable acts of terror. Be alert in public. It's always been a good idea, and we've always done it. If you see someone acting suspiciously on the street, peeking into cars or house windows, call the cops. As for the coffee shop intrusion, Department of Homeland Security is stamping itself onto coffee cup sleeves. “If you see something, say something,” they say, just like the transit signs. “Report unattended bags and unusual behavior to police or transit personnel.” We see this message elsewhere ad nauseum. Can't we be left alone while we hide away in a latte den, for God's sake? DHS is waging its info war on coffee shops via Securetransit is funded "under a grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Grant Programs Directorate (FEMA/GPD) within the U.S. Department of Homeland Security." Where does it stop? Will DHS also print up a half a billions dollars' worth of cocktail napkins for distribution to bars and taverns? What about ads on the sides of milk cartons? How about putting "If You See Something Say Something" fortune cookies in every Chinese restaurant in the U.S.? A final thought: Wouldn't the message be more effective if it was made location-specific? Perhaps something like, “If you see something, say something. Report unattended cups and over-caffeinated behavior to a barista or manager.” I'm just saying.