Yelling fire in a crowded theater ain't what it used to be. Consider the latest case of a perceived threat gone wild, which took the form of an ad faxed by a bank. One recipient in the Boston area took it to be a bomb threat, resulting in the evacuation of local stores the other day.The fax in question was supposed to be a promo for a Boston-area bank's "Small Business Commitment Week" Unfortunately, as Boston.com reports, the fax arrived complete with an image of a bomb and a hand lighting it, but without the accompanying text touting the small-biz promotion. (The tagline "the countdown begins" was also omitted, though I'm sure that wouldn't have helped matters much, anyway.)
Long story short, there was an evacuation of some stores surrounding an Ashland, Mass. bank, after bank personnel alerted local police about the fax. No one was hurt, but one local restaurant owner claimed he'd lost about $1,000 in lunchtime business
This isn't the first case of hair-trigger alarm-sounding. However, in the zero-tolerance, post-9/11 world in which we now live, it's becoming clear that we're all a little bit too panicky for our own good.
The stories, apocryphal and real, continue to pile up.
My favorite, which quite frankly I don't believe, concerns Mike Figgis, the Hollywood director of "Leaving Las Vegas."
Supposedly, he was at LAX recently. Asked why he was traveling, he said he was there to "shoot a pilot" (meaning, of course, a television pilot). Five hours later, he was released by airport security.
Along those lines, here's another interesting story from airport security hell, about a guy who claims he was uber-searched because he was wearing sunglasses inside LAX. Sunglasses! In Los Angeles!
In Boston, it's possible that the bank fax which wasn't a bomb prompted so much angst because it followed the high-profile incident of this past January. Two men working doing a promo for the Cartoon Network left electronic devices on several Boston streets. The devices, according to FoxNews.com, "had lights that created images of a cartoon character making an obscene gesture." They were mistaken for bombs, too.
I don't mean to minimize the threat of terrorism, which is real. However, like the Israelis, we have to start acting a bit more like adults in terms of getting on with our lives and not getting so bent out of shape each time somebody does (or faxes) something stupid.
Because if this keeps up, eventually there will be an incident that's so utterly idiotic, it will cause people to finally recalibrate their internal threat alarms. Maybe then we can all start to chill out a bit.