The Houston Mayor's Office of Homeland Security and something called the regional Catastrophic Planning Initiative have produced a public service video called "Run, Hide, Fight," advising people on what to do if somebody wants to shoot them.
I personally wish to nominate this production for the 2012 "No Shit Sherlock Award," which I have just invented, for the dramatic use of video, music and special effects to tell adult human beings important things that 2-year-olds already know.
The video has scary music in the background and what I assume are nonprofessional actors depicting a guy with some kind of sawed- off shotgun (not my model) shooting people in an office building. An authoritarian voice-over advises people to do one of three things:
Run away. Always a good idea. Hide. Yup, smart if you can do it. Or bash the guy with a vase. We all remember that one from Three Stooges shorts. This particular movie neglects to remind viewers of the all-important first step in bashing an armed person in the head with a vase: shouting, "Hey, look at da grouse!"
You know what scares me? I am deeply frightened by the absolute transparent absurdity of stuff like this and the real message, deliberate or not, that it conveys: bend over and kiss your ass good-bye.
The video starts off with a baritone voice-over assuring us that, "The authorities are working hard to protect you and to protect our public spaces." Then it shows hapless defenseless people getting blown away without a moment's warning. And from there it proceeds to show other people doing all this stuff that anybody would do by instinct, like running away.
So did the makers of the video think ill-informed people might run toward the shooter?
The real message of this video is that we are utterly defenseless and utterly unable to take care of ourselves. Therefore our best bet and only hope is to throw ourselves into the arms of "the authorities."
It's a crappy day for us but a wonderful season for the authorities, isn't it? The president sits at a coffee table in the Oval Office poring over a set of baseball cards with pictures on them of the people he is allowed to kill today, in utter secrecy and without due process.
The Senate Intelligence Committee is hard at work on draconian new secrecy laws to stop us from discovering information that isn't even secret, especially about who's going to get secretly killed on any given day.
Why would any of that be OK with us? It's only OK if we buy into the real propaganda message of this video, that we are hopeless, helpless suckers who will be squashed like cockroaches by guys who look like a bonkers Bruce Willis if we don't allow "the authorities" total sway over our lives and deaths.
What? We're helpless? No, we're not. In fact, wait. We're the authorities. We don't have to cower in our cubicles while Bonkers Bruce Willis stalks us with his shoulder cannon. We have the power to go to Washington, change the laws and make it very very difficult for the bonkers guys to get those guns, get that body armor, get that ammo.
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Attack him with a vase? How about we attack him with a bill in the Congress?
You know, the absolute political stasis on gun control is part and parcel of the same message of paralysis and personal insignificance that the video preaches. I don't believe -- yet -- that it's all deliberate and coordinated. I think the mentality of the video and the mentality of the gun nuts are elements of a consistent culture. It's a culture that wants to make us feel helpless so it can feel powerful.
But the problem is, the security culture is really powerful already, and it is literally ravaging the landscape of our freedoms on an almost hourly basis. The only way we can fight it is by seizing back into our own hands the monopoly of violence, and the way we do that is not by wetting ourselves under our desks or pulling a Three Stooges attack on an armed madman.
Mr. Smith needs to go back to Washington. He needs to march straight up to that gun lobby and those sold-out sleazebags in the Congress. The first thing he needs to tell them is: "Hey, man! Look at da grouse!"